"We need to blog."
Maybe. Maybe not.
No one needs to blog. You may need to raise awareness, differentiate your services, build your brand, or expand your keyword base. But you don't need to blog.
This isn't just semantics. We've seen too many content marketing strategies held hostage by restrictions on content type or publishing frequency. These restrictions
- undermine development of sustainable editorial calendars
- weaken connections between content marketing metrics and top-level business goals.
In short, the form and frequency of publishing should be the outcome, not the starting point, of a strategy.
Blogging may ultimately make sense. But not as a haphazard effort. Here's how our thoughtful strategy yielded exponential results. (We're talking 37x.)
A Richmond service business wanted to expand its reach throughout Central Virginia. Years earlier, they decided to start blogging and invested in a freelance writer who churned out weekly or even twice-weekly posts.
The problem? No research, no direction, no depth—and no results.
In the preceding two years, their 192 posts generated 2,921 visits, or an average of only 15.2 visits per post.
Here's what that looked like in Google Analytics:
What We Did
The first step was to evaluate past posts. Successful posts had a newsy element, but that offered only short-term visibility. To get more from their investment, it made sense to develop content that, once posted, could serve as a traffic driver for months and years to come.
There were two additional keys to developing a successful content marketing strategy:
- Acknowledging that organic search was the sole distribution channel. Their in-house social media postings focused closely on business-related updates, and their budget didn't have room to add a digital outreach campaign. That meant that keyword research would be the primary driver of success.
- Finding topics that had meaningful search volume, limited competition, and local relevance. Because the client served a local area, it wasn't going to do any good to drive traffic from Seattle or London.
We began delivering bimonthly, keyword-targeted blog strategies with specific topics for each post. We also recommended length based on opportunity and difficulty—investing more writer resources where they would increase posts' ability to rank for high-volume, high-competition topics.
We timed seasonal posts to go out weeks before keyword volume spiked so that search engines had time to crawl and rank the content.
Our blog strategy provided supporting research for 20 posts over 9 months, beginning in late November 2015.
Those posts have generated 11,436 visits, or 572 visits per post—nearly 37 times the previous per-post average.
Here's what that growth looks like in Google Analytics:
Author's note: Peaks and valleys resulted from seasonally targeted posts.
At the time of this writing, some posts had been published only for a matter of days—and are likely to take off in the coming weeks. With so many posts continuing to provide steady traffic, the 37x improvement will only get bigger.
But were these added visits from far-flung corners of the earth?
Without a blog strategy, 31.4% of blog visitors came from within Virginia. With a locally targeted strategy, that number jumped to 41.5%—a 32.2% increase of in-state visitors.
Within the Richmond metropolitan area, total visitors jumped from 378 to 1,473.
And that compares two years of previous posts against less than one year of targeted posts.
The location map in Google Analytics shows the relative density of local clicks for targeted strategy posts (left) against untargeted posts (right):
For our client, blogging was the right strategy because it matched their existing workflow, budget, and provided sought-after awareness. But blogging by itself has no inherent value. For our client, the difference between frustration and success was strategic local keyword research.
It's certainly not the only strategy. Creating content for lead generation or generating visibility for topics without search volume requires a different approach.
But proving value through blogging provided a critical boost for awareness and built credibility within the organization for future, more ambitious strategies.