Long-Form Content: Why Blogging Still Matters
Recently, Michael Brito and I were talking about content, and we both agreed in today’s noisy social world, it’s easy to look past blogs and long-form content in general. We also agree it’s a mistake to do so (and so does Ev Williams). In my view, blogs are important for two key reasons: 1) Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and 2) because of the link and aggregation capability they provide.
Good SEO helps cut through the clutter
Michael recently blogged about a larger, related topic of brand as publisher. In that post, Michael makes an important point: a lot of the content published on other social networks (think Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.) are not indexed by search engines at all, or at least not as effectively as relevant blog content. Why should you care about this? Because even after working for years to build traction with Dell’s corporate blog Direct2Dell (we had over 3 million page views in 2012), almost 50% of its traffic came from organic searches. And that traffic pattern was pretty consistent over the last few years. What this means is no matter how well-established your corporate blog is, it’s a safe bet that lots of people are finding specific posts after doing a Google search. They won’t find your Facebook brand page updates that way.
One thing I should mention again is that building traction with a blog takes time. Just publishing content on a regular basis doesn’t mean you will show up in search engine queries. Building traction is about building authority. In my mind, the quickest way to do that is to link to active external conversations and articles, and hopefully drive inbound links from other blog posts to the ones you’re writing. It’s also important to realize not all links are created equal. I’ll go more in-depth on this topic soon.
Blogs are still the most flexible tool in your social media arsenal
The second reason blogging still matters is because of the inherent flexibility they provide. By design, blogs are meant to include a mix of text, images and video. Blogs are also built to include hyperlinks and embeds of all sorts of things like tweets, YouTube videos, Flickr and Google+ photos and SlideShare decks. And they can include a number of any of those things. Ever since the early days of blogging, hyperlinks were often called the life blood of blogs, and I still think that’s still the case today. You can and should link to external sources and conversations every time you sit down to write a blog post; you should also link to owned and shared properties to embed videos, images or other content assets whenever it helps you tell a more complete story. Compare that to Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Those services are designed to support a single link at a time.
In my view, company blogs should be used to connect conversations from around the web. And they should also be used to tell a broader brand narrative that tries to offer something of value to its readers. A corporate blog that adds value to customers is a natural candidate to serve as a publishing hub for those companies like Coca-Cola and Red Bull who are both well down the brand as publisher path.
What do you think? What other brands are getting the publishing thing right?