Lee Odden

5 Reasons Why Business Blogs Fail

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.

Dying corporate blogs (hat tip mykl) are completely avoidable, especially if you understand why they often fail and plan accordingly. Here are 5 of the top reasons why business blogs never make it.

  • 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.

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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 agree with each of your insights, but I would add that each of thesereasons for failure boil down to companies attempting to create, manage and grow blogs on their own (using internal resources)…in many cases this means stretching a marketing department, which typically has little time to devote to creating and building a dynamic blog.

  2. Good post, Lee. It’s something that’s been a problem for several of our clients to adapt to. Which is why we finally decided to make Blogging for Business the topic of the first of our new line of Customer Workshops – day-long interactive training events for clients of our web design or SEO sides of the business.

    The event went down a storm too. So much so that we decided to give away the PDF of the handout booklet each attendee was given. (A real give-away too, no registration or sign-ups required for the download).

    http://sphinn.com/story/49764

  3. That’s a great point John. It’s a similar argument for using SEO consultants. Internal search marketers often get stretched thin as well.

  4. I honestly think it takes a specific type of person to maintain any blog. I’ve only been doing it for a few months seriously, and though it comes pretty natural, it’s definitely not for everybody.

    An additional reason that biz blogs may fail: writing about something you have to write about instead of what you want to write about. So finding the people that are good writers, can follow “rules”, are self starters and genuinely enjoy their company can’t be the easiest thing. Not to mention all the parameters lain out for you should you write for corporate. Your other points are spot on.

  5. Scott Hepburn says:

    I think biz blog failures start long before a company tries a solo launch, John. Chasing the blog promise is, to me, just another symptom of desperation marketing. A bad marketing plan or no marketing plan leaves you so hungry for sales you’ll try any tactic, regardless of whether it fits your objectives. It speaks to Lee’s first bullet.

    I can’t tell you how many of PRstore’s clients come to us and say, “I want a ______.” The question they have a hard answering is, “Well, why?” I want a blog because I heard they’re a big deal.

    Thanks for the post, Lee.

  6. Blogging and sourcing feed content is a lifestyle as much as a job. When presenting options for sourcing feeds to corporate clients, we speak realistically about how much work it actually is.

    When we take feeds on as an agency it’s important to make darn sure that we budget enough time and truly savvy writers to the task. Thanks for the post Lee.

  7. A business blog is a bit commitment. It’s not just for a few days of intensive blogging and then giving up. Isn’t that what ebooks are for?
    I’ve got a big list of blogs I read for work and the good ones are run by more than one person.

  8. I have just listed some key reasons why companies here in New Zealand should consider blogging, http://www.bulletpoints.co.nz/. Your post however is an excellent reminder of the common pitfalls that can result in failure.

  9. Hey Lee

    Nice post. I believe there is one more point which is worth while considering. It is essential for corporates to understand that blog is not yet another sales pitch. It is a way of developing relationships with customers. Also it becomes important for corporates to identify the identity who would be writing the blog.

    Posted something similar on my blog a week before titled “5 things to plan before launching a corporate blog”.

  10. Good post, I totally agree with your second point. A lot of businesses assign their marketing department to blog without any clear expectations or commitment for purely SEO purposes. As a result, I can see that many of those blogs lack content because being good in marketing does not necessarily translate to being good in blogging.

  11. This is an insightful post Lee. I have discovered the realities having spent many days searching for the magic bullet to get ranked quickly.

    I believe your suggestions are applicable to all blogs. Personal blogs can risk time at no great loss. But businesses are responsible to owners and bottom line. So defining goals and expectations and relating to resource allocation is absolutely necessary.

    I have made notes of some of your suggestions to promote our first blog site http://www.kidspal.net. It has all the techno bells but I expect promoting it will be tyhe resource crunch!

  12. This is excellent. Thank you for the informative post! I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for what else you have to say.

