A recent Pew Research Center survey found that interest in writing and commenting on blogs among younger generations is declining. Meanwhile, the survey notes that teens and young adults are increasingly attracted to social networks such as Facebook.
The ability to post quick, social-network status updates has “kind of sucked the life out of long-form blogging,” says Amanda Lenhart, a Pew senior researcher and the study’s lead author, as quoted by the Associated Press.
Given that younger generations are sometimes seen as harbingers of emerging technology trends, you might wonder if it’s time to abandon your small business blog and just post updates to Facebook or to Twitter instead.
The answer can depend on your business goals and target audiences. But in general, small business blogs are still an effective way to attract and engage with customers. Here are three reasons why.
1. Search Engines Love Blogs
“Blogs are literally built to attract search engine crawlers and spiders,” writes Rebecca Lieb in The Truth About Search Engine Optimization. “Their architecture and design are structured for clear navigation, with every page set up to link back to other primary pages.”
In other words, the blog platform makes it easy for search engines to “crawl,” or navigate, all your content. Crawling is essential, because if a search engine can’t find all your content, it can’t index it. And if your content isn’t indexed, it won’t show up in search engine queries.
Also, frequently updating your blog will help ensure that search engine crawlers keep returning to index your content. Some other reasons why blogs are great for search engine optimization (SEO):
Blog posts are often rich in text and links — two things search engines weigh when determining how to rank the relevance of Web content to a search query.
Most blog platforms encourage you to create categories for your content. “The clearer the categories, the easier it is for search engines to ‘understand’ and contextualize the content, and thus to rank and display it appropriately in search results,” Leib writes.
2. Social Networks: Not the Best way to Turn Traffic into Customers
If attracting new customers is a top goal of your online strategy, don’t abandon your site’s small-business blog in favor of social networking updates. That’s because social media is still largely unproven as a way to generate revenue.
Some businesses, particularly Dell, have been able to monetize their social media efforts. But in most cases, social media’s return on investment is still “close to zero,” says Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOmoz.org.
“From a customer service/reputation monitoring standpoint, social media is great,” Fishkin says. “But from the perspective of converting people into customers, social media is disappointing.” Fishkin says visitors who click over to a business’s Web site from its social media page often leave quickly without taking action, such as making a purchase.
On the other hand, people who find your blog or other parts of your site from a search engine query are often looking for specific information. As a result, the traffic coming to your site from search engines is usually more targeted and motivated — and therefore more likely to take action, such as make a purchase — than visitors coming to your site from social networks, says Brent Leary, a small business technology analyst.
3. The Blogosophere is Contracting. And that’s Good News for You
Declining interest in blogs may actually be a blessing in disguise, says Fishkin.
“The blogosphere, like many industries before it, is consolidating,” Fishkin explains. “This is very positive for the producers of content on blogs, because they don’t have to compete with as many small publishers and can therefore achieve greater traffic reach and visibility.”
Bottom line: If your blog is still bringing visitors to your site, where they are exposed to a call-to-action (such as an invitation to call for a free phone consultation), there’s every reason to continue writing it.
What’s more, the combination of a blog and a social media presence can be powerful, helping small businesses extend their reach across multiple channels.
For example, bloggers often use Twitter to promote their blogs to a wider audience, publish links to interesting content, and get a sense of what people are “buzzing about,” according to a May 2009 poll.
“Blogs will continue to be of growing importance to small businesses,” says Leary. “They can serve as your central Web presence, with spokes leading to your social networks.”James A. Martin writes an SEO and social media blog and is coauthor of Getting Organized in the Google Era.
James A. Martin has years of experience covering technology, and he’s also the author of Traveler 2.0, a blog that provides technology news and views for travelers.
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