7 Reasons Why Blogging is Failing to Generate Leads For So Many Marketing Agencies

by Marcus Sheridan

As many of you know, a few weeks ago I asked my newsletter readers to send me their blog URL if they hadn’t been seeing much success to generate traffic, leads, and sales. Of the 200 or so readers that responded, about 30 of them were marketing agencies of various sizes, a number that frankly left me quite a bit to think about. (Note** When I say “agency,” I’m referring to companies from 1-1000, so bear with me on the semantics if you will.)

Upon much thought and analysis of all these blogs, one thing became astoundingly clear:

Blogging and inbound marketing isn’t working for a huge percentage of marketing agencies, social media “consultants,” and many other businesses in this online realm.

So the question begs…why?

Why are companies that teach marketing failing to find success in what they’re preaching from the rooftops that everyone else do?

Here are my thoughts as to why this phenomenon is occurring, and also why I think it will only get worse and worse with time.

7 Reasons why Blogging and Inbound Marketing are Failing for So Many Marketing Agencies

1. Unbelievably High CSI: Some of you have heard me talk about CSI before. In marketing terms, this stands for  “Content Saturation Index,” and it is at the core as to why so many of these agency blogs are failing. Think about it for a second: How many blogs are there about marketing and social media? The number is in the thousands,  which means in order for someone to rise above the noise, they have to do some pretty amazing things. Furthermore, with the CSI being so high, Search Engine Optimization is extremely difficult in this industry. With everyone targeting prevalent keyword phrases, garnering organic traffic and rankings isn’t easy to come by, and can be incredibly frustrating as well.

As I’ve stated before, the #1 reason I was able to dominate the swimming pool industry so quickly wasn’t because I was awesome, but rather because of an extremely low CSI—thus leaving almost any keyword phrase I really wanted up for the taking.

2. Terrible Blog Titles: This is the one trend that surprises me the most. Despite the fact that witty and catchy blog titles are generally a waste of time unless you have a huge subscriber base of readers, a huge portion of marketing blogs still overlook solid SEO practices with their titles and end up coming up with catchy references for what is an incredibly meager group of subscribers. And yes, even though I said the CSI of this industry was high , it doesn’t mean by any stretch search rankings are impossible to achieve with the proper techniques, something I’ll now discuss further in #3.

In this article, you see I had a very clear keyword goal (HS v WP) but still managed to have a catchy title. Today, this article ranks very well for this important keyword phrase.

3. Poor to Non-Existent Targeting of Specific Industries: This one is important, and if you don’t pay any attention to the rest of this post, I hope you pay close attention to this one, because it applies to all businesses, not just marketers. Let me give you an example of 3 blog posts that go from good, to better, to best:

a. Does inbound marketing work? (good)

b. How long does it take inbound marketing to work? (better)

c. How long does it take inbound marketing to work in the technology industry? (best)

Just a little over a year ago I would have considered choice “b” here to be a great blog post title. But with so much content saturation over this time period, we’re now entering a phase where niche and industry targeting is very necessary for marketers.

But if you think about this, it makes a ton of sense. If you’re in the tech field and you want to know how long it will take inbound marketing to work in your industry, there is a very good chance you’re going to go to Google and type in “How long does it take inbound marketing to work in the tech industry?”

The competition (CSI) for such phrases is much lower and therefore the ability to do well in terms of traffic, leads, and sales increases exponentially.

inbound storm

My friend Matt Stock nails a perfectly targeted title with blog post for his company, Inbound Storm.

4. Blah,blah,blah:  Although I’m a firm believer that some content is better than no content, the reality is the marketing industry is full of blogs that simply are boring with few opinions, no personal voice, and often times little thought provocation. As to why this is, I’m not totally sure, but I know it doesn’t work very well to be lukewarm in an industry as dense with content as the marketing realm.

In fact, I strongly feel the main reason The Sales Lion has risen above the chatter in the marketing arena is because I have strong opinions backed up by personal experience, which brings me to my next point.

5. A Major Lack of Case Studies and Personal Experiences: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t amazed at how few of the blogs I looked at recently discussed stories of clients they had helped and the results of said labors.

