I had the honour of delivering the opening speech at Edge of the Web 2019 on the Gold Coast, Queensland.
On the day, I talked about the lessons creating an inbound marketing channel, with the 6Q blog. Below is my slide deck, and a little more description underneath about the way we grew our successful blogging process.
My notes from the day are below.
What is 6Q?
We created 6Q as a standalone product, within my digital marketing business.
6Q empowers team leaders and business owners to send frequent employee surveys to their team.
It’s a typical SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) business, where our customers subscribe to a monthly plan. The great thing about this, is we’re working on one product constantly, used by many.
Because it’s in a relatively recent software category (employee pulse surveys), we have to both educate and market our product.
6Q customer path
An ideal customer path for us, is that a person within our target audience, follows a simple path;
- They visit our website and like what they see;
- They then sign up for a free 25 day trial;
- They find value in it (the ‘Aha! moment’);
- They subsequently they upgrade to paid plan, and;
- By working on retention, they remain as a customer.
Easy, right? But how do we attract them to our website to begin with? Great content and effective SEO.
We chose blogging
When we first started 6Q three years ago, we tested many traction channels, to see what works.
What we found were many didn’t work for us, as they were either costly (we’re proudly bootstrapped) or time intensive (this was a part time project).
We found that blogging worked for us to build audience and demand, but we’re acutely aware that it is slow to take off.
I love blogging (hey, you’re reading my personal blog right now), and I like to say that the benefits of successful blogging are;
- It can be very cost effective
- Great lead generation
- Great for position and brand
- Owned media, not subject to whim (ala Zuckerberg changing algorithms, etc)
However, at the same time, I like to point out that effective blogging is definitely not;
Posting regurgitated press releases that are all about yourself.
Keyword spam articles (for example “we do great digital marketing by digital marketing our digital marketing services, etc”, we all know those articles).
Random posts every few months, that lacks real value.
Randomly blurted words with no clear call to action or knowledge sharing.
Blogging involves significant effort
To iterate again, blogging is not an overnight thing. You don’t post twice and attract millions. Blogging involves;
- Lots of experiments
- Consistent effort and work
- Medium to long term benefits
- Strategic and planned
- Frequent momentum
- Measured and analysed
So let’s get into how I manage our successful blogging over at 6Q.
3 P’s of successful blogging
I like to break blogging down to the three P’s, which are;
Let’s go through each of these P stages, and explain in more detail.
The first P in my three P’s of successful blogging is planning. This should be done before you jump head in and start writing on your blog.
Before you start writing at all, take the time to understand exactly whom you will be writing for. Who are the decision makers or consumers of your service or product? The first step in blogging, is understanding exactly who you are writing for, and what interests them.
Who is perfect reader?
What are their interests and motivations?
What do they care about?
How can your content help them?
What subjects & topics will absolutely resonate with them?
Understand target audience
Now that you understand your audience, it’s time to really dive in, and understand what topics and content areas will appeal to them. Every post should be adding real value, not just rehashing the same old topics over and over.
Create areas of interest. I wrote a while back about a method I use to find areas of interest, using the Table of Contents from best selling books.
Break these down to topics. Each post should be aligned to one single topic.
Create editorial style guide. Consistency is key – every post should have a similar format.
Optimise your tech platform. I recommend WordPress.
Develop publishing workflow. This happens and adapts over time, when you’ve got dozens of posts already published.
Write for audience
Every post you write should resonate with your audience. What is it that they care about, and what value are you adding to their lives?
Think of your blog as an ‘ever expanding book’, where you continue to further dive into interest areas.
Must add unique value; it’s pointless if your post has no substance at all. It wastes their reading time.
I recommend Ahrefs to do this research.
Style & consistency
As I mentioned earlier, consistency is super important. You want every post to follow a formula that you set. Take time to sit down and figure out (and be willing to change this over time), things such as;
- Tone and personality;
- Common words/spelling;
- Language conventions, and;
- Visual style.
