Blogging, especially for a business, can often feel like a very lonely endeavor.
Ten years ago, blogs were where conversations happened on social media. I could write this same post in 2010, and it would likely have 30 comments in a week. This one will be lucky to have a tenth of that in a week.
It’s just the nature of the beast. Blogging has changed, how people engage has changed. Those of us that blog for our business, need to adapt to meet those changes.
What does ‘engagement’ mean for a business blog?
There’s a big misconception about what engagement is in terms of business blogging. Many people view engagement for a blog, personal or business, as simply being about comments. Nothing could be further from the truth for a business blog.
For a business blog, engagement is defined as any action that a reader takes that creates value for your business. This could be leaving a comment, but it could also be sharing your post with a colleague or signing up for your newsletter.
So don’t limit your view of engagement on a business blog as simply being about getting more comments. In fact, before we talk about boosting engagement on your business blog, let’s list some of the types of engagement that we want to boost:
- Shares of your post or article with colleagues
- Signing up for a company newsletter
- Leaving your business blog to visit the company website or a product specific area of the company website
- Emailing or calling your company to ask a product-specific question
- Downloading a white paper
Now we have an entire list of ways that visitors can engage with the content on our business blog. We can now structure our content to encourage one or more of these types of engagement.
10 Simple Ways to Boost Engagement on Your Business Blog (For Free!)
1 – Simplify your content. Content that’s easier to grasp and understand, is more likely to engage your audience and hold their attention.
The easiest way to do this is to is to focus on topics that are written at a more 101-level than advanced. That’s because its easier for people to form and share an opinion about 101-level content than it is say 401-level content.
Case in point, which question do you think would receive more comments?
- What’s your favorite movie night snack; burgers or pizza?
- Who was the better military strategist; Alexander The Great or General Robert E Lee?
Obviously, more people would feel confident engaging with content around the first question, than the second. Ultimately, you want your audience to feel comfortable engaging with your content. So creating content that’s easier to digest and understand, will lead to higher engagement rates.
2 – Focus on improving the readability of your content. Content that’s easier to read is easier to understand. Simply organizing your content so it is clear and easy to read will enhance understanding, and that improves engagement.
This is where I want to share one of my content creation secret weapons with you. It’s the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. Yoast SEO has a Readability checklist it creates for each post you create. That checklist gives you a list of items you need to do in order to make the post easier to read. It’s been a huge help to me and if you compare this post to ones I wrote even a year ago, you can see a stark difference in organization and readability.
3 – Make it clear how you want readers to engage with your content. Do you want more comments? Then ask for them. Do you want more newsletter signups? Then include a signup form in or around your content (There’s one at the end of this post). Do you want them to download your white paper? Then include a link where they can.
Think about how you want readers to engage with your content, then craft your Calls to Action so that you encourage those forms of engagement.
4 -Reply to comments. This one is so simple it hurts. If someone leaves a comment on your blog, answer them! It’s incredibly hard to get anyone to leave a first comment. If they do, and you respond and engage them, that increases the chance that they will comment again.
5 – End your post with these three words; “What do you think?” That encourages the reader to engage you in the comments. You can make it even easier by asking them to leave a comment OR email you any thoughts they have.
6 – Write about your audience, not your company. Remember that your business blog is a great tool for building brand awareness. Awareness is at the top of the sales funnel. To get customers into your sales funnel via content, you want to create content that focuses almost completely on the customer.
Write about what your customer goes through every day. Talk about the problems and issues they face in their lives, without talking about how your company solves those issues. At least not yet. You want to focus completely on the customer in order to get their attention and engage them. Then, once they are on your business blog and engaging with you, then you can create content that helps the customer understand how your company can solve the problems they are facing every day.
7 – Use social sharing buttons on every post. Not every reader wants to comment, but many will want to share your article with friends and colleagues. Giving them social sharing options is an easy way to encourage more visitors to your site. When deciding which buttons to add, always remember to add a button to share via email. Old school still works!
8 – Add Related Content to the end of every post. This is an easy way to help the reader find more content you have written on the same topic. It works perfectly, because if they read the entire article, it signals interest, then you include Related posts at the end for them to read next. I use the Jetpack plugin(Affiliate link) to add three Related posts at the end of each post.
9 – Write good headlines. Your post headline should be engaging, interesting and even a bit provocative all at the same time. But above all, your headline should make a specific promise to the reader, and that promise should compel them to read your post.
Too many bloggers use the post headline to simply summarize the topic of the post. Understand how your content will be spread: It will show up in search results, it will be shared on social media feeds. In most cases, your headline is all a person will read before deciding if they want to click your post and read it.
Spoiler alert: Boring headlines don’t get clicks. I’m using the Headline Optimizer Test from Thrive Themes to create the headline for this post. I entered multiple variations of the headline, the Headline Optimizer serves the headlines randomly, and the one with the best engagement ‘wins’ and is chosen as the headline for this post. So as I’m writing this post now, the most engaging headline hasn’t been chosen yet! You can get the Headline Optimizer Test for your blog as part of the Thrive Themes Suite(Affiliate link), which I also use on this blog.
