Why Your Blog Is Failing

blog-letters-1Once in a while I'll hear from someone who's sold on the value of business blogging, starts doing it, and then doesn't see any results.

This isn't because they're looking for overnight results -- they've probably waited 3-6 months, but they still aren't seeing a meaningful quantity of traffic and leads come through.

Their blog is failing.

Here are the most common reasons I see for why that might happen. There are other circumstances a blog could fall victim to, to be sure. There are also a million other little things you can do to make your blog more successful -- adding social sharing buttons, creating email subscribe boxes, writing better titles, publishing more visual content, optimizing your image selection, etc. This post won't talk about those. These are the macro-level problems I always look at first when troubleshooting a failing blog. And 9 times out of 10, one (or more) of the following reasons is to blame.

You're using your blog as informal PR.

Business blogs trying to drive traffic and generate leads need educational, helpful content to be at the core of their content strategy. A blog with the periodic post about a new product launch, a new executive hire, or a new round of funding is fine; a blog fed with exclusively that content will fail to bring in a new audience to fill the funnel.

People that don't know you don't care about you. Yet. Save that content for contacts further down the funnel, and rebalance your content to be education-heavy.

You're writing too much "thought leadership."

I think we've all done a disservice to businesses trying to blog by harping on "thought leadership" so much, because the term implies some sort of inaccessible pontification that every business must be doing to gain the trust of their readers.

"You must create the universe in your customer's internal persona to understand their outer needs."

That doesn't mean anything.

In reality, inaccessible pontification is just that -- hard to understand and completely impractical. Rethink how you think about the term "thought leadership." (Or better yet, just stop saying it entirely, because the term's a little creepy.) Bring down the high-falutin' intangibles to relatable, real-world problems -- and then give your readers answers to those problems via blog posts. That's real "thought leadership."

You're blogging about the wrong things.

The "right" things fit two criteria:

  • It's something your target persona cares about
  • It's something your product or service can help solve

By way of example, we often get pitched topics about how to code a mobile app. This seems like it might be in our wheelhouse, because it falls under mobile marketing. But it's actually adjacent to our target persona and product offerings, not overlapping. That's because our target persona isn't a developer; he or she is a marketing leader or practitioner. And our software doesn't help you code a mobile app; it helps make your website responsive for mobile readers.

Most businesses struggling to get their blog off the ground aren't failing because they're choosing topics like "10 Reasons I'm Not on Board With Clooney's Engagement" for their marketing software company; it's because they're choosing topics that are just a little bit off from what their persona needs and what their solution can deliver.

The quantity and quality aren't jiving.

Like my colleague Shannon Johnson said in one of my favorite blog posts of 2014, "If you create too much, you’ll probably burn out and/or your quality will suffer. If you don’t create enough, you might have world-class stuff that is too infrequent to be relevant or impact your business."

This is the quantity vs. quality debate summed up in a nutshell. It plagues every business out there, and it's an unwinnable battle. But it doesn't mean it's not worth the fight. 

Here's the reality: You'll need to hit a certain quantity and quality threshold to make blogging work for you. But that balance is different for everyone. The more competitive your space, the more quantity and quality will matter. The less competitive, the less you'll have to blog to get noticed (and you'll find less-than-perfect content is more easily forgiven, too). You've got to find that balance, which means tinkering with each end of the scale until you find the balance that works for you.

It's not structurally sound.

I came across a real-life instance of this the other day. I was really excited to see a favorite restaurant of mine blogging, and realized their posts weren't opening up to different URLs. So every post was essentially hosted on their blog homepage.

The other common structural issue? The blog isn't hosted on your site. That means every time a visitor reads your blog content and gets really excited about doing something with your business, it's a lot harder for them to work with you, because they're not on your site yet.

If you're investing in blogging, put that blog on your site, and make each individual post its own page so you can grow your search engine traffic.

You don't have enough offer variety.

A lot of business blogs may be winning the traffic game, but losing the lead-gen game. Assuming you're putting calls-to-action on your blog posts, this could be due to a lack of relevant offers. Let's take HubSpot as an example. If we write about email marketing, landing pages, SEO, and blogging, we should have one offer about each of those subject matters.

But what if we don't have offers for each of those subject matters?

We could do two things: Create one offer that covers all of those subjects until we have time to write more targeted offers (e.g. How Marketing Can Turn Strangers Into Customers), or only blog about the one subject matter for which we do have an offer (say, landing pages, for example).

Both of those solutions are alright, and if you can't create a bunch of new offers right now, you should take one of those routes. But often, a business will add variety to their blogging without adding variety to their lead gen offers. That results in a post about SEO with an offer about landing pages -- and a confused reader that doesn't convert.

If you need help creating offers quickly to add variety to your library, visit:

You're running your blog based on out-of-date SEO advice.

The problem with SEO is it changes all the time. My colleague wrote a helpful post on how to stay up to date on all the changes, which I recommend reading if this sounds like a problem that hits close to home.

There are still business blogs peppering keywords, including spammy anchor text, pitching low-quality guest blogs on tangentially related sites looking for an inbound link. This isn't the stuff of 2003. This is the stuff of my inbox this morning. And it's because SEO best practices are easy to keep up with when it's your entire job; they're not so easy to keep up with when it's 1% of your job, if that.

If I had to describe modern-day SEO in one sentence, it'd be this: Solve for the reader first, search engines second.

(And also use social media.)

Your company's not bought in.

Blogging can be a cultural hurdle for some, and even if you're 100% bought in and dedicated to your business blog's success, sometimes that isn't enough. A lack of buy-in can manifest itself in diminished resources for your blog -- both in terms of budget allocation and how much time your company will allow employees to spend on the activity. Even if you apply some grit and good old-fashioned elbow grease to get your blog off the ground, it may not be enough without sufficient internal support, and it can be psychologically trying to be the only one who cares about a project.

If you're dealing with this, your blog needs you to act as its internal champion. And the best way to champion a new tactic is through education. I'd take two angles here:

It might not actually be failing.

How much traffic do you really need? Do you know? How many leads does your sales organization need? Do you know? What are your business' growth goals? Do you know?

If you backtrack a definition of success based on your company's growth goals and how Marketing will contribute to that, you can get at what "success" and "failure" look like for your blog.

How many opportunities do you need to create for Sales to hit their monthly revenue number? How many leads do you need to create to feed that number of opportunities? How many leads is your blog supposed to generate compared to your other marketing channels? And finally, how much traffic do you need to drive to your blog generate that number of leads?

If you need help calculating that number, use this Excel calculator to help establish your monthly growth targets.

But you might find your blog is actually better off than you think.

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