In case you can’t tell, I spend a big chunk of my work day blogging here at PrintFirm. I don’t do this for my health; in fact, incessant typing is quite taxing on my delicate wrists. Copywriting comes naturally to me, but my bosses want me blogging for a reason—my writing helps their bottom line.
They’re not the types to hoard trade secrets, so I’m free to share a bit of my online marketing knowledge with you. I’ve noticed a disturbing vacancy on many printers’ websites and I can’t resist the temptation to set the record straight on content marketing. I’ve also gotten a lot of annoyingly vague questions about blogging on LinkedIn in particular, which brings me to today’s Q & A. For the sake of discussion, I’m going to assume that you have very little experience writing for the web. I tried to put myself in your shoes and figure out what kind of answers you’re looking for when you ask me open ended stuff such as, “How can I promote my printing business online?” Let’s hope we both learn something through the dialogue below!
Do I really need a blog? I’m a freaking PRINTER!
Now that I got that out of the way, I’ll level with you. I find this question expresses underlying animosity towards digital marketing in general. I can respect that. After all, many printers feel threatened by online channels to this day. You’re skeptical and maybe even resentful because you believe the web killed your sales. Fair enough. I’d be lying if I said that online advertising didn’t put a dent in your profit margin. Nevertheless, I urge you to view multi-channel marketing as an opportunity rather than a unwelcome intrusion. I bet you explain the benefits of cross media to your clients daily—heed your own advice!
Here are 3 reasons why your brand can’t live without fresh blog content:
You need to feed search engines- Think of Google as the insatiable Cookie Monster. You see, Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. uses special software robots called spiders to “crawl” your website. These spiders feast on new material, and they won’t waste their time on your site unless you deliver tasty morsels for them to munch on. You can’t update the text on your banner printing product page every day, though, which presents a problem: How do you get the spiders to keep crawling your site and get a clearer picture of when to serve up your business in search results? And the answer is… blog, blog, blog!
Content gives you original material for social media sharing– Surely you share awesome stuff about print, design, typography, marketing, and other interesting topics with your social communities. That’s great, keep up the good work! But sharing other people’s content nonstop doesn’t benefit your business very much in the long run. Your community members connected with you because they want to hear what you have to say. A brand without a distinct voice will have a hard time standing out in a sea of noise. Your blog gives you a place to educate, entertain, and engage without relying on a 3rd party provider intent on burying you (*coughs* FACEBOOK *coughs*). Plus, every click from your social pages to the blog drives traffic to your site. Talk about a win, win! Eventually, your customers will see you as a fun, useful resource, and they might even look forward to your tweets.
Lead generation, baby- You probably consider sales a top priority. You’d do just about anything to boost those numbers, right? Well, blogging will help you accomplish this goal in several ways. First off, people will be able to find your posts through search and social although they might not be in the mood to purchase a product. At least not right away. These folks won’t land on your catalog printing page because they’re not looking for it yet. Maybe they’re doing research into promotional strategies or hoping to find awesome business card design examples for inspiration. Either way, you already know they’re interested in your products and services. Otherwise they wouldn’t click on your links in search results. In the online marketing world, we call this targeted traffic. The phrase refers to the kind of users you want, those who are most likely to buy something now or in the future. That doesn’t mean you try to hard sell them on your blog, but be sure to include a couple of internal links (in moderation) along with a call to action at the bottom of your article. Your CTA doesn’t have to go the sales route. For instance, your blog is the perfect place to capture emails for your promotional campaigns and company newsletter.
Does my blog need to be on my website or can I use a free platform?
Oh boy. Let me put it this way. Do you want to drive traffic to WordPress.com, Weebly, Blogger, Tumblr, etc. or to your own website?
You said your site, right? Ok, there’s your answer. Your blogging efforts should promote your own site, not an online blogging community. The only way to get the real benefits of blogging is by hosting the blog on your own domain.
If your website were a piece of real estate, then your blog would be the beautiful backyard patio where you invite guests to kick back. You wouldn’t put this kind of addition on a rental property, though, because you don’t actually own the home. Case via analogy closed.
What should I write on my printing company blog?
Personally, I believe printers have an advantage over other industries as far as content is concerned. Our niche blurs the lines between technology, design, marketing, and fine art. Plus we’re naturally associated with paper production/advocacy, environmental issues, education, and a rich history. Add your company’s adventures (client projects, announcements, events) and you should be able to blog from now until the end of time.
