We have all heard it by now: a blog is a great way to have dynamic content on your corporate website that brings in traffic through the Google Long Tail (if you haven’t heard, here’s a primer ). Sure, creating a blog is a no-brainer, but nobody ever really answers the question, what if my blog gets popular? Where do I go next? I will answer you with a question: when have you ever known the right thing to do to be the same old thing everyone else is doing?
At Vistage we knew we had something special with the “Buzz Blog” because we were getting readers, writers, comments, and good traction. But after about a year we hit a ceiling. Our readership was happy and engaged but we weren’t attracting new visitors. After a little research, we discovered that many of the larger companies who had started blogs had eventually taken their blogs off-site and developed brands just for the blogs. For instance, O’Reilly has Radar and American Express has OpenForum.
We learned that blogs have three evolutionary phases:
- The integrated corporate blog: In the initial phase a business has a simple blog section on the primary website. It’s part of the website main navigation and has the same branding. This stage hits a growth ceiling; our belief is that driving a blog with corporate branding creates a ceiling to participation, only those with a positive awareness of your corporation will be regular readers.
- The separate blog brand: In this phase, you can still find various links between the blog and the website but the name, colors and overall branding are unique to the blog. Now readers can establish a relationship with the blog and only need to feel comfortable with the corporate ties.
- The stand-alone blog: In the final evolutionary phase the corporate ties are there to varying degrees but the blog has clearly established its own identity. OpenForum is the shining example here. It is “powered by” American Express but the corporate ties really have little to do with the success or failure of the blog. It is all about the valuable content and community.
So we engaged Brainstorm Media to help build a new blog that met all of the best practices available today, had a clean and usable interface and, most importantly, stood on its own. We launched Executive Street on May 1, 2011, and in the end our research proved accurate. Average daily visitors are up at least 30% and we are seeing steady growth again. We’ve also seen a rise in our Technorati ranking and the number of domains linking to the site, so not only are readers more apt to follow the new branding but other website owners now felt more comfortable linking to our entries, a very key aspect to SEO growth.
Here are a few questions to consider on the next steps for your company blog, whether you are a small sandwich shop or a larger data management company.
- Are you putting in a reasonable effort to grow your readership? Think social media, newsletters, integration into your website, etc. If the answer is no, then you need to continue growing your blog.
- Is your blog delivering a consistent message? I recently ran across a company that sold bathroom fixtures writing blog entries about the economy. While this might be an interesting subject it didn’t belong on their site. Now they stick to remodeling, construction, and issues that clearly have a connection to bathroom fixtures. Readership has grown 30% in the last 6 months.
- Has your growth truly stopped? Don’t be impatient, if you are seeing small 2-5% growth month to month just stick to what you’re doing or try to improve your blog in smaller ways.
If you are doing all of this and your blog hasn’t grown maybe you should consider taking your blog solo. You have to trust your gut a little here too, it may not ever make sense for you to have a separate blog brand (i.e. the bathroom fixture company mentioned earlier).