Like I said a while back, consumers and businesses are not terribly interested in theory these days. They want to know the victories and success stories your agency has had. They want to know why you’re good at what you do. And they want to know if your help will make them more money than you’ll cost.

If you can’t show this in your content, then there is a good chance you’re phone isn’t going to ring.

HubSpot always does a masterful job in looking at the marketing success stories of other companies and how they were able to achieve their results.

6. Poor Utilization of Writing Talent: I’m always astounded when I see an agency with 10+ employees yet only one person is blogging. The way I see it, if someone is teaching others to blog and produce content they should be doing it as well. Plus, when companies learn to leverage the writing and brain power of their existing employees, the amount of content that can be produced is astounding. Just look at HubSpot, Kuno Creative, or PR 20/20 if you want to see companies doing this the right way.

PR 20/20 blog writers

Easily one of the best marketing agency blogs, PR 20/20 utilizes well a multiple blogger platform.

7. Awful Networking: To be frank, some industries don’t require great networking with others in your field to be successful. For example, I networked with a grand total of ZERO people with my swimming pool blog, but that was again made possible due to the fact that the CSI was so very low. On the other hand, after a year of writing on The Sales Lion with little traction, I realized that strategy wasn’t very effective and if I didn’t start networking much better, I’d never rise above the chatter.

To see examples of exactly how you can get this done, read this article.

Going Forward

As I said at the start of this article, I don’t see this problem with agency/social media/marketing blogs going away. As more and more blogs pop up daily, more and more people will find lead generation incredibly tough to come by in this extremely saturated industry—arguably the most saturated subject in the online world today.

This being said, I have found that one of the best ways marketing agencies can deal with this problem is to actually get out and speak to real people. In other words, if you’re trying to generate clients for yourself and/or your agency, you need to start teaching as many groups of people as possible. Whether it’s at a conference, at a Chamber of Commerce meeting, or at a simple lunch appointment—the value of face to face lead generation is making a huge comeback in this industry. Yeah, I know it may sound surprising and even ironic to many, but starting a blog and calling yourself a “marketing expert” is as quick a way to credit card debt and business failure as any in today’s society.

Sheridan at CMW

Along with this blog, speaking has been a major lead generation tool for me over the past year. In fact, there are many marketing consultants that draw almost 100% of their leads from speaking to groups of people.

But as I stated above, if you truly want to have a GREAT blog with great results, average is going to get you nowhere quickly.

So have opinions. Target. Write intelligent and strategic titles. Utilize your employees. Learn to network.

And most of all, just be exceptional at what you do.

Easy? Nope. But without question, the opportunities are still there.

Your Turn

I’ve said my thoughts, now I’m excited to hear yours. Do you agree/disagree with my points made here? Also, what are some other reasons agency blogs are failing left and right? What else would you add to the list?

Jump in folks, the floor is yours.

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{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Jamie Alexander October 1, 2012 at

I agree with all your points. It’s kinda why I’m commenting, because I’ve had a big shake up recently.

I’ve stopped listening to all but a few marketing blogs. When I was beginning I used to enjoy reading as much as I could, but now that I’m more experienced I can’t stand reading them anymore.

Only a handful of people either, A) Write something new and well thought out, or B) Write something you can go and take action on.

Most are just me-to blogs. That’s cool because they’re writing for their readers and I don’t expect them to write what I like, but I just don’t have the time or patience to read them.

I think the headings are quite unfortunate. I don’t imagine people outside the marketing niche know about headlines which is a shame. They would probably do so much better if they studied more.

I hope they keep blogging long enough to learn about more things. Luckily there’s more than enough non-marketing blogs that are doing it right and I can only read so much. If everyone got it right I wouldn’t know what to do with myself lol.

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Marcus Sheridan October 1, 2012 at

Jaime, good to hear from you man. I think you speak for many, many people here.

And yes, the headline problem is prolific in literally hundreds of industries, as there is a big need there.

