Could Your Blog be Ruining Your Business?

Could Your Blog be Ruining Your Business?

Reader Comments (83)

  1. I think that the solution for this is having “call to action”, “call to action” to subscribe, “call to action” to check the sales page of a product, “call to action” that links to an affiliate product, “call to action” to a Twitter account and so on.

    If you are showing to your reader what is the next step to follow, most probably she will do it.

  2. Rock on James/?

    There are way too many business owners out there that are giving away the kitchen sink without creating a call to action in every post. We’ve got ourselves into this wierd world of social networking where people are getting scared to ask for the sale, especially when content is king.

    I always try to use the rule of thumb that you should get your customer to the answer about 90% of the way and then if they really want to know how to do it, they are going to have to purchase the product and get the surprise inside.

    We all need to be careful how we train our customers. If they know they will get something for nothing, then that’s all they will expect from us.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  3. Hey James,

    Blogging with purpose.

    To never let the big goal be forgotten.

    Is it to get 1k visitors/day? Or is it to get 10 sales/day?

    Be conscious of your big goal in every step, decision, and post you make.

    Is this new thing going to get you 10 sales/day? If not, it’s not important. Or, as you pointed out, could actually hurt your big goal by setting up different expectations for readers.

    Blog with a purpose. Just like with anything in life.


  4. This is probably one of the most important blogging posts ever written. I was actually going to write one like this (I swear!) for my blog, but you said it even better. I’ll just link to it.

    When I was at bwe09, I realized how important this was when people would ask me what I did…I had no answer.

    “uh…I blog about stuff?”
    “I’m a business blogger?”
    “I teach people how to kick ass at life”

    Eventually I figured it out and working on it, but you’re so right, you’ve got to have a business before you have a blog. The business doesn’t feed the blog, it is the opposite.

  5. @Joshua/Underdog:

    Love this – “We all need to be careful how we train our customers. If they know they will get something for nothing, then that’s all they will expect from us.”

    So, so true.

    @James: Awesome as always.

  6. Preach it, sistah.

    Most people don’t even think about conversion goals. Hell, most people are not even building a list so they can get the person back more than once.

  7. Great reminder. I’m working on a redo of my blog consulting site (ironically, I got too busy with client work to do maintenance & keep the blog updated…which is a good thing) and I’ll look for ways to incorporate your idea.

  8. What a wake up call! I think too many of us fall into the habit of throwing (an often excellent) elevator pitch into our about pages, and assume people will find out what we do from that.

    The call to action at the end of each post is just a great idea, and it can vary from post to post.

  9. Great post! I don’t think of gently nudging at the end of the post. Ending my posts with an author’s box, just like when you submit to the article directories – great concept!

  10. Well, you certainly managed to instill a lot of anxiety over people leaving my blog. However, if they didn’t — how would they ever tell anyone about it.

    Let them go — gracefully. The more gracefully the better. When they see that boosterish slogan at the bottom of the post, that’s going to taint it ever so slightly (you know it’s true, no point it pretending it isn’t, this is a trade-off situation) and that will decrease its communicability, because nobody wants to appear to be pimping for a shill, even a hint of that will lose you reposts. I speak simply from the perspective here of someone who has declined to repost a whole lot of things, simply because of what it said at the bottom and how that would make ME look.

    It’s a thought-provoking article but I don’t think all the variables are being taken into account here.

    You may proceed now to thump me on the basis of my being an amateur. 87

  11. P.S. I recommend if you are going to boost yourself, do it very briefly and in passing at the beginning of the post, not the end. Think about the final taste in the mouth — it should all gold. That would be good copy.

  12. Wow, this is almost dead on similar to the message I was trying to portray today on my blog. Everyone seems to be so determined on creating engaging content, driving traffic, interacting, commenting, etc… but not actually focused on the blog’s purpose to begin with – making money in some capacity. (directly or indirectly)

    The only justification that seems to arise in this situation is the “I’ll monetize in some way eventually” attitude. In my opinion, that’s just a poor excuse for failing to actually work on some type of business planning. Getting a ton of traffic before even *thinking* about how you’ll capitalize on it is no way a valid model of operation.

