Blogs for Agencies and Freelancers - How Networking Works

Michael Firnkes Last updated 22.10.2020
12 Min.
Barcamp Blogger
Last updated 22.10.2020

An agency's website should include a blog or magazine. After all, potential customers want to know whether the service provider is a master of his trade. Few instruments in online marketing are as effective as a blog - says Daniela Sprung , expert for corporate blogs.

Blogs for agencies as well as magazines pay off on their own SEO, which is hardly the case with social networks. Nevertheless, many agencies and freelancers shy away from demonstrating their expertise via a blog. What do you need to consider when starting a blog project? How do you create good content with little time? And how does networking with other bloggers work? Our interview provides the answers.

Corporate Blog vs Online Magazine

"Corporate blogs are dead, long live the online magazine" - that's how it's sounding from all corners at the moment. Daniela, what is your opinion on this controversial topic?

Both variants have their justification. The question is: How is such a project implemented? I am a great advocate of classic blogs - with a comment function and posts that can also be more personal. The Daimler Blog was a real pioneer in this respect. Now the blog no longer exists, it has become Daimler Magazine.

Daimler magazine
Daimler switched from blog to magazine

Again, the implementation is very successful, in my opinion. Excellent contributions, an appealing design and yet the feeling remains that the very personal charm was preserved. What I chalk up to is that there is no comment function. The discourse takes place under the posts at LinkedIn . I'm not a fan of relinquishing control. By doing so, you keep reader responses exclusively on external channels that you don't own. DATEV has now gone the same way and invites discussion on Facebook.

Aren't online magazines just blogs, just with a fancier name? Where do you see the differences?

The difference for me is that online magazines are broader in their topics than a blog. The tone is more factual. It's also less about maintaining more direct contact with customers, employees and partners. In a blog, the articles are more personal. They usually cover more topics about the company, its employees, events and products or services.

Silja Troll has a good definition of what distinguishes a blog from a magazine:

A magazine is primarily thematically sorted, rather informative and factual. A corporate blog, on the other hand, is often characterized by a more subjective opinion. It aims - more than a magazine - at direct communication with the users. However, knowledge and information transfer are also decisive in corporate blogging.

Blogs and Content Marketing

I am asked again and again whether a company should call its project "blog" or "magazine". For which industries or target groups is which variant suitable?

There is no blanket answer here. For many, the term "blog" has a very conservative connotation and is associated with the origins of blogging, the digital diary. In times of buzzwords like content marketing, content shock or even content hub, it is certainly more interesting for many to speak of a magazine. The term is fancier and not as stale as "the blog".

I always refer to it as a blog myself. Simply to make it clear that there is a distinction from a magazine. Often the two terms "blog" and "magazine" are used as synonyms. I would listen in to the particular industry or target audience to understand what terms they use. Which term gets more attention there? However, it's important to be clear what the collaboration is about. This is the only way to meet expectations and prevent disappointment.

Blog4Business : Networking with other bloggers

You're organizing the Blog4Business a conference for corporate and professional bloggers. Corporate bloggers have rarely networked, in contrast to the WordPress scene, for example. Why is that?

For one thing, the number of corporate bloggers is manageable. If you look at how many companies have a blog and how many companies use social channels (and I'm not even talking about maintain), it quickly becomes clear: corporate blogs are a niche. Many don't consider a blog relevant or relevant enough.

On the other hand, a corporate blogger often doesn't just take care of the blog, but he or she has other responsibilities such as social media, marketing, community management, and so on. These are all areas where there is much more frequent innovation. I'm thinking of articles like "10 Trends You Need to Know for Your 2020 Social Media Campaign" and the like. Additionally, there are events like the D2M Summit, Social Media Week Hamburg, Allfacebook Conference, etc. These events deal with topics like Facebook Ads, Social Listening, Instagram & Co. Exchanging ideas with colleagues works better because there is a whole industry about it.

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This is not the case in corporate blogging. Not much changes here in terms of content. But, and I think many forget this: The ability to write good texts, requirements for search engine optimization (SEO) and analytics are constantly evolving. SEO is often a separate department within the company, or it is outsourced to an agency. Corporate bloggers then don't always have access to the necessary data to evaluate it themselves. So who to talk to about it? That's another reason why corporate bloggers have a hard time sharing.

That's exactly why Blog4Business . There is no comparable meeting on the subject so far. In addition, you often have to ask your employer whether you are allowed to attend a certain event, including the reason. In addition, there is only a certain budget for such events. Then you probably go where many other colleagues are, for example to the re:publica.

Is the networking to corporate blogs and online magazines currently getting better? And how can a conference resolve this?

