Resurrect Your Blog

The last article I published here was called Kill Your Blog. As the reactions1 to this idea rolled in over the last week or two, it’s become clear that people agree with the idea, but I could do a better job of explaining its nuances and how to implement it. So here goes.

What About Current, Cutting Edge Content?

One question that came my way was this:

I have a friend who loves writing about cutting edge stuff. Are there categories of content where the blog format is actually better since it does include that freshness factor in the publication date?

Yes, there is content like this. But, and this is a big but:

  1. It should be handled differently based on its ephemeral nature.
  2. It should play second fiddle to a strategy focused on creating “evergreen” or “cornerstone” content on a topic.

This all comes back to positioning. Your positioning is what my colleague Jonathan Stark calls the “tip of your marketing spear”. He means it must be extremely sharp–extremely precise and “sharp” in who it speaks to.

For anyone who is using their website to position themselves or their company, all the content of that site should reflect their positioning. That includes blog content too.

So back to that notion of “cutting edge” blog content. Here are some examples of what that might look like:

  1. You’re a front-end developer. You are very interested in what’s happening with a new Javascript framework, and so you write blog posts about your experiences with the current beta release of this framework. Your posts are educational, but they will likely be out of date in 3 months.
  2. You’re very interested in a technology that’s 3 to 10 years out from mainstream adoption. Maybe it’s even an extension of the kind of problems you solve for your clients right now. You want to write about it because you can really understand the impact it’s going to have in 3 to 10 years, and you’re just plain fired up about the subject.

How to Handle This Kind of Content

This kind of content–stuff that’s ephemeral or very future forward or not exactly relevant to what you do today–should play second fiddle to your main content marketing strategy.

Let me be clear–if this stuff is all you want to write about, then you have a content marketing problem. This type of content may support a positioning of “the dev shop that helps you solve problems with beta Javascript frameworks” or something like that, but that’s a positioning that’s not likely to align with the inherently conservative, use-well-tested-technology position of most businesses.

So you need to make this content play second fiddle. Here’s how to do that:

  • Do NOT have it appear in your main list of blog articles.
  • Consider using a secondary microblogging tool like Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook to publish this stuff. You can link to it from your site (see below for ideas for what to name this secondary blog).
  • If these articles are long or philosophical in nature, set up a blog on Medium and post them there.
  • If you want it on your website, set up a secondary blog for this stuff. Consider naming this blog something that reflects the cutting-edge, ephemeral nature of this content. Some ideas:
    • The [Company Name] Lab
    • The [Company Name] Garage
    • The [Company Name] Skunk Works

A Quick Intermission

Real quick… I just want to remind you that the idea I’m reinforcing here is very simple:

Your blog should support your positioning as much as possible.

Remember, your positioning is simply being precise about who you serve, what services you provide them, and how you are different from others doing the same sort of thing.

Your blog content should rally around the flagpole of your positioning. It will be much more effective if it does.

More on the Idea of an Educational Resource

In the podcast where I originally started riffing on this idea of killing your blog, I suggest replacing your blog with an “educational resource”. What a stuffy word!

While building your company’s authority does involve a lot of teaching2, using academic language is often the wrong way to describe what you do.

Again, the basic idea is this: instead of calling your blog a blog, call it something that describes its educational value. Here are some ideas for less stuffy ways to do that:

  • Resources
  • Resource Center
  • [Topic Name] Resource Center
  • Articles
  • [Topic Name] Resource Roundup

Configuring This in Your Website

So how do you set this up? I mean how do you really turn this idea into a website information architecture? Well, as usual the answer depends…

It depends on your current situation with regard to blog content.

In my experience with My Content Sherpa clients, I see several common patterns:

  1. You’re sitting on a pile of blog content, some of which is relevant to your positioning and some of which is not.
  2. You have a lot of blog content that’s not relevant to your positioning, because you haven’t understood how to create that kind of content or you’ve recently clarified or changed your positioning and your old content doesn’t match your new positioning.
  3. You have a pile of on-topic, timeless blog content. Businesses in this situation don’t need to hire me, which explains why I never see this pattern with my clients. But if you’re in this situation, go buy yourself an ice cream right now. You’ve earned it!

1) If You’re Sitting on a Pile of Great Content, Some of Which is Relevant to Your Positioning

This is easy, but will nevertheless take some time. Here’s the simplified recipe, assuming you are using a modern content management system (CMS) like Squarespace, WordPress, Expression Engine, etc.:

Note: Avoid changing URLs. We don’t want to freak Google and other search engines out. When you change names of anything, do so only at the site presentation level, not the URL structure level.

