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The Clientside Podcast

Blogging for Business with Alison Ver Halen

The Clientside Podcast

44 min Alison Ver Halen

In this episode of the Clientside podcast Andrew Armitage talks to Alison Ver Halen about the value of writing and maintaining a blog for business.

Blogging for business allows you to own your own content whilst driving traffic and attracting new customers! There is an investment in maintaining a blog, however in today's episode Alison shares some tips and tricks for getting the best return on that investment.

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Andrew:
Hey everyone, and welcome back to the Clientside podcast. Great to have you with me today. I'm Andrew Armitage, your host. I'm also the founder of an award winning digital agency called A Digital who are the sponsor of the show. Now, throughout this third season, we've spent a lot of time talking about content, whether it's writing the copy for your website, translating the language on your site for multiple markets and global audiences, or making sure your content is accessible. We've had some fantastic conversations with great guests. So do go and check out some of the back episodes from recent weeks. This is some great advice and guidance that will help you with your content strategy. So today we're continuing with the theme of content, and we're talking all about blogging. Now, you might be thinking, what is there to talk about on the subject of blogging? Lots of websites have a blog these days. There's nothing new about that. Blogs were originally a place to keep an online journal that could be less formal than your company news page and perhaps offer a different insight that might have been focused around personal stories from your team, behind the scenes content, or even a more educational angle. But how well do companies use their blog and how can they maintain the level of interest in longer form content when we're bombarded with social messages, email and, yes, podcasts included in that as well. Well, today's guest is going to tell us more. Alison Ver Halen majored in English and psychology, and without knowing it at the time, she was getting the perfect degree for a content marketer. So when a friend asked her to write blog posts for their law firm, it spiralled into a full time career. And Alison now runs her own content marketing and SEO company based in Chicago, where she joins me from now. So welcome to the show, Alison.

Alison:
Thank you so much for having me.

Andrew:
So it's great to meet you. Just give our listeners a bit of introduction, bit of a background into I mean, obviously, I've touched on it there. But what what led you to to writing and becoming a content marketer?

Alison:
Well, I've always loved writing. I was always writing short stories as a kid. Probably as soon as I learned my alphabet, I was writing stories, but I was always told that I couldn't make money as a writer and I had to choose a more practical career. So I like I said, I did major in English and psychology just because I couldn't stay away English. And I was fascinated with the human mind. So like you said, it did turn out to be that perfect degree for content marketing. I had no idea what content marketing was. I was actually aiming to work in publishing, figuring if I couldn't make a living writing books, maybe I could make a living publishing books. I graduated in two thousand nine, which some of you might remember. It was right after the job market crashed. So there were no jobs to be had in publishing or really anywhere else. So I had some jobs. They were not careers. I was in customer service. I was a receptionist. I found myself between jobs at one point. And that was when the friend you mentioned offered me stuff to do around his office until I got back on my feet. And one of the things you needed was someone to write a blog post for his law firm. He was writing them himself up to that point. So I was taking a look at some of his existing blog posts, which were not good. He was one of those people who was blogging because he knew he should be doing it for his business, but he really had no concept of a strategy behind it, how to engage his readers and lead them to the next step of the buying journey. So I took one look at his blog and said, yeah, I can do this. I know I can do this better than you. Give me your blog. So, yeah, I took over writing two to four blog posts per month for him, and at the end of six months, he told me I had brought in seventy five thousand dollars worth of business for his law firm just through the blog posts. So I did eventually get another day job, but I kept writing on the side for him, for an associate of his for some friends of mine. And it just kept growing to the point where I couldn't do both anymore. So I quit the day job about six a half years ago. Now I want to say it was end of 2014. And I've been doing this full time ever since.

Andrew:
Fantastic. And I mean, that's that's a huge return. But just before we sort of go into perhaps some of the things that you did around that that generated that kind of return, I think psychology is a really interesting subject because it's great being able to write. But actually what really matters from a content point of view is who you're writing for. And I guess that idea of the behavioural side of of audiences and how people react to things was, you know, provided you with that insight that allowed you to be able to tick both boxes, essentially, as you say, is the perfect degree for a content marketer.

