How to Turn a Blog into a Ghost Town
If you’re like most companies you started your blog to help your customers in a more personal and educational way. But you’re probably also getting pressure to bring in profitable web traffic and users, and that is as it should be. It’s the only way to keep your blog viable.
There’s a natural tension between traffic and profit. In our attempt to capture the optimization of this tension we mistakenly use the phrase targeted traffic as the objective. This is a misunderstanding that can quickly starve your blog, preventing it from getting sufficient traffic to have any statistical probability of producing a lead or sale.
A healthy and wealthy blog is a delicate dance, done with content, between consumer interests and target marketing. Overweighting your editorial calendar with targeted content at the sacrifice of consumers broader and more voluminous general interests can turn the smartest corporate blog into a ghost town, literally choking out your most profitable consumer traffic.
How this unfortunate fate becomes many corporate blogs is embedded in a few simple fundamentals of content marketing, web traffic, and the natural flow of web users.
How People Arrive at Your Website
Although these behaviors gradually shift and evolve over time, web users find and arrive at your blog in one of two ways:
Search for a keyword topic and are referred to to your blog by this search activity
Engage in a social network (i.e., email, Facebook, etc.) and are referred to your blog by this social activity
In both cases, these web users are arriving using fairly general concepts, seeking more detail. This is the very essence of a blog’s value proposition–using content to capture and take people from the general to the specific, in an understandable way.
If you don’t get well positioned in these channels, your blog will never be in the line of sight for web users to click.
How Content Gets You in Position for a Click
So, how do you get into a favorable position to capture a web user’s search or be referred by a friend?
This is a question that thousands of digital marketers wrestle with every day. There are mountains of articles, courses, software tools, and academic research devoted to figuring out this game. But, at the most fundamental level it involves the perfect alignment of the following four essential elements of web traffic generation:
A piece of content
People searching for or asking about the topic of your content
Google or people decide that your content is the best answer to a search/question
Making sure your content is relevant long enough for step 2 to take place (or you pay for positioning)
In order for your blog – or any specific piece of content – to yield a new visitor, all four of these elements must be present. And to yield enough visitors to meet your business objectives, we must ensure that element 2 is itself significant.
It is within this framework that most blogs and content fails. Specifically, many editors fail to adequately consider elements 2 and 3. If people don’t care or the topic is fleeting, then your traffic will fluctuate between 0 and some declining number.
How Content Funnels in People into Your Blog
If you’re lucky enough to get into a prominent position, searches and referrals can bring you the web traffic you need to serve your market and do it profitably.
Ah, but not so quick, this assumes one more web user behavior happens perfectly–you get the click!
Let’s look at what has to go right to get that click and what puts you in contention to get that coveted visit.
Getting a click/visit requires a web user to chose your content over hundreds of other choices and sources of recommendations. Considering the noise level on the web and the simple mechanical nuances of its circumstance, that click quickly becomes a statistically improbable act.
A click from a web user requires so many things to go right: you have to be favorably positioned in the search or you have to be recommended in a social network, that search result or recommendation has to be understandable and compelling, and you have to hope that other choices are not distracting or beg new questions and searches.
This is precisely why marketers are very content with getting that click 2-3% of the time.
Developing a blog content strategy that doesn’t leave you talking to yourself requires you to consider the market in a data driven way. You need develop an editorial calendar that plays to the statistical significance: common questions and persistent concerns of users. And then funnel the most fitting (profitable) consumers into your sales process.
Starting with precision–precise topics, keywords, and content — is dangerous. There’s a reason why air-to-air refueling booms use a funnel to capture the refueling probe and a space capsule docks into a funnel. If you want to increase the probability of hitting that precise target, you have to go wide and bounce into the precise target. If you start narrow, you’re very likely to glance off or miss altogether.
The principle of going wide and then getting precise must be the foundation of your content strategy. It’s the only way to ensure you attract attention, build an audience, and ultimately serve your market with your expertise.
Don’t mistakenly turn this funnel upside down. You will turn your blog into a ghost town and miss the whole market. Many do.