Imagine this in your mind’s eye: You’re at a family BBQ, enjoying the afternoon sunshine. For the last hour, you’ve been fully engaged in a light-hearted debate with your stubborn and *cough* wrong father-in-law about the best type of oil to put in your car. The back-and-forth banter between the two of you is easily misconstrued, can veer off-topic in a heartbeat, and you both become unsure as to what exactly the other one is saying.

He’s lost, and is starting to hint that you’re not good enough for his daughter out of frustration; you want – and need – to bring focus and clarity back to the discussion. What you need is a way to refresh your communication efforts before you unintentionally ruin the relationship. What you need is a stable and clear mode of communication. Why? When you strip back the additional content – the bickering about driving styles, climate, make/model and frequency of changes – you can bring control and trust back to the relationship by dialing in what you’re trying to say to your audience. You need to get him to see things your way.

In this post, we’re going to outline the many ways blogging can help your company generate sales leads by focusing in on your communication efforts and the importance of building trustworthy relationships via your corporate voice.

 

What’s Blogging & Why is it Important?

 

Blogging seems like one of those words that overused and often misunderstood. Blogging isn’t just for budding Pinterest personalities or arts students who want to sell you chic accoutrement made from pallet wood – blogging is a hugely effective communication tool that has the power to cut directly through to your ideal prospects mode of thinking. Blogging is, in a way, the very essence of modern-day digital communication that got started in the late 90’s as personal online diaries.

WordPress tells us that blogging is short for weblog, a term used to describe websites that maintain a constant stream of ongoing information. Blogs use links to other information to help focus in on a specific topic, and can range vastly – from political and personal, to a bit of comedic fun. Typically, blogs all have a few things in common:

 

  • They focus on a main idea or topic, with a chronological thread of posts, organized into subcategories.
  • They usually include an archive of old posts, used to boost and maintain keywords and metadata
  • Link to other sites they admire and use as a “blogroll.”

 

Today, the internet features over 100 million blogs on just about every topic under the sun – what’s more, the blog is no longer just a conduit for personal or creative release. Influential bloggers can influence politics, society, and business, all with the power of their words.

Why is that important? Because blogging puts a human face and touch on your brand, helping to differentiate it from the competition by harboring its own unique perspective. The fine folks over at the Content Marketing Institute tell us that 80% of people identify as blog users, and of their total time spent online, 23% of it is spent on social media platforms. This equates to readers sharing blogs, info and ideas with their friend groups, expanding your influence, and helping leverage new buyer behavior by keeping them satisfied with new content.

 

A few quick blogging stats, courtesy of HubSpot’s marketing statistics bible:

 

 

Further – from a SEO standpoint, blogs are important to lead and traffic generation because they help websites boost the number of indexed pages and links hosted on the site. ContentPlus published findings that tell us blogs help give websites about 434% more indexed pages, and 97% more indexed links – both translating into higher rankings from search engines and way more traffic to your site. Higher search engine rankings can mean your business or brand makes it to the first page of search results – powerful intel when you consider that 75% of all internet users never scroll past the first page.

 

What’s a Sales Qualified Lead?

 

There’s significant confusion over the differences between a sales-qualified lead (SQL), and a marketing-qualified lead (MQL). The main – and biggest – difference is where they lie within the inbound methodology. Typically, a marketing qualified lead is a prospect that’s found in the connect stage – a sales qualified lead can generally be found closer to the explore stage, within the consideration stage. In order to graduate to an SQL, marketing teams need to assess who is ready to be handed off to the sales team to be presented with a purchasing opportunity.

At Riverbed, we like to acknowledge that an SQL is the ideal type of lead to expose to your sales team because it takes a considerable amount of time to determine which leads are a good fit for the product you’re selling. Passing any and all leads on to the sales team can make them less effective, while gauging what blog content each lead is interested in can help to shed some light on where they fall in the buyer’s journey. Knowing the difference between sales and marketing qualified leads is critical to ensuring you know how to best communicate with each. Knowing who can benefit from a tailored platform of content is a great way to help introduce them to the next stage of the inbound methodology.

On average, 50% of qualified leads aren’t ready to buy – so having the blog content to back up and reiterate your finer points is key to helping your readers transition.

 

Role of Blogging in the Inbound Process

 

To put it bluntly, a blog is the voice of an organization or brand. It’s the vessel of communication that portrays the main ideas, concepts, opinions, and expertise of a company to its prospective clients, audience, or readership. Without this crucial communication tool, any website of company runs the risk of losing the opportunity to connect and interact with their prospects.

