Back at the turn of the century, blogging was in a nascent state. Over the next five years, many individuals and news organizations discovered the benefits of blogging. And soon after, brands began to realize that creating content (actually they just called it blogging back then) could greatly benefit both SEO efforts and brand awareness.
Then -- somewhere around 2008 -- blogging took a back seat to social media, and all anyone could talk about was platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and, yes, even MySpace. Social media was all the rage, and blogging was, well, old and worn out.
Shortly thereafter, blogging saw a renewed resurgence when everyone began hyping the value of content creation which, of course, had already been around for hundreds of years in various incarnations. The point is, the resurgence of content -- and the abject failure of most other forms of online marketing -- brought about renewed interest in blogging and the development of content as a form of advertising and marketing.
The Blog Post as the New Ad Unit
With this newfound interest in content creation, the rise of inbound marketing, and the latest trend, native advertising, the lowly blog post has, once again, risen to prominence in the eyes of marketers who now see it as a powerful method to connect with prospects and customers by delivering valuable, educational, and useful information.
And that is why the blog post is the new online ad unit. While clickthrough rates (CTR) are not the only metric by which you can measure a banner ad's performance, typical online banner ad units achieve a CTR of 0.10% according to MediaMind's Global Benchmarks Report, and that figure is on a downward spiral due to banner blindness, among other things. Couple that with "blind" network ad buys that prevent a marketer from knowing exactly where their ads appear and limited ad real estate on which to place messaging, and you've got an online advertising system that is very, very broken. But all is not lost! Here's why the blog post is so beneficial to marketers -- and why the typical ad unit just won't cut it any longer.
13 Reasons the Blog Post Is the New Ad Unit
1) Blog posts are naturally optimized for organic search -- and longer lasting!
A high-quality blog post that includes relevant keywords will naturally get indexed in search engines, giving you another chance to rank for relevant keywords for your business and, thus, get found. And while placing pay-per-click (PPC) ads like AdWords in search engines can certainly contribute toward the growth of your brand, creating blog content that organically gets found in search is much longer lasting and far more cost effective than a expiring ad unit -- especially if your marketing budget is small.
2) Blog posts give you extended reach through social media.
By adding social sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. to your blog posts, you can make it easy for readers to share your blog content with their own networks in social media, extending the reach of your content far beyond just your business' fans and followers. Online ads in any flavor, on the other hand, simply aren't shareable in the same manner as blog content. Ever try sharing a banner ad?
3) Blog posts come with a permanent internet address.
Every blog post you publish automatically has its own permanent link (called a permalink) that not only can search engines index, but also that people can easily bookmark and share. Ever try looking for an ad you swore you saw the day before? Practically impossible, right?
4) Blog posts are hosts to other forms of media.
Blog posts don't only have to consist of text-based copy. They can also be host to images, video, and other visual content that can add more context and shareability to the content as well as create a better user experience. While standalone images from Flickr or individual videos on YouTube can certainly find an audience, a blog post can deliver that content to a much broader audience. And sure -- expandable banner ads can host multimedia content. But once the campaign is over, the content is gone. What good is that to a marketer? A blog post, however, lives forever.
5) Blog posts are magnets for prospects
A blog post on a particular topic can (and should!) include a clickable call-to-action that is related to the content of the post. Not only does this make it very easy for readers to obtain more content and information from you, but it also enables you to convert that reader from a prospect into a lead. Okay, yeah -- an ad can direct visitors to a landing page for one of your marketing offers. But just how much interesting, informative, educational, useful, and compelling information can you fit into an ad unit? Which do you think would be more effective at getting someone to click through -- a well-written, informative blog post that naturally leads the reader to the next step, or a pushy, intrusive ad?
6) Blog posts provide pathways to qualified lead generation.
Because blog posts are effective ways to drive traffic to your calls-to-action, blog content is extremely supportive of lead generation. And, in a sense, a blog post can also help naturally qualify your leads, since readers likely came to your blog posts because their interests were aligned with the topic of the post. While ad units can support lead generation, the overall traffic and conversions you'll generate from them just won't be as naturally qualified.
7) Blog posts are easily spreadable.
Once a blog post is written, it not only benefits from organic social sharing; it also gets released into the wonderful world of syndication. Whether that channel consists of avid readers following your content through RSS or new prospects reached through paid distribution channels and recommendation engines like Outbrain, blog content has the capacity to travel far and wide. Okay, so maybe just this once a paid approach can help you get more reach for your blog content. But remember -- you're distributing helpful content, not a lame banner ad.
8) Blog posts help grow opt-in email lists.
By offering email subscription to your blog content, your blog can easily help you grow your email list and contacts database as readers opt to receive blog content notifications by email. There are two clear benefits here: One, subscribers have indicated they have an interest in your business' content and, thus, will likely also be interested in your lead generating offers. Two, once they convert into a lead on one of those offers, they can become part of a more sophisticated lead nurturing process. So, have you ever used ad units to successfully grow your email list?
9) Blog posts encourage engagement.
Enabling comments on your blog posts encourage readers to offer their feedback and opinions as well as engage in conversations among other commenters. Comments bring added perspective to the post, and encouraging conversation can keep people coming back and engaging with your business -- as well as increase your content's reach. Ever engage with an ad unit? That's a laugh!
10) Blog posts naturally attract inbound links.
High-quality, remarkable, and compelling content is a great way to accumulate inbound links. The logic is simple: People naturally want to link to awesome content! And you know how powerful inbound links are for generating both referral traffic and better search engine rankings, right? A side effect of this, because blog content never expires like an ad campaign does, it can continuously help to drive organic and referral traffic -- and leads. Do search engines index ads? Have you ever linked to a banner ad? Do you have enough money to pay for an ad to run, well, forever? Of course not.
11) Blog posts increase website and landing page traffic.
Blog posts, which attract traffic through search engines, social networks, email subscriptions, or syndication, can direct visitors to your business' product pages and landing pages where you can capture visitors as leads. Sure, if you spend enough money, ads can certainly drive traffic to a landing page. But why spend the money when there's a better and more cost-effective alternative?
12) Blog posts can expose you to new audiences through guest blogging.
Blog content doesn't only have to be published on your own website. You can also create content for other blogs and media outlets in your market segment. Because of the power of content in marketing, publishers are always seeking high-quality content. And by contributing content to other websites, you can extend your brand and your thought leadership to a broader audience. Guest blogging can introduce you to a new, yet complementary audience and allow you to link back to your own website and content. Ever heard of guest bannering? Probably not. That's because most businesses want interesting, informative, educational, useful and compelling content, not third-party ads.
13) Blog posts contribute to a lifetime "backlist."
A recent blog post by Seth Godin highlighted the importance of creating a backlist. A backlist is a cumulative body of work (in this case, all the blog posts a brand has written) that forever lives on in people's bookmarks, search engine results, and favorites lists and continues to provide value (in a marketer's case, traffic, leads, and thought leadership) over time. Do you think anyone would find value in a collection of old online ads? Perhaps an advertising archaeologist -- but certainly not your customers.
Given all the benefits -- and clear superiority over online ads -- there's really no reason why most businesses shouldn't be investing in business blogging. Content is long-lasting. Content attracts qualified visitors. Content generates leads. Content helps convert those leads into customers. Just how effectively can a display ad do all that -- and everything else we talked about above?