How To Tell If You're Blogging To Blog, Or Blogging To Grow Your Company - Nectafy On Air

Lance Cummins

by Lance Cummins • A 39 minute watch

How To Tell If You're Blogging To Blog, Or Blogging To Grow Your Company - Nectafy On AirIf your business has a blog, I have one question for you: Why?

Do you blog because you think it’s what you should be doing, because it’s what other businesses are doing, or because it’s a vetted part of your content strategy?

In this video, Henry and I will tell you how to identify the difference. If you watch, you’ll learn whether you’re using your company’s blog in the way it should be used—to create post types that generate leads and visits—or if you’re doing a lot of work that won’t lead to anything at all. Enjoy!

 

 

 

We’ve created a transcript of the video, too, which you can find below. (But seriously, who reads when they could watch?)

Lance:

Tell me about a blog you've seen that you go, "Why on earth are you guys doing this? And is there actually a plan?"

Henry:

So I live in a small beach town in San Diego, and there's one coffee shop here. And we were looking on their site to see if they were open on a Saturday or something, and saw that they have a blog, and there's absolutely no reason they should have a blog. You just need to be on Yelp, you need to be on Google Maps, and you need to have a website with your hours, and that's it. There's no way to bring in customers through your blog at that local of a level.

That was an example that kicked off this thought of: Who should have a blog? And if you have a blog, what are you trying to get out of it? I think it should always be visits to your website, therefore leads, and then therefore customers. At Nectafy, we look at a ton of different sites, and you can always tell right away. You can scan someone's blog content and say, "Oh they're not getting anything out of this." Although they're still doing all the work. Or, "They know what they're doing, they're getting a lot out of this, including a new way to grow their business."

I think that's what sets the idea for this topic. I thought we'd go through some ways to tell which end you might fall on, and then how you could get to the side of using a blog to grow your business.

Lance:

Okay, yeah. That's cool. What are some of the signs you've seen that somebody's blogging and just throwing something up on their site?

Henry:

The one I always look for is if you have your own company name in the title of your blog posts, often. Which suggests "Our company, Acme—whatever—has an announcement." Or "Acme had a great time at this conference." Or anything like that. If I look at the top ten blogs on a site, the most recent, and I see two or three of those just pushing company news out, I can guarantee you're not gonna get anything out of those posts. That's one sign.

Lance:

Yeah, I've seen some: "Announcing the new vice president for whatever." Or, "We were at the conference, and boy did we have fun." I always laugh at those, I don't think anybody cares besides you.

Henry:

It's a brutally honest take on things, but basically my premise is, no one really cares about your company as much you do. When you say, "This is how much we care about this event we put on"—you can't apply that to your persona, who you're trying to sell to. They don't care that you put on an event. They only really care about what you’re going to do for them that will be helpful. There's one indicator. If you're writing about things you care about, they are likely not the things your customer cares about.

Lance:

There's probably, in brand lifestyle stuff, people who care about what Red Bull is doing or whatnot. But at a psychological level, that's because of what it does for them.

Henry:

Yeah, you're right, it's the same premise. In big B2C brands, consumer stuff, there is probably some of that. We don't know about that. We do B2B technology and engineering companies that are smaller, mid-market. No one’s out there saying, "Oh gee, I wonder what this company is doing today."

Lance:

Right. And the way those brands would measure success on their blog or on any other medium is completely different than, well, maybe not traffic, but leads and actual customers, which is what we're differentiating here, right? Blogging for anything other than growth of the company is "blogging to blog."

Henry:

Yeah, exactly.

Lance:

All right, cool. What else have you seen that gives that indicator? Are there other things or is that the main thing, the company name in the headline?

Henry:

Company name in the headline, anything news-based about the company. I guess those are overlapping a bit. Also, anything that is some sort of a wacky, creative idea that may be well-written, and could be useful to someone, but you can tell that no one's able to find it. That's another one. Primarily, people will find your blog through Google, it will be all rolled up under organic traffic, organic leads. If you write, "Why Internal Reporting Is Like Swimming" or something, you're probably going to have a tough time getting people to that just on the sheer fact that Google doesn't exactly know if you're talking about swimming, or reporting, or what, and you may have a hard time ranking for that.

