There are several factors that determine a technical blog’s success. Some are predictable, and some, like the market landscape and the perception of content, are up to the gods. But for a technical blog to even have a chance to produce magic, there are some basic requirements. Without them, it doesn’t matter how amazing the content is. In particular, if your blog does not have an outside voice, and regular post frequency, it will not succeed.
When we ask marketers the question, “What is the purpose of your blog?” we almost always are met with surprise. How dare we ask something so obvious! We will usually get a response about trials and clicks. While this is a valid response, it becomes clear pretty quickly that the REAL reason most blogs exist is because blogging, for many, is just a thing you do. As a part of the marketer’s playbook, a blog is as basic a requirement of the job as sending promotional emails.
The problem with this perception is that if you are building or maintaining a blog simply because it’s been designated as required, then that blog is most likely a source of cost and frustration rather than value. And if the goal of your blog is simply clicks and trials, there is a good chance that this particular KPI will not be met, because the path from a blog visit to a lead is not direct.
So, before I tell you what’s required to have a viable blog, let me clarify why you should care about one.
Words on the screen are overkill if all you care about is clicks. Blog posts tell the market you are engaged, you have a point of view, and you can meet your prospects and customers where the actual work is being done. Vendor blogs that are only announcements and promotional content have little value, and when they do, it’s only for existing trial users or customers. Not net new. That is why the objective of a blog should be to reach outside your product’s microcosm, and into the broader ecosystem where your customers live—because your solution, no matter how cool, is a very small part of what your customers actually do. If you can’t talk about their broader world, then from an appearances standpoint, the impression is that you do not care, or understand their world. That reduces the market’s confidence in your ability to serve customers over the long term.
The SEO and click value of a blog are natural benefits of creating a great blog. And to build a great blog, you need to do the following two key things.
Publish twice a week minimum
A common trend we see is vendors that publish to their blog in spurts. For example, in one month, they will publish three times total, and then not at all for two months. The low volume and inconsistency both create several issues.
First, they make it impossible to measure effectiveness accurately, because your traffic volume will always be best when there is fresh content. If you do not publish on a consistent schedule, the only thing you can measure is the average amount of new visitors per post—not how well the blog itself is doing.
Second, you might have a few interesting blog posts that can drive traffic, but the blog itself (its home page, category pages, etc.) will not be visited independently, because there is no guarantee of fresh, original content. Getting a regular readership is hard for any blog, but it’s impossible for a blog that does not have a regular publish cadence.
Have an outside voice
The content you publish on a regular basis needs to be about more than you. A blog with content only directly related to your product is just a collection of landing pages and ads. While you might get a tighter relationship from visit to trial or some other conversion, the audience you are hitting is an audience that is already aware of what you do. It becomes a form of groupthink where your blog’s value runs out quickly once you burn through a niche audience.
The easiest way to bring perspective and interesting content is to have practitioners outside of your company produce content that interests your audience. Doing this a few times is pretty easy, but reaching the scale to hit a volume where 60%-80% of your content is practitioner content is challenging. One of the biggest reasons for this is that it requires some new internal discipline. Your organization needs to be comfortable with outside voices, and avoid over-curation of the blog. Blogs with a low publish cadence and over-curation should just be shut down. The logistics of practitioner content marketing can be nailed down when you have someone dedicated to it, or when you use a service like Fixate.
Sometimes getting great content is the easy part. It’s the blog hygiene that many organizations neglect. The most basic elements are to publish frequently and consistently, and have a point of view that is not internal groupthink. An effective blog should not provide periodic quick-hit unique visitors. (If that is the objective, your time and money are better spent on more directly related demand generation campaigns.) A great blog will tell the market that you care about what they do outside of your own offering, and that you understand it. A great blog will naturally bring in new leads, as well as fortify your relationship with the market.