A recent study by Hubspot found that among their small business customers, those that blogged had 55% more traffic and 97% more incoming links than non-blogging small businesses.

The study confirms what most of us that are active in the social media space have known for a while.  Blogs generate more traffic and links than static websites, on average. 

Which is great, but more traffic and links alone does not make your blog successful, right?  And neither does more comments.

What your business needs to do is correlate these metrics back to larger business goals for your blog.  For example, if you are wanting to use your blog as a tool to increase sales on your website, does sending more traffic to your site from your blog really matter, if sales don't increase?

Put your metrics on trial.  Make them accountable, and traceable back to a predetermined goal.  If your goal for your blog is to increase sales, then you can't simply track visitors to your blog.  You need those visitors to take the action (buy something) that you want. 

If they aren't, then you need to drill down and determine why this is happening.  But don't get suckered into thinking that because your blog is getting a lot of comments, and sending a lot of traffic and links to your website, that this signifies success.  Think about what the larger business goal for your blog is, and make sure you are tracking the metrics that have an impact on that goal.

Because you can believe that your skeptical boss will definitely want to know what bottom line impact your blogging is having on her business.





September 9, 2009





Mack Collier is a social media consultant, trainer and speaker. He has been actively immersed in social media since 2005, and in that time, has helped advise, teach and consult with businesses of all shapes and sizes on how they can better connect with their customers via these amazing tools and sites. While being passionate about the social media space, what truly excites Mack is the human connections that can result from the proper use of these social tools. His motto is "Don't focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate." His goal is to help his clients create those connections with their customers, and nuture them into relationships that help grow their bottom line.

His social media 'homebase' is The Viral Garden, which in 3 years time Mack has grown into an influential marketing/social media blog with a monthly readership of over 175,000. He is also a frequent contributor to the website Marketing Profs, as well as the marketing blog Daily Fix, and small business blog Search Engine Guide. His writings have been referenced in several mainstream publications and websites, including The Washington Post, MSNBC.com, Ad Age, CNET, and The Boston Globe.

Mack is also a requested speaker and has presented at some of the top social media conferences and events, including South By Southwest Interactive, Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer, and Small Business Marketing Unleashed. He is also passionate about teaching companies how to use social media sites and tools more effectively, and offers training and seminars privately to companies, in addition to his public speaking schedule.

You can learn more information about Mack's social media training and consulting services here. If you need a social media speaker for your event, or want to know where Mack will be speaking next, click here. If you want to email Mack, click here.

Mack wrote this bio. The third-person thingie is just for fun.






Comments(14)

Amen!

Wow! I don't understand how some skeptics can doubt blogging and social media as a vital aspect to their small businesses. Yes Mack, I do agree with you that increased traffic and links does not necessarily correlate with higher sales and increased revenue. In my opinion, there's no downside however. At the very least, it is free marketing and advertising for your business that has the ability to increase sales down the road. The only costs are the time and resources used to update the blog or social media outlet. Quite frankly, I enjoy that part of the business and don't mind taking time out of my day to write my blog. What do you believe is the best way for small businesses to generate revenue from their blogging practices Mack?

Joel Gross

Hi Joel! Sounds like you're in a good position in that you are familiar and comfortable blogging, which makes the process so much easier.

I think the big advantage that blogging has for small businesses is that it helps them raise awareness. I hear this constantly from small businesses, they say that no one is talking about them online. This is a BIG advantage that they have, in that a blog lets them literally CREATE the conversation around their company, instead of a large company that has to react to what customers are already saying.

As for generating revenue, I think the first step is to use the blog as a tool to establish your business' knowledge and expertise of your industry and products/services. And also in using the blog as a tool to connect with your customers and build trusting relationships with them.

Then it's mainly a matter of converting readers into customers and I think this is where most blogging companies miss the mark. If I were a business wanting to create a revenue-generating blog, I would follow these steps:

1 - Create content that helps establish your expertise and also creates value for readers. For example, a camera store might want to position their blog as a tool to teach readers how to become better photographers. This approach works better than using the blog as a tool to sell more cameras directly, because by DIRECTLY creating a teaching tool, the blog is far more valuable to far more people.

