November 05, 2009
How To

Create and Manage a Team-Authored Blog: 8 Steps to Reap SEO Gains

SUMMARY: A company blog is a great way to share your industry expertise with clients, and to create keyword-rich content for search engines. But creating a blog and encouraging multiple authors to contribute can be daunting.

Read how a small consulting firm had nearly everyone in their company contribute to a corporate blog that now accounts for more than 50% of natural search-generated visits. Learn tips on identifying keywords, creating an editorial calendar and setting deadlines.
Blogging has become a well-established tactic in the B2B marketer’s arsenal: 70% of B2B marketers said they were writing on a company blog, according to the latest MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing Benchmark Report.

But creating a company blog that integrates with your social media and SEO marketing strategies requires more than just setting up a page and letting writers "have at it."

"We strategized for three months prior to first blog post," says Kenric Van Wyk, President, Acoustics By Design. "We wanted to make sure we weren’t just going to produce a few months of blogs -- we wanted to produce an entire year of blogs."

This planning paid off. A little more than a year since its launch, the Acoustics By Design blog now accounts for 53% of natural search visits to the site -- creating a powerful new engine for the firm’s already successful SEO strategy. In the process, the content demonstrates the expertise of the company’s eight consulting engineers, who share the responsibility for the blog’s weekly updates.

We spoke with Van Wyk and Thomas Thelen, Client Development Manager, to learn how they developed their blogging strategy and how they corralled eight authors into writing blog posts that meet the firm’s marketing goals.

Here are eight steps that helped them succeed:

Step #1. Establish a goal for the blog

Before developing a detailed production plan, first determine your goals for a company blog. For example, you might want your blog to:
o Provide updates on company news
o Offer commentary on industry trends
o Share educational or how-to content

Van Wyk and his team established their blog with two primary goals:

- Educate readers about major issues in the acoustical engineering industry, to position the company as a thought-leader. They did not want the blog posts to be excessively self-promotional.

- Create a new source of keyword-rich content to complement their SEO strategy.

Step #2. Develop keyword lists to incorporate into blog posts

A good keyword strategy is essential to generating the biggest SEO impact from your blog. Here are three ways the Acoustics By Design team made sure their blog would provide strong keyword coverage:

- Targeting different types of readers

The team examined its customers to understand who was likely to be reading the company blog. Clients typically include:
o Architects
o Engineers
o Building owners
o Audio-visual system designers
o Attorneys

Each of those groups tends to use different phrases when describing their acoustical consulting needs. The team made sure their keyword lists reflected this diverse lexicon.

- Targeting key industry sectors and types of services

They team also made sure blogging keyword lists reflected different phrases associated with their major industry sectors, such as:
o Healthcare
o Auditoriums
o Industrial
o K-12 education
o Worship

Within those industry sectors, they also made sure to include phrases relevant to the firm’s service offerings, such as:
o Acoustic design
o Acoustic modeling
o Noise isolation
o Audio engineering
o Vibration consultant

- Targeting gaps in their website SEO strategy

Two years before starting the blog, the team had redesigned its website to accommodate an SEO strategy. So when they created the blog, they didn’t want to double-up on keywords and phrases for which the site was already highly ranked.

Instead, they included keywords for which they didn’t already have a webpage. They also looked for secondary phrases to support the website’s primary keywords, such as "doctor’s offices" to supplement "healthcare acoustics."

The result of this process was a list of keywords to incorporate into an annual blog editorial calendar (see below). Some weekly blog posts could include four or five different phrases.

Step #3. Create editorial calendar

With keyword lists established, the team created a full-year editorial calendar to ensure the blog’s content covered all chosen phrases.

- The editorial calendar assigned a different market sector to each week’s post. For example, one week would cover healthcare, the next would cover industrial, and so forth.

