There’s a widespread misconception that a blog is merely an online publishing platform for endless advertisements. That each blog post is some sort of digital billboard web surfers happily soak up as they drift leisurely from site to site. That people like to seek out ads to expose themselves to.
Well, unless your blog post is being televised during a Superbowl commercial break, people probably aren’t eagerly looking for your ads. They don’t spend much time trying to find advertisements. They don’t spend much time studying them, either. And they don’t spend much time on websites that don’t offer them anything of value. Not when there are plenty of other sites that do.
Blogs are not for advertising. But that’s not to say they aren’t rewarding, nor is it to say they aren’t a self-promotional tool. When used well, a small business or personal brand’s blog provides lots of branding benefits, and it becomes a powerful platform for some subtle—and perhaps even the rare not-so-subtle—self-promotion.
Branding Benefits of Blogging
There are lots of compelling reasons for a brand to develop a content-rich website. If you consistently publish high-quality articles or blog posts that offer site visitors something of value, it accomplishes much for your brand. Just to rattle off some of the best parts, it:
- Boosts your authority
- Shows expertise and generosity
- Demonstrates an emphasis on customer service
- Enhances the user experience on your site
- Gives people reasons to return and refer others to your site
- Makes you more memorable to existing and potential customers
- Builds stronger relationships with consumers and brand loyalty
- Provides useful insights into your target market’s buyer persona
- Increases your social media following
- Increases exposure when others share your content from their sites or social media pages
- Improves SEO and Google rankings
- Brings in targeted traffic that’s easier to convert to a lead or sale
Offering Something of Value
Note that phrase from the above section. You might like to think an ad for your product or service offers something of value, since it hopefully improves the buyer’s life in some way. But that’s a bit of a theoretical stretch when it comes to publishing something that busy, impatient, easily distracted web users will pay attention to.
“Something of value” can mean lots of different things. Often in blogging for a small business or personal brand website, it means freely providing some useful information relevant to what you do. Sometimes, it means entertainment, ideas, inspiration, motivation, comfort, reassurance, professional advice, or anything else people appreciate.
It all starts with looking at things from your audience’s perspective. Because blogging is about giving, not taking. Then, and only then, will a brand truly start to profit from its efforts.
How to Be Self-Promotional on Your Blog
You certainly can advertise your products or services through your blog, but it should be kept to a minimum, and usually to the background. Publish far more posts that aren’t obviously self-promotional than that are, or else your blog quickly begins to appear too self-centered to appeal to site visitors.
There are three main ways to safely and successfully self-promote via your published content:
1. Be indirectly self-promotional.
For example, sometimes you may publish some professional, unbiased advice about what to look for when buying something that you happen to sell. If your website makes it clear elsewhere (like on your Products or Services page) that your product or service fits the bill, you’ve made a strong case for yourself without running an ad. In fact, this approach is usually far more effective than an ad.
2. Use calls to action at the end of blog posts.
There’s nothing wrong with including a brief CTA after the conclusion of an otherwise unselfish piece, provided it’s relevant to the content’s topic. If the people who chose to read your post all the way through finish up with something irrelevant and sales-oriented, it undermines the good will your post generated. And you won’t gain anything—you’re just trying to jam a square peg into a round hole.
3. OK, go ahead and publish an ad or special offer. You’ve earned it.
Readers will forgive—and even read with interest—occasional direct self-promotional material once you’ve formed a relationship with them and established a track record of posting selflessly. In fact, you’ve now built a solid platform for running highly effective ads and special offers. You have a targeted audience interested in your products or services and who have developed a trusting relationship with your brand. If you don’t take advantage of this, you should be quite pleased with the results of the occasional self-promotion.
4. Publish Selflessly and Be Rewarded
Blog for your site readers and their interests, not for your own interests. Readers don’t care how great you think you are; they’ll come to their own conclusions about that. They care about connecting with content of value, and that will prompt them to connect with brands of value.