    Thanks again!
    Kris

  13. @robert john ed – I hear your point loud and clear. This is precisely why I believe company executives should be (at least partly) responsible for maintaining a company blog. For an individual in the marketing department who has been charged with the task of “setting up” a blog, it is likely just one more thing for them to do. They may have a passion for marketing, but if they don’t care about the product, service or industry they’ll be writing about, the blog just won’t do well. Companies have to get the people who care the most (or have the most at stake) to participate for a blog to be successful.

  14. I agree with each of the points above and ultimately it comes down to a lack of planning. All business blogs should have a content strategy, and a clear idea of who will research and write posts, which includes setting aside enough time for this to be done.

    The benefits of building a popular business blog are huge but all too often poor planning means that business blogs just end up being a timeline of company announcements.

  15. I really have to agree on the comment mechanism section. Comments and conversation make a blog an evolving entity. Comments also feed the great SEO Monster looking for fresh and up-to-date content.

    “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.”

    Having been a mountain guide myself when I was younger, I have actually said this same line many times over. There are simply some things that you cannot do for yourself. You cannot blow your own horn… and while you can learn from your own mistakes, it is usually a lot less painful to learn from someone else’s.

    I also agree on the resource allocation. I would have to say every single client I have dealt with (or at least 99%) greatly underestimated the amount of effort, time, skill, and talent it took to launch and cultivate a business blog. Most of my professional contacts look at me in disbelief when I tell them how many words per day I actually type for my own blog and other client sites.

    If I had to add a “6th Reason” to this list, it would be that “Support for the idea from the top didn’t exist”

  16. Love all this content – spot on.

    Another idea – when starting a blog or series of podcasts – give yourself a huge early start. With a nice little stockpile of content ready to go, you will enjoy the luxury of time as you continue to build your message.

  17. Nick Sowden says:

    Great post Lee. I’ve taken your advice already; my first exploit into blogging has now decided on a focus point. My experience using social media to marketing with no budget. Follow along at http://www.NickSowden.com Thanks.

  18. we just started a blog on ip cameras, and the hardest part is trying to get readers, esp for such a specific thing. our other blog is doing well, but this one, I’m just trying to crack the industry as best as I can through building relationships. It’s also a very young industry. Any suggestions would be welcome.

  19. Stacy Karacostas says:

    Although this post is aimed at corporate bloggers, I really think the same points and suggestions hold true for small businesses. However, I think this biggest specific to small business hurdles specifically are:

    They don’t start their blog with a purpose, instead they do as one commenter posted and decide to start one because they heard it was a good idea.

    They don’t make posting content regularly a priority. Most entrepreneurs I’ve run into have done the same thing with their blogs that they’ve done with that e-newsletter…Written one or two posts then run out of time.

    Of course, many could avoid this fate simply by outsourcing their blogging to a ghostwriter or Virtual Assistant, or if their business is big enough, one employee who likes to write and is a bit techie.

    Even a professional copywriter like me sometimes struggles to write 2-3 posts a week (what I consider the bare minimum). But I love getting the conversation started on what’s working and not working in marketing for other small businesses. You can see what my community has been talking about at http://www.marketing-junkie.com

    Thanks for the words of wisdom for all businesses trying to make their mark on the Web!

    Stacy

  20. Ali Sales says:

    Great insight. I think your first point about not having a clear objective is the biggest point of failure.

    As a corporate blogging software provider (Compendium Blogware), we only partner with organizations and businesses rather than individuals who are blogging for citizen journalism.

    What’s shocking is the number of organizations that approach corporate blogging with a citizen journalism mindset.

    The basics are that the same objectives that apply to ANY marketing activity that you engage in should also apply to your blogging program.

    If you don’t have an objective, how do you measure, evaluate, and get better?

    It’s refreshing to see others who believe that the goal comes first and foremost. Great post!

