When it comes to starting a blog for your business, you have a lot of choices. There are free services like WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr. Some have even advocated using social networks like Facebook or Google+ for your blog. I know of several prominent Google+ users who have completely discarded their websites and are using Google+ as their primary communication platform. And I can see why. You have an immediate audience, sharing the posts is easy, and advanced commenting is built in. And since you’re writing directly on Google’s platform, everything you create is immediately indexed and Google Authorship is automatically included.
I think for personal blogs, where your goals are simply to engage and share your thoughts, that’s fine. For a business though, your blog should have very specific goals that cannot be replicated as easily on Google+ as on your own website. These goals should be to attract new visitors and readers, generate business leads from those readers, nurture those leads through the sales process into customers, and be able to measure everything.
Your blog posts exist on Google+, not your website, so how will the post drive traffic to your site? How do you share your topic and information on other platforms like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? Surely not all of your potential clients are on Google+. Google and other search engines that index your new posts will send traffic to the post itself, not your website or even your Google+ account. But maybe website traffic itself isn’t a top priority, so much as creating leads for your business, right?
We’re not driving traffic to your website or specific landing pages, so how are you generating leads? You cannot use techniques like offering a free download or newsletter subscription, which means the only leads you’re going to get from Google+ are those who have decided they want to contact you for more information. You’re missing out on leads from people who are higher in the sales funnel. Maybe they’re still identifying that they even need you or what you’re selling. A good lead gen plan will capture their information earlier in the process so that you can…
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…take that lead and guide them through the sales process. Help them understand the issues they face, all the possible solutions, your expertise, and then finally what you’re going to charge for your product/service. This may require one or more pages, documents, emails and landing pages of information. How can you accomplish that smoothly on a social network?
Analyze, Improve, Repeat
Google+ does provide us with great social signals like +1’s and shares. But how many people read your last G+ update? Did it come up in web search results? How many visits did that generate. If you have a Social -> Blog -> Lead Capture -> Sale process set up, you can measure your effectiveness at every step of the way. You can easily determine which posts and which lead gen techniques were working, and which ones weren’t.
And of course there are other issues to consider, like having zero control over the design and functionality of your blog, and not having ownership of your blog content (see Posterous, Buzz, etc.). You also lose ease of navigation and a lot of deep linking opportunities. Followers on Google+ who want to check out some of your other “blog posts” are going to have to sift through all of your posts just to find your more lengthy articles. And while you can link to specific posts within posts, you can’t tag posts to categorize them so that readers can easily read other articles on the same topics.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with starting and having great discussions on social networks, within the comments of other blog posts, and question/answer platforms like Quora. In fact, this blog post started as a discussion point on Google+. The key though for your business is to recognize when a discussion or a comment would make for a great blog post, and use it. You preserve your thoughts and information on your own website, and make it available for people regardless of what social network they happen to prefer.
I believe that using a platform like Google+ for a business blog is inefficient and risky for most businesses. These prominent accounts on Google+ are able to be successful with this new strategy because they’d already established literally millions of Google+ followers. Most of us aren’t that fortunate or developed in our Google+ presence.
What do you think? Will you trust your intellectual property and content marketing strategy to Google+?