OK, so I’m guilty.
About once a week for the last two years I’ve been posting to the Blog section of our website. Topics have ranged from how customers experience your brand to SEO tips to why direct mail should be a part of your current marketing strategy. But looking back over this trail of hints and hacks, there are two pretty obvious topics that were never covered.
First – What is a blog anyway?
It’s not a dumb question, and one shouldn’t assume that everyone knows the answer. Technically speaking, a blog is actually the section of your website where you periodically post original content of different lengths. Not that long ago, blog posts were considered “short-form content,” with 500-700 words being considered the optimum length to capture and hold the attention of readers. But as more data were harvested, reviewed, and analyzed, the results were surprising. Posts of different lengths had specific advantages. For example, very short posts generated more comments, medium-length pieces were shared with greater frequency on social media, and the longest (over 2,000 words) posts were favored by search engines.
For a business blog, it is assumed that posts will be about your own industry, or matters relevant to those in your industry. Here at Wright’s, we are interested in helping your business grow, so we post about different ways to market your products and services.
So a blog is a section of your website where original content of varying lengths is posted on a predetermined schedule. Right?
Like they say on QVC, “Wait, there’s more!”
A business blog is more than a section on a website filled with recommendations and persuasive statistics – it is a marketing channel. Just like social media, just like email and radio and direct mail and billboards. And what do all of these channels have in common? They are not magic – it takes work to develop these channels to the point where they will consistently bring you leads, inquiries, and sales. And once these are successfully developed, it takes ongoing maintenance to keep them performing.
Don’t worry – we’re not going to drone on and on about why your website should have a blog… because… we already did that last September. Today, we are going to play devil’s advocate and cover topic #2. Here are four reasons why you might not want or need a blog.
- You won’t be able to consistently produce good, relevant material – Blogging is work, and the whole idea is to build an audience. To build an audience, you will usually require the “cooperation” of search engines. And to obtain their cooperation, you will need to post on a somewhat regular schedule. If you can only post every other month, your time is probably better spent elsewhere. Even if you can keep to a schedule, your material has to be good. If you post crap, people will know.
- You haven’t picked the low-hanging fruit yet – Blog posts often are written to address problems that are being experienced by the general public. But what if people are already talking about similar problems in public forums? Wouldn’t it make sense to just jump in and offer your solution? It would, and this often occurs on social media. Maybe your product helps salespeople organize receipts – there’s a good chance that a LinkedIn group is already discussing the problems of keeping track of expenses. Jump in and offer this group some help. If your solution is a good one, it will likely be more productive (at least initially) to engage on LinkedIn than try to build a blog following from scratch.
- You don’t have a strategy or goals – If you just start writing to fill space you will fail. Or maybe you won’t (if you don’t have a goal how can you fail?) So first ask these questions – are you blogging to get new customers? Are you trying to entertain or solve a business problem? What about obtaining influencers and brand advocates so you can generate earned media? Your goals will determine how you write and who you target. Once you have a goal you can create a strategy to achieve it. Also, you’ll know when considering your strategy if you will have the time and resources to follow through with it. If you are not working towards a specific, desired outcome, your post topics will be scattered as well, and you won’t succeed.
- You haven’t done your homework – Here’s a question that you may not have considered. Is your target audience likely to search for answers online, and actually read a blog post? Some won’t. There are companies that only have a website to establish legitimacy in the eyes of potential customers, local government agencies, contractors, regulatory bodies – you name it. Maybe your company bids on local construction projects. If this describes your business, you probably don’t need a blog. If your company makes a highly specialized product used in the manufacturing of other products, a blog may be a waste of time, since your audience knows what it needs. Once you determine who your audience is and what their research habits are prior to making a purchase decision, you’ll know if a blog will add value to them. Don’t start one before you know.
Now you know what a blog is, and a few reasons why you might not need one. If you search “reasons to start a blog,” Google will return over 86 million results. Believe it or not, Google is not always right. Do some homework and decide what will give your business the best chance of success.