Why do companies need a well designed and consistently maintained blog?
It wasn’t that long ago that blogs were strictly for geeks – men and women who spent their days living in the virtual world of the W3. But things change quickly on the world wide web and today, anyone can build a blog – with a single click!
But why build a blog? Why make a blog a part of your web site? Isn’t it just one more thing to worry about, one more thing that has to get done each day or week? Well, keeping a blog does take some time and effort but the payout is enormous. There are so many advantages to adding a blog to your web site that, frankly, you really must have one.
How to start? Where to start? What to say? And how do you say it? New site owners may have a lot of questions about building a blog but almost all web experts agree that a blog helps drive traffic to a site. A blog also improves your ranking with search engines, moving you up higher on search engine results pages, also called SERPs.
So, here are some tips to create a blog and keep it working to the advantage of your on-line business. If you build a blog, they will come.
1. Choose a web host that offers a free blogging module.
There are free blogging applications like Google’s Blogger. And there are other blogs, like typepad.com, that charge a small fee each month. But the fact is, these are called third-party blogging platforms.
The problem with these blogging platforms is that they come with a long list of terms of service or TOS. WordPress, for example, will suspend a blog if it’s too “commercial.” They’ll suspend your account if they think your blog is too self-serving. In fact, you’re at the mercy of some junior editor somewhere who thinks you blog contains too many self-serving links or places too much emphasis on your business!
So, control your own blog. A good web host will offer one or two FREE blog modules that can be added to your web site with a couple of clicks. Most come with templates that can be customized to fit in with the design of your web site so site and blog become a seamless whole.
Before you sign on with a web host, make sure they offer at least one blog module, like phpBlog. These single party blogging apps are yours to do with as you see fit so you never see that dreaded 404 error message – web site not found – when some unknown person in some unknown location decides to suspend your account because your blog is too commercial. And once a blog is suspended by a third party, getting it reinstated is virtually impossible.
2. Use your blog to provide information, NOT sales copy.
It’s fine to add a little sizzle to your web site copy – a list of features, a longer list of benefits, warrantees, guarantees and so on. Site visitors expect to see this kind of sales text on the pages of your web site – everything from product descriptions to your unique positioning statement of UPS (what makes you different from the competition).
Use your blog to provide good, useful information. Why? Because if the information is good and easy-to-implement, visitors will keep coming back. And the more frequently they come back, the more likely they are to perform your most desired action (MDA), whether it’s to buy something or to pick up the phone to make an appointment.
Blogs create site stickiness and that’s a good thing. In fact, if a visitor bookmarks your blog, you’ve hit a grand slam. That visitor likes what s/he saw so much they’re coming back…and maybe this time they’ll buy something.
3. Keep your blog up to date.
Add new blog posts at least twice a week. If return visitors come back and see the same-old-same-old, they won’t come back as often. In fact, they may not come back at all so keep your content fresh by adding new posts regularly – a minimum of twice a week.
4. Submit your blog to search engines.
Search engine spiders love green content. It’s bot food and they gobble it up like kids gobble gummi bears. But it may take a while for a search engine to crawl your blog and start delivering links on the search engine results pages.
Submit your blog to Google, Ask, Yahoo, Bing and the other search engine powerhouses. But don’t forget to submit your blog to technorati.com – the search engine for blogs. When people are looking for the latest information, or a different point of view, they turn to technorati.com to find the latest, best information – fast.
5. Maintain a blog archives.
If you post twice weekly, that piece you ran two months ago is already starting to look a little stale, even though the information is as current as today’s headlines.
Create a blog archive to store your older posts. Also, add a SEARCH feature that enables blog visitors to enter search terms and words to locate the precise blog post they’re looking for.
6. Stay focused.
If your blog is about marathon running, an article on your new iPad isn’t what readers expect. They expect good, solid information about training for their next marathon so stay on point.
Add anchor text to your blog – embedded links that take readers to the exact page of your web site that sells the product or service under discussion on the blog. This helps visitors find the information on site without having to return to the home page and start clicking on navigation links.
7. Keep It Unique
When Google announces changes in its algorithm, every web site-related blog covers it. The change becomes ubiquitous and your little post becomes invisible. There are always bigger, better known blogs on every subject from dairy farming to wind farming.
Find a new “hook,” or a new point of view to make yourself stand out. Some bloggers tout controversy and encourage flame wars by posting provocative content – content that provokes a reaction from the reader. This is fine if your site is based on political analysis. A good debate keeps people interested. Some readers may even begin to contribute, adding to the threads.
However, making angry a potential buyer of your goods or services is going to have an impact on sales – and not a good one. Yes, controversy sells in some arenas but in the running shoe market, controversy isn’t such a good idea. But a review of the latest offering from Nike will keep those runners coming back – and maybe even buying something.
8. Make it Attractive
Blogs employ templates, for the most part, though there are numerous desktop blogger apps that deliver a blank slate so you can create a blog like no other.
Add pictures – eye candy. Also, a picture on the web IS worth a thousand words. If you’re selling a special kind of insert for the marathoner’s running shoes, a cross-section shows how that insert benefits the runner.
Charts, graphs and other graphics are also a great way to present a lot of information in a simple-to-understand format. It’s a lot easier to assess a pie chart than it is to read three pages of text that provide the same information as that pie chart so break up your blog posts with pictures, charts, graphs, videos and other media.
If it looks good, you’re ahead of the game right from the start.
9. Make it easy for readers to flog your blog.
Add a simple module that enables readers to Retweet a blog post or to post on Facebook, Plurk, technorati, digg, reddit and other sites that enable readers to identify good content.
Add a module to each blog post that enables readers to tell others through social media, “Hey, look over here at this. It’s good.” Rely on your regular readers to build your blog’s reputation.
10. Use High-Traffic Days to Enhance Your Reputation
Some of your posts will be better than others. Some will be better received. Track your blog metrics on digg.com., reddit.com. and other sites that allow readers to vote for good content.
On days when your post is Retweeted on Twitter 20 times, or on a day when your post breaks into the top 20 diggs on digg.com, immediately follow up with more quality content. You’ll see your blog traffic jump from 20 visitors to 200 visitors in one day. The next day, make sure you post the best blog post you’ve ever written because at least some of those 200 new readers are going to return to see if that cool post was a fluke or your blog really is as good as it appears to be.
Bottom line? Blogs are link bait. They’re useful in building a site community – a collection of fans that comes back daily. Blogs are easy to update so you can announce sales or specials without having to call in your programmer. And, blog posts create good- will because you’re providing solid, unbiased information, not a steaming pile of hype.
Build a blog and enjoy the benefits. A good web host will even help you install a blog module at no additional cost. That’s a web host you want to work with.
Shop around. Check to see if blog mods are included. If not, find a host that lets you keep your site fresh and new. And if you can find a green hosting provider that offers website hosting with blogging software, then its even better. It’s better for you, for your business and for the environment. Green web hosting offers the same perks as traditional hosts, but they are powered by renewable energy.
That’s what keeps your visitors coming back and performing the MDA. Oh, and isn’t that why you built that web site in the first place?
You bet it is!