Lee Odden

Defining Business Blogging Success

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When talking with TopRank or M&O Account Teams about new clients, it is inevitable that I will ask if there is a blog involved. There are simply too many advantages to enabling a web site with fresh, themed content that is well structured for SEO benefits and that also offers a great platform for creative promotion, not to consider it in the online marketing mix. However, the mis-perceptions about what a blog is and is not abound, even with self-described “blogging experts”.

Despite that, I think it’s a perfectly reasonable question for a company to ask: “Why should we have a blog and what will it do for us?” Answering that question in the most effective way possible starts with understanding the business and marketing goals of the company. Too many SEOs and blogging consultants focus on the mechanical capabilities of a blog and not on the business goals that can be met.

Blogs are simply tools and are only as effective as the programs and people put in place to use them. The degree to which company goals can be met with the applications and current/future benefits of a blog are what we use to determine whether a business blog is appropriate or not.

Effective marketing initiatives have goals and measures of success. Blogs as marketing and PR tools are no different. Some of the measurable effects from business blogging include:

  • Media attention
  • Speaking requests
  • Customer loyalty
  • Inbound links to the blog
  • Search engine ranking for the corporate site
  • Corporate website traffic
  • Leads/sales initiated
  • Volume of blog traffic
  • Technorati and other credible rankings
  • Search engine ranking for the blog
  • Increased company visibility within the industry
  • Increased media coverage
  • Improved customer loyalty
  • Increased sales leads/revenue/new customers

If the majority of these measures (although each is not equally valuable) can support a company’s online marketing and/or PR objectives, then it makes sense to continue down the blogging path. Other considerations include:

  • Hosting platform and limitations
  • URL considerations – sub directory, sub domain, different domain
  • Client side IT support/requirements/limitations
  • Client side blog editorial and strategic ownership
  • Client side content sources
  • Meshing the blog content schedule with the company/web site marketing plan and communications/messaging objectives
  • Client side resource allocation for research, writing, media creation and editorial
  • Coordinated promotion of key blog posts
  • Coordination of blog posts with offline, search marketing or media relations outreach initiatives
  • Blog software, template customization and optimization
  • Blog productivity plug-ins and anti SPAM tools
  • Third party widgets and tools
  • Training on blogging best practices
  • Keyword glossaries
  • Blogger relations and community outreach
  • Developing a social network, profile development and channels of distribution/promotion
  • Ongoing blog promotion – RSS, SEO, blog PR, social media
  • Blog analytics and monitoring
  • Blogging policy, legal considerations and copyright issues
  • Trackback and comment policy
  • Comment handling
  • Quantifying the expense for outside consultants and internal resources for blogging and making estimates for a return on investment

This is a long list and many blogging consultants will tell you how easy it is to throw up a blog and they’re right. It IS easy to go to blogger.com or wordpress.com and create a blog within minutes. So why all the “considerations” you ask?

Things that are easy to get into are typically easy to get out of. The vast majority of blogs started are abandoned. TopRank’s point of view is that it doesn’t make sense to start a blog unless we do so in strategic support of a company’s business goals. With the potential for significant impact on business, marketing and PR goals, it makes sense to do all that you can to ensure success – making sure all bases are covered.  Blogging is new territory for most companies and being able to do so with a deeply experienced marketing partner can save a lot of headache, money, resources, time and embarrassment from failure.

Make no mistake, I am personally very biased towards the business building and marketing benefits of business blogs. Using a blog to promote our TopRank brand over the past 3, going on 4 years, has had considerable results that we’re very happy with. When an agency that offers business blog consulting services can successfully implement for themselves the services and consulting offered to clients, it says a lot about the agency’s capabilities.

As it goes with successful visibility on search engines for SEO related terms, the same goes for successful blog marketing programs with the adage, “If you can do it for yourself, you can do it for others”. What I would add to that is that it must be for the right reasons, expectations and measures of success or don’t bother.

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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 running, traveling or cooking up something new.

Comments

  1. Impressive list Lee. Great to see posts from different sources on the same day covering similar topics. Stimulates positive discussion and advancement of services.

  2. Rather than even try to add something to such a comprehensive list, I’ll content myself with a very English “Hear, hear!!”

    I will comment though that I do get slightly irritated with consultants who say that you can throw a blog together in 5 minutes. Technically they are right but, as you suggest, these will be blogs which do not work well at a business level and which will consequently be abandoned either through lack of interest or lack of tangible results.

    Spend time planning the business requirements and you will be better placed to create a blog (both in design and content) which will allow you to achieve them.

  3. Blogs are content management systems…nothing less, nothing more…and it’s true that there are a lot of misunderstandings out there. However, with nearly 190 million websites in the world, I heard projections at SES SJ that nearly 90 million use blog-type tools.

    A surprising amount of businesses have absolutely no idea that nearly half the websites in the world have blog-like tools which connect them to each other, RSS aggregators, social communities, the media, and modern link building communities.

    Call them “blog powered online media rooms”, “blogs” or ummmm “WEBSITES”, it’s hard to imagine any serious marketing endeavor NOT making a commitment to recurrent content served up in a CMS which is plugged into the blog grid.

    Thanks for the provocotive post Lee…we hope to see you at SMX Social NYC.

  4. contagious behavior says:

    Great list, Lee. Going right in my best practices file.