- Next, they mapped out a specific topics or service areas to cover within those sector categories. For example, if the team was planning several posts on healthcare acoustics during the year, they broke down the subject into more specific issues, such as:
o MRI noise control
o Privacy regarding HIPAA regulations

"We schedule posts to really ensure the diversity of content within each market sector and not hit on one particular issue too often," says Van Wyk.

-> Tip: Be flexible to cover hot topics or breaking news

The editorial calendar is a guideline; it doesn’t have to be cast in stone. Van Wyk and his team can swap out a scheduled blog post if there is an important topic in the news or a timely industry issue they want to write about instead.

Step #4. Enlist key team members as blog authors

Having multiple blog authors offers several benefits. This approach lessens the burden on any one person to provide posts each week. It also creates a natural diversity in phrasing and word use, to provide better search-optimized content.

"We started planning for a quarterly printed newsletter," says Van Wyk. "After I pulled all the knives out of my chest and started talking about doing blogs for which everyone would only need to prepare a post once every 6-7-8 weeks, the conversation went a lot better."

The Acoustics By Design team was fortunate to include consulting engineers who were accustomed to creating reports for clients, and therefore were comfortable with writing. As a result, eight out of the company’s 10 staffers became blog contributors.

Other marketers might need to be more selective when approaching team members as potential bloggers. If individuals tend to be numbers-oriented or visual thinkers, they might not adapt well to blogging duties.

Once Van Wyk and Thelen identified writers, they let each one study the editorial calendar to decide which topics they wanted to cover.

Step #5. Provide writing guidelines

Although the team’s writers were "pretty good writers to begin with," according to Van Wyk, he still provided writing guidelines to help them with blogging duties.

- The guidelines reiterated the goals of the blog and reminded authors that their work was a form a corporate communication. Contributions could not contradict the company’s overall message or recommendations the firm would provide to clients.

- They also established a 500-word target length for blog posts. Writers were reminded not to create whitepapers or full reports on topics, but rather to provide smaller pieces of information that demonstrate the firm’s expertise and knowledge of the industry.

Step #6. Set generous deadlines

Because writers chose their own topics, they typically knew well in advance of when blog posts were due. But the team also set formal deadlines to accommodate the editing process.

- Blog posts were due from writers one month prior to the scheduled publish date.

- The team incorporated the blog schedule into their weekly workflow meetings to remind authors of deadlines or deal with potential issues that might arise, such as travel plans.

Step #7. Use an editor to polish and optimize posts

The team assigned Thomas Thelen the role of blog editor. His duties included:
o Reviewing content for clarity, voice and relevance
o Reviewing keyword use and placement, adding appropriate keywords when missing
o Writing title tags and meta descriptions that incorporated keywords
o Finding images and re-naming them to include keywords
o Finding appropriate links to other website content

After Thelen’s initial review, along with any necessary revisions by the author, Van Wyk provided a final review of the copy for the others to identify improvements.

The team estimates it takes about five hours to get each blog post up on the site:
o Two hours to write
o Two hours for Thelen to edit and optimize
o One hour for Van Wyk to review

"It sounds tedious but it’s actually not that tricky and can be kind of fun," says Thelen. "Once you create a plan, you work your plan and your plan works for you."

Step #8. Share metrics, comments and success stories with writers

Although contributing to the company’s marketing efforts -- including the blog -- is part of every employee’s job description, the team makes sure to praise and encourage blog authors for their work.

- Each author receives a byline on their blog posts.

- The team updates authors whenever a reader comments on their blog posts, or when another site links to their work.

- Posts that generate a lot of attention are included in the company email newsletter, to give them further recognition.

"Everyone loves to see their name in print," says Van Wyk.

Useful links related to this article

MarketingSherpa’s 2009-2010 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report:

Lead Gen with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Blogging - 6 Key Takeaways

How to Keep Your Blog Out of a Courtroom - Advice from Legal Pro on Providing, Creating Content

Proteus SEO: Provided SEO strategy for the company’s website and blog

Sounding Off: The Acoustics By Design blog

Acoustics By Design

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