2 - Foster an interactive and open enviroment with readers. Get discussions going as much as possible, and look for ways to encourage comments and opinions from readers.

3 - Leverage the value created and interest from readers to increase sales. Highlight your products and services, and point readers to where they can purchase these items. Offer special promotions to blog readers 'only'. Give readers a clear way to contact you AND order from your blog directly. If they can't order from your blog, make sure they can leave the blog to go directly to your website where they CAN place an order.

4 - AGGRESSIVELY track all promotions you do on your blog. Figure out which promotions work, and which ones aren't. Offer discounts on different days and see if those offered on one particular day work better than others. Also track which products sell better when promoted on your blog.

Hope that helps! From my experience the two big problem areas for most companies looking to generate sales from their blog are properly positioning the content, and asking for the order.

Thanks Mack but you lost me here. Let me explain...

> "A teaching tool" - Maybe it was just poor word choice but teaching is typically a one directional "conversation". In addition, the teacher / student analogy implies some sense of superiority. The foundation of "social media" is not just conversation - but two way conversation among (perceived) equals. In other words, there's got to be a better metaphor than teacher / student.

> "Get the discussion going as much as possible..." Maybe I read too fast or just plain missed something but on one hand you seem to be saying, traffic, links in, etc. don't matter and then the other you're pushing "discussion" - without knowing if such conversation matters.

> "3 - Leverage..." This could be dangerous. Using a blog for objective conversation and turning into a platform for subjective sale pitches can be turn off for some. One should tread lightly and not lose track of the purpose of the blog. As with any content, it has to be relevant, sales pitch or otherwise.

> "4 - AGGRESSIVELY..." I didn't see any mention of a control group. Without a control group or at the very least A / B (or better still A / B / C) testing there is no true and accurate way to evaluate a promotion. I'm certainly not suggesting "do nothing". What I am suggesting is actually not to get too carried away with the promotions and the tracking *unless* you have the mathematical means to do the analysis. One should also be careful not to make cause / effect judgment mistakes.

I just want to clarify that I think blogging is a great tool. Given the choice between doing it or not doing it I would highly recommend doing it. In terms of being cost effective it's probably the best form of marketing / advertising going - especially for the SMBs. But don't over think it. The beauty of most great blogs is their openness, their honesty and their authenticity. Violate those "rules" and you'll end up defeating the purpose of a very powerful tool.

Thanks for listening. I hope I helped in some way


Hey Mark! I'm not saying traffic and links (and comments) are meaningless, I am saying that if you track them and place importance on them, it needs to be because they have an impact on a LARGER business goal for your blog. If your boss calls you into her office for an update on how the blog is working and you tell her 'Traffic is up 20% and we are up to 4 comments per post!', her response will probably be, 'Ok, and what's the dollar value of that traffic and those comments?'

First, by positioning your blog as a teaching tool, you are tapping into the 'bigger idea' behind your company and products/services. For example, if you sell dog grooming supplies, which post has more value for readers, a post about the 10 best dog shampoos you sell, or 'Ten Steps to Giving the Perfect Dog Bath'? The first is promotional, the second teaches, and in doing so, creates value for the reader. It also helps establish your expertise.

As for leverage being dangerous, if you first position your blog as being a tool that teaches and creates value, you should be ok. The goal isn't to use your blog as DIRECT promotional tool, but as a way to promote your business as an INDIRECT result of the value and conversation you create on your blog.

As for tracking promotions, you should really track EVERYTHING associated with your blog very aggressively. I can tell you that the traffic to my blog is the highest on Tues and Weds, and specifically from 10 am - 2pm. I know which topics get me more comments and links than others. And it's not about tracking one particular promotion, it's about tracking multiple ones to determine trends. Such as readers prefer new codes on Weds, or they prefer to get free shipping as opposed to 10% off an order.

