“72% of buyers research a new product or service on Google prior to buying and 81% of buyers research before they buy!”
There is no way to ignore the numbers above, the whole buying and shopping process has evolved, and if you want to stay profitable, you need to be changing right along with your tech savvy consumers. Today’s customer is looking online for educational material, reviews, and testimonials. To stay on top, you need to provide them with that information. Blogging has long been one of the tools businesses used to educate the public, however, there is a lot of buzz about blogging being defunct.
Is blogging a dead SEO tool? I would say yes and no. Blogging as we knew it a few years ago is no longer effective, but this shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. Everything about marketing is always changing, so there is very little that worked last year that still works the exact same way now. Marketers have to continue to evolve with the changes, or we will get passed by. Additionally, the big companies of the world have caught on that this whole social media or inbound marketing thing is not going away. They are finally turning their focus and oh so big budgets toward all things content marketing, social media marketing, digital marketing, and inbound marketing (pick your term). Their involvement is forcing another, very different change on our marketing world, making it much, much more competitive.
At some point soon, we’re going to be talking about the “good ole days” of content marketing when even small businesses could compete with the likes of Pepsi and Oreo for space on Facebook, Twitter, and SERP (Search Engine Results Page). But the big money coming in is flooding the already busy web with mass amounts of content, making it more challenging every day to stand out and reach your potential customers. What is the answer? Adapt! The days of the blog being a useful SEO tool are not over, but the way we blog and its part in marketing has changed.
What Does Blogging Look like Now?
Blogging is more than just blogging now, and it has been for a while. Consumers still can’t seem to get enough content and us content marketers are hard pressed to provide enough. Customers are demanding not just written blogs, but a variety of types of content including:
- Infographics (significant amounts of content presented in a visual, easy to digest format)
- Podcasts (free audio files, usually offering informative content, delivered in subscription form that can be downloaded and listened too)
- Ebooks (longer format educational information including how to’s and tips that are usually free and available for download)
- Videos (usually short format content either 30-60 seconds or 2-3 minutes, covering helpful information)
- Vlogging (videos posted instead of blogs in which the author speaks to the audience instead of writing their content)
Part of the formula for engaging with consumers is to provide as much variety as possible. According to one survey, “52% said they typically viewed 8+ different pieces of content from the vendor they ended up choosing to work with.”
Where are your Clients Consuming Content?
While 72% of people start their research on Google, another study found that 72% of B2B (business to business) buyers also use social media to do their research. The people looking to buy your services or products are on social media, whether they are B2B or B2C (business to consumer). You have to be there; it has become one of the foundational parts of interacting with your customers. I would dare say it is as vital today as having a working business phone has always been. So if your public is on social media (which they ARE), then it makes sense that you need to be posting even long format content like blogs.
Here are some examples of places and ways you can post blog style information on social media:
- Facebook: Did you know you can post more than 400 words in a Facebook post now? That’s a short blog! Couple that with a great photo and you have some great educational information out there where your consumers are looking. Another option is to take a paragraph or two out of your blog and post it to Facebook with the link to the full article on your website. Then you must promote the Facebook post; it is no longer enough to rely on “organic” reach to get your information out there.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is working on establishing its self as a publishing platform and has provided members with ways to publish long format content. A word of caution, don’t post your full blog from your website here, Google will think one of you is plagiarizing the other. Instead, you can post the original article on LinkedIn and just link to it from your website, or post a short section from your blog and link it back to your website. Additionally, you can reframe the article and publish it as its own article on LinkedIn.
- Medium: Is an emerging platform that combines a social media newsfeed with long format posts. It is still in its infancy as a, well medium, but it is gaining ground quickly as a reputable source for curated information based on your interests, likes, and dislikes.
- Twitter and Google+: To be honest, for most of us in Alaska, neither are viable resources to spend much time on. But they can be a good place to post links to your blogs. It helps with SEO (especially links from Google+)
- Instagram: With Instagram, the focus is all about the visual, so long format content won’t fly. But you can post short videos and link back to your podcasts or longer videos. If your blog has a dynamic photo, you can post that with a link to your material on your website.
- Tumblr: Tumblr is a blogging platform so it can be the perfect place for you to post blogs, vlogs, and videos. Make sure that the consumers you want to reach are already on Tumblr before you invest the time here, but it can be a good resource if they are.
It’s not just Blogging Anymore; It’s Content Marketing.
What is the difference you might ask? Blogging emerged as a way to answer the need for content. Google recognized that consumers wanted more and so they started rewarding sites that had more content that was consistently fresh. Since it’s hard to keep updating your services or products menu on a weekly basis, blogging became the answer. Blogging gave businesses the opportunity to address the constant questions so many people needed to ask in a format that was more user-friendly than the website page that just kept scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. It was a passive response at first, but an answer none the less.
As marketing evolved, so did blogging. Keywords became a foundational part of the process, and soon people were more likely to arrive at a website because they landed on a blog that helped them research their next purchase than arriving through the home page by way of a product or service keyword search. Blogging began to take a much more active role in content marketing. Content marketing identifies that most buyers are going through a “journey” or a process. It usually starts when the consumer becomes “aware” of a need. They tend to move into a “consideration” stage next in which they are doing most of their research and narrowing down who they want to work with. The last phase is the “decision” stage in which the buyer makes a choice to purchase. It is no longer just enough to put up albeit good content on your website (even if it is keyword optimized) and leave it at that. Now your blogs must participate in moving a potential client through their buyer’s journey.
