With over 100 million blogs tracked by Technorati, there is a tremendous amount of momentum and motivation for businesses to take advantage of all the marketing, PR, support and revenue opportunities that business blogs can bring.
Sometimes it seems there are more “blog consultants” than there are business blogs due to the ease of using free blog software like Blogger or WordPress.com/Wordpress.org. What’s easy to get into is also easy to get out of and many business blog efforts that started out with optimism have petered out like a car out of gas.
- No clear objectives. With all the buzz and promise of increased search engine visibility, improved customer communications and PR, many companies task their IT group to “set up a blog” without ever planning exactly what the key objectives are. A few weeks later, you’ll often hear, “OK, we have the blog installed and a few posts made, where’s all the traffic? What do we do now?”
There are many reasons to start a business blog ranging from PR goals like building thought leadership and better connecting to customers to serving as part of a SEO program by archiving newsletters, FAQs and “link bait” content. The key is to identify the objectives for the corporate blog, get key metrics identified and create a content creation and promotion plan consistent with reaching those goals.
- Unrealistic expectations and resource allocation. Blogging is work, no doubt about it. Not everyone is a natural blog writer and community builder. A successful business blog puts a personality on the company and both listens and responds to the community. Expecting a blog to be a silver bullet purely based on the SEO friendliness of blog software for example, is as shortsighted as expecting on-page SEO alone to solve a web site’s search engine ranking problems.
Successful business blogs require a forecast of resources (people, process and technology) so there are no surprises and so the blog doesn’t “run out of gas”. Setting short and long term goals along with mechanisms for reporting them is key. It’s also important to implement measures of accountability for those involved. If a company is going to start a blog, they should plan for success rather than treating it like a crapshoot. Commit or go home.
- Not sourcing content for the long term. One of the most common reasons business blogs lack content or posting frequency is a combination of not participating in the blogging community conversation and not identifying content sources. Keyword researched blog categories can serve as a sort of editorial guide on what to write about as well as identifying a mix of post types to be written on a regular basis. For example, we run polls, review SEO blogs, cover conferences, write about common client marketing issues, invite guest posts, review books, list “top 10 resources” and interview well known people in our industry. That list makes up our editorial guide so we don’t “run out”.
Companies would also do well to identify multiple people to write for the company blog so no one person is tasked with too much. Businesses can also tap into the knowledege and idea streams that come from front line interactions in their organization such as those between customer service and clients as well as sales and prospects. Aggregating common issues from those interactions provides excellent content sources for a business blog.
- No feedback mechanisms. Comments and trackbacks are a big part of why blogs are different than web sites. However, many business blogs don’t allow comments because they fear the time/expense of staffing required to handle them. They also fear what readers might say. My opinion is that a blog without comments isn’t really a blog. Comments are a goal not a liability. Feedback from readers, good and bad creates a conversation that includes the company. The conversation is already happening elsewhere, why not have it in your own backyard?
The second part of the feedback mechanism is analytics. Web visitor analytics, RSS feed analytics, on-site search, social media monitoring, inbound links and comments on other blogs all provide abundant opportunities to measure the effect of a business blog and its reach. This kind of feedback can motivate the right mix of resources to evolve the blog as a key component of the organizations PR and marketing program just like any other marketing effort.
- Do it yourself syndrome. Companies can setup blogs themselves quite easily, but judging by the number of “dead” blogs out there, it’s a very different thing to setup a blog than to start a blog and be successful with it. As with any potentially complicated and lucrative venture, anticipating all the contingencies and dependencies is near impossible unless it’s been done before.
As blog consultants, we encourage companies to start their own internal blogs and see what’s involved. That way they can appreciate the challenges of developing a successful blog. Substantial time, money and effort can be saved by having the right consultant provide strategic and tactical insight. For the same reasons people hire guides on jungle, mountain or desert excursions, businesses can realize the benefits of blogging more efficiently and cost effectively when working with a capable consultant. Avoiding major risks due to uninformed decision making is also a benefit of working with a consultant either periodically or on an ongoing basis.
Many readers of Online Marketing Blog are bloggers themselves and I’m curious about others’ experiences with business blogs that have either failed to meet expectations/goals or that were simply abandoned. Equally as interesting are stories of blogs that have been successful and why.