When I talk to business owners about content marketing, their initial reaction is often to say, “Oh, like blogging?” which is shortly followed by “We tried blogging. It was a waste of time.” They aren’t being mean. Running a blog is a time-consuming process, and for it to produce no measurable return is understandably frustrating. The reality of blogging—a small facet of what content marketing encompasses—is that the vast majority of business blogs are abject failures.
To blame for these failures is a range of common mistakes and misconceptions of what a blog should do or how it should add value to a business. Even if blogging is a clear opportunity for your business, executing a blogging strategy incorrectly will do nothing but drain budget.
If your blog is failing, some or all of these reasons might be the cause:
- You don’t have clear goals for what your blog is supposed to accomplish.
Your blog should serve well-defined roles in your sales funnel. Tossing up articles every week or every month will not magically bring in more business. Step back and decide what you want your blog to accomplish. Is your blog a lead nurture tool? Is it an acquisition tool? Are you using it for client retention? Any or all of these goals are worthwhile. Once you set those goals, establish trackable metrics so that you can measure if your blog is contributing positively to those goals.
- You create content but have no strategy for driving traffic to that content.
Discoverability on the internet is an incredible challenge. For some perspective, YouTube adds 300 hours of video every minute. No one will ever just stumble across the content that you make. If you have a blog, you should also be investing in ways to get people to read it. What you should do will vary by business. For some of my clients, social media posts mixed with email marketing are sufficient while other clients actively tie their blog posts to aggressive Facebook advertising campaigns.
- Your blog is just an SEO dumping ground.
SEO (search engine optimization) is an important facet of digital marketing, but many SEO specialists fall into the trap of designing content solely for the Google algorithm, completely neglecting human readers. If you use a service that churns out multiple keyword-loaded blog posts a week, you will likely see little human traction for your content. It wasn’t designed for them, after all. My recommendation is always to serve the human reader first and to appease the algorithm as a close second priority. The good news here is that Google has been marching steadily toward rewarding content that is worthwhile for readers rather than rewarding content that looks good to a machine.
- You follow shortsighted, arbitrary rules for content and format.
Every day, people tell me about how short attention spans are and how nobody is interested in longform content. They say that a blog should never be longer than 400 words because a business would be lucky to have someone read that much anyway. These assertions have little factual basis. If longform content was dead, paperback book sales would not be on the rise, people wouldn’t binge a full season of Strange Things in a weekend, and the six-second video format of Vine would have been a smash success (the platform is dead, by the way). In blogging, we see plenty of longform blogs doing exceptionally well (think Harvard Business Review or Tim Ferriss). In actuality, boring content is dead. If your content sucks, no matter how short or long it is, no one will read it. If you create exceptional content and present it to the right readers, your blog will kick ass.
- You have tunnel vision when it comes to leveraging your blog content.
The content you create for a blog has far more potential than living and dying as a singular blog post. For starters, if your blog content is truly worthwhile for your readers, you should look to have it published in industry or community publications that also serve your target audience. Talk to the editor about getting permission to republish the content on your blog after a set amount of time has passed (most editors will be fine with a 60 or 90-day delay). Now one blog post serves two purposes. Next, look at how you can pull pieces of a blog post out to create social media graphics. Incorporate your best evergreen content (articles that are just as relevant regardless of when they are read) into your email marketing campaigns. And consider using your blog as an excuse to piggyback on the audiences of influential people in your space (interview them).
Blogging was one of the major drivers of the early internet, and it can still be a powerful tool for your business if you leverage it properly. If you make the same mistakes as everyone else, you will get the same results too. No results at all.
Photo by Ryan McGuire, used with permission under Creative Commons license.