Anyway, good stuff man and thanks again for dropping by,

Marcus

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Neicole Crepeau October 1, 2012 at

This is a great post, Marcus. A really important topic. I see so many of my online peers struggling, despite continually posting on their blogs. You lay out some great reasons, but as you say, the biggest issue is saturation. There’s just too much content and too much of it is poor, in one way or another. I used to have a sense of excitement about all the possibilities with online marketing and all the ideas, but now I often feel like I’m just wading through you-know-what, and I’m not sure I want to put in the effort to keep wading…

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Marcus Sheridan October 1, 2012 at

Neicole, really appreciate your thoughts here, as I know you’ve seen so much of this over the past year or so. Like you, I feel overwhelmed by all that’s out and often give up trying to wade through it all.

It’s going to be an interesting few years ahead of us Neicole :-)

Marcus

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Josh October 1, 2012 at

One of the fundamental problems is that so many marketers spend their time online hanging out with other marketers.

Marketers aren’t being aggressive enough in trying to be where their clients are. Find out where they are hanging their hats and go visit them there.

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Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2012 at

Josh, I’m so glad you pointed this out. As marketers, the place to be is in the trenches where the real work and experimentation is happening.

GREAT POINT my friend!

Marcus

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Michael Pingree October 1, 2012 at

Another thought provoking post to be sure. I am definitively implementing #3 starting with my next post. I was wondering, since I focus on the Oregon/Washington market, would it make sense to add them to my blog post titles? For example: How Inbound Marketing Can Help Oregon Lawyers Build Their Practices

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Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2012 at

Very good question Michael, and I’ll tell you this: It can’t hurt.

And one thing you may want to consider is having two different blogs. One could be more national/general info, and the other could be more location specific.

Make sense?

Good luck!!!!

Marcus

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Eric Pratum October 1, 2012 at

I know that I’ve disagreed with you on your last several posts, but Marcus, you nailed this one.

I’ve worked at two agencies and seen how they handled content creation. I also used my own blogging and social media presence to land 2 different jobs as well as a small amount of consulting work.

One problem that most agencies have is that they don’t make blogging a part of their business. They make it someone’s job to blog and then don’t reduce their workload to give them time and probably also don’t give them a budget or authority or anything else to make something kickass or to get other staff behind it. As a result, the blog sits out there on its own and the boss or CEO pops in now and then and says, “Hey, how’s the blog doing?”

With blogging being such a great way to show personality and transparency as well as a spectacular way to broadcast and generally communicate your overall value and mission, it shouldn’t be something that people just check in on now and then. It should be a small pat of everyone’s jobs. There are agencies that do this spectacularly (Distilled and Portent) come to mind, but by and large, agencies don’t put any real thought or strategy into their own blogs.

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Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2012 at

Eric, I don’t even know if I’d call what you do as “disagreeing” as much as I’d call it “adding another perspective that’s always well though out” :-)

But to your point, yes, most don’t see the blog as part of the business. Sometimes it’s a chore. It’s almost never a culture.

And because of that most fail.

Good stuff brother, really appreciate all your support.

Marcus

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Eric Pratum October 12, 2012 at

Thanks, Marcus. You’re right. When I said disagreeing, I definitely did not mean it in the sense that I think you’re dead wrong. I just have a different take ;) I hope all’s well, man.

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Caleb October 1, 2012 at

Marcus, I’m enjoying following your blog and see the challenge of differentiating in a crowded space. Could it be that some days are just slow news days – there isn’t much to talk about?

Alternatively, short blogs are almost like scanning a newspaper or watching HLN. There’s just not enough time to convey the full idea. I’m in the midst of a 30-day series right now, but I’m seriously considering going to fewer evergreen posts with more in depth research. The 200-400 word blog may simply not be effective in communicating complex insights regardless of the attention span of the reader.

Keep up the engaging dialogue!

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Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2012 at

That’s a tough call Caleb. Honestly, I think you should write each article at the length that makes you happy and makes you say, “That’s it. My point is made. And they get it.”

Does that make sense?

I’ve written posts here that were 250 words and I’ve done some that were 2500 words.

Clearly, there is no set rule on this one.

Thanks so much for stopping by Caleb,

Marcus

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Rebecca Livermore October 1, 2012 at

Marcus, the only thing that I would add to this is that many people are not doing what they tell other people to do, and/or fail to do for their own company the services the provide to others.

