Our team had a great quarterly marketing meeting with one of our clients yesterday, and during our part of the presentation, the CEO commended us on the successful launch of their blog. He admitted that he originally didn’t harbor much hope for it, thinking that it was just one more marketing tool among an already crowded box, and that blogs had become passé in the noisy world of social media.
To his surprise, just a little over a month after the blog launch date, we’re gaining solid traction, clocking in at nearly 60 visitors to the blog on the day the most recent post was published. Bear in mind that the client is in a B2B environment, and they’re targeting not the average consumer but rather large, Fortune 500 companies and organizations. Know as well that there are just over 72 million WordPress blogs in the world, with an average of 500,000 posts published every day just on WordPress.com-hosted sites alone. That does not include those tens of millions of other blogs published on other platforms, including Blogger.com, LiveJournal.com, Typepad.com, Tumblr.com, and many, many others.
In other words, there’s a lot of competition out there, from thoughtful blogs exploring the intersection between new media and science, to popular, not-so-thoughtful blogs that pen breathless posts about, oh, why a certain reality star-slash-Hollywood-super-stylist needs to stop bad-mouthing her former assistant to the press. (And yes, I absolutely had to read that last one.) To gain even a dozen readers for a new blog — unless your last name is Kardashian — is an accomplishment itself. For a business to generate not only blog traffic but also mentions on social media from readers who thought highly enough of the posts to share it with their networks is definitely worth celebrating.
Of course, while we’re more than happy to take credit for all the attention the blog has been receiving, we’re also just as happy to admit that there’s not really any black magic involved in creating a “sticky” blog. The truth is that the majority of blogs launched and those that still exist, if barely, often fizzle out because of some very simple reasons, namely:
- They were launched without a clear, defined purpose beyond the desire on the publisher’s part to make money. Go ahead, admit it. From individual hobbysists to big corporate marketing departments, most blog publishers start a blog with the elusive hope of monetizing the content. Stories of six- or even seven-figure blogs entice us with promises of easy money simply for dashing off a string of SEO-heavy posts. Sadly, the reality is that content without substance — or even style, for that matter — rarely finds an audience, let alone a paying one.
- Their publishers don’t understand that the blockbuster blogs out there pulling in a significant income or generating lots and lots of sales often struggled for years to find an audience. For every StuffWhitePeopleLike.com (9 months to reach 40 million hits), there are hundreds, if not thousands of blogs on everything from travel to tarot, that will be lucky to get 50 hits a day, even after years of publishing, and even fewer that will gain recognition beyond their niche communities. In other words, more often than not, there’s no getting around the fact that writing, editing, promoting, and growing a blog requires plenty of hard, eye-straining work. Publishers who are in it purely for financial gain almost never stick around long enough to see their “investment” pay off.
- As with successful traditional publications, a successful blog requires a plan. Ideally, the plan should include not only an editorial calendar with a clear message and story, but also specific ideas on how to promote each individual post. Social media networks are fantastic ways of promoting a blog, but if you have an especially well-researched, well-written post with original ideas that may provoke discussions within your industry, you may consider sending the link to trade journals and bloggers, accompanied by a press release outlining why your post is newsworthy and relevant to their readers. Again, too many blog publishers plunge into the world of blogging without thinking through their purpose of having one to begin with, let alone how they will populate it with great, useful content and promote it to potential readers and audiences.
- They give up too soon. Often this is because they misunderstood the purpose of a blog. Many businesses launch blogs that are essentially no more than repurposed content from their catalogs. They forget that a blog is just another type of social media, just as Twitter and Facebook are. At best, they can be used to raise awareness of a cause, mission, or brand, but thinking that they can directly drive sales is a surefire way to alienate your audience. Blogs can educate, entertain, inform, and even inspire, but they rarely sell, and when they do, it’s typically because they’ve already developed a loyal readership who trust their opinions and are open to the publishers’ commercial offerings. Most other bloggers will have long since moved on to something else.
Blogs remain an excellent way to build authority in one’s field or industry as well as a critical part of optimizing one’s website. To reap the full benefits of all the hard work required to build and grow the blog, however, requires not only good writing skills but also commitment, perseverance, patience, a willingness to invest the time it takes to promote it, and a strategy to drive the blog efforts forward and maintain that momentum.