Expert Interview Series: Priya Florence Shah of Blog Brandz on how to grow your brand or blog to reach a global audience
You were one of the earliest adopters of content-driven marketing from one of the earliest days of the Internet. What were some of the things you were noticing that made you so passionate about content-driven marketing, early on?
As a former journalist I always knew that the power lay in the hands of the publishers, not the writers or reporters. When I started publishing my own website in 2001, I was captivated by the ability of online publishers to reach a global audience and to reach people passionate about certain niches.
It was the early days of the web, when optimizing for Google was easy because there was very little competition. My early successes made me realize the power of content-driven marketing, and realize that I could apply it not only to myself, but to online sellers who wanted to reach a new audience.
When blogging became available to everyone, with the launch of Blogspot, a new world opened up to writers who didn’t want the learning curve of HTML. Of course, it took many years for blogging to hit the mainstream, but clients are now much more open to using it for promoting their business.
Blogging has leveled the playing field in the world of publishing and made it possible for anyone who could write an email to also start a blog and publish their opinions and stories online.
What started out as a hobby for you developed into a full-time business, culminating with Blog Brandz being launched in 2014. How did you develop as a personal blogger to a professional content marketer?
When I first got into online publishing, I soon realized that my website would be a ghost town if I did not learn how to build traffic to it. No matter how good your content is, if it does not address a need in your audience and cannot be found by search engines, it won’t get any eyeballs.
So I spent a long time learning about SEO, and then about social media, in order to build traffic and create a strong foundation for my online presence. I even wrote books on my learnings to help shorten the learning curve for other content marketers.
My first book was called “Number One In Your Niche: How To Use Expert Content To Get Your Website To The Top Of The Search Rankings.” You can download it on Amazon.com.
Even though it’s somewhat outdated now, the information in it was solid at that time and helped me rank many of my HTML sites in Google.
You help businesses identify their niche and cultivate loyal customers via proven blogging and social media strategies. First off, how important is having a clear notion of your niche or industry for having a successful business?
It is absolutely crucial, if you want to experience any degree of success online.
When I am first contacted by a client, I ask them to fill in a questionnaire that tells me about their business, target audience and keywords they are targeting as well as their campaign goals and KPIs.
This helps me focus on the niche they are targeting through their website and content. If a client does not have clear answers to these questions, I know their business will not last more than a few months.
To paraphrase Lewis Carroll (and George Harrison), “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
Along those lines, how can bloggers and business owners reverse engineer blog and social media posts to create their own content strategies?
First, find out who are the most successful bloggers in your field. Or who are the most successful bloggers, period.
Usually they’re the ones getting hundreds of thousands of highly targeted visits to their blogs every month. By nature of their success, they will also have very large social media followings.
For example, expert bloggers like Neil Patel, will actually showcase their traffic and teach you tried and tested methods of optimizing and promoting your content to get more traffic to your blog.
Follow them on social media, subscribe to their newsletters, read all their most successful and not-so-successful posts. See which content is getting the maximum number of interactions, in terms of:
- Blog and Facebook comments
- Social shares
- Mentions (and links) on other blogs
You can use tools like FollowerWonk’s Compare tool to compare their social graph to yours or to other successful bloggers to see what they’re doing right.
Try to analyse why their content is so successful.
- Does it have very optimized keywords?
- Does it answer very popular questions?
- Is it a certain length?
- Does it have images, infographics, videos?
- Is it interactive?
All these questions will give you an idea of what makes successful content do so spectacularly well.
For more tips, check out my article and infographic summarizing a number of successful content creation strategies.
Also, what are some proven blog strategies that you and your clients have found to be particularly useful for increasing brand awareness, and why?
Guest blogging is particularly useful for increasing brand awareness and reach, because it gets your brand in front of a completely new audience, and more often than not, in front of a much larger audience than you would have on your own blog.
You can guest blog for trade and industry publications or even for large publications like the Huffington Post, Forbes and Inc.com, if your content is more generic and of interest to a larger audience.
The trick with guest blogging is to be selective of the blogs where you are featured. Only choose blogs that are established, well-known, and that link to other trusted websites. Avoid guest-blogging for spammy blogs that link to bad neighbourhoods. For more advanced guest blogging tips, check out Brian Dean’s Definitive Guide to Guest Blogging.
You are also a Certified Social Media Marketing Professional, in addition to being a professional blogger. What are some ways that business owners and brands can leverage social media insights for the most successful online marketing efforts?
I like to think of my blog as the hub of my online presence, with my social channels being outreach posts. I discuss this in my article “Why Do I Need A Blog? I Have Facebook, Twitter And LinkedIn.”
