If you’ve been in the blogosphere for a long time, you’ve probably heard of this name before. The magician of blogging, they call him. The wizard of content marketing, they say.
Other than that, he’s also known under the name of Adam Connell.
So who is Adam, I hear you ask? Well, Adam runs a mega successful blog for entrepreneurs and business owners called Blogging Wizard. His blogging tips have been featured on Huffington Post, Search Engine Journal, CIO, Kissmetrics, Forbes — the list can go on and on. And today, he shares some pieces of advice and wisdom on Styla.
If you’re a brand with a blog (or a blog that wants to become a brand), read this.
Interview with Adam Connell: How to Blog as a Business
Olga: Adam! You inspire thousands of people to start blogging. At Styla, we try to inspire brands to do content marketing. But we get to see that lots of brands don’t recognize the potential of content and don’t see how it can take their business anywhere… So to keep my question short, what do you think are the blogging perks for a brand?
Adam: Thanks ?
That’s a great question because there are a lot of perks – this is one of the topics that we find ourselves covering a lot with new clients at my agency (UK Linkology).
Blogging gives you the opportunity to become the go-to resource for your target customer, and to create a community that wants to hear what you have to say.
But there’s a catch because most brands approach blogging from the wrong angle. They use it to sell or publish announcements that a lot of people don’t care about. The real secret is to use a blog about topics people DO care about, so you can grow an audience.
Once you have a community, you’ll have a larger audience to market to in the future but it’s important to balance the promotional content with helpful content. The 80/20 rule works well here.
There’s also the SEO benefits of blogging as a brand – when you publish the right content and back it up with a smart content marketing strategy, you’ll be more likely to earn high-quality backlinks that will drive traffic and boost rankings.
The best way to think of your blog is as the top of your sales funnel.Tweet this!
It’s what you use to get potential customers in the door. You can then offer them something for free in exchange for their email address (I wrote a post on how to go about this, here).
The great thing is that you’re building an asset on your own terms. Especially when your focus is on building an email list. Why? You’re not building on rented land – it’s yours and you’re in full control.
The important thing to remember is that blog growth doesn’t happen overnight. So while there are a lot of perks, it’s essential to keep in mind that this is a long-term strategy. Although, putting some budget into it will help growth come all that bit quicker.
Olga: You once launched a new service for your agency that you grew into a 5 figure monthly business in just 3 months while spending just 10 hours per month on marketing it. How on earth did you do that?
Adam: At our agency, we wanted to launch a new service that we could effectively sell into other agencies. That meant a new website, new branding and a blog.
We had the processes and the team in place to deliver the service. We just needed customers.
We knew exactly the type of customer we wanted to attract, and we knew the type of content they’d want to read, and the types of blogs they’d visit regularly.
There were 4 main parts to this:
- Publish helpful content on our blog, designed to drive traffic from social & organic search
- Write for industry publications, to drive engaged traffic back to our website
- Monitor HARO (HelpAReporterOut.com) for PR opportunities
- Promote every single piece of content as much as possible
At this point, my blog (Blogging Wizard) had been going for around 5-6 months and had gained some good traction in the marketing/blogging space. This gave me an advantage because I had a good amount of content I could use as samples to secure opportunities writing for other blogs.
This definitely helped, but what really made the difference was writing for industry publications and HARO.
And the truth is these industry publications didn’t actually refer much traffic to us, but the traffic they did send us was hyper relevant, and engaged. For example, one reader eventually became a client who stayed with us for a few years, as well as a good friend.
The work I did for clients directly tied into the content I was writing which made it far easier to write content.
And out of HARO, I got a few opportunities to become an expert source for articles on HuffPost and CIO.com. All of which gave us some extra social proof and sent more engaged prospects our way.
Olga: Is there something you would have done differently when you started?
Adam: When I first started Blogging Wizard, I had a detailed plan. I thought I knew exactly how the launch was going to play out.
But I spent so long changing my plan and coming up with new ideas that it stopped me from moving forward.
In the end, I ditched most of my plan and went for it.
Now, Blogging Wizard is very different. It’s evolved a lot and that’s partly because as Dan Norris says, you don’t learn till you launch.
What you’ll learn after you hit publish for the first time is incredibly important, and it’s essential to use that to develop your blog over time. Blogging, in a way, is an iterative process. Your vision and your plan will become clearer as you begin to learn more about your audience.
You can do this through surveys, asking questions or engaging with readers via blog comments.
If I could start over, I’d do two things differently:
- Start building my email list from day one with a strong lead magnet. Email is direct, personal and immediate. It’s the best way to reach your audience, by far.
- Make product creation a priority. When you first launch, there are a lot of different things to do such as promoting your content, writing more content, networking and engaging etc. If I could go back, I’d make product creation a priority.
Psst: now that Adam mentioned email newsletters…. why don’t you sign up for one? ?
Olga: How would you define content strategy? What are the steps of the process that people have to go through?
Adam: Your content strategy is the plan that informs how you plan, create, manage and market your content.
But, I like to think of it as an extension of a sales funnel, because in general, that’s what our end goal is – more customers, right?
So, in a way, before you even think about content strategy you need to map out your sales funnel.
You need to think about how your funnel flows. From the blog content, to the opt-in content, to the paid products along with upsells.
Once you’ve got that nailed down, here are a few key points you need to consider when putting together your strategy:
- Who are you trying to reach? — You need to develop a persona for your target customer. For example, what are their hopes/fears? What are their challenges? Where do they hang out online? How do they define themselves?
