This guest post is by Dominick DalSanto of Baghouse.
Imagine you are called into your boss’s office and presented with the following assignment: head a new marketing initiative for your entire company.
You are to do so using a medium and associated technologies that you have absolutely no experience with, and the plan you are going to follow is one that a great many other companies have tried/are trying to do, only to see failure. You are to do all of this without any training or instruction of any kind.
Needless to say, you might a be a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of the task assigned to you. I know I sure was when this very thing happened to me a few years ago. I found myself tasked with running a new online marketing strategy for our company, with little experience, and hardly a clue on how I was going to do it. Quite a daunting task for the new guy at the company.
Our company, Baghouse.com, which sells industrial dust collection systems (a type of air pollution control technology), had decided that we needed to exploit of the overall lack of internet presence in our industry, and use that to our advantage by initiating a new online marketing strategy. This new strategy included a redesigned website with a focus on useful, practical content that would increase our company’s reputation as a industry leader, and bring in new customers.
My job was to figure out how we were going to do it, how to do it for a reasonable price, and then put it into action. Some of the challenges that lay before me included:
- a lack of experience in both blogging and web marketing
- my competition was fierce and included a Fortune Global 100 corporation with nearly endless resources
- a very small potential audience/target demographic (industry professionals who deal with air pollution control equipment, and specifically dust collection equipment).
Where was I even to begin?
I found advice, but it wasn’t quite what I needed
As with most people in my generation, I figured that I would be able to learn all I needed about blogging by reading about it online. I did manage to find a number of great sites, such as Problogger and Copyblogger, among others. I also managed to run across Darren’s book about blogging, which also was an immense help.
Over the next few months, I read more articles about blogging than I can even number. Most of them had excellent tips for starting, maintaining, and promoting blogs for success. While some of these articles were very helpful (such as ones about SEO, design, software, etc.) I began to realize that a lot of this advice was not quite as applicable to my blog as it was to others with a more mainstream niche target.
For just one example, many articles talk about the importance of using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites to promote your articles, and to engage your readers. Here’s a cold hard fact: middle-aged industrial engineers (a large part of my target audience) looking for ways to decrease static pressure drop across their pulse-jet dust collector at the advanced manufacturing plant where they work are not the types that sit around and go looking for articles on Facebook while they are at work.
I quickly realized that while there was a wealth of valuable information on these sites, I needed to adapt it to my unique market, and combine it with more traditional industrial marketing methods to have any success.
Fast-forward to the present day, we rank #1 for five of the best keywords in our industry, and have increased overall traffic, traffic quality (more focused), and conversions (contacting us for a quote). Here’s what I did to take my blog from its beginnings to where it is today.
1. Learn your topic well enough to teach others
One problem I encountered was that to be a successful blogger, you need to know your topic well enough that your writing offers something valuable to your readers. Your articles can inform, they can teach, they can warn, they can do a lot of things, but you as the author need to know your niche well enough to identify what stories will fill these roles for your readers.
Despite working in the industry from a young age (it’s the family business), I, as the simple high school graduate, now needed to know enough about dust collection technology to write something with appealing value to guys with engineering degrees from MIT.
I needed to learn everything I could about the industry, but you can’t just go to Barns and Noble and buy a book on dust collection. I needed to find other ways to educate myself. This lead me to asking people at our company with decades of experience, finding other professionals on LinkedIn and asking them specific questions, and devouring whatever reading material I could get my hands on from websites, to trade publications, etc. In such a specialized niche as mine, tracking down this kind of information often proved exceedingly difficult.
In the end, my education did not happen overnight, but little by little I learned more and more and right away I started to use my still growing knowledge to write. Initially my writings were a little simpler, and harder to do, but I always worked hard to use what knowledge I had to prepare interesting, informative, and useful content for my readers.
Two years on, I still have a lot yet to learn, but I have gone from writing simple news stories to being featured in major industry trade magazines/blogs, and large environmental advocacy sites among others.
2. Do what you can for SEO, and recognize that pros can do the rest better
One of the most valuable of the many things I took to learning about when I started was search engine optimization (SEO). In many ways the potential SEO benefits to our main site were the driving force for establishing a blog in the first place. I learned quickly, however, that simply adding a blog to your site, and filling it with a few articles is not all it takes to shoot straight to #1 on Google.
As with the technical aspect of my niche, I made sure to subscribe to several of the best SEO sites out there, as well Website Magazine to learn all I could about SEO. After a while I became pretty knowledgeable about SEO and our site saw a marked improvement.
However, it is very important to avoid becoming overconfident in your own newly-acquired abilities. In time I began to realize that there was a limit to what I could accomplish with SEO, while still devoting sufficient time to content research and authoring, webmaster duties, as well as other marketing endeavors.