    Even if you don’t expect to actually make money from your blog on the outset, there still should be some idea how this will be done at a basic level & gearing your content and overall productivity towards that method of business.

  13. Wow. I’m sad to say that never occurred to me. Call to action to comment or check out other content or share with others to grow the blog, yes. Specific occasional suggestion to hire when directly related to the post or “come visit me” in a guest post, yes. But a constant italicized little reminder that I’m in business, no.

    My first thought was to wonder if it would be too obtrusive, but I know that I have seen similar things elsewhere and they don’t bother me. And like you said, that particular blog is there to support the business.

    Still amazed at the hidden obviousness of this. I do like Oleg’s point, too, that you need to figure out what the goal is before you try this.

    Would this work as well when you’re building a community with your blog from which to draw customers later? For an example close to home, Men with Pens and Copyblogger don’t do this. You advertise your services in banners and sticky posts and such, not in each post.

  14. Laroquod, you point to your graphic art from your blog, right? Your art is your *business* as I understand it. In fact, that’s how I was introduced to your work.

    I think you’re doing fine. Artists in particular can be shy about pointing to their work, but your work is the whole reason for it all. And I know I’m better off for having found it.

  15. I think we are generally shy about boasting about what I do. We don’t want to seem cocky or over deliver. I JUST wrote two posts about where I came from and what the heck I do – clarity for me and all 6 of my readers! Good reminder – thanks. Jacqueline

  16. James – So true, such an incredible reminder. Thank You! Also besides putting the button up or the tagline, etc…, you can put a call to action at the bottom of posts. Like for a realtor, “Don’t forget to check our inventory of vacation rentals in Bora Bora, we add new amazing properties every day!”…or some such with links directing them right to your inventory.

    It could go either way: Obviously it will be too much if it’s cheesey and annoying and you come off sounding like a used car salesman. But if you have fun with the copy and switch it up…it could work well.

  17. Don’t tell a sales story in which the climax is a sale. That’s the climax for you. That’s not the climax for them.

  18. Truth. It’s weird, because I was on a call the other day and I had this epiphany all ready, and never got to use it:

    “People ask me how I created a successful blog. But I didn’t create a successful blog. I created a successful business that just so happens to market primarily via blogging.”

    And it sucks that I didn’t get to use it, because that’s a cool quote. Of course, I’m biased.

    Although, I’ve also realized that my blog also has almost literally nothing to do with my business. I write about why “Christmas is Gay” and sell website setups and consulting. That’s logical, right?

  19. It seems so obvious, but makes perfect sense. I want to build an active third tribe, but I also want them to buy my product. Thanks.

  20. Brian thanks so much, that really means a lot to me, as I really respect your perspective and what you do here despite my different takes on some of your stories. My art site is definitely a theoretically functioning business, but it’s all for show, at this point. And I don’t mind admitting, as I believe there are a whole lot of others out there in the same boat, and I wanna talk to them.

  21. Nathan, also remember that context should be woven into the content itself. For example, a helpful series of articles on the basics of SEO copywriting may help people later realize that they need to try out your new software service, even if there’s no particular immediate pitch.

    This is simply educating people enough for them to know that they’re missing out on something they didn’t realize before. Content marketing is really about educating people enough to do business with you.

    But if you never eventually tell them that you’ve got something to offer, they’re not going to figure out the “business” part that you’re ultimately after. Don’t assume people “get” what it is you do.

  22. I think what James was getting at was that sometimes we’re so shy about being “too promotional” that visitors have no earthly idea we’re in business at all. Which doesn’t help them or us. A simple “I help people with XYZ” will rarely bug even the most sensitive users.

    What does bug people, though, is when you’re so promotion-averse that you never hint that you’re in business, and then you finally work up your courage and ask for a sale. If you’ve been completely non-promotional for some extended period and then switch to selling, readers find it jarring.

    I always advise bloggers in that position to ask for the sale anyway, and start to reframe the relationship. But you can avoid a lot of hurt and cranky feelings if you begin as you mean to go on.

  23. So we have climaxes, gay Christmases and Nathan who doesn’t know what he does… this is shaping up nicely *evil grin*

    I had a client who went through this. She had been blogging for a year at a prime sales opportunity location, and recently scratched her head wondering why she wasn’t being hired.

