As with any big decision in life, it’s best to start with all of the information and then make a decision from there. I don't want you to think, “Monica says blogging is awesome, and it's clearly working for her and her clients. so I should be doing it.” There are a lot of things that factor in that decision, and in this episode, I'll give you all the pieces you need to be able to make that decision for yourself.View the Episode Goodie Bag >> Hosted By
This topic gets me so incredibly pumped: blogging. In this post, we're going to talk about whether or not blogging is a good activity for you to invest in to market your nonprofit.
I have been blogging since around 2009 or 2010, and I continue to blog because it is by far the most cost-effective method I have found to drive people to my website, which gets between 20,000-25,000 visitors a month! My blog is responsible for 85% of those visitors.
About four years ago when we decided we were going to focus on working with specific industries, we started publishing content on our blog that speaks directly to those industry audiences. We started conversations with them about things they wanted to know on their respective journeys in order to build credibility with them and convert them into clients.
Blogging has been an amazing tool for us. I never would have dreamed when I started one that it would generate so much business through my website. In turn, I don't have to go to every networking event under the sun, which means I get to spend time with my kids and help them with their homework or take them to doctor appointments. But if I had to go to networking events all the time to get business and shake hands, that wouldn't really work for me.
Full disclaimer: it took us a while to figure out how to sell things when we weren't sitting face-to-face with people, because that's something people still want and need. We had to figure out how to put blogging into the process, which was an interesting feat, but to be able to go outside of my small mid-Missouri town and be able to serve audiences in big towns like St. Louis, and the biggest cities in the US, like Dallas, San Francisco and New York City.
All of those places have a far higher cost of living than what we have here, which allowed me to charge a certain price for our service. I have extremely professional people who work for me and are amazing at what they do. As they were growing their families, they needed more from me, they needed to earn more money to support their families. I didn't want them to leave, so I had to find a way to go out and find that audience for our business so that I can keep these amazing individuals on my team to help me serve our clients in the best way possible.
Blogging was really one of the main reasons that we could do this.
Clearly, blogging is good for businesses as I just illustrated, but why is it a good activity for nonprofits? In order to answer that question for yourself, we're going to go through a few things.
As with any big decision in life, it’s best to start with all of the information and then make a decision from there. I don't want you to think, “Monica says blogging is awesome, and it's clearly working for her and her clients. so I should be doing it.” There are a lot of things that factor in that decision, and I want to give you all the pieces you need to be able to make that decision for yourself.
We're going to talk about:
Blogging is frequently publishing new content as posts on your website.
There are certain types of blogs I love and others I can do without, like the ones of moms telling stories about around with her kids at Disney World or all over Europe or whatever she's doing. Or lifestyle blogs, where people just talk about their lives — not my favorite type of blog. I'm a “get to business” kind of gal, so it makes sense that they don't really appeal to me. If I want to read a story, I will probably read fiction. I’m also a lover of facts, which is what I focus my blogging around.
Each piece of content on your site is like a door welcoming visitors into your site; if you only have five pages on your website, then you have five different ways to invite visitors in. If you have thousands of doors on your website, then you have thousands of ways to invite people in. That's why blogging generates so much traffic for websites.
In your website proper, you talk about who you are, ways to donate or volunteer, your service offerings, your team. But when people are trying to solve a problem that you help them solve, you're probably not going to show up on Google for a search looking for a solution to that problem unless they're looking specifically for you by name. If you have a really great built-out Services section, you might.
For example, if you are a homeless shelter, and somebody searched for “homeless shelter,” then you would probably show up. But if somebody who is interested in helping you serve your mission searches for something like “how do we combat homelessness?”, you're not going to show up because you probably don't have content on your website that talks about how to combat homelessness.
That's where blogging comes into play.
Here’s how it works: You think through people's challenges, their objections and the problems they're trying to solve, and you offer them answers through your blog. As you're writing your posts, use common terminology — words or phrases they usually use or say. Those are the terms that get caught in the search engine and trigger Google to serve those pages in search results as answers to their questions.
In this way, blogging allows you to increase your brand awareness and credibility because people are going to find you as a resource to the challenges they're facing when they’re searching for answers online.
This also generates traffic back into your website, and generating traffic into your website will in turn improve your Google ranking, because Google sees that people are coming to your website, so it must be offering quality content.
When we started focusing on construction, education, and nonprofits, we started blogging to those very specific audiences for their specific challenges, because not all of them search for answers the same way.
