Today, I want us to focus on the two reasons you’re blogging. You may not know it, but your blog is serving two purposes. Or two different kinds of readers.
Let’s split your blogs into two piles:
1. Inbound (blogging for SEO)
There are two different readers/audiences for your content. The ones who find you and the ones who YOU find. Another way to say this is the ones who are looking for you and the ones who don’t know they’re looking. Yet ANOTHER way to describe these is inbound vs. outbound. Outbound marketing is about broadcasting OUT to your audience. It’s about reaching into their lives with your message. In a sense, it’s what we’ve always thought of as marketing. Billboards, digital ads, your social media strategy.
Inbound marketing strategies are about being there when your audience is looking for you. It’s attraction rather than promotion. When they search “tacos near me” and you’re a taco place using Yelp or your Google business listing like a rockstar, you’re going to show up. If “content it king” then context is queen. Inbound is about not just having a prime piece of content, but placing it in the perfect context for your reader. It’s the content your tribe is looking for WHEN THEY’RE LOOKING FOR IT.
Google anything you want to know and the #1 result will be the brand who’s rocking their inbound marketing. I just Googled “inbound v outbound marketing” and the top result was a paid ad from a creative agency promoting a blog post called “The difference between inbound and outbound marketing” and this post was specific for 2019 which is impressive since we’re only a couple of weeks into the year. That content was exactly what I was looking for AND they paid to make sure I saw their blog post first. Now, below that, the first result which is organic and not a paid promotion is yet another creative agency with a post called “Inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing”. Creative agencies know that the people who are primed to be looking for help with their marketing are going to be searching for this information so they make that a part of their inbound marketing strategy and THIS is what I’m talking about when I say “blogging for SEO”.
Blogging for SEO speaks to this first category of reader I described earlier. The one who is LOOKING for YOU. These are blog posts and content (so that also means video or audio) that your audience is looking for. If you make a baby stroller, this might be content like “the best stroller of 2019”. This would be content that your audience is Googling because they’re looking for what you have and you want to be the result they find when they Google. The more obscure and niche you can make it, the better. For example, did you know that September 16th is the most popular birthdate in America? My son Jack was born on that day and his brother was born 4 days before that. So I can tell you from experience that Christmas is romantic and idyllic and it makes America wanna make babies. SO people might catch wind of this and be like “hmm…I’m gonna Google that” and if you’re a baby brand with a great sense of humor? Well, how about you be the one with the blog post they were searching for?
Blog posts are particularly great because search engines prioritize posts over pages in their results. So you may have a sales page for your products, but you also want to be blogging about them and doing this using the keywords and search terms your audience is using when they’re searching.
How can you know what your key demographic is looking for? There are a couple of ways you can know what they are Googling when they’re the right audience your product or service.
First, you can listen to them. I have a focus group of brand owners who I offer my brain to for free and we’re texting all the time. They show me their brand ideas, they run their content ideas past me, they ask my opinion on a variety of things and in exchange for me giving my time to them, I get insight into what my ideal readers and clients are looking for. This very post came from one of my readers asking me whether they should take a listicle they’re writing and share it item by item on their Instagram for a number of days. And I thought…if she were Googling for this answer and not asking me, what would she be typing to get this answer? She literally said, “I’m trying to stretch my ideas”. So the title of this blog post is “how to stretch your ideas” because I know my ideal reader is looking for that.
Another way you can know what people are looking for is to pay attention to your analytics. You can install Google Analytics or if you’re low tech but you use a WordPress blog, you can install plugins like Jetpack which will give you basic site stats that can get you started. My favorite area of my analytics and site stats is the search terms people used to find my websites. I have many websites and one of them is a website about Rett syndrome. With Grace in the hospital for a month, I took that time to redesign her brand and her website and plan the things I was going to be writing about there in 2019. On that particular site, I’m really angling to grab the attention of both newly diagnosed families and veterans of the disease who are raising girls Grace’s age. When I look at the last quarter, I can see people are landing on my page after searching for things like “wheelchairs for girls with Rett syndrome” or “tube feeding” or more technical terms that would make no sense to list here. I know that if they search for those things, land on my blog, and don’t find what they’re looking for, they’re going to bounce and go back to Google. So if I’m not already posting about those things, then it becomes part of my plan to do so.
