Before you launch a business blog, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself.
- Why do you want to start a blog?
Is it to drive traffic back to your Web site? Increase buzz around a new product or service? Create brand recognition? To be viewed as an expert in your field? Remember, a blog is a tool to facilitate a set of business objectives. Pinpointing your main goals will make your blog more effective.
- How often can you guarantee that your blog will be updated?
The quickest way to loose credibility in the blogsphere is to update infrequently or inconsistently. It’s better to start out with a few set days and times (ex. Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:00 am) and then slowly increase your publication schedule. The more frequently you publish, the higher your search engine rankings.
- Who will contribute to your blog?
Is it only you? Or your team? Maybe, guest columnists? If it’s more than just you, make sure to have a set schedule so that everyone knows what is expected of them. There are numerous ways to be creative if you don’t have a lot of bloggers, but again, the key is consistency.
- What blogging platform will you use?
Will you self-host? Do you want to customize the CSS? Do you want to map the blog to your business’ domain? Are there any special features or widgets you want to be able to add to the blog? All of these questions are important to help you find the best blog provider for your needs.
Now that you’ve answered these questions and have gotten your blog up and running, it’s time to focus on content.
- Don’t oversell.
The blog is not your personal sales platform. While it’s okay to have information about your products and services on your blog, that should not be the focus of your content. That’s why you have a Web site. Instead, provide information and resources that your target audience would find helpful. Talk about trends in your industry, new tools, breaking news. A good way to get inspiration for your posts is to find out what other bloggers in your field are discussing. Also, think about which business blogs you visit and why you like them. This will help you carve out your personal niche within the blogsphere.
- Write about what you know.
Do not attempt to write about new trends or cool tools that you don’t fully understand because you think it will increase your traffic. Readers will see through this and it will hurt your credibility in the long run. Instead, demonstrate your passion for your business and industry with informative, intelligent content. By showcasing your depth of knowledge and experience in your field, you can position yourself as a go-to expert.
- Engage your readers.
There is a common myth that the only way to engage readers is by being controversial. This might work for individual entities, such as Perez Hilton, but it is not a good strategy for a small biz blog. That method can backfire resulting in a negative public opinion of you and your company, loss of clients and sponsors. It’s just not worth it. Instead, you can encourage discussion on your blog by posing questions to your readers at the end of each post (ex. Have you tried this technique? What do you think?). Also, make sure to respond to user comments. This will encourage lurkers (people who read your blog, but never comment) to join in the conversation.
Once you have the content ready, you need to put your blog to work.
What’s the point of having a blog if no one knows it exists? To increase your blog traffic, here are a few free and effective ways of marketing your blog online:
- Ask all your bloggers to add a link to your blog at the bottom of their email signatures.
- Add a link to the blog on your web site and all your social network profiles.
- Submit your blog URL to directories such as Technorati, Blog Catalog and Yahoo! Blogs. (You can find hundreds of blog directories online).
- Add ShareThis to your blog so readers can easily share your posts via email and social networks.
- Leave comments on other high profile blogs in your industry, making sure to include a link back to your blog.
- To garner more return visitors, make sure you have an RSS or Atom feed setup.
Jacalyn Barnes, SCORE
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