Basically, if you don't have keywords in your articles and in your titles, I can safely assume it's hard for you to get people there, even if it's really good content, and even if you're working really hard to put that together.

I think that's part of it too—people put a lot of work into blog posts with company news, wacky ideas that are creative. And it could be good stuff, it's just going to be harder to get people there. I can pretty much assume, across the board, people aren't going there.

Lance:

Especially if you're not seeing that as the exception to the other types of blog posts, that we'll talk about in just a second.

Henry:

That's a good point, yeah.

Lance:

I guess if you did something around emotions, something that really triggers anger or whatever, that would work really well on social media, for instance, to get people there.

Henry:

Right. And you'd be able to say, "That's controversial, that's really enticing for a specific group. So maybe this is specifically written for VPs of HR at different places." And that's very obvious because then you could get people there through targeted ads, LinkedIn, social media. Some indicator that you have a plan for getting people to your blog post is definitely important. You're right about making that distinction.

Lance:

I was also thinking, maybe an indicator that they're just blogging to blog might be if you see really sporadic posting, which could be an indicator that we don't have a general plan.

Henry:

That's a very good call because ... I've equated blogging to baseball before. Basically, a really good blog, if you were to say, "We define an individual blog post as bringing in ten leads or more per month ..." (That’s just an arbitrary number I'm making up that might be about right; you wanna look at something like that.) If each blog post brings in ten leads or more per month, we're going to call it a success. Even for the top blogs—less than 50 percent of the individual posts they write are going to bring in ten leads or more.

You have to consistently give yourself the chances—the “at bats,” basically. Put yourself in a position to get those successful ones. If you're writing and you see March, and then you see May, and then you see October, and there's three in October and two in March, and there's a big lag in between, you're simply not getting the at bats to give yourself a chance to get people to your blog. You really have to have a consistent cadence to say, "We've created 30 over this quarter, or half a year, and we know if we create 30, six of those are gonna be big time wins, and carry all the traffic we need, basically.

Lance:

I've heard you use the baseball analogy before. I actually started into that analogy with one of our clients in the U.K. when we were talking, before they started working with us. And then I stopped and went, "Wait a minute, I bet you guys don't care about baseball, do you?" And they said "Nope." And I said, "Okay, let's try cricket."

Henry:

There it is.

Lance:

They said, "Let me just stop you. It's more boring than baseball."

Henry:

Yep.

Lance:

I gave up.

Henry:

That's a good call.

Lance:

That's pretty funny. All right, let's flip to the other side of the fence then. Those are some of the signs that you're blogging to blog. What the signs that somebody's blogging to grow their business?

Henry:

One is you're seeing keywords in blog titles. That's a very basic, simple premise. If you are selling some sort of time management software, you’re generally going to be writing about time management-related things—management, efficiency, any of the resource-based topics around time management software. You're gonna have to be writing about those topics and seeing those phrases show up in your titles. Again, company news, you're not going to be able to shove a keyword in there that gets ranked.

Secondly, you probably have, at best, a handful of personas, and it seems to be a clear trend that you're writing to the same people over and over. It’s not someone in government this week, then someone in nonprofit, and then someone in HR, someone in accounting, or someone in financing. You're just spreading it all across the board. Because you're gonna have a harder time growing if, again, you're giving yourself two chances a year in HR, two chances a year in accounting, three chances a year in government. You have to be pretty focused. I like to see, of your ten most recent posts, are they written for generally the same type of persona at a company, or a couple that are closely related?

So keywords, personas, and then ... I should probably go back to keywords.

This is probably getting a little technical, but you can always check someone's website authority with Moz, a MozBar—it's a Google Chrome plugin. And you can see on a scale of 0-100 how authoritative someone's site is. If it's a 10 out of 100, it's not very authoritative. Ninety out of 100 is very authoritative. And generally, if you're writing on your blog competitive keywords that are up near the 90 competitive level, but you're a 10 on the authority level, I can safely assume you're not getting people to those blog posts because your site isn't powerful enough to rank for them. It's not just picking keywords that fit, it's picking keywords that you have a shot at, and then writing for personas that are pretty tightly put together.

