Jakob Nielsen, a major expert on usability in web design, has an entry
in which he argues that business web sites are generally better off with well-executed articles than with blog postings. His argument is that blog postings - particularly "numerous short comments on ongoing blogosphere discussions" - are insufficient when a company has long sales cycles and the need to build long-term relationships with customers.
Although there is an irony here in my commenting on his comment not to comment, I have to generally agree. Any corporation communication strategy must start with a business strategy. Slapping something up on the web isn't necessarily the wise thing to do. After all, just because you can serve whipped cream and cherries on pan-fried calf liver doesn't mean that you should. If you're just looking for traffic and don't need any sort of sustained connection with the audience, then, sure, have a blog. But when you do nothing but offer surface remarks on what others have written, you aren't providing much value.
Offering value in writing really means showing an audience that your experience
can provide them with value. As your experience is the key, there is an understanding that they won't necessarily get the same thing elsewhere. If all you do is point to other sites, then you've become a portal or cheap news aggregtator. Psychologically you're saying that you are only in business because others let you. In that case, why bother with you? Why not go directly to the real sources?
Nielsen makes an even deeper point, I think, in noting that even experts are going to have a range of quality in their postings, and if they are doing the short stuff often enough, there will be times when the postings of others are better - even much better. Those occasions serve to deflate the reputation of the experts, who now look as though they can't do any better than the average person on the web. He then argues that with enough deep content, an expert can find an audience willing to pay for the information - basically reinforcing an idea I've been considering recently that the future of writing and publishing is in micropublishing good material at premium prices to dedicated audiences.
So most businesses, if they aren't satisfied being commodity entities (and some will be - and that's fine, if the business model makes sense for you), should consider how they provide content on their web sites. This also brings a question about some of the fundamental strategies of search engine marketing that I've seen. Many companies on the web try to create content that maximizes search engine potential, so that more and more people come across their site. That's fine so far as it goes, but then there's an unstated assumption that more people mean more business and more profit.
Anyone who has dealt with data-driven marketing and direct response marketing will know that isn't necessarily the case. Prospects often fall into groups, and not all groups are alike. Look at Sprint, which just dropped
1,000 customers they called customer service too often, which means the company (hopefully) did a profitability analysis to see that the former customers didn't bring in as much profit
as others. Or consider a classic direct mail issue, in which two mailing lists with apparently identical characteristics respond entirely differently, and at different rates, to the same offer.
The SEO marketers assume that more is better, but it could be that the people searching most often are not necessarily the most ready to buy, or even to enter a relationship with a business. So posting material packed with specially chosen search terms might drive traffic, but the wise business sees if it drives sales. Understand the value your best customers need and find a way to provide it.
Labels: articles, blogging, blogs, data-driven marketing, Jakob Nielsen, search, search engine marketing, SEO