Opinions remain divided over whether to bother with a company blog. Some marketers consider it to be old hat believing there are faster ways to drive leads. Content marketers and SEO specialists largely believe you can’t do without one.
Marketers love to debate. But, that’s not helpful for business leaders making a decision about which marketing strategies are most effective for their business. It’s easy to get distracted by shiny new tools and strategies that promise results with less work when ultimately you want to drive sales leads.
Right now, in the marketing world, it’s all about the hard numbers – proving ROI beyond reasonable doubt. The blog doesn’t fit with this viewpoint. You can’t use sales conversion numbers to prove whether your blog is working because blogs rarely lead to a direct, attributable sale.
The Challenge of Measurement
You can divide content that lives on your website into two broad categories;
- content used in a paid sales funnel,
- content used to drive and convert in-bound lead generation (organic).
In the first instance, the effectiveness of your content can be measured according to pre-determined parameters i.e. lead conversion. You create a piece of content, such as a white-paper. You use that in paid advertising to drive prospects to a landing page with a call-to-action. You optimise your page for conversion, and measure. With the second type of content, it’s more difficult to measure the direct impact it has on your sales. The company blog falls into this second category.
A company blog serves a different purpose to content used in direct lead generation so needs a different set of KPIs. This is why I believe blogging has fallen out of favour and why many company blogs fail. Business owners have misunderstood the role the blog plays in their wider marketing and sales strategy and end up measuring the wrong thing.
The Case in Favour of the Company Blog
The blog does a number of things, but its primary purpose is to move prospects through the sales funnel. At the top, it needs to draw their attention to your business. In the middle, it facilitates discovery of your business offering. At the bottom, it helps them to decide whether to buy from you. Your content should be produced for all audience types across all stages of the funnel.
It nurtures trust
Good quality content, founded on a solid understanding of your target customers, helps foster and deepen trust in your business. This quote from Crazy Egg describes trust as a two-step process:
“It depends on relationship first, and then on reminders that the relationship is valuable.”
Content such as articles, case studies and testimonials can be used to establish this trust and remind your target customer why the relationship is valuable. This Essential Guide to Trust in Marketing has other examples.
It makes you more findable
Ranking organically for certain keywords is becoming ever more difficult, granted. But, think of it this way. If you don’t have a blog, you don’t stand a chance and will need to put more money into paid advertising to appear in search.
This quote from Search Engine Land sums up the relationship between SEO and content:
“It’s time that we treat B2B SEO as the art (and science) of positioning a brand at every stage of the buyer journey, throughout the entirety of a search engine results page.”
A good quality blog, that is regularly updated with strategic content, can make you more findable but can also raise the authority of your website over-all. Here are 14 ways to optimise your website for SEO from QuickSprout.
A collective voice
Many businesses can appear faceless, particularly on social media. A company blog can have multiple authors, and multiple voices. A blog authored by the people who work for you will be richer, often better informed, authentic and show off the knowledge and expertise of your staff. In turn, this helps build trust with customers.
Recruitment and staff retention
Your blog can also be used to attract future employees. Money is no longer the primary driving force for many people when looking for job opportunities. Your company values, views and ethical or environmental standpoints are also important in that decision-making process. A blog can reveal your values and culture to potential hires.
Intercom is a SaaS company that has become well-known for its content marketing. In this interview with Geoffey Keating, Senior Editor at Intercom, he explains how they created an internal editorial team to grow their blog. He says of the blog:
“For many new employees, the first point of contact they have with Intercom is actually the blog. It’s an incredible recruitment tool for us.”
In addition, give employees time to think and create content for your marketing outreach and they will become experts in their own right – if they aren’t already. Your brand will be associated with these industry experts giving you new and interesting ways to connect with your target audience.
Why Most Company Blogs Fail
The primary reason I believe most company blogs are abandoned is because the business hasn’t clearly defined why they were creating one in the first place. This can manifest itself in the following ways:
No content strategy
Millions of new blog posts are created every day. We are creating content at an incredible rate but, in reality, most of it never gets read, watched or listened to. Many businesses start a blog, then scrape around for content month-on-month having given no consideration to how that content provides value to their customers.
Remember how content can help move prospects through the sales funnel? That only happens if it is designed to do that by appealing to their needs, aspirations, desires and fears. No content strategy usually results in widely unrelated subject matter and low-quality content.
