Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Did you know that corporate websites receive 55% more website visitors if they have a regularly updated blog and that 77% of all internet users regularly read and follow blogs?
When I first mention the idea of starting a blog to a business owner I often see them get a little shaky and nervous. They feel as though they have neither the time nor the inclination to write a blog or have the basic writing skills required to write even a single page. They believe that no one will want to read what they write. I think they are mistaken.
I hope once you understand the clear benefits of having a business blog you’ll be motivated to put in the effort.
What are the benefits of a blog to your business website?
A blog has many useful purposes beyond being just a section of your website which you update occasionally. Here are a few reasons why a blog is a useful tool that if used correctly can generate great results:
- a business blog provides you with a friendlier and more informal way to deliver and publish your content
- if your website is a corporate website, a blog can draw attention to your organization’s industry knowledge
- a blog allows you to position yourself as a subject matter expert
- a blog provides an avenue for reaching new prospective customers whilst also staying in touch with existing customers
- it enhances the efforts of your search engine optimization
- it can encourage dialogue and interaction by allowing comments and business-to-business interaction
- it can demonstrate the ‘human’ side of your organization through your choice of language and avatar
- a blog provides content to strengthen your existing social media channels and encourage content sharing
How often you should post content on your blog
Generally most people are unlikely to be able to write an article on their blog once a day but they can probably write an article four times per month i.e. one post per week. Is that enough? Yes, I think so. In a lot of cases, that equates to posting content four times more frequently than your competition. However publishing content too often can dilute your message and your readers may feel overwhelmed with the volume of content coming from your website, especially if they have signed up for an RSS feed of your blog. After a while they’ll stop reading your content and simply ignore it.
The unfortunate news is that a poorly written or poorly maintained blog can really damage your online reputation and overall image. I have often seen situations where a medium-large sized organisation may already have a well-established corporate blog but yet are still not utilising their blog effectively. This can stem from a lack of knowledge as to the reason for having a corporate blog in the first instance, a lack of resources, and a lack of interest and support from the management team. However, the good news – it is fixable!
Amalgamate the blog and website on the same site
Hosting your blog content on a third party website (such as blogger.com etc) goes against the above benefits. It can harm your SEO efforts and demote the overall branding of your organisation, and also confuse your website visitors. Website visitors may get confused when they jump from your corporate website (with the expected branding and layout) to a third party website which looks completely different. Another important consideration is that this third party blog site takes traffic (people) away from your website, which is just the opposite of what you want to have happen.
Look and feel matters
While not every organization needs a custom-designed blog, your blog does need to look modern, professional, and be responsive to enable it to be accessible on mobile phones and tablets. This is especially relevant if you are re-using blog posts in e-newsletters or for mobile search. Creating something that is aesthetically pleasing and matches your brand is important for capturing authority online.
Structure the main blog page for readability and scanability
Many organizations show the full blog post on their equivalent of a blog homepage. This is the opposite view to what your reader actually wants and what usability experts suggest as best practice. Best practice is to show a list of blog post summaries on your blog homepage. Instead of displaying the full post, just include an excerpt and a featured image and a link or button for your readers to continue reading the full post. This is good for both usability and for SEO.
Write on a diverse range of subjects (not just about yourself or your products and services)
Business blogging is supposed to be informational. It can be used as a great educational tool for prospective customers and existing customers. Blogging is not a vehicle to talk nonstop about your company and your product or service offering. Limiting your blog posts to content about you makes the blog egocentric and boring. You can almost guarantee your blog will not be read, not shared, and certainly not re-visited. Getting the most mileage from your blog means blogging about your industry, trends, and best practices.
Write content for your target demographic
Many organizations write content for people similar to themselves and not necessarily the people they want to sell to or capture as a new prospective customer.
Publish new content regularly
When I ask organizations if they have a blog, many times they say yes – even if the blog hasn’t had a recent blog post in last six months. That isn’t quite what I would call a corporate blog. It’s more of an unloved piece of website content. Maintaining a blog with infrequent posts makes your company look uninvolved, out of touch, and lacking in knowledge. That is not what you want. The trick to writing at an acceptable level of frequency is to set realistic goals. Don’t set your content creation goal so high that you cannot reach it. Set a reasonable goal of one new blog post per week or even one new post every fortnight.
Anyone who is well versed in their industry falls into the trap of using industry jargon in web content. Writers fail to see the technical terms which may confuse the average website visitor. Ditch the industry jargon and use words and phrases real people can understand. You may have a Ph.D at the end of your name, but write so that the average person can read and understand your content.
