One of those clients recently posted an article about how blogging (or the lack of) had impacted his sales. This spawned a discussion in the comments about topics for blogging, how often to blog, etc. I gave a response, but then thought perhaps I should address this issue a little more formally.
I’m not going to talk about how to write blog articles. There are tons of sites out there that do a much better job of that than I will. For those interested, I recommend Copyblogger and Grokdotcom for starters. What I want to talk about is why you should blog, what it does, and how it improves your sales.
You can blog for all kinds of reasons. Some do it for purely personal reasons with no intention of financial gain. Others do so specifically for financial gain, and the strategy behind that is what I’m going to talk about.
Blogging does a number of things. It brings in new leads, it builds a rapport with your target audience, and it provides a platform for your product. It’s usually comprised of mid-size to long articles between 500 and 1,000 words — but certainly not limited to that. Author John Scalzi is known for a lot of quick posts highlighting pics, quotes or external articles on his blog. It’s driven mostly by what kind of writer you are and what topic you’re writing about.
After an article is written and posted, a lot of things start happening. Search engine crawlers pick it up and analyze it. It goes out on RSS to your existing readers. If you have social networking share buttons (every blog should have these!), they get clicked on and your content starts to make it’s way across the social web. Through these methods, it percolates out through the web and beckons readers — new and old — to come and read it.
To read it, they come to your website. That’s what you want. On the web, the website is the key. Think of the website as your storefront and the bog article as the flyer/coupon that brought someone inside. Once they’re there, you want them to do something. Doesn’t matter if it’s to buy your book, sign up for your newsletter, or click on an affiliate link — you need them to do something. We call this a “call to action.”
How your website is designed will help you with your “action.” There are a number of design oriented topics that we can dive into here, but we’ll save that for another post. The key takeaway here is you need to get people to your website. That is your home turf. That is the purpose of your blog.
What Blogging Does
Blogs are superior to tweets and Facebook posts because they have more length and greater searchable content. When you post something through twitter, it’s fast — for many, it’s too fast. If you follow more than a dozen people, it’s easy to miss things on twitter — especially is some of those you follow are prolific tweeters. Same for Facebook — I doubt if I see a tenth of the posts on my Wall from the hundreds of people I’m friends with. But a blog is more static. I rarely miss a post from the sites that I follow.
The searchable part is the real key to understanding what blogging does for your business because that’s how you bring in new readers. Here’s a couple of examples:
One project I’m working on is a comic book focused on military fiction. As it’s graphical, it’s hard for search engines to grasp (not enough text to analyze). To make things easier on my readers, I put up a page outlining all of the military ranks of the four branches of service. That page of ranks is, by far, my most viewed page as far as new visits to the site are concerned. It quickly made the first page of Google search results and I get hundreds of hits a day from it. About 10% convert and read the rest of the site. That’s not too bad by most standards. Another huge draw for another site was a review I did for reading comics on the Nook Color — it was number one for “Comics on Nook Color” in Google and, again, got me hundreds of hits a day with about 10% converting.
Its the ability for search engines to allow new readers — readers who have never heard of you and may have never even been looking for you in the first place — to find you that demonstrates the purpose, and power, of blogging. Of course, once you’re found, the quality of your content and the layout of your site will dictate your conversion rate (aka how many sales you make). But the key is to get discovered, and in a world of billions of web pages, you need to use every trick you can to break out.
Would you rather buy something from a stranger or from a friend?
Most people prefer to buy things from people they know and trust. In the wide web, how do you get to know someone? By reading what they write. What has a greater ability to convey a meaningful position: a 140 character tweet, a 50 word Facebook post, or a 1,000 word article?
I’m pretty sure you know the answer to that one.
In addition to bringing in new readers through search and sharing, blog articles convey a sense of the person writing them. Are you knowledgeable? Are you honest? Are you funny? Are you a good writer? Add in the ability to respond to commenters and your potential to create a rapport with your readers expands tremendously. Blogging allow you to intimately engage with your readers — and you’ll be surprised how far that goes in terms of sales.
The Wrap Up
So there you go — you use your blog to get people to your website so you can sell them stuff. You do that by writing solid articles about topics that interest you, ensuring those articles have good SEO (search engine optimization), and by encouraging and engaging commenters.
If you want to learn more about effective blogging, I honestly recommend the “Internet Marketing for Smart People” course from Copyblogger. It’s a 20 part free course that comes to you through email. It’s worth your time. I also recommend the Shoe Money Course, also free (it looks cheesy, but it’s actually pretty good for beginners). These are good resources. Some other resources that don’t require joining a newsletter is Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsh, and People Buy You by Jeb Blount.