Lee Odden

Does It Still Make Sense For Companies to Blog?

Grand Central Station NYCOver the past 10 years I’ve had more than enough opportunities to consider whether the investment in time and resources to blog has been worth it.

Blogging for business is a question I think many companies ask themselves as they look at current trends towards time more spent on social networks and changing consumer consumption trends, especially with mobile.

This question came to light recently via Stephen Waddington, Digital and Social Media Director at  Ketchum Europe who pinged me for an opinion on the future of global blogging for a blog post he was researching. And that got me thinking:

Does it still make sense for companies to blog?

One way to answer that question is to take a look at how many blogs there are and whether the number is increasing:

When I started blogging in late 2003, there were about 1.5 million blogs (Technorati).

It’s actually hard to say how many blogs there are currently, 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. WordPress.com blogs publish 40.5 million posts and attract 50 million comments per month. Over 400 million people view 14.4 billion pages per month.

If you look at Tumblr as a blog platform, there are over 170 million blogs and nearly 76 billion posts published.

This exercise could be continued with other blog hosting platforms like Google’s Blogger and others to raise the number of blogs even higher. Of course, I’m not even counting the millions of blogs hosted on their own domains like this one and most of the business blogs that are online.

While many of the personal blogs are about everything from cats to fashion to recipes to long forgotten ramblings from years gone by, blogging is not simply a domain for self expression.

Business blogging is alive and well. 

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth annual study of corporate blogs in 2013 recently reported the largest year over year increase of Fortune 500 corporate blogs (34%) since they started tracking them in 2008.

From telecommunications to specialty food retailers, companies have found blogging to be an essential hub for their social media, content marketing, SEO and online public relations efforts.

In fact, blogging is even more ideal now that content and brand publishing has become the price of entry for even the most basic of digital marketing efforts.

What about content shock? Is the economy of content marketing too imbalanced for business blogging to be practical?  Mark Schaefer made some interesting arguments about issues around the scalability and sustainability of companies creating more and more quality content. If the only reason a company creates a blog is for content marketing, then I’d have to agree. But here’s the thing:

Marketing is not the only reason companies can get value from blogging. 

I started blogging to explore the platform and soon discovered an incredibly useful tool for communicating directly with prospects, the media, potential employees, current clients and our own staff.  Any reason a company has to communicate can be supported by a blogging platform.

Being committed to blogging as a means for bringing offline experience online and vice versa in combination with speaking at events, has paid off in numerous ways. For our digital marketing agency, I don’t see that changing any time soon.

The proof is in the pudding.

We are a boutique agency and yet we are known all over the world because of our blog. We receive thousands of new visitors every day from search that have never heard of TopRank before. Imagine what we would have to pay in advertising to reach new audiences, day in and day out. Actually, many companies know exactly what that costs because they don’t blog or because they blog and don’t integrate it very well with social networks and community for amplification.

So far, we’ve spent very little, if any budget on advertising to market our company and have never had a sales person or employed a public relations firm. What we have invested, in is over 1 million words about topics our target audiences care about. The payoff is virtually no cost of sale and bringing multiple Fortune 500 companies on as clients and attracting media coverage from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, Fortune and The Economist.

The current and future benefits of blogging are literally too numerous to list here, (maybe Stephen Waddington will write an eBook about this) but suffice it to say, in all my years as a marketing and PR professional, business blogging is by far the highest yield investment I’ve ever made for: marketing, public relations, and recruiting.

What’s the Future of Blogging for Business?

With the importance of content in search, social media and PR, blogging continues to be a viable asset for businesses to produce conversational content outside of the transaction oriented online stores and corporate websites.

Rather than blogs being replaced by social networks, media and apps on mobile devices, successful companies will incorporate blogging into their digital marketing mix. 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.

Blogs that are supported by a solid, customer-focused strategy and that are integrated with social media efforts still have every opportunity to help a brand become and stay “the best answer” for topics that matter most to their customers. Of course competition continues to grow and customer preferences for information discovery, consumption and action will change. But that’s why companies keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry and their customers, continually optimizing the quality and performance of their communications.

As a hub for brand publishing for virtually any kind of content, I can think of no better fit than a business blog in 2014 and in the future.

What do you think? Does it still make sense for companies to blog?

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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. Lee,

    Congrats on delivering such great content for so many years. Looking back, it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come since 2003.

    While the lens through which we have viewed blogs has changed with the rise (and fall) of many social networks and communities, I still feel strongly that blogs serve as the “center of the universe” for most online marketing or content programs. I remember when Chris Brogan began talking up the idea of brands leveraging home bases and outposts. I my mind, that approach still holds true today. While, there are more mediums and methods for telling stories and delivering content in 2014, there still is a need for a central location where all efforts are tied together. More often than not, blogs can serve as that hub.

    Brandon
    @bchesnutt

    • True story Brandon. The view and utility of blogs has changed a lot in 10 years. Spot on about Brogan and bases and outposts – that kind of idea is very similar to the hub and spoke approach we often take with content/social.

      Blogs aren’t always the answer as a hub, but when they are, it can work really well. I’d like to hear that Dos Equis actor say that sometime 🙂 “I don’t always used a hub to centralize my thought leadership, but when I do, it’s a blog.”

  2. Amen to all of that Lee. The standout for me: “The payoff is virtually no cost of sale and bringing multiple Fortune 500 companies on as clients and attracting media coverage from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, Fortune and The Economist.”