Without a blog, there’s significantly less chance of distributing knowledge, gaining traction within the marketplace, or developing trust, because the reader can’t put a voice – and therefore, and identity – to the company.

In the inbound methodology, blogging falls under the Attract Stage. Ground floor. Step 1. Green light. It’s where complete strangers are introduced to your brand, your ideas, and your opinions.

Blogging is the one of the primary ways an organization or business helps to convert strangers into visitors to their website, in time, generating interest in products/services, and beginning to build meaningful relationships and trust with an intended audience.

As a powerful form of creative content generation, blogs represent answers to pre-existing questions that prospects and customers are actively searching online; the aim of the game is to provide a blog as a suitable and satisfactory answer for those questions. This is effectively completed by sitting back and developing content that will resonate with your target market. Personalizing your content and blogging efforts to those who are viewing it helps a writer to learn more and more about their audience as time progresses. This helps your blog to develop its own unique voice, and personalize its messages to your readership’s’ needs.

Hubspot tells us that “inbound marketing starts with blogging.” Why? Because it’s a form of premium educational content that speaks directly to a person – not a potential paycheck.

 

People Actually Enjoy Reading

 

Reading isn’t just for older folks who love kicking back with an Earl Grey and the newspaper, or the hordes of teens who consume vampire/werewolf/wizard books like cheerios – reading, and reading blogs, is one popular way of communicating across nearly all boards.

The Pew Research Centre tells us that 26% of readers do so because it’s enjoyable to learn, gain knowledge and discover new information. Human beings are hard-wired with a desire to expand their minds and take in new info. Their report on the enjoyment of reading went on further to say that many people felt reading is an empowering lifestyle choice that helps them “better imagine things” when compared to TV.

When your online readers enjoy and wholeheartedly enjoy reading your blogs, as content marketers and business owners, we owe it to our readers to give them engaging, new content to consume on a regular basis. When we don’t, someone else will – people love reading new blogs.

In a time where over 90% of marketers are employing use of blogs and content marketing, only 1 out of every 8 businesses keep an updated blog. Neil Patel recommends posting to your blog at least once per week – but the key is overall consistency. An under kept or old blog makes people wonder if your business is:

 

  • Legitimate
  • Competent
  • Successful
  • Even in existence

 

Readability

 

People really like knowing that there’s an actual person on the other end of the screen, typing and researching ways to communicate and speak directly to them. For this simple reason, it’s so, so important to acknowledge that tone, your brand’s perspective, and the voice of your identity shines through in your writing; which leads us to the readability of your blogging efforts. You may have access to all of the best, most in-depth knowledge on the internet today – but if no one can understand what you’re saying, you’re effectively wasting your virtual breath.

Engaging with your reading difficulty is key to helping a larger percentage of the population meaningfully interpret your message in a way that’s approachable, invigorating, and clear. The Flesch-Kincaid readability test is a great way to gauge the readability of your blogs. The test was originally designed for the US Navy in 1975 as a way to gauge how difficult it was for soldiers to interpret technical manuals, and soon became United States Military standard practice. Readability scores are calculated on word length and sentence length.

To put scoring into perspective, an approachable magazine publication like Reader’s Digest has a readability index of about 65, ranking as a 10-12 grade level, or “fairly difficult” to read. Meanwhile, the Harvard Law Review records a readability score in the low 30’s, ranking as “very difficult to read. Best understood by University graduates.” The lower the number, the tougher it is for your readers to interpret your message.

 

Blogging Builds Trust & Relationships

 

Using personable sentence structuring helps the reader to feel as though they’re being spoken to directly; use “you,” “we,” and “us” in your writing to help establish common ground, and justify that you’re in it together.

Blogging is the perfect complementing content medium for a successful inbound campaign because they possess the power to help build authority and perceived expertise in your chosen field. Why? Blogs give total control to the company’s writing their own material.

Authority builds trust, and trust helps to foster meaningful and lasting relationships with clients and customers who learn from and trust your knowledge. Meaningful relationships are the stuff that dreams are made of – they’re instrumental in converting your readers into qualified leads. Without trust, forget about it.

 

Internal Linking

 

Writing for the sake of writing can be therapeutic and fun – but if your content is largely unrelated, chaotic in scope, and not back up with cold, hard facts – search engines won’t know what to make if your efforts.