“61% of people surveyed said the winning vendor had a superior mix of content that approporate for each buying stage.”
Social media often plays a key role in helping consumers identify a need and build awareness. This is where quality posts, promoted posts, and ads come in. But more about that in future blogs. Blogs, or long format material, that are posted on social media can be part of the awareness phase. For example, if a runner has been growing a bit dissatisfied with her running shoes and she sees a Facebook post about the importance of shoes that fit right when running that could trigger an awareness of a need. If that post then links to a blog post going into more detail and offering more information, then it has helped move the potential shoe buyer into the consideration stage. If at the end of the blog there is a link to an offer for 20% off running shoes, the consumer might be more inclined to click on it as they continue through the consideration stage. That link should take them to a landing page that requests an email address in exchange for the 20% off coupon. Now you as the business have the opportunity to stay engaged with the potential customer.
The next phase of content marketing has to do with lead nurturing, and again the blog or similar content can come into play. It is important that the email address provided gets funneled into an email marketing system and regular emails get sent to the prospect. These emails should provide continuing and valuable information and small calls to action to prompt the interested party to move to the next phase, the decision stage. Depending on your product or service, the consideration stage can be short or long, but blogs, podcasts, vlogs, ebooks and more can be communicated through these emails.
The point is that blogging is not just about publishing good content on your website anymore, blogs must be looked at as part of your content marketing strategy. They are effective when integrated into the whole plan. The trick with content marketing is that each piece should support the other. No matter what it is, Facebook marketing, blogging, your website, landing pages, Google Adwords, or Facebook ads, if they aren’t all feeding into each other then your marketing will never be truly successful. We often call it the silo effect, when each piece is trying to do its own thing, separate from the others. Usually, one or two pieces can be successful, but the others will be much, much weaker. When you back up and look at it from 10,000 feet, you’ll see how much money and effort is wasted when they do not all work together well.
When they do work together, well that is a beautiful thing to behold! And what does that look like you ask? Well, I’m so glad you did! If you want a look at what a content marketing or inbound marketing plan contains, check out our blog: What Does an Inbound Markering Plan Include? For information specifically on the blogging part, keep reading.
So What Does the Blogging Process Include Now?
If you want to blog in a way that is meaningful and effective, these are the steps to follow. These apply to blogs, vlogs, ebooks, and podcasts.
- Know your goal: First, you must decide why you’re creating this content. Knowing why you’re writing something affects every other area of that piece of content. Don’t skip this step!
- Are you trying to attract a new audience?
- Do you want to win people over to your viewpoint or opinion
- Are you promoting your product or service?
- Are you reporting on a new and important piece of news that is relevant to your organization or industry?
- Are you educating or raising awareness?
- Are you answering questions and looking to increase your reputation as an expert in your field?
- Decide on the audience: The reason you’re writing the blog or generating the content will have a huge effect on the audience you choose. Understanding your buyer’s personas is crucial to being able to correctly identify the style of content and tone that will resonate with them.
- Keyword research: Once you know why you’re writing the blog and who you’re writing it to, now it’s time to move on to identifying keywords to work into your blog. Your keywords must be effective, and tools like Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends, SEMRush, and BuzzSumo are great resources to identify which keywords you will want to use. Look for ones that are trending and relate to your topic. Be a bit creative. You’re looking for 3-5 keywords at most to focus on. Your most popular keyword needs to be in the title of your blog. You can work the other keywords into the subheadings and content of the rest of your blog. For more information on keywords check out our blog Drive More Traffic to Your Website! 6 Expert Tips to SEO Optimize Your Blog.
- Check out the Competition: Be familiar with what your competitors are already out there saying on social media, their blogs, etc. Pay special attention to whoever is saturating the marketing with content similar to what you are writing about. The reason for this is one so that you don’t write the same content, two so that you can identify the niche that isn’t being reached and dominate it.
- Write Your Content: Enough with the foreplay, it’s time to get serious and just write already! Research consistently shows that regular, consistent blogging and posting content is the most effective. So if you can only do once a week, then commit to that and stick with it. To get better results, you do need to generate more content. Blogs with 1,100-2,000 words rank the best in SEO surveys.
- SEO/Keyword Targeting: Your most popular keyword needs to be in the title of your blog. You can work the other keywords into the subheadings and content of the rest of your blog. For more information on keywords check out our blog Drive More Traffic to Your Website! 6 Expert Tips to SEO Optimize Your Blog.
- Have a Plan: This is not like the old Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams, where he keeps hearing a voice tell him, “If you build it, they will come.” Just because you write and publish a blog, it doesn’t mean “they” will come. It doesn’t mean that piece of content will be a contributing part of your content marketing strategy. Once you write it and publish it, the blog can’t just sit there. You have to make sure it get integrated into the rest of your marketing to be effective.
SEO blogging isn’t dead; it is evolving. Social media is providing avenues for the format to adapt to how prospects consume information. Blogging is being called different things, but at its heart, it is still a piece of content that seeks to educate and help move a consumer through the buyer’s journey. To do that, it must be a deliberate part of your overall marketing strategy; it must support the other pieces. While at one time, blogging may have been able to stand on its own as an SEO tool, it is no longer as effective without supporting and being supported by items like social media, landing pages, and email marketing. When all the pieces come together, content marketing is a powerful tool for organizations and business alike.