Content marketers are a well-trained bunch. We’ve been taught to churn out content at every opportunity, and as a result, there are more than 152 million blogs currently idling away on the Internet. As a reader, that number is both exciting and daunting, but as a brand hoping to use its blog to connect, 152 million pieces of competition is downright depressing.

Thus began the “How to Accelerate the Growth of Your Business Blog” session with Hubspot’s Anum Hussain at the 2016 Content Marketing Conference.

The Architecture Behind Great Blog Strategy

If you write it, they will come. Except millions of businesses have discovered that’s not exactly true. There are millions of blog entries languishing in nothing short of obscurity, and it has everything to do with the content – not what’s written, necessarily, but how it’s written. That’s what Hussain was here to discuss: optimization. How can we optimize our blogs to bring in the people we want in the numbers we need so that we get the subscriptions (more on that a little later) that may make or break our brands. Her answer? Strategy!

  1. Gain a deep understanding of your target audience
  2. Create posts that not only attract but also scale traffic
  3. Ignite your blog subscriptions

Who Are You Talking To?       

You know what they say happens when you assume… right? Guessing as to the needs and wants of your audience can easily spell disaster for your business blog. After all, content is consumer driven. Reach out to people who represent your target audience and as them the following:

  • Who are they? –
  • What do they do?
  • What do they want?
  • How do they see themselves?
  • How do they spend an average day?

For the price of a cup of coffee, you’ll quickly learn everything about your “model consumer” from the position in their company to their professional aspirations to what they read over breakfast to what kind of content makes them pull out their hair. It’s a miniature focus group, really, but instead of hiring a third-party consultancy and poring over dry data boiled down to its most lifeless and boring form, you’re gaining insight only possibly through first-hand interaction.

  • What question made them light up?
  • What answer made them laugh?
  • What question made their face slacken and eyes cloud over?
  • Did they embrace more formal language or a relaxed, casual vocabulary?
  • Were there any buzzwords that made an impression (in either direction)?
  • How did they dress?
  • How did they hold themselves?
  • What kind of references did they make?

Do this 10 times and you have a reasonably broad sampling of your target audience. Do it 100 times and you’ve painted a Louvre-worthy picture of the people whose opinions matter to your brand the very most. You’ve also laid the groundwork for your blog-building strategy.

Dedicated to Blogging

Once you’ve established your audience, you have to give them something to read. Your content creation process should spring from the aggregate persona you built earlier. Focus on actionable content that speaks to a specific group with a concrete idea of who they are and what they want to do with the time that they have. How? Make these two ideas your mantra:

  • Email lists are massively powerful tools! Some 70 percent of the traffic to hit each new Hubspot Marketing Blog post comes from the site’s subscriber base.
  • Your readership is your foundation, so use your blog to get subscribers first. Optimize with that specific intent and the leads will follow. In a way, blogs are simple – write for them, and they will come (and they’ll bring their wallets).

Granted, this takes time. Not just anyone can blog – that why so many companies are now investing in either freelance or in-house content creation teams. Marketers who prioritize the blogging portion of their content marketing strategy are 13 times more likely to be rewarded with positive ROI.

The Nitty Gritty

All the concepts above are both interesting and integral to the beginning steps of blog building, but there are some concrete takeaways that Hussain was kind enough to share with the audience. Here are some highlights for her more than 20 optimization tips:

  • Build a URL that search engines can read – that means using targeted keywords separated with a dash (-)
  • You need a great title, but don’t overestimate how “click-baity” a subject line really needs to be. Sure, you want your audience to take action, but at some point a useful title like “The Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Sunscreen” turns into “You Won’t BELIEVE the Killers in Your Medicine Cabinet – #8 Will Blow Your Mind!”
  • Stop keyword stuffing. This should be a given, but it’s stunning how many businesses are still shoehorning keywords wherever they’ll fit. Google is too smart for that, and so are your readers.
  • Hussain’s employer, Hubspot, found that slide-in CTAs generate an impressive 27 percent more submissions than CTAs appearing at the end of a post, and above-the-fold CTAs are similarly effective.
  • Break up your content with visuals. Discussing different types of email blasts? Include an actual screenshot of an email in your blog.
  • Sprinkle a few internal links throughout your post, but make the first one count – that’s the one Google is most interested in.
  • Embed “Tweet This!” buttons to generate more social traffic.
  • Companies with active blogs generate 97 percent more leads. Above all, keep writing.