What’s the primary purpose of a B2B manufacturers blog? Is it traffic? Or better still, sales leads? If those are your goals and you follow the standard blogging advice, I suggest you will be disappointed.
Let’s assume you run a small to medium-sized B2B manufacturing operation. Your marketing people have been pushing hard for your commitment to invest in a blog. You recognise blogging is not free and there are significant costs involved. You have a decision to make.
The worst fluff content you can find on the subject will tell you ‘build it and they will come’ – what nonsense. If we make a list of the (supposed) benefits of a manufacturer blog and rank them in (alleged) priority order, we get:
- Increased traffic to the business website.
- More visibility in the marketplace.
- More sales leads.
- Improved competitive position.
- Increased credibility.
- Existing customer engagement.
I argue that the list is upside down. It will be a real struggle to achieve the top three organically unless your manufacturing business happens to be the dominant force (authority/trustworthiness) in the marketplace.
Some of the better quality advice on building a manufacturers blog suggests you identify your ideal customer and their information needs. Then you publish educational content that satisfies those needs and push it into the channels your prospect engages with the most. It all makes sense….but
A B2B Manufacturers Blog – An Example
Let’s assume your manufacturing business has a relatively new website built on solid technical foundations. Your marketing people write an insightful blog post on a topic that has received significant recent attention in your marketplace. It takes a stand on an important issue relevant to your industry. It includes original research and graphics. The post runs to over 2000 words.
The post remains on topic and relevant to business keywords and their synonyms. Your B2B content writers work hard on structure and headings. They include relevant images and write powerful headings and meta descriptions. They link out to relevant and credible sources. In short, your marketing people follow all the (alleged) manufacturer blog best practices.
They publish the post and leave it for a week or two to allow it to index and percolate through the search results. They run Google analytics to view the impact on your organic results (negligible). They look at landing and exit pages (nothing). They know it’s a little early to expect anything, but they review incoming links (struck out again).
They run many relevant queries and view the SERPS. There is lots of content on the first few pages that are nowhere near as relevant or expansive as yours. They run multiple relevant queries and your business is consistently outranked. Why? What happened?
The problem is twofold. First, a failure to promote content, but much more importantly your new business website has no authority. You can publish the best, relevant, in-depth, researched content, but if your website has no authority/trustworthiness, you are unlikely to rank. What gives a website authority (as perceived by the search engines)? Many things, more on that subject in our navigating the changing landscape of online search post
Types of Blog post
So, the problem then is promotion? If marketing had followed the (alleged) manufacturer blog promotion best practices. If they had reached out to those linked to in the post, then a (small) number of links would have been received in return. Wrong again I am afraid. The purpose of the post was interaction, not link generation, there is a difference.
A blog is one of the many potential sources of content available. There are many types of blog posts, the most common are:
- How to.
- News items.
- Case study.
- Thought leadership.
- Resource lists.
- Expert interview snippets.
If we assume your target is prospects and your aim is more traffic and/or leads. Then, If we categorise each by its primary goal:
The purpose of listicles, expert interview snippets, reviews and infographics is links.
How to, answer posts, resource list posts and news posts are targeted at traffic.
The prime purpose of case studies and thought leadership posts is credibility.
Obviously, a post can have primary and multiple secondary goals.
Blogging – A Benefits Review
Let’s look back at our list of alleged advantages of blogging. Has your blogging activity had any impact on visibility, traffic or sales leads? No, it has not.
You could point out that it is no surprise. You may suggest after publishing several quality blog posts, results will come. If posts are customer-focused rather than link-focused, I disagree.
You may suggest that without content (of which blogs are one element), the search engines will perceive your site as low quality and affect your ranking. Again, authority is the issue and again, I disagree.
Even if you could secure a satisfactory amount of website traffic, what conversion rate can you expect? It depends on what you count as a conversion. It depends on the purpose of each blog post and the tactics marketing uses to keep visitors engaged and moving through your site.
The statistics vary but here’s one extreme case. As a rough guide, my rule of thumb is on a small, B2B manufacturers blog, between 1 and 2% of organic visitors should take some form of positive action. That action could be as basic as signing up for a download. It is not a lead.
The Real Purpose Of A Manufacturers Blog
As discussed at length without authority your blog post will not rank on the search engines when a prospect types in a relevant search phrase. If it does not rank it will attract little traffic.
Unless that is, it is on a subject (topic/keywords) with very little competition. But, unfortunately, if there is very little competition, it is probable there is also very little interest (traffic)
So now we have dealt with more traffic, more leads, more visibility claims, let’s move on. I suggest the real reasons for a manufacturers blog are:
- Keep existing customers engaged.
- Branding and credibility
At this point, the discussion should develop to include content strategy and content marketing, but I will try to stay on topic.
Can a blog help keep existing customers engaged? Can it raise the credibility of a business? The answer to both those questions is a resounding yes.
Will a blog give a business a competitive advantage in existing customers? Again the answer is yes. Many blog types, such as answering questions, how-to guides and case studies are ideal for existing clients. They may read them and leave, but unlike prospects, there is a reasonable chance they will return.
Existing customers don’t come across your business during a random web search as they know who you are. You already have a level of credibility. They may even have your website bookmarked.
If it is possible to take the next step and become perceived as a thought leader in the industry, then that really will deliver a competitive advantage. Thought leadership drives return visits to a site and, more importantly, credibility.
Your blog allows you to discuss topics that are important to your customers. You can offer insights that guide members of a decision-making team. Your manufacturers blog can support the efforts of your KAMs and sales teams. Crucially, you can deliver that content directly (you know who you are dealing with)
There are many ways (online and offline) to drive traffic to your website without SEO. When those prospects arrive on your site there needs to be something that boosts both engagement and your credibility and that, we suggest, is your blog.
If you agree, then it should change your focus. You should be less worried (if at all) about SEO and more concerned about writing content of real value to existing customers. If potential new customers land on your site (or you drive them there), blog content should boost your credibility.
So, should you invest in a blog? The answer depends on your objectives. The value may not be where you initially imagined it to be.
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