  1. Go through and make sure every blog article is categorized. While you can get as fancy as you want, make sure topical articles (ones relevant to your current positioning) are categorized one way, and off-topic stuff is categorized differently.
  2. Configure your blog index to not show the topical articles. What is left on your blog index is the off-topic content.
  3. Make sure your blog name as it appears in your site navigation reflects the off-topic or ephemeral nature of the content it now displays.
  4. Set up a new page on your site. Not a new auto-generated blog index, but a new page. Call it something that suggests that it contains valuable, educational resources for your ideal client. Make sure it is prominent in your site navigation.
  5. From this new page, link to every on-topic blog post that solves a problem, provides relevant insight, or clarifies an issue for your ideal client. For each article, make sure the title is good (both accurate and interesting) and write a 1-paragraph synopsis describing the benefit of that article. If possible, order the articles top to bottom in a way that has a logical progression, and if necessary, group them according to topical areas. Here’s a great example of this type of resource page: http://karenmcgrane.com/2011/12/14/mobile-content-strategy/ (hat tip to Jonathan Stark again for pointing me to that example). Here’s another great example. (You have to create a login for that second example, but it’s worth it to peek around.)

2) If You Have a Lot Of Content That’s Not Relevant to Your Positioning

If you’re in this situation, maybe it’s because you’ve recently repositioned yourself, clarified your positioning, or it may be that your existing blog content is crap. By “crap”, I mean: low quality, extremely inconsistent, or all over the map in terms of topical focus.

In this case, I recommend the following:

  1. Have a good, long think about whether you want to use content marketing more strategically. You don’t have to, after all! There are other very effective ways to generate business! There are ways that have a faster ROI, ways that are still under the content marketing umbrella but are better suited to people who hate writing, and approaches like outbound marketing that can also work very well but don’t contribute to building your firm’s authority. You get to decide, and you should choose business development methods that you can consistently execute on or afford to hire out.
  2. Decided you really want to make use of content marketing? Great! Do the following:
    1. Remove your blog completely from your site navigation but do not delete or modify any existing blog articles. You want to hold on to any SEO benefit3 those articles are providing but hide the off-topic content so it doesn’t confuse your messaging and dilute your positioning.
    2. Plan out 6 to 12 blog articles that exactly match your current positioning. When I say “exactly match”, I mean they are stuff your ideal customer would want to read and would benefit from.
    3. Write those articles as quickly as you can. If writing is not your thing, look at other ways to rapidly generate the content, like interviewing experts, interviewing clients of yours, or just rambling into a voice recorder and turning that audio content into written content using a transcription service and an affordable but very skilled editor. Publish these articles on your blog.
    4. Set up a new page on your site. Not a new auto-generated blog index, but a new page. Call it something that suggests that it contains valuable, educational resources for your ideal client. Make sure it is prominent in your site navigation.
    5. From this new page, link to those new blog articles. For each article, make sure the title is good (both accurate and interesting) and write a 1-paragraph synopsis describing the benefit of that article. If possible, order the articles top to bottom in a way that has a logical progression, and if necessary, group them according to topical areas. Here’s a great example of this type of resource page: http://karenmcgrane.com/2011/12/14/mobile-content-strategy/ (hat tip to Jonathan Stark again for pointing me to that example). Here’s another great example. (You have to create a login for that second example, but it’s worth it to peek around.)
    6. After you’ve gotten this far, buy yourself an ice cream! Then, either repeat this approach for a new batch of content or call it a day and get back to running your business while looking for opportunities to send prospective clients, influencers, and bloggers to your resource page.

 

  1. I should have done a better job of giving credit where credit is due. There’s nothing new under the sun, right?My friend Eric Davis pointed out that Naomi Dunford of IttzBiz has previously advocated a similar approach, which you can read all about here: http://ittybiz.com/content-marketing-without-blogging/I’m pretty sure I read that blog post, promptly forgot about it, and then rehashed the idea as if it was my own. Sorry guys!
  2. Teaching travels under many guises. You “teach” your clients by: Consulting
    Explaining stuff on podcasts
    Writing educational or “how to” blog articles
    Training

    Speaking at events, conferences, and the like

  3. Though if these old articles aren’t aligned with your current positioning they won’t bring in much qualified traffic, but thats OK.

Want to stop competing against every other developer?

"This is by far the most valuable email I have ever received from an email list." - Timothy Voice

x