Most inbound marketing literature says that to get started producing content (i.e. in order to attract more leads), you should begin blogging. And, don’t get me wrong, this is excellent advice. Blogs are a highly readable form of content that companies can use to demonstrate their thought leadership and give advice while gathering a following of subscribers. Usually, blogging involves opinion, explanation, and commentary on industry progress.
However, have you ever wondered why blogs are considered so effective for creating marketing content? Hint: It has nothing to do with their style, mode of writing, or visual look.
Publishing on a Blog vs. "Blogging"
The reason why companies should use blogs to publish their content is that, as a technology, blog tools enable marketers to publish articles with speed, regularity, promotability, and searchability. What started as a journaling tool for individuals wishing to share their thoughts with the world turned out to be the perfect solution for companies wishing to produce highly regular, easily created content that’s formatted to do the following:
Publish without technical skills required. Marketers can just write their copy, insert images similar to any word processor, select their keywords, and publish using a predetermined format and style. (Content producers don’t have to be technical wizards with a background in HTML and CSS.)
Improve SEO. By natively including all the right metadata—image alt tags, links, meta-description, etc.—blog tools automatically create pages that are optimized for search results. Unlike normal website pages, where these things have to be configured by a website manager, blog tools are usually optimized for SEO automatically and require little training for a content creation team.
Move quickly across social media, with pre-determined social share buttons, article recognition, featured images, etc. Social networking platforms recognize blog articles for the content-rich pages that they are and format the links to promote images, format titles, and display summaries.
Because of the ease and regularity of publishing using a blog, companies can produce more content, building more recognition and following. More pages produced regularly means more results to turn up in search and more keywords to drive potential leads to your pages. Using a blog enables companies’ social sharing and lead nurturing operations, which help take leads deeper into the marketing funnel.
This holistic role of content that is published regularly with quality is the most important reason why inbound marketers promote publishing blogs—and why it's worth following the advice!
However, I'd argue that publishing a blog is not the same as "blogging." Since businesses began developing blogs, the kind of content published has become specialized and fairly genred. Business "blogging" is about demonstrating expertise, sharing advice, and offering free insights to leads and prospects. But, today, businesses should consider whether their "blogging" efforts actually fit the kinds of content creation their potential customers need. For instance, how valuable is sharing thought leadership in your industry? Are your prospects seeking out advice for their problems or just assurance that the products you offer will perform well? Is the best way to speak to your clients' needs in writing or in other forms of communication? Are your customers even the type that could or would access a blog and subscribe?
When companies think about these questions, they begin to realize that although blogging is an essential content creation strategy in marketing, it also has its limitations. Many businesses not only need to blog; they need other types of regular, rapidly published content too. For instance, service companies need to produce case studies and portfolios of current work. Product companies need specification pages and comparison guides. Other businesses might be looking for more interactive content, like infographics and virtual tours or even regular podcasts and video blogs.
There’s a wide array of content types that transverse and go beyond the kind of content we usually see in a blog. Yet, consider this: is there anything stopping you from using the convenience of a blog tool—with its regularity, speed of publishing, and pre-arranged setup—to produce other kinds of content that aren’t the same as your actual blog? The answer is no. Sure, most companies will keep a blog for publishing helpful, insightful articles. But, marketers would do well to manage other content types using the same technology to ensure consistent, easy-to-manage publishing.
In the following list, I’ll explain four ways that you can ramp up your content efforts and keep publication consistent by using a blog tool to produce non-blog article content. Yes, you’ll want to change formatting—remove the timestamps, authors, etc.—but by using the same blogging technology, your blog team will be able to produce more content at a faster rate without requiring extra learning.
1. Produce regular, up-to-date Case Studies and/or Portfolios
Nearly all companies should be providing their leads with examples of their work to encourage more consideration. But showing off past work tends to be one area of company websites that’s always lagging behind. One way to lower the barriers to creating more case study and/or portfolio content is to have each example published in a blog format. (This could be a secondary hosted blog, separate from your blog.) Provide images, media, written copy, etc., but don’t let a customized page by page design process slow you down. Given the timely nature of case studies, it just makes sense that they’re published in a blog format, and the ease of use of a blog tool will make sure you keep your portfolio current.
2. Produce a formal News & Media section
For many companies, earned media and outside publication will be just as important to earning leads as building a blog following housed on your website. One way to earn media but still gain SEO credit for the content is to both accept the link from a published article, then write your own news write-up and post it using a blog tool. Again, this would be separate from your normal blog, but it would be a great place to publish news and other announcements. Of course, be sure you’re not copy-and-pasting published copy and republishing it as your own; copied content will only damage your SEO value. However, if you have your own news release on a similar event, then you’ll get some secondary attraction value, and you’ll have a great highlights section of past accomplishments and mentions for your visitors to see!
3. Offer Resources — encyclopedia-like knowledge — for your industry
Another way to use a blog tool for non-blogging purposes is to pump out an encyclopedia of knowledge without the guise of an article or opinion piece. While blogs are great because they allow business leaders to demonstrate their expertise and strategic vision, another option could be to appeal to a wider audience in your target industry by giving very basic facts and figures.
Consider why Wikipedia and Merriam-Websters ranks so highly in search results. It’s because Google realizes that the content is pure in its helpfulness to searchers. Wikipedia isn’t marketing copy; it’s direct knowledge. If you’re a true knowledge leader in your industry, you could always try showing it by offering keyword-rich informational articles that aim to educate people on basic information. Your goal would be to rank high for defining your industry’s jargon terms and giving prospects the context they need to make informed decisions. Where do you think they’d start looking? By publishing each article with a blog tool and organizing it with topics’ lists and a search tool, any marketing team could lead their company in becoming a knowledge leader, with relatively little effort.
4. Organize and embed visual media while inserting SEO-valuable content.
I’ve noticed that a big point of pain for companies trying to do video and other kinds of embeddable content is that if they host the content off-site (which helps to save the page load speed), then they have trouble getting the SEO credit they want because the video doesn’t count toward the site’s content. Sure you can tag the page you put it on, but without any written content, the page’s value according to Google is somewhat limited.
Marketers can solve this problem by using a blog tool to publish each video, and making accompanying content that will help increase the page’s number of searchable terms. For instance, you could publish a transcript of the video. You could also create still shots and explain the context for the video. Enabling comments in the blog tool would help give the video a home on your site, and prevent redirection of your visitors back to the host (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo, etc.).
So, there you go. Four ways to create regular, high quality content in a blog, without actually “blogging.” When we marketers say that companies need to produce more helpful content, you don’t have to always try to write content aimed at helping. Sometimes, it’s good enough to just provide factual information or tell your company's story. Blog tools help marketers because they make content creation easier to produce on a day to day basis, but they shouldn't determine the direction of the content you produce.