Not everything you post to your brand’s blog needs to be shared on your social media platforms. Inbound content can be posted silently on your site and you know that you’ve written that thing because you know your audience is looking for it. I know people are landing on my Rett syndrome website because they’re looking for info about wheelchairs. Would I post that on Grace’s Facebook page? Probably not. It’s a very weak piece for people who aren’t actively searching for that information but it’s strong for the users who ARE and so I post it and leave it there for them to find.
2. Outbound Content
While inbound marketing is about attraction, outbound is about promotion. Inbound is soft because your audience is open (heck, they’re ASKING for it!) while outbound is, by nature, interruptive like commercials in the middle of your favorite show or a mid-roll on a YouTube video.
And so outbound is the second reason you’re blogging and is the most popular reason people and brands think they need to be blogging. And that is for the purpose of making noise, being present in your users’ everyday lives, building trust in your brand, fleshing out your brand values and having stuff to publish on your various channels and platforms. Simply, it’s what happens when you make your blogs into landing places for stuff you want to say to your audience and then posting those links out to your social streams and making some noise with them.
Content created for SEO can often work as pieces that you broadcast out to your audience and so each blog post or content idea doesn’t need to solely be one or the other. As mentioned earlier with the example about wheelchairs, that item will be written because I know that the searching audience is looking for it, but it won’t be published to my social because I know for a fact that not ALL (or even most) of the audience is looking for that. How do I know that? I know that only 50% of girls with Rett are wheelchair users. I also know that in much of the world where there is socialized healthcare (like Europe), you don’t get to choose your child’s wheelchair unless you’re buying it privately. I know that in the USA, your insurance company will have an agreement about what they pay for and I’ve never been given the option of which chair Grace gets. So the person searching because they’re going to privately spend many thousands on their child’s wheelchair is very niche and not most of my audience.
BUT there I am still talking about blogging for SEO when what I’m supposed to be talking about is blogging to broadcast to your existing audience. The thing is, this is the factory setting that most people start out with when they sit down to plan their content. So you probably already approach your content this way. By asking yourself what YOU want to be talking about. By focusing on the products and services you’re promoting. In a way, outbound is about using your blogging platform to advertise. And remember, though, that running in the background of EVERYONE’S mind at this very moment is “what’s in it for me?” Because YOU are the most important thing to you. And I am the most important thing to me. We seek and respond to a stimulus that promises to add value to our lives and so if you write a blog post called “you should buy my stroller”, that’s focused on you. But if you call that post “the most fashionable stroller of 2019”, that speaks to your audience and beckons them to click that link. It cashes in on FOMO and makes a fashionable mom think “oh no is my stroller not fashionable enough?” It also speaks to the audience who are having babies in 2019 or buying for loved ones who are. Ask yourself: is this blog idea building value for YOU or does it add value for the audience? When you produce self-serving content and force it in front of your audience you make their valuable time irrelevant and this breeds frustration. Not only should your outbound content be titled properly, but when they DO click, reward them with information that adds value to their lives and if done well, you can totally do this and sell your brand at the same time.
Not all of your content will be evergreen. The “most fashionable stroller of 2019” post will definitely be obsolete after 2019 and probably start becoming irrelevant toward the later half of the year. But strike while the iron’s hot! Not everything needs to be evergreen and, in fact, content with a shelf life can be powerful to grab attention in a world where there’s a lot of content vying for your audience’s attention.
Stretching your ideas
Now that we’ve talked about the reasons you’re blogging, let’s talk about how to stretch those ideas and give that content legs. And this post is an object lesson in just that.
1. Split them into more than one piece of content!
The first way you can stretch your ideas is to not cram them all into one space. Sometimes when you start out making a piece of content, more than one piece of content may emerge. When I first sat down to write this post, it was going to be about how to stretch your ideas to give your content legs. But first, I felt the need to flesh out the two types of content you’re creating. And so, the topic of inbound and outbound content became a strong item all on its own.
And so this is going to be an example for you of tip #1 for how to stretch your ideas: I’m making this post a two-parter! Next week in part 2, I’ll flesh out 5 more ways you can stretch your ideas, work smarter not harder and give your content legs.