    • Indeed David, that is pretty much the payoff comment. Granted, it was more than blogging that made those things happen – great work from my team inspires word of mouth and speaking at events helps too. 🙂

  3. Bill King™ says:

    Blogging is still an incredibly important aspect for most businesses to get found online. I do, however, look forward to the day when SE’s can crawl video/audio/interactive media and index it as well as they can a blog.

    • Agreed Bill. I have a feeling, SEs can get to more data with rich media than they let on. Esp with text to speech technology being so advanced.

      • Bill King™ says:

        Right. It’s coming, and Hummingbird was the first sign of things to come. Really looking forward to not needing a transcript for these types of media to get found! 🙂

  4. “more, more more” can get tired pretty quickly, especially when the quality starts to suffer. Of course, if a company starts from zero, pretty much anything “more” + quality can help.

    • Finding the time to blog is the proplem if your good at your job, if your not good at your job and becouse of this your not bizzy you have time to blog.
      My shop very bizzy and I find it difficult to go home a start blogging after a hard day at work would I start blogging no I need to rest for the next day.
      A good business need rest time and a place to switch off not a blog.

  5. Tom Collins says:

    Great stuff, Lee. It seems to me that a company blog remains the hub around which all the other social media/networking platforms should revolve — if nothing else to collect your content in a platform you actually own and control. I wrote a post back in 2009, attempting to list the “flavors” of ROI for businesses from engaging in social media and made it to 16. You’ve ticked several of them above. The more things change … ;-D

    • Thanks Tom. That’s pretty much how I’ve seen it too. I agree, many of these are core to marketing communications goals for any type of content.

  6. ctsmithiii says:

    What better way to share information of value, answer prospective customers’ questions, and create a repository of company knowledge that drives traffic and leads?

  7. http://tinyurl.com/k9s3q4z says:

    Nice article!

  8. Darren DeMatas says:

    Well said! If you have a customer with pain points, or have a message to deliver to a certain audience, you need a blog.

    Totally agree that your blog can (and should be) the focal point of your content strategy. A lot of people are skeptical about advertising, but in my experience – advertising can tie right into that mix too.

    Looking forward to hearing you speak in May

    • Ditto Darren 🙂 I agree, ads really are a must have now, and even I will be adding them to our activities later this year. See in you in a few months.

  9. As a freelance writer who writes blog posts for interior design professionals and retailers, this is good news for me. The search for relevant content is a difficult one and putting it into interesting and informative words, even more difficult. But I do believe Google alone has shown the need for quality content in order to get your name out there, so to speak. I will certainly pass this information on to my clients (just in case someone is thinking of discontinuing their blog)

  10. Patrick Cherubini says:

    It all boils down to “people buy from people”. The better they get to know you, the better chance you have to earn their trust and their business.

  11. Superb article and I completely agree Lee.

  12. Great article and I agree 100% that customer focused blogs will continue to play a viable and important role in an on-line strategy. I find there is a side benefit in writing for my business blog – it challenges me to learn new information and think about topics in new ways, which in the end I believe benefits by clients.

    Thanks for sharing this point of view.

    • I totally agree a customer focused blog is a great online strategy.

      It’s about creating a valuable experience for the customer. The customer will always turn to you if they can count on you to inform, understand, represent, and communicate their perspective. This ultimately is a win-win for both you and the client. The customer is always in demand!

  13. Another great article. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and expertise. Blogging is a great way to stay connected with customers and clients. RSS feeds can be subscribed to and sometimes news readers pick up posts and promote them as well. But an added benefit of blogs is that our clients can subscribe to their own feeds and instantly know when we have added new content. Blogs allow for real-time communication with others and robots.

  14. Great insight.

    Social media has grown immensely over the last decade and has become a powerful yet less expensive marketing mean to utilize for branding purposes. Blogs is a social media channel that can be a great asset to a company’s success if it’s properly managed. Blogging is an affordable way for a company to promote their brand by appearing as the industry expert and engaging their target audience.

    Why wouldn’t a company blog?

    • Jazz,
      I agree with your post, blogging is a great way to connect with a target audience, but how likely would the consumer come back to your blog on a regular bases? I have been on websites where the company’s blogs are so dry. Bloggers need to keep the audience engaged in a creative way since there are so many blogs out there. Why is your company’s blog important?

      • Innovation is an important element to engaging and retaining their audience. However, I believe a general answer is knowing/understanding your audience is key. Other overall solutions can be consistency, real-time communication (as Lahle Wolfe addressed below), and simply responding/acknowledging.

  15. Great post and I agree. It’s still very relevant for me to gain traffic and followers on multiple niche blogs that I have. I use a lot more video today to separate myself from the competition, and I think that’s a better strategy than simply blogging personally. Combine the two however, and it’s been working great for me. Thanks for the article and insight!

  16. Thank you for another good article. I think that blogs are there to stay.

    People on their core desire interaction and where they can get it better than on blogs where their interests are represented. I agree with Patrick Cherubini, “people buy from people”.

    I think if companies run their blogs with that thought and also if they can succeed in helping a customer to create a “habit” of regularly visiting their blog then that’s win-win for both; companies and customers. In our case, since we are in health related business we created our blog based on “3 Articles you need to know about health this week” which are issued every week on Monday. Already more than a year we do it and we observed that 20%-30% of our traffic are coming because of 3 weekly blog posts. If a company wants to have a successful blog, like in anything in life they have to be consistent and invest so much time and energy. Otherwise better not to start.