Alison:
Yeah, absolutely, and it was really, I think, the storytelling aspect of psychology, I'm never going to underplay, but being able to take these news articles about the law that can be very dry and be very boring and turn them into a story that puts the reader in the main character seat and lets them really understand why this is so important and how this can impact their lives and then give them that call to action like this can happen. Don't let this happen. Or if this does happen call us.

Andrew:
And of course, you've had the beauty, you've been in those customer service facing roles where you're on the front line of hearing the problems that people might have been sharing or articulating or the challenges that they were facing. So, again, another real tick in the box for being able to understand your audience and be able to get those messages, right?

Alison:
Exactly. Yes.

Andrew:
Yeah. Great. So we're going to talk about blogging. And blogging is nothing new. It's been around a while now. So some listeners might be thinking, you know, how can you make a podcast about a blog? But I'm curious because it has been around a while and we've got all of our social media channels. Of course, now Twitter itself calls itself microblogging platform. So is there still value in writing or maintaining a blog? And let's imagine we're talking a company here rather than an individual. Is it still something that they should be investing in?

Alison:
Absolutely, I mean, to use your example of Twitter, on average, half the people who are going to see a tweet have already seen it forty five minutes after it's been posted. Whereas a blog post where if you're doing all your SEO and doing everything right, that can drive traffic for months, even years to come, especially if you want to republish it later on down the road. So it is a much better investment. Yes, it is more of an investment to write a blog post. And we'll get more into that later about the strategy and all that. But aside from being more valuable in terms of driving traffic for a longer period of time, I also always believe in owning your own content. We saw this happen several years ago with Facebook, where people had built their business on Facebook, had not bothered to get people back to a Website or into their own CRM. Facebook changed their algorithm and built many small businesses were lost like they just ended their business overnight over something they had no control over. So I always, always, always recommend that you own your own content. And it's really easy to repurpose blog posts like, yes, it's a big investment and you're spending a lot of time writing this content. But then you can take a snippet from that blog post and then a link to it and put that up as your tweet or your Facebook post or your LinkedIn post and get people's attention and get in front of a wider audience, but also drive them back to your website.

Andrew:
And I guess that repurposing, irrespective of where it goes. Yes, of course, it makes sense to post something over onto Twitter or a social network to draw attention to the full post. But that idea of repurposing, I think, is sometimes lost, isn't it? Because companies sort of see that content creation as a One-Time activity. And yet, of course, that content could be relevant in six months, two years time even.

Alison:
Absolutely.

Andrew:
So do do you think do you think companies are repurposing their content enough or should they be doing more of that?

Alison:
I should hope they're doing it enough. I do see a lot of people and a lot of companies falling flat on the repurposing because they do think, you know, I have to write a blog post and I have to do this and I have to do that, especially if, say, they've got a podcast where they have a video, if they have a YouTube series. You can take that YouTube video and take the audio and turn it into a podcast and then transcribe the audio and turn it into a blog post. So you got it on all those different platforms now. And it's only really one piece of content. And then again, use those snippets. Use those links. Put it out on social media so that you're creating even more content and putting it out on different platforms. But it should all be driving traffic back to your website. That should be your home base.

Andrew:
So I think what you're saying is you could treat your blog post a little bit like a sponge and really ring it out to get absolutely as much content out of it across different channels as you possibly can.

Alison:
Absolutely. Yeah, I hadn't thought of that analogy I like that.

Andrew:
Great. OK, so you talk about ownership. I agree with that, I think. Yeah. There's platforms like Medium that have obviously popped up. And it's interesting how you see some companies have hosted their blog on Medium. And I guess they're doing that because they're going to get reach and potentially more coverage. But I always advocate, like you, the idea of owning your own content, it allows you to build an asset within the business that in theory, it can't be taken away from you at that point. And you've got much better control over how you promote it, where you promote it. And so I think all those things are definitely great advice. What are some of the big mistakes that that companies are making with with their blog?

Alison:
Yeah, oddly enough, I think the biggest mistake I see is people not keeping the customer front and center when they're creating their content and distributing their content. They blog about whatever comes to mind instead of thinking about keywords, thinking about what their audience is searching for, what are the questions they have that they need answered that will drive them to find your blog post. That's one of the big ones. That's the lawyer I saw that I started writing for. He wasn't writing for his audience. He was writing for other lawyers. Right. It was something that I looked at. And I really had to struggle to figure out what he was talking about and the blog post that he had written for himself.

