Why Now is The Time to Start Blogging Like You Preach

Ben
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Mediocre work is rarely because of a lack of talent… All coping does is waste your time and misdirect your energy. If the best you can do is cope, you’re better off quitting.” — Stefan Stern

Quinlan has a dirty secret: for an agency that prides itself on its cutting-edge content marketing and creative work, our blog has traditionally kind of sucked.

Well, “sucked” may be a bit harsh. I don’t think the content itself is awful. Personally, I enjoyed Kristin Sullivan’s post on having a good experience at conferences while attending alone and our piece on brilliant back-to-schooling marketing campaigns, among others.

But great posts have been few and far between. We’ve often been stuck in a Seth Godin cul-de-sac of mediocrity that keeps going round and round: the blog gets ignored, we panic, fire off a new strategy or a new commitment to blogging, it sticks for a little while (often very little, like a week), client work takes priority and the blog gets ignored. Repeat ad infinitum.

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The challenges of blogging

Writing quality blog posts takes precious resources, and we’ve found it difficult to redirect our time and our brains away from client work. The result is that our clients have nice blogs and ours is ignored.

Some of the common problems we’ve faced with our blog include:

Guilt. There is a component in our content team culture that makes internal work — work in which our own agency is the client — feel like a luxury. Maybe it’s the Protestant Work Ethic, maybe we’re dedicated to our clients, maybe we are adverse to unbillable hours, but the end result is a sense that we’re doing something sneaky if we’re blogging for Quinlan.

Strategy (or lack thereof). Are we blogging about best practices for advertising agencies? Are we highlighting our own company culture? Are we commenting on current events? All of these things? Are we doing them well, or just cranking out posts to feel like we’re up-to-date?

There’s really been no consistent rhyme or reason to our blogging efforts. No editorial calendar, no SEO focus, no master plan. On occasion, I’ve tried to drum up some interest among my content team to get the blog rolling again, but the guilt issue — combined with my own lack of focus on the blog — allows those brief periods of enthusiasm to wash away. If I treated a client the way I’ve treated our own blog, I’d deserve to get kicked the hell off the account.

Time. An effective content marketing initiative takes up a lot of hours: building a strategy, creating personas and calendars, assigning roles, developing keywords and topics, doing the actual writing, finding appropriate multimedia and then executing social and email campaigns eat up a lot of clock. Even if we were as carefree as flock of lambs bouncing through a field of lilacs, execution takes a significant amount of time, and we’ve struggled to find it.

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Some embarrassing blogging truths

  • Several of our posts failed to garner 100 page views. My recent post on editing failed to hit 50. FIFTY. Promotion is clearly an issue.
  • Our Ideas blog is not Page 1 on Google for the keyword “Quinlan Ideas.” Know what is on Page 1? A video about Christmas gift ideas from a little girl named Quinlan. The good news is that six-year-olds are apparently happy to get an eraser as a gift.

 

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What is everybody else doing?

Let’s take a look at the blogging work of the advertising agencies in Buffalo, New York who are ahead of Quinlan on the Buffalo Business First gross advertising income list:

1. Gelia: Gelia doesn’t really have a blog. We’re off to a great start!

2. Crowley Webb: A News section, but no blog in the strict definition of the word. Our blog is still better than what the top two ad agencies in Buffalo offer! We’re on fire.

3. Eric Mower and Associates: EMA has a Knowledge section on its website that includes an e-book featuring market research on new mothers as well as blog-style posts with solid industry content that are not, based on some SEMrush searches, creating many organic search traffic visits or back links. Hey, neither is our blog! YET.

4. SKM Group/The Farm: The advertising agency formerly known as SKM Group has a nifty little blog with hot takes (in a good way) about advertising by big brands. It’s nice to see a real opinion! SKFarM seems to have the same issue we’ve run into, which is sporadic posting and not-great results in search (although in fairness they just flipped their brand).

5. The Martin Group: The Martin Group’s TMGBlog is very colorful and is probably the most active blog on this list. They have an in-house PR firm, too, which helps, but the Martins are posting new content on a pretty regular basis.

6. Paragon: Paragon closed in March 2015, so no blog.

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What are our goals?

Our goals for the new blogging project are fairly straightforward.

  • Improve our blog’s performance in organic search
  • Build an audience for our blog and hit specific metrics of success
  • Provide excellent, shareable content for our social media platforms
  • Offer insight into our in-house expertise and company culture

 

We are going to start this process by publishing six posts in January. The goal will be, over time, to publish eight posts per month and to incorporate a wider degree of content formats (infographics, video, etc.) into the mix. Content team members will be responsible for providing justification for each post prior to beginning the blogging process and will be involved in the creation, publication, promotion and reporting of their work — just as they are with our clients.

It’s a bit of a tall task, and one that we have admittedly failed in the past. I’ll be checking in periodically in our Ideas blog to let you know how things are going. I’m holding our team accountable to the audience — and you are welcome to hold us accountable, as well. Feel free to share your thoughts with us on our Facebook or Twitter pages. I’m interested to know what you think.

Here’s to blogging success in 2016.

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