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Blogs or Books—What's Best for Content Marketing?

Posted by Keith Patterson on Feb 27, 2015 3:38:00 PM


According to management guru Dorie Clark, “there is no more definitive proof of thought leadership than authoring a good book on your chosen subject.”

But the Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi weighs in with “a blog is the simplest way to distribute content on a regular basis. It is the center of your content generation and the repository of your thought leadership.our chosen subject.

If your business growth depends on demonstrating subject matter expertise, you need to keep your subject matter experts focused on delivering expertise, not writing about it. So if you can only choose one content marketing medium, what should it be?

Let the market decide—as reported by Google Trends
Google Trends is a tool that lets you evaluate consumer interest and sentiment over time based on analysis of relative search popularity. If you’re not familiar with Google Trends, read 5 Ways to Leverage the “Always-On Google Zeitgeist” – Google Trends by SEO powerhouse Bruce Clay, Inc. for insights that will help analyze the information in the following charts.

Before we jump in, understand that (quote from the Clay post)  “Trends is measuring interest in topicsnot necessarily just search terms. Data based on topics, not individual queries, is incredibly useful because it truly helps us get a better, more complete picture of what the searcher wants when they are searching (which is what we need to know if we are looking to be there with what they need before they know they need it.)

How we chose the search terms
Our goal is to find out whether the buyers of expert services look to blogs or books to discover and evaluate vendors. Since most services buyers are likely search for specific subject matter expertise, we chose a range of subjects that have significant service provider activity.

We examined both traditional (legal, healthcare) and technology-based subjects (web design, javascript) to discover the impact of the subject matter category on the buyer’s choice of blog or book.

We assume that most service buyers understand that a blog is digital content, published in serialized format. But the definition of a book may be less consistent—some may consider it to mean printed books only, while others include ebooks and audio books. So we’ll need to take that into account when we interpret the results.

The following Google Trends reports compare blogs with books for six areas of subject matter expertise—management, marketing, healthcare, legal, web design and javascript. In researching this post, we examined many other topics. Smaller niches lacked sufficient search data to produce a chart. However, every topic we examined exhibits a similarity to those displayed. We did not ‘cherry pick’ these subject areas to support a bias toward blogs or books.

Let’s look at the data.

Here’s our takeawaythe death of books is greatly exaggerated
Blogging is popular in most expertise-driven business categories. It is the engine that drives content marketing strategies. But buyers still seek out books by a comfortable margin in every expertise category we tested—even in fast-changing and digitally savvy tech fields like web design and javascript.   

And while Google Trends show the ratio between blogs and books has remained steady in most categories of business expertise since about 2009, books are slowly creeping back up in share

That doesn’t necessarily signify a resurgence in printed books. We assume the distinction between books and blogs in web searches relates more to the format of the contentnot the delivery medium. And of course there are likely to be exceptions in some niche markets with low search volumes that fall below the Google Trends radar.

However, in the Rising portion of the Google Trends reports Queries column (not shown), every blog and book search in the categories we examined was rated a Breakout—which means that the query has seen more than a 5000% increase in interest recently.

The perfect storm that is disrupting publishing
The disruption in the publishing industry that began with digital ebooks, Kindles and iPads continues to gain momentum. Self-publishing—once derided as the “vanity” press—has achieved more than respectability. It is now the preferred choice for many authors.  

Dorie Clark explains how to select a book publisher in So You Want to Write a Business Book. Look for a mainstream publisher if your topic has broad-based appeal. Think about self-publishing if your topic is time-sensitive or for a niche audience.”

Lean Publishing—it’s all about blogging your book
Lean publishing is a new movement that does more than blur the line between blogs and traditional books. It demolishes it.

The ecosystem of publishers, editors, consultants, ghost writers and book marketers that support authors is rapidly blurring the distinction between books and blogs by applying the “lean” business model that has transformed the tech startup world to publishing.

LeanPub—a book publisher that practices this model—defines Lean Publishing as “the act of publishing an in-progress book using lightweight tools and many iterations to get reader feedback, pivot until you have the right book and build traction once you do.”

In other wordsblog your book.

Technically, blogging a book is easy. In fact, there are self-service tools that will take your blog posts, assemble them into a book, add a table on contents, and wham—it’s a book.

The lean publishing process
In a lean publishing strategy, instead of building a book for an existing blog archive, you plan the process from the outset. Outline the book, synchronize your book authoring and blogging calendar, and as you write it, blog selected passages.  

You focus on a single creative trackwhether you write it yourself or outsource it, sell books for profit or give them away as a lead magnetyou get it done.  

As you write each chapter, you blog an excerpt. You meet your blogging quotas and feed the content marketing beast. And since internet lead generation is optimized for volume and freshness, you’re going to get traffic, leads and build your reputation.

But you get more. You’ll get feedback on your content in real time,so you can make midcourse corrections and refinements to your book strategy and content to increase your odds that when its published it will meet the needs of your reading public.

You also start building a fan base. It they like your posts they’ll be more likely to buy and refer your book. So you can get that book launch bounce that will build the buzz that attracts more readers in a virtuous circle that reaches more readers or sells more books, and builds more buzz.

Selling books and reaching clients are distinct strategiesa topic that Nathan Barry covers well in a book that helps authors make a living from their writing. You can opt to sell fewer, higher priced bookstypically detailed instructions for implementing your expertise—or attract leads for other products or services by opting for a low price point or giving them away as a cold call door opener or lead magnet to drive web traffic and conversions and build a reputation as the go-to expert in your field.

Blogging your book is also a good hedge strategy. Instead of betting the farmand a lot of workon a hit or miss book launch, it’s easy to pivot a failing blog strategy and keep testing ideas until you find a winner.

There’s a lot more on how a blog and book strategy can be a formidable combination Ryan Holiday’s The Right (and Wrong) Way to Market a Book

Blog or book? No, both.
Our own ebook Blog 2 Book 2 Breakout lays out a process for any service providers or startups that possess the required intellectual property to establish their expertise but lack the time, resources or patience to blog regularly or publish a book the old fashioned way.  

So our headline posed a trick question. Blogs or books? The answer is both.

Click the link below to download our ebook. Then let us know if blogging your book is a strategy that can work for you.  

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