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Hearty congratulations are in order in light of a big milestone that the Econsultancy blog team has reached, having for the first time surpassed 1m page impressions in a calendar month. Not bad for a niche B2B publishing operation!
That said, we don’t create content simply to generate page views. The blog team contributes so much more to our business. I shall explain why.
A recent study found that only about a third of Fortune 500 companies maintain a blog, a statistic that I find perplexing, so I thought this might be a good time to remind ourselves – and you, dear reader – of why we blog, and what it’s doing for us.
We launched the blog in 2006, after deciding to divert a limited PR budget towards the hiring of full-time writer. We thought that it would be better to create our own content, rather than paying PRs to try to persuade journalists to write about us. PR is tough, and pull beats push, for all sorts of reasons.
I’m of the view that in-house writers offer the best bang for your buck, and slowly but surely we expanded our team, to ramp up the amount of content we publish. They are Graham Charlton, David Moth, Matt Owen, Ben Davis and Christopher Ratcliff, and I salute them all.
It is worth pointing out that content comes in many different shapes and sizes. You need to know your audience, and create some editorial parameters for the team to adhere to. Exceeding 1m random page impressions can be relatively easy, but it is much harder to attract highly targeted traffic.
In short, we have found that it makes plenty of sense to invest in a team who are capable of creating laser-guided content, and to produce plenty of it.
The business case
Page impressions are great. They’re a good metric and reflect growth, but there are four other equally (or more) important areas that are key to ROI.
This, for me, is the big one. 'Team Content' supports the company’s search marketing goals in a number of ways. There are two main strands of attack.
Firstly, we research and target keyphrases that we want to rank for. There are many success stories that I could share with you, some more surprising than others. This always requires a bit of thought and firm commitment, but publishing lots of tactical content is my number one SEO tip.
Secondly, we habitually add internal links to our posts, which help prop up other pages on our site. If you do this in an organic – rather than automated – way, and mix things up a bit, you can achieve excellent results. A blog can help to strengthen the foundations of your website, from Google’s perspective.
All of the above allows us to avoid retaining a search agency, or spending considerable sums of money on paid search every month. For example, at a cost of 25p per click we’d be spending around £70k a month to attract the same amount of search engine referrals. Big money.
So, from where I’m sitting a vast chunk of sales that originated via search engines should be attributed to Team Content.
Content underpins a lot of brand-related activity on the social platforms, which we use to distribute our articles and messages. We listen and chat too!
Many social platforms are free but you need people power to extract the best from them. We invested in this area by hiring Matt Owen, who is our Head Of Social. He spends a lot of time orchestrating and curating our content, while listening to heavy metal.
Social channels bring in a lot of traffic, although much of this is obscured in Google Analytics (filed under ‘Direct’). We estimate around half of our blog traffic comes in via the likes of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
It’s also worth noting that blogging is inherently social too, and more so if you accept comments.
One of the main reasons why I launched the blog was to soften the tone, as although we have ‘consultancy’ in our brand name we don’t have a ‘sharp suits’ dress code and nor do we use big words when little ones will do.
The blog also allowed us to explore subjects close to our heart in a more casual way. Indeed, I’m thinking out loud as I type these words. Figuring out best practice in ecommerce and digital marketing is actually a lot of fun. And a blog allows us to have more fun, more often.
So, metrics like brand awareness, brand perception and propensity to buy can all be positively affected by blogging, which is really just a byword for producing shedloads of quality content.
The blog generates direct revenue in the form of display and email newsletter advertising, though that’s a relatively small part of our business. It also attracts new subscribers, which is strategically more valuable to us than advertising revenue. We direct about 5% of blog readers to our product pages, which is where the really good stuff lives. Plus - as mentioned - we save money by not needing to hire SEO and PPC agencies, among other things.
Finally, it is worth pointing out that great content is like a gift that keeps on giving. We produce a good amount of evergreen content, which - unlike news - continues to pull in traffic from the search engines every month. It makes sense to create plenty of long-lasting content, to generate returns in perpetuity.
So the truth of the matter is that the blog has been generating ROI for years, and the 1m monthly page impressions is - all things considered - a kind of vanity metric. Not that there's anything wrong with vanity metrics!
Is your business blogging, or otherwise increasing its investment into content creation (and curation)? Are you struggling to win a budget? Do leave a comment below...