    Quite simply, people didn’t know they could. She was the instructor, and it never occured to them that she also worked for a living.

    I added a small note at the end of each post for her (just a nice, quiet reminder) and within a couple of weeks, voila. Clients.

  24. I breathed a sigh of relief after reading the first few paragraphs. Like Galadriel in LOTR, “I passed the test, I can diminish and go into the West.” Maybe it was haphazard that my boss made sure I included links to Finding and Selling Homes right at the top of our Real Estate blog. We can’t make people click those links, but they’re the Call to Action in plain sight. Thanks for your insight. Love

  25. Okay not to harp, but I figured out how to state more clearly what rubs me the wrong way about the boost-at-the-end tack. What is that story, ok? What is that a story of? It’s the story of a reader who got offered something for free, accepted, and then at the end got pitched. There is no truly good way to tell that story. You have to disguise it, and almost apologise for it. I hate apologising.

    If you offer the link to the sale at some other point, then there seem to be better ways available to frame it, to me. Like, the reader got offered a free thing in exchange for a small toll of attention. It seems like a fairer deal to me, when framed in that way.

  26. Good post. Businesses seem to just view social media as something they “should” do instead of actually understanding the how, where, and why. You aren’t just on twitter, facebook, and a blog just because you should be. Any initiative should tie directly into business goals and objectives, which need to constantly be reassessed and reanalyzed. Make sure your blog is a strategy feeding a goal.

  27. @Laroquod – Help me out here. I want to understand where you’re coming from and not quite making it. Here’s an analogy that might clear up my perspective:

    Two clowns give a free show. They twist up some balloons, amuse the kids, make the parents laugh… and at the end of the show, they take a bow and remind people that they’re available for hire. Birthdays, special events, weddings…

    I don’t see any shame in that. Why would they apologize?

  28. Hey James thank you for such an awesome article – really hits the nail on the head!

    Blogging for business opposed to blogging as a business is a completely different proposition. Yet it is easy to get sucked into the later as that is the advice being given by blogs that are being run as a business.

    I’m not trying to steer away from writing blog articles that are more like sales pages. Instead at the end I drop seeds for thought and perhaps link through to a specific service as well as offer them a chance to sign up for my newsletter. This is now starting to build up a momentum, which is just what I want and need!

  29. @Joshua Black hit the nail on the head. If you give away 100% of the “what” and the “how to” then why would your prospect buy from you other than to save time or to buy reassurance?

    You can overcome our natural cynicism and skepticism with high-quality free content, but you don’t have to give away the keys to the castle (a lesson I learned the hard way).

  30. This is exactly what I needed to read! I have been blogging for almost two years and I still haven’t really figured out how to build sales from it yet. I now realize my posts isnt really action oriented. Some are, but most are not.

    Thanks for the info!

  31. @James. Maybe apologise was the wrong word, as you are right in what you say. I guess it’s more that I hate explaining it. I want to work it into the art of the post, essentially.

  32. @Laroquod, I think that’s fantastic if you can pull it off. But I also think many people are genuinely frustrated about why they’re not getting business from their blog, and it’s because they haven’t let anyone know they’re *in* business.

    I know that if I go to an artist’s blog, read their stuff, enjoy their work, I don’t feel that it cheapens the experience to see a great-looking ad that says something like “Here’s How to Buy” or “Here’s How to Work With Me.” Just like I don’t get disgusted by a gallery when there’s a little white tag on the wall that tells me how much that lovely watercolor would set me back if I wanted to bring it home with me.

    Some people’s stuff is so good that they’ll get customers insisting on knowing how to buy. And that’s a nice spot to be in. But for those who aren’t experiencing that, I don’t think there’s anything ugly about communicating clearly.

    That’s how I see it, anyway. You may see it differently. 🙂

  33. A great reminder of what the point is of business blogging. I recognize the feeling of visiting a site and wondering (sometimes out loud) what the company is selling (or trying to sell).

  34. Thank you!! Your advice to put a line at the end of each blog with a “nudge toward hiring you” (or in my case nudge toward using my affiliate links), is exactly what I now know I need to do.

