I like content marketing. A lot. Well, I like it if it’s done right. The idea of genuinely helping, informing or entertaining others in the hopes that one day – should they need the service or product you sell – they’ll remember your brand, head over to your website and convert like hell really speaks to me.

The thing is, there’s a bit of a supply/demand issue going on. With pretty much every B2B using content marketing and with B2Cs not far behind the market is flooded – we’re drowning in content. It’s little wonder, then, that everyone thinks they’ve got to ‘do’ content marketing in order to keep up with the competition, and it’s even little-er wonder that these new bloggers end up disappointed when they don’t see traffic levels (and conversions) soar.

via FowlLangaugeComics.com

So, how do you turn your new blog into a successful one? Firstly I think we should talk through what a ‘successful’ blog really is. Is a successful blog enduring? Yeah. Is a successful blog consistent? I should think so. Is a successful blog one that draws in traffic? … Sort of. Traffic’s great and seeing your sessions spike in analytics as a result of a blog post is a nice feeling, but sessions don’t put food on the table. A successful blog brings in the right traffic.

GA snapshot of a spike in blog traffic

GA snapshot of a spike in blog traffic

If you’re producing content regularly and are disappointed by the levels of traffic and by the levels of quality traffic, ask yourself these 3 things:

1. Are you sharing your posts?

Heard the term ‘social web’? We’re all interacting online now; people, brands, your mate’s uncle’s dog…

even your mate's uncle's dog's got instagram

via imgur

… Research shows that the average person uses 5 social media accounts and that social networking now accounts for 28% of the time we spend online every day.

via GWI Social report

via GWI Social report

Yes, producing the content is merely half the battle. Promoting it and getting it in front of relevant eyeballs is the other half. Find out where your audience is and at what time using your social analytics, then share it. Join in the conversation if someone’s talking about your content, and encourage others in the office to share via their existing accounts. Include social buttons on your blog posts too, so it makes it super-easy for readers to share.

2. Are you doing your research?

Spend some time on a little keyword research before deciding on a blog topic or title. A bit of keyword optimisation can go a long way, and if you’re talking about the stuff people want to read about, you’re heading in the right direction. Content calendars and blog post schedules work great for organising or sharing responsibilities if you’ve got multiple contributors, but can be short-sighted when they go so far as to apply topics and titles to posts weeks in advance.

Find out what your audience is searching for, and think about why they’re searching for it. Build a list of probable search queries and build your schedule around it. Google trends, news and social media are great tools for identifying ‘hot topics’.

3. Is your blog boring, ugly or both?

I wrote previously about content marketing and conversion rate optimisation working together to create a fabby user experience, and if Google’s Quality Rating Guidelines are anything to go by (they are), then you should be asking yourself if your content is adding to your website’s expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness in a well-designed, well-functioning way.

If your content’s too promotional and Me-Me-Me, your audience won’t engage. They’ll tire of reading why you or your business is so great and they won’t bother to come back and read your blog again. Similarly, you need to be writing about stuff your audience cares about. Stuff that’s relevant to you or your business, and stuff that answers a question or offers guidance. Relevant content = relevant traffic.
I’ll not rehash the “Content marketing and conversion rate optimisation” post, suffice to say there are key practices you can test on your blog to help it become more visually appealing:

  • Keep your writing succinct
    Offer the necessary detail but no need to go on and on and on and on
  • Use bite-sized chunks of text
    A long page chock-full of text is dull and kind of intimidating
  • Break up text with descriptive headings
    You’ll forward-load your content too to encourage people to read on
  • Break up text with images
    Don’t tell me you didn’t enjoy that picture of a dog up there
  • Use lists and bullets
    They also help break up text and provide a bit of visual appeal
  • Choose a sans serif font and left-align your copy
    For tip-top legibility on screen

Unfortunately, for many bloggers, traffic simply won’t appear overnight. The questions above will hopefully get those that are struggling to reach their audience to think more about what they’re writing about, how to get a post seen and how users will engage with it. Stick at it and remember to enjoy telling your story.