This guest post is by Gregory Ciotti of Help Scout.
Getting the word out about your startup is tough.
Blogs serve as a great way to increase organic traffic and establish the all-important relationship of “know, like, trust” through the provision of free content. In addition, few other marketing channels allow you to connect so well with prospective (and current) customers as well as giving you a platform to provide readers with a ton of value.
To become a thought leader in your startup’s industry, and to generate quality leads through your blog, be sure to follow these ten essential steps to creating a blog presence that thrives in the crowded blogosphere.
1. Create useful resources
You’ve likely heard (many times over) the effectiveness that resource pages and opt-in freebies play in generating more email sign-ups, and it’s all true.
But when it comes to startups, these resources become doubly important.
It’s critical that you create numerous resources that are both informative about your industry and your offering.
Maintaining an ever-growing resource section that employs multiple media types to help people become informed about both your industry and your business is essential for increasing conversions.
Why are resources so important for startups?
If you’re just running a blog, your resources are likely going to be used to generate more subscribers.
But for a startup, these resources can be the deciding factor in whether customers are willing to try you out: your free content gets them on your site, but your professionally prepared and incredibly useful resources give them the info they need to justify a purchase.
2. On-site content + guest blogging = success
Don’t get me wrong, running a company blog is hugely important. It’s so obviously effective, it almost doesn’t need to be mentioned.
One thing I see many startups fail to do, however, is to embrace the power of guest blogging.
Although the process can be time consuming, and it may take an extended period before any fantastic results are achieved, it is hard to argue with the success of folks like the BufferApp team, who’ve utilized guest blogging to attract over 100,000 users to their service.
Great on-site content deserves to be viewed, and there are few things that work as well as guest blogging to get your worthy content in front of readers who will enjoy it. Speaking of getting the word out…
3. Content promotion doesn’t end with a tweet
This is a big one. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that this is the biggest mistake any blogger can make.
Once a great piece of content is written for your blog, you may think your work’s done. In reality, it’s just begun.
They don’t call it “content marketing” just for kicks: although the content itself is a good marketing outlet, you’ve got to market your own content in order for it to succeed.
What does this mean? It means reaching out to people who may enjoy your posts.
This exemplary tale of getting published on Lifehacker makes an important point: when your content really is interesting and informative, getting featured on a huge blog like that may only be an email away.
It’s all about finding the right places for your content, and establishing a connection with the sites’ owners through mutual interests. Don’t blast your latest article out to everybody you know. Find a few people who might really enjoy it, and send them a personal email.
If you don’t know where to begin, I recommend browsing a few sites in your niche via AllTop.
4. Repeat after me: it’s not about you!
This is content marketing 101, and although it’s pegged at point four on this list, this is really the most important tip.
Your startup’s blog is never going to be an industry leader if the only thing you talk about is you.
On occasion, an important company update is definitely necessary. Cool company stories also make the cut, because they’re something that anyone can enjoy.
The rest of the time, you need to be creating content that informs, delights, and solves the problems of potential customers.
One of my favorite examples of a company that gets it can be found over on the Mint blog. While Mint is a powerful tool that’s worth writing about, the Mint blog focuses on Mint’s customers’ interests, which in this case includes topics like personal finance, savings, and income (jobs).
People read what interests them. While the internal updates within your startup may interest you, few other people are going to want to read about them. That’s why, in order to become a thought leader, your content needs to serve customer’ needs and interests, not yours or your team’s.
Your goal is to turn your company blog into a resource of its own. When other outlets start doing round-ups of the Top 25 [your niche] Blogs, will yours be mentioned?
5. Use the “halo effect” to generate more links
Your startup shouldn’t be excessively worried about getting backlinks, but generating links is an importance process of establishing your company’s (and your blog’s) authority in search engines.
One thing that startups can utilize is the so-called halo effect.
The halo effect states that people will generally feel favorably towards people (and things) that give them a good impression (that impression can be through association, perceived intelligence, and even their attractiveness).
As an example, there are many entrepreneurial shows that startup founders can appear on for more exposure. The shows are popular and seen favorably, and so are the people who appear on them as guests.
This is the halo-effect in action: people generally support startups and view a group of hard-working people toiling away at a new venture as admirable, and they will often be willing to tell your story if it relates to their audience.
6. Check in on the competition, and find what they’re lacking
You can’t create a great company blog without a unique selling proposition. It’s needed for your business and it’s essential for your content as well.
The best way to do this is to see what’s lacking over on your competitor’s blog.
