Today’s BuzzoodleCast is Lead Generation with Blogs. Ron McDaniel discuss advantages and disadvantages of blogging for lead generation and lead cultivation. He also outlines the most critical keys to success when blogging for lead generation. Be sure to leave a comment and let us know what you think.
Lead Generation with Blogs
by Ron McDaniel
Hi, my name is Ron McDaniel, and today we’re going to be talking about lead generation with blogs. Now I know blogs are not the newest thing out there. But, they’re a very important core to your lead generation efforts. And a lot of people overlook the value of blogs as a central focus point in everything else you’re doing for lead generation.
So why do blogs work well for lead generation? Because you can publish almost anything on the blog obviously within the realm of what the blog is about. It’s not like a website where you really want to focus on a few pages that are geared around educating a visitor and converting them to a customer. The blog can actually be a more powerful search engine optimization device and a way to interact with people more and go after a broader scope of targeted keywords. Plus blogs have all kinds of other tools built in and features that make them very powerful for attracting and maintaining prospect’s attention.
So the first thing I want to cover are a group of advantages when you’re blogging for lead generation. I mentioned it already at the beginning, but SEO, search engine optimization, is so powerful with blogs. No search engine optimization company will really work with you unless there is a blog they can use to help generate the results. That’s for a few reasons. There are the RSS feeds, there is the fact that you can write lots of different kinds of content. And a lot of the tools in the blog system actually are very good and very easy at optimizing for on page search engine ranking results. It’s just the best option for getting higher ranking in search engines over time.
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Another reason you want to blog for lead generation is because you’re really creating a long term asset. Because you should set up a blog on a domain you own, or a subdomain. So if you have widgets.com, like blog.widgets.com could be your blog site. The key though is that you own it, it’s on a site you control and while the rankings are going to fluctuate and the traffic is going to fluctuate, nobody can force you to take it down. So whereas Google might shut down your Google account or Facebook might cancel your Facebook account and things like that, your blog if you’ve set it up the right way, this is something you’ll always have and control. And over time it should get stronger and stronger on lead generation. Which makes it a better and better asset within your organization.
One of the things that make it so attractive is not only how effective it is, but also how low cost it can be.
The setting up a WordPress blog on a domain you own can be done usually under an hour to just get the basics done. Then depending on how complex your design is and how many things you want to optimize, maybe another hour, two to three hours, for really making it a robust site. Now of course what’s difficult is putting quality content in there regularly and getting backlinks, which we’ll talk about further down the road here. But as far as just getting started, usually you can hire somebody on oDesk or Elance or something like that and have it done for a very, very low amount of money.
Another thing that makes this really attractive as a lead generation tool is there’s tons of these widgets and plugins and things built for blogs that allow it to easily add features to interact people, like social media widgets, RSS feeds, and you can add a form if you want, you can add contact forms, you can do all kinds of things without being a programmer. Because there’s tons of people out there already building plugins for WordPress, and a lot of times they’re free. So that’s a great, great thing about using this kind of a platform and just really utilizing what’s there to get to grow your business.
Now another thing about blogs, sometimes people think that the blog is eventually going to become so saturated that it will be ineffective. Well, the technology of blogs is not going to go anywhere. There can’t be a situation in the future where Google suddenly decides we’re not ranking any WordPress sites because WordPress runs lots and lots of very highly credible sites including magazines and large companies. So the technology is going to continue to evolve with the internet and is never going to hurt you. In fact, in most cases it helps you.
The only thing you don’t want to do is kind of set it up and then just never put anything other than the default things in there. For example there’s a default theme that comes with it. You wouldn’t want to leave the default theme up there because it would look like your blog is not a serious site. That might hurt you. But as long as you change the defaults, your blog is going to be successful online and you don’t have to worry about it someday being banned just because it’s on WordPress.
The great thing about this also is that it’s a standardized publishing platform. And it’s so widespread that there are a lot of other tools outside of your blog that will integrate with it if you turn on certain features.
