When I started brainstorming for this article, I kept gravitating toward Hawaii, not because I was planning a vacation, unfortunately, but because writing for the Web reminds me so much of the islands.
First off, it tends to be separated from the rest of marketing efforts. Second, the geography of the smaller Hawaiian Islands could be Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The Big Island? Well, that would be blogging. These days, the blog is the biggest land grab in the online landscape.
As the novelty of social platforms has faded, companies are now revering the original granddaddy as a home for their rich content, where they can elevate the brand, build credibility, and increase search engine optimization.
Here are some of the latest trends you should know about this online destination:
All hail the Big Kahuna
Though you’ve probably heard this a million times, it’s time for the message to take hold: Your company must have a blog.
Whether yours is a small business, scrappy startup, or large company, over and over it’s been shown that customers and prospects want a blog, rely on it, and trust it more than any other content you have to offer. Add to that, it’s the No. 1 way to generate leads
I made up that portmanteau, but remember those “boondoggle” corporate trips from days of yore? It’s simply not tolerated anymore. Neither are company blogs that prattle on about how great their services or products are.
“Never promote yourself. Give, give, give,” as Chris Ducker, the virtual CEO
Now, with social media turning the tables as the great consumer-equalizer, this means a shift in perception of brands: The corporate curtain of robo-language and plain vanilla personality is no longer accepted, whether for a big company or a personal brand.
It’s about being conversational, authentic, and having a real connection with your audience. If not, readers will go elsewhere— to the competition, for instance.
Great content is the ticket
Good content doesn’t just happen. It stems from a well-planned, smart narrative planted throughout your marketing strategy and based on your customers’ needs, not just your company’s revenue goals (see above section).
The key, as Dino Dogan, founder of Triberr
puts it, is that the blog is “the seat of power” and home for all that rich, relevant content. (Then it can be jetted off to other social islands, websites, and other online venues that are part of your outreach.)
Don’t encourage readers to island-hop
One of the most conflicting and confusing areas of blogging is that of links. They are great for highlighting data that prove your point, referencing bigwigs who have higher search engine rankings, or courting back links, but it also means that the reader may leave your blog.
These days, a word to the wise is to link only when doing so adds value to the message. It’s become even more important with the rise of mobile devices. Looking at dizzying, overlapping blue underlines on a teeny screen is not conducive to reading, and it tends to result in misclicks and annoyances. (Thanks to mobile marketing expert Greg Hickman
for his insights here.)
Have mobile device, will travel
Speaking of mobile, it’s absolutely imperative to have a responsive design
for your blog these days—as in the site format will adjust to whatever screen size the user is on. (Tip: Some blog platforms have a one-click option to convert to mobile.)
Beyond that, a poor screen view gives the reader the immediate hint that you’re not customer-focused. According to Hickman, a whopping 75 percent of people leave a mobile site after only five seconds if it’s not optimized for viewing, and 46 percent won’t come back at all. Why take a chance?
No vacation from visuals
People respond to graphics like moths to light.
It’s been proven over and over, but in this age of online distractions, it’s better to grab a reader’s attention before another shiny object pulls them away. Take that extra 15 minutes to find that just-right image, collage, or infographic that encapsulates the message and has the potential to capture the reader’s interest.
Though we’ve all been in a pinch, I discourage using standard stock images unless you plan to customize them. And don’t forget to give credit to others’ work—which leads to my final takeaway.
Blog insurance: Don’t leave home without it?
Yes, blog insurance is a real thing. There have been a rash of legal tangles brought to the forefront recently around online copyrighted images, plagiarized content, defamation of character, you name it.
This concept is nothing new in “the press,” however, with the huge increase of blogs each year, access to millions of online graphics, along with the fuzzy nature of opinion versus fact, blogs have become an easy target.
For some companies, the prospect of being discovered using an image without credit and flying “under the radar,” outweighs the risk of ensuring they are within the bounds of fair use. Currently there are only a few blog insurance providers, but it’s a growing cottage industry.
[RELATED: Get advanced brand journalism tips from Mark Ragan and Jim Ylisela.]
Perfect and 72 degrees
I’ll say it again: Blogging is back. No, it didn’t actually go away, but blogs are in the limelight of the social media islands as never before.
Like Kona, home to one of the most active volcanoes and tallest sea mountains in the world, blogging is the star destination for 2014. Make yours shine bright.
Janice Cuban is a San Francisco-based freelance writer, communications consultant, and lover of all things marketing and technology.