It seems we are all obsessed with killing things.
Every few years we revisit something and put it on the chopping block. In the new millennium, we were afraid of the year 2000. In 2012, we feared that the world would end and we would all just shit. When technology became a bigger part of our lives, we assumed that all print publications would go bankrupt. Now, with the advent of videos and podcasts, it is up to bloggers to feel the heat.
I reached out to marketers with backgrounds in product marketing, SEO, YouTube, podcasting, and more and asked them, “Are blogs dead?”
Are Blogs Dead?
Not even close, according to marketers. Blogs continue to be extremely valuable for lead generation, brand awareness, and SEO. And they are still popular with consumers. A 2020 HubSpot study found that 60% of people read a blog at least once a week. So blogs are not going to get out of the marketer’s toolbox anytime soon.
In fairness, this question about blogs is not without reason. Google Trends shows that interest in blogs has steadily declined worldwide over the past five years.
In the US, podcasts have grown in popularity within the same five year period, outperforming blogs in search queries.
However, marketers are still considering blogging a top marketing channel. Ross Simmonds, a B2B marketer and founder of the content marketing agency Foundation, says blogging has helped its customers triple their traffic and accelerate their close rates.
“At Foundation, deliberate blogging has helped us generate millions of dollars in the pipeline for us and our customers,” says Simmonds. “It has also enabled us to improve our brand’s position in the market and, most importantly, to help others in our industry learn and develop new opportunities.”
Even so, the blogging landscape has changed over the years. Lisa Toner, director of content at HubSpot, says that just having a blog is no longer enough.
“You need to consistently create content that is more valuable than your competition’s content. You need to be an SEO expert to get your articles on page one of Google, and you need a sales strategy to promote your content across all your audience channels likes to consume content, “says Toner. “It’s now a lot more complex to win blogging, but when you can do it, it’s worth the investment.”
Transparency is a bigger responsibility, especially as social justice is becoming increasingly important for consumers.
“You need to think about how people see your brand compared to your competition. Everyone has their own USP and what they want to bring forward, but users compare,” said Sandra Mpouma, director of digital marketing at RationalFX. “So, in terms of business strategy, create loyalty, trust, [and] be transparent and competitive, which is very important these days. “
Blogs vs. other marketing channels
Will blogs be obsolete soon after other content marketing channels – namely video and podcasting – outperformed blogs? Well it all depends on the user personalities you are targeting. But blogs also offer many advantages as other platforms grow.
“Podcasting is not without its constraints. There are many challenges to discoverability and audience growth. Right now, blogs have a pretty dusty playbook for scaling. This is not true of podcasts,” said Matthew Brown, executive podcast producer at HubSpot. “A company can use its likely limited resources to invest in a blog that is essentially consistent, easily measurable, and reliable performance. Blogs are a direct line to the company’s bottom dollar, podcasts don’t.”
Nelson Chacon, chief marketing manager for YouTube at HubSpot, points out that there is no need to choose between two platforms when your team has the bandwidth to handle both. When it aligns with your user personalities, you can engage your audience from different angles.
“Blogging articles about the benefits of your product is helpful. A video showing how to use or install the product will be beneficial for your audience,” says Chacon. “Home Depot did an excellent job here. As they educate and educate their customers about their products, they also add a brief guide for the more knowledgeable person who just needs a quick answer that is explained in a video.”
Annabelle Nyst, a senior content strategist who focuses on social media initiatives at HubSpot, says it’s difficult to compare to blogs because each platform serves different purposes.
“Social content doesn’t always have the shelf life or findability of blog posts,” says Nyst. “It’s more about consistently meeting your audience where they are at the right moment, engaging with them personally and building trust through community building.”
She adds that social media can be a great way to grow your blog posts. Conversely, blog posts can serve as inspiration for social content. If you’re using both, Nyst recommends getting the most compelling points from your blog posts, creating social-first content, and thereby driving traffic back to your blog.
Despite all this, blogs are not without their disadvantages. AJ Beltis, Content and Acquisition Manager at HubSpot, mentions the high drop-off rates that can often be found in blog posts.
“Blogs lack the interactivity that many crave for their nature as written content,” says Beltis. “This challenges blog writers to captivate their readers in a few short sentences without taking advantage of the special effects or audio engineers available to their video and podcast peers.”
