Should SMBs Blog to Customers or Colleagues?

It’s a question that I’ve seen come up a lot: When you’re blogging for SEO, who are you writing for? Should you be aiming your content at your colleagues in the industry, or are you blogging for your customers? Obviously, both are worthy approaches, but which gets the best results?

Over at GeoLocalSEO, Steve Hatcher recently offered a strong opinion for why SMBs should be blogging for their peers, not for their customers. Today I thought I’d bring the other side of the argument, because I do think it’s a worthy discussion.

That said, I respectfully disagree with Steve. For a small business owner, I think your blogging investment is far better spent producing content for your customers, not for your colleagues in the industry.

Why?  Below are a few reasons.

Your customers are performing searches.

When we encourage small business owners to start blogging, we talk to them about keyword research. We offer them advice on how to find out what types of queries their customers are entering as a way to understand what they want, what they’re looking for, and what types of needs the business can fill. Once you know what your customers need and what they’re looking for, you can make yourself the answer to their problem. For example, if you know that 300 potential customers a month are searching for [product name battery life], you can create content that addresses that concern or problem. You make it so that when they’re looking for authoritative content, they find you. That’s not keyword stuffing. That’s solving a problem.

You need to build authority with customers, not colleagues.

We know that there are more businesses blogging today than there are businesses not blogging today. And one of the main reasons so many companies have made the leap is because they know with more competitors, more noise and a tougher fight for visibility, small businesses need to differentiate themselves by establishing an authoritative voice in their market. While people looking for a locksmith may not spend all day trolling blogs about locksmiths or hanging out in locksmith forums (those exist, right?), they are going to do their due diligence before hiring someone. When they get a recommendation from a friend or when Google shows them the nearest locksmiths in their area, you’d better believe that user is going to do their homework and check the company website, the blog, the Twitter account, etc. This happens. This is how we vet companies now. And by creating that authority via your blog, you put yourself in a better position to get that customer.

You want to start conversations with customers, not colleagues.

Steve makes a worthy point in his post when he says that the people who comment on his SEO blog are other SEO experts, not people looking for services. And that’s often the case in the world of SEO and Internet marketing, but when you venture away from this circle I’d argue that it changes.

  • Do you know who comments on blogs related to cooking and recipes? People who are interested in cooking and possibly buying your cookbook.
  • Do you know who comments on active lifestyle blogs? People who may be in the market for a new kayak or a six-person tent.
  • Who comments on blogs about cars and automotive issues? People who love cars and often spend their weekends working on theirs.

Those of us in the marketing world live in a very incestuous bubble. But  “normal people” do not.

Your customers are checking for your pulse, no one else.

The Web is changing customer buying behaviors.  Today customers go online to research companies on their own before they ever attempt to contact them about their product or service.  They’re looking for signs of a pulse when they do this–signs that you can give them what they need but also that your company is human and relatable. One of the great things SMBs have been able to do through their blogs is to tell their stories and show their human side to an audience that’s waiting for it. They’ve been able to talk about how they got started, share what drives their passion, and introduce their customers to people on their team. This has helped them find customers and differentiate themselves from everyone else in your industry. Your colleagues probably don’t care why you love what you do or what drives you to get up every day. Your customers absolutely do.

As a small business owner, there are many different approaches to blogging that you can take. You can blog for your customers, the people you’re trying to attract to your website. Or you can blog to your colleagues. In my opinion, your time is better spent appealing to the first group. They’re the people searching for you, evaluating you, and coming to your site (and the search result pages) looking for helping solving problems.  Speak to them.

What about you? Who is your blog content aimed at?

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Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

11 Reactions
  1. Hey Lisa, I agree that it’s best to focus on writing for your customers, not your colleagues when it comes to your blog. That’s what we try to do at Urban Martial Arts.

    But I’ve found that on Twitter, it seems like the most interaction I get and the most value I’ve received is connecting with colleagues – aka other martial arts school owners.

    I didn’t necessarily set out to do that, and I don’t think our content speaks to that audience, but that seems to be how it has worked out. I assume it’s maybe because Twitter is not used as much as search by the average consumer.

    Have you ever seen that happen with the small businesses you guys work with?

