Whether you're a seasoned IT professional looking to develop your web content marketing strategy or you're a new MSP starting out in the channel, blogging for business can sometimes seem like an involved and intimidating process. Do you even know where to begin? We cover MSP blogging need-to-knows, answering questions like "how often should I blog?" and "what do I include in my blog posts" in the following business blogging overview!
But First...Why MSPs Should Blog
Not only does blogging frequently help grow more organic traffic and visibility to your blog and site, but it can also be a cost-effective way for your business to gain leads that will hopefully convert into customers. The cost per lead for blogging as a tracking metric is significantly lower than pay-per-click advertising, trade shows, and even social media posts. That's not to say you shouldn't utilize those other outlets, as they can be equally beneficial to your business strategy, but blogging can be a cheaper way to gain leads when first starting out.
How Often to Blog
When determining your blog plan, it can be difficult to figure out how much writing is feasible for your company. While blogging does require a time commitment, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy, and you should do what works for you. What's most important is consistency, so whether it's one post per week or one post per month, any number is fine as long as you stick to it.
A good suggestion for larger MSPs with the resources and bandwidth, is to start with two blog posts each week, and gradually increase your production from there. Companies who commit to regularly publishing content to their blogs tend to see the biggest change in website traffic and leads. Businesses that published 16 or more blog posts per month saw almost 3.5X more traffic and about 4.5X more leads than companies that published between 0-4 posts per month.
That being said, don't worry if you're just starting out and need to commit to less frequent posts - maintaining your own optimal cadence is key, and you will only grow from there. Keep in mind that blog posts come in many forms. Some alternatives to long form content like video, list and photo-based posts may be more suitable depending on your own team strengths and bandwidth.
MSP Blog Post Elements to Optimize
Once you've started to build up an arsenal of blog posts and have begun to establish your company's credibility as a thought leader, it's time to really start thinking about the quality and optimization of future posts. When doing this, there are a few key blog features to consider:
Quite simply, the headline is what will draw in readers to click or read your post. Don't let your headline exceed 70 characters in length as any Google search will cut off the remaining characters in your blog post title. Before committing to a title, measure the character count and adjust as is needed.
This refers to the text below your headline or page title on a search engine results page (SERP). The meta description provides a quick synopsis of the post's content, giving searchers the extra incentive they need to click your link. When crafting unique meta descriptions for each blog post, ensure each is concise, accurate and helpful for the reader. As a rule of thumb, keep these descriptions to 155 characters or less.
The optimal length of any post is 500-2000 words. That's not to say you can't write something that is shorter or longer, but to best engage your reader and get the most out of a person's attention span, that is the length to strive for.
Keywords are important for your audience when searching for posts, but you'll want to incorporate these naturally throughout the text, instead of pushing your chosen keywords whenever possible.
I suggest picking one or two long tail keywords that you can easily rank for and include in your headline for optimal visibility. For example, you'll want to use a keyword like "business intelligence data solution" instead of just, "business intelligence." Then from there, incorporate the keyword throughout the post, in the URL, in the meta description and in any other on-page search engine optimization (SEO) elements. But remember, the important thing with keywords is to not force it. Otherwise, you risk creating a negative user experience, facing Google penalties and losing return visits to your blog.
Images with Alt Text
Using images in your blog posts is an effective way to break up text, while also making posts more pleasing to the eye. In order to optimize your images for SEO, however, you have to use keyword-rich alt text and image file names.Alt text is the useful and relevant description you attach to each image to help search engines understand what it is about. Have you ever tried to open a web page or blog post that's photos wouldn't load? You may have seen blank white boxes showing the image title as something like, "screenshot0006.jpg?" Not the most professional impression. Including alt text in your photos helps you avoid this faux pas. When naming web files and adding alt text, be sure to use the long tail keyword(s) you've already identified. Let's say you're writing a blog post titled, 5 Productivity Hacks for Microsoft Office. Rather than using "Word-screenshot" as the file name and alt text for a photo featuring the Track Changes feature of the popular word processor, a more optimized version would be "How to edit documents using Microsoft Word's Track Changes feature." You always want your image file names and alt text to be highly targeted to your specific audience and what they see or search for.
Within a blog post, it's important to create some kind of call-to-action (CTA) for your reader. What are you trying to get them to do? Is it to subscribe to your blog or register for an event or webinar? Maybe after reading the post, you want them to download your latest eBook? No matter what you choose, make your primary call-to-action obvious to the reader. The goal is to keep visitors actively engaged on your website, with the hope of capturing contact information through remarkable content. By linking the CTA to a landing page, you can then measure lead generation and submissions.
It's also possible to include a secondary CTA within your blog post. Sometimes people read your blog and might not be ready to sign up for the webinar you're promoting just yet, but hey, they liked the content you produced, so they want to subscribe to your blog and continue receiving new posts. This is where including a secondary call-to-action is beneficial. Depending on where they are in their buyer's journey, different CTAs and content offers will convert differently.
What kind of call-to-action works best? General best practices for CTAs have been to put some kind of banner or button with your call-to-action at the bottom of the post. Recently, Hubspot tested this theory and discovered that in-line CTAs (those woven throughout the text) performed better for their business rather than dedicated CTA buttons. Anchor text CTAs drove 47-93 percent of HubSpot blog post leads as opposed to banner CTAs at the bottom of each article.
You can also create CTAs by including follow and share buttons to your company's social accounts. This is a good way to cross-promote your business in multiple places and gain traction to your Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter accounts.
3 Types of Links to Leverage in Your MSP Blog Strategy
One final piece to blogging for business is using and optimizing links throughout your post. There are a few different ways to feature links that will help you increase website visibility, gain more industry recognition and establish your business as a trustworthy and relevant source of information. There are three different kinds of links that can enhance your posts:
This is a link that actually comes from another source's website to your blog. You'll acquire inbound links once you've begun to establish yourself as a thought leader in your market, compelling other companies to link to your posts.
This is a link from your blog post that links to another website. Outbound links are useful when referencing any kind of third-party statistics.
Internal links connect readers from your blog posts to other pages or posts on your website with related content. Often it makes sense to link a relevant blog post to one of your product pages so prospects can learn more about your managed IT services.
When leveraging these three different types of links, each should use relevant anchor text, be reader friendly, and open in a new browser window. When you choose what words to link in each blog post, choose phrases that are a little longer. People are more likely to click on a link that says, "Subscribe to our weekly digest," instead of simply the word "subscribe."
With these helpful tips, you should be able to successfully launch or refine your company blog. While it may take time, effort and careful planning to get started, if you create and stick with the strategy that works best for your MSP business, there is no reason you shouldn't be able to see your business blogging efforts pay off in the long run!
Blogging is just one piece of the content marketing process...
By Gretchen Hoffman
By Gretchen Hoffman