So maybe for example, some publishing tools you can use desktop software, iPad, iPhone stuff, to integrate with your WordPress blog and post from wherever you are. There are also all kinds of things you can do with social media being allowed to go to it and pull from it and that kind of stuff. So the standard publishing platform aspect of it makes it very, very robust, because there’s a lot of options of things you can use with it.
Now there are some disadvantages in general for blogging for lead generation. I’ve been doing this for many years with many clients, some of which have made millions of dollars and others that have not gotten a penny. The biggest issue we see is the amount of time it takes. Now it does not have to take a lot of time. In fact, a half hour a week if you really know your subject probably is plenty to put up an article or two. And if you do at least that much every week, you’re going to get results three to six months out or maybe nine months out depending on how competitive your marketplace is. But you can start building traffic by a little bit of time every week. But what we’ve seen is a lot of people for a few weeks will be excited about it, will do what they’re supposed to do and then they just don’t stick to the plan. They give up after only maybe one or two months because they haven’t seen a flood of leads come in, and they think it doesn’t work. It’s never going to produce high volumes of leads typically.
The great thing about the blog is if your articles are on topic using lots of rich keywords and things like that, it’s going to pull in a low number of people but high quality potential leads. So a lot of times people will come to us and want to build a lead generation company and sell leads and they want us to build a blog that’s going to produce 30 leads a day for them so they can sell them. Well that’s just never going to typically happen unless all the stars align for you in a truly rare occurrence.
I love a blog that produces two or three high quality leads for somebody in a given week. That’s a great blog because if you’re closing half those people, that’s six new customers per month and if you’re making thousands off of each customer, let’s say you’re a roofer or whatever your trade or company is selling, a low number of high quality leads can be very, very profitable. This is something you can be doing for free and nearly free.
You got a little bit of hosting costs, some things like that. But the cost is really low. And if it starts producing really consistent leads for you that are closing, you’re going to find this to be one of the best investments you’ve ever made.
Now one of the things also that makes it a little bit more difficult is it really depends on how competitive your marketplace is. So for example, pet care is very, very competitive, or weight loss is very, very competitive. So it takes a lot longer to get results in those areas. A lot of times you want to focus on local keywords mixed with your main product keywords and things like that. Because blogs are so easy to do and because people know about this strategy. There are people already out in front of you. That does not mean that they get all the traffic and you don’t get any of the traffic, it just means you are in a competitive landscape where if other people are outworking you, their blogs are going to be outperforming you with lead generation as well.
It’s by no means a sure thing when you start down this process that you’re going to get any certain outcome. It depends a lot on the competition in your marketplace, the keywords you choose to pursue, the relationship you build with your visitors, the call to action that you have there which I’m going to talk about in just a moment.
It’s really a situation where the people that do the best job and stick to it the longest are typically the winners and those that drop off or kind of give it a half hearted effort don’t think it ever works for them, when in fact it would work. They’re just not beating their competition.
So now I want to move on to the keys for success. As you can guess, one of the keys to success is consistency over time. However, if you’re getting traffic, high quality traffic to the site, but you don’t have a clear call to action, you’re still going to think it’s not working even though it is working. What we always recommend is multiple places where you have large ads or banners that have a very clear call to action. Ideally a free download, a free giveaway, something where you collect their name, email and phone number in exchange for a whitepaper or a report or a coupon. We saw a restaurant giving away a free appetizer that was adding hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of new customers every month to their site after about six months. So the reason the value was so high was they were getting them on email lists and then using email to build a relationship over time. So it wasn’t just the one time they came in with the coupon and spent $10,000. No, they were building the relationship and building more regulars coming in. So having a clear call to action and ideally capturing information is critical for you.