For example, there are a lot of people who offer blog writing services, who seldom update their own blogs. It’s hard to take them seriously, when they tell others how important it is to blog, but they don’t do it themselves.

rebecca

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Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2012 at

Yep, good point Rebecca. There are certainly more than a handful of “do as I say, not as I do” marketers out there. ;-)

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Jon Loomer October 1, 2012 at

Awesome, Marcus. Big believer in #4 and #5. I always focus on solving a problem with my blog posts, which is good for SEO and general readability. But my content is most likely to take off when I either voice a controversial opinion or share my experiences in great detail.

It doesn’t mean you should be controversial to be controversial. But don’t be afraid to have an opinion. You’ll find that this is when your voice really comes out, and it’s when readers are most likely to resonate with your content. It’s when comments take off with “YES! WHY WON’T ANYONE ELSE SAY THIS!”

So boom. Good stuff again.

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Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2012 at

Jon, I’m not blowing smoke when I say this, but you do a GREAT job of what I’ve discussed in this article.I also think it’s why you’ve been able to succeed in another niche (FAcebook) that’s incredibly saturated with info and articles.

Without question, you are one heck of a teacher and communicator my friend.

Marcus

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Jon Loomer October 3, 2012 at

Smoke or no smoke, it means a lot to me, Marcus. I feel that I’ve really hit my stride during the past few months, and I owe a lot of it to finding my way thanks to reading great content by people like you.

And that’s no smoke.

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Russ Henneberry October 1, 2012 at

Excellent post and topic!

Here’s my take. In 2009 I was laid off from a job as an SEO supervisor at a huge company. I immediately started a blog. But if that is all I had done, I would be back in a cubicle by now.

In addition to blogging, I started networking off-line and also started a Meet Up at meetup.com. I would get ~40 business owners in a conference room at a hotel (cost 100 bucks) and I would deliver the same kind of content that I was creating on my blog during these presentations.

I would also pass around an email list sign up sheet. I then started holding open meetings with business owners at a local coffee shop, answering their questions, creating relationships.

I made it a point to DIRECTLY email or social media share the content on my blog with people that I knew could benefit from a particular article, video, audio, etc. In fact, if someone asked me a question at an event, I would go home and write up the answer on my blog —- then I would email them a link.

I still don’t have a huge email list or blog readership after three years, but I have plenty of customers. When I meet someone off-line, I continue to strengthen the relationship off-line. I rarely land a customer that I haven’t met in person.

You nailed it Marcus when you recommend getting off line. I really can’t describe the powerful effect of public speaking/off-line networking supported by a consistent flow of online content creation on a blog and in social media accounts. That goes double if you create content that is laser targeted at a REAL issue a prospect is experiencing and share it with them directly and personally.

Lastly, I think it is Michael Port that says “Always have something to invite people to.” When you create off-line events and you make yourself the speaker, you create an enormous amount of social proof.

Sorry so long, it’s a super topic!

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David Gadarian October 2, 2012 at

Russ –

Thanks so much for this response. I’m getting ready to try a few of the ideas that you mentioned and it is great to hear that you’ve achieved some success with them.

Marcus –

Nice stuff as usual. To your point, see my response to Russ’ comments : )

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Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2012 at

Appreciate it David, and great seeing you bud. :-)

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Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2012 at

Dang Russ, you’re quite a motivated fellow, as you’ve now made us all feel like slackers!!! ;-)

Seriously though man, this is inspiring stuff and you are incredibly symbolic of those marketing renegades I’ve been speaking of lately.

Keep up the greatness my friend,

Marcus

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Lana October 2, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,
You make so much sense with everything you say. I am really going to work on my blog post titles. We have a real estate brokerage and I believe that making our titles longer will really help.

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Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2012 at

Lana, I promise you that if you truly do work on creating GREAT blog posts your search rankings will be impacted drastically. Good luck!!!

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Rich Littlefield October 2, 2012 at

Marcus, I’ve been reading your blog for about a month now, in addition to going back in your swimming pool blog for a feel of your past posts.

