When I started blogging for marketing purposes (to drive traffic and leads to my employer) almost 10 years ago, there weren’t so many others doing it.
Today it looks very different. According to the Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers currently allocate 28% of their budget to content marketing. And blogging is a very important component of content marketing. According to the same report, the most successful marketers allocate 42% of their budget to the purpose, and 76% say that the budget will increase in the coming years.
With so much content online, surely it must be very difficult to use your blog to get found?
Actually, no – not at all! My feeling is that it is neither harder nor easier. In fact, the fundamental principles are the same they’ve always been. If you stick to those, you’ll get traffic. For one, there’s not just more content – there’s also more search. When people (including decision makers in companies) want to solve a problem, search is among the top methods. But perhaps even more importantly, most business blogs aren’t doing it the right way. They’re not following the principles. But you will, of course!
The purpose of blogging: To drive traffic and leads
Why do you blog?
Please try something. Consider a couple of your competitors. Then visit their blogs. Look carefully. Now consider this question: What is the purpose of their articles? What are they trying to achieve by blogging? With some experience, and after reading this article, you’ll be able to notice that almost none of them seem to know the answer themselves. I’m going to go out on a limb by guessing two things: 1) They blog very irregularly. 2) Their content seems to be either about themselves and how great they are, or not really teaching their audience anything of importance related to the problem they’re solving.
A business blog has two fundamental goals:
Objective 1: Drive new visits and leads
Objective 2: Convert existing relationships to business
To meet these goals, you need to know who you want to attract. You also need to know why your blog entry gained their attention, and which insights it aims to convey to shed a new light on their challenges.
Most business blogs fail with both. Some fail with the latter. Only a few do both right.
Why almost every business blog fails to drive traffic and leads
Very few business blogs follow the formula above. Most business blogs are used as a convenient way to get news out, or because “everybody does it”.
In both cases, they commit the same fundamental mistakes: they do not blog for their target audience, but for themselves. The purpose of each blog entry will not be to solve someone’s problem, but to write for their own sake.
And in both cases, it fails to drive visits and leads.
What is required for a business blog to drive traffic and leads?
First you need to know the answers to two questions:
- What symptoms do people you want to target experience in their day-to-day work?
- What insights could we convey to shed some light on their symptoms?
The answers to these two questions are the foundation of your blog strategy. Two different types of blog posts are born out of the answers to those two questions: The ones that drive traffic, and the ones that drive business relationships.
The two fundamental blog types that drive both traffic and business
We can term the two types visitor driving vs. insights driving blog posts. To succeed, you need both, and you need to use them together in a specific way:
Visitor driving blog posts: Blogs that attract new visitors
Your visitor driving blog posts have only one purpose: attract new potential customers by writing about symptoms they recognize. This will answer question 1 above. Note that the symptoms you write about do not need to have a direct link to your solutions. It is enough that customers who search for those symptoms will have a high likelihood of benefiting from your solutions.
Start by researching keywords one would use to solve the symptoms you want to blog about. Understand the intent behind these keywords and write keyword-optimized blog entries to satisfy these intentions.
Follow this formula regularly (1-2 times a week) for at least 3, but preferably 6+ months. We have seen time and time again how traffic boosts significantly following this method. Not only that, the number of visits will continue to increase for several years after you stop writing.
But in order for these visitors to stick around, you need to connect these blog posts to your insight driving ones. That’s next.
Insight driving blog posts: Converting visitors to loyal followers
You know something that your customers don’t. The customer looks at their perceived symptoms as an isolated problem they want to solve. You look at it in a completely different way: as one of the side effects of a larger underlying cause and bigger problem. It’s time to help your visitor understand this underlying cause and its effects.
Separating insight driving blog posts from visitor driving ones is Smart Marketing: The visitor driving blog posts write about what the customers are searching for, while the insight driving ones contain the information that will really help them. You drive traffic to your insight driving blog posts by linking to them from the visitor driving ones – the customers who want to learn more about the potential underlying causes will continue to the insights. Using this method, you can increase visitors and drive deep insights simultaneously, without needing to compromise any of them.
What do you do with the visitors that your blog attracts?
What is marketing, really? We would argue, it is to align the customer’s buying journey with your sales process. By connecting the customers’ perceived symptoms with insights about the underlying cause that you can solve, you connect these customers’ buying journey with the first step of your sales process.
Now, you can link your blog posts both “sideways” and “forward” to let the customer choose which path they want to take.
Linking sideways means linking to other subject areas. This helps the customer to find even more relevant problems, which may not have come up in the search. And by linking “forward” you help the client forward in their mental purchase. The whole picture then looks like this:
Once you’ve created blog entries that drive both visitors and insights, it’s time to connect them to your larger sales process. We’ll write more about that in other articles.