You’ve heard of them, you may have read a few, and you’ve definitely read about them. But what is a blog and should you have one?
A blog is just one part of an organisation’s marketing strategy and shouldn’t automatically be included as a gut reaction to “well, everyone else has one”.
1. Your industry is fast-moving
There are some great fashion blogs that illustrate this point nicely. Vogue publishes over 20 blogs where it shares behind-the-scenes peaks into its latest fashion shoots, photos of the ‘best dressed celebs’ and discusses emerging seasonal trends. The writers know exactly what readers want, and they give it to them, from different angles in different levels of detail.
Want to know who wore what on the Oscars red carpet? One of Vogue’s bloggers will be to there to tell you. Want to know how to look good in photos? One of Vogue’s bloggers can tell you how, using tips from the best photographers.
What are your customers asking questions about?
Personal finance blogs publish posts on the best ISAs, tax loopholes, the latest deals from airlines, how to save time and money at Christmas time. They also include links on their blogs to their personal finance advisors, or to affiliate products that earn them a commission, but readers are more likely to click and be interested because the adverts are relevant to them and fit with their frame of mind as they read finance tips.
2. You have the skills and enthusiasm to write
The way you learnt to write at school isn’t how you should write on your blog. Writing for the web is very different from writing for a college dissertation (and is a lot more fun).
You don’t need a degree in English to be able to write a fantastic blog, but you do need enthusiasm for your subject, and knowledge of what your target audience is looking for.
Some things to consider when writing a blog post:
– make sure you have a catchy headline
– use bullet points, lists, images and short sentences to keep your readers’ interest
– include relevant images to illustrate your points
– add captions to images (they’re one of the most read elements of your post, along with the title and subheadings)
3. You’re an expert in your field
A blog is an effective way of building a reputation as an expert. I am a huge fan of Seth Godin, who has made his name from publishing inspirational and practical thoughts for ambitious entrepreneurs – he earns thousands of dollars giving motivational talks, publishing books on marketing and launching new projects.
Seth’s blog is central to his image and his marketing strategy. He announces new projects to his followers before anyone else which makes me feel like I’m part of the inner circle. He offers discounts on his products which builds a sense of community. And the wisdom he shares on his blog builds awareness of his knowledge.
What could you give back to your readers? An insight into your creative process would be perfect if you’re an art tutor. A company that sells plants and garden equipment may post regular content on what to plant this month, and which garden jobs need doing this weekend.
By demonstrating knowledge, you build your credibility and ultimately establish your position as ‘an expert’.
4. You can make time to blog
You’ll need to publish at least one post a week, ideally two or three, to keep your followers interested and paying attention, so make sure you can commit enough time and effort to it before setting one up.
When I first started blogging I was writing content most days, but then as my business grew, I had to cut this down to once every couple of days, and now I aim for at least one a week (but try and do more).
I am always on the lookout for content – a conversation with the checkout operator in the supermarket or an advert on television can trigger an idea for a new post. I scribble down ideas in one of my many notebooks when they come to me, so when I switch my laptop on, I have a long list of possible posts to get stuck into.
If you’re not sure you can commit to one post a week or more, you may want to consider starting a joint blog with others in your industry, and each contribute just one post a month – this is more manageable and is a gentle introduction to the world of blogging.
5. You want a flexible marketing tool
One of the key benefits of having a blog is the ability to upload content and respond to comments immediately. This makes it a hugely powerful marketing tool, as you have total control over content at all times.
Unlike company newsletters, or brochures, a blog is durable and has a long shelf life, in that it stays around until you decide to delete it (as if you would). Once you’ve hit that ‘Publish’ button, your content is around forever, showing up in search engines and other people’s websites long after you’ve moved on to your next blog posts.
6. Someone within your business can take responsibility
Although there are over 130 million published blogs in the world, millions of them are lonely and neglected, with few followers, even fewer commenters, and masses outdated content.
When I land on a blog that hasn’t been updated since 2004, I dismiss the content and bounce right out of there faster than you can say “welcome”.
Before launching your business blog, have a clear strategy for who will be responsible for adding content and responding to comments. You may not have the time to do this yourself, but someone else within the business may have the knowledge and enthusiasm to get stuck in publishing regular content that will benefit your company.
7. You want to improve your website’s position in the search engines
Search engine optimisation (SEO) refers to your website’s position in search results produced by websites such as Google. If you sell handmade silver jewellery, you would want to be on page one for anyone who searches for ‘handmade silver jewellery’.
If you offer piano tuition for beginners (and live in Cornwall), you would hope to appear in the first few search results when someone types in ‘piano lessons for beginners, Cornwall’.
You won’t appear on page one of Google just because you have a blog, but it is one part of the mix that helps search engines to identify what you’re about and what product or service you provide. Publishing regular content shows that your website is current and looked after (which also matters for SEO).
Sharing useful tips and guides via your blog can also help you generate links from other blogs and websites – I was lucky enough to enjoy incoming links from blogs all over the world when I posted on April’s marketing themes. What would attract interest from your target audience?
8. Your customers are online
Ultimately, your customers are central to your marketing strategy, so their presence online is crucial to whether you blog. Do a bit of research (no clipboards required – just ask a few people who have bought from you before) and find out if your customers know their search engine from their car engine and their tweets from their blackbirds.
If your existing customers aren’t online, you may want to explore new markets who are – could you sell to a younger audience? Could you guest post on a website that your customers may visit?
(More on guest posting next month – it’s a gold mine of possibilities and a brilliant way of reaching new customers!)
So are you ready to blog? Quick checklist:
- My industry is fast-moving
- I can write pretty well
- I know my stuff
- I can make time to post great content
- I love the idea of the ease of publishing my posts
- I know exactly who will take ownership of it
- I’d love to be on page one of Google
- My customers use the web – a lot
If all that applies to you, then go blog (but before you go, check out our next short course on blogging for business – it would be great if you could come along).