Thanks for sharing so much great content. You really opened my eyes to the power of content marketing, and now I’m really just trying to schedule it in regularly and keep with it.

Thanks again for the great insights.

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Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2012 at

Ahhh yes, the good old content marketing schedule. :-)

I can tell you that mine tends to take place when the rest of my time zone is asleep Rich ;-)

But thanks for reading sir and I hope you’ll keep coming back.

Marcus

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Ian Davin October 2, 2012 at

Very useful advice. I run a UK based technology company and the best blogs are written by our technical people who really go in the detail, this speaks to the customer and confirms your 5th point. How effective they are in generating business though I not sure, we are still at the early stages of blogging. The great thing about the blogs though is that they can be re purposed for other sales and marketing activities. I will take away number 3 though to implement, industry specific is not something we have really touched.

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Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2012 at

Ian, I think it’s great that your employees and technical people are blogging and therefore teaching prospects and clients. That’s awesome.

As for tracking the results, are you using anything like HubSpot to see the returns? I think a measurement tool is huge in your case because you can tell your employees, “Look, the article you wrote on such-and-such has been read 1467 times, generated 12 leads and 3 customers. That’s great!!!!!”

Good stuff bud,

Marcus

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Ian Altman October 2, 2012 at

Marcus – Amen my friend! Your point about focus is one my clients hear from me all the time. Their concern is “If I narrowly focus my activities, I might miss another opportunity.” Consider this: We refer people to specialists not generalists. When you specialize, you are remarkable for your specialized target audience. Few companies can afford to be great generalists. Once you saturate a certain target, feel free to branch out. When you say you do everything for everyone, nobody believes it. But, when you say you deliver great results for a narrow audience, your credibility rises.

I love how you created actionable steps for everyone to follow to improve their outcomes. Keep up the great teaching!

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Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2012 at

Ian, buddy, great point on the specialists vs generalists topic. I don’t think many ever “get” that, as they fear it’s too limiting and puts them in too much of a corner.

I see just the opposite.

And btw, I’m going to give you a call today about your new site, I looked at it last night, so we’ll chat soon.

Marcus

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Marshall Ponzi October 2, 2012 at

Wow, Marcus.

That’s a wake up call! But a good one. The problem is fixable for agencies willing to look at themselves differently.

Conventional wisdom says, “Leave the marketing to the experts.” Inbound Marketing is more organic than that. Truly useful content doesn’t generally come from an ivory tower. It percolates up from business people in the trenches who’ve been there, done that. (Including marketers who are tuned into the business.)

Technically, Sales Lion qualifies as an agency, but I don’t think of you as a “Marketer.” I think of you as a seasoned business person who knows how to connect with your market. Your success doesn’t stem from your marketing credentials but your experience serving the market.

I believe [I hope] there’s an opportunity for a new breed of marketer: Business savvy people who get marketing.

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Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2012 at

LOVE THIS Marshall!!!!

Yes, yes, yes. The gold ain’t coming from the ivory tower. That’s exactly it.

And that’s exactly why I continue to play with my swimming pool company’s marketing and also that of my clients. If I don’t work in the trenches, the voice and ideas are going to get old in a hurry.

Thanks so much for adding this bud,

Marcus

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Antonio Basso October 2, 2012 at

Hello Marcus,

can´t agree more with you in terms of saturation. Simply ask anaything about mkting online to Google and see what happens. In fact the problem is that when asking Google you find it hard to choose a link to read. Sometimes it´s a real mess. Google will finally need to make something about it. Don´t you agree?

Regards and congratulations for the latest talk @ socialexaminer.

Antonio Basso
yasoypintor.com

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Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2012 at

No question Antonio, it is a mess in terms of “amount”…but we’re still in the early, early stages of all this. Heck, imagine what it’s going to be like in another 10 years….wow!

Interesting times indeed ;-)

Marcus

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Manya Chylinski October 2, 2012 at

Marcus,

Great post! Thank you for calling out the saturation with marketing blogs. I’ve felt that myself…and my blog is about content marketing. Very meta.

