Stephen Bush is a content writing and inbound marketing expert. He is CEO and Chief Business Writer for AEX Commercial Financing Group.
Alternative Content Strategies: Thinking Outside of the Blog
Blogs used by companies and organizations of all sizes are usually featured prominently in inbound marketing programs. This overview explores the possibilities of using a different approach—Thinking Outside of the Blog.
Inbound marketing has facilitated many changes to support moving from marketer-centric sales processes to customer-centric sales processes. This has led to major adjustments in content management. But the role currently played by blogs appears to be lagging behind what customers are hoping for and expecting when they search for educational information, often about a potential purchase involving services and products.
Most customers want more than a blog—what is your organization offering?
By thinking outside of the blog and also adhering to inbound marketing principles, you will be able to discover practical alternative content strategies that “work” for your customers—six examples are listed in the following list.
6 Alternative Content Strategies (Above and Beyond the Blog)
- White Papers
- Case Studies
- Extended Articles
- YouTube Videos
- SlideShare Presentations
- Content Research
Early Warning Signs of Blog Problems
The birth of article directories during the past 15 years was related to the growing popularity of blogs. Most early blogging platforms (also referred to as content management systems by some who prefer to use fancier terms) required at least some working knowledge of coding and HTML language. In other words, most were not user-friendly. A number of online publishers decided to create an Internet publishing platform that was both free and easy to use. While they initially “succeeded” and became popular on the World Wide Web, they also left the door wide open for some users to fool the search engines. Google was not amused, and traffic levels from search engine results have dwindled to a mere trickle on many of these popular websites — and some have closed their doors as a result.
Meanwhile back at the blogging ranch, gaming the system was also rampant throughout the blogging community. Blogs became a popular source of backlinks to personal and business websites. On the Internet, there is a well-established tradition of overdoing a successful search engine optimization strategy by whatever means necessary until Google decides to outlaw the practice by de-indexing sites. If it was a good idea for one or two blogs to provide links to websites, imagine how much better it would be if several thousand blogs were at your disposal for linking from unique blogs.
That was the thinking by several "blog networks" when they offered (for a monthly fee that usually ranged from $50 to $150 or more) to publish “unique content” ranging from 100 to 200 words on many different blogs (in a universe of thousands in their blog network) that linked to websites. For BuildMyRank, “The Day That the Music Died” occurred in early 2012 when Google managed to identify all blogs in the BuildMyRank network and de-indexed every single one overnight. The apparent failure of Google to identify other blog networks (in a similar way to allow de-indexing) is possibly a major reason that Google has now chosen to focus on content rather than links. In the newest SEO world framed by Google, content matters much more and links count for much less (and possibly next to nothing). People are still using WordPress, Blogger and a variety of blogs — but any surviving blog networks are truly on thin ice.
For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.
— H.L. Mencken
Blogs: Vintage Relics of the Earliest Internet Days?
One of the earliest and best-known features of the World Wide Web is the blog (several versions were first used during the 1990s). It was originally called a “weblog” until Peter Merholz either accidentally or intentionally (there are conflicting reports) used the phrase “we blog” (he simply broke “weblog” into two separate words) in 1999. As they say, the rest is history.
History, however, does not guarantee the survival of blogs. They have already had various spinoffs such as audio blogs (“podcasts”), video blogs (“vlogs”), and multi-author blogs (“MABs” were created in 2009). Tumblr and Twitter are variations of microblogging (mini-blogs).
Does the number of blogs tell us whether they are well on their way to becoming obsolete (or not)? The numbers vary depending on the sources, but by several accounts there are between 250 million and 500 million blogs currently published in the English language. Of all blogging platforms, WordPress is hovering around a 50 percent market share. While some sources suggest that Google Blogger is the most popular blogging platform, I think that news is five to ten years behind the times. Twitter is among the trend-setters that have left Blogger in their rear-view mirror by adopting a new blogging platform.
Business Writing Designed for Google: Smart Strategy or a Mistake?
A growing problem for many variations of business writing is the extent to which Google search results and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies have become the driving force in guiding the overall written content. This often results in an under-emphasis of what is needed to communicate with the intended audience: clients, readers, prospects and other real people that typically don’t care what Google likes or doesn’t like.
Many business writers have been developing content for over a decade primarily with Google in mind when they write articles, blog posts and web pages for business clients. This bias frequently spills over to everything else that they write (such as white papers and business proposals) — content that should not have anything to do with SEO techniques. But habits are hard to break, and there are hundreds of real-life examples where business writing is not even remotely talking to the prospects, affiliates, business partners, suppliers and clients that really matter.
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
— Peter Drucker
5 Ways to Kill Your Blog
Either with or without using personal and business blogs, there are at least five distinct problems to avoid:
- Blogs created strictly for the purpose of providing paid links to websites. Six years ago, BuildMyRank went out of business overnight. Others should not be far behind — but for now, some blog network doors are still open.
- Too much self promotion with excessive links to your own sites. One link should be enough to get the job done. If you have built your site with appropriate content marketing, search engines will do the promoting so you don't have to add either a simplified or complicated linking strategy. If you have trouble getting comfortable with the limitations of fewer links, try to remember the wisdom from “Field of Dreams” — Build it and they will come.
- Article and content spinning. This was one of the earliest attempts to fool Mother Nature on the Internet. A computer algorithm generating hundreds of articles from one does not create unique or high-quality content.
- Too much selling. One or two Amazon links will usually be more effective than five to ten. Less is more for today’s search engines.
- Affiliate marketing that is on steroids. This is another variation of excessive selling content and has been overdone in the extreme. Some affiliate networks are already banned at several sites, so be alert for the warning signs.
7 Ways to Improve Your Blog
- Use Customer-Centric Content
- Avoid Common Mistakes (see list below)
- Provide Multiple Kinds of Educational Content
- Reduce Marketer-Centric Sales Processes
- Reconsider "Low Bidder" Thinking for All Content
- Never Settle for Low-Quality Content
- Include Unique and Customized Textual Images
The role currently played by blogs appears to be lagging behind what customers are expecting when they search for educational information.
— Stephen Bush
Thinking Outside of the Blog
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Stephen Bush