VerticalResponse marketing team members, Ellery and Colleen, recently attended the BlogWorld Expo in Los Angeles. This is the third in a series of posts on their learnings from the conference. See the first two posts here and here.

One of the most insightful and actionable sessions I attended at BlogWorld was Optimize & Socialize for Better Business Blogging, presented by Lee Odden of Top Rank Online Marketing. While social media is still marketing’s darling in terms of spending growth (and the channel that keeps me employed, thank you very much), Lee reminds us that search engine marketing is still by far the largest piece of the spending pie. If blogging is in any way important to your overall marketing mix, the lessons from this session are critical for getting the most out of your efforts. And that, my friends, is where optimization comes in.

In his presentation, Lee said that the key reason many blogs don’t see success is simply a lack of strategy. By setting goals, thinking about your audience, putting a content plan in place, and continuously taking feedback into account, you can optimize your blog for maximum potential. Lee outlined three key opportunities for optimizing your business blog and the kinds of questions you should be asking in order to put together a blogging strategy.

1. Discovery How does your target audience prefer to discover new information? How do they search? What search keywords and social topics are relevant to them?

For your customers, discovery is where the entire process of finding your content begins. Think about how your target audience is finding you in the first place and use that information to sculpt a strategy of how to get your content in front of them. Use a tool like SocialMention or UberSuggest to identify the key terms that are associated with the kinds of topics your customers are looking for. Once you’re armed with a better understanding of what your customers are searching for, use this information when setting things like post titles, body copy, image alt text, tags, and categories. If it can be searched for, it can be optimized for better performance.

2. Consumption What kind of content resonates most with your audience? Do they prefer videos to photos, original content vs. content curation? Who is your audience and what topics do they care about?

The real meat of the blogging world, your content strategy, will determine how you provide maximum value to your customers and keep them coming back for more. Consider what your business has to offer that will meet your customers’ needs and use that insight to create your plan. So, where do you get all of this information? Your blog’s analytics are a straightforward way to see what content has resonated in the past, but Lee outlines some great tips of how to discover new content ideas.

  • Engage with your community and ask what topics they’d like to see. Surveys are a quick and easy way to do this or you can just ask the question on your Facebook wall or Twitter account.
  • Look for what others are already asking. Answers sites like Quora and LinkedIn Q&A are a great place to start. You can also mine web analytics data to see what keywords and questions drive the most traffic.
  • Take a look inside. If you have an internal database or search engine at your company, take a look at what queries have already been logged. Even simpler, though, is to talk to the people within your company who are on the front lines (think sales or support). Their insights on customer questions are second to none.

3. Engagement When and how are your customers sharing your content? Specifically, what call to action, social widgets, sharing platforms, or times of day are motivating them to pass your content on?

Ultimately, you want your content to reach beyond your initial audience and there is no better way to trigger this than to optimize for social engagement. Take a look at what levers play in to how your content is shared and draw insights from that. Use these learnings to make sure that you are making it easy for your customers to share the way they like to. After all, your audience can’t share your content if you don’t provide a way how! Beyond having the right tools in place, there are a few other things to focus on when optimizing for engagement.

  • Find the social platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc…) that spark the most engagement across your audience and be sure to cross-promote your blog content to all of them.
  • Develop content specific to these networks that can drive traffic back to your blog.
  • Reach out to your network and other topical influencers and ask them to share your content.
  • Make these same folks part of the process and mention them and/or include them in content creation so that your content will reach their networks as well.
  • Remember that social shares drive search engine optimization as well. Don’t overlook a social network just because you don’t use it (ahem, Google+), because as long as the search engines are indexing it (ahem, Google+), it will remain a key opportunity for optimization.

Blogging can be a huge part of any content marketing strategy, but it also requires a fair amount of effort and resources to do well. Lee’s session at BlogWorld (you can see the whole deck here) was a great reminder that just publishing a blog and waiting for it to work for your business just isn’t enough. Give that hard work and creative energy the chance for success it deserves and start implementing these optimization strategies today!

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