Most blogs fail. While that statistical reality will be unlikely to fill you with confidence when creating a blog, the reasons that most blogs fail are so frustratingly simple, you’ll be publishing just to prove me wrong. Most blogs fail for two reasons –
Misguided Assumptions and Laziness.
Creating content is simple, but creating a series of articles that engage readers to a point where they take action is far more complicated. At the core of this is understanding why certain sites have unusual success, while others remain consistently around the 30 to 40 visitors per day level. As we will soon discover, the disciplines involved in creating a blog that generates leads are simple, and yet it’s not knowing those disciplines that make the difference – it’s implementing them.
I have created this post in what I consider to be a logical order to make it easier for you to follow. The most commonly asked question of writers and SEO specialists is, “what is the most important thing?” This question is asked with a view to finding the easiest possible action to take, for maximum return. In blogging, where online algorithms have made online publication a level playing field, and one that allows small players to compete with large editorial teams, everything is important. Don’t pick and choose which parts want to do correctly and exclude everything else, which I have termed “laziness.” choose instead to be meticulous, and treat your blog as you do everything else in your business – as an extension of you, and a reflection of the commitment you have to quality.
Creating a Blog Step One – Effective Editorial Content is Better, and Longer
Readability and usefulness are two crucial components to creating articles that are interesting enough to encourage action. CNN, Fox News, and Buzzfeed are three diverse sites that are ideological opposites in the news spectrum. Buzzfeed will unashamedly publish unverified news, gossip, and rumour to excite their audience. CNN and Fox News will claim they verify their stories through anonymous sources, although their critics would question this point. Despite this, each of these websites follows a few simple rules
– Create long articles, combined with shorter blogs
– Make sure all of your articles are of a high editorial quality
A high editorial quality means that there are no spelling errors, grammar mistakes or other minor errors in the text. This might sound like nitpicking, but Google cares about the quality of content it is recommending to its users. Google’s algorithms have very little forgiveness when it comes to minor errors, and so to rank for SEO, you need high editorial quality. In addition, news outlets have realised for generations that sloppy editing insinuates the quality of the story is also sloppy. Editors are paid to put the right stories in the right place, and to take full responsibility that they are of the highest standard. Creating a blog that generates leads involves high-quality workmanship that will keep your readers, and the search engines coming back for more.
Creating a Blog Step Two – Maintain a Theme, and Guide the Journey
High editorial standards are good, but without action on the part of your reader, there is little to no point in creating a blog. It’s my belief that every piece of your marketing strategy should contribute to the overall profitability of your business, and if any part doesn’t it should be removed. This includes social media, mass media, paid online advertising and any branding exercises that are for some reason excused by senior management as outside of the balance sheet.
To create revenue from your blog, and justify the expense to yourself, you need to create a journey from reading through to purchase. What sort of journey depends on the type of product you’re selling, and the way in which you sell it. To define this more clearly, we have two simple measurements that can easily be completed by anyone.
- Does the product have a high purchase implication? Meaning, if the purchaser makes a mistake will they pay a significant price, either in the form of lost money, or reputation.
- Can the product be purchased easily, or is there a process involved? For example, can you click a few buttons and have the product arrive on your doorstep, or do you need to involve a purchasing team and an implementation company to complete the purchase properly?
In marketing in general, and certainly when creating a blog, many businesses sell their products the wrong way. This doesn’t mean they don’t follow a process, and indeed most will engage in best practice through engaging a marketing consultant or using seductive examples from other industries– they just use the wrong best practice for their particular product.
Let’s take the example of a business selling consulting services online. They are creating a blog to demonstrate their expertise, and hope to engage with new prospects, and convert them to clients online. They begin creating blogs around their key services – accounting, sales optimisation and management consulting for manufacturing businesses, and begin growing their audience.
Readership goes up.
Engagement increases as prospects begin to comment and share blog posts online.
Now it’s time to convert some prospects. After all, trust has been formed and the response from the audience has been ideal. The business starts putting offers on their blogs and creates a pathway to purchase for their prospects. It looks like this –
A call to action within a blog says, “Our on-site audit generates revenue, and reduces costs. Click here to learn more.”
Like all good marketing focus businesses, the organisation tracks the clicks and finds the response to be excellent.
