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I previously gave a talk at the Silicon Valley Founder Institute as part of its Branding and Marketing session. This being my first time acting as a Mentor for the Founder Institute, I thought I’d share some of the key points from my presentation on startup blogging, as well as some of the learnings from my experience of mentoring early-stage startups.

Teaching Startup Blogging to Aspiring Entrepreneurs

For this session, I was joined by fellow Mentors Brett Murray, Rajesh Setty, and Omar Valle, each one whom had considerable expertise in a specific aspect of marketing for tech companies. Since the others were able to draw from years of marketing experience to offer their own sage-like wisdom, I thought I’d just focus on blogging, a less interesting facet of marketing, but one that early-stage startups continuously struggle with.

As this was later in the program, the Founders I interacted with were, of course, well on their way to launching strong, promising companies. It was a diverse group of early-stage companies, ranging across various industries and verticals: there was Inko, an online marketplace that connects tattoo customers with local artists; Invest Groove, which helps investors validate their investing ideas; Koala, a platform that helps small businesses grow their customer base; and several others.

Because of the variety of startups in that cohort, each has their own respective challenges to face when it comes to what types of blog posts to write, which audience to focus on, what topics are most relevant to their industry, and others.

However, I think the advice I gave them, offered below, is a great starting point for any startup, regardless of their market, product, or stage.

Why Your Startup Needs a Blog

There are plenty of reasons as to why your startup needs a blog, but I’ll just outline some of the most important reasons why you should start and maintain a blog for your startup:

  • It’s a great way to update your audience. Every time your company does something newsworthy, take the time write a blog post about it. Official launches, new product and feature announcements, press coverage, and other news should be covered on your blog. Just make sure you don’t populate your blog with nothing but company announcements (more on this later).

  • Your blog helps drive traffic to your website. Writing blog posts that are filled with keywords related to your company and market will increase the chances of attracting organic search traffic, and will help ensure that your website consistently ranks high in search results.

  • Blogging establishes trust between you and your audiences. When you write authoritative blog posts about your industry, it serves only to build your company’s credibility. If your audience perceive you to be a trusted leader in your market, it will increase the likelihood of them becoming regular customers. Also, the more valuable your blog posts, the more shareable they are.

What You Should Blog About

Many founders struggle to come up with new topics to write about. However, if you’ve done considerable research into your market (you know, like you should have when in the early stages of launching your startup), you already have a veritable library of unique subjects to write about. For example:

  • Lessons learned. Write about your personal experience in launching a company, like what motivated you to build this product. Even stories about the various successes and failures you had can make for some compelling content.

  • Market predictions. By now, you should have a solid idea of where your respective market is heading and what consumers can expect in the next six months, year, five years, etc. Make a bold prediction about the industry and return to it at a later time to discuss how accurate you were. If your forecast was way off, turn your findings into an interesting post.

  • Unique industry insights. As someone who has invest much of their free time in studying a specific industry, you should be quite the expert, and therefore, should have some exclusive wisdom that could be packaged into a compelling blog post, or even series of blog posts.

Ok, even if you have a multitude of potential topics to write about, you still need to organize them. Blog posts that have a clear, single vision are not only better organized, but are more likely to attract general audiences.

To help you home in on what you should write about, let me share with you a technique I use to generate a ton of blog post ideas in a short amount of time.

  1. Create a list general keywords and phrases related to your company. For example, because I almost exclusively write articles to help early stage entrepreneurs, my initial list looks something like this:

    • Startup Ideas

    • Customer Development

    • Revenue Models

    • Startup Legal and IP

    • Product Development

    • Sales and Traction

    • Branding and Marketing

    • Fundraising

  2. Each keyword or phrase from your initial list should have it’s own list of even more specific keywords and phrases. Shoot for quantity here, as the more words you come up with, the more you can write about To demonstrate, let’s start with “fundraising”:

    • Series A

    • Crowdfunding

    • Angel Investors

    • Accelerators

    • Incubators

    • Venture Capital

    • Pitch Deck

    • Bootstrapping

  3. Each one of these terms can be it’s own blog post or series of blog posts. If you stop here, then pick the subject that you’re most familiar with and start writing. However, if you want to get even more ideas, pick one of the above words and mine even deeper for even more inspiration. Let’s continue with “bootstrapping”:

    • Borrowing from friends and family

    • Super angels

    • Peer-to-peer lending

    • Microfinance

    • Self-funding

    • Etc.

Types of Blog Posts

Once you’ve compiled a list of topics that you can blog about and will appeal to your audience, it’s time to consider the various formats your blog posts should take. Below are some of the most popular types of blog posts, but is by no means a list of every type of blog post.

  • Listicles: Because of their easy to understand nature, listicles are incredibly effective at attracting visitors and are more likely to be shared on social media. However, listicles are often gimmicky, so be sure to make the content as valuable and useful as possible.

  • How-To’s: People love do it yourself guides, so if there is any way that you can take that approach to any of your chosen topics, go for it. These don’t necessarily need to be exhaustive articles on a specific subject, as even a blog post dedicated to a simple life or work hack can become viral.

