Blogs and email newsletters are both staples of content marketing, and although one can be used to drive traffic to/for the other, their use is quite different and can be a little confusing if you’re new to the “market yourself” game.
There are no hard and fast rules that prohibit you from using one in place of the other, and many people (myself included) tend to blur the line between the two to great effect. However, it helps to know the intricacies of each format before you start trying to bend the rules too much.
Below I have outlined which format is generally used for what, what type of content each should contain, what kind of return on investment you can expect and how I use them in my own business.
(Don’t forget to check out my thoughts on creating quality content.)
What they’re used for
Blogs are a great way to demonstrate your expertise on a subject. The two most common forms they take are thought-leadership (“expert opinion”) pieces, or a reference that answers frequently asked questions about subjects related to your product or service. A blog isn’t usually a hard-sell, but should be written in such a way that it subtly highlights what you offer.
How to write for them
There are many different formats you can use when writing a blog, but a good place to start is to break a specific subject into sections and produce “who, what, when, why, or how” pieces. Keep them simple by covering only 1 or 2 main points, and ensuring those points are clearly explained.
Make the piece scannable by using headings which cover the main points you’re communicating, and make use of bullet points, quotes or images to break up large blocks of text. Try not to bog your piece down with too many metaphors or anecdotes – each sentence should propel the article forward.
- Blogs have a long shelf life and can still produce traffic years after they’ve been published.
- They’re published on your website, which is great for your SEO (especially if you’re using well researched keywords).
- If correctly optimised and promoted, they pull organic traffic to your website which increases the chance of visitors exploring your site further.
- Once published, you need to promote the article to raise awareness.
- Engaging, good quality articles require a fair amount of time spent on research, writing, editing, and promotion.
- Maintenance is required to keep posts current and up-to-date, especially if using stats to back-up arguments or linking to external resources. Out-dated or irrelevant articles can negatively impact SEO, so should be removed.
Return on investment for a blog is a difficult thing to measure. In most cases, there isn’t going to be a direct, monetary return on a blog piece, and different metrics, such as time-on-page, click-throughs, bounce rate and engagement need to be used to evaluate what kind of impact an article has had.
There are a number of other, intangible returns you can expect from blogs, including credibility and authority on your chosen subject. Articles can also be broken down and used as a base for shorter form content, or even converted into different formats for future pieces, which helps save you time spent on creating more content.
How I use them
I am currently using my blog posts as a way to answer FAQ asked by people within my network. It’s also a great place to share my own perspective on content, marketing and writing (like this post I did comparing content marketing to gardening).
While I used to publish a blog once a week, I’ve amended my strategy to create less quantity, but (hopefully) more quality. Although my posts are not as frequent as they were initially, I aim to produce at least 1 or 2 decent articles a month, which I then use to populate my monthly mailer that gets sent to those on my email database.
What they’re used for
Mailers are a great way to deliver your message directly to your audience. Even if the receiver simply deletes the mail without opening it, they have seen your brand name in their inbox which reminds them you exist.
How to write for them
Unlike blogs, text is generally kept to a minimum. It’s a fantastic way to highlight product specials or content such as blogs or podcasts. Including a short description and strong call-to-action entices click-throughs to your website (or other platforms). It is imperative to create an eye-catching subject line that piques the recipient’s interest enough to open the email in the first place.
- Direct access to specific members of your audience.
- The world is your oyster in terms of layout and content.
- You own your database, and unlike social media or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, you don’t have to pay for those customers to see your message.
- Unsubscribes reduce your reach.
- Messages can end up SPAM, be blocked by firewalls, or be deleted without being opened.
- It’s becoming increasingly difficult to grow databases, as POPI/GDPR compliance is required from each person that is subscribed.
Unless a specific objective is outlined (such as selling a specific product for which sales can be tracked), then, much like blogs, the return on investment for a mailer is fairly intangible.
ROI will be determined by your desired outcome and metrics for measuring this should be determined prior to setting up your content and clicking send (e.g. do you want people to click through to a blog post, share the mailer with their contacts, or complete a survey?). Basically, decide what you want to achieve, and work out how you’ll determine if you’ve achieved it.
How I use them
For my own business, mailers have a dual purpose. Firstly, they provide a place for me to highlight the top content of the previous month, along with a previously unshared thought or opinion that is reserved specifically for the database audience (check out a bunch of my previous mailers here).
More importantly, I use them as a way of reminding people once a month that I exist. In the print space, you’d have to run an ad several times before it showed an ROI, and I use my email marketing in this way with “repetitive reminders” as the main objective.
There is definitely still a place for both blogs and mailers, however it’s up to you and your objectives to best determine how to leverage them to optimally service the needs of your unique audience. The digital space is pretty damn crowded, so don’t be afraid to experiment with one or both of these formats to find what helps you stand out from the crowd.