For a blog to be an effective marketing tool your primary focus is to build trust, credibility and a perception of expertise.  To truly connect with your audience, and keep its attention above all the din and clatter of the 21st century, your blog must offer content that matters.  As if that wasn’t a hard enough problem to solve, the way that content is presented also matters.  The content is the ‘what’, the presentation, the ‘how’.  How easy is your blog to read?  Is it intuitive to navigate?  Is it cluttered, or attractive?  Does it give a good first impression?

Here are a few other things, based on things I’ve learned from this class, from my classmates’ posts, from interviews of other ‘experts’, and from some of my own research, that I think might be considered in determining what makes an effective blog for marketing:

  • Content – is it relevant?  Is it fresh? Interactive?  Incentivized?
  • Timeliness of the posts is important
  • Does it include links to other related sites or media platforms, news, happenings, events, etc.?
  • Is it authentic?  Is it transparent?
  • Is it easy for people to respond to?  Can they quickly find where to post a comment?
  • Is it visually appealing?  Navigable?
  • Are the comment responses, prompt, considerate and valid?
  • Give the readers something of value

The above list is not all inclusive, but for me, they are among what I think the primary concerns should be.  For the most part, they are qualitative concerns, and so, in a way, subjective.

There are other key things a good marketing blog should do, but they are more objective.  They’re more like technological checkpoints to tick off.

  • Does your blog include key words for search engine optimization?
  • Has your blog submitted its URL to blog directories?  Does it have an option for an RSS subscription?
  • Are you using other social media channels to make them aware of your presence?

I know the list could be expanded, but, for me, the issues above make a good start at defining the outlines of an effective marketing blog.

For this week’s assignment, the three marketing blogs that I’ve chosen to evaluate are:  Whole Story,  http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/  ( Whole Foods Market),  The Perch,  http://magblog.audubon.org/  (Audubon’s Blog) and REI Blog http://findout.rei.com/blogs/.

The Perch  (Grade:  A)

The Perch (blog for the National Audubon Society) has timely updates, easy access to archives and many links that their audience would enjoy.  The Perch makes it easy to add comments, accompanied by an introductory short set of Comment Posting Rules.

The blog’s layout is clean, easy to read, and easy to navigate.  Bloggers are clearly listed, and the reader has quick access to biographical information with one click.

The Perch has plenty of inviting content.  I think the quality of the content alone provides a great take-away for the audience, and reason enough for them to return.

REI  (Grade:  B)

REI’s Blog has content that is fresh, relevant, and well-targeted to their audience.  Bloggers bios and their company relationships are easy and intuitive to find. The blog itself though, seems a little narrowly focused, but that might be because other adjacent tabs available on the company’s website thoroughly cover related items of interest.

The REI Blog layout is graphically pleasing, and that helps make it easy to read.  Most navigation within the sight is straightforward, although with some pages/links,  it takes longer than it should to get back to the blog homepage.  Comments can only be made if a reader first registers before logging in.  I think this is an obstacle that may not be completely necessary for site security, and is perhaps only a ploy to obtain the reader’s personal information.

No hard-sell here, but easy access to the company’s offerings should the customer be so inclined, is available.   Based upon REI’s audiences’ likely range of interests, there is a lot that they can take away from this blog, and they will be back again.

Whole Story  (Grade:  A)

The Whole Story is Whole Foods’ blog.  It’s directed primarily to foodie groups – those who like foods of all kinds, recipes, nutrition and all things natural and organic.  The blog makes available in a prominent location their video and podcast library.

Bloggers are identified, but clicking on the name takes you to the whole archive of the individual author.  To find the complete listing of blog contributors, you instead need to find the ‘Meet Our Contributors’ link, shoved way off into the top right corner of the page.  Not intuitive!  (It seemed backwards to me.)

The blog accepts comments without requiring registering or logging in, but there are still posting guidelines to be mindful of.

Visually, in spite of a somewhat dark background and light text, the layout is still easy to read, and carries through on the Whole Foods identity with its green theme.  For readers whose hunger is piqued by the food news and recipes, access to the Whole Foods webpage is easy enough with one click.  Nonetheless, there isn’t really any obvious selling happening within the blog itself.

In arriving at the grades that I assigned, I used the checklists at the top of this blog section, and then reviewed each blog against the checklist.  I did not include the last three bulleted items in the checklists, only the ‘qualitative’ items were included.

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