I’ve read a lot of blogs over the past year from both solo bloggers and companies that use content marketing to drive traffic and prospects to their business.
Businesses with successful content marketing operations tend to generate more revenue than solo bloggers as a whole. Yet influential solo bloggers have been able to establish themselves as thought leaders, build a strong community and develop large followings on their own.
Solo bloggers and content marketers writing for corporate blogs have different business models, but even successful content marketing companies can learn a few things from successful solo bloggers.
1. Look for Self-Motivated and Highly Driven Bloggers
Most successful solo bloggers are entrepreneurs trying to sell their products or services. These bloggers are self-motivated and are willing to work hard to achieve their goals.
This could mean spending weeks perfecting a blog post and working 60-80 hours a week.
In contrast, content marketers that get hired to work in-house for a company are usually salaried workers. It’s not to say that they aren’t motivated, but it’s not the same as building your own business to support your dream lifestyle.
One big challenge that businesses face is, how can we encourage content marketers to put in the required effort to compete with these determined entrepreneurs?
Suggestion: Hire people that have exhibited strong curiosity and a desire to become an expert in your niche. Then help them get there. People that are energized about the topic of your content and curious enough to learn on their own make good candidates.
Proactive benefits like funding personal projects, encouraging personal branding and allowing time for self development are helpful. Encourage employees to share ideas and spend time on improving quality. Reward them when appropriate.
2. Centralize Your Blog’s Voice & Personalize Your Brand
One advantage that solo bloggers have in gaining influence is that they are the central figure on their blog. It’s easier for other individuals to feel rapport and connect with an individual versus a company blog, which is often viewed as more impersonal.
An additional challenge that multi-author blogs can face is that when there are a lot of people writing, it can be harder to keep track of and connect with a specific personality.
Smart Passive Income is a good example of a blog with a central voice that still features different perspectives. Pat Flynn interviews various experts on his podcasts, which allows him to leverage other expert perspectives and provides a ton of value for his followers.
Pat also shares at least one interesting fact about himself at the beginning of each podcast. His personal approach allows readers to connect with him more easily. WordStream’s Larry Kim does this too, in the first few slides of his webinar and presentation decks.
Suggestion: Adding a personal side to a corporate blog can be a big challenge. Find content marketers who are open and willing to share.
Many people would consider Rand Fishkin the central voice of Moz and he is certainly the company’s most recognizable public figure. Aside from creating useful content, Rand’s personality also shines through in his Whiteboard Friday videos. Sometimes, it’s the human side of people that makes people relatable.
3. Collaborate and Build Relationships with Other Bloggers
Successful solo bloggers are good at building relationships with other bloggers. Smart bloggers know that teaming up with other people that are building their audiences can be a good way to leverage their growth.
Some corporate content marketers do a good job of this, but many overlook this opportunity as it’s hard to measure the ROI of relationships.
Additionally, solo bloggers will naturally focus on networking with other bloggers and collaboration to help promote their own blogs. On the other hand, company bloggers will focus much more on content creation, as that is the scope of their job requirement.
However, relationships do matter and networking with the right bloggers could result in more brand exposure, particularly within their network.
Suggestion: Proactively keep an eye out for solo bloggers and develop a relationship building strategy with them. Comment on their blogs and engage in conversation on social media. Create training on outreach. Adding relationship building tasks to the calendar may be also helpful.
4. Encourage Personal Branding
Companies are sometimes viewed as less approachable by solo bloggers. After all, they are established businesses that may be generating millions of dollars in sales or more.
That’s why encouraging your bloggers to grow their personal brands can be a good idea.
Greg regularly publishes content on high-traffic blogs and media channels, much like a solo blogger would to gain visibility. A few notable places he’s written for include Entrepreneur, Copyblogger and the Buffer blog.
In his bio, Greg is promoting both Help Scout and his own blog.
According to Help Scout, their subscriber count is around 70,000.
Greg’s blog has over 33,000 subscribers.
Suggestion: Allow and even encourage your content marketers to grow their personal brand. Encourage them to create content outside of your own blog for greater exposure.
It’s possible for a marketer to promote themselves and your company at the same time, and their personal blog could allow them to connect more easily with other bloggers.
5. Allow Time for Learning and Experimentation
Bloggers need to learn and experiment to become experts in their field. Top bloggers don’t just write all the time. Instead, most of them have spent a lot of time mastering their craft.
Becoming a true expert is necessary to stand out from other bloggers and content marketers and get noticed.
Employees have less motivation to learn and experiment, especially since such activities often aren’t directly tied to their compensation. Furthermore, a content marketer working for a company might be expected to deliver X articles a week rather than to learn and grow their skill set.
Great content is based on a strong foundation of knowledge and experience, so it’s important to encourage content marketers to continue to learn. Schedule some time for them to read, learn and experiment with their own ideas. Some proactive companies actually provide a monthly budget for such activities.