Often it comes down to your brand goals and which channels help you achieve them. For example, podcasts are better for branding, while blogs are better for top-of-the-funnel engagement.
“Blog posts are an acquisition juggernaut. There’s a clear path any seasoned marketer can follow. However, podcasts are best served as a branding opportunity,” says Brown. “You wouldn’t measure a number of blog posts by branding ability any more than you wouldn’t measure lead generation on a podcast show. Unless you like gray hair and a serious lack of sleep.”
Why blogs are still powerful
From an investment perspective, blogs can be a better long-term investment for lead generation.
“I could spend $ 200,000 to hire a full-time writer, SEO expert, and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) specialist to work on my blog. By combining these skills, I’ll be able to blog, that drives organic traffic to my website and converts that into leads for my business year round, “says Toner. “Or I could put the same $ 200,000 in an ad campaign and maybe get a few thousand leads over the course of the ad campaign. But once the campaign ends, my lead will flow too.”
Toner adds that the majority of leads generated by HubSpot blogs come from older blog posts. This means that blogging can be a great resource long after posts are published. Aja Frost, who heads the English SEO team at HubSpot, confirms this feeling.
“Organic traffic is more important than ever. In contrast to paid traffic, which no longer arrives the second your budget runs out, organic traffic is usually self-sustaining after you’ve invested the time and effort into creating a blog Create post, “she says.
She adds that most content management systems (CMS) have SEO tools built into their platforms, which makes it easy to optimize your posts.
Blogging can also be helpful in shaping a brand’s product positioning.
“Blogs are still one of the best channels for creating narratives around our product,” said Alex Girard, Product Marketing Manager at HubSpot. “They give us the opportunity to address trends in the market, how those trends are affecting the reader, and how our product can potentially help them meet that trend successfully. They are also great for telling customer success stories.”
He adds that when you use your blog to market your product, the content doesn’t have to be promotional. As you establish yourself as a thought leader and gain the trust of your audience, they will organically examine your products and services.
Still, it takes more than good content to have a successful blog.
“Growth without a goal is not going to help your business. If 10,000 people read your blog, but none of them fit your personality, it won’t mean anything to your business,” said Karla Cook, senior blog manager at HubSpot. “Focus on something achievable, like generating new contacts, and make sure that every post you post has that goal in mind.”
She adds that one of the biggest mistakes brands make is creating content only for people at the decision-making stage. With so many stages between reading a blog and buying, marketers should be targeting users with posts at each stage. For more information, see HubSpot’s Business Blogging Course.
From an SEO perspective, brands may also struggle to generate traffic because they think of blogs first and then link building.
“What I often notice is that marketers see ‘blogging’ and ‘link building’ as two different disciplines. First they write the blog posts, then they think about how to earn backlinks to them,” says Irina Nica, senior marketing Manager at HubSpot who works on product awareness through outreach initiatives. “Instead, they should include linkable items in their regular content calendar, along with other types of items that may have been designed to generate organic or social media traffic.”
Despite the many benefits we’ve discussed, blogging isn’t always the best strategy for every brand. Why? What if your ideal user personality doesn’t read blogs? What if they prefer email instead?
“Some brands have great email communications and workflows where they give users downloadable offers that don’t require them to go to another location to get the information. They’re in their inbox right away,” says Mpouma. “You don’t necessarily need a blog as long as you are offering something in exchange. I think the blog has always been that: offer something for free in exchange for that user interaction.”
In this case, blogs would not be dead, they would be irrelevant.
Why Marketing Isn’t Dead
Blogs are just an extension of marketing. Some have suggested that marketing is dead, which makes marketers like me wonder if there is something we don’t know.
Marketing continues to be influential based on the latest data. This applies to both traditional strategies and digital initiatives. Statista reported that content marketing had sales of over $ 42 billion worldwide in 2019.
“There’s a reason Nike and McDonalds continue to invest millions in marketing every month even though they’re already household names. There’s a reason the top musicians and artists are still promoting before their last album release,” says Simmonds . “Marketing is not just an expense. It is an investment. And if you make an investment that is based on a strategic plan, that investment should pay off over years (maybe decades).”
The key to success is that while not all marketing tactics will work for every brand, it is unlikely that blogs will no longer be of value to brands in the foreseeable future. For the time being, blogs allow you to rest and leave the chopping block.