Andrew:
And was not because of the language they'd used or was it because of the the sort of the structure of the content or the messaging within it.

Alison:
It was more the structure of the content. It was the fact that he, you know, the first paragraph or two started out really strong. And then the second or third paragraph, he'd jump off something completely different. And I really had to struggle to figure out where that segway was. I did eventually figure it out because he was paying me to, but if I had been a prospect, I would have said, OK, I'm going to find what I need somewhere else, because this is not helping me. And I would have clicked away. And you have to remember how easy it is for people to click away. If you don't keep them engaged through every step of the process, they're going to find what they need somewhere else. So that's a big one, making sure that it's engaging. And then as you and I were talking about before we started recording, is the call to action. I see a lot of businesses, either they don't have a call to action or they have a call to action that doesn't make sense for where the customer is in the buyer journey. Maybe they ask them to leave a comment on the blog, which absolutely can help your SEO, but it's not going to help convert those leads. Or maybe they go straight for the hard sell. They say, okay, great buy from us when you're just getting to know them and they're getting to know you and they're not ready to buy yet. Maybe it would make more sense for them to sign up for your newsletter or follow you on social media, especially if you're in a B2B industry or a professional services industry it's going to take on average five to seven pieces of content before they're ready to buy from you. So you can lead them to another blog post. You can find ways to keep pushing great content in front of them so that you convince them that you're the real deal. You know what you're talking about. And then when they are ready to buy, they'll buy from you.

Andrew:
I think one of the beauties of a blog is the fact that you can yes, you can write around your audience, but if you're if you're writing properly, you're really, truly around your audience. You're not thinking about your SEO value. Yeah, OK. You've got to take some SEO elements into consideration. But if you're really focusing on your audience's pain point, then I think that SEO consideration will come in naturally. I also think that companies can get a little bit mixed up between the type of content that should go on a blog and the type of content that should sit in a news section of the site. Do you see these as sort of quite distinct and separate, or do you feel that they can overlap with each other?

Alison:
No, honestly, I get kind of confused when I go to a website and I see that news section, I'm like, is that their blog or is that something else? Because a lot of companies do just put up their news section and it is there blog. Other companies I've seen separate it. There's news and then there's blog. And they can be separate, again, is kind of confusing to me as far as like, OK, what, which one do I want here? I think as far as customer journey goes, I get a little confusing because I don't really know where to go to get more information on the company. I absolutely think it's OK. I mean, every blog post, for the most part, like an 80-20 rule here, at least 80 out of 100 blog posts should be providing value, so that people know you're providing tips as to things they can do for themselves that they can use in their day to day lives. That's what's going to drive traffic to your blog, if that's what's going to convert them. You absolutely can take that 20 percent and just straight up sell something or promote some new adventure that your your company is doing and put that in a blog post. You can also put that in a press release. I might put press releases in like a news section. I think that's the only time it really makes sense to separate them out if your company does a lot of press releases. No one wants to read that when they're going to your blog, but they might check it out if you have a news section that's devoted to press releases. But you can also have a blog that's devoted to those kinds of things. So I guess it really depends on what kind of company you're running, what your what your goals are for your content. But again, always keep in mind that customer journey. If someone comes to your home page, where are they going to go next? Where do they want to go next? Where do you want them to go? How how does it make sense for them to navigate that website?

Andrew:
Yeah, I think that's a you know, again, another really important point. You have a goal for them and they have their own goal and they might not necessarily be the same. But there's nothing wrong in trying to influence them towards a particular journey that you want people to take when they come to your site. And I think that call to action point again is, I agree with you. I think that is one of the most overlooked sections within a blog. And I actually think, you know, this could be down to developers. It could be down to the way a blog gets specified by a client, because it might accommodate all the different types of content that you want to include in a blog. So your video, your embedded tweets perhaps, your quotes or audio players, all those sorts of things can sit in the blog. But I think there has to be some sort of call to action. Otherwise, chances are you're going to find a lot of people come in, they'll read that content or they'll see the headings at least, and then they maybe hit the back button without taking that forward step. And that's ultimately when you start to get value from a blog. And I think there's one of my favorite blogs, which is a bit more of a developer oriented blog, but I think Shopify do this very well. HubSpot is another one where, you know, you look on their blog posts, there's always another step for you to follow, to take you to that next level where you can either then subscribe or you're taken deeper into that content. So there are some really good examples, but I absolutely agree that that you've got to think about it as part of that customer journey.