You make valid points for each of these. As I think about how to stand above the crowd, #4 rings especially true to me. I realize I still have some fear about stepping too far outside the zone, as I try to find the balance between my skeptical/witty/snarky side and the staid world of business (about which I can so often be skeptical, witty, and/or snarky).

This article is inspiration to speak with my voice and let that stand on its own.

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Marcus Sheridan October 3, 2012 at

Manya, loved your thoughts here and I think you actually speak for many.

You know,the beauty behind this whole “content” thing is that we can experiment, push our thoughts and voice, and then see where it takes us.

And so my suggestion to you would be to do just that and allow the full ‘you’ to show ;-)

Thanks so much for stopping by,

Marcus

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Dylan Jones October 3, 2012 at

Great post as ever Marcus.

I was in a few of the CMO forums on LinkedIn this morning and was staggered by how many social media and content marketing “gurus” were resorting to blatant pitching in the discussions section.

That’s not a skill of any kind that I would pay someone to teach my company. It’s just plain old interruption marketing with a new hat on.

As you say it’s about focus, in your propositions, content, target personas and channels but focus requires a deeper specialisation of a particular industry vertical or core discipline.

I think that’s where so many people fall down, they don’t actually have the expertise in a particular industry. So they can’t network, write tailored content (other than for their marketing buddies) or engage prospects on their own turf.

This is one of the best posts I’ve read in some time, totally nails the problem facing these agencies.

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Ryan Hanley October 3, 2012 at

Marcus,

In my opinion… to stand out in a highly saturated market it all comes down to results… case studies… process… testimonial….

The conversation has to become real… There is so much theoretical BS out there and much of it comes from Agencies… step out theory and get down to real life…

That works for me at least and I know it works for you.

Thanks

Hanley

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Jared Broussard October 3, 2012 at

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”. An old sales quote that remains true. I think everything comes down to relationships. There is still no better way to develop a relationship than in person. I wrote about this same topic (sort of), back in March. I feel the big missing element for most Inbound Marketing Firms is the “Belly To Belly” approach. While the blogging, SEO, and Social Media stuff is extremely important, the business side will have to be developed through one on one relationships. Check out my take on this subject back in March: http://www.blinkjarmedia.com/Inbound-Marketing-Baton-Rouge/bid/111597/The-Next-Level-of-Inbound-Marketing

PS…Tigers are better than Lions….GEAUX TIGERS!

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Steve Borek October 3, 2012 at

Great speaking with you Marcus.

As an executive and leadership coach, I work with people worldwide. So, to get out and network and do face to face is not an option.

Plus, my clients issues are so unique it’s hard to speak about one thing such as pools.

Any thoughts?

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Dylan Jones October 3, 2012 at

@Steve: Is the reason your clients needs are so unique because you have so much diversity in the services you offer?

You listed 7 client scenarios in your Services offering, what about if you reduced that down to say “I help you lead your business off the plateau” or “I help executives hire A players”.

My initial thoughts were that your focus spanned a lot of topics for one coach. Perhaps by focusing on one core benefit you can narrow your target “buyer” and their specific emotional and content needs?

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Dan Bischoff October 3, 2012 at

Love this. Another thought I had is that many marketing agency blogs is full of content written for other marketers. So you have people in marketing agencies reading other marketing agency blogs. In a sense, agencies are just talking to each other. Marketers are talking to marketers. It’s the rare blog that’s figured out how to talk to their customers. And I assume it’s that blog that gets more leads.

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Marcus Sheridan October 6, 2012 at

That’s actually a really great addition Dan. We have to be really, really careful who we are writing for, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of writing for those persons who are in our exact same industry.

Good stuff man,

Marcus

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Becca@Bin Hire Melbourne October 4, 2012 at

I have learned so much by reading your blog. It always amazes me how much there is to learn. It is also mind boggling how fast things change. For a newbie like me having a resource like your post. thanks

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Marcus Sheridan October 6, 2012 at

Very kind of you Becca, hope you’ll keep coming back. :-)

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Howard Ichiro Lim October 4, 2012 at

Marcus,
Great article, esp., the CSI index, definitely you have to consider that when starting your blogging efforts. Signed up on HubSpot largely in part to your stories and voyage on your pool business. Very inspirational. I`ve also noticed that you experimented with frequency of blog postings and found that 2 -3 times per week worked best for you and your company.