The thing to remember about social media is that social networks come and go. They’re only viable as long as they have a solid revenue model, like Facebook.
Also you do not own your Facebook or LinkedIn page. It’s those companies that own your page and it can vanish anytime they decide to delete it, or if they go out of business.
So publish your most important content on your own blog, and share or republish it on other channels, like LinkedIn and Medium, to reach a new audience.
In 2017, social media is more visual and video is the most engaging content format. If you have video content, you must publish it on both YouTube and Facebook.
Use Facebook ads to promote your content and get more likes and shares. If you have a local business, Facebook and Google+ are your most important social channels, so make use of all the local marketing tools they offer.
Facebook and Twitter work very well for B2C marketing, while LinkedIn and Twitter work well for B2B marketing. Instagram and Snapchat can work well for you if you’re targeting a younger audience.
While you should book your business name on every new social channel, don’t jump into any marketing or engaging with an audience on any channel without a clear content strategy.
You offer Blog Posts and Social Media Marketing solutions for capturing real leads. What are some ways that bloggers and business owners can use blogging and social media to not only find real leads, but also identify what their needs are?
Some ways that bloggers and business owners can use blogging and social media to identify the needs of their target audience are:
- Visit forums like Quora, Facebook Groups and other established forums where your audience gathers and read their questions. Get familiar with the language they use when they ask these questions, the keywords they include (and don’t include), the answers they post, the websites they refer to and reference regularly. Enter their world and become one of them before you decide to sell to them.
- Survey your audience using various social media tools – Polls on Twitter, Incentivised surveys on Facebook and other networks. Offer them a freebie or discount coupon for completing these surveys.
- Analyse your website and blog using tools (like Google Analytics, SumoMe’s Heatmaps tool, Hubspot’s CRM etc.), and figure out what your most popular content is, how are visitors navigating your website, how much of your content are they reading, how is it converting, which content converts best.
- Learn about Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and how to use it to lead with your best-converting content online. Personalize your website so that your visitors feel like you know them and are more likely to respond to your offer. Read this excellent article in MOZ on website personalization using Optimizely.
In today’s interconnected world, we have the potential for a global audience and customer base. Can you offer any advice on how to identify countries or cultures that might be receptive to a brand or business owner’s product or service, so they can know where to focus their blogging and marketing efforts?
Sometimes this is easy to identify, as in products that appeal to a certain audience with a lingual bias (such as the English speaking countries). Other times, it’s not.
Certain kinds of products, such as anti-virus software or apps that allow you to access your music playlist online, can easily be expanded to international markets.
But one well-known fact is that products originally conceived for international markets are much more likely to succeed in multiple markets than those tried in one place and later extended to multiple markets.
One way to figure out if your product is ripe for growth in other markets is to use tools like Google Trends that show what it happening in the world based on search trends.
If you find a lot of mentions coming from countries that your product is not yet being sold in, check out why you’re being cited there. From the tone and sentiment of the mentions, you’ll be able to figure out whether there is interest in your product or not.
With transparency and ethical marketing becoming increasingly important, by the day, blogging is becoming a hot topic for digital marketers in 2017. How can a blog be used to accentuate a brand’s storytelling or brand image, and why is it important for today’s digital marketer?
A good example of a successful blog that accentuates and enhances a brand’s image is JLL’s Real Estate Compass. This a real estate blog focused on the Indian market, and it features stories, press releases and news articles about Indian real estate, retail and other areas that JLL India works in.
This is a multi-author blog where every article is authored by a member of senior management. The posts either focus on some aspect of research published by the company, analysis of the real estate market, and articles that answer frequently asked questions on the real estate scenario in India.
The content is popular and picked up by many publications in India and abroad. The blog is a way to drive traffic to the company’s main website, as well as a vehicle for branding senior management personnel, and reaching out to the media, and to company advocates.
Finally, in regards to today’s global marketplace, what are some ways that a brand, business owner, or blogger can investigate different countries or cultures to create content to appeal to new markets and audiences? What are some of the potential benefits of doing so?
If you consider brands that target India, for instance, Google research indicates that that 90% of new internet users in India do not speak English and prefer to communicate in their mother tongue.
This means that most Online sellers in India will now have to up their game and ensure that multi-lingual versions of their websites are available to those that access them.
So, in many cases, it might not even involve creating new content, but just ensuring that your content is translated and easily accessible to users in different countries, or even in the same country.
The websites that go ahead and do this early on, the early adopters of multi-lingual technology, could become the most popular in their countries in terms of traffic, both nationally and internationally.
Another modification you can take on is making your website disabled-friendly. If you can do that, you open yourself up to an even larger audience globally.
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