One of my clients came to me about starting a quarterly email newsletter. I thought this was a great idea since the client wanted to use the newsletter as a way to stay in front of clients and colleagues, share recent work, and talk about relevant industry trends.
The client is a small research company. I worked on the client’s website relaunch last fall. They’ve been in business since 2015 and haven’t done much marketing. So a quarterly newsletter felt like a good next step for them and their budget.
But my client has also been doing a lot of reading about different marketing tactics, including blogging. After we had the initial newsletter discussion, she came back and asked me if there were advantages to doing blog posts rather than an email newsletter.
And that leads me to today’s topic: Blog vs email newsletter—which one is better?
Like so many things in life, it’s not an either-or situation.
Think of a newsletter as something a business shares with clients, colleagues, and prospects who are already aware of the business because they came to its website and decided to sign up for the newsletter. Or because someone from the business asked permission to add them to the newsletter list. (For example, if you have a booth at a tradeshow, you might ask the people you meet if it’s OK to include them in your newsletter distribution.)
Think of a blog as a way to attract people who aren’t already familiar with the business. (And yes, once someone lands on the blog, they might become an email subscriber if they like the content. But at its purest, a blog is working hard to attract new people to the company’s site.)
That’s the short explanation.
Below, I get into a deeper explanation. Or if you’re more of a visual learner, you can watch this video I did on the topic . . .
What’s the purpose of an email newsletter?
With newsletters, people opt in (if you’re doing right), which suggests that they are already familiar with the business/brand, at least somewhat.
A newsletter helps to keep the business top of mind in people’s heads. The folks receiving the newsletter might not be in the market for the company’s services at that moment. But the hope is that they will think of the business when they are on the market for its services—and that the newsletter will have helped with these “instant recall” efforts.
What’s the purpose of a blog?
Blogging, on the other hand, is often used to draw in people at the top of the sales funnel—those folks in the research stage who are looking to educate themselves on a topic or to find certain answers before making a purchase or contracting with a company. They might have no idea that a particular company even exists. They just have a question or need info or want to learn more about a topic. This is why blog posts can be great for long-tail keyword phrases (i.e., keyword phrases that don’t have a ton of monthly search volume, but that also don’t have a ton of competition, either).
For example, “What is a double-blind randomized controlled trial” has a monthly search volume of 20 with very little competition. So if my client (which is a research company) were to write a blog post answering that question (which is a popular tactic for blog posts), over time, it’s likely that particular blog post could rank well in search engine results when someone searches on that phrase.
Blogging is a cumulative effect. Writing one optimized blog post isn’t enough. But if over six months, you write, say, 10 well-optimized blog posts, you’ll bring in targeted traffic and build website authority, which will help the overall health of the client’s domain—this is the sort of stuff Google loves and rewards by serving up your client’s website for various search queries.
Of course, someone who is searching on “what is a double-blind randomized controlled trial” might not be the right target for my client’s business. Maybe they just have a question about how RCTs work. That’s OK. But it’s also quite possible someone searching on that phrase might be someone who’s been told they need to conduct an RCT for their research, and they’re trying to educate themselves and figure out the next steps. In this case, my client might be a great fit for them.
But even if the blog post doesn’t generate any true “leads,” it’s still a great piece that can demonstrate my client’s expertise and develop their reputation as a thought leader. They can share the blog posts on social media and via their newsletter.
The key with blogging as a lead generation tool is to find those long-tail keyword phrases that do suggest someone might be looking for the sort of services your client offers and then write compelling blog posts around those topics.
Can businesses have both? Sure. It doesn’t need to be about a blog vs email newsletter.
Many businesses have a newsletter AND a blog. (Good news for copywriters!) It all depends on budget and time. An effective blog requires consistent work—doing regular keyword research, developing an editorial calendar, conducting research/interviews, drafting the blog posts, revising the blog posts, promoting the blog posts, monitoring analytics, and revisiting older blog posts for accuracy.
A newsletter—especially if it’s quarterly (which feels like the right cadence for this particular client)—requires much less heavy lifting. But some brands put out email newsletters at a faster clip—monthly. And b2c brands (especially retailers) will send emails weekly and even daily.
Again, it all depends on your goals and budget.