Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a freelancer or the marketing manager of someone else’s business, you know that you need a blog. Without a place to post articles, attract traffic and deliver news, you’re barely on the Internet. It’s a belief that led 65 percent of businesses to add a blog to their website by 2011 a rise from 48 percent just two years earlier. But is blogging really necessary, and is it the right idea for you and your business?
The Benefits of Blogging
The rewards of blogging are well-known and well-documented. You can divide them into four clear benefits.
- Search Engine Optimization
A blog provides the opportunity to create multiple pages on multiple topics. Those pages can target different keywords and draw inbound links. That helps to increase a site’s pagerank and pushes it higher in the search results. There’s a tension between content written for humans and content aimed at search engine robots, but a well-planned blog should have a dramatic effect on search traffic levels.
- Build a Community
Beyond what a blog can do for the number of a site’s visitors, it can also change the way readers feel about the company. Not only will a blog push up the number of new visitors, it will also increase the number of returning visitors, readers who come back regularly to participate in the community.
Those community members represent a pool of enthusiastic leads.
- Expertise and Leadership
A blog should be an authoritative source, a place where visitors go to learn new information. Because your company is now known to possess that knowledge it gets seen as a leader in its field. Informative, researched blog posts build trust, the first step in building sales.
And a blog can be entirely functional too, a place to deliver news about product releases. Dodocase’s Posterous blog, for example, mixes up news of awards with pictures of the staff on their bikes and updates about product enhancements. It’s a combination of knowledge that brings the company closer to the reader and keeps them informed about the quality of the products on offer.
The Drawbacks of Blogging
So those are the benefits of corporate blogging and they should be pretty persuasive. If they deliver. The problem is that they don’t always deliver, and they don’t deliver for a number of reasons.
- Audiences Takes Time to Build
Creating a blog, on WordPress, Blogger or Posterous, takes minutes. Writing blog content might take an hour a two. But time to build a blog audience has to be measured in months and years. Although it’s impossible to give a flat figure to expect too much depends on subject and effort even a good, well-written and well-marketed blog won’t send in more than a few hundred visitors a day a year after launch.
If you’re looking to use a blog to deliver a quick burst of traffic to promote a product, then blogging probably isn’t for you.
- Blogging Costs Money
It’s possible to start blogging with no money down at all and even a professional blog, with a unique domain and a designed WordPress theme, won’t cost more than a few hundred bucks. But the time you’ll need to invest in maintaining the blog creating content, engaging with readers, tracking stats, reviewing keywords and promoting the new posts will be much larger. According to one survey around half of corporate bloggers spend up to three hours each week on their blog and more than one in three spend between three and twenty hours in front of their blogging control panels each week.
That’s time that could have been spent making cold calls or developing the product.
If you’ve got something to do with your time that would deliver better results, then either stop blogging or outsource it to someone else.
- Blogging Depends on Great Content
The usual route for a corporate blog is to outsource the writing to a marketing manager or an external writer, tweak the keywords to bring in traffic and post regularly to ensure that an audience always has a reason to come back.
That’s a recipe for plenty of visitors and a high bounce rate that suggests people aren’t finding what they’re looking for.
The success of a business blog needs to be measured in two figures: the bounce rate, a figure that shows how many users thought the content interesting enough to stick around to read; and the rise in the sales figures, which show how many of those readers are being won over enough to purchase a product. Both of those figures depend on quality content and on information that’s good enough to win time from other sites writing on similar subjects.
In her series on why corporate blogs fail, marketing expert Doriane Mouret cites a lack of innovation as the fifth reason that companies’ content pages fail to live up to their potential. More importantly, she also lists a number of sites, from Best Western’s On the Go with Amy to Southwest’s Nuts About Southwest that are original enough to break the mold and build an audience.
If you don’t have the time or the expertise to post content that’s more than mediocre, then you’re probably better off not blogging at all.
For entrepreneurs, freelancers and marketing managers, the decision to create a blog should be tougher than it looks. The benefits, from search engine traffic to the ability to build a community and post content that converts into sales, are inviting enough. But if you’re not willing or unable to:
- Invest the time needed each day to create, build and market your blog;
- Look to your blog’s long-term success rather than hope for short term benefits;
- Research and write informative content that’s entertaining and unique;
- Engage with your growing community of readers, track their interests and produce content that you can be confident you’ll like;
then you’ll probably be better off not blogging for your business at all and putting more effort into your social media marketing.