Whether that's changing right now, I can't say for sure. But I do know what a conference needs to offer in order for attendees to network in the best way possible. My events are aimed at bloggers who use the blog professionally. For a business, for an agency, or for themselves as a freelancer. But there are also topics that go beyond the horizon.

This year, it's gamification and community management. These topics are broader in scope. They also appeal to people who work in social media. So agency staff, freelancers, organization members, etc. For me, there are two key points that make for a stronger exchange:

On the one hand, the time between the programme items. People want to talk to each other, and not just during the breaks. In my opinion, plenty of time for networking is the basis for getting into conversation better. Because it's the personal moments that bring people together. You can finally meet people you've always wanted to talk to, and who you've only known from the web so far. In addition, a conference can be very large. I have started to admit a maximum of 100 people in order to keep the Blog4Business informal.

Another point is the practical work: away from frontal sound and towards trial and error. Participants want to ask questions and learn about solutions. The more practical an event is and the smaller the number of participants, the more likely it is that people will get involved and discuss things. An event should have a certain size, about 70 to a maximum of 150 people. That is usually enough, depending on the program.

Advantages of blogs for agencies

Agencies but also freelancers should urgently have their own blog to show their expertise. That's my opinion. How do you see it? What are the main advantages of an agency blog?

I am a big advocate of blogs. The topic is my passion. Because I am convinced that few tools in online marketing are as effective as a blog to show one's expertise. The advantage of blogs, in my opinion, lies primarily in its constant accessibility, worldwide. Any other medium usually requires a login. No matter if it's Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Xing or Medium, just to name a few examples.

All media formats can be used on a blog. Try adding a link, a video and an image to a post on Facebook. You will have to choose a thumbnail if you want your post to be more than just text. A blog works very well in conjunction with a podcast. That's what I do as well. I post my podcast on my blog, and I usually create some text from the audio as well. This way my visitors can not only read, but also listen. I reach two audiences and it pays off on SEO. This doesn't work on any social network.

With a blog you are independent from social networks and the press. Facebook changes its algorithm frequently. Currently, the trend is that organic visibility is much harder to achieve than it was a few years ago. If businesses, agencies or freelancers want to make money and be seen, they are almost forced to run ads. Instagram is still okay, but structures are changing here as well. Google+ no longer exists and only very few people still talk about Ello.

Bloggerabc
The blog of Daniela Sprung

On a blog, I decide what the posts have to look like. I can decide how many and which media I want to include. I have direct influence on search engine optimization and my visibility. There's another reason that blogs are great: many agencies and companies have a vested interest in appearing in the press. There's a reason why communications departments exist, often employing a press officer. But it is difficult to attract attention with a press release. Because it has to contain a story that is so interesting that journalists report on it.

On the blog I can publish my own stories and communicate about them in times of crisis. Anita Freitag-Meyer from the Hans Freitag biscuit factory showed very impressively how this works a few years ago. She was shipped flour that had metal shavings in it. In addition to the mandatory recall, she covered the situation via her cookie blog and social channels. While an outside PR professional was involved, she handled the personal communication via social media and the blog herself. In it, she responded to comments and questions from her community.

As a result, the owner was later awarded a prize for her exemplary crisis communication. She herself said that she had not received a shitstorm but a "candystorm". You can listen to an interview with Anita Freitag-Meyer about the case on my blog.

SEO and Recruiting

What do corporate blogs do for the recruitment of new employees and for SEO? Which content formats are used for this?

A blog is also an excellent channel for employer branding and employee retention. Many agencies are looking for employees, often specialists for different areas. Articles with a look behind the scenes, videos and interviews with employees as well as the presentation of projects offer good insights into the company. To show who you are and how you work.

Very beautifully that makes in my opinion the agency result from Cologne with its effect blog, in addition, you with RAIDBOXES with wp unboxed around WordPress . Informative articles that go into depth as well as insights into your company. And all that with snappy texts that are fun to read. What more could you want?

Blogs for Agencies and Freelancers - How Networking Works Best
In magazine format: Our own WordPress blog "wp unboxed"

Search engine optimization is another important point, as mentioned earlier. With a well set up blog, one can earn a place on site one on Google. If the following criteria are met:

  • The implementation of the Mobile First rule by Google
  • Fast loading times
  • Good content that is better than that of the competitors

Fact is: A blog pays on the own SEO, social networks less to not at all. In my opinion, all these points speak very strongly for agencies and self-employed people to run a blog.

I also recommend this to medium-sized companies in many cases. Because if you look around in the different industries, many competitors don't have a blog yet - or they are pretty bad. That means: the opportunity is extremely good to position yourself as a trendsetter and expert. Sometimes you are the only company that has a blog, in which case you fill a gap. The others have to get past that first.

