I was surprised recently to read about how blogging was making a comeback as one of the most critical parts of a company’s marketing strategy. And when I say surprised, I mean I hadn’t realised blogging had ever stopped being one of the most critical parts of a company’s marketing strategy.
But it did make sense of a couple of conversations I’ve had in the last month or so with two different engineering business owners, who told me they’d never seen the point of blogging.
Now, I know engineers will go a long way to avoid contact with anything that has even the faintest whiff of marketing, but I assumed by now everyone in business knew the benefits of a well maintained blog.
Still, I’ve been wrong before (it was on a Thursday, I think) so I thought I’d delve a little deeper into how this thing I had no idea had gone away is, in fact, having a resurgence.
Is Blogging The George Lucas of Content Marketing?
Anyone here remember the original VW Golf GTI? Or, if you’re a little older, (or have an interest in great cars) the first E-Type Jaguar? Both, in their own ways, revolutionary cars. They were pure, they were iconic and they were both built with passion for, and by, people who loved driving.
But what happened? The Golf and the Jag grew fat and heavy over the years, gorging themselves on more and more toys and gadgets until the very thing that made them what they were, their personality, the fun they gave to the driver, was lost.
How about the original Star Wars trilogy? Three of the greatest, most ground-breaking movies ever made. Not because of the special effects or the light sabres, and certainly not because of the script or the Ewoks, but because of the story. Good against evil, light versus dark, heroes against villains.
And then we have the prequels! Where to even start?! They got so caught up with the style, and with stuffing them with so much CGI, that there was no substance. It was impossible to relate to any of the characters because there were no personalities to root for.
Over the years, there have been a number of these great innovations that enjoyed mind-boggling early success and went on to lose their way, by forgetting the very reason they were introduced in the first place; providing people with an experience, with value.
The one thing all those great innovations had in common was they eventually lost the human factor. They became all about the content and less about the people.
Business blogging is another victim. When it first appeared in the 1990’s (remember them?) it was one of the most powerful tools businesses had to attract and grow an audience online, and they did it by having a clear and recognisable personality providing valuable content to their potential customers.
But traditional businesses, dragged into this online world whether they liked it or not, never seemed to get along with the term ‘business blogging’. Blogging was still something that starving artists and angst-ridden teenagers did.
So around 2008, business blogging started to be referred to with the catch-all term ‘content marketing’, a much more acceptable name at the corporate level, but one that somehow managed to suck the ‘people’ aspect out of what was being created and make it all about the content.
It then became a race to the top of Google. Endless amounts of content was being produced in order to rank well, because with earlier search engine algorithms, more content = better rankings. So, many businesses started cranking out a blog post every day, sometimes more.
There is now a lot of content.
Is it all valuable? Does it all not only answer your questions, but do so in a personable and relatable way?
But gosh, would you just look at it all!
Because even the most interesting business only has so much to say, a lot of it is ‘veneer content’—highly optimised but with the depth of undercoat.
In the never-ending marathon to generate more and more content and reach the first page (long after Google had changed its algorithms to reward quality over quantity) the needs of the reader got somewhat lost in the noise.
Now, it seems, the backlash has started.
Businesses are coming to realise something fairly vital to their success is getting left behind in this age of machine written, wafer-thin fluff; their audience.
Who’s Doing it Right?
The most successful company blogs answer the questions that keep their customers awake at night.
It sounds simple, but it isn’t.
To do it effectively, you first have to be able to interact. You have to know who your customers are. Then you have to know what they’re asking. Then you have to know the answer.
That answer has to be written by someone authoritative and relatable and you then have to make that answer findable.
Those combined elements make up a successful blog, but they’re certainly not universal. There’s still a lot of corporate blogs filled with content-lite, zero calorie information that’s no use to anyone.
The big winners at the moment are the ones turning their backs on the idea of posting daily pieces regardless of whether they’re useful or not, and instead producing in-depth, meticulously researched, long-form content.
They know the information their customers and potential customers are after, and they’re giving it to them—and it’s valuable stuff.
I’ve picked out a few examples of some of my favourite business blogs below. These are the ones who have really put in the effort to know what makes their customers tick and are using their platform to create real relationships.
“I can’t wait until that new blog post about accounting and bookkeeping comes out,” said literally no one ever.
Anyone who uses Xero accounting software knows it’s a great product, but how do you fashion a blog around it that people would actually want to read? The answer’s actually in the question; you make it about the people. With an increasingly huge number of us deciding to take the plunge into setting up our own business and going freelance, the range of different stories on offer is pretty much limitless. Xero showcases the successes of their customers, which act as invaluable guides for others going through similar circumstances. All written with a positive, upbeat tone of voice, it’s one of the most engaging blogs around.
Winning top marks on several fronts, Starbucks manages to provide a wealth of fascinating information, put across with a very human voice, and scores some great interaction points with its readers at the same time. Focussing the spotlight on the people who make the business what it is, from coffee farmers to cup designers, lets them tell the company story without it sounding like it’s being written by a faceless corporation. And their loyal customer base is invited to submit their own ideas for new drink flavours, snacks, packaging designs and tax avoidance schemes. (Not the last one.)
Whatever you might think of them as a company, reading Ryanair’s blog is a surprisingly warm and personable experience. Even more incredibly, they don’t charge you for it.
The comprehensive destination guides are full of useful insider information, written by knowledgeable and experienced travel writers, and there are tips on everything from the best way to pack light to which cities to visit when you’re dead broke.
When social media was in its budding heyday, many companies felt there was no need to run a blog as well to build their online presence. But with all the social platforms continuing to change their algorithms and make content harder to find, savvy businesses are heading back to the early days of blogging and enjoying the rewards that go with it. When you’re writing the stuff that people want to read, they’ll read it, they’ll share it and they’ll engage with it.
It not only builds your reputation as an industry authority, it keeps readers on your website longer, something that doesn’t go unnoticed by Google, who will start to bump up your rankings.
The second wave of blogging is well and truly underway, which can only be good news for companies and their customers.
Short of going out and meeting each and every one of your potential clients face to face, an engaging, well written blog is the best way to engage with your audience.
Providing comprehensive and valuable information builds the kind of relationships and secures a level of trust that no amount of tweeting can compete with.
If your blog has been left behind in the last few years, now’s the time to shake the dust off its boots and get it performing again.