I did a seminar just before Christmas at our Jersey Central meetup called "Blogging for Business," during which I met with local business owners to discuss ways they could use their blogs to communicate with their clients.
I actually started off this site with some tips and techniques for blogging in the article "To Blog or Not to Blog." Though still relevant, I thought I'd refresh some of the information there and target more of the small business owner for this article.
What is a Blog?
If you're just getting started, a blog is:
- Short for "Web Log"
- Chronologically organized journal of information
- An opportunity for you to express opinions in a public forum over which you have ultimate control
You might have a social media account on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn; think of those as parties. You're essentially interacting with a bunch of people in a very public forum. Your blog is more like your house; you decorate it as you see fit, and provide the content that you think is important. (I can't take credit for this analogy, there is a great video by Perry Belcher on YouTube that goes into more detail.)
So, most social media sites are for first impressions, but your blog is where people really get to know you and your business.
Self-Hosted vs Free
Many people who start off blogging go off to wordpress.com or blogger.com and set up a free account. But if you're going to be blogging for your business and you're going to be leveraging a blog as a resource for your customers, you need to consider the finer points of each before you settle on a strategy.
Free blogging services:
- Are free to set up
- Are restricted by the hosting services; you can only add the features they allow
- Don't give your own site any credit for search engine optimization.
The last point is pretty important. For example, our site, avelient.com, gets a boost in search engine optimization because we're hosting our own blog. If we were to instead host it at wordpress (e.g. avelient.wordpress.com), our main web site would lose some of its search engine credibility. The key is keeping people on your site while they read.
- Are not free. The cost varies depending on how savvy you are in terms of setting up the blogging software. Hiring a professional may get expensive, but ultimately may prove better for your business because they can help organize your strategy for effective communication.
- Can have a richer feature set depending on your hosting company, and are generally unrestricted in terms of what you can install.
- Will ultimately be better for search engine optimization, because they're giving your site that credit.
Blog Length and Frequency
The effectiveness of your blog depends on your target audience. Ask yourself whether your blog is a newsletter that comes out infrequently but that people will sit and read when they get it, or if it's a thought of the moment that you'll be posting pretty often. Keep this in mind when you're writing your posts.
People read things on their computer screen differently than they read a newspaper or a book. With the latter, the focus is completely on the media in hand. With a computer, a person might be interrupted by an inbound email, tweet, or even animated ad on your page. So some things to keep in mind when writing your blog post:
- Thoughts should be clear and concise. Be economical in word selection.
- Make text scannable. Main ideas should be easily identified, and short, bulleted lists are good for longer ideas.
- Keep blogs roughly about 250 to 1000 words. It's okay to go over occasionally, just make sure you're providing value with the extra words.
Ways to Get More Visitors
There are several ways to get more visitors to come and read your blog, but they all require a little legwork. You have a million blogs out there that compete with yours; you need to convince people why they should visit. Some of the things you can do to draw people in:
- Create a fan page on Facebook
- Use Twitter to promote new posts on your blog
- Join LinkedIn groups relevant to the topics on which you're writing and submit them to the groups as news items
- Use Digg & Delicious to bookmark your pages
The last is probably one of the more underrated ways to promote your blog in an age where everybody is connected. Do not forget that you are part of your brand, and people are more likely to use you as a resource if they know who you are.
Blogging for your business is a great strategy for connecting with your customers. But there are definitely certain tips and techniques to follow if you want to broaden your reach to more of the kinds of people you serve. With the right mix of platform, word precision and promotion, people might just be interested in what you have to say.
How do you use your blog? How could you improve?