    Why didn’t I see that? Oh, well…that’s why I read and love CopyBlogger.

  35. Hi Sonia, your viewpoint on this it makes a lot of sense. But… why does it have to be at the end? If someone is interested enough to actually go to the lengths to buy your stuff, then they’re already interested enough to click your links, right? So why not just put them wherever you want? Be creative? I am trying to encourage people to think a little freer, here…? Is that a bad thing?

  36. It’s a shame that so many artists are timid about (or disgusted by) selling themselves.

    My experience is in music. I know some musicians that are great, but at 40+ years old are either still living with their parents or with roommates because they can’t bear the thought of tainting their art with a little self-promotion, to the point where some even refuse to create a presence for themselves on the internet.

    On the other hand, I also know of some mediocre musicians who manage to get enough gigs (albeit not high-profile ones) and students to make a decent living because of their aggressive (and sometimes obnoxious) self-promotion, and because they take care of business and don’t “space out” about appointments like some of my friends who only care about their art.

    Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. The most successful musicians I know are both great artists and are unafraid of letting people know who they are and what they have to offer. They are the ones getting gigs like playing on the soundtrack of Woody Allen’s latest movie or touring with the Trans Siberian Orchestra or being chosen as TED fellows.

    @Laroquod: I don’t think @Sonia, @James and the others are saying it HAS to be at the end—nothing wrong with a little creativity! I think the point they’re making is that you should mention it somewhere.

  37. Hi Annabel, well you have just described a lot of my problems so I can’t pretend to have all the answers, here. My problem isn’t conversion though. Logically I can have little conversion because I am so poor at getting traffic, that’s really where my weakness lies. All the little things you have to do to get that traffic. I don’t have time for it. Art is hard and you have to chase dreams and that doesn’t always serve the routine you need to keep to flog yourself online, etc. That’s the hardest part for me; it’s just an overwhelming task. I also feel the disgust you mention but it’s not as bad for me when there seems to be a real creative motivation behind linking somebody to the crown jewels.

  38. Excellent post, and the comments have made for a lively discussion. I’ve been thinking about this very thing lately, because we started our blog at the beginning of 2010 to educate our clients (free consulting, basically) and prove ourselves outside of our business website as a company that is willing to share marketing information for free, simply to build trust with clients who don’t know much about marketing at all. Educate them, make them comfortable with some knowledge and understanding of marketing tools and tricks, and then hope they’ll hire us to build those tools and implement those tricks. But I get the sense we’ve become just a source of information, and not a source of tools and services at all.

    We’re going to try an experiment: build different ads for ourselves representing each service/tool we provide, place those ads in the sidebar, and link back to those particular services on our business website. Whenever I write a blog post about one of those services or tools, I’ll simply point out the ad: “For more information, click on the ad for BLAHBLAHBLAH in the sidebar.”

    I think it will be a softer sell, and leave the door open for the reader to make a choice as to whether or not they want more information.

  39. @Laroquod, I am *all* for applying a little art to make the thing more elegant. It’s the killer and the poet again. 🙂 And we face that tension all the time — we want to be clear (you can buy this) but we don’t want to be obnoxious (buy it NOW NOW NOW!). I’m a big fan of handling things with style, but I also recognize my own temptation to make it so smooth that no one actually gets it. To hide, in other words.

  40. @Sonia Hmph. You may actually have gotten me to possibly reconsider my approach a little bit with that one, because I fall into that trap, all the time.

  41. Good post & conversations that have continued in the comments. I’ve been writing our blog while waiting (and waiting) for our website to relaunch. I like the creative style you’ve used for the About the Author – it’s now on my to-do list to create so when we launch I can showcase what YRP is all about. Thanks ~

  42. Thanks for this James — solid advice and encouragement for the online business owners…. we need to get over the fear of pushing products/services. For a lot of people, I think it’s ingrained in the psyche…. part of the personal “resistance” as Seth would put it.