Here’s a crazy example: The other day, I was looking for how people are searching for solutions to run their online events. My first thought was that they're probably looking for an app, service or software as a technical solution to try to power this online event. What I learned was, everybody uses the word “platform.” So now, I can make sure to use the right terminology when I'm talking to people about picking their online event platform.
I want my readers to see themselves in the words I use, in the examples I give, so they're relevant to my audience. If I just used examples of construction companies in this post, it would not resonate the same way with you. Maybe you could translate it, because you're a smart person, but if I use words and phrases that are more applicable to you, it would be even better.
My nonprofit clients are worried right now about making sure they're developing relationships with their donors online, whereas my construction clients are looking to make relationships with potential hires so they can grow and take on more jobs.
These are different challenges I'm trying to solve using the exact same tools, and blogging allows me to talk to each audience specifically to help them figure out how to solve their problems using those same tools.
If you publish new content to your blog on a regular basis, Google will come out to your website more often to see what you have to offer people. Google will push you up in the rankings, too, if people do things like stay on your site longer or go to more pages on your site, because you're showing Google through those visitor interactions that your content is valuable.
Your donors start out as acquaintances who share the same values you have as an organization, and they likely don’t know you exist at all, let alone that you provide solutions to the problems they’re looking to help solve in their communities. If they're at the beginning of this journey, your blog can meet them where they are. Your blog can help catch them where they're at in their cycle of educating themselves.
Blogging helps continue the relationship you have with someone, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You can start publishing content, but you're not going to start generating a lot of traffic from that content until you've been publishing for a while.
Each one of your blog posts can bring in between one and 50 visitors a month, or if you've got a really great blog post, it could bring in thousands of visitors a month to your website, but you don't have a great blog post with every post you publish — yet…
I'll show you an example of how that works with a case study of a nonprofit client who blogs and a nonprofit client who doesn't. Both of these organizations serve families and children. They are not doing the exact same thing — they don't even really overlap, but they’re in the same realm.
A lot of years of blogging means they have lots of content out on their website. Over the last six months, this client had 9,265 visits to their website from 6,120 total users:
These visitors behaved really well on their website. In this six-month timeframe, they stayed on the website for around 2 minutes and 30 seconds each and visited an average of 2.4 pages per visit.
Check out what happens when you factor in how the blog contributed to these numbers.
Again, 25% of the sessions come in through their blog. So what does that mean?
It means that without that blog, 25% of that traffic over those 6 months — more than 1,500 visitors — would not come to that website.
Remember, some of these people are new, and some of them are not new. Why is this cool? This is cool because 7.6% of those visitors did not know this organization at all before they searched for something that was covered on the organization’s blog.
15% came in directly, which means those are probably people the organization already knows, which is cool because this organization is not just serving themselves through their blog by getting in front of new people, they're also continuing their relationship with people that they already know by asking them to come back to their website and learn more.
This organization is in the same community serving youth members, so they don't overlap services, but they're talking to the same types of donors because their values do overlap.
Client B had 6,163 sessions, meaning they had 6,163 total visits (not people) to their website over the same 6-month period we looked at above.
What’s nuts about this is this website is getting almost 25% less traffic than the nonprofit that blogs. I didn't make this up, I went right into the Google Analytics data and pulled it out, it couldn't be any more specific!
These sessions are from users who are, again, behaving really well on the site, spending around 2 minutes on the site and going to around 2.3 pages per visit.
So get this: 42% of the people that go to this website come in on their homepage. Remember how I told you client A also had 42% of their visitors come in on their homepage? Nuts, isn't it?
These websites are very similar: they both have an event section, a donate section, a volunteer section, and they both outline all of their services. The only thing one of them has that the other one doesn't is an active blog. That said, if Client B decided they were going to blog, they could pick up those extra over 1,500 visitors they don't have right now.
Each of these websites have around 15% return visitors — I know, it's uncanny how well the numbers line up — but remember, Client A has over 6,100 visitors going to their website in this six-month period. That means nearly 1,000 of them are coming back to their website again. Client B has only 4,400 visitors come to their website in this period, which means they only have 660 people coming back to their website.
You can definitely see what happens when you continually publish content to your website — you can develop a relationship with your donors over time and bring in new people through the same mechanism: a blog.
