Engage, Inform, Sell. The Art of Blog Marketing
INBOUND MARKETING AGENCY
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS ..................................................................................... 1 INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................. 2 1. BUSINESS BLOG MARKETING DEFINED ..................................................... 3 2. WHY BUSINESSES NEED TO BLOG ............................................................. 3 3. WHAT BUSINESS BLOG MARKETING CAN DO FOR YOU............................ 4 4. THE EVOLUTION OF BUSINESS BLOGGING ................................................ 6 5. HOW TO USE BLOGGING TO MARKET YOUR BUSINESS ............................ 7 6. SHOULD YOU OUTSOURCE YOUR BUSINESS BLOGS? ............................... 9 7. CONCLUSION ........................................................................................... 11 BLOGGING RESOURCES ............................................................................... 11
Business blog marketing has become one of the most popular and effective forms of online marketing in use today. By utilizing blogs to generate income, businesses are able to harness the power of engagement to sell products and services at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing methods. Blogs make it possible for businesses to attract potential customers by offering relevant information in an informal, conversational style that allows readers to comment and question. This creates a two-way dialogue that establishes trust and authority with a target market. This paper will discuss business blog marketing- its origins, benefits and advantages over other forms of marketing. It will explore how to use blogging to engage, inform and sell, and offer information about outsourcing business blogging to get the best results.
1. BUSINESS BLOG MARKETING DEFINED Business blog marketing is, essentially, the use of blogs as a marketing tool- a way to reach Internet users for the purpose of promoting and selling products and services. All blogs generally contain a variety of subject matter. They can give advice, express opinions, offer solutions and information. Business blogs are no different. However, with business blogging, the company using this method has as its ultimate goal the capturing and nurturing of leads that will eventually convert into sales. Business blogs, also known as marketing blogs, are informal dialogues between companies and consumers that give both sides an opportunity to establish a business relationship. They are one of many inbound methods of marketing that allow consumers to obtain information and make intelligent purchasing decisions. Like all web content, they can be search engine optimized to give companies better online exposure.
2. WHY BUSINESSES NEED TO BLOG According to American Express (May 2006), 47% of small business owners use the Internet to market or advertise their business. As a result, Internet advertising revenues jumped 33% in the third quarter of 2006 compared to 2005- totaling $4 billion (Interactive Advertising Bureau/Price Waterhouse Coopers, Nov. 2006). Why is Internet advertising growing at a rate of 20-30% each year? Businesses are finding out that online marketing allows for a greater ROI than many traditional methods. Essentially, companies can get more for less with online marketing methods. Blogging, along with article marketing, RSS, podcasts, video and social media, is an online tool that costs relatively little to produce and maintain. At the same time, it offers wide and
deep distribution of information about a company, and provides links that lead to higher search engine rankings. Good business blog marketing content creates a permanent source of traffic and back links to a site. For the cost of writing and updating material on a regular basis, businesses can spread their message to millions of potential customers. Just as importantly, they can target their markets more precisely. This produces more leads and conversions per visit, primarily because only those interested and ready to buy are likely to find and read the blogs. Traditional marketing methods, such as direct mail, cold calling and print ads, are not only harder to track- they also don't allow the kind of interaction that is an integral part of business blog marketing. Instead of spending millions of dollars on surveys and other market research, companies can switch to blogging and receive the same kind of valuable feedback that allows them to improve their service.
3. WHAT BUSINESS BLOG MARKETING CAN DO FOR YOU Marketing with blogs provides long-term value for businesses, primarily for the following reasons: 1. Ease of use - Blogs are as simple as writing an article or email. For consumers, they do not require a download or special plug-in. 2. Accessibility - Blogs make it easy for consumers to find a business that offers what they need. They are not only portals to a company's site; they also contain useful information on their own. 3. Low cost - The costs associated with running a blog are minimal, and include purchasing a domain and web hosting. Some companies pay an employee or outside service to write and maintain blogs, as well.