    ON the other side of course, there’s the people without a clue, who think the blog should be a running broadcast of their brilliant marketing campaign…

    In the balance — the flow of good business, good content, and a well-built context — therein lies the glorious midle way…! Cheers–

  43. Laroquod, could you get a fan/friend/student to help you with the mundane things that must be done to drive more traffic to your site?

    This assumes you really want to earn more money from your work. It can sometimes be just as difficult to admit that you are content with your current standard of living (especially if it is “below” that of many of your peers) as it is to admit that you do want to earn more (though it’s only in the artistic world that I see the latter 😀 ).

    Have you seen Hazel Dooney’s site? She is an artist that from what I know is making it on her own terms, using her website as her main means of marketing.

  44. No, I haven’t seen Hazel’s site, but it sounds useful. I don’t know if I could get a friend to do anything. Probably not — they like my work but I don’t think they are quite *that* into it to become my footsoldiers.

    Right now one of my projects is working up a new way of posting that will concentrate all of my strengths into the best most interesting type of post I can personally make (rather than just chucking curios out there, piecemeal), in the hopes of just breaking some signal through noise and getting hits. When it’s ready I will introduce it with some sort of narrative theme. That’s where I’m putting my hope for the time being.

  45. I’m tired of that, sometimes make me sick which called a business, money! I have not felt the slightest. So, do not talk about business, because it may be more useful for you!

  46. This post is spot on, I made the decision to be a writer that has blogs not the converse. The blog is a marketing piece for my books…well more than that, it is actually fun to do. But that is the main reason I do it.

    I think we live in an age where it is cool to ask for what you want. I sell books, they are plastered in conspicuous places all over my blogs. I ask for the sale in my youtube videos. I post sales special online. My goal is to sale books!

    With a background in sales,I know it is a common truism that many sales people and that is what we are, if you have a product you are in the sales business whether you want to acknowledge it or not.

    Do not ask for the sale. They hint and hope the customer gets it, sometime it works most often it does not.

    I am not buying into this crap that you got to give the farm away to make a sale. I do believe you have to give your readers a reason to come back, which is what good content will do.

    My main blog is five months old and I am close to a livable income, in a year I hope to exceed my old business income. have a goal, have a plan and work the hell out of it!

    Great post~!

  47. Another way blogs are bad for business can be in the time they consume–exacerbating the unfocused. However, I can’t image a blog that doesn’t lead to business can be sustainable. If so, it is an ego trip, not a business tool.
    For me as an author/designer, I use my blog to test ideas–run topics I’m considering. See what gets reactions.
    Each blog is also crafted to lead to the next level: download article, link to other published articles, see my portfolio, buy books. But I am concerned to keep posts simple, short, and stay within my time-budget. Thanks for the good discussion! Liane,

  48. Ask, and it will be given to you. Or, didn’t some sales guy once say: “Timid salespeople… er, bloggers… have skinny children.”

    Problem is, most people suck at asking.

    It’s not the act of asking that’s offensive. Usually it’s the lack of sensitivity in how we go about asking.

  49. It’s a delicate job to provide information for the sake of helping people and introduce your business at the same time, BUT it’s possible if you do it with ultimate care and DELICATELY!

  50. Yet another great article from you guys 🙂 Especially I agree on the statement about context. If you don’t signal a clear context (visual identity, content, images etc) your message doesn’t get through as effectively, thus it will not convert as many visitors into customers. Easier said than done, though, because we all see things differently.

  51. So, unless you try to sell yourself, you are on an ‘ego trip’? That seems pretty backwards to me. The most ego-filled people online are *always* trying to sell themselves. *Always*. That’s where the commercial taint comes from — the ego. People who are not trying to make money from their blogs are usually much more pleasant to read, put on fewer airs, aren’t afraid to admit their true situation. I’m still waiting for someone else in this thread willing to be as honest about themselves as I have been — hasn’t happened, you’re all pro bloggers so you’re obsessed with your self-image — see my point?

  52. I truly, really like this post because it frankly reminds me of what I already forgot a long time ago.

    I think it is also important to add an obvious call to action such as subscription to rss or by email at the end of the blog post if you want to continue perpetuating the interests of the reader who has just bumped on your blog for the first time.

    I did this to my blog and I have since seen a significant boost in traffic and rss subscription.

