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How to create an editorial strategy & guidelines for your B2B blog

Most B2B businesses recognise that a strong business blog can play an important part in inbound marketing.

In fact, a study by Hubspot found that B2B companies who blog regularly generate two-thirds (67%) more sales leads than companies who don’t. They also generate 94% more inbound links.

This isn’t too surprising when you think about it. For people to link to your website’s core pages, they need to be willing to endorse your company at a brand or product level. For someone to link through to a blog post, they only need to be willing to endorse the information in that specific post; they may not have even used your products or services, or come across your brand before.

Building up the resources available through your blog and sharing your business’ expertise is a fantastic way to gain visibility and increase your business’ reputation.

What you need to remember when setting out on this journey is that your blog is an extension of your brand. You could even go as far as to think of your blog as a biz dev team member, representing your company to the people who land on your blog pages.

Having a strong editorial strategy and blog guidelines in place will mean that your blog can scale with multiple contributors and that each post, while unique, will be singing from the same song sheet.

This means less editing, and better quality inbound leads from the potential clients you want to be talking with.


How to create an editorial strategy – 3 questions to ask yourself


1. What is the blog’s purpose and ultimate objective?

Identify why you’re running the blog in the first place. What’s the business goal that you want the blog to help you achieve?

For one of my clients, the core objective is to position their company, staff and partners as experts and an authority in their sector. As the blog grows, the aim is for the blog to help them generate inbound new business enquiries and warm leads from their target audience, who have already come to see them as an authority through the content.

Yours will probably be a bit different: your goal might be to capture data, increase your domain authority through inbound links, or to drive traffic from the blog to core products or services.

Whatever it is – share that objective with anyone who writes for the blog, so they know what objective they’re working towards.


2. Who is the Target Audience for the blog?

Once you’ve identified the overarching aim for the blog, you need to define which of your business’ audiences you’re going to target with your blog content.

Remember, your blog is only one marketing channel and, unless you have an incredibly niche service offering, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to target all of your audiences through blog content without losing focus.

Instead of thinking about how to make your blog work for your different target audiences, think about which audiences you need to target to reach your blog’s business objective.
 

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Here are three examples:

Blog objective: Increase inbound leads
Target audience: Potential clients

Blog objective: Client retention or upsell
Target audience: Current customers or clients

Blog objective: Inbound links and search engine visibility
Target audience: Other writers in your industry

Make sure you share the target audiences with your writers in the editorial guidelines so they know who they’re writing for – this will change the nature of the content a lot, so it’s something you want to make clear from the get-go.

In the early days, try not to dilute the focus of your blog too much. When it gains momentum and starts working on its own, then you can consider if you want to add another string to your bow.


3. What content do we post to achieve the goal?

Once you’ve identified the overarching objective and the target audience/s you need to reach to achieve that goal – it’s time to prescribe the type of content you want on the blog.

This question is inextricably linked to the first two; your overall aim will determine the kind of content that you need, and you’ll need to consider the target audience, as they’re the people you’re relying on to take action!

Let’s take the same three examples from above and include a potential post type to match:

Blog objective: Increase inbound leads
Target audience: Potential clients – looking for resources to help them in their day to day work
Content required: Our posts should demonstrate our expertise as leaders in the industry, subtly educating potential clients as to why they’d benefit from working with us through thought leadership or actionable content, rather than sales-focused content.

Blog objective: Client retention or upsell
Target audience: Current customers or clients – looking to get the best results for their business
Content required: Our posts should always be practical and helpful, reminding our customers why they love our brand, and helping them feel empowered to make the most of our product/services to benefit their own businesses.

Blog objective: Inbound links and search engine visibility
Target audience: Other writers in our industry – looking for resources to back up their articles
Content required: Our posts should be analytical posts which present easy to reference statistics, studies and results.


Turning your strategy into practical blog guidelines

Once you understand why you’re blogging, and who you’re trying to reach with what content – it’s time to put together a process to help your writers get the job done.