Lance:

Okay. That's really good.

Henry:

Those are some keys right there.

Lance:

Let's back it up a little bit, because we're trying to do something useful here for a CEO who probably is thinking about content marketing. They've heard the phrase, maybe they think they've been doing it for a while, and wonder where are the results, or what's the point of this? Maybe we've already answered this, but how can you tell which side your company is on? What's a quick test that a CEO could look at his blog right now and say, "All right, here's where we are."

Henry:

I think whoever's running the blog, they essentially need to ask how many visitors and how many leads are we getting out of the blog, any and all blog posts per month? And what percentage of our total leads does that make up? If we’re getting 300 leads per month through the website and four of them are coming from the blog, you generally know you're putting effort toward something that's not bringing in leads.

If you're doing 300 leads a month and 220 of them are from the blog, well—if that's the case I bet you would know. But, you're really putting your time toward something that is valuable for your company. I think what you put your time toward, as a company marketing-wise, is really important to think about, because there's so much out there about “You have to be on Twitter, you have to be on Facebook, you have to be blogging.” That's the industry we're in. And I would specifically recommend, if it's not doing anything for you, to stop doing it. You shouldn't just put time toward something because you're supposed to. Put time toward something because it's helping your business grow.

Lance:

Can I give an example there, for us? Because we're kind of wacky in this. We are the growth content company, we're in the online marketing world, and we decided way back that a Facebook presence doesn't make any sense for us to pour a lot of time into, or effort. We decided if we can't do it well, and can't do it where it's meaningful, and it’s not moving the needle for us at all, let's stop doing it. We literally have no Facebook presence as a content company, and that shocks some people, but it's an intentional decision, right?

Henry:

Right, exactly. It's a very good call.

Lance:

All right. You're gonna get into some geek speak here, I think, with me. Talk down to me a little bit, treat me like a CEO that doesn't do this day in and day out. But what should my company be analyzing before we write a post? We say, "I don't want to just blog to blog because that's wasting time and Henry will make fun of me, but I want to blog to actually grow the company. I want my marketers to be pouring their effort into things that are measurable." What should I be analyzing now before we start writing stuff?

Henry:

If you feel like you're in the position right now where you're putting up company news, pictures from this event, all the things we said that are taking time but probably not doing much, and you want to turn the ship, and the next blog post you want to give yourself a shot at growing leads, look at three things in this order of priority: One is relevance to your persona.

To back up, if you don't have a persona really built out where you've interviewed some customers, you've talked to your sales people who really talk to these customers a lot, and prospects, and you haven't written out a persona about exactly what your target client is like, that's the first step. Once you have that in place, the next new blog post you put up needs to pass the test that it's relevant to them.

From all of our research, this is likely something we think they would research, look for online, and be interested to read about, and it would be helpful to their job. The company news doesn't pass the test because if I'm over here working at my company, I don't really care what other people are doing at a company I don't know about yet.

Lance:

Let me pause you right there, because we work in this, and we know that that's actually a key component of how we grow people's presence online, but it is so counterintuitive—different from your natural inclination as a company. We all want to talk about ourselves, we want to talk about what we do, how great we are, and yes there are some places in marketing for that sort of building credibility. But when it comes to driving organic traffic, you have to jettison all that, because ... if you can somehow see it from the perspective of your prospect (persona), now the playing field has changed. Now you're thinking like your customer. And that by itself is a huge, huge thing. And that has benefits beyond just blogging if you can do that.

Henry:

Yeah, it’s like a company-wide shift in thinking. Again, it’s about relevancy to that person you're trying to sell to, not relevant to you. So you don't project your own biases into blog posts, you do it for who you're trying to attract. If it's not relevant, don't move forward with the topic idea.

Then I look second at the competition level of the keyword. Again, if you make time management software, time tracking software, something like that, it's not good enough to say, "I found a keyword, it's ‘time management.’" You have to ask, "Does our site have a chance at ranking for ‘time management’ at its current level of authority?"

Competition level is always the second one, and you want to basically match up the competition level of the keyword with your website's authority. If they're both on scale between zero and 100, and you can get data on this in SEMrush, Google itself tries to hide it, but there are tools to find how competitive is this keyword, or how difficult is it to rank. If they're both on a zero to 100 scale, you should write about keywords that are lower on the zero to 100 scale than your authority level.

