November 2008


An area where companies often voice their concerns as we discuss setting up their own blog is that of negative feedback. They worry that people will use the comments section of their blog to express their dissatisfaction with the company and their products or services. Theyre also keen to understand how best to deal with them.

From a personal point of view, I totally understand this concern. As a rule, we dislike negative comments being made about us thats just natural – and companies and company bloggers are no different. Theres an instinctive reaction when we receive anything other than glowing praise for something we’ve written: for the individual blogger, there’s personal pride at stake; for businesses, there’s the concern that it will reflect badly on their organisation and alienate customers or prospects who see it.

So, for some, the gut reaction is to suppress it … moderate it out … pretend it never happened. Better still, don’t allow anyone to comment! That will also take away the guilt factor of knowing that the comment was made but that you haven’t approved it!

Why this really isn’t an option

The trouble is that this is the digital equivalent of sticking your head in the sand or perhaps jabbing your fingers in your ears and shouting La la la very loudly. Conjures up a faintly ridiculous image? Well, in social media terms, its equally ridiculous, Im afraid. Why? Because the person who wanted to complain on your blog will still do so, they will just go elsewhere … generally somewhere where you won’t have the chance to respond and engage with them.

So whats the alternative? Well, instead, give people the chance to raise the issue on your blog let them vent their frustration. And, in the process, you’ll be giving yourself the chance to answer their concerns.

For me, there are three key reasons why I’d want to do that and they’re nothing to do with blogging and everything to do with business:

  • Firstly, it costs much more, both in terms of time and money, to find new clients than it does to keep your current ones.

  • Secondly, customers with negative experiences are more likely to tell people about them than customers with positive experiences. However, customers who have had a negative experience which has been solved tend to be the most vocal;

  • Thirdly, it costs more to fix a problem than to prevent it in the first place.

By responding and resolving their issues, we have the chance not only to keep them as a customer but possibly turn them into an advocate for your company again. In any case, by openly allowing the criticisms and answering them, you are more likely to gain respect in the eyes of other readers than lose it.

Feedback has other benefits

You may also be receiving valuable feedback which could help improve an aspect of your company’s activities and fix a problem which already exists. Without this feedback, you could remain blissfully unaware of an issue which is costing you clients who have decided not to complain but rather “vote with their feet” and look for another supplier.

Certainly you need to make sure that the comments comply with any guidelines that you have in place – and in a corporate blog, they should exist – but those should cover areas such as abusive or racist language rather than constructive criticism. So rather than suppressing negative comments, you should encourage comments and feedback of all types. While it might sometimes seem a painful process in the short-term, the long-term benefits will prove far more valuable.

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SEO in business blogs for rankingIt really is a total waste of effort setting up a business blog if your sole intention is to use it to enhance your Search Engine rankings. If you do, then youre not just missing out on the important benefits that blogs offer, youre also missing the point of blogs altogether. Oh, and in the process, youll also be jeopardising the success of your own, right from the word “Go”.

“But I thought a business blog would help my Search Engine rankings!”, I hear you cry. “Absolutely”, I reply, “it will. Enormously so!”

The thing is, thats not the point.

Running a blog will give you the chance to do so much more, whether you are looking to use it to initiate dialogue with your readers, build trust and foster new connections with customers and prospects, carry out market research or customer service, or indeed any of 101 different business uses that blogs can be put to.

And thats where your focus, effort and attention should be directed – your readers – not simply on helping your SEO efforts!

However, if you do spend the time to keep the content of your blog focused on what your target audience wants then, believe me, the much lauded “Google Juice” will flow naturally because of what you write and the way that you write and structure it. However, it will do so as an automatic by-product rather than the sole aim.

The same values hold good in all areas of social media – concentrate on the people you are talking to and what you are talking about and youll go far. Social networking sites, for example, are called that rather than Google Ranking sites for a reason. If Google is your main reason for being there then the networking activity will ultimately die, killing your presence on the site along with it.

I might add that if you use these tools to do nothing more than sell, then youre also missing the point and once again youll find that this comes back to bite you. Using social media to employ the same “old school” marketing tactics that we, as consumers, are rejecting en masse shows a lack of understanding in my book not only of the medium but of people.

Anyway, enough ranting about this – back to my main point. Business blogs are great in providing enhanced Search Engine opportunities but try not to focus on this to the exclusion of everything else or you risk losing everything. Focus instead on your readers and I guarantee that your SEO desires and requirements will follow.

