A favourite amongst many successful content marketers is having an engaging business blog. I’m a huge fan of well-planned blogs, and the marketing results they can bring. In this article, I take you through a dozen important elements to consider when running your blog.

Why have a business blog?

Done well, business blogging helps place you as a thought leader and helps create consistently growing traffic, which can result in increasing leads.

We have written before about the power of business blogging. Here’s three articles that will help you get up to speed;

The Benefits of Blogging for Australian Businesses

5 Content Marketing Lessons Building a High Traffic Blog

Blogging for Search Engine Optimisation AND Humans

Now that you’re convinced about why you need a business blog, let’s get stuck into my favourite twelve essential elements.

In no particular order, they are;

You can click on the links above to jump straight to that section or scroll down to read the entire article.

12 Essential Elements Every Business Blog Should Have

 

Great branding

Just like a regular website, your blog needs to be given attention to the overall design and ensure it fits within your existing company branding.

That’s not to say it can’t be a little different than your main website – blogs tend to be more conversational in tone, so a relaxing of the shirt and tie would work from a design perspective.

Decide if you wish to give it a unique name, or use your company name and blog or says, etc.

For example, this very blog is called the Bam Creative Blog – it’s pretty clear who publishes it, and the fact it lives on our main domain name (www.bam.com.au) reinforces that message.

Helpscout blog
Helpscout blog

For example, the HelpScout blog (above) is nicely designed, and features stylised illustrations, which help create a cohesive reader experience, as well as create a brand around the blog itself.

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Consistency

If you look around most successful blogs, you will notice something pretty quickly; they all have a certain consistency in layout, design, and tone.

This is intentional by these bloggers – you don’t want your readers to have a confusing experience each time they visit.

Keeping your blog posts in a similar layout, with consistent use of images or blockquotes, lines, subheadings, etc ensures that they start becoming recognisable in their own right.

Most blog editors I know keep a checklist on hand, so they know what size headings to use, how frequent there are images or block quotes and the like.

These are typically called ‘Style Guides’ which are super helpful if you ever have multiple people writing or accept guest posts from third parties.

Blog style guide examples

Here are a few of my favourite blog style guides to look at, in order to understand what you should include in your own.

MailChimp

Freshdesk

Atlassian

Munchery

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Calls to action

A CTA (Call to action) is typically a blog-wide snippet of content, which appears throughout your business blog in a specific location on each post.

This helps drive blog readers to an action you would like them to undertake. For example, it could be subscribe to a newsletter, download a specific report or trial a product.

They are paramount if you wish to get a return on your blogging investment. Driving people to an action brings them closer to engaging with you and possibly becoming a customer of yours.

These CTA’s are often found within the content area, or at the footer or side of most business blog layouts.

For example, here is Slack Blog CTA, which is in the footer of every blog post and encourages their readers to sign up for an account on Slack.

Call to action example
Call to action example

The likelihood is that the marketing team at Slack can update this CTA at any time, and it will update automatically across all of their blog posts.

Another example over on the Salesforce blog, where they use a small graphic to drive interest in their product, to a specific landing page.

Call to action example
Call to action example

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Fantastic optimised images

Every blog should have beautiful images, that helps reinforce the written content. They are also important to help the reader’s eye from being overwhelmed with long tracts of text.

In fact, a recent study shows that blog articles with images get 94% more views. You would be crazy not to include images!

However, the downside with using images is that they normally have a large file size. You want to keep this as small as possible, which means your page loads faster for humans, and gets a better page speed score by Google (which is important when they determine your rankings).

My favourite tool is Optimizilla, which is free and takes your file and crunches it down without losing image quality at all in just seconds.

For example, here’s a JPG I uploaded, and compressed by 28% in file size, with no visible changes to the quality of the original photograph.

Optimizilla
Optimizilla

There are even plugins to do this automatically for many blog platforms. These are often a subscription-based service, where you pay per month to have automatic image compression.