So the second checkpoint is—“We are an authority level of 30 out of 100, let's write about all keywords on the table that are relevant to our persona from zero to 29.” It's the simplest way to say, "We actually are putting ourselves in a position to potentially rank for this keyword, rather than we're writing about keywords we have no shot at."

Lance:

That's really good. I know what a lot of people think when they're writing for content, and especially if they've been blogging for a long time and they're not seeing anything, and they suddenly realize, "Oh, we should be writing about keywords." Typically, especially CEO types, think, "I want the biggest bang for my buck right now." So I think, "Well, my company is a content marketing agency, therefore my posts should all be about content marketing agencies." And what you're telling us is that's a defeating approach because I don't have the authority to ever rank for that, until I prove myself in other areas. Is that what you're saying?

Henry:

Yep, exactly. Pretty much, again, you go, "I have 10 posts to do over the next two months." Or whatever it is, whatever your output is. And if all 10 of those are targeting keywords that are too competitive for you, I can guarantee your traffic will not increase at all, and then therefore your leads won't increase at all. And that's picking out all the 10 biggest keywords in your industry.

You go after ten big ones and you get zero out of ten. Or, you go after smaller ones that are long-tail (just longer phrases, essentially) that give you a decent chance, and you get three out of ten ranking, and that increases your blog views by a few hundred. Now you go from 100 blog views to 400, rather than 100 to 100.

That competition thing is absolutely, insanely important. Don't just pick keywords that are big in your industry, pick the ones you have a chance of ranking for as well.

Lance:

I would love, maybe next week, to talk some about that process around the keyword. I know you've already written some stuff connecting it, we'll be sure we put a link to it in this post. That's huge.

You said relevancy and competition are the first two things. Anything more on competition, or are you ready to move on?

Henry:

The third one is search volume. How often per month is this keyword we're going after searched in Google. My hunch from talking to a lot of people is that people usually put that first. They think less about relevancy, and they think less about competition. I think it should go last. It's actually a number that Google has, and certain SEO tools surface it for example, “time management ideas for remote companies” is searched 90 times a month, something like that. “Time management” itself is searched 120,000 times per month. You have that data. You should actually put that last, because you’ve got to make the first two checkpoints of: "It's relevant to our persona, and we have a shot of ranking for it. Okay, third, we'll sort the list that checks out on those two by most search volume to least."

I've written about an example of a post before where, for a client, it got to one million views in three years—one individual blog post by itself. We set out, for that post, targeting a keyword with 390 searches per month. That would be low—when you're looking at big industry keywords, you're probably looking in the tens, or hundreds of thousands. Four hundred people, we just wanted a shot at 400 people to come out our site. It turned out we were getting 35 to 40,000 people a month to read it, because we ranked for that keyword, we ranked for a number of closely related ones, and we started ranking for about 50 closely related long-tail ones first, and scooped up all those people.

I just don't think search volume's as important of getting the right people to your site, and having a shot at getting those people to your site. And then third, start to look at volume.

Lance:

All right, those are some really practical takeaways. A couple times you mentioned SEO tools. Are there a couple of tools that, as a CEO, I should make sure my marketing team has access to that you found to be really useful?

Henry:

Yeah, one is a plugin that's free, called Keywords Everywhere. That's a really good start, where you actually search something in Google and it says the volume for that. And then at the bottom of Google where it says "related searches," it says all the volume and competition levels for those as well. And gives you related suggestions. That's really good ... while you're in your process working, having the data show up.

Lance:

That's cool.

Henry:

That's been a useful one. If you're looking to invest in the stuff more, SEMrush has been really valuable for us. You can plug in a website, for example, your own website, and it'll tell you everything you're ranking for in the top ten pages of Google—the first 100 results. You can say, "Well, we actually seem to be ranking on time management type of stuff, and we seem to always swing and miss on workload efficiency type of stuff," as your topics.

And you go, "So let's write more about time management for now, and see long term how we can grow our authority in another place." SEMrush is really good. Tracking your own keyword rankings, seeing keyword rankings for any site, including your competitors, you can see what they're ranking for and see if you have a shot at those.

