There has been a continued push for corporate and even local business blogging since marketers started discovering the potential benefits several years ago. We're often told that a blog is where you put your content that doesn't necessarily sell your product, and that an offsite-blog is the way to go. In today's content marketing world, both ideas are wrong.
The one constant in internet marketing (and everything else in life) is change. Ideas that worked yesterday may not work today, but may work again tomorrow. It's the nature of the beast. Content marketing is a portion of internet marketing that has evolved rapidly over the years. In recent months, it has become arguably the most important component of an internet marketing strategy because both search engine marketing and social media marketing have become extremely dependent on the quality and style of content.
Blogging is something that every business should be doing. Many are. The challenge is that the concepts of the past are starting to become less valid. For example, many (including us) have said that blogging off of your domain either on a standalone URL or a subdomain of the primary was the best way to go. It allowed for more powerful link-building from a search perspective as well as giving an additional destination that wasn't tied into the primary website. In short, you put your business material on your website and your human material on your blog.
There were those who believed that bulking up the primary website by putting the blog as a subfolder of the primary domain was the way to go. Today, this is correct, but not for the reasons that most once argued. Blogging is no longer an appropriate SEO play, at least not from a "bulk" perspective. The concept that you should blog to get more pages for Google and Bing to index is antiquated. Yes, you should be putting high-quality content on your website, but blog content in the traditional format doesn't quite qualify. Putting content on your website on or off the blog and using it as individual content "hubs" is the (current) right way to do it.
That can change. It almost certainly will. Thankfully, it's not one of those strategies that must be unwound later when things change.
Defining the Blog Versus Site Content Strategies
Whether you put the content on your normal website template or add it to a folder such as "/blog" is determined by a few different factors. There are several different strategies to consider; here are a handful:
- Blog-Only - With this strategy, every piece of content that you publish that isn't directly associated with selling, business information, or other services goes on the blog. This is ideal if you don't publish very often.
- Blog "Fun Stuff" and Put Other Content on Your Website - If you're busting out a good flow of content on a regular basis, you may choose this strategy. In it, you'll post "fun" content such as employee-of-the-month or customer-highlights on your blog, but relevant content of general interest on your primary website. The example to the right uses this strategy. In it, a Hyundai dealership posts a promotional video and interesting images of a concept vehicle. This is relevant but not directly associated with selling anything in particular.
- No Blog - The old ideas of what blogging should and shouldn't be have been blurred over the years. Just about any type of content can go on a blog, but that same content can find a place on the primary website as well. Rather than a chronological posting style, this technique employees categorization in the menu. If you post a customer testimonial, it goes in that category. If you then post a video and images of a concept car, that goes in another category. It doesn't matter when they were posted; both get equal treatment in the menu bar.
Once you've established a style, it's time to get the content out there.
Content Size is Important But Not a Guiding Factor
The biggest mistake that marketers make with blogging is to believe that there are size constraints. Some want all of their posts to be 300-words, 500-words, or larger. Others like to keep it quick and easy. In reality, content is content and as long as it brings value to the visitor, it's worthy regardless of size.
That does not mean that you should post only a paragraph or two with every blog post. Just because it's not a make-or-break deciding factor doesn't mean that you should opt for the shortcut. Let your content size be determined by the potential value it brings. If you have a killer video that tells the whole story, a paragraph will probably be enough to make it a valid piece of content. The video is the star of the page in that scenario, so highlight it.
On the other hand, a resource list of tools that people can use to buy a car should be more than just a list. Describe the pros and cons of each tool. Give a little history about them. Describe why you believe one tool is better than another tool for certain needs.
Above all, remember that high-quality, unique content is what you should be striving for in each piece that you create. Bring something to the table. It's better to spend the time to make a page that people will want to share rather than posting unworthy bulk content over and over again.
Say what you need to say to bring value. No more. No less.
The Importance of the Hub
The hub and spoke model has been used in business, government, and life in general for centuries. You have a centralized focus point from which other components can branch out and draw their strength.
You website content should be your content marketing hub. Some have chosen to turn other tools into their hub such as Facebook, niche communities, or even Tumblr. These strategies can be effective if done right. Doing it right is the challenge; they are extremely difficult to pull off, particularly in a retail setting. Complex strategies surrounding these different styles may prove to be the best way to go in the future, but today the benefits do not outweigh the drawbacks.
Using your website (whether through a blog or your primary website itself) is by far the easiest way to get both a search and social benefit from the content you create. Depending on resources, time, and the type of business you're running, creating your content hub can be approached from different directions but the end result is the same:
Make your website sharable.
Your goal is to put content on your website that others will be willing to share. The various types of social media sites out there give you a tremendous pool of potential share venues. Facebook and Twitter are the most common, but one mustn't forget Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, and some of the other social sites out there.
A website that gets shared on social media gets benefits from three fronts. The first is obvious; any time your website is shared there's a chance that people will come and visit it. Depending on the power and reach of the profiles sharing it, you might get a nice spike in traffic. Even though it's the most obvious, it's also the least important. Visitors are nice, but those who come from social media shares are often the lowest value.
The second is becoming more important every day. Social signals are important to Google and Bing in their search rankings. They're becoming more important with every update. The more your website content is shared, the better the domain can rank.
Notice that I said, "the better the domain can rank."
It's not just the page itself that gets a benefit from your efforts. The domain gains credibility from the shares. If you're a car dealer, there's a good chance that people are not going to share an inventory details page of a vehicle they just found. They're not going to share your service appointment page. They're not going to share your oil change specials.
They will, however, share an interesting video and great images of a Hyundai concept car that they found on your website. By sharing this and similar pages, the search engines give it an authority bump.
The final front from which social media sharing can help is in sheer public perception. This is of light importance today but will grow in coming months as the social sites focus on domain shares. What's happening is this: widgets and apps are displaying "most shared" or "other pages from this domain" on the social sites themselves as well as offsite. The perception that content is sharable on a particular domain is going to become more valid in the near future. If your website has lots of good content that people have shared, they're more likely to explore your website. Again, this is minor today but is growing in importance.
In upcoming articles, we will cover:
- How to make content that people will want to share
- Finding content ideas by exploring
- The proper content sharing structure to gain maximum exposure
- How to build power accounts that can make "going viral" a possibility
In the meantime, keep reading everything you can about content marketing. It's not just the future. It's already here. Those who do content marketing properly are able to bypass traditional search engine optimization and social media marketing strategies because the content can be positioned to do all of the work for you.