I realize I've just made this really strong pitch for blogging, but it’s a lot of hard work to pull it off (I’ll elaborate on that later on). Now that you know it works, the question might seem to be, “Why wouldn’t I blog?” rather than “Why would I blog?”
The answers to those questions are derived by going through the same process: assessing your goals, your assets and strengths, and who you’re trying to reach.
First, think about what your goals are for your organization. Are you trying to grow? Are you trying to deepen your relationships with your donors? Are you trying to push them online and make that relationship online? If that's a yes, blogging would be great thing to do.
When you’re putting your marketing plan together, your assets combined with your strengths equals your plan. If blogging is going to be part of your end plan, consider your assets and your strengths. If you don't have a website at all, it'll take a lot longer to get that blog built and momentum going. First, you’ll have to learn how to use the website, so if technology isn't your strength, maybe blogging isn’t the right marketing activity for you right now.
In terms of strengths, we just talked about technology possibly not being one of yours, but really, if you can work a Word document, you can put things into a website and publish it. It may not be like the most beautiful thing people have ever seen, but if your content is genuine, and you're delivering answers to the questions visitors have, it doesn't matter if it's beautiful, especially at first. So don't write it off because you're not a tech person. Now, if you are not a writer, if you absolutely hate doing it, I probably wouldn't start blogging if I were you.
Remember, your assets plus your strengths make your plan, and there are all kinds of different ways you can develop content for your organization to develop relationships with your donors.
Earlier I mentioned a video blog — if you're great in front of camera and you love to talk to people but hate to write, that could be an awesome avenue for you to connect with people. It's not going to be quite the same as blogging, it has different benefits and impacts, but it's still a way to produce content and connect with people online and develop those donor relationships.
This is where people kind of get hung up. There are different audiences you're trying to reach: your donors, your volunteers, and the people you serve. Each of these audiences need to hear different things from you, and that's okay, because remember, your blog meets people where they are.
You can use the specific words and phrases each audience uses to write different blog posts that speak to each one individually. But first, consider who those people are to determine if blogging is a good way to reach them.
If your target audience is not online, then blogging won’t do you a whole lot of good for reaching them.
Think of who your audience members are. Do they use the Internet to find answers? Some people like reading newspapers and visiting the library for their information. Those types of people are likely not going to be searching for answers on Google, so that might be another reason that you wouldn't blog.
Basically, what I'm saying here is you need to assess your audience and figure out are they searching online for answers to questions you can provide for them?.
Let's say a majority of your donors are not people searching for answers on Google because they’re older and less self-sufficient or experienced with computers. But consider this: those people are being cared for and supported by younger people.
These are younger generations you can try to reach — the more tech-savvy 35- to 45-year-old people who have some disposable income and share the same values as you will fearlessly turn to Google to find answers for their aging family members. Then you're starting a relationship with the next generation, because — and I can’t say it enough — blogging meets people where they are. In this way, blogging provides you with the ability to get in front of all these other audiences that you might not have actually considered yet.
Let's say you want to start blogging, but you're short on time. That's a big hurdle for you to overcome, because blogging does take time. Every blog post we produce goes through a specific process: it starts out with me making this podcast, and then a copywriter or myself takes it and turns it into a blog post. Then it has to be published on our site, and then we're going to publicize it.
For us to do all of those things, it's probably going to take us around four or more hours. Amount of time usually depends on what type of article it is. It might be a topic I’ve been asked to write about that I’m not super knowledgeable on, so I’d have to do some research before I start. That one's going to take me longer than if I just do a quick podcast on a topic I’m really familiar with.
Each blog post you publish could take you anywhere between two and six hours to get it all done. I know that sounds like a lot of time, but again — it's a marathon, not a sprint.
I published a blog post in 2013 about email newsletter to do's and don'ts. That blog post brings over 1,000 visitors a month to my website. If I had to pay for those visitors through Facebook or Google ads, I’d probably pay between 50 cents and $2 a click. Let’s say it’s $1 a click: I would have paid $1,000 a month since 2013 to get those visitors to my site. That’s $7,000.
Instead, I spent three to four hours writing a blog post and making sure it looked good, published it, waited a little while, and over time it started pulling in 1,000 visitors/month all on its own. And the thing is, if you’re running online ads for traffic, that traffic stops when the ads stop running. With blogging, the traffic keeps coming and maintains over a longer period of time.
I’ve given you a lot here to chew on. But I have faith you’ll move in the right direction. If all else fails, I’m here to help, as always. Happy blogging!
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