Keywordtool.io is a cheaper one than SEMrush, and it does a good job of spitting out—okay, ‘time management’ is the biggest phrase in our industry, what are all the other phrases that have search volume that include ‘time management’ in the phrase? So you can find all those longer-tail opportunities.

Those are three right there, for under $200 a month that can you get going and in the right direction with your data.

Lance:

Okay, yeah that's really cool. All right, let's say we've got the data here, we've been looking at the data, relevancy, competition, and volume. How do we come up with the right ideas then? How do we come up with the creativity to create blog posts?

Henry:

When you're generating ideas, again this is a checkpoint to see where you're at with your blogging currently, because you should be looking at relevancy to the persona, then competition, then search volume. If all three of those check out, you should put down that keyword or group of keywords as a topic. And then you can figure out the title that includes the main keyword, and you can write it specifically for the persona. What is going to be interesting to this person from all of our research? Not what is interesting to me. Again, that's a very important distinction.

You're looking at all the keyword data that's driving your ideas. You're putting all the keywords in, and then you're building your title second for your persona. I think a lot of the ways people do it is they simply just brainstorm, or they go out and they see competitors that are blogging well, and they just do what they're doing. Or they have a session a month where they go on the whiteboard and, I'm sure it's fun to say, "What's a really creative blog idea?" And you just write down a list of blogs and put that in a document. If that's the way you're going about it, I bet your blog isn't contributing to the growth of your company.

It's led by keyword data, relevancy, competition, search volume, and then writing a title that brings all three of those together.

Lance:

Basically your data, or the keyword data is seeding the creative process and not the other way around. In other words, they all say, "Hey, it will be cool to write about ... Go see if there's any keyword volume around that.” Or, “Go see if anybody's searching that." Even if it works, you may be bringing the wrong people to the site, which doesn't really help in the long run.

Henry:

Yep. And the keyword data is numerical verification of what your personas are doing. When you come up with your own ideas you go, "This is what I think the persona wants." But the keyword data actually says 90 people per month want this. It verifies that people are wanting that topic rather than, "I have a really good idea for this same person," but there's no way to verify if that is actually in demand. It's really important to start with the demand of the terms first, which is the keyword data.

Lance:

Let's say I get this done as a CEO, my marketing team is now doing this research, they're coming up with topics based on the data—how do we track that we're succeeding or not? What are the metrics there?

Henry:

If you're writing about company news, company events, "here's a hire we just made,"—if you're writing that stuff, and you're getting the feel that's what's going on in your blog, you're probably looking at number of posts made per month, number of total posts—it's more output metrics than results. And you're potentially looking at blog views as the deepest performance metric.

What you really need to be looking at are things like views, of course, because that leads everything. Number of blog views per month, and compared to last month, and compared to last quarter, and all of those metrics. Blog leads: We define a blog lead as someone who, the first interaction they had with your website was a blog post. Not just that they came to the site from some other way, read a blog post, and then became a lead. It's that the blog specifically was the reason they came here, and then they became a lead.

You should be looking at blog leads by month, comparing that month to month. Blog leads by individual blog post; you should have a whole readout of... for instance, this blog post brings in 420 leads per month, this one brings in 360, this one brings in 80, and down from there. You should be tracking, really tightly, blog keywords that are ranking in the top three of Google results. You've probably heard you want to be in one of those top three results, or you aren't getting a lot of traffic to your site. I would say top ten as well, we report on, which is the first page of google. Going from page two of google, where no one goes, to page one is a big win.

Tracking all of those, and then if you get to a point where you have a lot of blog leads, you also want to report on down the funnel from there. What percentage of those leads turned into marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, opportunities? Anything like that. You're really looking at the performance of your marketing and your sales, applied to the blog. Rather than, "Are we putting up posts?” it’s “Are people viewing those posts?" You'd wanna look pretty deep at that stuff, and that's how you're going to figure out if you're doing it right.

Lance:

Cool. All right, we've done an awful lot here, talked about an awful lot. Little overwhelmed, if I'm the CEO, because I just realized why my marketing team is so busy, and yet we don't seem to be getting any additional traffic to the site, or leads, and I'm a little overwhelmed because this is a ton of stuff. If you were in a CEO's position that just heard this for the first time, what's the first thing—just give him the simple next step.

