Posting and sharing content on a regular basis is one of the cornerstones of online marketing – it’s hard to be successful without it. For most companies, this regularly published content “lives” on a blog.
Blogs offer a lot of benefits:
- Blog posts can help sell products by explaining features, offering installation advice, etc.
- Blog posts can bring in traffic from search and social media, leading to more sales
- Blog posts can promote specific products, build internal links, build relationships with the brands you carry, etc.
Of course, nothing good comes easy. Blogging takes work, and most companies struggle a bit. But if you follow the rules laid out below, blogging is one of the most effective online marketing techniques your company can implement.
Strategy and Setup
The first key to blogging is to embrace it as a long-term strategy. Blogging for a few weeks and then stopping – which is how a lot of blogs seem to go – doesn’t work. Instead, the plan should be:
- Figure out your blog system. One of the biggest problems with most auto parts ecommerce platforms is that they don’t have a built-in blog system. So, most of the time, you’ll need to figure out how you’re going to create both a blog index page (a list of all your recent blog posts) and individual posts.
- Post at a regular interval. Research has shown that blogs have the most success when they’re updated 2-3 times a week. However, this pace is tough for most companies to keep up with. New bloggers should focus on posting weekly or bi-monthly until they build up a few weeks or months worth of posts.
- Post the same time every week or month. This is important, as it helps regular readers know how often they need to check in on your site. Consistency is the key to building an audience.
- Make sure your blog looks like your store. If possible, your blog should be designed to look just like the rest of your store. If your blog is integrated into the store, this is easy. If your blog ends up being external, the designer should work hard to mirror the look/feel of the main site.
- Design your typography for readers. A good rule of thumb when you design a blog – try not to have less than 70 characters per line, and no more than 100 characters per line. You want to use a sans-serif font for your text, and you want your line height to be about 1.5 times your font size. Believe it or not, font selection makes a big difference in the success of your blog.
- Setup an RSS feed and some sort of email subscription option. If your blog doesn’t support RSS, you can create a custom RSS feed (check out Feed43, which can ‘build’ a feed from plain HTML).
- Don’t forget search! Your blog is going to be a landing page for a lot of potential new customers. Make sure that the blog has a search box, and that this search tool incorporates results from your parent site. If your blog is separate from your ecommerce system, consider implementing a tool like Google’s Custom Search Engine, which allows you to specify the site(s) that show up in results.
Posting Best Practices
Once the blog is setup and working, it’s time to write some posts.
- Write posts that answer customer questions. One of the easiest things you can do with a new blog is write about the questions that your customers commonly ask. Review your customer service email requests and phone calls, pick out a few common questions, and start writing.
- Write posts that promote your business relationships. If one of the brands that you work with has released a cool new product, write a blog post about it. Then, contact the brand and let them know. Odds are good they’ll share the post on their social media accounts, which tend to have lots of fans.
- Write posts that help customers buy. One of the biggest problems auto part and accessory consumers have is choosing…there are 10 companies that make a steel bumper for their vehicle (for example) – which brand should they choose? A “roundup” blog post that compares and contrasts all the brands can be very helpful to someone who’s in the process of buying an accessory. Product reviews are great too.
- Feature cool vehicles whenever you can. If a customer sends in some photos of their vehicle, and they’re willing to share some details about the vehicle (equipment they’ve added, customizations they’ve made, etc), you can write-up a featured vehicle post. These posts tend to be really popular on social media, so this is an easy “trick” for generating site traffic.
- Link liberally. Blogs are great for building internal links, and every blog post should link to some other part of your site. Linking to individual parts is always a good idea (if you’re talking about those parts), but you can also link to categories and other blog posts too. Just make sure your links make sense.
Promoting Your Blog – Tips and Tricks
Once your blog has a handful of posts (at least 3 or 4), you can start promoting the blog. Don’t promote your blog until you have at least 3 or 4 posts, as it looks empty.
- Share posts on social media. Obviously, you should share a link to every post you publish on your company’s Facebook and Twitter profiles. But that’s just the beginning – you can share your post on forums, StumbleUpon, Reddit, CarThrottle, etc.
- Share recent posts in your email blasts. If your company is already emailing your customers on a regular basis, why not put a couple of links to recent posts in that email?
- Buy some Facebook ads. Facebook is a great place to advertise blog posts – you can target people based on their interests, and your cost per click is pretty low (you can buy clicks for as little as 2 or 3 cents). While most of these people aren’t going to do anything more than glance at your post and hit the ‘back’ button, some of them might subscribe to your RSS feed, bookmark your site, or even shop for a part. You’ll also get likes, comments, and shares from Facebook users on your ads, which can increase their reach.
- Guest post. Once your blog is up and running and you’ve got a good collection of posts, reach out to other blog owners and see about writing a guest post. If your blog is good quality, and you have a good suggestion for them (eg. “I was wondering if you had any interest in a blog post about steel bumpers? That’s something our company knows a lot about, and I could put something together that I think you’d like”), you just might be able to introduce yourself to another blog’s audience. You can also build a link back to your site too, which is good for search rankings.
- Reach out to bloggers and journalists. If your blog has a great post about wheel spacers – and it’s really comprehensive – why not email a few bloggers and journalists and tell them about it? Keep your email short and to the point, and you just might get a mention for your blog, shares on social media, etc. from someone with some authority.
Blogging ROI, and Leveraging Your Blog For Profit
Blogging ROI is hard to calculate, but not impossible. Generally speaking, the key benefits of a blog are:
- Website traffic – someone reads a blog post, then ‘crosses over’ to the ecommerce portion of your site
- Blog posts generate links, which can boost your entire site’s rankings
- Blog posts collect email addresses, which can then be marketed to
Regarding website traffic, it’s important to evaluate first and last touch attribution. If, for example, someone reads a blog post on your site, they might return to your site in a few days and shop for a part. Your attribution model should account for this possibility.
Regarding links, it’s hard to quantify the value of any individual link. However, it’s not at all unreasonable to value links in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. If, for example, your blog helps you secure a link from a major publisher like Car and Driver, that link value is easily 4 figures. That’s because you can’t really buy a link from a major publisher, and they don’t link to just anyone.
Likewise, if a blog post gets your site mentioned on a popular Facebook page for a company like Borla Exhaust (which has 250,000 fans), that’s kind of a big deal. You could argue that mention is worth a few hundred dollars (at least).
As for email addresses, you can estimate each address is worth a dollar or two. If you have good analytics data, you can calculate the lifetime value of email subscribers and arrive at more precise figure.
Finally, if you want to squeeze every dollar out of your company’s blog (and why wouldn’t you):
- Link to products and categories on your site, with an eye towards search engine rankings. If you have a product that isn’t showing up on Google, blog about that product and link to the product page. Often times that will help that product page rank higher.
- Use an overlay to offer everyone who’s reading your blog some sort of special offer in exchange for an email address. Collecting just 3 emails a day on your blog can add 1,000 subscribers to your email list in a year. Collect 30 addresses a day, and you’ll add 10,000 subscribers.
- Leverage your blog to get links and shares from other companies…once you blog has some traffic, you can use that traffic to work out a blog post exchange with a manufacturer, a mention on Facebook, etc. The bigger your blog gets, the easier it is to promote.
This All Sounds Great, But We’ll Never Do All Of These Things…
If you’re reading this post and thinking “this is great, but we can’t do it,” you are not alone. Most business blogs die a slow, painful death. They start out strong, but after a few weeks or months they stop getting updates, and then they die.
The solution? Hire someone to do all of the above. There are a lot of people blogging for themselves that are available for hire, and obviously content marketing (including blog creation and promotion) is a service we offer.