  2. Great insight Lisa. Given the choice, I’d say blog for customers over peers (better feedback and more links), but if one has the time and energy, why not have both? One blog for customers, one blog for peers, and one blog for SEOs with tips on how you’re blogging to your peers and customers. 🙂

  3. I have to side with Lisa in this argument. I acknowledge that blogging to colleagues may be better at building thought leadership and authority in the industry. However, blogging to customers will provide far more direct benefit to the business and will also build authority and thought leadership because you’re contributing value to customers.

  4. To be able to read about myself as “the customer” in discussions between colleagues often is refreshing, especially when it comes to SEO professionals it seems. I can then relate to the business and learn a lot, and maybe most important – find the people and the companies that seem to really care about their customers and writing positively about them.

  5. Lisa, thanks for taking the conversation further here on Small Biz Trends. It seems I hit a bit of a nerve with my post and there are good reactions from both sides.

    It really does come down to your specific industry, and frankly some industries are far too boring for the public (customers) to be interested in a blog or if that business displays authority or a personality through their writing.

    Seriously, who is fostering a relationship with a local plumber, electrician, or locksmith. Who even wants to? For those types of local services people search in Google when they need one and it’s often an urgent need (locked out of the house or a broken pipe is spewing water all over the hardwood flooring. eek!). They literally just start calling the first phone numbers they see within the search results pages. There is very little click through to a website and vetting for quality or personality or authority.

    This is the nature of a ‘relationship’ with those sorts of businesses. Call ’em up when you need ’em and don’t give a second thought about them when you don’t. I’ve worked with a number of plumbing companies and other labor/trades type industries. Some are really great people, they care about their business and their customers, but their customers just don’t care as much about them and that’s just the way it is. It’s been that way for long since before the internet and is the chief reason why you see brands like AAA Plumbing, or A1 Locksmiths. That was always just about getting to the top of the Yellow Pages (alphabetical rankings) to get those calls when potential customers are calling the first numbers they see.

    Those blogging in those sorts of industries should probably try blogging to peers as it may be the only kind of engagement (and natural link building) they could ever hope for.

    Other industries sure, blog to the customers. Some industries should do both. Even those “boring” industries should probably mix in some posts to customers if solely to target a few extra long tail search phrases here and there that their main service pages aren’t capturing. But recognize it’s a very rare event when those posts, in those industries, actually engage people or attract links.

    The blogging to peers strategy has not gotten much mention so I felt it worthy of presenting it as another option. The masses of marketers, marketing consultants and business owners focus on blogging to customers without really thinking about what strategy may actually work best for a specific industry or specific business. And it may not even be the industry so much as the blogger themselves. These are small business owners, generally NOT natural writers. Writing about the business from a daily “running it” perspective may be what comes more naturally to them, so they should do that instead of trying hopelessly to engage customers when they just don’t have the voice for that. Recognize where your strengths actually lie and run with it.

    Where the blogging to peers ends up paying off with customers is the link building and resulting authority with search engines that then helps their home page and service pages rank for their primary and more competitive search terms, the ones the majority of their customers are actually searching with. This when the blog is a sub-section of the business website and the links come as deep inner page links and the odd home page link. Nice, natural and powerful link building.

  6. Thanks for your well-written post Lisa. And Carmen, I have totally had the same experience as you. The majority of our clients aren’t on Twitter; though, they may look up our account once they know who we are. Therefore we interact a lot with influencers on Twitter in the hopes of defining ourselves as the professionals we are and blog for clients or customers looking to see who we are and what we do.

    That said, I also like what Michael has to say. There is no reason you can’t have two blogs (if you have the time and energy) for your different communities or guest blog at different levels.

  7. Lionel Bachmann | Model Trains

    I agree with you. One of the reasons for being in business is to be the go-to solution for customers’ problems. I would think that those who blog for colleagues do so to become an influencer within their field, where others would turn to in order to find trends, or latest news.

  8. I agree with you Lisa, better to blog to customers than colleagues in most cases.

    But as Stever said in his comment, it’s not a one-size-fits all situation. It really depends on your marketing strategy.

    I think there is a third potential audience that may be a good alternative, if you are in that ‘boring and not interested until I need you’ segment, and that is associated industries and interests.

    Yes the musings on the best type of lock may not be very interesting to most, but as a guest post on a security website for example, it can add value to both audiences and businesses.