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Gini Dietrich

The ROI of Blogging: Brand Awareness and Reputation Generate Revenue

By: Gini Dietrich | October 14, 2013 | 
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The ROI of Blogging: Brand Awareness and Reputation Generate RevenueBy Gini Dietrich

When we started blogging seven years ago, it was a complete disaster.

There was no such thing as blogs written about blogging. No such thing as FeedBlitz or email subscriptions. No such thing as social share buttons or Livefyre. Nowhere to go for blogging inspiration.

It was just a blank screen, some incomplete thoughts, and a publish button (at least for us it was).

Fast forward four years when we actually put some goals in place for Spin Sucks and it was things such as, “Increase visitors by 36 percent” and “Add one guest blogger every day.” What we were missing, though, was the ROI of blogging, in terms of actually getting clients from all of the work we were doing.

Tom Elgar, the CEO of passle, recently wrote a blog post called “The Unremarked Death of Another Business Blog.” In it, he describes how difficult it is to not only start and maintain a blog, but to grow it and to keep it alive, AND how to show an ROI of blogging.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, producing content, producing engaging content, and producing a variety of content are the biggest challenges for content marketers. But 33 percent also said they have the inability to measure its effectiveness.

What is the ROI of Blogging?

This is where we were stuck in the fall of 2010. We had exceeded the goals – which I’ll today refer to as vanity goals – we set at the beginning of the summer, but we still weren’t making any money from the blog.

We batted around some ideas. Should we sell content? Should we create a subscription-based professional development site? Should we host paid webinars?

The answer to all of those questions was yes and we embarked on trying to generate revenue from each of them.

We created eBooks and sold them for $9.99. We built monthly webinars and charged $50 to attend. We even developed a professional development site called Spin Sucks Pro that cost $50 per month to join.

It all flopped.

Well, not entirely flopped, but we didn’t make enough money to cover the costs to create these things and we certainly will never recoup the costs in building Spin Sucks Pro.

So What Works?

A little more than a year ago, we sat down and looked at the assets we had created and considered the freemium model that exists on the web. We decided charging for content wasn’t the way to go and we began to offer all of that for free.

But now we were back where we were in 2010 and still had no idea how to make money from all of these efforts. We still didn’t have an ROI of blogging.

In January of this year, we decided to stop trying to make money on content and begin to drive new clients from the reputation we had built.

Today, 40 percent of our new business has come directly from Spin Sucks. Which means prospects are finding the blog – either through search engine optimization or word-of-mouth – and like what they read.

It’s fairly easy for us to track that right now because it’s a simple, “How did you learn about us?” when they first approach us. For consumer businesses or organizations with more than 100 or so customers, that gets a little more difficult, but setting up a mechanism to learn how people know about you is the easiest – and most efficient – way to track your blog’s effectiveness (assuming lots say, “I read your blog!”).

It’s true you can’t measure brand awareness and reputation, but if you use your blog to achieve those two goals, the revenue will follow.

P.S. The image is of me blogging on the Champs-Élysées in Paris this past April.

A version of this blog post first appeared on the FeedBlitz blog, who also happens to be a client of ours.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

69 comments
dbvickery
dbvickery

Hoping you are a model that many of us will follow, Gini. I have my own multi-author blog running on the corporate site. We will be "long tail" relative to a lot of content out there, and I hope that we can capitalize on being early, consistent, and competent.

Great seeing all of the pics at ContentJam. Smack Stacey for me, will ya?

KateFinley
KateFinley

I know I'm late to the party on this one but I just wanted to say THANK YOU for being willing to share real examples of what works and what hasn't. 

Also, I have actually seen a blog post bring in new business! First time ever (to my knowledge) ... Pretty cool.

Lara Wellman
Lara Wellman

So did you change something in January to make that happen or did you just start looking for different things and stop trying to make money directly from the blog?  

For us I find out blog is an entry point and then people start following more closely and when they're ready they jump up to the next level.  It's not always a fast process, but it's definitely key.  

hackmanj
hackmanj

Hi Gini!

I came by to look at your author bio and imagine that, I came across this. :)

I know it's your job to measure things, everything. I wonder though, in hindsight, how much those incremental (failures) steps did to contribute to the customers you've acquired or detracted from it. Have you looked at the paper trail to see if there were people who just always bought whatever was offered? Did they become clients of AD?

I also wonder what role perception plays on these buying decisions. I know it's easy to ask people where they came from, but it seems like a longer conversation and your measurement skills probably can tell a pretty amazing story. I'd be very curious to know.

Digital_DRK
Digital_DRK

Delivering genuine consistent creative engaging content, which in turn helps create  that reputation and eventually gets you some ROI. 

I would say the  "Social Media Mantle"  deservedly belongs to you!   :-)  

HonoureBlack
HonoureBlack

Dear Gini Dietrich, 

I thoroughly enjoyed your article, "The ROI of Blogging: Brand Awareness and Reputation Generate Revenue"

As a PR student as well as an employee of a small business, I often struggle with my "work" Blog. How do I get people to read it. What do I want to say? Will it generate a conversation? Will anyone notice?
Before these struggles, however, I had a hard time even convincing my employers to begin a blog. 

I was asked: Where do we start? What is the purpose of our blog? Are we using it as a marketing strategy, a way to communicate with our customer base, are there some things that we do not want to blog about?
This resonated with me: "...how difficult it is to not only start and maintain a blog, but to grow it and to keep it alive, AND how to show an ROI of blogging."I want to know how I can show the ROI of my blogging to my employers. Do I run a incentive contest, one that is often done on twitter, offer a discount or a free item to the first 10 people who comment on the blog? This idea seems to cheapen the blog in a way.Regardless, I think we as a business need to decide if our blog is about reviewing and marketing new product (which would be strategically chosen product, of course). Or if we want our blog to be about "us" as a store, our daily experiences, wine advice and reflections on events, customer stories, etc.In short, do we humanize the blog or make it part of the promotional machine?

