One of the top pieces of advice given to small businesses is that they should blog. While I do agree that content marketing and blogging in general can be helpful for a business, I don't think it should be the first thing they do. If you have limited time and money to invest, there are other avenues that may be more beneficial at the beginning.
First, let's talk about the touted benefits
There are many benefits people talk about when encouraging businesses, especially smaller businesses, to blog.
Let's use entrepeneur.com as my example. As in literally, here is an article they posted telling entrepreneurs to blog. While I very much dislike the animal metaphors they use, I want to focus on the arguments. The article is a bit meandering so I'll distill them here:
- uh... animal metaphor?
They mention something about getting people to come back over and over, something I actually agree with but they miss the mark by not going into why that's a good thing when revenue is far more important than visits.
So SEO is important. I don't think I need to spend 5 paragraphs arguing for or against Google as channel, instead I want to throw out the notion that blogging is worthwhile due to these perceived SEO benefits.
That brings us to the general arguments about why blogging is good for SEO. This Entrepreneur article doesn't go into much detail as to why blogging is good for SEO other than making some vague comments about how SEO is important and that keywords are a thing, so I did some digging and found this article from Business2Community which talks about the benefits I've heard most often
Wait... did you notice that link in the last paragraph? Where the anchor text is "blogging is essential" and it links to some agency completely unrelated to the website? That's TOTALLY not a scammy SEO link that someone totally didn't pay for... right?
On to the arguments:
The idea is that you link to a blog post or company and then ask that company or writer for a link in return. This is a tactic from the 90's, don't bother. It doesn't help anything.
- guest blogging
While some people claim guest blogging can be useful (you write an article for another site and then link to your own blog) Google themselves have told people not to do this and you will get penalties for it
Cool. I agree, freshness can help with SEO. Google certainly uses it as a signal. No problem here.
They basically are talking about the long tail here since you can have your most important keywords on product pages and landing pages without needing a blog.
Uhhh... a product can be insanely popular. So can a landing page. Why do you need a blog for this benefit?
It goes on and lists a bunch of other stuff but most of it is pretty tiny and the above are the main points. Basically, they tried to list 9 strong arguments as to why your blog is good for SEO and most are no longer relevant. The only other one I've heard is for social media and how blog content is easier to spread on social media.
The issue there is this data I collected. Social media networks want to keep the users on their networks and not going out to blogs. This means it's a losing battle to try and make social media work with a blog. Better to make content specifically for social media rather than trying to repurpose blog content.
To sum up:
People say businesses should blog because it is good for SEO, when you try to figure out why it's good for SEO the vast majority of reasons are no longer relevant.
Here's the rub: a blog is a lot of work.
Seriously, a blog is an insane amount of work
Here is an awesome article from Hubspot that goes into great detail on just how often one should blog to get the most return. the short of it is that you need to write "more." As in, whatever you are doing now, increase it.
Their suggestion is that 16+ blog posts a month is a good metric. That's an absolutely insane amount of blog posts! Combine that with the fact that the average article that ranks well on Google is over 2000 words, that's a lot of writing for a small business to do!
Some might see the above information and do some simple math: that's a single 2000 word article every other day or so. Something a lot of people can do. The issue is that you are running a small business (or a big one), the time you are putting into that article is time you could instead be putting toward something else. Something profitable perhaps?
What am I talking about?
Conversion rate of blog content is awful
The above stuff and for some reason the majority of information about SEO is about reach. I don't know why. People are obsessed with vanity metrics like traffic and ranking instead of... profit! You are running a business, not a popularity contest.
When I say conversion rate I am not talking about email signups or leads. I mean cold hard cash... err... revenue generation. Which basically means a sale for all intents and purposes.
I sadly can't publically share the data I've seen on this but I can certainly lean on common sense when I say a good landing page is going to have a significantly better sales rate than a blog post.
The majority of the above stated benefits are entirely traffic oriented. If you post a relevant news focused story for example you may show up in Google due to freshness and it may even go viral, getting you tons of shares on social media and the like. The people who visit your site due to this will read the article (more realistically, read just the headline) then leave and never visit your landing page or purchase your product. While some might, you just spent an insane amount of work to maybe get a small bump in sales.
It's pretty simple: spend your limited time on things that will get you the most return. The return from blogs can be in the form of good traffic, maybe some SEO benefit and it can be a long term strategy that builds your brand a bit, but you can get all those same benefits from a well built product or landing page and doing social media on the platform itself.
Why not try taking a break from blogging and spending significantly more time on conversion rate optimization? Page speed improvements can both help SEO and help with conversions. It's also hard and a lot of work, but the value is far easier to see.
Before you start accusing me of not practicing what I preach, you might want to read this.