  • Ultimate guides: Similar to how-to articles, ultimate guides dive deep into one particular subject and are, by nature, very detailed. While this type of content requires more work, ultimate guides can pay off later on, as they usually involve plenty of high-traffic keywords and phrases, increasing the chance of ranking high in search engines.

  • Interviews: If you’ve done your preliminary research correctly when launching your company, you should have met with plenty of industry experts and thought leaders. Reach out them for an interview, and make sure you ask questions that can yield some unique and valuable insights.

  • Image-based content: Blog posts that consist primarily of engaging images often attract traffic and encourage shareability. Images should be unique, funny, insightful, meaningful, zany, etc., so if you know of any graphic designers who can whip together some potentially viral images, put them to work.

Blogging Basics

Blogging trends are constantly changing, and some types of formats will do better than others depending on your audience and market. However, these tips will at least give you something that you can aim for when beginning your blogging strategy.

  • Length: Longer blog posts (+1,500 words or more), tend rank higher on search engines because of the larger number of keywords and phrases. However, if you think you can write an amazing article in just 600 words or fewer, then do it, because quality is always better than quantity.

  • Images: Images can greatly help with comprehensibility and shareability. For example, graphs, charts, and image quotes great for adding context to a topic.

  • Frequency & Consistency: Shoot for releasing a new blog post each day. However, if you have a small team or don’t have the time to write that often, 2-4 blog posts per week is a good goal. However, even if you only release one blog post per week, be as consistent as possible. Regularity of content displays your company’s activity.

  • CTAs: The bulk of your company’s blog should feature only useful and valuable content. If you spend too much time writing about your company, you run the risk of turning your blog into an advertisement, which goes against content marketing best practices. However, it’s totally fine to include CTAs to your company’s product or newsletter in your blog posts, but only if they aren’t intrusive.

  • Titles: Around 60 to 70 characters for each title is a good rule of thumb, as search results often cut off titles more than 70 characters. Also, to increase accessibility to general audiences, make sure your titles make sense, even out of context.

  • Formatting: Take the time to ensure that each blog post follows a clear, logical organization and narrative. Bullet points and numbers can greatly aid in comprehension, as well as the use of headers and subheaders to prioritize content.

Key Takeaways

If you didn’t read everything before this section, don’t worry about it, since I’ve outlined some of the most important concepts for you to implement in your blogging strategy:

  • Your startup needs a blog to drive traffic to your website, and to update and establish trust with your audience.

  • Turn what you know - lessons learned, market predictions, industry insights, etc. - into content.

  • To generate topics to write about, create an extensive list of keywords about your market (be as specific and uninhibited as possible) and identify the ones that you think will be most interesting to your audience.

  • Listicles, how-to’s, ultimate guides, interviews, and image-based content are useful blog formats that organize your content in an accessible manner and help drive traffic.

  • Blogging Basics

    • Longer posts (1,500+ words) do better in terms of search traffic, but quality is always better than quantity.

    • Images (charts, graphs, infographics, etc.) increase shareability of blog posts.

    • Whatever your blogging schedule is, keep it consistent and regular.

    • It’s ok to write about your company on occasion, but the majority of your blog posts should be useful, insightful content.

    • 60-70 character titles for better visibility on search engines.

    • Bullet points, numbers, and headers make blog posts more readable.

Final Words - Questions from the Audience

The Founder Institute session ended with an informal Q&A segment, in which all the Mentors sat on a panel and answered questions from the audience. I was only asked a couple of questions directly which led to some interesting discussion, from which I’ve decided to derive the following points:

  • I haven’t started my company’s blog yet. Should I reach out to other thought leaders for guest posts or focus on creating my own content first?

    • Anytime you have an opportunity to have an expert create content for you, go for it. However, without a blog, you probably don’t have a huge audience yet, which may discourage others from writing guest posts for you. However, once you’ve written several blog posts and have acquired a sizeable audience, getting guest posts will be easier.

  • My company’s product doesn’t easily lend itself to viral content. How can I write interesting blog posts about a topic that may not immediately appeal to general audiences?

    • You can turn just about anything into potentially interesting content for general audiences. Write about experiences in launching a company, the fascinating people you’ve met, the challenges you overcame, the successes and failures you’ve experienced. Seriously, no topic is without the potential to be turned into something that captivates a layperson. I’m even going to turn this presentation into a blog post (MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!).

And for my last word, keep in mind that blogging trends and content strategies are constantly changing, as well as audience tastes, so the information provided here is only a starting point. Don't expect all of these tactics to produce amazing results right out of the gate, and remember that it's up to you to experiment and change your course when things aren't working. Once you've got your blog up and running, treat it like you would treat your product: find what others have done and do it differently, do it faster, do it better.

Because writing, like entrepreneurship, is a creative act, and innovation only begins when you ask the question, "How can I do this differently?"

P.S. - Below is the presentation I used for my talk. Feel free to like, share, and read to your heart's content.

How to Blog for Your Startup from Joseph Garza

If you want even more insights on launching a startup that people love, then apply to the Silicon Valley Founder Institute today!

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