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I can distinctly remember the first time I heard about using blogging as a marketing tactic. At that time, I knew what a blog was, but I hadn’t thought of blogging from a marketing perspective.

It was 2007 and someone at the publishing company where I worked came up with the idea of creating a blog to share our thoughts and ideas about the custom publishing industry. I joined a task force that was charged with creating the blog: deciding on topics, getting the copy written, creating a blogging schedule, and publishing the blogs on time.

We decided to divvy up the job among several of us writers, each one of us responsible for coming with one blog topic per month and writing the content. And it was a pretty good blog, if I say so myself. We were still publishing it regularly when I left the company two years later.

What Exactly Is a Blog?

Wikipedia defines a blog (which is short for weblog) as “a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discreet entries, or posts.” It adds that while some blogs function essentially as personal online diaries, “others function more as online brand advertising of a particular individual or company.”

In the decade or so since commercial blogging first started to gain a foothold, blogging has become one of, if not the, most important tools available to online marketers. About 173,000 new blogs are started every day, or two new blogs every second.

When I talk to marketers and business owners about freelance writing services, blogging is often the first thing they ask me about. And while everybody I talk to knows what a blog is and believes that they should be publishing one, very few people know why. So I thought I’d devote this issue to explaining the concrete marketing benefits that can be derived from blogging.

Three Benefits of Blogging

Simply put, there are three main marketing benefits you can realize by creating and consistently publishing a blog:

1. Drive more traffic to your website. This is the big one, no doubt. Blogging is probably the best thing you can do to increase your website traffic and boost your search engine optimization (SEO) results. Here’s why:

One of the main things search engines like Google look for when returning results for keyword searches is fresh, quality content. This tells the search engines that a website is active so they should check back often to see what new content is there. But unless yours is a news or e-commerce website, what can you add that qualifies as fresh new content?

A blog, that’s what. Every new blog you write adds another indexed page to your site — and thus is one more clue to the search engines that your site is alive and kickin’. And each new indexed page represents another opportunity for your site to rank higher in the search engines, which will help drive more organic (as opposed to paid) traffic to your site.

2. Convert this online traffic into leads. Getting people to visit your website is one thing — and yes, it’s a big thing. Converting these visitors into sales leads is even bigger. Each blog that you write and post represents an opportunity to secure a good sales lead.

How? By adding a call-to-action (or CTA as we in the business call it) at the end of every blog offering a free value-added resource. This resource can be a free e-book, whitepaper, webinar, sample, trial offer — anything that would be considered to have value by your prospects.

But your giveaway isn’t totally free: To receive your offer, prospects have to give you their name, contact information and maybe a little bit of information about their company. With this information in hand, you now have a solid sales lead you can follow up on via phone or email.

3. Establish yourself and your business as subject matter experts. This benefit isn’t as quantifiable as increasing website traffic and generating sales leads, but it’s no less valuable. If you consistently publish a well-written and informative blog, your customers and prospects will think of you and your business as the go-to resource when they need the kinds of products, services or solutions you provide.

Your content and writing strategy are critical to pulling this off. First, you need to write about things that are relevant and interesting to your readers and that you are pretty knowledgeable about. Here, I write about writing, marketing and communications — these are what I do every day and what most of you are involved in as part of your jobs.

And second, you need to write in a non-salesy way. If your blog copy has even hint of “sales” to it, many if not most readers are going to tune out and move on to the next item in their inbox. Your goal should be to subtly demonstrate that you are the one to call if your readers need help in whatever it is that your business does — without coming out and actually saying it.

Practicing What I Preach

For example, I’ve published this blog for almost four years now and have never come out and said, “I’m a freelance writer specializing in writing articles, blogs, websites, case studies and whitepapers. Contact me if you need help in these areas.”

Instead, I discuss strategies for writing articles, blogs, websites, case studies and whitepapers that help position me as a knowledgeable subject matter expert. If you ever need these services, I hope you’ll give me a call.

And that’s as close as I’ll ever get to making a sales pitch here in my blog!