Alison:
Yeah, definitely.

Andrew:
What is the sort of frequency then that companies should be writing a blog? It's all well and good, adding valuable content. But I view that consistency is just as important as the content itself. So is it sort of dependent on the size of the company? Is it dependent on their goals? Is it dependent on their ability to write content? What's going to be a really sort of recommended frequency for publishing new blog posts?

Alison:
Yeah, I really think it depends on their ability. We have seen customers or companies that do manage to blog every day. And those are the ones that get the most traffic that is not realistic for most companies. It's certainly not realistic for me. I encourage my clients to do once a week. I do once a week for my own blog. At the very least, I'd say no less than once per month, because at that point, you're just.. It's not consistently producing new content. And that's going to hurt your SEO. That's going to hurt your ability to convert the client to find your Website. So that's the bare minimum, I would say, is is once per month. But I totally agree with you that consistency and quality are the top two considerations. Frequency does matter, but that's in third place after quality and consistency. If you can only consistently produce one blog post, high quality once a month, then stick with that. If you can do it two or three times per month, do that.

Andrew:
Now, I think I think sort of setting yourself manageable goals and setting expectations that are reasonable for yourself are really important points, because otherwise you can go into it with having this big ambition of this big ambition, of having sort of so many posts every week, every month or what have you. And it can be really hard to maintain that. And then all of a sudden, over time, it sort of deteriorates and it looks a little bit sparse. It doesn't look like it's been updated very frequently. And I think that's where, unfortunately, that has a real negative connotation with the blog. If you come and see that there's only been two updates in the last six months, then it does beg the question, well, what are this company doing? Are they are they particularly active? How are they engaging with customers? How do they share this sort of information that ultimately makes buying from them easier? And I think that's really what a great blog should do.

Alison:
Absolutely, if they get to your website and they say you haven't blogged for a while. They're going to think, well, if they're not really paying attention to their blog, is this the kind of attention I can expect to get as a customer? So, yeah, it does look really bad if you haven't blogged in a while. And I do see that a lot with a lot of my clients and prospects.

Andrew:
And I guess that's that's really where having a blog can be a bad thing, because if it starts to get abandoned then you lose that traffic, but at the same time, it can be really difficult I think can't it? If you're the one that's writing the blog and you're perhaps thinking that you're talking to nobody. So, you know, do you have any tips for for people who might feel are in that position to get over that initial hurdle? Is it a case of sort of inviting people to to comment, inviting people to sort of click in and subscribe to email updates that might relate to blog posts and things like that? How can how can companies feel that they're actually writing to an audience rather than not getting any feedback in that content going out into into the ether and not really having any value?

Alison:
Well, first is to remember that content marketing is a long game, especially blogging. You're not going to get traffic overnight no one publishes a blog and then all of a sudden gets tonnes of traffic to their Website, especially these days, that might have worked in the early days of blogging and SEO. But these days, there's way too much competition. But I do believe if you're consistently producing high quality content and you're keeping the audience front and center throughout the whole process and you're answering their questions and you're consistent about it, it could take months, even a year, but you will start to see that traction. You just have to be consistent about it and then be more proactive as far as, again, posting on social media, driving traffic back to your that link, to your website, to your blog posts, experimenting with other forms like audio and visual, doing videos, doing podcasts and inviting people to comment is good. Always keep in mind those SEO best practices, making sure it's long enough, driving people, encouraging them to comment on your blog comments can be kind of a catch twenty two, because there are a lot of spambots out there now that are spamming content boxes. So you might want to have a CAPTCHA or something on there to try and reduce that. Otherwise you have a nightmare to to deal with. So, yeah, just I think my biggest one is just be patient and keep the customer front and center throughout the process.

Andrew:
I mean, there's loads in there that all relates to everything that is digital marketing really isn't having the patience, having the consistency and, you know, keeping that audience really front and center in everything that you're doing. So what's what's your recommended approach for focusing in on on your audience? I mean, there's usually, you know, for most companies, there's probably two or three different audiences. Do you have a particular method that you suggest to companies to help them identify their audience and who they should be writing to?

