What if I told you that the result of a pattern of frequent blog posting is that posting then causes active users to nearly triple. Would you be able to duplicate the same effect on your business site’s blog?
The answer is probably ‘no’ – not immediately. But you could do it, if you committed to these things:
The Long-Term Pattern
The pattern itself matters. You don’t get spikes that deliver business value if you put out a lot of blog posts for one or two months and then ask immediately for the ROI. If you’re thinking hand to mouth, don’t continue reading – it won’t do you any good. An almost religious belief in instant solutions (or at least ridiculously quick ones) is one of the key barriers to scale for a lot of businesses. If you’re small, and think this way, it’s one reason you’re still small. Plan a year. Don’t drop off during that year on number of posts; keep the pattern the same. What we do is work with the client’s team to create an active content calendar that updates frequently and drives perpetual output in all marketing channels (blog, e-mail, PR, etc). Once your pattern is sustainable and you’ve proven that you sustain it, the numbers start shifting in your favor. That’s based on both search engine science and social media best practices. A flash in the pan might generate some visitor spikes, but they won’t be statistically relevant, because the visitors won’t be the ones you need.
The Content Quality
What you’re blogging matters intensely – not just the topics, but right down to the written voice of the bloggers and the way content is structured. Just putting a decent writer on your blog, or someone who knows the business, is the conceit of countless failed blogs. Nuance, pith, and relentless consciousness of the audience are critical. We almost always bring veteran bloggers onto the team we put together for clients. Above all, avoid a) repurposing a staffer who likes the idea (it never works), b) farming it out to someone with big name writing experience just because of the big name (you can write all kinds of corporate junk and still not be able to move an audience), c) getting a kid to do it, because it’s a kid (kids may be literate in social terminology but, without solid content strategy leadership, they frequently lack the life experience to move a diverse audience consistently enough for long-form communication), d) farming it out to a content farm – if your goal is just to fill your blog with stuff, you’ve missed the point. Your audience won’t respond to it, or your calls to action – in fact, they’ll ignore your click bait in the future because of what MadPipe’s own Natalie Baumgartner calls the Gotcha/”Dang it!” equation. If your audience clicks through to crappy content, the +1 to your gotcha = minus one to your audience’s future responsiveness.
The Audience Sources
You can and should blog to increase organic search traffic but don’t stilt your strategy in that direction alone, or it will backfire. In other words, don’t blog mainly for “search engine optimization”. The powerful magic of 1999-2003 is the ineffectual voodoo of 2016; the rumors and mystique live on, but you will not succeed at all with either search or humans by writing search engine bait; search engines have an artificially intelligent Gotcha/”Dang it!”/”Screw you!” algorithm that actually punishes SEO-based writing more than it rewards it. Do write with social media in mind. When we work with clients, we ensure their overall content strategy is coordinating all the parts – site, search, and social, as well as events etc. If you’re not working off of a shared content calendar, that’s not happening. But don’t expect much from just sharing your post to social platforms, which, by itself, is a fairly limp-wristed tactic. Audiences are grown organically, not herded like mindless “traffic”. That’s a dead religion from a bygone era it couldn’t withstand. Social has nuance, and it too needs a fully fleshed out content strategy.
The Content Strategy
Unfortunately, the posts in a lot of blogs reflect a single psychological moment and audience motivation. That’s not “strategy” at all; it’s only a single tactic which will wear out very quickly. When we build a content strategy for a client’s brand, it takes into account an ecosystem of audience types, consumer motivations, business goals, and the total picture of the brand. That’s not meant to sound like “it’s rocket science, so you’d better engage MadPipe”. Rather, we’ve all known someone who, every time we see them, only talks about one thing (their kids, their cats, their romantic partners, their Faith, whatever) or only has one kind of conversation (e.g. “why everything is hopeless”). We tire of it, and begin reducing and then avoiding contact – not because we don’t care about them or value what they’re saying; we do it for our own survival, because most of us can’t stay on the same monotone for too long without it becoming agony. The blogs with thriving audiences don’t just post “information”, nor just “about our brand” content, though they do post both of those things as percentages of their strategy. Blogs with sophisticated strategies go beyond even a balance of six or eight content types (which is a reasonable starting place); they adjust even based on what month it is and what else is going on in the world and the audience’s lives. Launching a blog campaign without a strategy is like starting a land war in Asia without any understanding of the terrain or familiarity with people on the ground, a definition of victory, or an exit-plan.
Speaking of “definitions of victory”, planning out your calls to action (CTAs) and where and how those appear in blog content is a critical part of content strategy. It starts with defining what amounts to a conversion, and deciding which types of conversions to measure. It’s too simplistic to simply say “a conversion is when someone buys a product or service”. That’s true, of course. But there are steps along the path to money changing hands that need to be measured as conversion steps, even if just to see where people are abandoning the process. Using e-commerce as an example, if someone adds an item to their shopping cart, but then abandons the cart, adding the item was a significant micro-conversion. We want people to add things to their cart – probably a lot of things, preferably over and over. If a particular marketing behavior, like blogging on a consistent pattern over time, generates more of that result, it is being successful. If people are abandoning the cart in large numbers, that doesn’t mean stop blogging; it may mean something else isn’t working. Measuring not only shows what’s producing the desired behavior, it lets you test for what’s causing the undesirable result. The macro-conversion of ‘swiping’ their card is the ideal end-result but, for instance, what if we declared a business goal of getting bigger total tickets? Then the act of adding additional things to the cart becomes an immensely important activity, even though no money changes hands at that moment. This is why we focus with clients on mapping out what conversions we want to track, and are cautious about drawing knee jerk conclusions from them; there is usually not just a single marketing behavior at play, but several.
The Business Impact
The configuration of your marketing campaigns via an overall marketing strategy is a reflection of your business goals, your desired audience, and what you want to be as a brand. Imagine a Groupon-type campaign that nets you lots of immediate conversions but actually results in a net loss by the time you factor the discount, cost and level of service, the coupon distributor’s fee, and the lower incidence of repeat business from shopping bargains. Such a campaign, run long term, might even modify the perception of your business and result in downward pressure on pricing and level of service while driving up costs to provide the services. Without strategy around the business impact, a brand is likely to stop doing the very thing that’s getting people farther along the conversion path, in favor of more direct tactics that produce fewer overall conversions at lower total dollar values – even to the point of changing what the business is essentially providing. This is not a slam on Groupon – just an example of how marketing campaigns can produce undesirable results without incisive strategy that most brands can’t develop on their own, because they’re too close to their needs and don’t plan around the business impact.
Now, you know MadPipe is going to ask for your business; you can tell by our tone that we’re not shy. Let’s be clear about what we want you to do. Let’s get an external marketing director to work with you to a) develop an initial overall marketing strategy that reflects your audience, brand definition, and business goals, b) recruit a team of implementers that fits your strategy, c) lead that team in an ongoing way and manage and evolve the strategy as it unfolds on the ground. Content marketing is just one part of a modern marketing strategy. You wouldn’t run your own surgery and team of surgeons – it’s not do-it-yourself – so don’t “run” your own marketing strategy and marketing team. Let MadPipe do it.