In the last couple of decades, blogs have evolved from personal web ramblings to must-have marketing tools for businesses. They’ve evolved in both form and function: now, blogs often resemble journalistic feature articles, profiles, Q&As, and how-to (service) pieces that used to only exist in top print magazines and newspapers.

Nowadays, you’re likely to find a blog somewhere on both B2B and B2C websites. But for those businesses with a limited marketing budget or lack of direction, blogging can sometimes feel like a shot in the dark. Here are some questions to ask to help you determine if your blog is making money or wasting time.

Are you using your blog the right way?

A blog is a marketing tool, not a sales tool. It’s an important distinction to make because marketing and sales have two very different objectives — and to expect one to provide the outcomes of the other is a recipe for disaster.

The goal of marketing is to capture qualified leads, whereas the goal of sales is to convert those leads into customers. If you expect prospects to read your blog post and then immediately buy your product, you’re putting unrealistic expectations on your blog!

Here’s why. A blog post is a top-funnel marketing tactic. People who read your blog are making only a very small commitment of their time, and may not be ready to buy your product or service yet.

Therefore, your blog’s call-to-action should never be “buy this product.” It should, instead, prompt the reader to take a middle-funnel action, like:

  • Read another post
  • Subscribe to a newsletter
  • Join our coupon club
  • Schedule a free consultation

What are you blogging about?

Your blog isn’t a place to stash news about your company picnics or recent news appearances — unless you’re certain your prospects will be interested in these things. Your blog should instead aim to provide value. If you’re struggling to decide on topics for blog posts, pay attention to your customers. What do they want to know more about? Which elements of your product or service are confusing or exciting to them? Play mind-reader by stepping into your customers’ shoes and writing about things they’re already interested in.

Do you have an editorial calendar?

You’ve seen it before. A company launches a website and adds a blog as an afterthought because they know they’re supposed to have one. Different team members start adding posts — a few this week, none the next. Nobody posts anything for a couple of months, and then three more hurried posts come down the pipeline when the boss mentions that nobody’s publishing to the blog.

A haphazard approach to blogging is no approach at all and is likely to be a waste of your time. Instead, choose a realistic blogging schedule and be consistent. If you can only commit to posting one piece per month, that’s fine: just stick to it.

Are your blog posts search-optimized?

Because blogging is a top-funnel marketing technique, it’s wise to optimize it for top-funnel prospects — namely, those who are conducting a Google search on a topic related to your business. Although a full primer on SEO is beyond the scope of this article, here are a few things you should do to your blog posts to give them an SEO boost:

  • Pay attention to headers and formatting. Use H2 headers to divide your posts into relevant subtopics, and include related keywords within them. Use H3 headers, numbered lists, or bullets for lists and subpoints under H2 headers.
  • Optimize your URLs to include long-tail keywords. Although big businesses can get their blog posts to rank in top spots for broad keywords like “digital marketing” or “blog tips,” most blogs will have a better chance of ranking if they optimize posts for very specific search terms — and include those terms in the blog post’s URL.
  • Include metadata. On most blogging platforms, there’s a separate area where you can enter an SEO title and description of your blog post. Fill these out for an SEO boost.
  • Optimize images. Name your images with keywords that describe the actual image, and compress your images down below 100kb to improve page load times. You may not think it matters, but the majority of internet users will abandon a page if it takes more than 10 seconds to load.
  • Include links. Relevant internal and external links are essential, but the key word here is “relevant.” Nobody likes to feel spammed when they visit a blog (and Google might penalize you for overusing links), so link only to relevant studies and further reading on topics directly related to your blog post.

Are you promoting your posts?

Today, it’s rare that a visitor to your website will seek out your blog and read it at leisure. Whether through organic or paid tactics, you need to promote your blog to the wider world in order for it to lead to any kind of ROI. The method you choose depends on your specific business, but here are a few things to try:

Organic Social Media Promotion

Pick two or three platforms where you’re most likely to connect with customers, and publish links to your posts there. Though this method takes time, it’s free, and it’s a great way to build authentic connections with your prospects.

Paid Blog Post Promotion

Use paid social media advertising to promote your blog to an audience beyond your existing followers. Here’s a simple and inexpensive way to do this on Facebook. Pick a blog post that’s already performing well, write a social post about it (make sure to include the link to your blog post), and spend a few bucks to “boost” that post. Now, instead of the post only being visible to your current followers, it shows up in the newsfeeds of target prospects that meet certain criteria.

Influencer Marketing

Sometimes, it’s more effective to draw attention to your brand using an influencer as “middleman” than to target your prospects directly. Reach out to influencers who have a large following that resembles your target market, and invite them to do a Q&A or guest post for your blog.