  53. P.S. Not that having an ego is such a hugely bad thing — an artist can’t really get by without a pretty sizeable one. But it’s kind of and laughable to me for a so-called ‘pro’ blogger to be calling all the amateurs egoists.

  54. Ok, here is the big question that I can’t figure out – I actually have TWO blogs. One is my “work” blog and one is personal – should I blend them? I haven’t because my personal blog is mostly me talking about my life, living in rural America, religion, politics, money, etc… and I don’t want to offend anyone – which I could possibly do. But in this day of transparency would it be better to just be me – in one place?

    The other reality is that the work blog has suffered because I don’t write there as much. AND I feel like such a hypocrite when I set clients on the path of blogging for their business. Do as I say, not as I do.


  55. great tip, i think it’s important to engage the people coming to your blog, give away an ebook to get their email or have an easy way for them to subscribe to your rss.

    some good call to actions at the end of each post that sort of thing

  56. Thank you for the much needed wake-up call. While moving from to self-hosted, I seem to be concentrating more on writing about Twitter again. People love that, of course, but customers and potential customers are actually suggesting I write about my skin care products and ingredients. It’s heart-warming in a ridiculous sort of way, don’t you think?

    Guess I better not hit the snooze button this time.
    Thanks again! x0x
    Anita @ModelSupplies

  57. You know, this really comes down to common sense. But sadly most people forget this some how because they think of making money online to be so incredibly horrible.

    Just explain your information is available to buy and how to go about buying it from you and let your readers do the work of contacting you and all. Let the word get out but also have it posted neatly in certain places throughout your blog.

    Great stuff!

    Re-Tweeting now. 🙂

  58. @Laroquod, for me it’s less about big ego/small ego than about focus on the market/customer/audience vs. focus on self-expression. It’s not like one is bad and one is good. It’s just different. It would also be silly to say that anyone’s focus is entirely on one or the other, or that it should be. That tension between audience and expression is something every artist faces, whether she’s trying to sell her stuff or not.

    @Jacqueline, that’s a big question, the answers really do have to come from you, I feel. I definitely don’t think it’s a bad thing to keep a separate personal blog that’s about your expression. And I personally recommend that you keep religion & politics out of your professional blog, although there are certainly successful people who don’t.

  59. I appreciate that nobody told me, Oh hey, getting traffic is easy, you just have to change everything. 8)

    That’s what I like about this blog. More than others it seems to me to acknowledge most of the time that this can actually be a pretty difficult thing to make a living at, there are a ton of pitfalls; nobody’s even close to actually got it completely figured out for all types of products, and that all the work involved is very much a job and is not a cinch, a snap, and a click away. 8)

  60. Yeah, that’s kind of important to us. 🙂 Not that it’s brain surgery (or rocket surgery, as a friend of mine used to say), but “push button systems” are generally a) garbage, b) a lot more work than just doing it right and making actual human decisions about your own goals.

  61. Thanks for helping us separate the forest from the trees–DUH! Case in point–your About the Author blurb at the end. Just enough info to lead us to water.

  62. Larquod (and other artists), I’ve got a FABulous example for you to check out. – Ann is an artist with a business head and a marketing gene. The woman is brilliant at merging business and art, and helping other artists to get over the ‘creativity vs. money’ arguments in order to build successful businesses around their art. Her posts unabashedly yet tastefully offer her services/products to readers – I think you could learn a lot from her example. We all can! ;0)

  63. For most of my websites, I haven’t had much success with blogging. To me, blogging has always been that “extra” and “optional” thing that I might do for my websites / services….when I have the spare time to do so.

    When I did blog, I did not see any positive corelation between my blogging and increase in business. Now I know why! I never really blogged for business – I didn’t have any “call to action” of any kind, to let my readers know that I am for hire…I didn’t give them a link to a product I was selling.

    On all my blogs, I have focused on providing a lot of valuable information – and most of my regular visitors to my blog would comment on how helpful the info was. But I want more – I want business. In some of my blogs where I have included some call to action, I always worry that this might put off my readers. Now I know that its perfectly OK to include some “call to action” at the end of a post/article.

    Great work James, much appreciated!

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