4. Interactive communication - People value the perception that a business is interested in hearing what they have to say. When consumers can voice their concerns and even influence a business regarding its products and services, they feel invested. This makes them more likely to return to the blog or company site to purchase. 5. Value to consumers - Business blogs provide consumers with a picture of what a company is all about. They combine all of the above benefits with useful information that helps answer people's questions, as well as reveal the people behind the storefront. When consumers get helpful information from an authoritative source that has a human face, they are more likely to come back and purchase from that source. 6. Improved rankings - Well-written and relevant blogs are recognized as valuable to search engines. While other web content is often weeded out, blogs that are maintained and linked to consistently maintain their ranking positions. Another way that blogs can create better search engine ranking is through the comment feature. It is not unusual for customer comments themselves to rank as relevant web content. For example, a consumer looking for information may click on a customer review or comment, and be sent directly to a company's blog site. 7. Direct access to consumers - By using a conversational tone and an informal, engaging style, business blogs draw people in. By allowing comments and customer feedback, they give businesses a direct way to dialogue with potential (and returning) customers. 8. Agility - Blogs allow companies to reach millions of people quickly, through the blog page, web site or subscriptions. Businesses can then track results almost instantly, which makes it possible to accurately assess different sales methods and make immediate adjustments to marketing strategy. 9. Measurable results - Unlike many traditional marketing methods, blog results can be easily measured. Subscriber numbers, click-throughs and visits are all hard data that will show companies how their blogs are directly contributing to increased sales. According to a 2007 "Social Commerce Report" by E-Consultancy and Bazaarvoice, 77% of online retailers surveyed worldwide indicated that their site traffic had increased as a result of customer reviews, and over 50% reported an increase in conversion rates. Blog
comments are one kind review feedback that can build trust with shoppers, as well as help businesses retain current customers. While traditional marketing still has its place in business, it is rapidly becoming obsolete for many online companies. Internet businesses have started developing marketing methods that utilize the strengths of e-commerce to sell effectively and economically. As a result of its many benefits, business blog marketing is replacing some of the more expensive and unwieldy traditional marketing tools.
4. THE EVOLUTION OF BUSINESS BLOGGING Blogs can increase web visibility, offer relevant information and encourage dialogue between author and reader. However, as a marketing tool the blog is a relatively recent phenomenon. The first blogs emerged in the 1990s. Originally termed "weblogs" (a term coined by Jorn Barger in 1997), they were personal online journals that often took the form of forums and threads. People posted details about their lives and allowed readers to comment. Before the advent of blogging software and tools, posts were updated manually.
As blogging became more popular through the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the influence of bloggers grew, it became apparent that more data was needed to track how people were using blogs and which blogs were garnering the most links. The Blogdex
project, created in 2001 by researchers at MIT, compiled information from thousands of blogs and their links in order to determine their social properties. This led to a greater understanding of how blogs spread, as well as how they influence readers and consumers. Once it became clear how quickly and easily a blog could reach (and influence) thousands or even millions of online viewers, businesses started using them to promote their sites. Blogs that allowed comments became pages within websites. Forwardthinking companies who recognized the power of blogging for consumer interaction created blog sites that dealt with issues and topics related to their fields. Consumers began to find these pages through search, and started to rely on them as sources of information. A recent study by GuideWireGroup revealed that approximately 89 percent of businesses polled use blogs as a way to communicate with their customers. In a 2008 survey, Burson-Marsteller found that 15% of Fortune 500 companies have blogs. That same year, Technorati reported that there are over 15 million blogs in existence, with 120,000 new ones being introduced each day. A successful business blog can generate tens of thousands of dollars in revenue each year, with figures for large corporations typically much higher.
5. HOW TO USE BLOGGING TO MARKET YOUR BUSINESS As part of a marketing strategy, business blog marketing appeals to businesses of any size. Its agility and low cost make it easy to establish and maintain. For small businesses, creating a blog is an economical way to spread the word about products and services. For large corporations, business blog marketing is a method for reaching markets that were previously being missed.
A blog page can be easily added to a company's primary site, by whoever is responsible for updating and changing the site. Or, a blog site can be established separately by purchasing a domain name and hosting service. Publishing platforms such as WordPress allow bloggers to manage content and track links. Business Blog Marketing and SEO Once established and designed, creating and updating content for a business blog becomes the primary focus. Readers come to blogs for authoritative information, and well-written, optimized content allows them to find what they are looking for. Search engine optimization is an important component of successful business blogging, as it brings targeted buyers to the blog. Who is a targeted buyer? This is the person looking for information about a product or service, who has likely found a blog using search terms that are highly specific. So, business blogs, like other forms of web content, should be keyword optimized to attract search engines. If done correctly, this will not affect the natural flow of the content- an important factor when seeking to establish trust with consumers. The balance between ensuring that the content is easily found by search engines (by optimizing it around the proper keywords at the proper density), and making the content readable for humans (by focusing on their needs) is a delicate one. It is, however, essential to the success of any marketing blog. Recognizing the target market will help a business blogger determine which keywords to include in the blog content, so as to attract the visitors most likely to buy from him. It is important to note that, as with all web content, business blog content must sound natural to readers to avoid coming across as sales material. Business Blog Marketing and Revenue Blogs can generate revenue in two ways- through content and through ads placed on the blog page. Blog content offers information that consumers find useful, and establishes the relationship that leads to sales. Ad revenue is more immediate. Relevant ads placed on the blog page offer consumers a convenient opportunity to make purchases while earning the blogger extra income. By joining an affiliate marketing program or allowing contextual advertising on the page, a business blog can become an opportunity for companies (and individuals) to monetize the page.
