Lee Odden

Is Business Blogging Still Worthwhile?

Lee Odden     Blogging Strategy

Boardwalk

State of Blogging

When I started blogging a little over 10 years ago, there were about 1.5 million blogs (Technorati).  That’s about 1 million other people with no idea what they were doing – just like me.

Today, it’s hard to say how many blogs there are globally, but WordPress.com alone hosts 75.3 million blogs in over 120 different languages world-wide with 100,000 new blogs being created every day. In fact, WordPress.com blogs publish 40.5 million posts and 400 million people view 14.4 billion pages per month. (stats)  That’s a lot of blogging!

Tumblr as a blog platform, has over 170 million blogs and nearly 76 billion posts published.  You can continue this exercise with other blog hosting platforms like Google’s Blogger and Typepad too. And I’m not even mentioning the millions of blogs hosted on their own domains or blogs on platforms like Medium or LinkedIn’s publishing platform.

Surely, many of these blogs are about cats, fashion, recipes and long forgotten ramblings from years gone by. With business blogs, content can range from keyword optimized product launch articles only a search engine could love, to re-posted content from 6 months ago to remarkable stories that connect in meaningful ways. Even so, blogging is not simply a domain for topical enthusiasts and lazy marketers.

While I’ve had my ups and downs with blogging, (who hasn’t?) I believe business blogging is alive and well. In fact, the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth‘s annual study of corporate blogs in 2013 reports the largest year over year increase of Fortune 500 corporate blogs that are publishing (34%) since they started tracking them in 2008.

Everybody’s blogging: From telecommunications to specialty food retailers, businesses large and small have found blogging to be an essential hub for their social media, content marketing, SEO and online public relations efforts. For some companies blogging has become more conversational and a platform to surface internal subject matter experts, aka “smart humans who do the work”. Last I checked, quite a few customers are human too, so they probably get along a little better with companies that blog in human. Just a thought.

Rather than thinking of blogging as a single, isolated activity, which most companies do, think of blogging as a hub with spokes. The hub is your deep repository of knowledge and useful information. The spokes are your networks, email lists and other channels of engagement and distribution. The blog is connected to those channels and vice versa. That’s the kind of business blog that is still thriving today.

Blogging is a content management system. Content can achieve any communications objective with any audience you want it to, from marketing for new customers, informing existing customers, attracting media coverage and recruiting new employees. Our blog in combination with offline and other online activities achieves all those business outcomes.

An investment of a different kind. I think it’s kind of interesting that in all the years I’ve been blogging, we’ve spent very little on advertising to market our company and have never had a dedicated sales person or employed a public relations firm.  But there has been an investment. A formidable one in the form of over 1 million words about topics our target audience and community cares about. The payoff is virtually no cost of sale to attract major companies as clients and being cited by some of the most respected business publications for our expertise.

The current and future benefits of blogging are literally too numerous to list in a short post like this, but suffice it to say, it is by far the highest yield marketing and PR investment I’ve ever made.

What’s the Future of Blogging?

With the importance of content in search, social media and PR, blogging will continue to be an important way for businesses to produce conversational content outside of transaction-oriented online stores and corporate websites.

Rather than blogs being replaced by social networks or mobile content and apps, I think successful companies will be incorporating and integrating their blogs into social network and mobile activities. Blog content can be consumed with any device and for companies that want a destination on the web to curate their own Vines, Instagram images, and other types of mobile-created content, blogs are a great fit.

What do you think about the future of business blogging? Have social networks stolen blogging’s thunder? Or do you see them working together for years to come?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.

Comments

  1. I’m a firm believe in the power of the business blog. As you point out, there are many benefits to having an active blog. Personally, it has been the best marketing tool for my consulting business so I’m always telling startup clients that they need to embrace blogging.

    • Thanks Mark, I think blogging is a great fit for many businesses. I also think there’s a lot of opportunity for roadmapping what the sustainability of blogging looks like in year 3, 5 and 10. I’m not sure a lot of businesses think that far out, but if they do, the rewards can be substantially greater.

  2. Sometimes we need these types of articles to reaffirm what we do.

    To the smaller businesses out there we are looking head on to a whirlwind of competition and the promise of a better place by guest posting on bigger/well known blogs, where we can ensure a wider reach and a place to be seen. It certainly does need a mindset of commitment and consistency and getting over those moments of self doubt with ‘is anybody reading this?’

    I have found that the biggest prompt for change is the clarity of message and the audience targeted. I have now realised that I can’t be everyone’s friend and to some people what I write may be utter nonsense, which is fine. If we can build an audience who are willing to stick by us and understand that we are here for the long term, then what a great opportunity to grow within a space that is ‘ours’ and to build something that belongs to us.

    Enjoyed the read. Fight the power!

  3. “Is Business Blogging Still Worthwhile?”

    Who suggested it wasn’t worthwhile? Now that article marketing is nonexistent due to the way it’s been used as spam, the only fast, simple, inexpensive and reliable SEO-friendly method of creating content pertinent to one’s business is ‘business blogging’.

    Really now, what knowledgeable Internet marketer has suggested that business blogging isn’t worthwhile?

  4. Social networks provide a surface. Blogs provide a deeper dive. I remember about 5 years ago the first squawks of “blogging is dead”… and the demand for valuable content has increased exponentially since then.

    • That’s a good synopsis Doug. Demand has increased, but so has the bar and competition. I think it was Sirius Decisions that reported 60% or so of all content goes unused, including blog content. If a business isn’t thoughtful of that, they may be wasting their time.

  5. Blogs are the only content platform that we really own. I have had my ups and downs too, but I am more convinced on this than ever. I tend to think of the social media networks (which come and go, ebb and flow) as outposts of content, but I also like your hub and spoke model. It works as the networks are often the driver of the center wheel, but without the wheel the spokes have no grounding. Landing pages and websites can only take it so far. I would urge people to not be too short sighted.

    • It’s certainly worked well for us – incredibly well actually, considering we have no dedicated marketing or sales staff and do very little if any advertising. Spot on with the hub and spoke 🙂

  6. Lee, I agree. We’re still nowhere near perfect with our blog, but it has been a consistent and reliable mechanism for bringing in new business. Like you, we don’t spend a dime on advertising or PR (other than our time), but because of our blog, syndication of certain worthy articles, and social sharing; I have not made an outbound sales call for four years. Doesn’t mean I don’t have to sell, but our clients all call us. You simply can’t get that kind of ROI from advertising or PR.

    The challenge, as you mention in a comment, is convincing clients to look it as a 5-year plan. It’s the long term commitment to the process that really transforms the results.

  7. That’s what it boils down to – content creation and communications. A system that helps you do those things can become whatever you need it to be.

  8. There’s definitely a learning curve for a lot of business bloggers. There’s also the unrealistic pressure biz bloggers get on marketing performance that drives them to write (mostly) about themselves.

    I think you make a great point about connecting with buyers on a personal level. Companies that don’t know their customers very well will find that hard to do.

  9. Yes! I agree! Blogging is important with regards in business conversational content outside of transaction-oriented online stores and corporate websites.