Thanks again for the post.

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Marcus Sheridan October 6, 2012 at

Yep, 2-3 worked best for us Howard and I’ve found those numbers to be the most ideal for the largest percentages of businesses out their looking to get traction with their content.

Thanks for the kind words Howard,

Marcus

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Rob October 6, 2012 at

I am just in the process of re-doing my blog. I found you through the Social Media marketing podcast. I love your info on price. I am going to educate my readers through teaching them costs in our industry when know one else will. Thx Marcus. Great post btw. Specific Niche content marketing is where it is at. If your posts are too generic (Fat Loss for females) good luck trying to rank on Google. I started to follow a fitness marketing blog and probably read 30 pages of this guru one night before I felt compelled to buy from him because of all the free content he gave. Incredible – you are spot on!

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Mitch Mitchell October 6, 2012 at

I’ll give you that Marcus. These were all very good points I’d have to say. I think the two that really hit it are the having boring posts and the last one, awful marketing. I talk about blogging all the time, and the one thing I hear from people who have blogs but aren’t really networking is that they don’t have the time to comment on other blogs, let alone write theirs as often as they should. You just can’t do it for someone else who doesn’t want to try, right?

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Daniel Waas October 8, 2012 at

Hey Marcus,

I think you’re spot on regarding CSI. Attention is a limited resource and it’s tough to get your share in a niche where so many excellent, well-established sources already exist.

Makes you wonder how viable Inbound Marketing is in the mid- to long-term for anyone in an even half-competitive industry.

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Pat McDaniel October 8, 2012 at

Marcus,

I know you wrote this article after looking at my blog :)

It seems to me that there are at least two ways for a blog to get found and heard in the marketplace (assuming you are creating valuable content):

(1) Hubspot’s mantra (based on statistics they have) to blog more often (at least 15-20 times a month). That is really hard to do as a small operator who must run the business and produce content. (2) Do a better job of promoting the content you produce, which is the viewpoint of folks like Derek Halpern. Derek says write less, but better content, then promote it well. The guy grew his internet marketing blog to 10k subscribers in less than a year by blogging on average once a week.

I am trying to implement both your suggestions (better segmentation, titles, etc.) and promote the content more effectively. Unfortunately, any way you go takes time (which is the most limited resource I know).

Keep up the good work Marcus!

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Kari Rippetoe October 10, 2012 at

What a thought-provoking post! The creation of personas and writing content for those personas is so important – especially when it comes to rising over all the marketing noise out there and writing posts that solve your customers’ marketing challenges. One of the challenges we, as a search marketing firm, face is attracting Learners vs. Buyers. We find that Learners don’t typically become Buyers, and we have to be careful about the content we create. I understand what you say about teaching, but when all that does is attract Learners with no intention of buying, it doesn’t achieve our lead generation goal.

What are your thoughts about this?

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2012 at

Honestly Kari, I’ve never thought nor heard of the learner vs buyer trend you speak of. Have y’all written more about that somewhere?

Heck, to be honest, everything I do is built on the teach, learn, build trust model, so I must admit that I don’t quite see the difference between the two.

Any help?

Marcus

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Marshall Ponzi October 11, 2012 at

I’m interested in hearing where this goes… If I read Kari’s comments correctly, I interpret Learners as those people who are “looking to look,” not looking to buy. If correct, it’s a problem of clicks vs. conversions.

For 4 years, I worked to overhaul marketing of a software company that wrestled with this constantly. Admittedly, our marketing was 110% Outbound. But still, 90% of our “leads” (clicks) ended up being from people who were doing product research. Granted, we focused heavily in markets that relied on product research; Government and Higher Education.

That said, I now believe we would have been miles ahead if this company had focused more on content and proactively educating these folks.

Because we focused on Outbound tactics, any click was great, an opt-in was a win. It was a LEAD!!! But at the end of the day, our sales people usually lamented, and wasted a lot of time on most of those opt-ins. Simply because they were just “looking to look.”

