Here’s a riddle:
In a world where consumer attention comes at a premium and long-standing institutions of digital media can’t afford to keep their doors open, why does every professional business website feature a blog?
If readers aren’t even giving a few minutes of their day to the publications they trust most, what makes businesses think anyone is going to spend their free time reading the obviously marketing-focused articles on their blog?
To solve this riddle, we need to take a step back and understand what a business blog is really for. Let's take a look at four distinct types of corporate blogs, with examples of each.
The four types of corporate blogs
The four types of corporate blogs are:
- The news hub
- The SEO play
- The thought leader
- The media brand
These types of blogs are listed above in order of complexity and cost, and most businesses that reach the “media brand” stage have, at some point, passed through the previous three.
However, while it’s tempting to place these blogs in order on some kind of maturity scale, each has a unique purpose, and could be the best option for your business.
The news hub
This is where many businesses start with their corporate blogs. They use this section of their website as a warehouse for product updates, press releases, tradeshow details, personnel announcements, and awards speeches.
How to spot it: As a rule, news hub blogs are about one topic: the company itself.
Uses: For businesses looking to attract investors or communicate with shareholders, the news dump can be a good way to let the outside world know what’s going on behind the scenes. News about major changes or product updates can also be used to re-engage lost leads or former customers, especially when used in an email campaign.
Drawbacks: News hub blogs are like bad first dates: they only talk about themselves.
The SEO play
The search engine optimization (SEO) blog is the cornerstone of most successful inbound marketing strategies.
Using blog posts written around carefully selected keywords, these types of blogs attract audiences from search engine results pages. They’re (in theory, at least) designed to deliver relevant information about a specific subject, and are less likely to be browsed from an index like a traditional media website.
How to spot it: SEO blogs usually feature an abundance of listicals (e.g. “7 Golden Beaches Along The Pacific Coast Highway”). They often favor “how-to” content.
Uses: For businesses in industries that haven’t yet embraced search engine marketing, SEO blogging is still a great way to drive traffic. For example, we got great results by creating keyword-focused content for a client in the textile manufacturing industry by thinking outside the box. Just because a lot of SEO-focused blog posts might not live up to the promise of their titles, there's no rule that says you have to use cut-rate freelancers or a content farm to get them done. Thoughtful, well-researched writing doesn't just draw traffic to your site, it gives them a reason to stay. Having a lot of high-quality blog content can increase overall domain authority, aiding other SEM efforts.
Drawbacks: SEO blogging can be a very crowded space. Depending on your market, it can take a lot of time or a lot of money to make it work. To ensure a strong ROI, you’ll need a very experienced content marketing partner.
The thought leader
A “thought leader” blog is filled with content that aims to influence others via opinion-driven articles.
Blogs of this variety often attempt to make themselves destinations for browsing, with search traffic becoming a secondary priority. Their content also makes great fodder for newsletters and long-term email sequences.
How to spot it: A thought leadership article usually takes a firm position on a hot issue (e.g. “Trust is Earned, Not Machine Learned”). These publications often take on an editorial name in addition to their brand name; IDEO’s thought leadership blog, for example, is called The Octopus.
Uses: When it works, a thought leadership strategy can give your business clout and help earn your customers’ trust. If your thought leadership is good enough, there's a chance your content might be shared by others.
Drawbacks: Thought leadership, as the name implies, requires an actual thought leader to at least suggest topics and guide the creation of content. Freelancers and agencies aren’t substitutes for experts in a field, but they can help transform your expertise into a robust content program.
The media brand
Some businesses reach a level in their blogging evolution where the only players left to imitate are actual media brands, not corporate blogs.
Demonstrating the increasingly blurred lines between business and journalism, these blogs are often almost indistinguishable from popular digital media sites like Vice, Vox, or the Huffington Post. They have journalists on staff, executive editors with digital media experience, interview-style content, and high-quality web design.
How to spot it: “Media brand” blogs usually live on a separate domain from their brands, and are (at least on the surface) entirely separate from the brand’s sales and marketing funnels. They often feature unique design and UX.
Uses: It varies. When asked about Hacking Finance, the zany media brand-style blog of VC firm Anthemis, CMO Leslie Campisi described it as an effort to plant a flag further away, testing the limits of their style without directly affecting Anthemis’s conservative brand.
Meanwhile, the Kickstarter-funded media brand Creative Independent helps generate respect for Kickstarter among the people it relies on for revenue: creators and artists. A good "media brand" blog can also create powerful co-marketing opportunities, as well as other creative value-adds for your existing brand. Having a large, committed audience is a very valuable resource.
Drawbacks: This approach requires resources that may be out of reach for many businesses (e.g. a staff of journalists and custom web design). It’s also difficult to measure success without a sophisticated marketing analytics program, as there’s no direct link to marketing and sales.