Blogging for business: an introduction

Blogging is one of the quickest and easiest ways to update your online image, improve SEO, create stickiness on your website (i.e. encourage visitors to come back time and again), position yourself as an expert and give your business a perfectly on-brand voice. Plus, it's free and easy - though does take a smidgen of commitment.

What is blogging and how does it work?

The original granddaddy of social media, a blog (short for 'weblog') is a bit like an online journal - but more interesting. You write regular entries and/or upload images or video which are usually listed down a webpage in chronological order, timed and dated, with the most recent at the top. Entries tend to be short and relatively informal, and, as with almost all pages on the web, are accessible to anyone who should happen to find them. Some blogs are their own websites, others are part of a parent website.

Why would I want a blog for my business?

  • Giving your business a voice.
  • Enforcing brand messages.
  • Engaging customers and keeping them on your website.
  • Building customer affinity by providing customers with news, commentary and things they'd find interesting.
  • Giving your business a human face (where appropriate).
  • Keeping your website fresh.
  • Drawing traffic to your site from elsewhere on the web and through SEO.
  • Expanding thoughts and ideas you propose on Twitter.

What's the catch?

  • Can be time-consuming.
  • Not much scope for viral marketing.
  • For it to be effective, you need to have a fair amount of readers and for there to be interest in what you're writing about.
  • You need to do it regularly - ideally no less than once a fortnight - and to not find writing or picture sourcing totally agonizing. If you don't enjoy it, neither will readers.

How do I start blogging?

Use a site such as Blogger or Wordpress to create your blog (or any built-in blogging capability you already have for your website), then either link it to your website or embed the blog within it. Embedding is the better option - you may need the help of a developer or website designer if you want your latest blog to appear on your website's homepage. Then just start typing!

Tips on business blogging

  • Blogs are generally informal, and about 200 - 500 words long per entry.
  • You should be aiming to blog at least once a fortnight, and up to a couple of times a day.
  • Feel free to address your audience as 'you', use humour and make it personal (writing as an 'I' or 'we' and mentioning members of the team) - but avoid being offensive and don't say anything you wouldn't to a business contact.
  • Try to include images (you can find loads free on Flickr, but check restrictions) and video (YouTube, the BBC and many other sites have an embed code specifically so you can embed them in your blog). These help make content much more engaging and look far better on the page.
  • Keep on-message - the way you write and the content you produce should be entirely coherent with your brand. Generally speaking, you should be sticking to sector-relevant content. And the more niche your business, the more likely you are to pick up a dedicated following.
  • As with other types of social media, readers aren't going to be interested in your day-to-day trivia - saying you've been to a big awards ceremony and you were nominated is fine, saying you've been out for your weekly team lunch is definitely not.
  • Similarly, don't just harp on about your own products - provide insight into wider sector issues, celebrate competitors' achievements (but not too much!) and use only commentary, links, pictures and video of things your customer is going to be genuinely interested in.
  • Here's a good example of a blog that's got the balance right. Content is informative, funny, entertaining and insightful about its industry in equal measure, tone is consistent, it uses mixed media, and it feels personal.
  • As you get into blogging, use Technorati to search other blogs producing similar content to you. See how they do it and pinch good ideas. Lists always work well, particularly when they're tongue in cheek. Mentions of industry big-wigs you've been hobnobbing with can build a reputation, but careful how you do it - portray yourself as too arrogant or sycophantic and it won't be the reputation you wanted.
  • At a more advanced level, think about SEO when you're putting your blog together. Write about subjects that rank high as keywords (but don't make it too obvious - take a look at this Guardian column by Charlie Brooker for the perils of that). Then tag the keywords so search engines pick them up more readily and you start drawing in new readers.
  • Cross-promote with other blogs to draw more traffic to your blog. Find non-competitive blogs with a similar audience to yours and offer to link to theirs if they link to yours. This ups both your SEO rankings and audiences. Use Technorati and Google to find them.
  • Including social bookmarking options ('tweet this' and 'like this on Facebook' buttons, Stumbleupon, Reddit, Fav.or.it) and RSS feeds by your blog allows readers to potentially increase its reach for you.
  • If you're using Twitter, tweet every blog you produce - don't automate this though as quite often the first 140 characters of your blog will either misrepresent or make nonsensical the point of your blog's content.
  • Finally, try to design your homepage so that the most recent blog is displayed on it - this keeps the content fresh and Google likes it so will rank you higher.
  • As with other social media, remember to link from other profile to your blog and vice versa, and measure results to see if the time you're investing is paying off (use Technorati, Google Analytics and encourage comments on your blogs to gauge responses).

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