When creating your editorial guidelines, start by setting the scene with what you’ve identified from the three questions above. This will ensure your writers understand the “why”, “who” and “what”.

The following seven tactical guidelines provide the “how”, and will help ensure that the blog is easy to scale and works for you and your business, rather than vice versa.
 
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7 practical blog guidelines

 

1. Topic submission:

Explain how writers should come up with and submit their topic ideas.

Do you have a pool of topic ideas you want them to choose from, or are you open to writers coming up with their own, or maybe even submitting multiple ideas?

Whatever option you choose, outline the expectation that topics need approval clearly from the start to save everybody time and effort.

I also recommend that along with topics, writers should clearly state which of the target audiences their post will be targeting and a key message readers will take from the article, or the main objective of the post. This will help ensure they’ve thought through how their post will fit in the blog’s overarching strategy.
 
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It’s also important to set expectations on the topic approval process – set turnaround times, and explain that you’ll either approve the topic, select one of the few put forward, or provide feedback to help mould it to better fit the blog’s objectives.


2. Style and formatting tips:

How strict or relaxed you are with personal writing styles and tone of voice will depend on the nature of your business, the blog objectives, and your industry.

There may be strict regulations around providing advice or recommending vendors/platforms (like in the finance industry for example), or you may want to prescribe a more uniform tone of voice across articles, especially if you’re not showcasing individual authors but having all posts published under the brand itself (this might be the case if you’re ghostwriting under the guise of a person of interest/public figure).

For most companies though, it’s a balance between wanting to allow individual writers the freedom to write from their own voice and perspective, whilst ensuring there is brand, style and formatting consistency across posts.

Here are five examples taken from a longer list of style and formatting guidelines I wrote recently:

-Ensure you have a key message:

Then make sure you’re communicating that message clearly. The introduction to the post will need to outline what you’ll be detailing further down. If the key message isn’t apparent in the introduction, we’ll be asking you to revise the post.

-The post should be as long as it needs to be:

We don’t have a specific word count required, but we need posts to be long enough to give readers the insights they need to leave feeling that little bit better informed or ready to put what they’ve read into action. Based on the nature of content we’ll be posting, we expect most posts to exceed ~750 words to provide the value we want to be sharing. But some posts may need to be a lot shorter or longer than that.

-Write like you would speak:

We want to balance a tone which is approachable, with one which is knowledgable. Use “I”, “we” and “you”, and avoid writing too formally. Contractions (haven’t, won’t etc.) are absolutely fine to use. Just make sure you avoid industry jargon, common slang, and clarify any abbreviations or acronyms you use throughout the post.
 
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-Break your article down into digestible chunks:

Blog posts are meant to be easy to read and skim, even if they are long. Make it easy for readers to scan through sections; Write in short sentences, use subheadings to break up your different points, and include bullet points where necessary.

-Always attribute any third party information:

If you’ve read something useful and you’re referencing it in your post, you MUST credit the original post or source. Don’t let this put you off though, a post which references other information shows you’ve done your research and that your own article is well-founded.


3. Initial proof and editorial tools to use:

From my experience, too much needless time is wasted by editors proofing articles full of silly spelling and grammar mistakes.

There is nothing wrong with a draft of an article being riddled with spelling and grammar errors – none of us write a perfect article first time around. But basic mistakes should be caught in an initial proof read by the writer – and there are tools that can help!

I always suggest that writers install the Grammarly Chrome extension (it’s free!) This will not only pick up spelling mistakes, but outperforms Microsoft’s spell check hands down when it comes to identifying mistakes with grammar.

With an account, writers will also get a report which shows them their most common mistakes, to help them identify weaknesses and help them improve.

 
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After the spelling and grammar check, I also suggest writers put their work through Hemingway app (also free) before submitting to the editor. Hemingway will give you a “readability” score and provide suggestions to help make your article easier to digest. Based on the topic, and the target audience, you’ll need to use your discretion about which recommendations to follow, and which to ignore.