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

My latest presentation Friday was, What Is Your Future With Content? (now on SlideShare)...and it zeros into year 3 when a rocket takes off with your content via the blog. What many companies and bloggers need to know is the consistency of generating astonishing content is the key to success. That remarkability thing everyone likes to toss around. Finding a niche topic and sticking with it while having a blast at the same time is the recipe for continued success and eventual $$. Or, maybe cents. heh.

awolk1
awolk1

Nice piece Gini. Most companies don't even get as far as you did - they forget that reading a blog is voluntary and wind up producing something that's so banal no one would want to read it. That, or they forget that the blog is not a place for press releases and other client related news. 

If you're actually writing something people want to read, you're 95% of the way there. Figuring out what metrics to use is the easy part.

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

Thanks for your honest analogy of your progression with the blog.  We are still trying to find our blog footing, so to speak. We decided to utilize for authority on services we offer, but expanded to allow the common, non-technical person so to speak a insight into what we offer and how it can help them.  That coupled with our touchy-feely, family oriented posts that help our clients or perspective clients get to know us on a personal level as well. 

EricPudalov
EricPudalov

@ginidietrich Thanks for this post!  When you had done the #FF, I started thinking, I need to blog more, but what about?  And why?  While my personal blog isn't directly related to what I do for a living, I can certainly start building those sorts of relationships that you're doing here, and also keeping track of the analytics.  Thank you for the kick in the butt!

rdopping
rdopping

Funny, just reading CTRL ALT DEL by @mitchjoel (shameless connect  'cause you know who wrote it) and it inspired me to write a post about relationships in a team based context centred around accountability. 

I think the elusive ROI is all about building relationships. Mitch talks about the direct relationship and the impact of ignoring that idea. he made reference to the long tail of building on relationships over time. 

How does that impact your potential for business development? You have proven it. Do you really need any more proof?

If anyone tries to monetize the hours you spend building relationships then let them. I will be over here working on what counts. 

sherrilynne
sherrilynne

Gini, traditional mainstream news media is on its knees because it can't figure out a paid-for model that works, so don't beat yourself up over a couple of flops. :-)

LSSocialEngage
LSSocialEngage

Nice. Now that's what I call blogging!  (referring to the fabulous image) Great post again . You talk about a lot of things that work and a lot that didn't. You talk about a time seven years ago when tips and tricks and all the fabulous info like this post didn't exist. But today , when they do exist do you think it is possible to start a blog and have over 10K hits a day and be fully monetized in just 2 months (when you don't have an established prior media or celebrity presence). I hear stats like that often from several bloggers(mom, food, lifestyle) and having blogged for about 6 months now and not being anywhere close to 10K hits a day, I wonder are those kind of stats are possible in a two month time frame?

lauraclick
lauraclick

What @ClayMorgan said! 

Also, the "how did you hear about us" question is perhaps the most important one you can ask - especially for smaller businesses. With just a little bit of effort you can track where your business is coming from. It's a no-brainer, yet so many businesses don't do it.

jolynndeal
jolynndeal

It's a great time to be in business, if you don't have to manage a blog.  With so many high level leaders writing blogs, we have access to all this incredible free content and expertise to help us run our business. If blogging is part of our business strategy, we need to be prepared to work hard, because it is the most front and center example of our work. I love your guest blogging strategy, it is so helpful on many levels (SEO, content, expertise, frequency.)

Word Ninja
Word Ninja

I wonder what the average is for businesses drawing customers through their blogs. 40% seems like a great percentage! I have a small site I set up myself and a blog I update but look at more as a venue for samples of my work, although I want each post to benefit the readers first and foremost. Honestly, I haven't acquired clients through the blog but also haven't made that a goal yet. Yours is a great example of how that can work.

Btw, where can I get a free image of me blogging in Paris?


cision
cision

@SpinSucks You're welcome! And goodness, that came up on us quickly! I don't know if I'll make it :/ SHUCKS!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@hackmanj Sure! The paper trail shows a few things...most people either hear about us through word-of-mouth or my speaking. Then they see us mentioned in one of the social networks. Then they come over here and they like what they see. There are probably three or four other places they hear about us and THEN they make a purchase decision. It's pretty rare the blog, alone, drives the revenue. It's all integrated, but when asked, and they say, "I read your blog," I count it in that column.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@HonoureBlack You have to first figure out what you're trying to do. The questions you are asking are the right ones, but now you have to answer them! For instance, the vision of this blog is to change the perception of the PR industry. It's a huge vision, which may never be accomplished in my lifetime, but everything we write here goes to that vision. 

Then you have to have goals. In the beginning, the goals may just be to increase readership and subscribers. After all, you can't generate revenue without those things. Set benchmarks for success and exceed them. Then you'll be able to make money at it.

But it's not a short-term project. It takes years to monetize a blog. Years.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@awolk1 What?! Writing a blog is not a place for releases?! :-) You are SO RIGHT. I love it when organizations have figured out how to tell their news in engaging and informational ways. It's so nice to see you here. Thanks for stopping by!

EricPudalov
EricPudalov

@ExtremelyAvg I would say so!  Doing more speaking engagements gets your brand out there, does it not?

LSSocialEngage
LSSocialEngage

@ginidietrich Well that makes complete sense and that is why for me the numbers they quoted with such confidence discounted the credibility of the person(s) I was speaking with. The math just didn't add up for their niche either. Thanks for the response.

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