In the end, I agree, blogs are wonderful tools to connect with customers. But at the end of the day, there has to be a known benefit to your business from blogging, or you can't keep doing it. Mr Skeptical Boss is going to want to know what your 'social media doohickey' is doing to grow his business, and if you tell him that you're getting 5 comments a post, he's probably going to throw you out of his office. But if you can show him how those comments are creating VALUE for his business, then he'll get just as excited!

I find myself that blogging brings more traffic but it isn't necessarily the traffic you expect or particularly want in that it isn't your target audience. This doesn't make them unwelcome however and I feel the way to go forward, the positive approach, is probably to employ Adsense or similar, something content dictated. They're more likely to be able to monetise these unintended visitors than you yourself, your thoughts being elsewhere when you write, will.

BB

After reading the article and all the comments, I am very much grateful. I've learned so much. I am just new on blogging business. Thanks for the info. It helps a lot.

Solid Wood Bedroom Furniture

I feel that blogging is a good source for unique information that can produce strong traffic results if you are a good blogger. I know people who have started blogs with no traffic and within less than a year were able to get a large set of follower to their blog. Quite frankly if you like what your reading your most likely to follow the author for future information.

Hello again Mack :)

I come from the school of thought that words are power. They are the building blocks are ideas and perception. Words matter. They work (e.g., Luntz's "Words That Work"). So in the true sense of a social web I'm simply not comfortable with endorsing the mind set of "teach" and "teaching". Sharing? Starting a conversation? Mediator? Source of inspiration? Instigator? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes. But "I'll show you..." or "You listen to me...". No way.

NO BODY likes a wise-ass. Therefore, self-anointing one's self as "teacher" is only asking for trouble. Unless you actually carry some sort of legit teaching certification that "title" (and associated mindset) should be avoided at all costs. God knows there are already too many self-anointed teachers, we don't really need any more, do we?

As for being "indirect". I'm only suggesting that one person's indirect (i.e., the blogger's ) can easily be another person's (i.e., a reader's) "What's this crap self-serving spin?". Again words, transparency and honesty matter. Being "sneaky" - opps, I mean indirect :) - can run against the grain of the expectations of your guest (aka readers). Yes,it can be done but I'd be more likely to be direct than "indirect". The MSM killed itself with its lack of authenticity. Lesson learned, no?

While your thoughts on BI (i.e., analysis and analytics) are interesting I'm not sure they are mathematically accurate. As they say, "Past performance is no indication of future returns." If you don't believe me, ask Wall Street :) Should the number be ingored? No, of course not. But their value should not be over emphasized. There's quite a bit of theory available to support what I'm saying. When I say theory I mean Math PHDs - not the companies selling BI as some sort of scientific panacea.

Try these on for size:

- http://www.cioinsight.com/c/a/Past-News/What-Data-Mining-Can-and-Cant-Do/

- http://blogs.cioinsight.com/research_central/content001/information_management/peter_fader_and_the_walking_dead_1.html

As for Ms. / Miss / Mr. Skeptical Boss, the question isn't "Is a blog going to be effective for us?" Sure there are rare exceptions of where it might not work but on the other hand there are too many true success stories to say it can't be done. Therefore, the right question is, "What type of blog and what type of content is going to engage our target and contribute to the ongoing success of this company?" It's not a matter of yes or no, but how and when. But if the boss is that anti-blog then he/she is probably living in the 90's. Moi? I'd get the heck out of there if denial of change is the status quo. Look at what DOC did for GM, etc? Chances are your energy will be better spent elsewhere, no?

Hey Mark, I understand your concern over framing a blog as a channel to 'teach'. But at the same time, I think companies need to understand that their message won't be spread unless there is a degree of VALUE attached to it. Because unfortunately, many companies want to launch a blog because they see it as a great tool to push their message out, and thanks to these social doohickeys, people will promote that message to all their friends on this network thingies, and it will spread like wildfire!

I want to avoid that mentality, and want companies to understand HOW and WHY we share content via social sites. We share content that has VALUE for us, and we believe it will have value for others. By shifting the focus of the blog as being a teaching channel, that shifts the mindset back to creating something of value.

