Conversations vs SEO

Daniel Hindin, over at SpinSucks wrote an interesting post about business blogs and conversations. I chimed in with my own two cents this morning because being the sceptic that I am, I couldn’t help wonder if that kind of B2B blogging strategy means you’re less likely to turn your traffic into customers if you put the emphasis on conversation rather than lead generation.

Perhaps lead generation is too crude a term but you know what I mean. There’s this whole school of thought that blogs are:

  • great for SEO
  • get you near the top of Google
  • can help you target keywords
  • and provide traffic to your website.

And as any blog marketer knows, traffic is a prerequisite for sales.

My own approach to business blogging is a combination of blogging whatever takes my fancy, coupled with a mirrored with a hefty dose of SEO strategy and the desire to make a living.

I used to blog as purely a means of creative, self-expression but that died away after I changed career and started my own business.

I’m yet to consciously set out to be more conversational on this site. I try and do that on Twitter. But I have taken considerable steps over the last year to increase my traffic through SEO and keywords.

WP Scribe SEO Plugin

As I’ve noted before, since I installed the SEO plugin the weekend it launched, I’ve seen a considerable rise in traffic to this site. I also get better results in Google and, as it happens, better conversion rates.

Although I love the conversations I have and witness on blogs, I tend to regard blogs as a strategic channel for business growth (and a way of making new friends interested in the online communications industry)! That’s why I was interested in Danny Brown’s post last week recommending Arkayne, a similar plugin to Scribe that seemed good for business.

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

Even my customers seem to see business blogs as a stepping stone to business. For instance, I always ask new customers how they found me and last week’s response was fairly typical:

“You were at the top of Google for the phrase I searched for,” the client told me. “And your blog offered what I was looking for. That’s why I contacted you.”

She was a first time visitor to my site, hadn’t joined the conversation and simply “purchased” my services. Which was nice.

Her decision had nothing to do with community or conversation.

Don’t Get Me Wrong

I’m Not Knocking Conversations. Not per se. My own motivation for reading blogs is that I love the commentary and discussion that goes on because I follow many that relate to my interests.

What’s more, I believe a blog that has a conversational tone, that strikes a chord with a reader is always going to be more successful than one that comes across as stuffed with keyword phrases, and lacks commitment and engagement.

What About Our Customers?

If, nevertheless, we’re going to go out there and pimp business blogs as an essential (or highly valuable) B2B marketing tool, I think we have to identify with real world case studies just how blogs help build a business.

Is it the conversation that leads to sales? Or is the combination of a conversational tone combined with great SEO, call-to-actions and well-crafted landing pages?

I find it easier to demonstrate that SEO leads to sales, but it’s harder to show how conversations convert. Or what do you think ?

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  • http://michelletripp.com michelletripp

    You’ve asked such a big question, Jon. I love this post. Do conversations move the needle, or does SEO attract the qualified leads that don’t have the time or desire to participate in a community? Just in asking this question you’ve turned so many blogs on their head. There’s a big difference in a blog that’s designed to build a community and one that’s designed to attract qualified business leads. So many questions a blogger or consultant has to consider. I hope you’ll follow up with a how-to post that delves into the strategy of both.

    • http://jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

      @Michelle, That’s praise indeed coming from one of my absolute favourite podcasters :)
      Thanks so much.

      I must admit I took a bit of a deep breath before entering into this post (or commenting on Dan’s original blog post) because I could see that some folks would be a bit uncomfortable with my thinking. But I do think that we have to deliver what our customers are looking for. And many want quick conversions and don’t have time to build conversations for the long-haul. Yes, that’s part of social media marketing but I think conversations actually work better on Facebook Pages and Twitter. Blogs, from a B2B point of view, seem to be better for distributing pillar content, improved SERPS, and conversion. But I realise I might be going out on a limb here.

      Thanks for the post suggestions. Yes, I’ll follow up on these.

  • http://michelletripp.com michelletripp

    You've asked such a big question, Jon. I love this post. Do conversations move the needle, or does SEO attract the qualified leads that don't have the time or desire to participate in a community? Just in asking this question you've turned so many blogs on their head. There's a big difference in a blog that's designed to build a community and one that's designed to attract qualified business leads. So many questions a blogger or consultant has to consider. I hope you'll follow up with a how-to post that delves into the strategy of both.

  • http://www.spinsucks.com/ Daniel Hindin

    Jon, I’m happy to have started this conversation. Thanks for continuing it! Beyond my answer to your comment on my post, I think it’s important to note that conversation and SEO aren’t mutually exclusive.

    At Spin Sucks, we put a great deal of emphasis on SEO, and I certainly wouldn’t discount its importance. But SEO can lead to conversation by attracting more visitors to your site, and conversation can lead to SEO through inbound links and greater perceived authority from Google.

    They’re both key elements to building an audience and building business. But, as I said, while keywords offer more instant gratification in terms of traffic, conversation offers long-term relationships, and I’m a big believer in the importance of long-term relationships in sustaining a business.

    • http://jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

      @Dan, Oh sure, I didn’t mean to imply there was some clear dichotomy. Sloppy writing on my part. I just felt that you needed to address the specific B2B issue here about blogs and conversion.

      When it comes to long-term relationships I do wonder if it’s a case of some blogs “preaching to the converted”. The point I was thinking through really was that shouldn’t we as consultants and agencies make it clear to customers that there are different kinds of rewards. Like I said, conversational style is important and I do believe in fostering relationships; however, from a business point of view I think customers want conversions from their blogs. Integrated approaches are the most ideal, but SEO delivers quicker results. I’m sure of that.