The click leads prospects to a landing page, where they can fill in a form, including their company name and email address with the promise that a consultant will contact them shortly and explain exactly how they can take up this exciting offer.
Again, the company has measured everything but it is found that the uptake it this stage to be practically nil.
This was taken from a real example, and the only exaggerated point was that the response from the landing page wasn’t practically nil; the company actually received no responses at all. When we were invited in, the business was confident that this strategy was solid and that the issue was the quality of clicks they were receiving through their blog. They wanted us to tailor their advertising and increase their SEO in key areas in order to get the right type of people reading their blogs, and therefore clicking on their call to action. After completing an analysis of their site and processes, we explained that in a service business such as theirs, with a complex sales process involving multiple stakeholders, it is important to appreciate the implication is high – anyone entering the email address, or been called by consultants is sticking their neck out, and potentially having it chopped off for overstepping the mark, or making a bad choice.
But due to some excellent research, in all the wrong places, the marketing director had made a decision that the most efficient way to engage the audience is through direct communication. This would be true if the business sold notepads, pens or textbooks. It would be equally true if they solve a cheap transactional service that didn’t require any significant consultation, or had a low implication on the purchaser – this is the reason many businesses struggle to sell training packages online.
With our warnings falling on deaf ears, we managed to negotiate the middle ground – an A/B test. Their landing page against ours. We agreed to forgo any design advantages, and duplicate their page exactly, just changing the text. It read like this –
Download our 10 point checklist to conducting an effective commercial audit of your business.
Just beneath the, “download now,” box, we included some small print –
“We like to follow-up to make sure you received and understood your download. If you would not like us to do this, just select this checkbox.”
While this example is imperfect, in that we had to adhere to restrictive rules, the results spoke for themselves:
A 57% uptake in the download offer (the checklist took around 90 minutes to create) and less than 5% ticked the box refusing follow-up. The only change we made was extending the process, and taking the risk away from the prospect – they knew they weren’t signing up to anything, but were downloading a piece of information. We even opened the door for the sales team to ring and ask two vital questions –
“Did you read the information?”
“Did you use it?”
Through understanding the implications on a client, and the pathway to purchase you can create offers that are more relevant to the prospect themselves. This means that your offers don’t have to be fancy or clever; they can just appeal directly to the problem your prospect is experiencing. Importantly, don’t be afraid to elongate the purchasing process even further, and give the prospect time to become more educated before interacting directly with your company. This will become especially important when your blog starts to multiply in readers, and your click-through rate becomes unsustainable for your sales team. An automated journey will enable you to maintain engagement with prospects even though nobody is speaking directly to them.
Creating a Blog Step Three – Feed the Beast
Now you have a high-quality blog that creates journalistic level content and leads prospects on a journey to purchase. At this point, blogging becomes formulaic and many businesses fail to recognise this. Through understanding the click-through rate, and percentage of readers that will automatically convert into leads, you can create a blog that is a standalone profit centre, one which generates revenue without trying. Again, this should be the goal of any marketing initiative but this is where creating a blog becomes one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s arsenal.
As you gather more information on your clients through your lead generation tools, you can begin to extrapolate your target personas and become more specific as to who should be targeting, and where they are. Learn more about the types of content that will attract those people, and start feeding prospects into your funnel. Using programmatic marketing techniques, pay-per-click advertising (PPC) and strategic placements on relevant sites (blogs are a great way to enhance your reputation) more people will come to your site, and – as long as the numbers hold up, you can count on the consistent increase in leads and revenue.
Importantly, don’t turn up the volume too quickly. Allow your blog to grow organically for a period before you start aggressively advertising. This will give you time to make sure you have the formula right and can generate leads consistently.
Equally, don’t be afraid to turn the volume up when the timing is right. The goal is not to spend nothing, but to make sure your advertising spend produces results. Consider this also when you start taking on staff, and freelancers to grow your blog.
Creating a blog that generates leads is a matter of dedication and a commitment to producing excellent content. It’s also probably one of the most rewarding marketing initiatives – both personally and professionally – that you can take part in. The payoffs are limitless, and the positive cross-pollination with other marketing and advertising strategies is extraordinary.