Plan content efficiently

Freelancers often have little time to blog themselves. How can they still provide enough content?

There's too much work on your desk, you don't have time to blog, and your blog sits idle for a long time. This has also happened to me. There are several strategies that can help. On the one hand, you should write articles in advance, i.e. "in stock". Then you can always fall back on the written material. Even the distribution on social networks and in the newsletter can be planned in advance, so you save time.

On the other hand, guest posts help to bridge the lull on the blog. This provides content from someone else's pen and thus variety on the blog. There are enough people who like to increase their reach and enjoy a do-follow link when they publish on other blogs. I recommend you set parameters for a guest post. This includes that the article is unique and will not appear elsewhere, keyword unique content.

Also, clarify how you want to address your readers. Do you want to address them as "du", "sie" or use neutral language? How would you like it? Avoid keyword stuffing and clarify who will supply the images for the post. A very good and clear rule has been created by the new blog of the Digital Week Dortmund. It offers you a good inspiration, see here.

But it's not just new and planned content that can help keep the blog going in bad times. But also updated content. It's often not necessary to constantly write new articles. It's much better to take old articles and update them. This includes checking to see if the content is still accurate, or if there have been any new additions in the meantime. Further steps are:

  • Remove broken links
  • Alternatively, replace them with new ones if they lead to helpful information
  • Include other media when appropriate
  • Annotate this revised article with a note of when it first appeared and when it was updated.

Many readers no longer have such articles on the screen. The new visitors, on the other hand, may not even know the post yet. So you can create fresh content on the blog with much less effort than to write a completely new post.

Conference and Barcamp for Blogs

What can participants expect at Blog4Business ? And what is the difference to the Corporate Blog Barcamp on November 5?

The Blog4Business (B4B) combines two formats. The classic conference and the casual barcamp. With Blog4Business I want to think outside the box. Here I combine the topics around corporate blogs and social media. There are three lectures by experts throughout the day that deal with corporate blogs and social media.

This year it's Rouven Kasten from GLS Bank. He shows how the social-economic bank has been running their blog successfully for over 10 years. And how they not only reach their customers with it, but also sell current accounts. Furthermore I could win Nora Breuker as a speaker. Nora is the expert when it comes to building and maintaining communities. She has built a large community in the USA. I wrote at the beginning that I wanted to think outside the box with the B4B. With the topic of gamification, that should be the case. It is an exciting challenge especially in relation to blogging. Roman Rackwitz shows how readers can be engaged in a playful way. And how knowledge transfer in blogs can be designed in this way. He brings examples of this.

The Barcamp takes place between the lectures. The special thing about this is that the participants design their own program. Everyone can come to the front and propose a session. This can be a question on the topic of social media or blog. Or someone explains how Pinterest works properly. There is no right or wrong. The only important thing is: the participants have enough time to exchange ideas. They should go home with even more knowledge and good contacts at the end.

The Corporate Blog Barcamp, on the other hand, is a pure barcamp. There are no lectures. Instead, the program is designed by the participants themselves. The sessions here are very focused on the overall topic of the blog. The Corporate Blog Barcamp will take place for the second time on November 5, 2020. Last year we had topics such as how to properly set up Google Search Console. The agency that manages the Ritter Sport Blog gave insights behind the scenes. Leefke from RAIDBOXES talked about what good posts need to look like to convert. I am very excited to see what topics will be suggested this year.

Corporate Blog Barcamp
The Corporate Blog Barcamp

Here's a question I'm sure you're already sick of hearing: Will Blog4Business take place despite "Corona"? Some WordCamps have already been cancelled...

Currently, I see no reason for alarm. I constantly monitor the information from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). I consider their instructions and recommendations to be authoritative. I have coordinated with the Dortmund Chamber of Industry and Commerce, which is a co-organiser of Blog4Business . We agree that the event will take place as planned.

The IHK is excellently prepared, for example with a disinfection station at the entrance. We advocate that a smile or nod replaces a handshake. Basically, the same precautions apply as with the flu. I will be posting an official statement on this later and will be writing directly to the participants. I think we are well prepared with this. And we can look forward to a varied day.

You have questions about corporate blogs? Feel free to use the comment function. You want to be informed about new articles on online marketing for freelancers and agencies? Then follow us on Twitter, Facebook or via our newsletter.

Michael is responsible for content and mental health at RAIDBOXES . He has been active in the blogging and WordPress community since 2007. Among other things, as co-organizer of WordPress events, book author and corporate blog trainer. He incredibly enjoys blogging, both professionally and personally. Michael works and writes remotely from sunny Freiburg.

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