In the age of social media the attention that business blogs used to have is diminishing; traded for the instant gratification and ease of tweeting and posting short pieces to Facebook with a picture of your latest product or special of the day.
Don't get me wrong, social media is a fantastic tool for marketing and can't be ignored (in fact, it deserves a lot of attention), but blogging on a regular basis serves a wide array of purposes outside of what can be realized via social media.
Many of the benefits of blogging are specific to industries. This article will cover two broad areas and rely on you, the educated reader, to understand how these areas apply to you or you can ask questions in the comments below.
The areas we're going to focus on are:
- The benefits of blogging for visitors
- The benefits of blogging for links
At the end of this article I'm going to include a “quick tips” section. Let's be honest – it isn’t always easy to make the time or get the motivation to blog as regularly as you should and not everyone has the budget to get their staff doing it. I'll be providing a few quick tips on how to get motivated and how to dream up topics when you've written about the same subject hundreds of times.
Blogging for Visitors
When blogs first hit the web in a real way they were a central mechanism for informing and communicating with one's website visitors and customers. Businesses would blog their specials, new product updates, industry news, holidays and pretty much everything that had to do with their business.
For businesses that have moved their core communications off of blogs and onto social media, you're missing huge opportunities.
When we're considering visitors the first thing we need to do is separate the purpose and expectations a user will have when visiting a blog. Because of social media, a blog is a place one goes for in-depth information and not to see the daily special. Understanding the expecting change a visitor will have forces us down a path beneficial for both users and our analytics.
When you're blogging for your current visitors (i.e., visitors that entered outside your blog or who know you already and simply use your blog as an information source) the key is no longer to post daily updates on daily deals or the such, that's the stuff of social media.
For this group, your blog is your opportunity to reinforce that you know what you're talking about and can be trusted. You can go outside your core niche but stay in related fields.
For example, if you run a food tour company, blogging about great restaurant openings with reviews or even some outstanding recipes would be wins. Keeping visitors updated on weather changes is the stuff of social media or a weather widget embedded on your site.
Your blog is where you build authority. You'll convert elsewhere on your site; your blog is where you reinforce the credibility that will turn into conversion.
Personally, one of my biggest focuses when thinking up blog topics is how it can be used to acquire new visitors. Because a blog post is on your domain, it can be used to drive traffic to more conversion oriented pages and best of all, if done right, you'll have established trust before they move on.
Let's take as our example the same food tour site noted above. Now let's say I'm a traveler visiting a city for the first time and decide to look up “best fine dining in New City” and find a blog review on a new fine dining restaurant.
Regardless of whether the review was positive or negative, you've got a visitor to your site who you know has money, you know likes good food, and who now appreciates your opinion. If the review isn't positive you may want to make a couple of recommendations to fine dining restaurants in the city people would enjoy.
This also applies to any product, service, analysis, etc. you may post about. The win here is that you have a visitor in your target demographic and interest set and they are relying on your opinion.
Essentially, blogs, done right, can be excellent sources of search traffic (and traffic from other sources of course) and if you've posted on topic, that traffic will be targeted properly.
You'll likely find that your blog traffic converts at a lower rate than the traffic for phrases more targeted to their needs (for example “food tours new city”) and blogging is time consuming so you may be asking, “Why would I do that?” Apart from this additional traffic there is one key SEO benefit…
Blogging for Links
Blogging gives you the opportunity to create pages related to your business but based more on timely information passing rather than the sales cycle. While your corporate website should be geared towards getting visitors into the conversion funnel, on your blog you have more latitude to create copy that is information-based.
Essentially, this is where you can generate internal link points based on providing real information of interest. While the ideal link appears when someone searches for information and finds your blog (see above) or finds the post via social media or other means and decides it's great information and posts a link to it on their website as a resource (perhaps in their own blog), most links, especially early on, will be generated manually.
To this end I pose the question: which link is more likely to be appreciated on a third party website: a link to your homepage or a link to a post that discussed a related topic?
Let's take the simplest example and that's a discussion forum or blog (I'll leave the debate of the merits of these links to others however it serves as a good example as they exist in virtually every niche). If I'm visiting a forum, answers site or blog and there's a thread discussing great food in new city, it's going to be easier and more effective to leave a comment, noting that you're a local and visit many restaurants and wrote a series of reviews of some of the more popular locations, with a link to your blog reviews category than to simply link to your homepage with a little comment, “I like restaurant x. Had a great steak there.”
On a more advanced level, if you find an industry authority site that has some great content, you can follow the authors, wait until one writes an article of interest and where you have additional information or a differing opinion, write a solid piece on the topic and either include it in the comments of the article or send it directly to the author via social media simply noting you thought their piece was great but there were some points missing.
You may not directly get a link in a one-of scenario (or you may – it happens) but done repeatedly (but not so much that you're annoying or writing to a low quality) you will develop your reputation with key industry editors and/or writers as a resource and it will pay off in the end with a link and a boost to your reputation.
Another easy way to generate links to your blog posts in a way that isn't spam is via systems like Zemanta and other content distribution systems. As a note, I don't support systems where you pay on a per-link basis, but at least in the case of Zemanta you're purchasing impressions of your content to get it in front of bloggers as they write based on the keywords they use. Whether they link to you is up to them and whether your content is a good match.
How can you keep dreaming up topics? All of us at some point may run out of steam.
Here are a few techniques you can use to keep your blog fresh, even after years of writing:
- Write about news events. It's your job as a business owner to keep up to date with what's going on in your industry. You might as well take what you have to do and use it as an opportunity to be a resource for such information and provide your take on events.
- Write about product or service launches, changes in your industry and related areas. For example, while an update to Chrome may not directly impact SEO, it's related by its developing company and impact on website users so it makes our list of applicable blog subjects.
- Watch Google Trends and Twitter. Watch what industry leaders are talking about or that have a large volume of interest and write to that (understanding that if it's a timely topic like the Super Bowl your content won't rank or likely ever be seen before the interest drops). In the case of volume, you'll the writing to attract visitors and in the case of authorities chatting, you'll likely be writing primarily for links so it will have to be more authoritative.
Blogging is hard. You need to set a schedule and stick to it as best you can.
Try to start out at a volume you can maintain. Better to commit to a weekly post and throw in an extra one if a hot topic arises than to start with a daily blog post and find you don't have the time and just do them sporadically when you can.
You also want to balance your posts and divide them into logical categories so people can find what they're looking for. If you've written a number of restaurant reviews over the years, don't make your readers sift through dozens or hundreds of posts on ranging topics to find them. Create a category where all this information is located for users and for link points.
Now go, either revive your blog or start one and stick to your schedule. Use it for your visitors and for link points; just remember, if you aren't adding value to someone's site with the content on your page, then it's not good enough.
A rule of thumb: if your content isn't of a higher quality than the places you'd like to acquire a link, then don't try. You may just burn a bridge you could use later.