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Corporate Blog ROI: Making the Case

Inbound Marketing OnrampI‘m currently recommending to a B2B client that they consider initiating a blog as an SEO strategy for the upcoming year. As smart business people they asked for expected ROI on this content strategy and so we’ve built a spreadsheet for them to plug in their internal cost and revenue data, conversion rates and individual marketing channel data to work out fairly reliable return on investment dollar figures. (More on that later)

Because this is a frequent conversation with my clients, it makes sense to write about it here to share this best practice with others too. Let’s dive in with the juiciest statistics to help you decide to move forward with a Corporate blog if you are still not a believer:

  • 79% of marketers rank blogging as the most effective marketing tactic.
    Source: Content Marketing Institute & MarketingProfs 2014
  • 86% of B2B companies surveyed are blogging, and 77% of B2C companies.
    Source: B2B Content Marketing – 2015 Benchmarks, Budget and Trends, Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs
  • 79% of companies that have a blog report a positive ROI for inbound marketing.
    Source: HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2013
  • Content creation is ranked as the single most effective SEO technique.
    Source: Marketing Sherpa
  • Marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13X more likely to enjoy positive ROI.
    Source: HubSpot
  • The average B2B buyer is 57% through the purchase decision before speaking with supplier sales reps.
    Source: CEB Executive Leadership Council

There are additional non-tangible and less easily measurable benefits to consistent blogging that are indisputable:

  • Industry Credibility and thought leadership
  • Visibility – surface more often in long-tail searches
  • Awareness – generate leads via regular posts (subscribers, RSS)
  • Influence blog visitors by answering evergreen queries, FAQ’s
  • Reach & Engagement – sharing blog posts via social media
  • Brand Equity built with each post and every blog comment
  • Employee Applications increase without recruitment advertising

Platform Debate Ours vs WordPress

Platform is always a significant decision because technology companies will very often have existing technology stack and some will have a platform specific blogging tool built into their system. Corporate sites will want to “eat our own dog food” and use their own software. I have spent years attempting to talk those companies off the ledge when their system is highly customized or not search friendly.

Those companies usually end up NOT blogging because the resources to build internal tools to make them search friendly or the design resources to customize the CMS will simply be unavailable or so slow-moving that little gets accomplished before the blog is abandoned again. In my experience, anytime this “owned” or legacy platform conversation happens, the blog fails to happen.

What works for SEO & solves the search friendliness issue? WordPress. It’s free open source software that can be self-hosted within your own domain. WordPress currently powers 58.7% of the web. Customization is possible without major tech input and is vastly extensible via low-cost or free plug-ins (including SEO tools). They should be installed in a folder /blog/ on the main domain and not on a subdomain hosted externally.

Back to the ROI and Hard Data
The ROI discussion inevitably surfaces for sites that don’t currently blog. There are two significant questions that will always be raised. 1) What will this cost us? 2) How much revenue will it generate? So let’s first look at the costs question and see how those costs might vary depending on a few factors that will be unique to each business.

Once that difficult platform decision is made, it’s possible to look at actual costs. Did I mention WordPress is free? So let’s start with technology and app costs. You will always have ongoing blog costs, such as design (initial site design, tweaks, graphics), maintenance (updates, customization, backups), apps (analytics, API’s, marketing tools), hosting and premium tools.

Copywriting In-house vs Freelancers
Freelance or in-house copywriter?
This issue can present significant difference based on decisions about frequency and quality. Dedicated in-house content teams are sometimes available to do the recommended 12 (or more) monthly posts to the blog. HR can always provide an hourly rate based on salary, overhead costs (benefits, rent, etc.) including calculations of ongoing quality content production. Freelance copywriting is available at widely varying rates, but should end up at about $1 per word for quality blog posts.

When the above costs are tallied for a year, you will need to look at potential revenue to calculate ROI. Consider, based on conversion rates for each type of action (subscription, social media follower, sales lead registration, white paper downloads, etc.) what those actions are valued at per action. Look at total site visits and how frequently they result in sales. Now you have value per action data to apply against overall site traffic and you can subtract costs from projected sales to get ROI.

Now that you’ve seen the industry data and know how to determine ROI – nothing should be standing in the way of moving forward except budget approvals. If you need some help making the calculations, I’d be happy to provide the spreadsheet and formulas needed to determine ROI for your corporate blog.

Mike Valentine does both enterprise and startup SEO consulting for growth and best practices.

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