Keep Blogging

I've worked in what was ostensibly an SEO agency, and I know that some turnover of clients is inevitable. But what makes long-term blogging clients cancel their order?

Sometimes it's financial, or a reassessment of their marketing budget, but I imagine sometimes it comes down to a thought like this:

"We've been blogging for six months and our traffic has more than doubled - that'll do for now."

It's a reasonable notion - you've put in the investment, you've seen the return, so why continue building your traffic exponentially when you've got enough customers to keep you in profit for the foreseeable future?

To answer that question, I'm going to give you a glimpse into two of my own blogs - Phronesis (yes, the blog you're reading right now) and Popsiculture, the reviews site I run with Dan Penman.

Let's start with Phronesis, which launched in summer 2011.


First of all, a look at the raw data for the number of weekly visits - including return visits - to Phronesis since July 2011.

Now, it's a little erratic, because not all of my traffic comes via search - sometimes I tweet out links to new posts, some pages serve as static pages, and sometimes I just don't blog for a couple of days.

However, it's fairly clear to see that my traffic has built over time, and has spiked significantly since the beginning of 2012.

In turn, my business levels have been fairly consistent, with a number of ongoing clients taking blog posts for many months, and one-off projects adding a bit of variety to my portfolio.

How much of this is down to my blogging? It's a matter of opinion, admittedly - my blog posts are often very personal, and I know for a fact that some of my portfolio entries and testimonials have played a decisive role in winning me work, so in a very real sense I would not be doing as well without this blog.


Now let's look at Popsiculture - and there's a very good reason why I chose this as an example...

In 2011, we published 161 articles and reviews on Popsiculture, an average of 13 per month or just more than 3 per week. It's not a blistering pace, but there are only two of us.

In 2012 so far, we've published 12 items - that's just 4 per month, or 1 a week, and many of them have been shorter single reviews and track previews, rather than full album reviews.

The effect is pretty clear in our visitor count - the chart above again includes return visits, and the data is plotted on a weekly basis.

With the exception of one spike in traffic in late February/early March, 2012 has seen reduced traffic levels, compared with the end of 2011.

Blogging is...

So what does this mean? Well...

Blogging is fresh - A blog whose entries are all 6 months old just won't do the trick, there's an inherent timeliness to posts that you need to keep on top of.

Blogging is competitive - Whatever you're writing about, there's someone else out there doing the same thing. Google prioritises frequently updated websites, so if you put a halt to your blogging, someone else will step in and take over those reins.

Blogging is additive - Yes, additive, not addictive (although it can be that too...) - blog regularly over an extended period, and a certain percentage of people will come back. Phronesis' traffic is almost 30% repeat visits; Popsiculture's is around 6% as it's much more search-driven. But the longer you blog for, the more repeat visitors you will pick up, unlocking the door to potentially exponential traffic growth.

In short, blogging is a long-term investment - run any search on an industry area, product name or other form of commerce and the top sites will usually have, at the very least, hundreds of pages. Some have hundreds of thousands, even in industries like personal fitness.

By blogging regularly, you expand your website, increase your search visibility and keep your site looking fresh to visitors - stop blogging and you begin to erode that investment.

It's a simple enough principle, but it's one that's come up a few times recently - hopefully the numbers alone are persuasive enough to keep you blogging on!

As an aside...

One last thing. The long-term value of blogging comes from the fact that its effect is cumulative. Even if a post receives only one visitor per month via the search engines, add 50 blog posts and that's 50 visitors per month. You don't get that same additive effect with, for example, pay per click campaigns - click once and that bit of your budget is spent and won't be coming back.

So I was slightly surprised recently to see a 'tip' shared on Twitter, telling people to regularly weed out their old blog content to delete poorly performing posts. The idea was that, by keeping only the good stuff, your archive gradually looks better - but smaller.

I'm not too sure I agree with that notion. The older a post gets, the more likely it is that it will only be found by search traffic, rather than clicked on to directly from another page in your blog. And if it comes up in search results, there's a decent chance that it's pretty relevant to what the person is looking for, even if they're part of a niche audience.

Deleting old posts eliminates any chance of them finding that niche search audience, and removes the possibility of making positive ROI from them in the future - leaving them there does no great harm that I can see, and means there's always the chance of making a sale that you might otherwise have missed.