The B2B world is wrestling with how to effectively harness “word of blog” marketing—let alone the glittery new world of social media marketing. How can we use social media sites to create that viral buzz that sends awareness and sales soaring? We see what occasionally happens in the consumer market, and we want some of that.
Let’s be real, though. While that’s a great objective, the B2B world is still struggling with basic blogging, let alone creating something that goes viral on some social media site. Last year, Forrester Research found that only 29 of the Fortune 500 firms sponsored business-oriented blogs.
B2B blogging brings up a bunch of questions. Who’s going to write for the blog? Do we have enough content to support it? Will we continue to support the blog after a couple months? How do we control the brand in that environment? Will we publish negative blog comments? Who’s responsible for the blog? Public relations? Marketing?
These are all reasonable questions, but too often they represent permanent paralysis. For goodness sake, figure it out. Make some decisions. Get started.
B2B blogging represents one of the best ways to establish thought leadership in a market niche. And that thought leadership can help drive positioning and sales.
Why B2B marketers should be blogging
You should use blogging to build corporate and personal credibility and to position your company as having few credible substitutes in the marketplace. I’ve written before that fear of making the wrong decision (risk) is a primary motivator in B2B purchase decisions. Thought leaders, however, tend to give people comfort. Thought leaders are perceived experts. Businesses want to hire experts. Experts get paid more, and they get recruited from further away. Why? Because in going with an expert, the perceived risk is lower.
When done right, blogging can give B2B thought leaders great visibility in the search engine results. That, together with their general reputations, often gets thought leaders considered by potential purchasers very early in the purchase process, often at the beginning.
Aside from establishing thought leadership, there are numerous other reasons why B2B companies should be blogging.
- While search engines like blogs, so does the media. The media wants to talk to thought leaders, and that interest can result in media coverage.
- Blogs gives potential purchasers a glimpse of what it may be like working with you (another risk reduction in their minds)
- Your blog can drive more traffic to your website, especially if you integrate the blog into your existing site
- Blogging is one of the best ways to consistently build links to a B2B site, which will not only drive traffic, but can also increase your rankings in the SERPs
- Blogging represents an opportunity to get found in the natural search results for a more diverse set of keywords related to your business
Should you search-optimize your blog?
I won’t go into the details of optimizing blogs; there are already several good articles on blog optimization, including these two: 25 Tips To Optimize Your Blog For Readers & Search Engines and Twelve SEO Mistakes Most Bloggers Make.
One of the matters not covered in either of these two articles is whether to incorporate your blog into the corporate website. There are advantages to either route. If you host your blog on a separate URL, you increase your chance of multiple search engine results, provided you have good, authoritative content.
Given that search engines like Google will typically display only two search results from a given site, hosting your corporate blog at a separate URL could double your exposure. For instance, for a given keyword your corporate site may have two pages that show up as rankings 2 & 3, while your corporate blog may have two pages that show up as rankings 6 & 7. If this were the case, you could have four out of the top ten search results. Hosting your blog at a sub-domain of your corporate domain can also yield the same results, since search engines generally see domains and sub-domains as separate URLs.
On the other hand, if you’re seeking to build links to the corporate website, you may want to incorporate your blog as a section (not sub-domain) of your existing corporate site. This way, links to your blog will also accrue to your overall site.
Be smart with your messaging
A blog is a brand asset. Don’t do anything from an SEO perspective that you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing on your corporate site, especially if your blog is integrated into your corporate site. A blog isn’t a license to get flippant; your corporate reputation is too important. Don’t say things in a blog that you wouldn’t say to a client or prospect.
The most recent issue of BtoB Magazine has a good article on B2B Blogging that should remain accessible for a while. And if you want to read more about thought leadership, Britton Manasco has a great white paper (registration required) on the value of and trend toward thought leadership in the B2B realm.