Choosing a tech platform, ie the blogging software you are going to embrace, is very important. You want whatever you choose to be;
- Search engine optimised;
- Must be fast and reliable;
- Mobile optimised/responsive;
- Able to edit page titles/meta data, and;
- Fast loading images (I use Optimizilla for this).
This is tricky until you find your publishing rhythm, however developing and documenting a workflow is key to saving time and stress down the track. Anyone doing successful blogging has a method that they have developed over time, and typically stick to.
We use Trello to plan and document what stage various blog posts are at.
The second P in the three P’s of successful blogging is produce. This is the actual writing, editing and formatting of your blog posts. Surprisingly, this is only 40% of your effort.
Now that you have a list of topics, you need to target one and write one quality blog post about this one topic.
To do this effectively, you need to;
- Develop target keywords;
- Do interviews/quotes;
- Write quality at length;
- Create/license images;
- Avoid complex language, and;
- Always have editing step.
There’s nothing worse than spotting a typo after publishing – always try and have someone else read your post, and check for grammar and spelling.
Going back to ensuring you are adding value, you will want to read some of the many posts already out there on a topic. I can pretty much guarantee every topic, no matter how niche, has been written previously by someone else.
Using both Google and specific tools, we review;
What else is written?
Which was popular?
We then look for topic gaps, and;
Write from different perspectives.
Whilst you are obviously writing for human consumption, you want to spend effort on ensuring your blog posts have the best chance of being ranked and found on search engines. To do that, I recommend having one specific keyword for each post that you write.
I review elements on keywords, such as;
- Search volume;
- What competition for this phrase, and;
- Long(er) tail alternatives.
I always write with one keyword or phrase per article, as I mentioned.
I highly recommend Ahrefs for these research steps.
So, how do you make a blog post keyword rich? It’s a matter of ensuring that keyword exists in various points of each blog post. That is, it should appear in;
- Article title;
- Image ALT tags and file names;
- Content (obviously);
- Page URL or slug (such as /blog/keyword-goes-here/), and;
- Meta data.
If you plan ahead of time, you can find influencers for this topic who will supply quotes, feedback or ideally share your post to their audience. To do this, you should;
- Stalk (in a non creepy way) and engage them on social media;
- See what content they share;
- Approach them possibly for a quote, and;
- Consider doing a longer interview or guest post.
There is much debate over blog post length. I always believe in quality over quantity. I’d rather a more succinct article, than one padded out with thousands of cliche phrases, just to reach some invisible word count.
Having said that, we always publish at least 1,000+ words for each blog post on the 6Q blog. This post, for example, is 2,601 words long).
We ask all writers to break these lengthy posts down into sections with liberal subheadings, images and visual cues, so they aren’t overwhelming to read.
It’s not just words that matter either; the images you have with a blog post carry much weight.
Picking or creating quality images will improve the chances of shares and readers engaging with your content.
Use these images as visual cues of what the topic is, what section of the post they are in, etc.
If you aren’t creating images, and are looking for great stock images, I recommend:
stockphoto.com (Paid, support an Australian startup)
I’ve lost count of the times I have published something, to find I misspelt a word, or had a terrible sentence. To avoid that, I encourage you to get someone other than the person who write it, to read it carefully.
Always say no to bad grammar. If your post is grammatically terrible, it doesn’t matter how good the topic is.
Avoid complexity – if there is a simpler word, use it. Don’t make your readers have to think, just so you can show off how wide your vocabulary is.
Avoid industry terms. Acronyms are the bane of a reader’s existence. Unless you absolutely know every reader will know it, avoid using some specific term.
I recommend Hemingway Editor to drop your content into; it is very harsh with its settings, but you will learn a lot from the process.
The final P in the three P’s of successful blogging is promoting your blog. Skipping this step (and believe me, many people do) means that you’ve put in a truckload of effort to only have a handful of your audience read it. You absolutely should never skip this step.