  21. Dan Wood says:

    Excellent post. I particularly noted the part about businesses being afraid of comments. You are right to tell businesses that the conversation is already happening, with or without them. It’s amazing how many people fail to recognize this! How do you convince a business of the importance of this point? Just as having a website was a business necessity five or ten years ago, participating in online discussion (including social networks, widgets, podcasts, videos, and blogging) is a necessity today and will be even more in the future.

  22. I definitely encounter the meetings where the client wants to be part of the “blog buzz” but has no idea what it can, should do or will do for them. Then you combine their fear of reader comments and interaction and I have to chuckle a bit. So many businesses fear a two way street of communication! 🙂

    Participation in the world of blogs is where I ask clients to start. Showing them how to search, find and interact with blogs related to their industry gives them a better idea on what is involved, possible goals and the power of the conversation. Great list of “issues” Lee.

  23. Plenty of great feedback on the post, thanks and I am glad it was useful. Jumping after every new “shiny object” marketing tactic without planning dooms the effort to failure. Then the marketing channel gets a bad rap because “it doesn’t work”.

    I’m working on the follow up to this post and it should go live Tues am, “5 Reasons Why Business Blogs Succeed”

  24. Great comments, Perhaps there are two other points here that have not yet been made.

    In your opening paragraph you mention IT setting up a blog. We see that as roadblock number one. Pick a SaaS vendor so that all right tools are in one package and don’t require any IT resources standing between desire and success.

    You are spot on with regard to goals. SEO and Conversion are the easiest to measure and what’s great about blogging is that you can track your effectivness. The issue about who blogs (creates content) should be moot by now. The idea of one blogger or a top down C-level blog is giving way to the model put forth by Richard Edelman in this years Edelman Trust Barometer:

    “It’s clear that when it comes to traditional authority figures – whether they’re chief executives or heads of state – people trust them less,” says Mr. Edelman. “Employees are the new credible source of information. We have data that shows an employee blog is five times more credible than a CEO blog – and I say this as a CEO blogger.”

    By engaging widespread employee participation. You spread the content creation burden and thereby generate more content…and the best part according to Edelman (and my experience) is you get the kind of content that visitors want and trust.

    Chris Baggott
    CEO
    Compendium Blogware
    http://www.compendiumblogware.com

  25. Lee

    We set-up an internal blog for a large high street UK retailer as the CEO wanted to ‘connect’ with his 20,000 employees. Although he did not initially see a blog as the answer he agreed to give it a go and we agreed on a 3-month pilot with some clear measures and objectives.

    Within 6 months they had 1,000+ visitors/day (record was 3,500) and the blog split into ‘Business’ and ‘Staff Q&A’. It was a real success and they have even added a 3rd blog for a specific (large) part of their business. All 3 blogs are ‘linked’ and promote each other sharing data etc.

    The CEO would not be without his blog; even ringing in to ask why Typepad was down (rare), how many visitors etc.

    WHY DID IT SUCCEED

    The CEO owned it.
    They listened and shared even the ‘negative’ questions.
    They were honest i.e. recognised the issue and were prepared to say they could not fix it – yet.
    They delivered i.e. fixed problems that were staff issues e.g. we’ve been waiting 9 mths to have our air con fixed; they fixed it in weeks.
    They asked for ideas and suggestions on product launches etc.

    The bottom line was that the employees saw a real difference so interest grew because it was worth it.

    The PA and her team spent 1-2 hours/day managing the blog but they also felt it was worthwhile and enjoyed seeing the activity grow. Unfortunately, it was called Fred’s Blog (not his real name) so now he has left, it has stopped for the time being. They do plan to start again but maybe with an internal social network.

    Hope this is useful.

    Peter

  26. Thanks Peter, that case study was VERY useful, well done. Too bad they had to stop.

  27. Thanks for the comment Chris. Who blogs and resource/content allocation are real issues for organizations with staff that are spread thin and unfamiliar with the nuances of blog writing and interaction.

    Even after you remove most or all technical barriers to entry, there are still execution issues to be dealt with or the blog ends up like a Ferrari out of gas.