Avoid vague or meaningless titles
As I write a blog post I often have possible titles which just pop into my head. I type them in and revisit them later. As I continue to write the blog post I adjust the possible title to match the ultimate subject matter of the post. I also type in the keyword phrase (which I select after a little research) to keep me focused in my writing. When I’ve finished writing I go back to the title to see if it is still relevant to my finished post. If it does, I then take a step back and ask myself if it is descriptive enough to entice my target reader to take the time to read the post itself. If it isn’t, then the title needs to be revised to include enough focus, keywords, and interest to encourage someone to click through to the post. Sometimes this means I have to discard the cutesy title I started with. Remember that the first blog post title you start with will rarely be the best or the final title. Revise until it will make an impact.
Remember to use keywords
If you are going to blog, use keywords. Focused keywords means you select a blog post heading and write content that includes a targeted keyword or phrase. If you’re going to the effort to write original, compelling, engaging content, make sure the world can find you. Just try not to make it too obvious and for it to appear too forced in your keyword phrase selection.
Choose the right image
Many web authors are afraid of using stock images from royalty-free image websites. They think every image will look fake or cheesy. That is not always the case. If you spend three seconds looking for stock images, then they will likely look cheesy. If you spend ten minutes looking for the right image, you will find it and it will accentuate your blog post. It will also make your blog post more aesthetically pleasing on social media websites. That means more traffic to the actual post and your own website, especially if you give your image a meaningful name. If you have the time and a good camera maybe you can use your own photographs as the images.
Link to other pages within your website
This task is often one of the most overlooked tasks of blogging. Posts should link to something else on your website. This helps drive traffic to other pages, and helps with overall SEO efforts. Each blog post should link to somewhere else on your website that pertains to the post and that will provide value to your readers.
Include a call to action
A call to action is simply a request or encouragement for visitors to take the next step and turn it into an actionable step. This can be a purchase, a white paper to download, viewing a video clip, or simply the completion of an inquiry form for more information. Use these call to actions wisely. Encourage your readers to take action and you’ll be surprised at how many actually do.
Write short bios for each web author
In 80% of the cases, companies want to publish blog posts as the organization and not as an individual. This degrades the trust factor and does not help position the organization as a subject matter expert. Readers want to know who wrote a specific post and want to know more about the author. Write a brief, but informative author bio and include it at the bottom of every post. Journalists then know who to contact within your organization to follow up on a possible story for a potential article.
Create an author image and use a gravatar
An author image, avatar or gravatar (an abbreviation for globally recognized avatar – linked to your email address) offers a more memorable impression of the author and helps to create a connection with your reader by seeing that a real person has written the information they are reading. Along with the bio, it increases credibility and trust. Use a recent and respectable image. It doesn’t need to be a professional headshot, but shouldn’t include your girlfriend hanging on your arm.
Use categories correctly
I suggest that only one category/subject be used per blog post. It not only helps website visitors navigate and drill-down your content by high-level topic, but it makes it easier for the search engines to process your content as well.
Use categories and tags correctly
Many web authors forget about categories or tags and fail to use them all together. They do so because they don’t quite understand how to use them appropriately. They allow your readers to browse content by area of interest, which is good for usability and for keeping them on your website for longer.
Share new content through your social media channels
If you write it, they will come. Well it’s not entirely like that. You need to write quality content and share that content on various social media channels. It is important that you share all the posts on your business blog to your Facebook Business Page as well as to Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ and any other social media platforms you are using. Do this as soon as you have published your post and then interact with those who are kind enough to share your content. I know that many organisations don’t believe their blog posts will be shared. However, if the content is good engaging and compelling and you make it easy for your readers to share, you may be pleasantly surprised at how much social media attention you receive. It is also a useful method for media outlets to receive your latest news as well.
Add share buttons
While there will be people who are keen to share your content they may not bother doing so if you make it too difficult for them. Make it easy on your readers to share your content by including easily recognizable social media platform share icons at the bottom of each blog post. Make sure you include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. By the way, if you found my post about the benefits of a blog to be useful to you, please share – thanks.
Take the time to write compelling content
Good content does not just happen in 30 minutes. It can take a few hours to think up a quality post, research it, mull it over, write it, and proofread it. Thinking that you can whip something up in 30 minutes will leave you frustrated and your blog unloved.
Give yourself time to write engaging, original and compelling content. Always choose quality over quantity. It is the only way to attract more readers, search engines, and to encourage your readers to help you get your message out there.
Don’t expect overnight success
Success won’t happen immediately. It takes time, patience, and a lot of dedication. It requires planning, strategy, and follow through. As Rachel Hunter famously said -“It won’t happen overnight but it will happen.”