The content team here have received a couple of pieces of good news recently.

Last week, this blog won the Digital and Tech category at the UK Blog Awards

We're also currently battling it out with Moz for top slot in Hubspot's list of digital marketing blogs in the UK and Ireland. 

So, I thought this would be a good time to share our thoughts on why businesses should blog. 

If you need to make a case for a content budget, here's some help... 

Business blogging: the stats

  • SEO: websites with blogs have 434% more indexed pages and 97% more indexed links. (source: Ignite Spot)
  • B2B marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those that do not. (Hubspot)

  • Marketers who have prioritised blogging are 13 times more likely to enjoy positive ROI. (Hubspot

  • Companies with 51-100 pages on their website generate 48% more traffic than those with 50 or fewer pages. (Hubspot)

The reason for this blog's existence...

This blog was the brainchild of Chris Lake. He explains some of the reasons here: 

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.

The reasoning was that a blog provides a pull for an audience to keep coming back to the site on a regular basis, something which limited PR outreach would not have achieved.

Econsultancy's brand is built on helping marketers understand and make use of the web, thereby making their jobs easier. For this, we have a range of great reports, training, events and other services.

However, the blog provides a means to tie all of this together. It's about getting the brand known and providing articles which digital marketers will find useful, which will create informed debate and perhaps inspire people to investigate the site further. We cross-promote our paid content, but not too aggressively. 

In that sense, we have been content marketing ever since the blog was launched, even if we and other people haven't always called it that. 

The business case for company blogging

Need to build a business case for you company blog?

Well, here are the many ways that blogging benefits Econsultancy... 

SEO

The blog provides regular, unique and quality content, just what Google is looking for. 

The key is to research and target keywords and phrases that we want to rank for, and use this information when planning and writing articles. 

We don't just write to tick off a whole bunch of keyword targets. The topics we write about are those we want to rank for, but it makes sense to ensure that the content, headlines and internal link strategy work towards this goal.  

To this end, we track the rankings of our target keywords, and ensure that the pages that rank for our keywords point to the relevant parts of the site, or help to ensure higher rankings for our paid content. 

If we know which pages rank for the terms we target, we know where to point internal links for maximum effect. 

It's also worth pointing out the value of a hub or 'hero page' strategy. While we don't have hub pages for all of the topics we cover, we do try to link consistently to one or two pages on a given term. 

This should produce steadier and more consistent search rankings. 

While no business should bank everything on search, it is our biggest acquisition channel, and the blog is a massive part of this.

The SEO benefits the blog has brought means we haven't had to retain a search agency, and nor have we spent considerable sums of money on paid search every month.

Social media 

The content we produce on the blog underpins much of our social activity, and social has been integral to this blog's growth. 

Our social strategy is about more than just broadcasting blog posts, but the regular updates from the blog provide a compelling reason for people to follow us. 

Social channels bring in a lot of traffic, although much of this is obscured in Google Analytics (filed under ‘Direct’).

Around a quarter to a third of our blog traffic comes in via the likes of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. 

Brand building

This isn't necessarily easy to measure, but the larger audience that a blog can attract means that the name of Econsultancy is better known that it would otherwise be. 

For example, something like three quarters of our total site traffic comes in through the blog

Indeed, many people probably think that we're just a blog, and may be less aware of our paid services, but only a small fraction of blog visitors need to buy a report or sign up for an event to make it worthwhile. 

In addition, if you search for things like 'ecommerce checkouts', 'SEO best practice' or 'digital marketing stats', you'll see results for Econsultancy.

This helps to establish the brand name as a source for this information. 

Industry authority 

The blog has helped to establish Econsultancy as an authority on digital marketing and ecommerce within the industry. 

People look to our posts and research for tips and information, while the blog has also provided a platform for other experts in the industry through guest contributions

Sharing of ideas

Ecommerce and digital marketing is constantly evolving, and there a very few right or wrong answers. 

We aim to showcase what constitutes best practice at the time, as well as providing examples and inspiration for readers. 

The blog is a great platform for discussion and sharing of ideas. We can think aloud, float ideas, or ask questions and find answers from some pretty smart digital marketers. 