Alison:
Yeah, well, first is if you've been in business for a little while and you already have some clients who are your ideal clients, who are the people that you love working with that are really bringing in business for you and pick out some of the characteristics that they have in common. And you can use those to start to build an audience persona. I also love social media. Check out your competition on social media and see who's following them and then see what other people they're following and what other companies they're following. And you can also use that information. There's a ton of free information out there on social media that you can use to build an audience persona.

Andrew:
One of the things that drives me mad, I think, when I'm looking through blog posts is there's just far too many of seven ways to do this, five ways to do this, 21 things that we think you'll love. Are they are they still good blog posts? I mean, they feel a little bit click baity because it's usually it's usually a list of content. Perhaps it's been curated by somebody. Perhaps there's some sort of painful links in there and things like that. Does that make good content or we really looking at getting under the skin of a particular pain point that somebody might have and how you can help solve that problem, or arguably how they could help solve it themselves.

Alison:
I feel like there are a few different questions in there, so I'm going to try to touch on all of them. First of all, yes, it can be a little click baity. It also can be valuable content. It all depends on how you're producing the content. There's a reason you see a bunch of those headlines. It's because it works. It's because people are gravitating towards that, those headlines and they are clicking through to them. They want to know how to or they want to know ways to do such and such. And those are a lot of those informational keywords that we see are how tos and the ways to. So that's where you see a lot of those coming in. Lists are also great for SEO. It makes it easier for Google to index that content, and so it gets indexed and categorized faster. So that improves your search rankings so Google can figure out where to which keywords to match you up with. So as far as links, I mean, you can absolutely do those kinds of posts and still have high quality back links. You can also, like you said, there are some that buy those links. Google is not a huge fan of those that you can put a little tag in the code of that link to tell Google this is a sponsored link it's an affiliate link we're paid for this, don't follow it. So that won't hurt your SEO if Google finds out it's a paid SEO or a paid link. Don't ask me how Google knows this stuff, but Google knows all. I'm sure it will find a way to figure it out. That could actually hurt your SEO, because then Google is thinking you have an ulterior motive here. You're not being genuine with your customers and you're potentially not giving them the best content. And to go back to what you said earlier about making sure that you're providing the best content for your audience and the SEO will follow. That's Google's entire goal, right? Google's goal is the user. They want to match the user with the content they're looking for. So if you produce the content that your audience is looking for, yes, there's some SEO strategy there. But at the end of the day, you have what Google is looking for. You have what the user is looking for. Google will find a way. Google is getting better and better at matching users with the content they're looking for and at identifying high quality content.

Andrew:
Yeah, I mean, the algorithms are constantly evolving, aren't they? And of course, there's multiple factors that they look at beyond the content, but content still very much king, I think, in that sense. So focusing on the user and writing about the user in the way that you would expect to speak to somebody, not in this keywords stuff robotic way that you think he's going to dupe the search engines into ranking you for a given phrase, because I think I think those days are long gone. And search engines, you know, they're smart enough now. They're not going to get tricked into these sorts of things, are they? So it really is about having that 100 percent focus on your audience and and what particular challenge it is that they're looking for. But interesting, you just talking about Google again. Some circles suggest that things like guest blogging, where you might get a guest into to write a blog post for you that can have negative impacts on your SEO. Is is that something that you've seen?

Alison:
I don't think I can have a negative impact on your SEO. That is another one where people would guest blog a lot. Not only to get in front of a new audience, but to get that back link to their Website, because that can boost their SEO. Google caught on to that. And for whatever reason, it decided it was not a fan of that strategy. So now it doesn't really like those links. It's not going to help your SEO. You can put a little nofollow tag in that in the HTML of that link to tell Google. Yes, this is the back link for a guest blog post. But don't count this against our SEO. It's still going to work as a link. You're still going to get people back to your website if they're on that guest blog post and they like what they see and they decide to click through to your website to learn more. It is still a great way to organically get in front of a large audience. And you can still both promote that blog post. You promote it saying, hey, I was over here talking about this. They promote it, saying, hey, we had this guest talking about such and such on our blog. It's a great way for both of you to expand your audience. So I do think it's still a win. You just have to be careful to get that tagging there in your back link.

