There was a time when many of us used to keep diaries, logs or journals, lugging around that ugly black book wherever we went. It was an efficient way of keeping track of things.
Today, the Internet has taken the place of that book, in the form of blogging.
Blogging creates a face to your business that your customers can identify with and participate along. It has become a valuable part of today’s consumer-generated media, giving consumers a platform to engage actively and participate in dialogues with key personnel within a company.
So What Is Blogging? How Are Blogs Applicable To Businesses?
Blogging, or web-logging as it was once called, is today’s version of the diary. But it is more sophisticated than that.
It is a user-generated website that collects your entries (known as posts) in reverse chronological order, always listing the most recent post first.
Readers are also allowed to comment and give their opinions of any posts via a simple form on a blog.
If you are running a business from home, the same strategies apply. Use blogs to:
- Provide value-added content
- Build a relationship with your readers
- Establish trust with your customers while gaining credibility
- Create awareness about your product offerings
- Test ideas and research your market by getting your readers and customers to participate in discussions
Sounds Good, So How Do I Get Started?
It is best to get started by identifying and choosing the right tools to get the job done efficiently. This means choosing the right blog platform for your needs. Blog platforms are offered as two options: hosted and self-hosted.
Hosted and self-hosted options
The hosted option eliminates the hassle of finding a host for your blog as the company takes care of that for you. This option comes as either free or paid. Blogger.com, Tumblr.com, TypePad.com & WordPress.com are some examples.
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The self-hosted option allows you to either purchase a license for the blogging software or get a free download to install on your server. MoveableType.org, WordPress.org, Ghost.org are examples of this.
This option may give you greater flexibility with tinkering with the software code. You can probably tell this is the option for those who want ultimate control of their blog platforms.
Choosing a Name for Your Blog
If you already own a website, you understand the significance of choosing a good domain name. A good domain name not only enhances the branding of your business and makes it easy for your readers to share with others.
If your blog is going to play a significant role in your business, then spend some time choosing the right domain name for it. People tend to remember memorable domain names that end with a .com to spread it around easier.
You may consider using a free tool such as, DomainsBot.com to help in registering a good name.
Choosing a Template/Theme for Your Blog
With Blogger.com and WordPress.com, the hassle of hiring a Web designer is eliminated. These hosted options already have blog templates (often called “themes”) ready for use.
Just pick a design that works well with the theme of your business and get ready to start blogging. The downside to this is that there is only so much you can do to alter its look and feel. What you see is what you get.
With WordPress.org however, you’re free to hire a Web Designer to design the style of your blog from the ground up. There are no limitations to what you can do with your design.
There are WordPress.org templates that are also freely given away by the WordPress community with no strings attached. You have full rights to grab any of these templates and alter them to suit the theme of your business blog. You can search on Google “WordPress themes” and you’ll get a variety of sites to choose from.
Publishing Your Content
After all the “back-breaking” work of setting up your business blog, it now comes down to the most important reason of having a blog in the first place – getting your content out to the world.
For some, this is an easy process. For many others however, publishing useful and unique content regularly can be severely daunting. Distinguishing yourself from other business bloggers takes a bit of understanding of who your core readers are.
Put some time aside to research your audience and find out what they would like to read about. Here are some considerations to bear in mind when publishing your content:
- Should I make my posts educational, newsworthy, informational, entertaining and debatable or, a combination of all those?
- How long should my posts be (this is where getting feedback from your readers comes in)?
- Should I consider a blog partnership (getting guest bloggers to write unique content for your blog)?
The initial excitement of publishing a blog can quickly dissipate when your “content well” starts to dry up. So where do you turn to for ideas and inspiration to get readers queuing up to read your work? Well, let’s start with how you can categorize your content in a way that could potentially skyrocket your readership:
- The infamous Top 10 lists
- How-To information
- Interview someone within your business niche
- Latest trends and newsworthy information
- Present relevant business case-studies
- Recommend other business blogs that might be of interest to your readers
Now That I’ve Got Content, How Do I Get Traffic?
Probably the trickiest part for any online business owner is getting targeted traffic to their sites. This is more science than art and has spawned an industry all of its own. Search engine optimization or SEO as it’s more affectionately referred to, is a major player in how you get targeted traffic to your sites or in this case, your blogs.
There are other promotional and marketing strategies that you can employ to get traffic, but it all starts with optimizing your blogs for SEO. If you want your blog to be found, you have to optimize it for the search engines.
How much optimization you can perform on your blog depends once again on whether you’re using a hosted blog platform or self-hosted version.
So how do you get others to share and link to your blog? Here are some ways to get you started:
- Write Quality Content – Nothing gets you links faster than writing content that affects your readers. As word gets around about your posts, bloggers will inevitably link to you.
- Post Comments On Blogs You Read – Don’t hesitate to post worthwhile comments on other blogs, but comments alone don’t have impact on your SEO results. You may get a follow-up with a link pointing to your blog from a competitor with a huge audience that can bring a major traffic influx to your blog.
- Submit Your Blog To Directories – You can submit your blogs to blog directories to generate more inbound links. Here is a list of 23 popular blog directories.
- Create A Good Linking Structure Within Your Blog – Interlinking makes it very easy for search engines to re-index your blog, allowing for more of your pages to be indexed.
- Create An RSS – RSS or Real Simple Syndication is a content delivery format used to automatically deliver your content to your readers without them having to visit your blog.
Promoting Your Blog To Find Even More Readers
If you’ve read this far, you’re already armed with enough knowledge to publish well-optimized business blogs. But there can never be enough readers for your blog. This is where some promotional strategies can come into play. Let’s run through some of them:
- Guest Blog Posting: When you guest post, you get to promote your website in a byline, so people who love your content will be interested in coming to your site for more.
- Use Trackbacks – If you mention other blogs in your article, trackbacks help notify the owners of the blog, so they are more likely to be aware of your work and potentially share it with their readers.
- Post To Article Directories – You will be reaching out to a significant amount of targeted readers this way. A website publisher could easily use your articles as content for his audience and that could mean lots more eyeballs for your blog.
- Use Offline Promotional Methods – Get your blog’s URL printed on your business brochures, flyers, business cards, letter heads, envelopes, ads or anywhere else you advertise offline.
- Add Your Blog’s URL To Outgoing E-mail – An often overlooked strategy but very effective. You never know, your recipient might be a potential customer.
- Promote Using Web 2.0 Methods – Participate in social networking sites, online groups and forums to let them know about your business blog.
Make use of social bookmarking services to spread the word about your blog. You can do this by placing icons offered by these bookmarking services on your blog. Anytime your readers find something worthy of being spread around, they would click this icon.
Checkout 33 Free Places to Promote your Website Online from the Wix blog.
Ultimately, the key to making your business blog an overwhelming success is to keep it real and have fun with it. Make it a point to interact with everyone of your subscribers. The truth about publishing a blog is that it does not belong to you. It belongs to the community. Use this to your advantage to tap into the minds of your readers.
If you’re planning a new product, ask them for some of the features they would like to see in it. The blog makes it a perfect feedback mechanism to get the answers you need to make your business an ongoing success.