  28. Not to mention that most people (myself included) just get so busy sometimes and don’t update it as often as they should. Great post!

  29. Yes, sometimes the team or person in charge of the company’s blog might not even know or be aware of the reason behind starting a business blog.

    Most will just end up reporting on company products and then not giving in valuable information in their blog articles.

    Lee, your example of “Ferrari” out of gas haha, that’s funny. But maybe some companies just like to display their Ferraris without driving it. Therefore ending up with bosses who are proud to say that “Hey we’ve got a company blog too” (even though it’s not been updated for 8 months)

    Regards,
    Fione
    http://www.eOneNet.com

  30. Douglas Karr says:

    I would think the #1 reason would be ‘lack of transparency’. Blogs that sound like Marketing are not effective because they lack the personal interaction between the company’s blogger and the writer. Blogs are for building relationships, not building marketing spin.

    I’d recommend that companies that are looking to find resources seek out Compendium Blogware. They have both the strategy and the application that companies need to blog successfully.

  31. Debra Lothrop says:

    I am a new start up business, so reading this information about blogging is great. Thank you for sharing that.
    I am also new to the “blogging” community and only maintained one on on a website called “Cafe Mom’s”. It truly is a lot of work.
    Key word, “Delagate”.
    Thank you.

  32. Great post! I help small business owners get their blogs and email newsletters up and running and what I’ve found is they are usually abandoned due to lack of time and writing resources. One tip I could give is to repurpose your articles i.e. post them on your newsletter, blog, and article directories. This way you are getting great mileage out of your articles and writing.

    Here’s to your online success,

    Jennifer Haubein

  33. Jan Simpson says:

    Good post – I guess my question would be back to the corporations:

    1. One if you are blogging – then you are marketing or adding to your brand awareness and educating your potential new customers.
    2. If you are marketing, then you would need to hire full time marketing bloggers that keep up with the posts and you will need to hire full time consultants that help with the strategies, implementation and are liaisons to the rest of the company
    3. Why on earth – would corporations not see this – is it because bloggers didn’t identify themselves as marketeers?

    Seems like a major oversight – and an identity crisis.

  34. Excellent advice for all businesses. Blogs take a lot more time that many company execs realize. Goals should most definitely be set in order to achieve success.

  35. This post although short and precise is a big help to me. But, I’m struggling with creating representative indicators. I’ve outlined the objectives, strategies and tactics being in line with your recommendations. But what would be S.M.A.R.T. enough to establish whether the blog is a success? I’ve all analytical indicators on traffic, comment, feed etc. – is there anything else I could consider?

  36. Here are some reasons some of people give for letting their blogs fail:
    Not getting many comments, Not enough subscribers, Didn't see any increase in traffic to their website, Too hard to come up with new content every week, Couldn't figure out how to promote their products and service……etc..

  37. Yes, but what do you think it should be done ? Maybe even having a good CMS and effort to write nice content, the ROI it is hard to see because at this moment, there are so many blogs that it is very dificult to atract visitors attention.

  38. Yes, but what do you think it should be done ? Maybe even having a good CMS and effort to write nice content, the ROI it is hard to see because at this moment, there are so many blogs that it is very dificult to atract visitors attention.

Trackbacks

  1. […] a client who wants a corporate blog? Be sure to check out Lee Odden’s article Why Business and Corporate Blogs Fail for tips on what not to […]

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    […] Dying corporate blogs (hat tip mykl) are completely avoidable, especially if you understand why they often fail and plan accordingly. Here are 5 of the top reasons why business blogs never make it. – TopRankBlog […]

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    […] Following on from my previous post re the benefits of blogging, it’s also appropriate to point out the pitfalls to avoid in ensuring long-term blogging success. There is no better source to turn to than US Search Engine Marketing and Online PR guru Lee Odden of Top Rank Online Marketing and the excellent Online Marketing Blog. I had the pleasure of meeting Lee at Search Engine Room Australia. Check out his five very salient points in ‘5 reason why business blogs fail’. […]

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