Providing evidence of research via internal linking and SEO analysis helps improve the ranking of your target pages in search engine results, because the search engine itself has been able to draw enough information from your blog about your intended subject matter. This added context goes beyond what’s available on the page itself.

 

Internal linking is a fundamental part of SEO because it helps search engines derive context and meaning in the pages you interlink,” says Riverbed’s own inbound marketing Team Leader, Michael Bergen. “Through this method of contextual links applied to your target page, search engines have a stronger signal about that page’s intent and subject matter. With a greater understanding of the page, search engines can more confidently serve up that page as a result when a proper search matches the content you offer.”

In short, internal linking helps search engines to place value on your words, giving links the ability to provide direction for the internet robot monster machine.

 

Different Content Speaks to Different People

 

Blogs can hugely help to boost sales leads when the content is revisited and refreshed in many different formats; there’s more than one way to present engaging and interesting information – you don’t have to resort to book-report or essay style novella’s every time you have something to say, and people respect that!

In fact, many different styles of blogs can have very different effects on lead generation and overall traffic, based on structure, length, keywords, and layout. Beyond practicality – it’s fun to challenge yourself to write something in a new way. For example, you can write:

 

  • How-to’s and Tutorials
    • A powerful blogging archetype for its ability to inspire confidence and share research-driven evidence. Most shoppers in a digital sphere use the internet to research their purchases ahead of time – head them off at the beginning by offering your expertise.
  • Lists
    • Listicle blog posts are excellent ways to minimize word counts, inspire ease of readership through tactile headlines, like “5 of BC’s Best Road Trip Destinations…,” or “Top 7 Summer Music Events,” etc. – and are easily shared by readers who put your knowledge into action. Lists help to share the best information as quickly as possible.
  • Link Lists
    • Similar to that of a list post, a link list differs in its ability to curate other people’s content as a compiled resource of expert advice and/or opinion. They’re great for those content producers who don’t have a huge amount of time to research an entire topic, but want to help build trust and knowledge through sharing the advice of other worthy brands.
  • Checklists
    • The perfect direction-giving post for readers who need motivation and help to get answers. Not vastly different from a how-to, a checklist provides an actionable list of advice that is great for inspiring efficiency and helps your reader to not forget a critical aspect of the process.
  • Reviews
    • Reviews of new technology, products, or services is a great way to boost your sales leads by compare-contrasting available knowledge and related products.
  • Infographics
    • Easily allow your readers to digest statistics in a not-so-dry way that encourages fun, authority, and creativity. They’re easy to interpret, easy to share, and easily help build rapport with readers with their factual, yet colorful, methods.

 

How Much is Too Much?

 

Let’s imagine you have one hell of a blogger in your corner. They exude expertise, and have gained huge traction in the marketplace by offering up an approachable voice that’s easy to interpret and full of knowledge; but… they’ve hit a plateau. Readers aren’t completing the posts anymore. They’re all about the same length – let’s argue around 1500 words. It’s time to rethink your approach to boost different types of responses.

The Write Practice notes that there are three different lengths for the perfect blog post, and each of them dictates the type of engagement you’re likely to see from your readership.

A shorter blog post of about 275 words acts as a discussion-based precursor to a larger topic, and are perfect for generating reader comments. Short posts are good for generating discussion on social media platforms thanks to their accessibility and mobile-friendly size.

Medium length blog posts of about 675-1,250 words are perfect for generating shares online, and are sufficient enough for most SEO practices. Medium posts are best peppered with a great headline and a compelling premise to help solve a reader problem, rather than spark a conversation.

Traffic building from Google requires big, beefy posts that easily weigh in at over 2,500 words. These posts need to be heavily researched to engage your audience, because search engines love authoritative data-driven content. They may not generate discussion, or equate to loads of shares, but blog posts of this length will certainly generate traffic. (For example, this post weighs in at over 2,800 words.)

However you want to spin it, blogs are essential to a successful inbound marketing methodology because of their innate ability to put businesses and brands in touch with their readers, visitors, prospects and clients. Blogging is all about securing, streamlining and developing new ways to communicate with one another.

In some sense, blogs are the new school rendition of smoke signals, they have the power to quietly and strategically alert readers of information over huge distances, socio-economic backgrounds, and industries – liken the blog to the smoke – it’s all about how well the smoke is generated that makes a smoke signal such a successful method of communication.

When you take the time to research and implement good blogging practices, your sales leads inevitably increase over time – because people appreciate and respect brands and companies that put an honest effort into offering new and engaging content on a consistent basis.