Building a Business Blog From Scratch: Three Rules

I’m the Blog Editor at RotaCloud. We make employee scheduling software. Our blog’s not really about that.

In my first full story on Medium, I wanted to talk about how we built our blog from the ground up.

I joined RotaCloud in February 2016 as only the second employee in the marketing team. The blog wasn’t in a good state.

There were about 30 posts — which sounds respectable, but the blog was struggling.

  • Posts were sporadic
  • There were no posts at all between June 2015 and January 2016
  • The majority of posts showcased new features, and only appealed to existing customers
  • Editing, formatting and tone were inconsistent and occasionally lacking

The co-founders of the company openly admitted to me that the blog hadn’t been a priority in recent months. The company had grown rapidly and there simply wasn’t the time to give the blog the attention it deserved.

They’d tried asking freelancers to supply content, but the results were decidedly mixed — and turning the raw text file into a blog post still required time that they didn’t have.

It was my job to revitalise the blog and turn it into a useful resource for the business.

How did I do?

Check out the blog for yourself if you want to see what we’ve achieved.

RotaCloud Blog Homepage July 2017

It’s now been almost 18 months since I took the reins as blog editor, and since then we’ve published another 120 articles to the blog — averaging roughly seven posts a month.

I’ve had help from other RotaCloud employees (and occasional guest contributors), most notably my colleague Phil, who joined in early 2017 to help out with marketing.

We haven’t stuck rigidly to a strategy, but we have followed several guidelines to keep the blog on track — regardless of who writes the content.

Here they are.

There’s no point publishing an article if another blog has done a better job on the same topic.

We all know how important quality content is for SEO and inbound marketing. We all know that there’s been a near-exponential increase in the quantity of digital content.

As readers suffer from content overload, the bar for ‘quality content’ continues to rise.

Even though we’re a small business with a small marketing budget, we want to create content that’s the best on the net for any given topic.

This mantra may seem arrogant — and perhaps naive — but I’ve used it to help guide the types of content we create. If we can’t do a better job on a certain topic than another site, here’s what we do:

  • Think of a new perspective or angle to write from
  • Make it seasonal or topical instead of general
  • Ditch the idea entirely

This process applies to ideas from all blog contributors — internal or external.

Usually, we try to create ‘better’ content than our competitors in a number of ways.

  • We structure our content clearly and logically
  • We research thoroughly (more on this below)
  • We fill our content with practical advice instead of vague tips

We also understand our limitations. We’re based in the UK, and can’t confidently write about US and international topics. We’re also not skilled video producers or podcasters, so we tend to lean on our writing skills.

If our weaknesses mean that we can’t do a topic justice, we try something different.

Knowledge is power

Every weekday I receive dozens of email newsletters. I read every single one, and open links that interest me in new tab. Often I’m left with 40+ open Chrome tabs each morning after I clear my inbox. I spend the next 30–60 minutes digesting the blog posts, news articles, Tweets and opinion pieces contained within them.

Sure, most of them are rubbish.

I skim through the content, or read the opening paragraph and move on.

But sometimes, maybe in one article in every five or ten, there’s something that holds my interest and teaches me something new.

Reading is important to all writers — not just novelists. Even if you don’t agree with what the blogger or influencer is trying to argue, you’re still expanding your knowledge of a given topic by reading their work. Seeing things from others’ perspective is critical even in the world of HR blogging.

We don’t take shortcuts when researching posts, either. We probably dedicate an average of a day working on each blog post — plus extra time for formatting, editing and promotion.

After all, if you don’t fully understand what you’re writing about, it shows.

Don’t fret over SEO

I’m of the opinion that SEO is extremely important to company blogs, but it shouldn’t interfere with the way you write.

This may seem obvious to experienced content marketers, but many business bloggers still pack their articles with keywords and shamelessly fish for links. This strategy might work in the short term, but it’s risky in the long term.

When speaking to guest post contributors or RotaCloud employees who only rarely contribute to the blog, we never discuss SEO. Sure, you might have a keyword in mind or think of a featured snippet to target, but this should be secondary to the content itself.

SEO is important: but not important enough to derail the flow and purpose of your content.

Your rules

Those three rules have been a valuable guide during the development of the RotaCloud blog. We’ve made significant progress in terms of organic traffic and referrals to the main site, but we’ve got a long way to go.

OK — so our rules more like guidelines, but they’ve played an important part in shaping the RotaCloud blog. Without them, it’d look very different.

I want to know what rules other bloggers set themselves when starting from scratch — particularly with a B2B blog — comment below to share your rules.