Depending on whom you trust and listen to, you might believe that blogging is your most important business growth activity in 2019, or that it’s a completely useless and outdated form of marketing. Which point of view is correct?
The truth is that either point of view can be spot on. It’s just a matter of why you’re using a blog, and how you are structuring your posts.
Pro-blog enthusiasts will tell you that every new article you add to your website gets indexed as a fresh page of relevant content in Google’s eyes. Add enough of them (with some light search engine optimization) and you are virtually guaranteed to show up near the top of the search listings for your most targeted terms and keywords.
On the other hand, the folks in the anti-blog crowd will tell you that the popularity of content marketing has essentially ruined the effect of content marketing. That is, that there are so many blogs out there that it’s tough to gain readership and attention. They’ll tell you that customers don’t really read blog posts anymore, and particularly not articles from businesses or people they don’t know.
As we’ve already mentioned, there are solid takeaways on both sides of this debate. To sort out the truth, and what it means for your business, let’s dig into some of the details…
The “Standard Marketing Blog” Has Been Killed by Too Many Marketing Blogs
Until a few years ago, “content marketing” just meant posting the occasional 400-500-word post with a handful of search-optimized terms in the title and subheading. Many were written by overseas vendors or people with little knowledge about the underlying topic (not to mention rules of spelling and grammar). There might have been a few interesting viewpoints here and there, but it was really about reminding customers that your company existed and trying to improve your search engine positioning.
So many companies took this uninspired approach that it stopped working. Buyers began ignoring blog posts that read like press releases, and Google tightened up its search algorithm to look for a longer and more substantive pieces.
Having a blog with a few articles is certainly better than not having one, but the blogging detractors are right on this point: you can’t generate any momentum in the market with a handful of bland articles. Donny Escolastico, Co-Founder and Director at MAXBURST, a well-known New York Digital Agency says, “They’re just going to blend in and won’t move the needle when it comes to search traffic or buyer impressions.”
The Meaning and Value of a Marketing Blog Has Changed
It’s important to remember once more that the reason companies bothered to post generic articles on their blogs in the first place had to do with their desire to attract search traffic. Before everyone was doing it, you could actually generate leads and sales from a handful of brief articles that were thrown together in a few minutes.
With blog readership going down, though, and search engine standards getting higher, the meaning and value of a blog have changed. There’s certainly still a search engine optimization element to the issue (more on this in a moment), but the focus is shifting. In 2019, your blog exists to help you build a brand, establish yourself as an industry leader, and share differentiators that help your customers or clients to make good decisions. In fact, the search visibility benefits might be secondary.
With those different goals comes a new set of tools. That brings us to another important point.
Blogging Formats Are Different Than They Used to Be, Too
As posting short articles has gotten less and less effective, marketers have been faced with an interesting choice: either give up on blogging or change the format. Lots of companies have turned their attention to social media, pay-per-click advertising, and other tools. Those who remain committed to blogging had to change their approach.
As a result, a successful blog now features more diversity in content. You’re likely to see longer articles and features (like this one) that study important topics in a little more depth. You’ll also find videos, image collections, series of posts that tie together, and even case studies or customer testimonials. What matters isn’t so much the blend of visual and written content, but the fact that companies are giving researchers and buyers more tools to engage and understand.
At the same time, it should be noted that Google and the other search engines have gotten better at crawling and cataloging non-text content. They can use search spiders to “understand” video transcripts and images, giving you search value that didn’t exist in the past.
The Bottom Line: Your Blog is Still a Valuable Marketing Tool
So, if we can safely say that the standard marketing blog with low-quality articles is dead, but that blogs are different than they used to be – both in terms of their focus and the types of content being used – where does that leave us?
The bottom line is that your blog is still an incredibly valuable marketing tool, but only if you keep up with the times and use it correctly. If you are consistent in your editorial calendar and offer thoughts and concepts that appeal to your best customers and prospects, good things are going to happen.
Search engine algorithms might be shifting, but they are doing so in a way that is good news for businesses with active blogs. That’s because Google and its competitors are prioritizing fresh and relevant content that inspires engagement. In other words, they might ignore a poorly-written post, but they’ll give more attention and traffic to a marketer with lots of in-depth pieces that viewers share and comment on.
Along the same lines, your blog can be used to enhance other forms of online marketing, giving you pieces to promote through email, social media, and on-page prompts. You could even use edited versions of your blog posts to create downloadable guides and reports.
It’s no accident that companies who use their blogs end up attracting more inbound leads and positioning themselves as experts in customers’ minds. It might be harder to attract attention with your blog than it used to be, but that’s a good thing because it lets you stand out.