So I get what you are saying about words having power, but I think if you just frame a blog as being a place where ideas are shared, that many companies hear 'Great! That means they'll share OUR ideas! Just what we want!!!'

At the end of the day, I want companies to understand that the blog isn't a tool for promoting themselves, it's a tool for creating valuable content. That's what all successful company blogs do.

As for indirect being 'sneaky', I disagree completely. I am saying that you DIRECTLY create valuable content for your readers, and that INDIRECTLY grows your business. For example, when LinkedIn writes a blog post on 'How to Use LinkedIn to Get a Job', that's a TEACHING post that has REAL VALUE for readers. Because LinkedIn is positioning the post as a value-creation tool for its readers. If it had used the post to DIRECTLY promote itself, such as 'How to Use LinkedIn', then the post has less value for readers. The post would more DIRECTLY promote LinkedIn, but by directly focusing on what LinkedIn's users want from the service, they use the post as an indirect means of benefiting themselves.

Finally, let's talk about Mr/Mrs Skeptical Boss. I constantly deal with companies that aren't sold on blogging and social media, and I can promise you that they ARE asking 'How is a blog going to help me?' A couple of weeks ago the exact question I was asked by a business owner was 'I think this social media stuff is a buncha crap, tell me why I'm wrong.' If I tell him 'Well if you create engaging content, that will benefit your company!', he's going to laugh in my face. Because he clearly does NOT understand social media, but he DOES understand money. His question is 'Can you show me the money?'. Since HE holds the purse strings, then you'd better believe that IS the right question.

So when you encounter a Skeptical Boss that asks this question, you can either throw your hands up in the air and leave, or you can answer his question in HIS terms, not yours.

1 - Explain how a well-positioned blog will send more traffic to his website (where the products are that can be ordered). Then it's just a matter of converting that extra traffic into additional sales.

2 - Explain how a well-positioned blog will increase incoming links, which improves search rankings. Ask him how much a month he's paying that agency to boost his SEO. Maybe he can do that organically with his blog and save much/all of that money?

3 - Explain how he could use the blog as a customer service tool. This saves money, improves customer perception, and helps the company collect more feedback from customers. And that additional feedback helps the company make its marketing more efficient, which also saves money.


But if I tell Mr Skeptical Boss that a blog is a great way to humanize his company and help him 'join the conversation', he's probably going to throw me out of his office amid a stream of profanity. Maybe you've been far luckier in the companies you deal with, but I have to deal with Mr Skeptical Boss constantly. If I just threw up my hands and walked away from them, I'd have a lot less work, and I'd have lost the chance to learn a LOT about how to deal with skepticism toward social media, and the REAL fears that companies are facing when it comes to this space.

Although I agree you should have clear goals in mind if you are using social media & blogging to help your small business; however, I don't think you can under estimate "participating" in your industry. The more you "participate" and add "value" in the social media world, you are helping to brand yourself. We all know once you are a known expert in a particular field, the more money you can generate. I think social media is helping build experts and although you can't track the value of a specific blog post, I think you can add an intrinsic value to becoming in expert in the online community!

Yep, I agree that small business (me) is helped by blogging. Ive been doing it for three years now and it does help with backlinks as well as comments to get feedback. I use pingomatic to ping new adsense sites (static) as blogs and that seems to work as well

Nice article. I'm a long-time web dev who just started his own design biz. I started out with referrals from family & friends, but over the past few weeks I've been blogging pretty regularly and marketing aggressively on Twitter. My traffic has definitely been on a steady uptick since. (Granted, it had nowhere to go but up.) I think the most important point you make is that driving traffic is one thing. Getting conversions on your site's "action" is quite another. I'm still working on that part. But funny enough I'm enjoying the marketing more than I thought I would. You meet some really cool people and get some good info when you jump fully into the social media pool.

Very interesting, for small businesses blogging is clearly essential to be popular on the internet. If the blogs are also used to link to articles and information useful to the pirticular industry then this will all help and their should be both long term and short term benefits for small businesses receiving more traffic.

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Search Engine Guide > Mack Collier > Blogging Small Businesses have 55% More Traffic, 97% More Inbound Links