Though they had been around for many years, blogs burst on the scene as a hot marketing tool around 2003 when marketers discovered easy-to-use blogging platforms like Blogger, Typepad, and WordPress.
However, just because anyone can set up a blog, doesn't mean everyone should, and many professionals and businesses start blogging without giving any thought to why, how and who will be doing the blogging.
Over 50 percent of blogs are abandoned within the first 90 days. While this isn't really important if you're writing a personal diary, political or celebrity blog, it is very important if you start a blog for your business and don't keep posting on it consistently and with purpose.
When a prospect lands on a blog that hasn't been updated in months, it's akin to walking into a vacant store with busted windows and dust blowing in. It's just not pretty; and it doesn't look good for you, your business reputation and your branding.
Don't let that happen to you. Start right, start smart and follow a few suggested guidelines. First, let's review some basics:
What Is a Business Blog?
Because a blog is an inexpensive, fast way to build an online presence, it is an ideal way for business entrepreneurs, coaches, consultants, speakers, authors and other professionals to establish their credibility and expertise. Since your readers can post comments, you create a conversation with your audience and build rapport and trust as a result.
The very nature of a blog is perfect for the busy professional. They are quick and easy to update. You are creating fresh content frequently (two to three times a week is recommended minimum) that is useful to your prospects and customers and loved by search engines. In contrast to “traditional” static website, a blog is a dynamic site that encourages your visitors to interact with you through commenting so they can get to know you better.
When you create a conversation with your audience (visitors, readers, prospects), you are establishing your credibility. You build your network and increase the visibility of your products and services in a casual way.
A blog is an essential tool in the professional's marketing toolbox. Combined with a website, an ezine, database management and ecommerce system, you will have everything you need to develop and run your business globally and online.
Copyblogger.com makes it easy to find articles about the core message and there are several ways to generate leads and build a list.
Do your research. Alltop.com compiles the best blogs on hundreds of topics so you can check out your competition.
10 Steps for Starting Your Blog
Before you get to the nitty-gritty of setting up your blog, there is some pre-work to do. This will ensure you start right and put your best foot forward
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1. Before you do anything else, examine the reasons why you want to publish a blog. What is the purpose for the blog? How does the blog's purpose relate to your business purpose?
2. What are the business objectives or outcomes you want from your business blog? Some people use a blog as a lead generator to build their database. Some are looking to build a visibility platform, while others use the blog to develop content for other purposes like books, articles and programs. What do you want to get out of your blog?
3. Who is your ideal reader? Who are you writing to/for? For most businesses I've worked with, the ideal reader is similar to their ideal client. It's important to know your audience so you can meet their needs and address their concerns, challenges and what they're looking for to improve their lives.
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4. How do you want your readers to feel when they read your blog? This may seem like a weird question, yet it will help you tap into the emotions of your audience. Do you want your reader to be inspired, motivated, and moved to action? Again, tapping into this will help you focus your content on serving your reader.
5. What do you want your readers to DO when they read your blog? This relates to the goals you set for your blog. If your blog is a lead generator, then you must have very clear steps for guiding your reader to subscribe to get blog updates and/or get your lead generating content.
6. How much time do you have to devote to your blog each week? This is getting to the heart of blogging. If you can't commit to writing a lot of valuable content, then you're doing yourself and your readers a disservice. Be honest. The most effective and successful blogs are those with fresh, new content posted at least two to three times per week. Is that reasonable for you to manage? Will you have a team of bloggers? Remember, there are many, many ways to create content. It doesn't have to be all you all the time.
7. What's your blog's core message? This relates to the topic of your blog and the niche you are focused on. What do you want your readers to learn? Why should anyone read your blog, and more importantly why should they subscribe to and follow your blog? This is another key piece to get in place before you start your blog. Brian Clark, publisher of Copyblogger.com, recommends creating “cornerstone content.” This is a series of posts that articulates your core message and provides new readers with an introduction and overview of what they can expect to learn from you.
8. Create an editorial calendar. It's no secret that content rules on a blog, so it's helpful to have a content plan going into the game. A key element of a good blog is having a list of 7-10 keyword-rich categories. Once you determine the categories (or subtopics) of your blog, you can plan your content calendar. If you plan on posting three times per week, then plot out post ideas for each of your categories. Make a list of 5 topics for each category. Then, fill in your calendar. Five topics times ten categories and you've got 50 blog posts in the pipeline.
9. Do your homework. Critical to your blog's success is knowing your competition. Who is already blogging in your niche? What are they writing about? If blogs in your niche are scarce, this may be a great opportunity to dominate the search engines with your own content. Finding great blogs will take a bit of time and research. Start at Technorati.com and search for blogs using your keywords. Next use Alltop.com and Blogs.com to find the best of the best.
10. Build your blog. Now that the research is done, you know your message and have content ready to go, it's time to get down to business and build the blog. This is where the fun part starts and cannot be easily covered in a bullet point. Two things to think about: 1) Are you a do-it-yourselfer or will someone build the blog for you? and 2) Are you a techie or not? There are many blogging platforms each with pros and cons. If you're a techie, you may prefer WordPress.org. If you're not comfortable with tech stuff, then TypePad may be a better option for you.
As you can see, there's more to business blogging than initially meets the eye. The more preparation and thought you put into your blog BEFORE you start, the more successful it will be. Once the prep work is done and the blog is built, you'll have a powerful marketing tool for creating a highly visible web presence and attracting the right people to your business.
What else would you add to this list to prep your blog for success? Share your best blogging tips in the comments below.
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