Schedule on social media
You have business or brand accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and possibly Instagram, right? Use them!
Reach out to influencers on social media. Ask them for feedback or mention if they are quoted or referenced in your blog post.
Have a promotion checklist, so all your posts get love.
Repurpose these social posts for other uses, such as graphics or re-shares.
Re-promote later – many of the tweets from 6Q are sharing posts written months or years ago, that get new traffic and a boost in engagement every time.
To do the re-sharing automatically, we use a service called Missing Lettr which will use an RSS feed, and schedule up to a years worth of posts.
When posting on your social media channels, feel free to test different titles, and see which ones get better engagement.
Same when you write intro copy, don’t just share the article title. Be specific with what the post contains.
Use hashtags sparingly; nobody likes a hashtag spammer. Keep it to 2-3 very relevant hashtags, tops.
To schedule these posts across all of our social platforms, we use and recommend Buffer.
Either by social media, or by email (worst case), you should let the influencers or brands mentioned in your blog post know that they appear.
Worst case is they just read your article (great!), best case is they share it with their audiences too (fantastic!).
To find the right people, sharing similar competitor content, you can either use a tool like Ahrefs which I have mentioned before, or you can search for a specific article on Twitter, etc and look for those shares that get plenty of engagement.
Here’s an example of searching Twitter for anyone sharing 6Q blog posts. Just use your blogs subdomain or URL in the search box within Twitter.
As mentioned, you should always reach our to any influencers that you mention. You can do this via social media or reach out by email; in some cases I have done both, to ensure they got the message.
Always be sure to open with a compliment, and make the message or email personal to them.
If you don’t get a reply, you can carefully follow up (however please don’t annoy!).
One solution for contacting a number of influencers or brands at once, is Mailshake.
Every blog should have a mailing list as well. This allows readers to be notified when you have a new post up, or in the case of 6Q, publishing multiple posts per week, we tend to send one monthly newsletter with 3-4 of our best recent posts in it.
Ensure that one of your blog CTA’s (Calls to Action) is to subscribe to your newsletter.
Always send regular (no less than every two months) emails. It is very easy for subscribers to forget they signed up, and then report you for spamming, if you send less frequently.
You can also use these same email addresses for retargeting on ad platforms, such as Facebook Ads.
I highly recommend Mailerlite for email subscriber management and sending. Bonus tip; this link comes with a $20 credit for both you and me. I didn’t include them for that reason though; I really do enjoy their platform.
Writing guest posts on other blogs is a powerful method to find new audiences from other blogs, as well as build authority links back to your website, which has significant Google benefits.
In essence, guest posting is writing elsewhere, in order to get exposure and ideally backlinks.
This process helps you build further authority as an expert on your topic, and can really improve your SEO efforts as well. It can be a win-win for both you as the author, and the other blog as the publisher; hell, they get free content out of the deal!
Once your post is live, you can then use that same content and repurpose it for other uses. For example, you could;
Turn key points into slides, and post the presentation on Slideshare (as per the embedded presentation above).
You can easily use this content you’ve slaved over, to publish it again as an ebook or maybe a single video, or indeed a series of short videos.
You could use the content to produce a podcast, or simply publish audio files and share these again as well.
You can even make a series of sharable graphics with the key messages, and link back to the source blog post.
Successful blogging also includes updating old posts. You should make it a regular habit to go through older content and tweak occasionally. I wrote an article about how I did this very well, called Benefits of Refreshing Content.
Make part of your process the job of adding links to other articles you have written, and don’t forget to add links to newer blog posts from previous relevant articles.
In summary, blogging done well, can really help grow your business. Follow these three P’s to have a framework around what you are doing. Those three P’s of successful blogging again, are;
Done well, effective and successful blogging can be a great method of marketing your business. Go forth and publish, I’ll look forward to reading your posts!
Thanks again to the Australian Web Industry Association for the chance to present on this topic.