Many successful bloggers are simply sharing their marketing results as they go along. For example, Dan Norris from WP Curve reduced site load time to under 1 second and shared his results in this post, which became one of their most popular posts with over 30,000 views.
At WordStream, the customer success team blogs about internal wins they achieve for clients and answers frequently asked questions, like how to save time on AdWords management.
Suggestion: Look for people that have the goal of becoming experts in their fields with “content creation” as a secondary objective. Then support them and help them along that path. Additionally, encourage your content writers to offer suggestions for improvement or share ideas.
6. Emphasize Your Best Content
Many content marketing companies will produce more content than solo bloggers, sometimes on a daily basis.
Influential solo bloggers often produce less content due to time and resource limitations. However, the content they produce is viewed as top quality. So their entire blog is filled with great content.
While content marketers can occasionally create content of equal quality, sometimes it doesn’t receive the visibility it deserves. Amazing content is what will encourage visitors to subscribe to your blog or look for more information from you.
Suggestion: Identify and re-promote your best content and figure out a way to feature it so that visitors can find it more easily. A few ideas include featuring your best articles on your blog’s sidebar, using an autoresponder to send new subscribers to your best content, or pinning your best article each week to the top of the blog.
7. Create a Stronger Sales Funnel
An E-consultancy survey showed that 86% of companies surveyed allocate less than 15% of their budget to conversion rate optimization, despite the fact that a small increase in conversions can increase revenue by millions of dollars.
Solo bloggers have limited resources. They usually don’t start off with any outside funding or brand recognition, and they don’t have a marketing team at their disposal to promote themselves in a scalable way.
A lot of solo bloggers rely on selling products or services as their primary revenue source. So in addition to generating traffic and leads, solo bloggers also have to get good at selling so they can succeed with less resources and sometimes with much less traffic.
Companies on the other hand are able to generate more brand awareness and traffic with the resources they have available. While some companies do focus on converting traffic into customers, many just hope to generate a flood of ongoing traffic and build brand awareness in hopes that visitors will purchase when ready.
However, a lot of companies that give up on content marketing do so because they weren’t able to generate a strong enough ROI on their content.
It’s not to say that companies don’t focus on converting traffic into sales, but for a solo blogger, a high-converting sales funnel is often more critical for success.
HubSpot recently focused its efforts on maximizing conversion from traffic from their top performing articles, resulting in a nearly 3x increase in leads.
Suggestion: Don’t get complacent just because your content marketing is generating a good volume of traffic and leads. Figure out how to make sales and conversions a higher priority so you can get more sales from your existing traffic, as if your business depended on it.
Bonus Tip: Incorporate Visual Content, Especially Pinnable Headers
A lot of emphasis has been placed on creating visual content, particularly as social networks have shifted their attention towards visuals.
Twitter added images to tweets not too long ago, and you need images for your content to get traction on sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Google+.
While many solo bloggers have adapted to these changes and started to use visuals in their content, some companies have chosen not to invest heavily in visuals. A few possible reasons include the following:
- The ROI of creating visuals for each blog post is hard to measure. In other words, would creating visuals for content generate more leads? Or would it end up being an unnecessary expense?
- Image creation takes time, would incur additional costs and could require additional talent outside of the current content marketing team.
- Adding visuals could require a change in content strategy as visual content is promoted through different channels than text articles.
However, a blog post without visuals has almost no chance of getting traffic through visual channels.
While custom image tools tools like Canva and PicMonkey make visual content creation easier for non-designers, it still takes time to create these visual assets. Image creation includes selecting an image, strategizing a concept and then creating it.
For content marketers thinking of incorporating visuals, a good starting point is a pinnable header on each blog post. This header can be professionally created by a graphic designer. Then the same template can be used on each blog post.
This approach will allow content to get shared through visual channels without incurring a lot of additional time or work.
Peg Fitzpatrick added this header to one her blog posts:
And this image to another post:
Notice that both images are just stock images that use a similar text overlay. Without spending much extra time, each post generated an extra 100 Pinterest shares and even more on Google Plus.
Suggestion: Content marketers can start leveraging visual content without too much added work. Keep it simple to start by using a template so that your content can at least be shared on visual social media networks like Pinterest.
While successful content marketers have greatly increased traffic, sales and brand awareness through content, influential solo bloggers have done an amazing job of single-handedly building up their own followings and businesses from scratch.
So what do you think? Can content marketers improve their results by learning from successful solo bloggers?
About the Author
Brian Lang is the founder of Small Business Ideas Blog where he shares business tips as well as experiments with digital and content marketing techniques. Brian has been an online entrepreneur for over 10 years and started with SEO and e-commerce, but has also developed expertise in social media and content marketing. Visit his site to learn more and follow along as he experiments with growing his business.