By John Siebert
Blogging has been around for nearly two decades. With the growth of social media in the last decade and its application in marketing products and services, blogs have made their presence felt as a viable, but extremely underutilized marketing platform.
Blogs as a marketing tool
The role of blogs as a marketing tool was helped in no small measure by the Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird releases that transformed Google’s search algorithms. Blogs had arrived and were a key piece in the content marketer’s arsenal.
Over time, blogs have branched out into marketable products in their own right. Millions of professionals share their skills and expertise via blogs that reach out to carefully segmented audiences. Carefully crafted content that users would pay good money to access have started proliferating on blogs, becoming a new source of revenue.
When your blog IS your service or product
Just as retail brands drive traffic to their physical and online distribution networks, it has become necessary to drive traffic to professional blogs that offer subject matter expertise as their core ‘product’ or ‘service.’
So if driving traffic or marketing a blog is a prerequisite to earning money off of it, how does one do this? Leading brands spend billions of dollars annually in marketing their products. While you don’t have to burn a hole in your pocket promoting your blog, you can definitely use time-tested marketing wisdom, plug in your understanding of digital platforms and take your custom-designed marketing strategy for a spin.
The 4 Ps of Marketing
The fundamental building block of any marketing strategy is the Marketing Mix, more commonly known as the 4 Ps of Marketing:
Applying the 4 Ps to Promote your Blog
Let’s take a look at each of the 4 Ps from the context of blogging and maximizing online conversions.
This refers to your basic offering – in this case, your blog.
Understand your product.
- What do you bring to the table?
- What problem do you solve?
- Are you a B2B blog?
- Do you offer fashion advice?
- Are you a financial services blog?
Define your niche.
This will help you understand your audience. Tailor-make content that your audience will love. You don’t want to peddle makeup tips to middle-aged men hunting for retirement planning advice.
You can offer various types of products to your users. Including:
- ‘How to’ posts and Tutorials
- Case studies
- Industry news and analysis
- Interviews with industry experts
To market your product – your blog – better, you need to ensure that you offer the highest level of quality. Even the most brilliant marketing cannot rescue substandard products.
Refine and polish your content.
Offer unique content that your users can’t find anywhere else. Make sure it is accurate, readable and share-worthy.
Since you are marketing a blog, you must integrate the power of social media into your product by adding social plugins that allow sharing. Create a comments section that allows for interaction with your users and helps you build a community on your blog.
Before you unleash your blog and its associated products on the world, test them. Use A/B tests, multivariate tests and qualitative feedback on your products to ensure that they convert well, before your big launch.
Most blogs are free. But you can always choose to monetize your blog instead of letting it just be a diary for your thoughts.
The Huffington Post and Mashable are two of the most successful blogs on the planet in terms of monetization success, according to this infographic from social4retail.com.
There are various ways to monetize your blog.
You can put a price tag on the content that you post on your blog. If your content is truly valuable, people will be glad to pay a price to read your awesome training manuals or ‘How-to Guides.’
Another way of making money from your blog is to allow advertising on it. This can be in the form of Adsense ads or display ads from various networks.
You can also offer space to affiliate marketing networks on your blog and make money off each referral that you send out from your blog to the affiliate site.
A subscription model, where you charge your users a one-time or recurring subscription fee to access your content, is another way to make money off great content. A number of professional photographers offer this option for premium images that can be made available to users at a fixed price per month, per year or per use.
Pick the right way to monetize your blog based on your blog content and get set to bring in the big bucks.
In the physical world, the ‘Place’ component of the Marketing Mix refers to the way you will distribute your product or service. In this scenario, your product is your blog and the various types of content that you offer via your blog.
You need to pick a solid hosting service for your blog, as this will be the home of your blog for the foreseeable future. The service you pick needs to be cost effective, customizable for your content, scalable, stable and highly secure from malicious attacks.
With the free platforms, you don’t have to worry about designing a blog from scratch – you can pick from one of the hundreds of templates available on these platforms. Many platforms offer bundled hosting services, so you don’t need to go hunting for one separately.
Alternately, you can also choose to build your blog from scratch by coding and designing it yourself and hosting it on a web hosting service.
You can also distribute your blog content through RSS feeds on your blog. Include an RSS button on your blog to encourage users to subscribe to your latest posts. This way your content will reach the user directly on a regular basis, without them having to come to your website first.
Syndicate your content through sites like Alltop, Outbrain, Taboola, nrelate and more. These content networks operate much like ad networks, but they use contextual content in place of contextual ads on leading publishing sites like CNN.com, where large audiences can access your content.
This is the final and most crucial step to market your product or service. Tap into the power of the Internet to promote your blog in different ways.
Organic Social Media Posts.
Post engaging and interesting content on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other social media platforms to promote your blog. Be regular, have a clear voice and don’t be afraid to take a stand. People who blend in on social media do themselves a disservice.
Before you spend time mastering a social network, pick the network that best suits your type of content and audience.
- Do you blog about travel and leisure? Try Facebook and Pinterest.
- Do you offer financial advice? LinkedIn and Twitter would be great platforms for you.
- Is your blog women-centric? Get on Pinterest right away.
Use Google+ in any case. This growing social media platform is of top importance when it comes to SEO rankings of your blog.
Paid social media posts.
Ever since social media companies started monetizing their platforms, organic posts surface fewer and fewer times on the timelines or feeds of your followers. Also, the mind-boggling number of posts generated every day means that your organic posts might be buried in seconds from the time you post it. The surefire way to work around this problem is to use paid ads on social media.
Post your content to communities focused on the topics your blog covers. Facebook and LinkedIn both offer a wide variety of interest-based and professional communities that you can use to your advantage. You even have the option of starting your own community by inviting targeted users to join your community.
Every email you send is a potential ad vehicle. Post a link to your blog with a crisp description of what it’s about in your email signature and you have a free, automatic promotion tool that you can use as many times as you like.
Guest blog posts and comments on other blogs.
Use other blogs as a soapbox for your blog. Post content on relevant blogs as a guest blogger. This works in two ways – your blog gets a wider audience, while the blog on which you post the guest post gets free content.
Also make sure you visit blogs in your niche and leave comments and a link to your own blog.This gives you additional visibility among the readers of the host blog. (Ed. Note: many bloggers do not accept comments with links to other blogs embedded in the comment itself, because these links tend to be spammy. Enter your blog’s address in the form field provided for that purpose in the Comments area of the post.)
Most blogs have a signup form for email newsletters. Harvest as many email IDs as possible from your various distribution networks, ask users to sign up for newsletters, offer a small freebie in exchange for email IDs and build your mailing list.
Offer subscribers exclusive freebies that you don’t post on your blog, to encourage more people to sign up for your newsletter.
Social bookmarking and discovery sites.
Apart from discovering content via social media, entertainment- and information-starved users are avid followers of content discovery sites like Stumbleupon, Digg, Reddit etc. If you publish interesting, unique or never-before-seen content that has a strong visual character, make sure you use one of these options.
Link to other bloggers.
Keep them in the know about content on your blog that is relevant to their readers.
Optimize your blog for search (SEO).
One of the most important things that will make your blog easily discoverable and drive traffic to it is to optimize it. There are various elements that you can SEO for: the page title, article headers, keywords in the article and in the headers, meta data and so on.
The fundamentals of marketing remain the same, whatever be the product or service being marketed. To succeed in promoting your product, you need to understand your product and its environment and creatively adapt the rules to the ecosystem in which you operate. More power to creative marketing!
Blog/typewriter photo credit © rvlsoft via Fotolia.com