Lack of ownership and engagement
Great content comes from the people doing the business, not marketing people or hired help. Companies that set out to engage the wider business in content creation often fail due to lack of leadership from above, resources on the ground (a marketing manager), and lack of engagement from the wider business.
Poor writing skills and no editorial processes
On the one hand, I advocate involving the whole business in content creation. On the other, if you left it solely up to your employees the quality would be negligible, if you got anything at all. Hiring a marketing manager, with a solid foundation in writing, and a slant towards the journalistic rather than marketing world, will be of great benefit to your business. Not only for your blog and marketing but for other writing and proofing tasks.
Giving up too soon
Your company blog is a long-term investment. It is part of your marketing strategy, not the marketing strategy. It takes time to build an audience, it takes time for your posts to gain traction in search. You need to give it a year, probably two, before you see significant results.
No plan for distribution
Simply publishing an article or video isn’t enough. One of the reasons why businesses give up too soon is because they don’t see the results. The reason they don’t see results is because, despite publishing content, they don’t see an increase in traffic. In addition to a content strategy you also need a content marketing plan.
What to Consider Before Starting a Blog
Do you have the skills in-house?
The number one investment you should make in your marketing is to hire a marketing manager who can write. This will save you a lot of wasted time and money using external writers and will result in better quality content. There is no substitute for having someone in the building, working in and among your team members.
If your business isn’t yet at the point when you can hire someone look for an external ghost writer. The difference between a blog writer and a ghost writer is that the latter will write in the tone of voice of the author and not in their own. This means you will still able to involve the whole business in writing for your blog, but the full burden of writing won’t fall to your staff.
Do your research
As mentioned previously, you need a content strategy. Before you can write this, you need to have done some research:
- Benchmark your business with competitors (what are they publishing on their blog, how many followers do they have on social media, do they appear to have a content strategy etc?)
- Customer research – if you don’t already have them write personas for your most valuable customers. What are they interested in hearing about from you, what are their needs, concerns, desires etc? Ask your team to run a questionnaire with some of your customers.
- Keyword research – which keywords will you target, look for the long tail, less competitive ones.
- Do a content audit – if you already have a blog.
- Run an ideas workshop – whether you have a marketing manager or not, the hardest part is having a pipeline of content. Get as many people in a room as you can and brainstorm ideas for posts using the funnel and your keyword research. Your aim is to get as many ideas as possible – upwards of 20 across all customer types and stages of the funnel. This blog by Animalz, ‘Your blog is not a publication’ is really useful for this.
Document your editorial process and team
When involving the whole business in marketing your business you need to be talking to them regularly about what you expect from them and also reporting back on how your marketing is performing. When it comes to the blog you need to document your editorial process.
Your marketing manager will lead this process, but it works best if you also have a couple of other members of more experienced staff to act as both advocate and peer review. This helps to engage the wider business in content creation.
Here is an example editorial process:
Set a publishing schedule
Ask the marketing experts how many posts you should be publishing, and they’ll say somewhere in the region of 2 per week minimum and they should be over 1500 words. In reality, one a week is just about manageable for most businesses. Quality is definitely more important than quantity.
Measure the right thing
To reiterate, your blog is not about direct sales conversions, it’s about providing your target customers with information, resources, advice and reasons to buy. If you simply measured sales conversion your blog would be a failure.
When setting KPIs for blog posts it’s worth noting that they may not be instant hits. Some may receive a spike in traffic then plateaux for a while before traffic begins to grow. Some posts will spike and then die. Others will continue to drive traffic over months, if not years.
KPIs will also depend on the distribution channel you use and at which stage of the funnel. At the top of the funnel for instance you could be measuring traffic coming in from social media and time on page. If you’re encouraging people to sign up for your newsletter, you’ll also be interested in sign-up rate. At the middle of the funnel you’d then also be interested in click-throughs from your newsletter.
Some measurements are anecdotal. Google Analytics won’t tell you how people feel when reading your content. Take screenshots of tweets, emails, and make a note of feedback from customers gathered by the wider team.
Yes, the company blog does still have a place in your marketing strategy. But you need to be clear what the objectives are, must have done your research and have a solid content strategy in place and team to run it. If you don’t you may as well not bother.
In addition, keep it in perspective. As mentioned previously, your blog is part of your strategy, but it is not the strategy. Content creation takes time, but you need to make sure that it is not taking up so much time to the exclusion of other marketing tasks.
Above all, if you’re going to have a company blog commit to it and do it properly and not as a hobby project off the side of your desk.