Henry:

I think you should go ahead and talk to Lance, the guy interviewing me.

Lance:

Oh nice. Exactly, right? Because it's so overwhelming, that's the problem, it's so much. But if you were gonna do a simple thing that's not Nectafy-related—even though I do think that's the solution to everything!—the guy that has a hammer, everything is a nail. What would be a simple thing they should do tomorrow?

Henry:

You should basically have access to, and then be able to pull blog views and blog leads by month over the last 12 months.

Lance:

You need some sort of an analytic thing.

Henry:

Yeah, that's your starting point to verify: "Are we getting anything? And if we're getting something, is it growing or shrinking?" And then that's a very simple checkpoint. One, if you can't get access to that, you're clearly not measuring it. If no one at the company is measuring it, it's probably not moving.

Lance:

That's huge.

Henry:

Secondly, once you do get access to it—obviously you're a CEO, you know how to read these charts. Make sure there's some growth going on, on both views and leads, and not like, it's grown 20 percent over the whole 12 months. You gotta be looking at, whether you’re making some meaningful steps, 10 percent at a minimum per month on average. And you should see some growth in there around some 50 percent months where there's some serious jumps.

Check the two most basic metrics of your blog over the last 12 months and see which direction they're heading. And then, I would say next, too, peg that versus your total leads. Simple as that. Twenty from the blog per month out of 200 leads total. What percentage of your leads come from the blog? And is that a meaningful number for the time you're spending on it?

I think that's very simple to go about doing that, and that's your first checkpoint I'd say.

Lance:

Okay. Summarizing back to you. It sounds like the first step, really, is about measuring.

Henry:

Yeah.

Lance:

Because until you start measuring, you have no way of knowing whether something's working or not. What are some tools, real quick? Even though everybody cares about their website and their blog, I'm still surprised at the number of people that literally have no tracking, no website analytics, or anything going on on their website. Just give us one or two things we could go look up, potentially put on our website, to give us this kind of data.

Henry:

There's a scenario where people have a tool like HubSpot, which is an inbound marketing software. They aren't using it, they've ambitiously set out to do marketing and blogging in the right way, and just haven't gotten around to it yet. But anyhow, if you have HubSpot or another marketing automation software, if something like that rings a bell, you can view all this stuff in there. Some sort of reporting module within your marketing automation software.

Or, the easier way to do it is check Google Analytics. You should have Google Analytics set up on your site; ask the marketing person if you do. If you don't, again, you're not doing this stuff right because that's a simple checkpoint. If you do, you'd go and grab at least views out of there, as simple as that, to your blog post as a very basic metric. And if you don't have Google Analytics, just google how to set up Google Analytics and get that on your site tomorrow.

Lance:

It's real easy. And, honestly, we've covered a lot today, we've thrown out things like "leads," and so forth. Chances are, if your company has just been blogging to blog, you probably don't even have the structures in place to generate leads. We're gonna have to save that topic for another day.

But basically, you busy CEO person, when you've realized you're blogging to blog and your marketers are spending a lot of time on it—step one, you gotta find a way to measure it. Get some analytics going, Google Analytics. And your marketing team may already be paying for some platform that's not actually reporting back. Chances are, they've done that and they're not showing you because the report is not very encouraging.

Henry:

Yeah, that could be a scenario.

Lance:

You've unloaded a boatload of information on us today, that's very cool.

I'm talking to you who are listening or watching this right now. If some of this seems a little overwhelming, this is the stuff we do day in and day out. Henry has actually helped many of our clients with his oversight to have ridiculous results, and grow very, very quickly, when, before, they were just blogging to blog. Even setting up what looked to be very aggressive content, strategy, and all of that. The results we're able to get following some basic principles are really straightforward.

If that's the case, just talk to us. Click the "Let's talk" button on the website, set up a time to talk. You can talk with me or I can pass you along to Henry, and we'll see if we can help you put some of this stuff in place.

Thanks for talking with me, Henry. It's been awesome.

Henry:

Thanks Lance, sounds good.

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