The Hall Marketing Basic Business Blogging Guide
Everyone’s getting into blogs this day, and for good reason — how else can you so easily keep a website up to date, propagate content, and make connections with the rest of the universe? Most savvy businesses, from thebig guys to the mom and pop shops, are starting to integrate blogs with their websites, and our customers are no exception. Yet, just because you have the tool at your disposal doesn’t mean you know how to use it. I started drafting this guide for internal use, but felt it was important enough to share with the rest of the world, especially as there seems to be a dearth of FREE business blogging guides. So let’s start with the basics:
Business Blogging IS:
- A way to communicate with your customers in a more conversational style. If you have a small shop, it’s the kind of things that might come up while chatting with a customer that isn’t part of the direct sales pitch. Where did you get the idea for your latest line of products? What recent changes in your industry have made a huge impact on your business? What’s do you know as an insider that every customer should understand? Speak with personality, authority and clarity.
- A means to keep your website up to date. Rather than having to go into your source and manipulate your page design to accommodate more text, a blog allows you to update your site as easily as writing an email. They also store and display your text with a clear hierarchy regarding time and topic. Google loves this.
- A networking tool. It is extremely easy to reach an international audience with your blog — in fact, we’ve set it up so that every post you write will be distributed vastly throughout the ether. While it will take some time to get traction, expect to be pleasantly surprised when people arrive on your blog and write interesting comments. They’ll also subscribe to your feed via RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and email. And if your content’s good, other bloggers may write about your stories and build up buzz elsewhere on the Internet.
Business Blogging is NOT:
- A place to talk about your family, your pets, or your enemies. Keep sentiment as well as resentment far, far away from your blog. Don’t let casual, journalized blogging confuse you — don’t write anything in your blog that reflects an unprofessional attitude on your business.
- A silver bullet for your site’s problems. Just like running a business, blogging requires diligence, innovation and attention to be successful. It doesn’t require an inordinate amount of work, but make sure you are committed to making updates, as often as daily, but at least weekly. If that’s not realistic, then delegate or hire someone to do it. An out-of-date blog is like having Christmas lights up in June.
- An island. On one hand, it is easier than ever for anyone to get their message out to everyone in the world; on the other hand, everyone in the world has the choice to read something written by practically anyone. With attention spans shorter than ever, it is crucial to your blogs’ success that you write quality content that is addictive. You also should be reading other people’s blogs, tracking back from interesting entries, and making friends. Social networking is the future of the Internet.
But how do you go about writing interesting content that will make people curious about your company? And how do you write it in a way that will explosively boost your search engine rankings at the same time?
Coming Up With a Brilliant Plan
If you don’t already have a sense of the top keywords for your site, you need more assistance than I can provide in the constraints of this article. The very first thing we do when approaching new sites is work with our customers to get a thorough sense of their industry and the keywords that users are going to use to find them, using keyword suggestion tools to validate them based on traffic. A blog is an opportunity to push some #3 or #4 rankings to the top spots, and boost positions for words that may be flagging behind. You can also use your blog to improve rankings for terms that weren’t an initial targeted in your site. Whatever you do, write intentionally. Brainstorm a list of topics based on what you achieve or what interests you.
Writer’s block? Here are some sample topics to get you started:
- My thoughts on [Recent Changes] in the [Keyword] Industry
- How [Keyword] has changed the lives of [Your Customers]
- How to use [Keyword] in a different way
- How does [Major News Article] affect [Keyword]?
- 5 Myths About [Keyword] Revealed
- 10 things you never knew about [Keyword]
- Why [My Keyword] is better than [Competing Product]
- I bet you didn’t know that [Keyword] does [This Amazing Feature]
- Building [Great Outcome] with [Keyword]
You’ll notice a trend with the headlines/topics outlined above — they all convey the author’s thorough understanding of the topic at hand, and work to solve some problem. Even if the reader doesn’t have the problem mentioned, this sort of cause-and-effect writing is enormously popular and you’ll notice that nearly all (successful) bloggers use this methodology to craft their stories. This is not to say that you can’t, or shouldn’t, experiment and go about things your own way, but like in all disciplines, it’s good to know what the well-trod path is before you divert from it.
Realizing your Brilliant Plan
Depending on your personal organizational style, you can choose to draft up a list of these topics and write according to a schedule. You can generate ideas for series, focus on one topic intently, or write a variety of things with the common thread simply your unique voice. There is no wrong way to go about it, necessarily, so long as you are writing with intention.
What makes writing for a blog different from other website content writing is a decreased emphasis on keywords. Wait — didn’t I just say that we were writing to increase search engine rankings? Yes, but as many copywriting pros agree, humans are more important than machines when writing blogging content. Don’t let your writing hiccup over awkward keyword phrases of write awkward titles that don’t make sense simply to stuff your keywords in a few more times. While you do want your keywords in your article, write initially with raw creativity, and save the analytical process for later.
You should also write concretely and with simple sentences. Find a “hook” or make your entry into a story if possible. My personal mantra follows the words of the venerable William Carlos Williams: “No ideas but in things.” Write about the “red wheelbarrow glazed with rain beside the white chickens” and not how “advances in barn yard technology do not have the glamour of traditional systems.”
Take your Blog Engine and Work It
I happen to be a huge WordPress enthusiast, and love the ability to completely customize the theme, its clean, logical structure, startling ease of use, and huge customizability with plug-ins. Some time in the near future I’ll have an article about my favorite syndicated and SEO-friendly plug-ins. For now, just some quick tips:
- ALWAYS check off Categories for your post. It’s super fast and easy to do, and ties your blog entry in with relevant ones, allowing you to build continuity and organization over time, as well as let users and search engines figure out what things are about quickly.
- Come up with a snazzy title. Many pro bloggers recommend writing the title before you even start your content. While I personally don’t go this route, whatever you do, don’t neglect the importance of the title in determining someone’s likelihood of reading your post. How many articles in the newspapers do you read before you read the title?
- Deliver on the promise of your title. Nothing is more frustrating than “bait and switch,” and readers will feel betrayed or lukewarm if your post fails to answer the question you set up in the title (or at least are unable to supply original thoughts on, or more resources to explore).
- Proofread your work. It shouldn’t be necessary to say, but here it is. Know your there, their and they’re and watch for run-on sentences, awkward mis-used words, and other common mistakes. In an extension of the “Know thyself” idiom, figure out what clich©s you’re prone to and try to minimize them.
Blogging is really not all that different from a starting workout routine, changing your diet, or learning any new skill: it requires an ongoing effort and commitment, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Once you get used to writing on the schedule you’ve set up, you’ll find yourself looking forward to your upcoming entries, brainstorming ideas in the most unlikely locations, and looking eagerly at the responses to your gripping content. Wax and wane about the disintegration of traditional journalistic standards if you must, but enjoy the opportunity to communicate with your customers — and the outside world — in a more lively way than ever before.
Welcome to Web 2.0.
Resources to Read on the Road to Pro Bloggerdom:
Coming up, I’ll write a document on how to be a good member of the Web 2.0 Community — tracking back interesting things to write about on your blog, writing good comments, using Del.iciou.us, Digg, and other tools to open up the social media world.
For the time being, keep blogging!