By including processes like this in your guidelines, editors will be able to focus on the bigger picture of the article’s structure and content, without having to get caught up in too much basic proofing.


4. Linking policy:

This is particularly relevant if you accept guest posts on your blog. Linking is still a major currency in SEO, and a currency that has been majorly abused.

Make it completely transparent as to what your linking policy is – especially when it comes to guest writers referring back to their business or other posts.

Do you have a designated bio section where you’ll include a link? How many links will you include? Is there criteria for links in the body content to be included?

Separate to external linking, what about internal linking to other pages or posts on your website?

I recommend a very simple rule when it comes to both internal and external linking from a blog post: Does it help the reader?

If the answer is yes, then it makes total sense to include the link. For example, it makes sense to link to sources of reference, relevant further reading/resources, or to the websites of tools or companies that you reference.

When guest contributors are featured, there’s usually no harm including a link to help readers find out more about them, so long as it’s adding value.


5. Image requirements:

A picture says a thousand words, and whilst we may think of blogging as a written content domain, there’s no denying we’re living in a visual content world.

A study by BuzzSumo showed that articles with an image once every 75-100 words got double the number of social shares than articles with fewer images. (Buzzsumo, 2015, via HubSpot).

In your guidelines, explain whether the writer is responsible for sourcing the imagery to accompany the post.

If you do want the writer to include imagery, provide some guidelines around the type of imagery, attribution, and any libraries you prefer to be used:

-Types of imagery:

In this section, include any image spec requirements, e.g. landscape, minimum resolution required, etc. You may also want to indicate a preference for screenshots, or illustrations/cartoons, or photography.

-Attribution:

As you’re publishing content publicly, you’ll also need to ensure that all images are credited appropriately to avoid any copyright issues. Make sure writers identify if you have the rights to use images, and clearly annotate who and how to reference any photography that requires attribution.

-Sourcing images:

This is where you should direct writers to any brand-owned image libraries that you’d like to use images from where possible.

If your business has a subscription to an online image gallery, direct writers to find stock photography from that specific site.
I always suggest clients recommend Pexels and Unsplash as brilliant websites for sourcing stunning royalty and credit free images that don’t look like your typical stock library.
 
pexels screenshot
 


6. Crafting headlines:

Headlines are important for search and engage the reader when they click through to the blog post. They’re also one of the hardest parts of the article to put together.

Your guidelines should provide some direction for writers, helping them put together persuasive, and descriptive headlines, but it’s likely you’ll need to be willing to work with your writers on this one.

A good headline will show an understanding of the target audience, address an individual reader and include the benefit/promise of the post.

If you can, include examples of strong headlines that have generated a good CTR, as well as examples of headlines which have under-performed.


7. Explain your review and publication process:

If you’re working towards quality content, it’s going to take time to get it right.

Make sure you set expectations with writers up front so they understand it won’t be a simple matter of sending in their article and you uploading it and hitting the publish button.

Detail who writers should submit their ideas and first draft to, how many revisions you expect posts to go through, and when the different versions are due. Also share the final publish deadline so they know the date you’re all working towards.

Having this process means you will only attract writers who value quality content and are on board with the blog’s overall objective.
 
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Putting it into practice:

Once you combine your editorial strategy and tactical guidelines, you’re ready to distribute them to writers.

Be open to feedback, and as and when you come across common questions that writers have, revise the guidelines with that information included.

Make sure that you continually monitor your blog. There is nothing wrong with pivoting your focus if you find the results you were getting from your content were different to what you expected.

Identify posts which perform exceptionally well and analyse them to see if there are any lessons from those posts which you can share with your editorial team. This will help you fine-tune the content you’re posting, and help ensure that the blog works to get your business the best possible results it can.

Skippy

Skippy has been working in digital for the last five years following a PR and communications background. She's passionate about helping businesses boost onsite engagement through increasing their credibility and improving their content.

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