Every month, I run a new hire training class on blogging. While many of the people in that class know why blogging is important for business growth, I'm supposed to teach it as if that's not the case. That's because we never want to assume everyone understands inbound marketing just because we live and breathe it every day, and this class is meant to equip everyone with the ability to explain a core tenet of inbound -- business blogging -- to anyone that asks.
Fresh off the heels of last month's training class, I realized it's a little ridiculous that I've never written a post that explains business blogging in those terms on this very blog. If you search for the content we've published on blogging, it runs the gamut from thought leadership, to optimization tips, to practical tips, to nitty gritty advanced nuances. But I never simply wrote about why it works.
So ... here's why it works.
First, let's get on the same page about what a blog is.
Here's my favorite definition of a blog, with the most important parts to understand in bold:
A blog is a website with frequently updated content about a specific keyword- or bottom-line-oriented topic.
A blog must be updated frequently -- so it's not a static part of your website, like your homepage or your About page.
And it's about a specific topic -- not anything/everything in the wide world. For example, this blog writes about inbound marketing, because we sell inbound marketing software. We don't write about dog grooming, fashion, or securing a low rate for your home loan -- because we don't sell anything related to any of those things.
Okay, so who reads blogs?
Well, lots of people, but for the purposes of this post, let's focus on the two important groups:
- Search Engines: Search engines like Google "read" blogs to learn what your website is about, so they know whether they can return any of your website pages to their users who perform searches. For example, Google reads our website, so it knows it can return this blog post if someone searches "Why does blogging work?"
- Potential Customers: Potential customers read blogs to find helpful industry content.
Now you may be saying to yourself, "my potential customers don't read blogs." Au contraire, my friend. You might be right to say that your potential customers don't subscribe to blogs. But that doesn't mean they don't stumble upon blog posts when they're doing research online.
For example, when I was looking to buy a new TV, I went to Google to perform some research to figure out what my best option would be. I learned from technology bloggers what my best options were, and then went to make a purchase based off their advice.
I don't subscribe to any of those tech blogs -- and I may not always even realize what I'm reading is a "blog" -- but I use blogs to figure out where I want to spend my money.
Knowing all that ... why does blogging work to grow your business?
Because blogging helps you grow traffic and trust. Let me break down what I mean by each of those.
Blogging helps you drive more traffic to your website.
Every time you publish a blog post, it's a new opportunity for someone to find your business' website and learn who you are. Said another way, it's an opportunity to drive traffic to your website.
For example, every time I write a blog post on this very blog about inbound marketing, it creates an opportunity for someone that needs help with inbound marketing to find that post about inbound marketing, and learn who HubSpot is. The more blog posts I create, then, the more chances I have to introduce HubSpot to someone new. A business that has 100 blog posts is creating 100 new opportunities to get their website found online. A business that has 500 blog posts is creating 500 new opportunities to get their website found online.
Blogging -- as a format -- provides those chances like no other part of your website allows, because every blog post you publish is a brand new URL. Think about how many new page URLs you can add to your website without a blog. Hmmm ... an About page. A Jobs page. A Product/Service page. What else? After a while, you're gonna start scraping the bottom of the barrel. But if you have a blog, you have endless opportunities to create new page URLs that can be ranked in search and discovered by people that didn't know about your business yet. A blog gives you endless opportunities to get found online.
Not only does blogging helps you get more traffic to your website -- it helps you get really good traffic. How? Because you can write about things that will bring in the type of lead you want to sell to. That's why we don't blog about dog grooming and home loans. We blog about inbound marketing -- because we have something to sell to people that are interested in doing inbound marketing. Blogging helps you tailor the audience you bring in to your website, so they're people that would conceivably purchase your product or service.
Blogging helps you establish trust.
Who would you rather buy a car from ... someone that's taken the time to educate you about cars by providing free, unbiased, educational content, or someone that you've never met or spoken to before in your entire life?
The former, right?
Blogging helps put you in that camp. People buy from people they know and trust. (And hopefully, like.) By investing in creating content that helps answer questions for your target customer, you're establishing a trusting relationship that makes them more comfortable investing in you as a business partner or solution provider.
Look, traffic and trust are nice, but what I really want are leads.
That's what blogging helps you get!
You know how we talked about blogging opening up opportunities to bring in new traffic? Every person that lands on your website represents an opportunity to generate a new lead, too. If you write a blog post that 100 people read, you have 100 opportunities to turn those readers into leads by putting a call-to-action on that blog post. That call-to-action is anything that asks the reader to exchange their contact information for something -- like a free ebook, a free checklist, a free consultation, etc.
So, after someone is done reading a blog post about inbound marketing on this blog, they might want to learn more about it. If they do, they can find the call-to-action at the end of the blog post that offers a free ebook about inbound marketing, and fill out a form to receive it. That person is now a lead, and they might end up becoming a customer one day.
The cherry on top?
Blogging is the gift that keeps on giving. Once you publish a blog post, it's out there on the internet working to bring in new traffic and leads forever. So even if we published a post several years ago about inbound marketing, people can still find that post in search engines like Google, or on social media if people still share it after reading it themselves.
In other words, blogging can literally help you generate leads for your business while you sleep. The work you put in today can generate results for years and years to come. (Compare that to PPC -- when you turn off the money, the traffic and leads turn off, too.)
It helps me to think of blogging as an annuity. If you publish one blog post today, it might drive, say, 50 visits. That's great, but it'll trickle off over time to say, 10 visits month-over-month -- which can seem depressing after that initial traffic influx. That's why you don't look at individual blog post performance in a silo. If you look at the gains your blog posts make over time as you publish post after post after post, those visits will stack on top of each other as they rank in search. Now you have a diverse portfolio that's driving consistent returns month after month -- with no extra work on your part.
So if you ever feel guilt about taking a vacation, just tell people not to worry -- your blog posts will take care of things while you're gone.