- What are your competitors doing? And how? — Some competitors won’t have a good content strategy. You need to identify what’s good about it, and what isn’t. This will allow you to find the negative space, and set yourself apart.
- What content is currently performing? — Originality is great, but it doesn’t guarantee success. By reverse engineering successful content you’ll gain a competitive edge, then you need to differentiate.
- What topics does your target audience want to learn about? — This will partly be answered by creating audience personas, but there’s a lot more research you can do. I recommend starting off by mapping out 4-6 top level topic categories and writing out rough headlines below each ones. You can then use these categories within whichever CMS you use. If you have multiple persona’s you’ll need to map content ideas to each specific persona – writing for a single persona is far easier than writing for a number of them. Also incorporate the specific conversion goals you might have for each piece of content – e.g. signing up to your email list or encouraging comments/engagement.
- How will you position your content? — You might have an idea about this from your competitor research but it’s important to make this crystal clear. Create a set of editorial guidelines to make this easy. Include specifics about formatting to ensure consistency and anything that will help your content stand out – right down to specifics on how to create visuals such as featured images, or images to use in social campaigns. Also consider specific brand guidelines, such as your brand’s stance on particular topics or how to ensure messaging is consistent.
- How can you get the word out about your content? — You need a process to follow when you promote your content. This ensures that all promotional avenues are catered ticked off and everyone knows which page they’re on (that’s if you have a team).
- Who will be responsible for delivering your content strategy? — There are a bunch of different steps involved in the publication of content. This includes planning, research, writing, proofreading, formatting & adding into your CMS and content promotion. You need a top level process and you need to know exactly who does what. This gets a lot easier if one person is responsible, but as more people are added to the mix, the need for a solid process becomes far greater. It’s also worth noting which tools will be used in each step of the process.
Every content strategy takes a slightly different direction based on what your end goals are, but the above should give you a helping hand.
Olga: Internet is a noisy place and to make your blog stand out from the crowd, there are lots of things to consider: site speed, design, user experience, SEO… but of course, if your content sucks, your blog will kinda suck as well. So in this light, how would you define “content quality” as such?
Adam: That’s a difficult question because everyone has a slightly different interpretation of what makes quality content.
For me, I think of quality as a combination of the following:
- The content is well written and presented in a way that makes it easy to read
- The information is useful and involves some sort of transformation (e.g. solves a problem)
- The information is accurate and detailed
- I have enough information that I can take action with ease
Like you say, this is only part of the puzzle – site speed and user experience especially can have a huge impact on whether people read content.
Olga: Neil Patel says that you should spend at least 50% of your content creation time to content distribution. How much time do you spend on distribution?
Adam: It depends on the piece of content and how much time I’ve got available.
For example, in some blog posts I’ll mention more influencers, so I’ll spend more time on outreach and tagging them on social networks.
It’s usually a 60:40 split in favor of spending more time on creating content.
In an ideal world, I’d like to spend 80% of my time on content distribution, because that’s what makes the biggest difference when it comes to driving traffic. But, as someone who juggles multiple projects, I have to accept that there’s only so much I can do with my time. It also depends slightly on what point you’re at— if your blog is in its infancy then you need to put a lot more time in the promotion side of things to start moving the needle.
Olga: If you were to give one best distribution tip, what would it be?
Adam: Don’t make the mistake of thinking that “free traffic” exists.
Sure, there are plenty of traffic generation tactics you can leverage but free traffic doesn’t exist.
You will always pay with something, whether it’s with your time or your money.
Ultimately, like your content strategy as a whole, content distribution relies on a diverse approach that incorporates a large number of different tactics.
One of the most effective strategies, however, is connecting with influencers. You want to reach your target audience, but you don’t have an established audience (yet). So what do you do?
Leverage the audiences of influencers in your industry and forge meaningful relationships with them.Tweet this!
One of the most common ways of doing this is to mention influencers in a blog post, or piece of content. You can then reach out to them via email and/or social media to let them know they’ve been featured.
Some folks push them to share content, but the best approach is to leave it up to them. Most savvy influencers will share content that highlights their expertise.
Another common way to do this is to publish a group interview where you ask multiple influencers (experts) a question. Because they’ve invested time in contributing an answer, they’ll be more likely to share the published piece of content.
But, the truth is that you’ll need to get really creative to start forging relationships with these influencers. Far too many marketers connect with influencers and expect them to just give up their time without giving anything return.
Ultimately it comes down to forging meaningful relationships, and that starts by asking what you can do to add value for them. A great place to start is Jason Quey’s post on becoming a super connector.
Olga: Last question, Adam: what’s the most useful piece of advice you could give to brands that just start up blogging?
Adam: It’s difficult to boil this down to one thing, because creating a successful blog that helps you accomplish your business goals takes a lot more.
But, there are a few key takeaways:
- Put solid processes in place for every part of your content strategy — it needs to be water tight.
- Keep your focus on helping, rather than selling — selling does come into it, but you need to build up trust and add value for your audience first.
- Test to find what works — best practice should always be your starting point, but after that it’s an iterative process to develop your strategy, push boundaries and make blogging work for your business.
Adam Connell is the founder of Blogging Wizard and marketing director at UK Linkology – an ROI-driven inbound marketing agency with a focus on SEO. Adam has been featured in top publications such as Forbes, HuffPost & CIO, and loves to help entrepreneurs grow their visibility online.