We live in a blog-happy society. If you’re reading this, chances are you have at least one blog that you contribute to, if not outright call your own. You might blog as a way of organizing your thoughts or to keep a digital diary. You might blog to share advice. You might blog to gain Twitter followers. Whatever your motivation, it’s up to you to define the relationship between your expected outcomes – assuming they exist – and your blogging efforts.
For marketers, however, a blog is more than merely a blank canvas or an outlet. It remains an increasingly popular and powerful tool – and it should be treated as such.
There’s nothing inherently sexy about a blog post, but it’s generally the most actionable form of content creation for inbound marketers. You don’t need to be good in front of a camera (video), a talented graphic artist (infographics), a polished speaker (podcasts), or even a terribly technical writer (whitepapers, ebooks, newsletters). You do, however, need keyword focus.
In Search of the Perfect Keyword
Keyword research consists of two elements:
- Search volume
- Ranking difficulty
The volume piece can be researched through a number of free outlets. Google’s Adwords keyword tool does the trick – just be sure to search [Exact] and ignore the difficulty rating, as this pertains to competition level in the Adwords universe, not organic search.
Ranking difficulty is much more difficult to gauge. If your marketing software doesn’t have a tool to use, take a look at the top 10 search results for a given keyword, and the PageRank associated with each URL, to get a sense of what you’re up against. A tedious process, to be sure – so you may want to find and stick with your favorite paid tool.
SEO has undergone a rebirth with the advent of inbound marketing. In fact, it’s now a central, core element of the inbound marketing approach. It’s no longer just about making sure your content is findable – it’s about forcing that process.
In its least dynamic form, SEO means having a target keyword in place to ensure that the shelf life of your content is lengthened beyond what social media and PR can offer – which, these days, isn’t much.
The Chicken or the Egg?
The great debate: do blog topics flow from keywords or vice versa? Personal experience would suggest that the answer is both.
Building a topic around a great keyword might feel more natural. Whereas finding a great keyword for a good topic is highly variable. The important part is simply having that keyword target in place, not the order in which it evolves.
North Star Metrics
As an inbound marketer, analytics are your best friend. Pay attention to these metrics to determine the overall effectiveness of your keyword-focused blogging strategy:
- Non-branded organic search (NBOS) volume: As you fill the top of your sales funnel with site traffic, pay close attention to the number of visitors who found you organically on keywords that don’t include brand identifiers. An exceptional target number is 10,000 visits/month within one year, assuming you’re starting close to zero.
- NBOS volume to leads: Are you successfully capturing the interest of your traffic? This conversion rate will tell you all you need to know about your calls-to-action and subsequent marketing offers. Shoot for a conversion rate of 3-5 percent minimum.
- Leads to qualified leads: A highly subjective measure, but nonetheless extremely important in sharpening your keyword strategy. If this rate is too low, you’re blogging too broadly. Conversely, if there is a downside to this rate being too high, it’s that you might be too narrow in your approach. Aim for anywhere between 20-50 percent based on how you choose to define a “qualified lead.”
It’s tempting – and extremely easy – to take a mix-and-match approach to being keyword focused. A few examples of this are picking a keyword without doing the necessary research or attributing any uptick or downtick in traffic or sales directly to your blogging efforts without verifying data.
Absent the comprehensive approach, you’re likely blind blogging: wishing for the best without knowing where you’re headed.
Don’t be a blind blogger.
Guest author Eddie Earnest is a big-thinking entrepreneur focused on staying ahead of the marketing curve and using that knowledge to help build awesome companies. Follow him on Twitter: @eddie_earnest.