The Virtually Infinite ROI of Blogs

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After reading Robert W. Bly's assertion in a November column that he has never seen a proven example of a blog returning value for the blogger, I wanted to offer my experience and observations as proof that blogs can return direct and indirect revenue.


A blog, when used strategically, not only can directly generate revenue, it can be an effective way to communicate with prospects and customers and offer a call to action.


New math. As a classic direct marketer and successful Web marketer, I understand that it's difficult to assign the same metrics to blogs as for traditional direct marketing tactics. One main reason is that, in a classic DM campaign, we would send a given number of messages to our target audience at a given cost. Then we easily could figure out the response rate needed to create profit from the exercise based on the cost of goods sold and the cost of sending the catalog, letter or e-mail.


Blogging differs in that it doesn't require upfront expenses (except the time to create the content, which is something that can be managed by a dedicated staff person or by an entrepreneur). It also differs by having no set number of messages sent, meaning there is no limit regarding how many people can see the message, virtually no time limit on the content and no direct cost attributable to each person who has seen it.


The benefit of these differences is that the blog and its contents can continue to drive traffic from search engines, from terms that are relevant to the content on that page. Since each blog post stands alone as its own page, marketers can merchandise relevant products and services on those pages, and there is never any direct cost.


My blog experience. Since I began blogging in June 2003 (www.DirectMarketingMBA.com/blog), I have attributed product sales, consulting work and greatly increased search engine visibility to my blog. AdSense and affiliate programs provide additional direct revenue streams.


I know that the blog has increased my revenue because I measure the sources of my product sales and monitor my log files to find trends in site traffic, entry pages and search terms.


Here are the metrics I use:


• AdSense revenue.


• Affiliate revenue.


• Direct product sales (special product code for items linked from the blog).


• Indirect consulting revenue (measured by comparing IP addresses of companies visiting the blog to those contacting me).


• Page requests and site traffic patterns.


The potential of using relevant content to deliver relevant contextual offers in the blog format, especially for information products such as books, reports and Webinars, is huge. This is a tremendous opportunity for direct marketers.


Because my blog generates revenue and my time was the only cost to set it up, the ROI of the medium essentially has been infinite, in my experience.


RSS gives customers control. As many consumers and businesses feel their e-mail boxes are out of control, even messages that customers subscribed to may be ignored. It used to be that readers needed to remember to visit a blog regularly to get content. Now, RSS aggregators, like the new functionality at my.yahoo.com and in the new open-source browser Firefox, let users create their own page of blog snippets in one place. New blog technologies also have made it easier for readers to comment on blog posts and interact with the blogger.


What medium is more powerful than one that the reader chose to monitor daily, but which requires no extra effort to view from a single portal page? As opposed to sending thousands of e-mails and wondering whether they get through, we can post to the blog and the folks who added us to their feed pages will see our message and can interact with us through the blog.


Relevance required. What it comes down to in blogging, as in any form of direct marketing or customer dialogue, is that relevance and value are required for results, which must be defined.


The blog is just the medium. The content can be whatever we choose to publish. Think about how you might use the content appearing in your e-zines, white papers and corporate Web sites (which often have little traffic) to create a blog that would deliver relevant content to your target audiences and rank high on the search engines. Now determine what call to action you would use if that content were on a mailer instead of a blog post, and include that merchandising on the page.


When relevance is found, 6 percent of site visitors take the next step in a call to action, such as signing up for a newsletter, adding the blog to an RSS feed or even buying a product or e-book. Compare that with the traditional 2 percent conversion rate we think is good for a direct mail piece and compare the cost of each.


Blogs are extremely fast and effective in driving search engine placement. Effective content and page development are necessary. This leads to provable results.


Strategically integrating relevant content, including a call to action that makes sense contextually, and adding an RSS feed can make your blog an effective part of your DM programs, generating virtually infinite ROI.
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