Does everything have to be original? Can’t I just curate great content?
Personally, I err on the side of originality. I strongly encourage you to get in the habit of creating more than you curate. I’m referring only to your blog here because social media communities are another story. I follow the 80/20 rule on social, which means that only 20% of my social shares overall come from our brand.
Back to blogging. Curating content can help your blog gain traffic so long as you include an explanation of why you decided to post the infographic, article link, etc for your readers. Throw in your own 2 cents on the subject to add extra value, and you’re good to go.
Before we move on, I want to extend 2 cautionary notes.
- #1) DO NOT REPOST ARTICLES IN ENTIRITY WITHOUT PERMISSION. I don’t mean to shout at you, but I want you to know that this is an important point. It’s bad netiquette (internet etiquette) to straight scrape (copy) content from another site and repost it even if you link back to the source.
- #2) Google’s not a big fan of curators. As Google’s algorithm evolves, they’re getting much better at making lazy bloggers disappear. So be careful about curating too much or you may see your blog traffic decline quickly in the near future.
How often should I blog for my business?
My gut instincts say you should blog as much as humanly possible. But I realize that’s not exactly realistic unless you have an in-house inbound pro like me on your team. And even I don’t blog every day because I have too many other
distractions responsibilities that get in the way. You’ll have to decide the best way to utilize your available resources.
Most inbound marketers recommend posting at least once per week. Still, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that daily blogs generate fantastic results; however, I want to extend a friendly warning about this model. It’s been my experience that small businesses simply can’t keep up with this demanding schedule, at least, not without sacrificing quality. I’m sure you’ve seen some snake oil salesmen trying to convince you that you can produce great content in just 15 minutes per day. That’s absolute nonsense, especially considering how many brands are publishing on the web (a phenomenon known as content shock). I’m a professional writer and I spend at least 2 or 3 hours on a typical blog post. Longer ones like this eat up an entire work day or 2. The mythical easy blog post template won’t cut the mustard in 2014 and beyond. Simply stated, inbound marketing is hard work. You have to slave away to get the results you want just like the rest of us.
How long should my articles be?
It depends. Don’t bother posting less than 350 words unless you’re curating. Longer posts (600-2,000 words) with references and uncommon language send good signals that you’re posting higher brow articles. I say mix it up. Let’s say you’re going to blog 3 times per week. 2 of those posts can be 500 words with 1 extra meaty article. At the very least, aim for 1 epic post per month.
Should I link to other websites in my articles?
Ab-so-freaking-lutely! Linking to authoritative edu sites or high PR domains passes a tiny bit of juice along to your post. Still, you want to be strategic about outbound linking, too. By that I mean you shouldn’t always go for the major publishers who will likely ignore you. Seasoned bloggers understand the importance of backlinks, and smaller sites might return the favor or at least give you a pingback.
Does my blog need images to go along with the copy?
Yes. You’re telling stories and visuals help convey your message. Just compress the pictures before you upload them so they don’t slow down your load speed. You should also name them properly for image searches and include keyword friendly titles, captions, and descriptions.
Where can I go for blogging printspiration?
My main sources for blogging material are as follows: Google analytics, Webmaster Tools, our customers, my co-workers, and the top printing industry blogs. I suggest you dig into your web analytics to develop a content strategy, sign up for Google alerts related to your services, and ask your social media communities for topic suggestions. You can never go wrong including your clients in the process.
Who should I follow for better blogging tips?
You mean besides me?
Seriously though, I’m afraid I can’t think of a very good source of this type of information in the CMYK space. There are a lot of industry publications, yet I find that their online marketing tips merely scratch the surface. For better blogging advice and online marketing training in general, I recommend you follow these Twitter accounts:
How to Use Persuasive Words: http://t.co/MoYqGcthJr
— Copyblogger (@copyblogger) February 21, 2014
— Moz (@Moz) February 21, 2014
Content Marketing Institute
3 Branded Content Formats that Will Rule in 2014 http://t.co/Nc1FQt4Rfs
— Content Marketing (@CMIContent) February 21, 2014
Of course these sites maintain active blogs you can subscribe to for free.
Got blogging questions?
Hopefully you’re pumped to produce some bodacious blog posts for your printing company! I think I covered most of the critical stuff, but maybe I missed your biggest burning question. Ask me anything about blogging in the comments below!