Had we focused on Inbound tactics, those lookers could have knocked themselves out, and gotten all the info they needed, on their own time.

But even better, we could have warmed up the REAL buyers in that crowd. I wonder how many we missed?

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Kari Rippetoe October 12, 2012 at

Marcus – it’s not so much a “trend,” it’s our definition. And no, we haven’t written about it (but it’s an interesting topic to think about).

Marshall is right – learners are “looking to look” rather than “looking to buy.” And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But, we ultimately want people to hire us rather than take what we teach in our content and do it themselves. Many times people would fill out the contact form, but wouldn’t pan out because they just wanted some free advice over the phone about how to do something.

On the other side of the coin, what we teach 1) builds our reputation as a thought-leader, and 2) may generate leads from those who simply don’t have the resources to do what the content is teaching.

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David Weinhaus October 14, 2012 at

I love this article and think it nails on the head why so many agencies have such a hard time driving traffic to their blog. I especially like your strong recommendation to focus on one or more specific industries/verticals. There is just way too much CSI otherwise.

However, I would disagree with one point. You stress the need to reference personal case studies and stories. These are great if an agency has them, but many agencies are still building up critical mass. An agency can still add a ton of value if they illustrate industry best practices, even if they come from outside their portfolio. I think the key as you point out is to be specific to the industry, show examples, and be highly visual.

Other than that, I 110% agree. Platitudes are cheap. Real examples and stories are worth gold. I have a few good examples and more thoughts in a recent blog post inspired in part by your post.

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Marcus Sheridan October 16, 2012 at

Yes, it’s tough to point out examples for start ups, but I think if someone (an agency) is doing this right, they should have at least one story, success or fail, for every client. And ultimately, it’s the stories that need to be told and heard, and less tips….at least in my opinion ;-)

Thanks for your thoughts David,

Marcus

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David Weinhaus October 16, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,
Thanks for the reply. On point as usual and I’m totally down. My main point though is that an agency should not let a lack of case studies or personal examples hold them back from offering tons of industry examples. For instance, below is a link to a great post from Hubspot on 7 Ways a Non-Profit Can use Social Media. There is a great example in there from Make A Wish Foundation and how they use facebook – not a Hubspot customer. I’m not saying not to use personal experiences, but just that you can share a lot of industry insights, build up some good cred, and share a lot of value, even by pointing to great examples, not your own.

Here is that link for reference: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33462/7-Creative-Ways-Nonprofits-Can-Use-Social-Media-to-Drive-Donations.aspx

Here are some more thoughts I put together on vertical marketing for agencies inspired in part by your article: http://davidweinhaus.com/blog/bid/79259/5-Powerful-Tips-a-Marketing-Agency-Can-Use-to-Target-Verticals

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Rodney Goldston October 21, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,

First time reading your blog. I discovered you via your guest talk on the Social Media Marketing podcast.

I’ve been doing Internet Marketing for myself for a few years now and have recently decided to go full-time. Deciding if I should focus on a niche or a wide market is always a struggle. Just getting started I tend to take what ever comes through the door.

Your message on the Podcast was quite motivating. Specifically the idea that we can all be teachers of what we know best through content marketing.

I live in the Philadelphia area and I’m very interested in speaking. Any helpful advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

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Touch Point Digital Marketing December 30, 2012 at

You mention some great points, Marcus, as you can see by the amount of comments on your article. What I find a lot in many blogs is that the material is very basic and almost vague, not providing real value to the readers. Articles should be specific, as you mentioned, and offer specific pointers and practical help. Only then will a marketing blog grow and result in leads.

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Mike Coday December 31, 2012 at

Writing from the perspective of my own personal experience has been a big key. I had always been able to write for the bots & spiders, but the content was lifeless; it had no emotional power capable of generating action.

As an old school SEO it is hard to break away from the ranking mechanics of content creation. I’ve purposely had to force myself to write some “bad” title tags just to remind myself that I’m writing for real people.

Folks may search using head tail + geo qualifies keywords, but they don’t think and feel in those same terms when reading. The keyword is just the shortcut to the emotional conversation happening in their head. I’m learning that it is better to match those same emotions than it is to match the keyword.

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