Whilst ideally, you have nice photography which you have commissioned or taken yourselves, there are plenty of stock photography libraries available. A few of my favourites are;

Note: Be aware that if you do use images from stock media sites like the above, it means that there is a high chance of the same image being used in many other personal and business blogs as well.

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Related content links

Nothing encourages a reader to keep exploring your blog more, than having some form of related articles section. There are a number of ways of doing this; either manually written links within the blog itself (such as the links I have at the top of this article), or by using one of the many automated plugins for popular blogging platforms.

These tools allow for 1-5 similar articles to be automatically linked, typically on the side of the article, or at the footer, below the current article content.

Related articles on Adobe Create blog
Related articles on Adobe Create blog

In this example above, the Adobe Create blog has a left hand hovering panel, titled ‘Worth it’ that highlights other articles on their blog.

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Open graph tags

We’ve all seen it – when people share links to blog posts on social media, and it is literally just the link and if you’re extra lucky, the page or article title too.

This is because social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, are expecting to be able to find a snippet of HTML code within the page, called open graph tags, or “ogtags”. These tags allow social media platforms to automatically grab an image, title and opening text like the example below.

You can see if your business blog already has these, by using the Facebook debugger.

Unfortunately, Twitter uses a slight variation on the Open Graph tags, which they call Twitter card tags.

For example, here is the Twitter and open graph tags used in our recent blog post, 25 Killer Facebook Marketing Ideas to Promote Your Business;

<meta property="og:title" content="25 Killer Facebook Marketing Ideas to Promote Your Business - Bam Creative" />
<meta property="og:type" content="website" />
<meta property="og:url" content="https://www.bam.com.au/blog/social-media/facebook-marketing-ideas-to-promote-your-business/" />
<meta property="og:image" content="https://www.bam.com.au/art/rta/blog_posts/facebook-marketing-ideas-to-promote.png" />
<meta property="og:description" content="Statistics show only around 5% of your Facebook audience will see any particular post, so you want to do everything you can to not see your marketing energy going to waste...." />
<meta property="og:site_name" content="Bam Creative" />
<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary_large_image" />
<meta name="twitter:title" content="25 Killer Facebook Marketing Ideas to Promote Your Business - Bam Creative" />
<meta property="og:type" content="website" /><meta name="twitter:site" content="https://www.bam.com.au/blog/social-media/facebook-marketing-ideas-to-promote-your-business/" />
<meta name="twitter:image" content="https://www.bam.com.au/art/rta/blog_posts/facebook-marketing-ideas-to-promote.png">
<meta property="og:description" content="Statistics show only around 5% of your Facebook audience will see any particular post, so you want to do everything you can to not see your marketing energy going to waste...." />
<meta name="twitter:creator" content="@bamcreative" />

This may all look like a lot of work, yet there are many plugins out there to make all of this happen automatically in the background.

Here’s the resulting view if you were to share the same post on your Facebook account;

Social media share with open graph
Social media share with open graph

All I did was post the URL, and Facebook grabbed the image and title to create this link preview.

You can read more about the Open Graph protocol here.

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Personal bios

You want your readers to feel an emotional connection with your business blog content. One of great ways to do that is to highlight who actually write the article – because we all know companies and brands don’t write content; people do.

As an example, at the footer of this article, you’ll see a panel which gives you my name, a photo, a very short blurb about me and a link to see all previous posts I have written.

Blog author bio example
Blog author bio example

This helps readers understand who wrote that article, see an image of them, a short bio and in this case, a link to find other articles they have written.

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Social share buttons

One of the best ways to get more readers is to encourage your existing readers to share your business blog posts on their social media.

This example, from Design Milk, features a hovering share panel which follows you as you scroll down the screen, reading the article.

Social share buttons example
Social share buttons example

Many blogs also have the share buttons at the end of the article, where the reader would see, once they’ve read it, and made up their mind if they would share it with their audience.

