If you’ve read {grow} with any consistency you’ll recognize Jon Buscall as one of the most vibrant intellectual voices in our community. Today Jon tackles the tough issue of monetizing a blog community in our next installment of Community Week:

So many people (including Mark!) have written about the SEO benefits of blogs that I’m not going to repeat that here.  But one thing that rarely comes up is how B2B blogs help businesses convert readers and traffic into sales. Or whether they actually don’t!

Repeat Visitors & Conversion Apathy

If you’ve drunk the business blogging Kool-Aid and worked hard over time to build a strong, vocal community on your blog you might well find that repeat visitors don’t convert into sales. Go on, check your stats!

Regular visitors are there for something else: the community, the discussion, or even the friendships that forms around a successful blog.

As a business blogger it can be worrying to see that even if you’re putting highly visible call-to-actions above the fold the stream of regular visitors to your site forget about your propositions.

Maybe it’s because:

  • regular visitors get used to your site and go straight to the content
  • you don’t vary the call-to-actions often enough so they become “invisible”
  • you don’t maximize the content space you’ve got to pimp your services
  • regular blog readers often read your site with a news aggregator like Google Reader or NewsFire.

Why I Love First-time, Unique Visitors

My own experience is that it’s easier to covert first (or second) time visitors into clients with a B2B blog.

Yup, without going into the nitty-gritty of my own site stats, the biggest groups that make enquiries about our services at Jontus Media are, in fact, first timers. They’ve googled something, clicked through to our site and, low and behold decided to contact us (and Oh, boy do I love it when that happens!).

Google Analytics tells us this, but so do our customers when we ask them.

Now this isn’t to say that we’ve got spectacular landing pages or catchy call-to-actions littered across our site; but it does seem to suggest that all that our effort to build a community might be wasted! That in fact, the trust and thought-leadership that regular b2b business blogging generates is spotted by a cursory glance.

Google Analytics tells us that it only takes first time visitors a matter of minutes (or seconds) to convert organic search traffic into sales.

Give Me More !

Now I’m not knocking first time conversions. But I do want more business from that 30 percent of visitors who come back to our website on a daily basis. Even if it’s just a percentage or two.

So when it comes to B2B blog strategy I’ve got a few suggestions for those of us in the B2B business blogosphere who aren’t converting repeat visitors to customers. And want some of it.

Ask Yourself:

  • Are our call-to-actions strong enough?
  • How is the site working to remind the community that this is a business and that services (or products) are for sale?
  • Is the overall site design geared towards conversion?
  • Could we refresh the site design more frequently to stop visitors getting blind to our call-to-actions?
  • Could we be making more use of our RSS feed to generate leads?

Finally, just to throw the baby out with the bathwater, maybe I’m wrong. And as I write it occurs to me that quite, possibly I am. Maybe I’m going after the impossible. Hell, maybe I shouldn’t think of a B2B blog as a conversion channel for repeat visitors in the first place?

Perhaps a B2B blog could / should just be a means to a different end. A great way of funneling visitors to an email list, for example, to be used for direct marketing.

Or perhaps it’s a word-of-mouth tool to help spread the news that you’re a kick-ass company with creative, insightful, quirky, talented staff.

So go on, help me out here! What can we do to really make a B2B blog a conversion engine? Or are B2B blogs for entirely different things?

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Jon Buscall is head of Jontus Media, a creative content & communications agency working out of Stockholm, Sweden. You can follow Jon on Twitter.

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