A post by Brad Shorr, Director of Content Strategy at Straight North.

Is a company blog still a good strategy? Whether your B2B has had a blog for years or is thinking about launching one, this is a good question to evaluate thoroughly. Blogging soaks up a lot of resources, and if you are like most B2Bs, marketing budgets are spread thin and must be put to the best possible use. This article will help you answer this very important question by laying out the most important issues. As with most marketing questions, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Blogging for SEO Alone Has Limited Value

If the sole or primary objective of your company blog is to improve SEO, the resources you’re devoting to it can probably support SEO better in other ways.

Two things that must be done with a company blog are creating content and then marketing that content to build subscribers, traffic, backlinks and organic rankings. In some cases, company blog posts also target keywords not covered on the main company website.

The extent to which a company blog improves SEO results is very difficult to determine. Conventional wisdom holds that because Google values fresh content, blog content ranks well and improves the overall authority of a website domain. Look at your website analytics to get a feel for how much organic traffic is coming to your blog, and how many backlinks it is generating. If the numbers substantively exceed those of your main site, the blog probably is giving your SEO a lift.

There is no question that acquiring high-quality, relevant backlinks improves SEO results, as links are a major ranking factor for Google — perhaps the most important after web pages content.

With this in mind, you may achieve better SEO results faster by focusing on off-site content rather than publishing on your own blog.

When you publish content on industry-related websites and blogs with good reputations, it normally includes a link back to your website. Especially for B2Bs, where quality backlinks are hard to come by, the more you can build, the more distance you will put between your company and competitors.

By putting your creative resources into off-site content, and by using your marketing resources to find and pitch great publishers, you’ll get much more bang for your SEO buck than by publishing on your own blog and hoping it attracts backlinks.

Expand the Blog’s Objectives

Perhaps you conclude that more resources should be put into off-site content for link building, but you are reluctant to discontinue your blog for whatever reason(s). If this is the case, you can get a better marketing return on the blog by expanding its objectives beyond SEO.

What typically happens when a blog is being used primarily for SEO is the content is heavy on keywords and technical optimization, but light on substance. Yet, one of the most effective ways a B2B can use a blog is as a way to communicate expertise and credibility. If you expand the objectives of your blog to include this objective, several good things are likely to happen:

  • More customers and prospects will take time to read your blog posts.
  • More customers and prospects will share your blog posts with peers.
  • More sites and blogs in your industry will want to link to your content.
  • Customers and prospects will have more confidence in your company, which will improve both retention and new business acquisition.

The challenge is to create blog content with extremely high value. To do so, your content must be unique, authoritative, extremely helpful and extremely relevant. Think about topics in terms of what your customers and prospects always ask about and what industry-related topics are “hot” or confusing to customers. Read this to learn much more about creating high-value, “evergreen” content.

This blogging approach takes more effort than knocking out two or three superficial posts every week or month. However, if credibility building is your goal, fewer but better posts serve the purpose. And even though you’ll be publishing less frequently, the likely increase in traffic and backlinks will have a solid impact on SEO. Furthermore, your high-value content can be repurposed for further marketing use by converting it into downloadable PDFs, e-books and email campaign communication.

Social Media: The New Competition for Blogs

If you are using your blog to engage with your target audience, you should be aware that social media is replacing company blogs as a forum for online conversation.

In the early days of blogging (roughly 2000-2010), blog commenting was common, and for many company blogs the main attraction for readers. This is no longer the case; conversations have shifted to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social platforms.

Social media platforms have been altering their platforms to become more “blog-like.” For instance, Twitter recently doubled its character limit for tweets, and made it easier to create content threads. These are big changes that effectively make it easier for companies to create long-form content (just as you would in a blog post) — with the added advantage of easy interaction with readers. Another big development is LinkedIn articles, which has become an exceedingly popular long-form publishing platform for B2Bs.

Publishing original content on Twitter, LinkedIn and other social sites gives you perhaps a better chance to attract readers and boost engagement.

Should you drop your blog and publish exclusively on social platforms? Probably not.

There are definite downsides to publishing on social sites versus your blog:

  • Publishing on your blog could be more likely to generate backlinks; readers of your social media-based content may link to it there, but it won’t help your SEO much, if at all.
  • Attracting readers to your blog helps with conversions; when visitors are on your site, they are more likely to inquire via phone or your site’s contact form.
  • Publishing high-value content on social platforms puts you at their mercy. If the sites go offline, take down your content, change the level of its visibility (as Facebook is notorious for doing), you may end up getting less benefit for your content than originally expected. This issue is something to consider with off-site, link-building content as outlined earlier.

Evaluate With Care

Again, I’m making no attempt to give you a cookie-cutter answer to the question of whether and to what extent to use a company blog in your inbound marketing strategy. I hope that outlining these issues helps focus your evaluation — it’s a good idea to formally and thoroughly review your blogging strategy once every year or two. The online terrain changes rapidly, and the right strategy for today may be totally wrong in short order. Successful B2B inbound marketers are the ones who stay ahead of the curve.

Author Bio

Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, an SEO agency headquartered in the Chicago area. He has been an active B2B blogger since 2005.