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Coming to search results near you: corporate blogs worth reading

* Jennifer Leggio is on vacationGuest editorial by Rick BurnesDespite plenty of discussion about their virtues, business blogs have yet to capture the attention of readers. Most business blogs are still regarded as the voices of companies, not legitimate content sources.
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Written by Jennifer Leggio on

* Jennifer Leggio is on vacation

Guest editorial by Rick Burnes

corporate blogs worth reading
Despite plenty of discussion about their virtues, business blogs have yet to capture the attention of readers. Most business blogs are still regarded as the voices of companies, not legitimate content sources.

If you have any doubts, take a look Technorati's top-ranked blogs. Only two in the top 100 represent companies: the Official Google Blog and Signal vs. Noise , the 37 Signals blog.

Why don't people read company blogs?

It's simple: they're boring!

I shop at Whole Foods, but I don't care enough about the company (and I'm not enough of a food groupie) to read their blog, Whole Story. I'm sure it's a useful tool for search engine optimization and it's a good way for Whole Foods to communicate with the people who work with and for their company. But Whole Story is not a broad marketing tool to draw people to the business. Most customers are like me: they don't care.

Google's widely read company blog also fits this model, but it's an exception. People pay attention to the Google blog because they have to; Google is ubiquitous.

Most corporate blogs resemble Whole Story. They're sources of information about the company, not sources of information for the company's customers. You'll see what I mean if you check Alltop's list of corporate blogs. It's exciting to see so many big companies embracing blogging -- it's just too bad they aren't more interesting. Blogs for Customers, Not About Companies If you look closely at the search results you pull up every day (and even some of the Alltop corporate blogs), you'll see that an alternative model of corporate blogging is beginning to emerge. Instead of writing about themselves, companies are following the lead of the other company blog in the Technorati Top 100 -- Signal vs. Noise. They're beginning to create content that's not about their business, but that appeals to their buyer personas.

Whole Foods is going beyond their blog and publishing recipes. American Express is publishing small-business advice. Indium Corporation is writing about thermal interface materials. My company, HubSpot, is publishing marketing advice for small businesses.

In each of these cases, the company is attracting a broad audience by focusing on content that is interesting to the demographic it serves rather than content about the products it sells. Not only is this a far more attractive way to approach your customers, but it's a sure way to create a larger universe of possible customers.

Of course, there is a challenge that comes with this new approach: It's hard to balance marketing and content priorities.

Despite their focus on customers, Signal vs Noise and Whole Foods Recipes are marketing tools assessed by conversions, brand impact or other metrics. The content creators responsible for these sites need to demonstrate quantifiable successs, but they need to achieve this success with content that doesn't focus on their product.

This is a tightrope that successful businesses will become adept at walking.

Skeptics will say this type of balance is impossible to achieve on a broad scale (companies' incentives to promote their own products are too high), or that business-produced content is a bad thing (it's biased and low quality).

I disagree. Businesses have the incentive and money to produce great independent content. They're beginning to do so now, and we're only going to see more of it.

Rick Burnes is an inbound marketing manager at HubSpot where he manages the company blog. He's also a former editor of NYTimes.com and TheMoscowTimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @rickburnes.

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