Written by sam stone: Freelance content creator, features writer and serial blogger – www.samstone.me
As a freelance professional writer, I create and edit a wide variety of content for my clients. One of my most lucrative income streams is blogging. Intrigued by my profession, small business owners and CEOs often ask me if what I do is a useful marketing tool. My answer is always definitely YES!
Bringing about an awareness of your product or service to new users is the aim of marketing, and the number one reason for any business to start a blog is to build customer relationships, increase traffic to their website and secure future sales.
Most of my regular clients have very static websites, and blogging helps them build a consistent visitor following and raise the profile of their website. But there are other benefits to hosting a well written regular blog on your site. Fresh content also provides excellent material for social media posts and helps to reinforce a website’s SEO organically.
How do blogs improve website visitor stats?
Typing a name/web address into a search engine is one way of being discovered, and although it reinforces the power of personal selling and word of mouth marketing, it isn’t the only way to be found. New customers are more likely to discover your site through one of the other marketing strategies employed to increase sales: advertising, sales promotion, direct marketing, or publicity. Good content is at the heart of any good campaign, but a regular blog sits slightly outside and transcends most temporary or seasonal campaigns. It is the voice of your company, and although it can enhance marketing campaigns, it functions best as a long term strategy that is not necessarily sales orientated. Creating engaging content which people want to read and in turn share is the ultimate marketing prize. If achieved, it will reach a more diverse audience than you can ever hope to reach using paid advertising.
In a digital forum, well-designed links within a blog can encourage a click-through to target areas on your site. And if readers like what you are offering, they are more likely to stay on your website and explore what else is on offer. It’s not all about an immediate sale. It is about building a relationship. And a visit from a blog link can convert into broader recognition of your business, newsletter subscriptions and yes ultimately – future sales.
How else does a blog help your business?
Search engines like Google crawl all over a website. Automated bots, do this to discover new and updated pages, to add to the Google index. So anything new is a big plus with the search engines. Adding fresh content, imagery, video or interactive features to your website encourages the bots to search your site. And knowing how often the bots crawl your site is an excellent indicator of whether or not you need a blog. Once you have one in place, analysing the bot stats over time is a great way to measure their success.
The search engines also reward websites with a loyal reader base. And being labelled as an authority figure can elevate a website’s position in the search engine results. A higher ranking on the web makes your site more visible to a potential client. So each blog is one more opportunity to be found, which is one more opportunity to drive traffic to your website and one more chance than you had before you introduced a blog into your marketing strategy.
Search engines also like keyword optimisation. Stuffing keywords into your page descriptions and content is no longer rewarded with higher rankings. However, if keywords appear organically within engaging, fresh, regular new content on your site, it will achieve a much-improved position in the search results.
My specialist writing categories are home, travel & lifestyle writing. So when on assignment for a client in Bali, I was in the perfect position to make the most of the headlining news when Mount Agung started to smoke. The media was buzzing with the story, and the bots were continually scanning for relevant information. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and a string of media posts, authentic images and a blog tying into the volcano was perfect content for my niche clients. An elevated hit rate, better rankings and a host of loyal readers to my clients’ website was the reward for very little investment on their behalf.
Sharing is a great way to encourage bots to search your site, particularly on social media. Social media platforms are alive with relevant content, and a like on a social media post is rewarding. A share is better, a comment is excellent, but a click-through is the best result of all. The benefit of engaging effectively with your audience is the first step towards creating a bond. However, it is also the beginning of a very delicate game. If you are going to contribute regularly in the social media arena, the quality of your content needs to be outstanding to maintain interest and nurture a new relationship which will gain long term results.
Thankfully blogs aren’t just a one-hit-wonder like most postings on social media. They have a valuable long-term benefit and continue to rank in cyberspace for days, weeks, months, and even years after they have been written and posted.
What makes good content of your blog?
If you don’t happen to be in the right place at the right time, there are other ways of nurturing an online relationship. I find that engaging stories work the best. So when I write about holiday opportunities, events or products I like to give a bit of context and background to a subject, sprinkle in a few tips in and add a dusting of new information that the reader is unlikely to know. If people invest time in reading your work and feel adequately rewarded, they are more likely to read your blog archive and revisit a site when the next blog is released.
Do blogs work for businesses?
As a professional content provider, I know what I do brings in results. Still, I decided to ask some other small South-West businesses owners if using a blog is an active part of their marketing strategy.
Of the small businesses I talked to, most already use social media platforms as a useful marketing tool and are aware of the benefits to their businesses. But only a few companies included a regular blog within their strategy. The few who understand the power of the blog have developed creative approaches for generating content and also used podcasts, video, prose and poetry to engage with their users. Most used trained in-house or talented freelance staff to craft their stories, define their brand, successfully grow their following and improve their website performance.
The least proactive businesses I spoke to realise they should make more use of blogs to raise their profile and to elevate their website rankings but declared a lack of enthusiasm by their staff and a lack of time in the working day to write the content themselves. Most had dabbled at one time or another but confessed to making the most common mistake of all – creating content that was solely business orientated. Unsurprisingly their blog stats soon dwindled due to a lack of imagination to create fresh content. Diversity and storytelling undoubtedly achieve the most followers, and in turn, increase the number of visits to websites. However, budget concerns and a lack of motivation often hold businesses back from adopting this simple marketing tool within their marketing strategy.
It was clear from comparing the different marketing strategies that the skills of a good writer contribute heavily towards the success of a blog. Fortunately, for businesses with no resident talent to create the right tone of voice or create engaging content, there is an answer. Most good freelance writers can turn their hand to any content and adapt their writing tone. However, for niche businesses, it is essential to create a relationship with a writer who understands the business from personal experience. Using an online directory to find a specialist freelance writer who can contribute great cross-media content is the perfect solution. And thankfully The Writers Collective do just that.
So what is the answer?
It is quite clear from talking to businesses already using blogs as a component of a long term marketing strategy that it is not a ‘wham bam thank you ma’am’ process with immediate results. Instead, it is a gentle dance of familiarity and trust. Transforming content into an engaging and useful marketing tool can make a difference and contribute towards a stable relationship with a client that has long-term benefits.
If your staff have the enthusiasm and capability to produce engaging regular content, make the most of these precious talents and incorporate a blog into your marketing strategy, then you are lucky. However, if you lack the necessary inhouse skills, then outsource. Either way, be prepared for the long haul as any good relationship takes commitment, and requires a long-term investment of regular well-written blogs.Tags: small business, blogging, content, SME, socil media, relationships, commitment, marketing stratergy, do blogs work?
This post was written by samstone