I have long been an advocate of using blogs and email as complementary online marketing strategies. Blogs serve a customer acquisition function, while email serves a customer retention role. That belief was recently reinforced when I attended a webinar jointly sponsored by a new company, Compendium Blogware, and well-known email reputation service provider, Habeas.
It’s generally accepted that the two most widely engaged in online activities are search and email. Chris Baggott, Compendium’s co-founder and CEO, stated during the webinar that as much as 80 percent of all web-related activities begin with search. That’s where blogs make their mark, as search engine magnets. It’s not that Google knows a blog when it sees one, it’s that blogs contain the very elements that make a search engine salivate. According to Baggott they include:
- Recent Content
- Lots of Content
Something magical happens when a blogger completes the blog post title field. Most blog platforms turn it into a title tag unique to the post. That’s pure gold where Google is concerned.
Bloggers who understand the power of the medium will enrich their posts with niche-specific keywords, which helps Google better comprehend the topic being discussed.
Search engines love sites that are routinely updated and will return to index them again and again. Blogs are particularly suited to frequent updates due to their ease of use.
Lots of Content
Google can’t make sense of Flash animation or graphics, at least not yet. What it does see and understand are words, and blogs contain lots of them.
Links serve two purposes in search engine optimization. One of the ways the Google algorithm understands the purpose of a site is by looking at both inbound and outbound links. Therefore, links to topically-relevant sites provides immense SEO value. Not only that, each time someone links to a site, Google sees that as a “vote” on their behalf. Bloggers are rabid linkers. The practice is at the very heart of the medium.
Ever heard the term “Latent Semantic Indexing?” That’s what Google is up to these days. It’s more than indexing keywords. LSI, as it is known, takes a more holistic approach.
“Latent semantic indexing adds an important step to the document indexing process. In addition to recording which keywords a document contains, the method examines the document collection as a whole, to see which other documents contain some of those same words. LSI considers documents that have many words in common to be semantically close, and ones with few words in common to be semantically distant.” (Source: KnowledgeSearch.org)
It’s like the old “forest for the trees” analogy. Indexing keywords to determine relevance is to look at individual “trees,” whereas LSI seeks to look at the whole of the situation; the “forest.”
I’ve often said that a frequently-updated, keyword-optimized, thematically-relevant blog will rank well in search engines. I’ve seen it happen again and again, even for blogs that might be considered long-tail. Yet, while traffic acquisition is well and good, something more needs to happen in order to achieve ultimate effectiveness. Traffic to the blog needs to convert into traffic to the website and more. Compendium’s platform, for example, is designed with conversion in mind, including an opt-in email newsletter sign-up form among other things.
There are a number of ways blogs and email play well together. The webinar included four suggestions:
Build lists – Incorporating the newsletter subscription form as previously mentioned is a way for the relationship first established with the blogger to transcend to a relationship with the sponsoring company.
Use email to solicit blog content – By mentioning the company blog in the email newsletter, a bridge is created between the two. In addition, asking readers to submit suggestions for blog content or even going so far as to invite readers to submit content (guest posts) will further reinforce the relationship.
Use old email content for blog content – Repurposing content that, while valuable, may be languishing in the email newsletter archive is one way to give it new life.
Use blog content for email newsletters – Years ago I made the statement that blogs are good “seedbeds” for the formation of ideas that can be expanded on later or fleshed out for use in other forms, including email.
Something else to think about in terms of the relationship between blogs and email has to do with the number of times consumers are touched using either medium. For many companies, email newsletters are relegated to monthly syndication. That means the prospect or customer is only contacted 12 times per year, not nearly enough to establish a “top-of-mind” relationship. Even with weekly distribution, that still leaves six days out of the week when the customer does not hear from you. Blogs are a way to fill the gap, especially for those customers who subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed. With regular posting customers can be touched a manifold number of times.
Of course, the ideal scenario would be one that integrates both blogs and email into one platform. (To my knowledge, the only company doing that at present is iContact. Barring that, one path to integration is the use of FeedBlitz, which takes blog posts and turns them into emails that can be scheduled for daily, weekly or monthly distribution. An opt-in form is added to the blog sidebar for readers to use in subscribing. And, if nothing else, there is always CTRL-C and CTRL-V for copying and pasting of content from the blog to the newsletter, or vice-versa.
The bottom line is, when used in concert, blogs and email can serve up a marketing haymaker. I heartily encourage using both.