Websites / March 28, 2019
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As we work with professional service firms to design and build websites, we sometimes encounter “other blogs,” written by members of the firm, that exist independently from the firm’s main website. We often get asked if it’s better to keep blogs separate from the firm’s website, or integrate them. In almost all cases, we suggest integration. Here’s why:
Getting people to visit your website is hard. Keeping them on your website, once there, can be even harder. When we design sites, we like to offer top blog headlines as “cross-links” in sidebars on many pages of the site. If a visitor comes to your site via a bio page or project page, blog headlines in the sidebar area act as teasers that entice visitors to click to read the full story. Similarly, if visitors come in to your site via a blog story, we entice them to read more about the author (via a link to that person’s bio page) or service areas or projects related to that author (via links to those pages). Well built websites are programmed so that cross-links can be added dynamically, rather than manually, making administration much easier for marketing staff managing the site.
Cross-selling additional service lines to our existing clients is a challenge for all service firm marketers and business developers. Clients tend to know us and use us for one area of expertise, and not think of us or even realize we can help them in other ways. The six words I fear hearing most from my clients are “I didn’t know you did that.” Although a blog may focus on a specific topic, integrated blogs pull readers interested in that topic into your main site where they then see all of the types of work you handle. As more people in your firm start blogging, additional categories can be added to your blog. Your existing clients, as well as prospects, become aware of all the different services you offer in a natural, “non-salesy” way as they read your blog and explore your website.
A well written and maintained blog can generate a huge percentage of the traffic to your website (as much as 55% more visitors and 97% more inbound links). So if your goal is to drive traffic to your company’s website, why would you not integrate your blog? As a professional service firm marketer, the blog is your main resource for adding fresh content to your website. If all that good, fresh content is not on your site, but on another site with a unique URL, all the benefits are lost.
If a client comes to your website to read a partner’s bio, they will usually skim over that partner’s credentials like you would a resume. But if they are also presented with links to interesting blog posts by that partner, read those posts, “follow” that partner and subscribe to your blog, your chances of getting a meeting or being shortlisted for that client’s next project are now a whole lot better. If a prospect who has never heard of your firm before happens to Google a few keywords and lands on a blog post on your site, best-case scenario (but rarely) you may get a phone call. Good-case scenario you may get a new blog subscriber. And in all cases, you will have increased the reach of your brand, with one more person who will now say “Yes, I’ve heard of that firm,” the next time your name comes up. Needless to say, if your blog is not integrated into your main site, the benefits of thought leadership may be attributed to the author, but firm-wide brand recognition gets lost completely.
I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard clients say “I thought having my blog on a separate URL improves my SEO?” We all know that inbound links (or “referrals”) from other credible websites are considered a good thing by Google. In the early days of websites and blogs, we thought we could improve our main site’s SEO by creating an external blog, and linking from the blog to our main site. Now, that seems kinda silly. As our blog content gets “noticed” by other credible bloggers and websites the world over, we want those inbound links to point to our main site, not an external blog. Think of it this way, what would you prefer—hundreds of inbound links from websites to your main site, or a few inbound links from your external blog to your main site? If you chose the former, Google would agree with you.
As a professional service firm, we may add a new project or a new bio once in a while, but the vast majority of site updates are made to our blog (or “news”) section. Since 2003, one of Google’s main ranking algorithms specifically looks for frequency of new content. Again, if your blog is integrated into your main site, all those updates and activity are credited to your corporate site. Without it, your site looks “stale” to Google and will be ranked lower.
A separate blog is a separate website that will rank independently from your main site. So essentially, you are creating a competitor in terms of organic rankings. Your main site and your blog will fight for the same keywords. As John Lincoln puts it so eloquently, “If your ultimate goal is to increase your company visibility as a whole, you want your blog and main site to work together, not against each other.”
At Clockwork, we’re all about creating beautiful brands. But to build a brand, it has to be seen. As mentioned above, integrated blogs help drive traffic to your corporate site which in turn helps name recognition, thought leadership credibility, and ultimately, brand awareness. A separate blog serves none of these purposes and may, in fact, fracture and confuse your brand.
In closing, let me share some personal insight on having an integrated blog. Since my team has started blogging regularly two and a half years ago, our site traffic has increased exponentially. And we don’t blog a lot, just one post or so a week which we also push out on social media and compile to a monthly email newsletter. More importantly, our brand awareness has also grown significantly. We receive far more RFPs, and our geographic reach has grown more national instead of purely regional. The effects of an integrated blog don’t happen overnight, but they do happen. In short, “if you write it, they will come.”