The share buttons over on the George Hahn blog are witty, in the sense, their audience is all men, so the ‘Real men share’ tagline works well in this case.

Social share buttons example
Social share buttons example

Many blog platforms have something you can install or tick to allow these to be added. Alternatively, you can create your own buttons using tools such as Social Share Kit.

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Newsletter subscribe form

Most people rarely return to the same blog as a habit. One of the most effective ways to encourage them to come back is through the use of email.

You can then have a simple email newsletter that you send monthly (or more/less frequently) that highlights some of your best posts from recent time. This has the objective of encouraging readers back to the blog, and to become regular readers.

Keep the information you request to a minimum – being aware that you can personalise by the first name, should you have it.

A good newsletter subscribe form asks as little information off the subscriber as possible, and explains what they should expect to get.

The example below shows the footer of every page on the 6Q Blog.

Newsletter form example
Newsletter form example

This example from the Ahrefs blog, shows social proof, by including the amount of subscribers they currently have, as a way to prove the worth of signing up to their newsletter.

Newsletter form example
Newsletter form example

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Simple URL structure

Search engines and humans alike, prefer having simpler addresses than what some blog platforms naturally default to.

For example, Wordpress is well known for adding the date in the URL, which not only makes the address harder to recall or copy and paste, but also allows the content to look ‘outdated’ by readers assuming it has never been updated (because even when you update, it keeps the original URL).

We want to avoid longer URL’s, and replace them with keyword rich, shorter addresses. As an example, here’s the before and after;

http://www.yourdomainname.com.au/2019/03/the-article-title-by-default-with-keywords/

Can easily be reduced to something like

http://www.yourdomainname.com.au/article-title-keywords/

In Wordpress, this appears just under the title form field when editing or writing a post. Other blog platforms all have an option somewhere to change the default.

If you do follow the ‘one post and one target phrase’ philosophy, ensure that the phrase or keywords you are targeting appear in the URL entirely.

Note: If you plan to change the URL’s for existing posts on your business blog, ensure that you set redirects, otherwise you lose the benefit of any existing SEO, and will cause your readers to discover 401 error pages.

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Logical categories

Most successful blogs break down their content by key categories. That way, readers can dive into the topics that most interest them. Be careful to not create too many categories; you are better off with a handful (or at least no more than 10) categories, describing high-level topics.

Ensuring these categories are keyword rich also encourages better organic SEO. For example, instead of ‘Products’ as a category, try using a more descriptive phrase, such as ‘Business Furniture’.

Category navigation example
Category navigation example

The above screen shows the category page for Corporate culture articles on the 6Q blog. Notice how the navigation is simple with only four categories that are fairly simple to understand. Notably, also, the category page has a description of what content you will expect to find in that category.

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Keyword search

Not everyone navigates the web like you do. For example, some people prefer using a sitemap, others just read from the homepage and others may try searching for specific keywords.

In fact, this article shows evidence that 59% of web visitors frequently use the internal search engine to navigate on a website and 15% would rather use the search function than the hierarchical menu.

Rather than making it difficult to a segment of your audience to navigate your blog, just include a search box – every blog platform I have ever seen has one available – and ensure you don’t frustrate any users.

Blog search form example
Blog search for example

The Styled Canvas blog (above) includes both a category drop down and keyword search box front and centre on every page.

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In Summary

These dozen elements help your readers enjoy your content, encourage regular readers to your business blog and as a bonus, enjoy improved search engine optimisation.

To recap, they are;

  • Great branding
  • Consistency
  • Calls to action
  • Fantastic optimised images
  • Related content links
  • Open graph tags
  • Personal bios
  • Social share buttons
  • Newsletter subscribe form
  • Simple URL structure
  • Logical categories
  • Keyword search

Ensure you have these dozen essentials in place, and you are much closer to business blog nirvana than you were before. All the best of luck!