Andrew:
Ok, yeah, that's good to hear. And of course, if you can pull in guest bloggers on a, let's say a reasonably consistent basis, then that may well lighten the load in terms of your own content planning and content delivery. So so I guess that can just help keep things padded out as you go along.

Andrew:
Absolutely. Yeah.

Andrew:
So are there any other suggestions that you have in terms of how companies might encourage their wider teams to contribute to blogging? Is there a framework that they should put in place for content? Is it a case of just asking people to listen out for things that customers might be telling them and thinking actually there's an opportunity to write about that particular topic? Because I think, you know, marketing teams are often quite small. Even in a larger company, there might only be three or four marketing focused roles. So. You know, obviously, the company's activities expand way beyond the marketing department, and it's not the marketers that are coming to buy from the company, invariably it might be, particularly if you're an industrial type products. So is there a way to encourage other people from across the business to get involved with blogging so they feel that it's manageable and and not something that's so far out of their comfort zone that just sort of resists the idea of taking part?

Alison:
Yeah, well, again, with the the fact that you can do it in different mediums, I'm obviously a writer. I love writing. That's where I'm most comfortable. A lot more people are more comfortable speaking. So maybe you talk about such and such and you record it and then you transcribe it and then maybe get someone on the marketing department to clean it up. But that's a lot less work, because now they're not creating a whole new blog post. They're just doing some editing of some content you created. I think I do think FAQ's are a great way to get blog posts topic ideas. If people are coming to you with questions, if you get the same question over and over. That's a pretty good indication that there's a blog post in there. I do always recommend doing your keyword research just to make sure that your competition hasn't already covered that to death. But it's usually a pretty good starting point, at least, to come up with blog post ideas. Companies can come up with incentives. I worked on this with companies where it is hard to get those people to respond because they don't want to get, you know, if it's not billable hours for them to talk to the marketing department. You can absolutely encourage them and remind them that if they write a blog post, if they create content, if their name is on there, that's a good way for them to build their authority. Now, they are seen as a thought leader, as an expert in the industry, because they've got all this content they created around it. So I would absolutely recommend focusing on that because everyone wants to be seen as a thought leader these days.

Andrew:
Yeah, sure. So a great opportunity to build their own profile and and demonstrate their depth of understanding around a particular client issue as well.

Alison:
Absolutely.

Andrew:
I think one thing that's really standing out is that you don't necessarily have to be a real authoritative writer, and what I mean by that is you don't have to know what you're writing about inside out. You really only need to know about it as far as your audience is likely to know about it. And I guess from that point of view, that helps with search engines. It helps with people finding the content and it helps with people understanding it and finding it actually useful and valuable is what you were saying. And we go right back to the beginning when you're talking about those those legal blog posts. You've not come from a legal background, so. You know, potentially you can get too close to a subject, I think, sometimes, can't you? And the key here is actually just to write in a way that people are going to want to hear it. That makes it understandable and manageable for them to take away and understand what the next step is. And that's fundamentally what you're trying to achieve with the blog.

Alison:
Absolutely and mean, I do see that a lot of times with people who are too close to the subject, and so they do get really into the nitty gritty details when their audience doesn't care about the nitty gritty details or if they talk about the features over the benefits, which is another big no no. In marketing, your company, your clients don't care about the features. They care about how it makes their lives better. And sometimes when you're too close to a subject, sometimes it's easy to forget that.

Andrew:
Yeah sure. OK, so we talked about lots of sort of elements of of blogging. How do you see blogging sitting in a wider content strategy? Is that something that, you know, you would you would put sort of front and center in in a content strategy, or do you see other channels as sort of the leaders to pull content, to pull visitors into a website, at which point they find the content? I mean, I'm guessing really from part of the conversation we had earlier you're thinking of. You know, it sits across every piece of content, could potentially sit across every channel, and it's really a case of dissecting it into these smaller tidbits that can always then be shared across every channel independently or as part of a piece of longer form content. It's just about maximizing the use of a single piece of content. So if it's taken four hours to create, for argument's sake, that you're going to get masses of value back from it. And, you know, do you have a way to sort of measure that impact beyond analytics? Is there any particular ways that you measure the value of that content, for example, that 75 K that you talked about, how how was that attributed back to those blog posts that you'd written?