      Thanks for entering into the debate :)

  • http://www.spinsucks.com/ Daniel Hindin

    Jon, I'm happy to have started this conversation. Thanks for continuing it! Beyond my answer to your comment on my post, I think it's important to note that conversation and SEO aren't mutually exclusive.

    At Spin Sucks, we put a great deal of emphasis on SEO, and I certainly wouldn't discount its importance. But SEO can lead to conversation by attracting more visitors to your site, and conversation can lead to SEO through inbound links and greater perceived authority from Google.

    They're both key elements to building an audience and building business. But, as I said, while keywords offer more instant gratification in terms of traffic, conversation offers long-term relationships, and I'm a big believer in the importance of long-term relationships in sustaining a business.

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  • http://www.jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    @Dan, Oh sure, I didn't mean to imply there was some clear dichotomy. Sloppy writing on my part. I just felt that you needed to address the specific B2B issue here about blogs and conversion.

    When it comes to long-term relationships I do wonder if it's a case of some blogs “preaching to the converted”. The point I was thinking through really was that shouldn't we as consultants and agencies make it clear to customers that there are different kinds of rewards. Like I said, conversational style is important and I do believe in fostering relationships; however, from a business point of view I think customers want conversions from their blogs. Integrated approaches are the most ideal, but SEO delivers quicker results. I'm sure of that.

    Thanks for entering into the debate :)

  • http://www.jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    @Michelle, That's praise indeed coming from one of my absolute favourite podcasters :)
    Thanks so much.

    I must admit I took a bit of a deep breath before entering into this post (or commenting on Dan's original blog post) because I could see that some folks would be a bit uncomfortable with my thinking. But I do think that we have to deliver what our customers are looking for. And many want quick conversions and don't have time to build conversations for the long-haul. Yes, that's part of social media marketing but I think conversations actually work better on Facebook Pages and Twitter. Blogs, from a B2B point of view, seem to be better for distributing pillar content, improved SERPS, and conversion. But I realise I might be going out on a limb here.

    Thanks for the post suggestions. Yes, I'll follow up on these.

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  • thewhatifspecialist

    Jon, what if there is no right or wrong answer to your very thought provoking question. What if it’s more to do with your strategy and the target audience you want to engage with and their life time value to you?

    Like you I have had some surprising enquiries as a result of the Google ranking for my blog however, each time I have been left wondering how much repeat business potential there is or are they Google search butterflies clicking from page to page?

    • http://jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

      @Richard,
      I think you’ve got a good point there. I don’t really think there is a right or wrong. My point was really to write a response to Daniel’s original article. I just feel that too much emphasis is sometimes put on conversations, community building in the B2B space. It’s all about conversions, after all.

      As for your second point (congrats!) I think I’d set up an Excel file and track those moments. Do you ask customers to tell you how they found you?

      Also, create a custom tracking in your analytics programme to see which pages funnel through to sales. This can work well with email / direct marketing tie-ins too.

      If you haven’t read Analytics Web 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik it’s a must!

  • thewhatifspecialist

    Jon, what if there is no right or wrong answer to your very thought provoking question. What if it’s more to do with your strategy and the target audience you want to engage with and their life time value to you?

    Like you I have had some surprising enquiries as a result of the Google ranking for my blog however, each time I have been left wondering how much repeat business potential there is or are they Google search butterflies clicking from page to page?

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  • http://www.jontusmedia.com/ Jon Buscall

    @Richard,
    I think you've got a good point there. I don't really think there is a right or wrong. My point was really to write a response to Daniel's original article. I just feel that too much emphasis is sometimes put on conversations, community building in the B2B space. It's all about conversions, after all.

    As for your second point (congrats!) I think I'd set up an Excel file and track those moments. Do you ask customers to tell you how they found you?

    Also, create a custom tracking in your analytics programme to see which pages funnel through to sales. This can work well with email / direct marketing tie-ins too.

    If you haven't read Analytics Web 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik it's a must!

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  • Australian SEO Company

    Conversations vs SEO ?nthey don’t have to go against each other, with both your website surely can give you high ROI, SEO it to lead searching people to your site and a Conversation will convince them to buy or avail whatever you are offering

  • Australian SEO Company

    Conversations vs SEO ?nthey don’t have to go against each other, with both your website surely can give you high ROI, SEO it to lead searching people to your site and a Conversation will convince them to buy or avail whatever you are offering

  • Australian SEO Company

    Conversations vs SEO ?nthey don’t have to go against each other, with both your website surely can give you high ROI, SEO it to lead searching people to your site and a Conversation will convince them to buy or avail whatever you are offering

  • Australian SEO Company

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    Conversations vs SEO ?nthey don’t have to go against each other, with both your website surely can give you high ROI, SEO it to lead searching people to your site and a Conversation will convince them to buy or avail whatever you are offering

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    Conversations vs SEO ?nthey don’t have to go against each other, with both your website surely can give you high ROI, SEO it to lead searching people to your site and a Conversation will convince them to buy or avail whatever you are offering

  • http://www.page1guaranteed.com.au Australian SEO Company

    Conversations vs SEO ?nthey don’t have to go against each other, with both your website surely can give you high ROI, SEO it to lead searching people to your site and a Conversation will convince them to buy or avail whatever you are offering