(Reprinted with permission from the May 2018 edition of Resort Trades magazine.)
By Sharon Scott Wilson
When someone first came up with the use of blogging as a marketing tool, the business world practically swooned. Here was a low-cost solution for connecting with your audience and building relationships. The concept originally surfaced in 1994 when a college student created a website in order to get his writing online. In a few years the term “web log” was shortened to “weblog” and, eventually to just simply “blog.” By 2002, blogging had arrived, complete with its very own search engine, Technorati. (The website stopped indexing blogs and assigning authority scores in May 2014 after its creators launched a separate online publishing and advertising site.)
During the following 16 years, blogging became a veritable Fourth of July celebration. You couldn’t stop the fireworks as ever-greater advancements set an increasingly higher bar. Clever marketers were adding video, introducing landing pages, and floating advertising in front of the viewer, with increasingly more complex gimmicks. But lately, social media is the new darling in online marketing.
It begs the question; is blogging the dinosaur, the buggy whip…the Princess phone? It seems now we are being told to dedicate our best fireworks to our social media platforms. We’re expected to expand our presence on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Exhausted content providers are beginning to wonder. Given the fact that we are operating at top speed and actively using the most current social media tools, are our blog sites really all that useful? Are they relevant?
You bet! And here’s why:
- You will optimize your website.
In the mid-90s, I remember being advised that I could outwit Google and boost my search result ranking by adding a lot of descriptive tags and metadata to a website. At the time, we would cram keywords into our copy like a contestant at a hot dog eating contest. Today, that technique would create a blackball situation for your brand, not to mention angering impatient readers unwilling to wade through layers of unnecessary, extraneous copy. True, I still advise you to use keywords when possible, particularly in headlines. The idea is to avoid using nonsensical and obvious ploys.
Instead, today’s SEO experts have learned their lesson: go for quality, rather than quantity. The ideal blog garners a loyal audience, which values your content and will, therefore, share it with others in their community. If instead you use an inauthentic, disingenuous approach, they’ll drop off the radar faster than UFO sightings in Phoenix…which brings us to our next point.
- You will connect with “the right” customers more frequently.
It may be argued that creating connections and building a community of followers is what social media is all about. But even the most ardent suitor would need more than 280 characters to properly woo a mate. In order to position yourself as an expert, you need good, solid content. Plus, it’s important to be consistent. You’re not going to build much of a loyal following if you let months go by without communicating. On the other hand, a reader will drop you in a New York minute if you are dishing out self-aggrandizing, boring or purposeless drivel. We’ve all been there: We wait until the last minute and throw up a quickie post that might possibly turn people off, rather than add value. The best way to avoid slamming out a loser post like this is to create a list of topics and put together a schedule for when you’ll post them.
- Your archived content continues to attract visitors to your website.
Your blog posts remain on your site and are available to search engine web crawlers, conceivably, forever. You may be creating a ton of content each week for your social media platforms. Hopefully, your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest “Likes” and “Friends” have led viewers to click through to visit your website. Good for you! But for continued longevity, you must build on that by creating an archive of material that lives forever and ever.
Your job is to continue to ‘feed the beast’ so people will find your posts on Google and click to your site to learn more. Not only does this decrease the likelihood of users getting distracted by their Facebook feed or extraneous Tweets, but it also increases the amount of time they remain on your site and comb through your pages – a huge factor in the working of Google’s analytics machine.
- Your blog can promote interaction with customers.
Don’t worry if you don’t get a lot of comments at first, or your blogs are only getting comments from spammers. This doesn’t mean you’re not getting read by prospective customers. After all, do you always leave comments after reading an article online? Most people don’t, even if they are keenly interested. Depending on your audience and subject, however, you can hope to get more comments as your audience grows and your SEO rankings increase. Naturally, when those comments do start coming in, you will want to get that two-way street going by responding quickly.
Google Is Our Friend!
Speaking of SEO, I’d advise you to use the web stats tool, Google Analytics. It’s the industry standard when it comes to measuring your website’s performance. It’s free and literally takes minutes to install. Over time as you add more posts to your blog, it will give you a clearer picture of how people are finding your blog and, most importantly, which of your posts are popular so you will learn what kind of content your readers like the most.
Another useful tool to finding effective keyword phrases – those which influence ‘click-through’ rates and are being entered into Google by your prospective customers – is the Keyword section on the site, adwords.google.com. Once you’ve typed in your email address and website on the AdWords home page and clicked on “continue,” you’ll be sent to the “your first campaign” page. On this page under item #2, “choose a target audience,” click on the edit button in the keywords box. Here, you’ll be able to input as many as 20 keywords to gauge their popularity. Use this free feature to help create ‘findable’ titles and content for your posts.
At the risk of appearing self-promotional, I do have one final comment. If you’re in a position to direct your company’s marketing activities and think you’ll handle the blogging, yourself, you may wish to reconsider. Is it going to be worth your time and are you going to be able to do it consistently? Perhaps you have a staff with the intellectual capacity to research, write, post and follow through with the various tasks to optimize your blogging activities. But, before tossing a new, and fairly weighty, additional burden into their in-basket, make sure they have the time and interest to make it a priority. Otherwise, you may be better off outsourcing the planning and performance of your company’s blog.
Sharon Scott Wilson is a professional writer creating blog posts, feature-length articles and other content for both B2B and B2C readers. Her interests are travel, vacations, RVing and vacation ownership. She manages the PR firm of SharonINK and is publisher of Resort Trades magazine, Resort Trades Weekly (an eNewsletter) and ResortTrades.com. Visit SharonINK.com for more information.