Alison:
Yeah, well, I was not actually managing his analytics, though. Like I said, he just came up to me and told me that I brought in that money for his law firm. So I'm not sure how that was measured. I do always recommend keeping track of the analytics, keeping track of the traffic to your blog, not just in terms of how many people are visiting your website, what pages are they visiting, how long are they sticking around? What's your bounce rate? Where are they coming from? Are they coming from certain social media channels or are they coming from certain search terms? Are they using certain keywords to find you? You need to know all of that because that will help you understand the customer journey and then know where they go next. Are they clicking through that link or are they visiting another blog post or a landing page or your contact page to reach out to you? I know just from my own experience blogging, I get a lot of people. I'll meet them at a networking event. They'll go check out my blog and then they'll call me and then they'll tell me on the call if they read through some of my blog posts. And that's a key to convincing them to reach out to me. So keep track of that. Even just on the phone with your audience, with your prospect. Ask them how they found out about you. Ask them what convinced them to pick up the phone or fill out the contact form, whatever it was.

Andrew:
This is a tricky question. Simple question. Tricky answer perhaps. Should you delete blog posts?

Alison:
There's actually a lot of controversy around this in in the world of SEO. Some people are adamant about deleting underperforming content. Other people are like, no, it's never going to hurt your SEO. It's still on there building your authority. So, yeah, I don't really have an easy answer for that one because it is highly debated in the content marketing world. Personally, I don't go back and delete older content, even if it's not performing very well. I do always recommend keeping track of what performs well and what does not. So if you do want to republish a post, make sure it's a an evergreen topic and b something that people have been visiting quite a bit, because that shows that there is a desire and a need for that particular piece of content. But as far as deleting. Yeah, I don't really have a hard answer for that one.

Andrew:
No, it's it's it is a tricky one. I agree with you. I don't think it's going to cause any harm. I suppose it depends on just how big your blog is. If you've got a lot of blog posts that are potentially taking a lot of storage space and they're not getting the traffic, then potentially that that is an argument that says, well, and we could reduce the the resources used by our service so we can move some of that content. But like you say, I don't think it would ever hurt your SEO.

Alison:
Yeah, I think the only time it might hurt your SEO is that you're fighting yourself for keyword rankings. If you use the same keyword in multiple different pieces of content, then you're fighting yourself for that ranking. So in that case, you might want to go back and delete the underperforming piece of content, or you might instead of creating a new piece of content with that, that keyword, maybe you just want to edit the older piece of content. That's the only thing I can think of, where it would really hurt your SEO.

Andrew:
Right. And that was going to be my next question, actually, in terms of blog post that let's say you've wrote three years ago, the world has changed. Perhaps if it's got technology and the technology has changed. Does that become a new blog post or would you recommend updating that blog? I suppose it depends on how popular it is, really.

Alison:
Yeah, again, always look at the traffic that went to it, and if it had a fair amount of traffic, then absolutely you can edit it and republish it and drive even more traffic to it. If it's, if it's something that's really outdated, you might have to do more rewriting than editing, in which case you might be better off just writing a new blog post. For example, I have this problem because I do write about Google's core algorithm updates. They keep changing and I don't see how I can repurpose one of those blog posts from like last year to make it relevant to this summer's core update. So those blogs, I'll just let sit there or maybe I will go back and delete them. I don't know. But I do think it helps that I have all this piece of content about Google's core updates. People know that I'm staying up to date on this topic. If you do edit it, you can always republish it. It's good to know that Google will process that like it processes any other piece of brand new content. So it's like, you know, reinfusing that that new content into your website without taking the time to write a whole other blog. So that is absolutely something that I do sometimes if I'm busy and I don't have time to write another blog post, I'll just republish an older blog post. But I usually stick to the evergreen topics, the topics that are, you know, the tips and tricks that are always good, always useful no matter what.

Andrew:
And I guess for for an older blog post that you've decided to to rewrite, you can always put something in the original post that says, you lknow, the content contained here is no longer valid, but it's been updated. Please visit the new link and direct people that way. Then at least if you've got some authoritative page that people have been driven to. There is that opportunity for them to find the new content.