Case Study: BATTLEDIABETES.COM BattleDiabetes.com is a blog established a few years ago by Ken Savage as a resource for diabetics. It now attracts 7,000 to 9,000 page views each day, and generates $40,000 a year in income. Ken's blog utilizes the power of online marketing methods to not only create a valuable site for diabetics, but also to generate significant income for him. The BattleDiabetes.com blog page contains Google AdSense ads, text link ads and AuctionAds. It offers hundreds of articles and links to resources, products and services that may be helpful to diabetics. Through strategic link-building and submitting his blogs to article directories and social media sites such as StumbleUpon, Ken has been able to garner back links that have put him near the top of the first page on Google.
Business blogs allow a company to take full advantage of all online marketing methods in order to gain exposure and generate income. A company can submit blog content to directories and social media sites. Blog pages can contain a call to action that asks readers to subscribe to an RSS feed, which sends them the latest blogs automatically. Email newsletters containing blogs about the latest news and information from the company are another way to utilize business blogs as part of a marketing strategy.
6. SHOULD YOU OUTSOURCE YOUR BUSINESS BLOGS? Blogs are an effective and inexpensive way to reach and interact with consumers. However, they require maintenance in order to remain relevant. Blog content that is not updated frequently quickly becomes stale with both humans and search engines. Writing fresh content, posting and responding to customers on a regular basis is critical to keeping the interest of readers, and demonstrating at the same time that the company is
interested in staying up-to-date and engaged. That being said, maintaining blogs takes time that many business owners do not have. Another factor to consider is the expertise that it takes to ensure that business blogs are search engine optimized and marketed using all available outlets. This is what turns blogs into business blog marketing, and ultimately, what drives sales. Outsourcing business blog marketing to an outside service is an attractive option for companies that have neither the time nor the expertise to consistently create and update blog content. A content marketing company that understands how to create and market a company blog can integrate business blogging into a comprehensive and ongoing online marketing strategy. This option allows business owners to take full advantage of all available online marketing tools without spending a lot of their own time on the process. A business owner who is not skilled at keyword research does not have access to talented SEO writers or who is not familiar with how to naturally incorporate keywords into blog content should consider outsourcing blogs to a reputable content marketing company.
Case Study: BIDZ.COM Bidz.com is a 24/7 live auction site where customers can bid on jewelry, art and collectibles. It specializes in affordable and unique items that people can bid on at any time. Despite having an enormous stock of jewelry and collectibles available for purchase, Bidz.com wanted a better way to keep buyers at the site while bidding. The solution? Bidz.com decided to contract with an SEO firm to create a blog page that acts as an online "lounge". Customers can visit the page between bidding and get up-to-date on other auctions going on, get news and information about jewelry and gossip about current events. Through the use of SEO coding and relevant content, the blog has created an online community and bolstered search engine rankings. By tying the blog to an RSS feed, Bidz.com has gained a following of interested bidders (and potential bidders) who want to know about the latest auction news and upcoming sales.
CONCLUSION Business blog marketing is fast becoming one of the best ways to market products and services online. It can be a quick, easy and cost-effective way to launch a business, improve sales and reach new markets. Blogging gives business a way to directly engage with consumers by offering information and inviting a response. The ultimate goal is to draw potential customers to a site, and give them what they need to make a purchasing decision. Using blog content to gain the trust of consumers, businesses can position themselves as authorities in any given field. This, in turn, draws information-seekers to the site. The need to interrupt consumers with non-targeted print ads and direct mail is eliminated (along with the cost of such methods). For companies of any size, business blog marketing is an agile and inexpensive way to engage, inform and sell.
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