One great example comes from the fine folks at StudioPress, where content creator Josh Byers creates some of the more interesting web-design content around.
Many other WordPress theme sites only update on new theme releases or new features. If they don’t do that, their blog posts are often uninspired or generic.
Taking advantage of this, Josh creates some really in-depth content like the Secret to Confidence with Color Design, a fantastic look (with some great visuals) on a topic that many rookie website owners struggle with.
While competitors are busy focusing on themselves, Josh and the StudioPress team produce a ton of content that helps readers, and that’s the best kind of content to write!
What gaps are your competitors leaving wide open? How could you come in and fill the void?
7. Collaborate to take things to the next level
One of the biggest advantages you have at a startup is that you have access to a lot of talented minds. You don’t need to rely entirely on yourself, as you do as a solo blogger.
I mentioned how effective resources can be, but these collaborative efforts can also be used to enhance your marketing.
One of my favorite examples comes from the excellent startup Grasshopper, which collaborated with Less Films in order to create a video entitled “Sh*t (Tech) Entrepreneurs Say”, a comedic spin in the same vein of the original viral video:
On your team you’ll likely have a multitude of talents, so if you are able to use different aspects like visual marketing, creating different kinds of media, or brainstorming other out-of-the-box marketing tactics, you’ll more than likely have the manpower to pull it off (this is a more difficult process if you work alone).
8. Don’t fall for the social media trap
Bring out the pitchforks! Yes folks, I said it: social media is by and large way less useful than its vastly superior counterpart: email.
Social media is great in that it lets other people share your content. That’s good for exposure, but it happens without you being there. While it is useful for your brand to engage on all of the essential social media platforms, you’re dooming yourself to failure if you aren’t placing emphasis on email.
Email is the greatest way to provide customers value, to drive consistent and reliable traffic back to your site, and to … oh yeah, make more sales.
This is especially true if your startup is in the enterprise software or B2B spaces, because email crushes social media in those areas.
So remember, it’s great to create a strong following on Twitter, but if you aren’t ending your funnel with email (and actual sales), you’re just wasting your time.
9. Simplify your SEO
Search engine optimization is a powerful piece of the content marketing puzzle, but it can be portrayed as a very complex subject, and that’s largely because at its deeper levels, it is.
For startups, the most important SEO rule is this: create content for humans, then target one keyphrase per article. That’s it.
Create blog posts that people will enjoy. Next, find a relevant keyphrase that you might be able to rank for that’s related to that article. After you’ve figured this out, you can contextually link back to that article from guest posts and other off-site features, as well as make headline adjustments in things like All-in-one-SEO to enhance on-site optimization.
Industry-leading content is made for people to read and enjoy, but by keeping search engines in mind can help get it in front of a larger audience.
10. Follow the leader(s)
Sivan Cohen recently did a great piece on Mashable entitled 5 Tech Companies That Get Content Marketing Right, and in it she outlined some of my favorite places to observe as I look to improve my own blogging efforts.
To make things a bit more concise, I’ll highlight my two favorites:
Here’s what I like about what they do…
For KISSmetrics: The focus was on creating industry leading content and large guides on complex topics within the field of marketing and analytics.
KISS also entered the scene early by focusing heavily on infographics that truly set the bar for design. They weren’t afraid to get very data-driven because they knew that’s what their customers wanted. It’s okay to ostracize some readers—you want the people that lap up the kind of content that relates closely to your brand, as those people will become your buyers.
For the Buffer blog: The two big highlights are the prodigious guest posting coming from Buffer’s main content guy, Leo Wildrich, and the subsequent pivot of the Buffer blog USP.
Leo has done a fantastic job with utilizing guest blogging to bring customers back to Buffer, and it’s also what got Buffer’s own blog off the ground (I should know—I was the first person to guest post there!).
Buffer also made a great pivot recently when it outgrew its original topic of unique Twitter tips. It now addresses an angle consisting of productivity, lifehacks, and customer happiness (since it now serves multiple social networks).
There are definitely other great examples to learn from, so pick a few favorites and start taking notes!
Blogging for startups
As you can see, blogging for startups is different than either blogging solo, or blogging for an established business.
How has your startup utilized blogging so far? Bloggers, have you ever worked with a startup? If so, what were your experiences? I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments!
Gregory Ciotti is the author of Sparring Mind and the content strategist for Help Scout, the customer service software for small-businesses that turns email support into a fast, easy and memorable experience for customers. Learn more about @HelpScout by watching this free webinar.