The ROI of Blogging: What the Groove Blog is Worth to Our Startup
No business effort is a success unless it makes money. Here’s what this blog means to Groove’s bottom line…
“Where’s the value in this?”
It was a fair question.
And as much as I wanted to go with my emotional knee-jerk reaction of “it’s content marketing, and we’re getting traffic, and everyone knows it’s really valuable!”, I also knew that that wasn’t good enough.
The question was posed by one of our angel investors — a brilliant old-school businessman who was about as far from a “digital marketer” as one could be.
It was a few weeks after we started blogging, and it was also the first time I was forced to truly dig deep to answer that question.
But it was a worthwhile exercise, and it’s forced us to keep a close eye on the business metrics related to the blog, and not just the vanity numbers.
Blogging — or at least our blogging — isn’t free.
But it is relatively cheap, especially compared to other channels.
And most of the costs only become serious with growth. The barrier to entry is next to nothing.
Aside from my own time spent on the blog each week, here’s what it costs us:
- $500 per month: Engine Yard hosting for groovehq.com
- $129 per month: Campaign Monitor, which we use to send emails to our subscriber list
- $1,500 per post: Team hours spent on writing, editing, research, design and coding
Now, there are certainly other costs we sometimes incur related to the blog: KISSmetrics, Optimizely, Crazy Egg and some other apps and tools. But we’d be paying for these anyway, as we use them heavily for our marketing site; the blog traffic doesn’t push us into the next pricing tier for any of them.
That brings us to a grand total — divided by four posts per month — of $1,657.25 per post.
And here’s what we get for that…
Subscribers are not signups, true.
But looking at our data, they’re just about the next best thing.
In their first 30 days after subscribing, roughly 10% of our subscribers sign up for a free trial of Groove.
Subscriber Trial Signups
Compare that to a marketing site conversion rate for non-subscribers of around 5%:
Non-Subscriber Trial Signups
Subscribers are twice as likely to become trial users.
And as we get deeper into the funnel, the numbers look just as good.
Trial users who were subscribed to the blog before they signed up for Groove convert to paid users at around 18%.
Subscriber Trial Conversions
Non-subscribers convert at around 12%.
Non-Subscriber Trial Conversions
Subscribers become paid users at a rate that’s roughly 50% greater than non-subscribers.
What does that mean for our bottom line?
Subscribers vs. Non-Subscribers
A subscriber is worth more than 3.6 times the value of a non-subscribing visitor.
Takeaway: We found that a blog subscriber is multiple times more valuable than an average site visitor. This means that we can focus on optimizing the types of visitors that mean the most to our business.
Not every facet of the blog’s ROI can be tracked as systematically as the email list, but that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.
We all want to do business with someone we trust.
But for a startup, building that trust — with very few users and almost no attention — is really, really tough. We learned that first hand early on.
What we’ve found is that the blog has done that for us.
I get emails like this every single week:
More Blog-Driven Signups
There are many, many more just like these.
One thing that’s been interesting to see is the reason people connect with the blog. For many, it’s not necessarily expertise or because of how we sell our product here (we never do), but it’s because of the transparency and brutal honesty we’ve approached the blog with.
A lot of people trust us not because of our authority in the space, but because they relate with the vulnerability in our blog: the emotions, the stories, the wins and the failures.
I can’t say that this part of it was totally planned and strategized. But it’s definitely a welcome surprise.
Takeaway: Trust is a huge driver of buying decisions in any industry. Blogging, for Groove, was a really effective way to build that trust before we had much of anything else to show.
Through the popularity of the blog, Groove has entered a conversation that we weren’t a part of before.
When we publish content that people find valuable, they love to share it.
Many of our readers become subscribers, and we know that blog subscribers are more valuable than non-subscribers.
But we’re also seeing more and more mentions of our product on Twitter and elsewhere around the web.
Of course, the blog might not be solely responsible for that, but anecdotally, this trend correlates closely with the blog’s launch.
In talking to some of the customers who have referred us, we hear the blog mentioned quite often. We’re finding that with the blog’s popularity, customers are more likely to stick their necks out and recommend Groove.
Again, we can’t back this one with data (yet), but it’s an insight that really surprised me, and it’s too interesting not to share.
Takeaway: Our presence online has been massively impacted by the success of the blog, and it has driven referrals and signups from customers who otherwise might have never heard of Groove.
There are a lot of “X-factors” that we’ve been able to take advantage of because of the success of the blog, and the legitimacy, validation and authority that it brings Groove.
We’ve gotten huge opportunities for partnerships with amazing companies like HipChat.
We’ve leveraged the influence of our blog to help put together a rock-star group of SaaS partners for our Small Business Stack, which has generated nearly 3,000 signups so far.
We’ve had a much easier time hiring great talent as the blog has made us a more appealing “name” to work for.
We’ve gotten press mentions and interviews from reporters and bloggers who’ve read our posts.
And we’ve seen our blog and story used — often without us even knowing — in posts and case studies for the power of content marketing.
Many of these have directly resulted in revenue for Groove, and none of them would have happened without the blog.
Takeaway: Aside from the obvious benefits, the blog has helped us take advantage of numerous — and big — business opportunities, none of which would have been available to us otherwise.
How to Apply This to Your Business
Blogging can be hugely valuable to your business.
It can bring you more authority, more validation, more customers and more revenue.
But only if you do it right.
Buying “keyword-optimized content” from content farms isn’t doing it right.
Writing fluffy content that’s exactly like what everyone else is doing isn’t doing it right.
Doing it right means doing your best to publish valuable, interesting and useful content, and then doing everything you can to make sure that your potential customers see it.
You can start the way we first did, by just trying a bunch of things and failing until we got it right.
Or you can read about the strategies we used when we finally did get it right.
But wherever you start, start today.