    Three obvious points you list that I find many clients struggling to execute are related to the core of any blogging initiative…the content.

    -Client side blog editorial and strategic ownership
    -Client side content sources
    -Client side resource allocation for research, writing, media creation and editorial.

    If you can get whatever mar/com staff there is trained in both the processes and the subtleties of these so they can manage it and make it happen, then you’ve won the first, important battle.

    Without this, the whole thing is dead in the water.

    And I agree with Marty, maybe we need to quit calling them blogs.

  5. At the end of the day content creation always has been and always will be the most important capability to nurture. Sourcing business content is the challenge. Lee’s “digital asset” approach makes a lot of sense.

    Like organic optimization, CMS systems which are plugged into the grid are simply a given:

  6. Hey Marty – anchor text links please. Full URLs can mess with the layout.

    It’s the one two punch of content and distribution that breeds results more so than creating good content alone.

  7. Thank you Lee. *Blush*

  8. Whether they’re termed blogs or not, these sites are a critical factor in enhancing any business’s success and future growth online. I am in complete agreement with Lee in terms of the numerous marketing benefits of business blogs and its contribution to facilitating superior SEO for online businesses. This post truly highlights the specific benefits of these often overlooked endeavors.

  9. Great post, Lee! Having just gone through this process, I can say your list is very accurate.

  10. Thanks Mike.

    Hey Patrick, were you at the MIMA Summit yesterday?

  11. Beyond what you say about “Things that are easy to get into are typically easy to get out of,” I think some things that are easy to get into become hard to build out. Obviously, as you discuss platforms, URL considerations and etc., these end up being a big deal for the earnest would-be bloggers who set up on WordPress/Blogger subdomains, and later have trauma in trying to move them to a hosted domain/within their main web site/etc.

    I often wonder how much abandonment is frustration that it works, but then they find they can’t grow with it because of limiting decisions on the front end that they didn’t know would be limiters.

  12. contagious behavior says:

    Julie, my experience with abandonment with corporate blogs is almost always a lack/loss of commitment to the endeavor.

    Very few from inability to grow.

    It may be the loss of commitment by the author, with no one else willing to step up; the lack of involvement from the mar/com staff to encourage and champion the effort; or even the lack of support from an influential IT director (sounds odd, but I have seen this happen.)

    But your point about planning is valid and I think it reinforces what Lee is saying about ‘strategic support of the company’s business goals’. If it is planned well, and successfully supports the business…then it should have an ongoing commitment that will give it a long and healthy life.

  13. Seems like you are using Swicki, I was the one who came up with the making money with swicki and told the swicki team how to make it possible .

  14. James Chapman says:

    I totally agree with your comments, technically a business blog is easy to create, especially with all the resources on the web, wordpress, blogger, typepad, etc, but the purpose of the blog must first be determined by the policies of the business that you are trying to promote.
    By using the marketing and public relations capabilities of your company to first define the requirements for the business blog you will have a better outcome and much more success with your business blog.

  15. To what degree does your business blog make the kind of difference you want it to make to your target audience? Answer that and you’ll know how successful the blog is.

    It’s awful to see so many business blogs merely look different instead of making a difference. Why spend time and energy just to have a business blog if you don’t use it to achieve specific goals for your business? Why bother if there is a better way to connect with customers, communicate corporate progress, address problems or establish online visibility?

    Thanks for that bullet point list, Lee. Each company or entrepreneur needs to identify several key metrics of success and then form goals based on those metrics. There has to be a clear vision of what “success” is for each business blog.

  16. Julie,

    “I often wonder how much abandonment is frustration that it works, but then they find they can’t grow with it because of limiting decisions on the front end that they didn’t know would be limiters.”

    A lot of this can be avoided with proper planning and insight from someone who has done it many times before. As a consultant offering blog strategy services to companies, I am obviously biased, but that bias comes from the experience.

  17. Easton,

    “To what degree does your business blog make the kind of difference you want it to make to your target audience? Answer that and you’ll know how successful the blog is.”

    That’s a good point and to get there, metrics of engagement must be in place. Goal setting not only for the company’s benefit but also for meeting the needs of the readers are very important.

    Another consideration I regrettably did not include is that goals for the blog will change and the company needs to adjust editorial and strategy accordingly.

    For example, a blog starting out might be focused on generating thought leadership. Once momentum is gained in that area and there’s a significant amount of relevant traffic, the blog might also either start leaning towards lead generation or capitalizing on traffic with advertising.

  18. Hey Lee,
    Very good post. I figure this an extremely important discussion for the future of corporate blogging. However, as experience shows, more (especially large) companies are starting corporate blogs with a concept that is less to be evaluated through simple metrics. While small companies need the attention and PR (which is measured through vistors and so on) goals such as transparency, pursued by quite some larger companies now, are hard to measure. Here at Daimler we have just taken the first blogging steps ourselves at http://blog.daimler.de. and are trying to make success measurable also for less straight-forward-goals.
    Nils, Daimler Blog

  19. Lee,

    Great post. I’m finding with my research on small business blogging that it certainly comes in handy to have your list in mind. We are learning that drawing traffic can be like watching water boil. There is only so much you can do to speed up the process!

    Hopefully with enough effort it will pay off for our company in the long run.

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