So we made the decision to hire an outside SEO firm to help us. After doing extensive research (well over 20 quotes) we settled on a smaller company out of Idaho that impressed us with their knowledge and vision for our site. We managed to negotiate an innovative agreement with them that would see us pay a reduced rate upfront, and then pay a higher total price only if we obtained a set number of goals (in our case, a first-page listing on Google for each of our five target keywords).
This allowed us to make the initial investment even with our tight budget. If we then should we see success from the campaign, we would be able to afford the higher rate. (I find it utterly laughable that SEO companies claim that they cannot offer any sort of promise that you will rank well after they take your money. What other business in the world could get away with such a brush off of responsibility for their work like that?)
The results that have come from this partnership are astonishing. With their skilled staff, they were able to correct several technical errors on our site that I had endeavored in vain to fix on my own (still working on learning web programming). Additionally, since they were taking care of the mundane SEO tasks (technical tweaks, press releases, etc.), I was able to focus my attention on higher value SEO initiatives (guest posts, high quality link exchanges, recommendations from other sites, etc.) which required more effort, more time, and an actual expert knowledge of the industry.
All of this has lead to us in less than five months improving three out of five of our target keyword rankings from an average of 60 to between #1 and #3 on Google.
3. Find creative ways to network
With such a tight focus, and a niche that in general has almost no internet presence, finding networking opportunities was by far the most difficult part of developing our site. To say it required extensive research to find other sites in our niche online is the understatement of the year. Besides other competitors, the number of directories that include our industry is limited to around five. After you get a listing there, there is really not much else out there for us to go for.
LinkedIn proved itself deserving of the accolades it frequently receives, by filling in the gaps in business marketing like it has. By creating a custom profile for myself, and for Baghouse.com, we were able to introduce ourselves to others in our industry. Along with that, LinkedIn groups provided us with not just one, but a number of different forums to post our articles, find help with technical questions, and introduce ourselves as industry problem solvers to potential customers.
In fact, the most visitors we ever received was when I posted a link to an article on five ways to increase dust collector efficiency to one of the LinkedIn groups, and then asked for everyone to share their thoughts on it, and let me know what if any additional items I could cover in the next article in the series. It resulted in a traffic increase of over 200%, and brought me to the attention of several major players in the industry, which then lead to several offers to write for several important trade magazines.
4. Guest post like your life depends on it, and expand your topic’s reach
Of all the SEO/web marketing tactics out there, few provide as many benefits as guest posting. Guest posting simultaneously provides means for direct marketing relationship building, and immense SEO value.
Yet I had an extremely difficult time locating sites with a similar focus to mine that allow guest posts.
My initial efforts to post on the few larger, directly related industry sites (industry trade magazines, pollution control equipment directories, etc.) ended in failure because no one would take me seriously as I did not have an established record of content that was up to their standards, and more simply because I was a nobody. So this again forced me to adapt my methods.
I started looking for ways to broaden my articles’ reach, and make new connections between what we do at baghouse.com and the rest of the world. I then began seeking out a wider range of sites that I could then guest post on.
I began to write articles that focused on the environmental aspects of our work, how our equipment is playing a part in protection the environment (environmental advocacy sites), how it protects workers from health hazards at work (workplace safety and workers’ rights sites), and how the recent legislative developments (stronger governmental pollution regulations) would soon require upgraded dust collection equipment (political blogs, environmental and corporate law sites).
Keys to success in industrial blogging
It was not easy, it did not happen overnight, and the battle to be and stay #1 will be ongoing. Nevertheless, I believe that we owe our success to these four points:
- Study your topic enough to be able to inform, educate, and motivate your readers: You can do this by reading trade magazines, subscribing to blogs and sites, and asking others in your field and learning from them.
- Learn all you can about SEO, but find a pro to help, allowing you to use your time pursuing the most valuable things: You can do this by: Reading, and studying about SEO online, and in print. Find an SEO firm that fits your company size and scope, and that can provide their services at a reasonable price with reasonable expectations.
- Find creative ways to network with other industry professionals and potential customers: you can do this by digging deep to find directories, news outlets, and other sites that deal with your niche. Utilize LinkedIn to the full, by creating complete profiles for both personnel and the company, and by joining Groups that fit your niche.
- Use guest posting to increase your prestige, improve SEO, and attract new visitors: You can do this by identifying all blogs and content publishing websites in your niche, and broadening your scope of your content as much as possible to take advantage of “nearby” niches and their blogs.
Whether blogging about industrial dust collection systems or other less common niches, you will find success if you are willing to be adaptable, insightful and creative enough to take methods that have guided countless others to blogging success, and use them to find success yourself.
Dominick is a dust collection systems expert and author, having published numerous articles, whitepapers, and news pieces covering the benefits of baghouse filter technology in controlling industrial air pollution. California born, Chicago raised, in his spare time, he writes about travel and life abroad for various travel sites and blogs from his current home in Buenos Aires, Argentina.