Weekly new content is also critical. It can’t be copied and pasted from someplace else. It’s got to be unique. And it can’t be just three or four sentences. It’s better than nothing, but it really doesn’t help you that much. 300-500 words is best of purely unique content, brand new written for the first time, not copied and tweaked slightly from someplace else. This is what Google wants and likes and will reward over time. The more you know your target market also, the more you’ll be able to write to what they’re looking for which will attract the people to you. Don’t write about what you want to sell them, write about solutions to the problems they are having. Then of course, deeper in the article you talk about how your product or service fits with that problem and how it helps them with that problem. Because people don’t search usually for a product so much as they search for how to solve a problem. So if you can really get into your target audience’s mind and think like them, and then write with those things in mind, what you’re going to find is you attract a better quality lead and more people, because you’re really writing to them and what they want. You’ll also get more repeat visitors if you’re doing a good job with that.
Now one of the probably most difficult areas is backlinking, getting other sites to link to your site. In the past, you could use a lot of techniques online to generate backlinks with keywords in them and things that helped boost your search engine optimization. But in 2012 a bunch of updates came out from Google that make that much more difficult and people that were doing backlinks one way, which was kind of getting thousands and thousands of them with all the same keywords, anchor texts, found themselves actually penalized instead of boosted up like they had originally been. So now what I really suggest you do is every week or at least a couple times a month, go out and generate a few good quality backlinks from good sites. I don’t always put the same target keywords. You can say “click here” and that’s highlighted. You can put the name of the site, you can put some of the keywords you’re targeting and sometimes link back to the main page and sometimes link back to a specific article in the blog. Just keep doing that very subtly. And hopefully other people will pick up your high quality content and also link to it. What will happen over time is this will boost your ranking and it will look very natural because it is natural. It’s exactly what Google wants. And you don’t have to worry about being penalize because you’re using some sort of link spam tool and things like that.
Those things are tempting when you see them advertised online. The idea that you could spend a hundred dollars and have a bunch done for you and not have to worry about it is attractive. But when you think about the fact that it might actually hurt you more than it helps you, it’s not really worth the risk or the time savings.
Social media is also another place where you just make sure from your social media account and maybe having employees also from their social media accounts link back to the site, it will be very, very helpful. That’s weighing heavier and heavier in ranking nowadays.
Now another key to success is there are other kinds of blog platforms out there, but we really suggest WordPress. It’s the biggest, it’s free software, it’s open source, you have to host it someplace, but the software itself is free. Most places have a one click install for their hosting. And it’s just got the largest code base of plugins and things. And it’s really easy to find people to help you with changing your theme or customizing things in WordPress because there’s just so many people out there using it. So it doesn’t pay to be cute when it comes to your blogging software because something less mainstream and more obscure is just going to end up costing you a lot more trying to find developers and trying to find ways to get things done that just aren’t as easy in that other system.
And back to the consistency over time. You’re going to generate leads if you have a good clear call to action and you’re publishing weekly and you’re doing a little bit of linking a few times a month and you just stick to it over time. Now I will say the more you do, especially with the posting, not so much the linking, the faster you’re going to get results. You don’t want a thousand articles in one week. That looks suspicious. But if you could do one a day, five days a week, and you’re consistent about that over time, that’s going to get faster results than somebody doing one a week. Consistent over time.
So obviously all these things play but just trying to keep it simple for you, help you build a long term asset that’s going to produce high quality leads for your business and help you grow is my goal with this presentation. I hope this has been helpful and gives you some things to think about because any topic can benefit from this. And even if you don’t have a big budget, if you’re willing to spend a little bit of time doing the writing, you’ll see results over time. You will get there. And if you really can’t do the writing I encourage you to keep an eye on us because we’ll be doing in the future how to outsource things, how to use writing services and hire writers. There’s just lots of different ways to do those kinds of things. I have one client that hires lots of different writers in this industry, and pays them like seven dollars per article and he’s making more money than ever with a smaller staff than ever, just by outsourcing those blogs and following up on the leads he’s getting. So keep an eye in the future on those kinds of things. We’ll be coming to you with more and more stuff. Thanks a lot for attending and look forward to seeing you in the future.