Tone of voice

This is another thing that is hard to measure, but I think it has been very important to us. 

The blog and our social channels allow us to show a more casual tone of voice, and help to set us apart from more 'stuffy' competitors. 

We know our stuff, and are endlessly fascinated by ecommerce and digital marketing, but it isn't necessary to smother your content in buzzwords and pseudo-academic writing. 

Our mission is to explain things in a way that people understand, and that is enjoyable to read. 

This, I think, helps to make our content, and the company, much more approachable. 

Email marketing

The blog content drives our Daily Pulse email, which has around 90,000 subscribers.

It's a valuable source of traffic for the blog, and also provides a platform for us to raise awareness of reports and forthcoming events. 

The reason people subscribe is to receive updates on our articles, so the blog feeds our email marketing strategy. 

Increased traffic

The blog, and the investment in full-time writers and editors to manage it (for this is the way to do it properly) has increased our traffic considerably. 

Over the past 18 months, and despite a drop in traffic post-site relaunch, the blog averages just under 1m pageviews per month. Not bad for a niche B2B site. 

And the proof that it works...

Our blog provides value to the business at large and we can prove it.

Some things I've mentioned, like brand awareness and authority, are not easily measurable but there are more solid returns. 

We can attribute revenue directly to the blog, through various means. These include: 

Referrals

We send qualified traffic to our paid report, training, events and consultancy pages.

We track these in various ways through Google Analytics, and can quantify the amount of traffic we send to various pages, and track leads directly from blog posts. 

For example, around 40% of all traffic to our reports pages comes via the blog. 

Of course, we can't track everything so the 'real' number is likely to be higher than we can track directly. 

Acquisitions via SEO

The blog gives us visibility in Google, and organic traffic drives sales for us. 

We can show the organic traffic that comes through the blog and ends up in a transacation, but we can also take credit for helping to give non-blog pages more visibility. 

Advertising income

This is not the biggest deal for us, but it's a nice extra to have. We have a few ads on the blog itself, as well as in our Daily Pulse emails. 

Email marketing

Email is a valuable marketing channel, and our blog content drives the Daily Pulse email, which in turn drives sales and leads. 

And for you...

The benefits from blogging may vary depending on your aims and the type of business.

It may be purely an exercise in brand awareness, a means to discuss ideas, or a more slick lead generation exercise. 

What I hope we've shown is that blogging can benefit a business in a variety of ways. I should also add that it's been a lot of fun working on it, and that is very important. 

Graham Charlton

Published 22 April, 2015 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (11)

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Hilton Barbour

Hilton Barbour, Marketing Provocateur at Hilton Barbour Inc

I realize your list isn't prioritized but "brand building" and "authority" have to be reason #1 and #2 for any organization in this area. The rest are consequences of that concerted effort of time & resources. HT EConsultancy, you remain a "must read" part of my daily regimen.

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

Hi Hilton,

Yes, I didn't really want to put them in order, just to show the many ways blogging can work.

Thanks

over 3 years ago

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Luciano Borg, SEO at EC English Langauge Centres

Blogs give companies the opportunity to provide great value - and information - on a daily basis. EC English Language Centres operates 21 schools in the US, UK, Canada, South Africa and Malta. We currently rank on Top Page of google.com for MORE than 10,000 KWs - from "General English" and "Learn English in Boston / Miami / New York / San Francisco", to "has and have", "ing and ed adjectives", etc. Each school runs its own blog and using carefully researched KWs we make sure that we provide great, valuable and exciting content without boring people with over-usage of targeted KWs. Simply put - NO BLOG(s) = NO SEO!

over 3 years ago

Roger England

Roger England, Owner at Right Direction Marketing

Graham
Persuading clients that the benefit of Blogs is much more than broadcasting their own sales messages is sometimes a challenge - but this article has just made our job easier! Thanks.

over 3 years ago

Kunle Campbell

Kunle Campbell, eCommerce Marketing Consultant at 2X Consulting

Graham - this is very much in a B2B context.
Do you have examples of eCommerce blogs in the B2C space actually benefiting from blogging?
With the exception of editorial driven etailers like Huckberry and Hyperbeast, how can traditional retail-first etailers benefit from blogging?
You're in essence asking retailers to run a publishing outfit in a bid to drive 'traffic' that might or might not convert to sales.

