Blogging in a programmatic world

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How do blogs fit into a programmatic world? This post explores how a thoughtfully cultivated blog adds tangible value by stimulating traffic to websites where machines make decisions that generate incremental income in real-time.

Ben Thompson touches on this in his blog post titled “Blogging’s Bright Future” in which he dissects Andrew Sullivan’s recent decision to make a change:

“An advertising business model demands huge amounts of inventory served to a large number of readers targeted with a massive amount of data. Note carefully those words: “huge,” “large”, and “massive” are antithetical to my definition of a blog – something defined by a single individual.”

Sullivan’s post focuses more on his personal reasons for leaving his popular blog which he maintained for over 15 years. One of the themes he raises is this idea of blogging as a relatively superficial medium that emphasizes volume and timing rather than substance and impact. Thompson takes issue with this notion and explores what a blog is today, what it used to be and how content creation habits have changed over time.


Blogs: then and now

Blogs used to be the primary way people shared their thoughts on the Web back in the lately 1990s and early 2000s. An interconnected sharing ecosystem evolved around links and trackbacks and this was how people engaged with each other on the nascent social web. In digital primeval times, blogs emerged from personal journals (remember LiveJournal?) and slowly became credible business communications platforms.

Facebook and Twitter sparked a change in how we shared online, starting with personal sharing with limited groups on Facebook and, soon after, extending to short updates on Twitter. The social web expanded from there and the burgeoning content marketing field quickly embraced these shorter form options, along with the many that followed.

Blogs didn’t die but the reasons people used them changed. Writing a blog post to share your family outing is very public and cumbersome compared with a Facebook post shared with your friends and family and comprising a couple photos and a caption. On the other hand, Twitter is not a good medium if you want to tell your customers about a new product range and the thinking that went into it.

In Charlene Li’s and Josh Bernoff’s book “Groundswell” (an important book for marketers to read) explores how to engage meaningfully and one of the crucial ideas I took away from that book is the idea that you should use the platform that is most appropriate to the market you want to reach. A shotgun approach where you use all the popular social services because that is what everyone else is doing, is an ineffective strategy.

Blogging and sales

What does this have to do with blogging? Avishai, imonomy’s marketing director, wrote about this in his blog post titled “Your Blog is the Main Stage for Your Content Marketing” last year and he made this point:

“You can certainly use social media to link your network to meaningful information—but it’s far more advantageous to link them to meaningful content you’ve produced yourself—and blogging offers the simplest, most engaging method for doing that.”

Neil Patel is a big fan of blogs as an essential content marketing tool. His blog post titled “How Does Content Marketing Actually Get You More Sales” explains where his companies’ blogging activities feature in his overall content marketing strategy with particular emphasis on how blogging benefits the sales process. This is his starting point:

“Ninety-nine percent of our marketing dollars go toward two channels: content marketing and email marketing.”

He then goes on to explain that he spends roughly $2 000 on email marketing and almost triple that on blog-related costs each month (excluding his blog administrator’s salary which he didn’t disclose). Lead generation is crucial because his clients have to purchase products through sales representatives. After breaking down the leads his team received in a month, he shared a few interesting conclusions:

“That means the blog drove 62% of the leads for that month. Sometimes that percentage is a bit lower, and a few times I’ve seen it in the 80s.

“The leads coming from our blog are almost as qualified as the leads coming from our homepage. What we found is that a reader becomes a lead after reading at least 3 blog posts. Which is why we try to collect emails of our blog readers—by sending our content to their inboxes, we entice them to come back.”

Just having a blog doesn’t magically result in leads. You have to put effort into it, a lot of effort. As Avishai pointed out, when you write good quality content that adds value for your customers and potential customers, you’re more likely to develop meaningful relationships with them which converts to sales down the line.

What does this have to do with programmatic advertising?

One of the features of programmatic advertising is that is a powerful tool for presenting relevant ads to potential customers based on various factors which could include contextual signals such as the page the person visits and the search terms that bring that person to your website.

Your blog can be a powerful attraction for your customers and an opportunity for you to tell them more about your industry and, indirectly, your products and services. Ads which are selected based on search terms, browsing habits and content choices will help bring more potential customers to your website and increase the number of leads you can convert into sales. The challenge isn’t about scaling your blog based on the size of your audience. As Thompson points out:

“But Sullivan did have a viable business, and it scaled wonderfully: it cost him the same amount of both time and money to serve 1,000 subscribers as it would have to serve 100,000, or 1 million, and he didn’t need to change a thing about himself or his content to do it. No, it’s not scale that is the problem, but rather reach.”

Programmatic advertising is one way to solve that problem by making your ads more relevant and engaging and increasing the likelihood that visitors to your website will either become your customers or return for more of what you have to offer.

3 tips to make it all work better

Your blog and your advertising campaigns are not mutually exclusive. Instead, great quality content and well targeted ads work together to entice engaged customers and generate meaningful leads and, in due course, sales.

Image credit: Blogging printing by The Shopping Sherpa, licensed CC BY ND 2.0

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