10 – Publish new posts when your audience will read them. Think about who you are writing for, and when they will be reading blogs. For instance, if your business is a B2B, you likely want to reach customers who are at work, so publish new posts during the workday. Publish new posts when you think your audience might be free to read them, such as in the morning before lunch, or in the afternoon before they leave for the day.
So there’s 10 easy (and free!) ways to start getting more engagement on your business blog as early as today! Want more advice on how to grow your business blog? Check out all the posts under the Business Blogging category.
Let’s review the Buyer’s Journey:
In looking at this process, you can see that some customers would be at each of these four stages of the Buyer’s Journey leading up to a purchase. Let’s quickly review the type of content you should deliver to these customers at each stage:
Unaware: These are customers that don’t know who you are or what you do. The content you create for these customers should be focused heavily on the customer, and light on the brand. When you create content that talks about the customer, it gets their attention, and you will need their attention to move the customer closer to a sale. When you hear companies talk about wanting to ‘build awareness’ via social media and content marketing, these are the customers they are wanting to reach.
Slightly Aware: These are customers who are beginning to understand who your brand is, and what it does. Content aimed at these customers should help them understand how your brand’s products and services fit into their lives. So at this stage, you want to shift your content a bit to begin to discuss your product and services, but in the context of ‘Here’s how our stuff can help you”. In that way you are communicating that you know and understand who the customer is, and also that you know how your products and services can help them.
Interested: Customers at this stage are now considering making a purchase. So your content should shift more toward the product itself. NOW is when you can FINALLY start to sell your brand’s products and services. Customers at this stage are doing research in your products and services and those of your competitors, before making a purchase decision.
Ready to Buy! Customers at this stage are…ready to buy! Your content should do one thing, help them complete the sale.
Most company blogs create content that’s focused on either customers who are Unaware (building awareness) or customers who are Slightly Aware (helping customers understand how your products and services fit into their lives). So let’s look at two company blogs that cater its content to each of these groups. This will help you understand what such content would look like if you are trying to reach the same group for the same reason.
Case Study of a Company Blog that Focuses on Unaware Customers: Patagonia’s The Cleanest Line Blog
If you want to create content that raises awareness, you focus almost exclusively on what’s important to the audience you are trying to connect with, current and potential customers. You talk about the ideas, themes and beliefs that are important to your potential customers, because that’s how you get them to pay attention to your content.
Patagonia does a wonderful job of creating customer-centric content on its blog, The Cleanest Line. Its content is focused on ideas, themes and causes that are important to its customers, but which are also important to the brand and its founders:
- Protecting the environment
- Being active outdoors and enjoying nature
Almost all of the content on The Cleanest Line is focused on one or more of these areas. By positioning its content in this way, Patagonia is communicating the values and beliefs that are important to the brand. As a result, it attracts the awareness of people that share those same values and beliefs.
The content being created at The Cleanest Line is almost completely focused on topics other than the clothing that Patagonia sells. This is how you create content that builds awareness; By NOT directly selling to the customer.
As a sidenote, The Cleanest Line has changed a bit over the years, from a standalone site and blog, to now being completely integrated into Patagonia’s main website. Also, the posts are now called ‘Stories’, which I like and I think that encourages people to read the content by identifying it as being ‘stories’.
So check out The Cleanest Line, and note how the content is focused on what’s important to the customer, and almost none of it directly promotes its clothing or sells to those same customers. This is how you position your content if you want to build awareness.
Case Study of a Company Blog That Focuses on Slightly Aware Customers: Caterpillar’s On the Level Blog
Now let’s talk about how content changes when you create it for slightly aware customers. To reach customers at this stage, you still want to talk about what’s important to these customers, but you also want to talk about how your company’s products and services fit into the lives in your customer’s lives. Additionally, since this audience does have some awareness of your company, it will include some current customers. This is why your content transitions from being completely about the customer in the Unaware stage, to being about the connection between the customer and the company in the Slightly Aware stage.
With that in mind, let’s look at Caterpillar’s On the Level Blog. As soon as you see the topics of the posts on the blog, you can immediately see that the content is focused on connecting with project managers on construction sites. The content focuses on issues and problems that will be encountered on the construction site, and also focuses on how Caterpillar products and services will help managers succeed with their projects. Also note how the content here is different than the content you see on Patagonia’s The Cleanest Line blog. Patagonia almost never blogs about its products, Caterpillar does often. Also, note how the focus of the content is more narrowly defined on the Caterpillar blog. This makes sense, as Caterpillar is speaking to a smaller audience. This is a byproduct of trying to reach an audience that is further along the Buyer’s Journey.
Here’s some of the posts up on the On the Level Construction Blog:
As you can see, this is type of content is geared toward managers working on a construction site. Many of them are probably already using Caterpillar machinery, or are considering doing so,. The content is designed to be helpful and provide guidance for these construction site managers, but it also wants to help them understand how using Caterpillar machinery can make their projects go smoother.
So that gives you a good idea of the difference between the type of content you should create to reach Unaware customers (The Cleanest Line blog) and Slightly Aware customers (On the Level Construction blog) along the Buyer’s Journey.