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

Hi Kunle,

Yes, it is more about B2B since I'm writing from experience here, However, there's no reason why B2C brands couldn't have some of the benefits I outline here.

The obvious examples are retailers like ASOS and Net A Porter, which have benefitted hugely from a focus on content, running very professional publishing operations.

In other areas, retailers can tailor content to customer's needs. For example, Rentokil runs a blog with advice about things like pest control, and this helps the company to appear in the SERPs when people search for ways to deal with pests. It also helps to cement their reputation as the experts in this field.

Yes, the traffic may or may not convert directly to sales, or at least not in huge volumes, but that's not necessarily the main aim.

If it helps establish the brand in its field, attracts an audience which fits with its target market, improves SEO etc, then this should be enough reason.

One example I find interesting is the Scott's Menswear blog, which is edited by ex-Loaded editor James Brown. Content is around sports, films. fashion etc and targeted at a demographic which should include the Scott's customer: http://blog.scottsmenswear.com/

over 3 years ago

Kunle Campbell

Kunle Campbell, eCommerce Marketing Consultant at 2X Consulting

Hi Graham,

Okay - I just had a look at Scott's Menswear and their effort is amazing to say the least.
Their blog is pretty much a men's lifestyle magazine. I am seeing quite a lot of effort in the fashion space by enterprise ecommerce players - but not much at the mid-tier.
Which is probably down to a budget that will enable the roll out a half-decent editorial team - I mean, how many mid-tier etailers can afford to hire an ex-Loaded editor unless they are VC or angel funded.
My point was that I am seeing a lot of mediocre attempts at blogging for the 'SEO benefits' from some prominent ecommerce brands rather than for audience nurturing and building brand equity.
Coggles.com do an amazing job with a dedicated Editorial with 16 sections (that includes a blog): http://www.coggles.com/life.list (wonder how they manage this)!
This topic definitely deserves a blog post with both enterprise and mid-tier case studies.

BTW - have a look at the ao.com editorial team: http://ao.com/life/meet-the-team/
All established bloggers - some faces I recognise ;)

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

Yes, I do agree that it has to be done properly if you're going to do it, though it doesn't necessarily have to be an expensive operation. Then again, if you have the budget, you should do it properly, as AO seems to do.

I think it's also about caring about the content, and doing it for reasons other than just search. Copy written for search is rubbish.

You've given me an idea for a follow up post though - let's see what some other ecommerce brands are doing...

over 3 years ago

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Charlie Clinton, Assistant Digital Brand Manager at Unilever

Hi Graham - related to some of the comments above, do you have any advice or comments about how a *very* small business could manage a blogging approach "in house" in a time efficient manner?

I'm 100% sold on the benefits - and have been for a long time now. But as the business in question is a side project, I've never taken the step because I want to be sure I commit to it properly if / when I do it.

I suppose the killer question is, is there a line you would draw in terms of minimum frequency? ("last post 2 months ago" doesn't look great ;) . And are there other areas where practical and sensible compromises can be made without rendering the exercise of minimal value?

(I probably sound like I want to have my cake and eat it - but I guess what I'm really trying to do is be realistic about how to balance the time required against the benefits gained - looking for the sweet spot so to speak)

Cheers!

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

Hi Charlie,

That's a good question. I think it's important to be consistent, so if you decide to go for 10 posts a month, keep it at that level. To give yourself something to talk about on social media, and to benefit from some of the SEO effects I mention here, a certain amount of content is required.

The killer question is tricky to answer, and depends on the type of business, and the performance of content. If it's working, why not do more if you can?

For us, I'd be reluctant to dip below five posts per day, but I don't feel the need to bash out 20 or 30 per day as some sites do. Somewhere between 5 and 10 works for us.

over 3 years ago

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Charlie Clinton, Assistant Digital Brand Manager at Unilever

Thanks Graham - consistency is a good point - if its regular, then you avoid looking ... haphazard.

Will continue giving this some thought to think about how to make it practical in the circumstances.

over 3 years ago

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