Alison:
Absolutely. And when you republish old blog posts, you can always say, you know, this was originally published on this date, it's been updated. I think I've also seen some debate about whether or not you really need to do that. I do see a lot of content marketers and SEO strategists doing that. Maybe just in case you get the people who are religiously following your blog and they're like, wait a minute, we already saw this content. But yeah, that's that's always a good idea.

Andrew:
Great. So are there any top tips, then, that you would recommend for for listeners who are thinking, well, I've got a blog, I don't think I'm getting a lot of traction from it. What would be your your top three tips for them to take away then from listening to today's show?

Alison:
Yeah, well, I think like we said, consistency is a big one. So figure out what is realistic for you. Like I said, at least once per month, preferably more. But again, whatever's realistic for you and always keeping that that customer front and center, what are the topics they care about? What answers do they need for the questions they're asking? And what does their buyer journey look like? Where. How are they getting to your website and where do you want them to go next?

Andrew:
Great. OK, well, Alison, really enjoyed having you on the podcast today. You talked about your own writing services. So where can people learn more about that and where can they look you up online?

Alison:
So my website is avwritingservices.com That's just my initials Alison Ver Halen, AVwritingservices.com I do have a blog that I write in every week. So you can find that, I am on most of the social media channels at either Alison Ver Halen or AV writing services. I'm on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. I think that's it.

Andrew:
All the places.

Alison:
Oh, Instagram. I'm on Instagram as Alison Ver Halen, but I'm not very active up there.

Andrew:
And I guess that's another key point. You don't have to be active on all of these places. Ultimately, it's where your audience are going to spend the time, isn't it?

Alison:
Yeah, and I would recommend not being active on all the channels, because yeh your audience is not on all the channels. And it's a great way to burn out because we can't effectively be on all of the channels and still actually getting results from it. So, yeah, I would say, especially if you're small, I would say pick two, maybe three channels that your audience is hanging out on and really stick to those.

Andrew:
Brilliant thanks, Alison. Really appreciate you joining me today. Really interesting stuff and reassuring to know that blogging is still very much active and there's still lots to be had from it. So we will keep plugging away with ours. I would urge anybody else who has a blog and they've started doing that, do the same. And of course, if you haven't started, then clearly there's still a great opportunity for you to build value into your business by having that blog start sharing that content across your different channels. So thanks, Alison. Really appreciate you joining me today.

Alison:
All right. Thank you so much.

Andrew:
So my thanks to Alison for taking the time to join me today on the Clientside podcast, blogging still offers plenty of opportunities to attract visitors to your website and can provide the backbone to your content strategy, feeding into other channels such as your email newsletter or social media accounts. Alison talked a lot about focusing on your audience and having a clear persona in your mind. Who you can almost picture having a one to one conversation with. So you're getting to the heart of what they're looking for and how you can help them ensuring your content plan is sustainable, is important to avoid losing momentum with your publishing, and can also be good to set expectations among your audience about how frequently they can expect the post to be published. Having lots of blog posts can be helpful, but from a search engine and ultimately a visitor perspective, quality over quantity will always win. From my own perspective, I think it's particularly important for companies to think of content as assets. Good content takes time to research and create. So that repurposing we talked about is absolutely essential to maximize the value from it, don't fall into the trap of thinking that once it's published, people will find it, promote it as widely as you can, and make sure others in your company, particularly those in customer facing roles, know what content and resources are available in your blog so they can potentially direct them towards it to build and nurture relationships. Don't forget to subscribe to the show and your favorite podcast app. And if you can, please do leave us a rating and a review. I'd love to hear your feedback, but also get in touch with the show by dropping me an email. Send it across to hello@theclientside.show, or you can find me on the usual social channels. Finally, if you're interested in my book, Holistic Website Planning which was published a couple of months ago, you can buy that from Amazon in paperback or Kindle, or if you just fancy getting hold of a free chapter to see what it's all about then head across to gothedistance.website where you can download that as a PDF. So thanks again for spending the last 45 minutes or so with me. We'll be back with our next episode in a couple of weeks time. Or you can look up the back catalogue of some 30 podcast episodes at adigital.agency/podcast.

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On average, half the people who are going to see a tweet have already seen it forty five minutes after it's been posted. Whereas a blog post where if you're doing all your SEO and doing everything right, that can drive traffic for months, even years to come, especially if you want to republish it later on down the road. So it is a much better investment.

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