If you're running an online business and have hired a consultant who tells you that you should have a corporate blog to "better connect with the community", fire that consultant.

If you have a corporate blog that is only marginally more interesting than a press release wire, you're wasting your time.

A corporate blog should serve only one primary purpose: distribution.  And I'm not talking about building brand recognition by getting people to read your blog.  Nine times out of ten, the text on your corporate blog is a chore to read.  Even Google fails this - their pathological cuteness and lame humor comes off as contrived.  It's not funny.  It's irritating.

Anyway, how does a blog get you distribution if you're not concentrating on branding?  PageRank.  You can and should use your blog for link-building and search engine optimization.

A great example of this is's blog.  Mint is a personal finance web product that competes with desktop apps like Quicken.  Mint publishes longer articles about personal finance to their blog, and have several thousand readers.  That alone is interesting, but not mind-blowing.  The trick is that their content is useful.  It's basically a magazine about personal finance without the advertisements.  Social media picks up on Mint's content, and it gets a lot of inbound links.

Mint takes gross advantage of those inbound links.  That's the whole point.  At the bottom of every blog post is this little nugget:

A-ha, I see what you're doing there.  Mint is juicing their PageRank with the popularity of the blog.  If you're a personal finance website, chances are you want to optimize for some of these keywords.  And it's really working for them.

If you use Google's Keyword Tool to estimate the traffic for these keywords, find Mint's rank in the result page for each of them, and then multiply keyword traffic by the distribution of clicks for the top results in Google, you'll see that Mint is raking in at least 100,000 uniques per month from Google for these keywords.

If you hire a writer to post on your corporate blog, you could be seeing this kind of traffic, too.  By "writer", I don't mean "Peggy in accounts receivable who majored in English thirty years ago".  No, I mean someone whose words are worth reading.  A decent freelancer will run you 50 cents per word.  A good length blog post is 1,000 words, and you should publish at least once per week.  5 posts like this per month will cost $2,500.

Now let's compare that to buying traffic from Google by bidding on these keywords.  A really, really conservative estimate of a bid price for keywords like this is 10 cents (but good luck ranking with that bid, cheapskate).  To buy 100,000 uniques would therefore cost you $10,000 per month, and you don't get the PageRank.

Of course, the success of this strategy isn't as quantifiable as buying ads, but eventually you'll see traffic throughput.  Any writer worth his salt will be able to game social media sites like Digg and Reddit, which will bring in the backlinks.  All you need to do is figure out what keywords to optimize for, and put them in the blog template.

Every day I'm hustlin'