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Blogging domain namesIgnoring for a second, Shakespeare’s stated belief that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, in the blogging world, selecting a good domain name for your blog can make a great difference to its future success. So take time to consider the possibilities before plumping for yours.

There are a number of different elements which you should consider when selecting a domain name for your blog. This is of course presuming that you have decided to host it yourself (certainly recommended) and not integrate it into your current website (thoughts on this here).

For me, as any regular readers will already be well aware (sorry in advance for mini rant), I’d always recommend that you host it yourself rather than hand control over to a hosted service such as blogger.com or even wordpress.com (as opposed to wordpress.org self hosted blogs). If you then decide that there is more benefit in separating your blog from your own website, then running it on a domain name which supports your content is hugely important when it comes to branding and developing both reputation and credibility, whether you are looking at a company, sector, service, product or individual niche.

Some of the elements that you should consider when making a decision are:

  • Subject matter of the blog: to have a descriptive domain name for your blog will make it all the more memorable for those people reading it and also more memorable when they want to recommend it!

  • Branding elements for your business: you may wish to have a branding element incorporated into it as a special attribute of some sort

  • SEO elements: from a Search Engine Optimisation point of view, the domain name is an important element and so will ideally contain the primary keyword or keywords for the blog

  • Length of domain name: while it is good to have a descriptive name, you should avoid one which is too long and also ideally avoid one with words separated with lots of hyphens which now has “spammy” overtones – something you want to avoid for your business

  • Future requirements: make sure that it is something that you’re definitely going to feel comfortable with in a year’s time. Changing a blog’s domain name is going to lose all the benefits you have accrued so avoid this at all costs by choosing sensibly at the start

  • Top Level Domain: whether it should be a .com, .co.uk, .net etc. As with a normal website, it may well be sensible to cover all bases and take the main ones that are available and so safeguard it from a branding perspective

  • Be legal: just be certain that you are not infringing (or flirting with) someone else’s trademarked or copyrighted name. You may be ok, it’s true, but why run the risk and, as outlined above, lose all the benefits you have amassed if legal sentiments change.

  • Avoid blog: there really is no need to include “blog” in your domain name – the point of the blog is to encourage information sharing and interaction, but there’s really no need to specify that you are achieving this in a blog. Concentrate on the other elements is my advice.

  • Check the past: hopefully, this would never hot you, but you might like to check that the domain name has never been registered before and has been left with a past which might damage your future use of it ie. spamming etc.

Hopefully, you will be able to find a suitable compromise so that you manage to combine the points which are most important to you – unless of course there is a single factor which overrides all of the others. This compromise would ideally be based on the aims of your blog and also your target audience, two key elements of the planning process you should go through before setting up a business blog

Dont forget that you also need to find a name for your blog, something which can be in line with your domain name if required. It is important because this is what your readers are most likely to see first on the site, so make sure that it conveys the right message. In addition, it is often automatically incorporated in the “Title tag” of most systems and certainly in WordPress – though of course you can modify this using the excellent SEO plugins available. You should always make sure that you use any opportunity to publicise the contents of your blog and so the tagline of the blog is also important as this appears alongside the blog title in specific search engines such as Google Blog Search.

Whatever you decide, remember that the name of your blog and the domain name that you choose for it, no matter what your decision, is an important part of the process of setting up your blog, so choose carefully!!

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Spotlight on UK Blogs - all postsNow back again on Better Business Blogging, I will once again be highlighting some of the Business Blogs which exist in the UK. The aim is to show a cross section of what people and businesses are writing about and how they are approaching the task of using blogs in their business activities. As a result, you’ll find that these posts will contain a mix of Blogs displaying a range of topics and styles.

In addition, I am working with others to build a list of Business Blogs in the UK. So if there are UK blogs which you have visited and would recommend (including your own!), then please let me know by leaving a comment or sending me a message. You can also reach me on Twitter @BlogCoach Thanks!

Blah Blah Technology BlogBlah Blah Technology
Blah Blah Technology was recently catapaulted to the top of the Wikio rankings – another overnight success, hey? Not really, Wayne Smallman’s been working at it for some three years now so all well deserved – good blog, accessible and, despite appearances, not just for techies! (Twitter: @Octane)

Jim’s Marketing BlogJims Marketing Blog
Lots of great information and a very dynamic approach to the benefits, approach and opportunities great marketing can offer with the focus very much on people not search engines. Check Jim out and get him in your RSS reader (or at least his blog to start with!) (Twitter: @JimConnolly)

The New Adventures of Mr Stephen FryLateral Action
Well what can you say – all the charm and wit of Mr Fry and a great new design which shows it all off just blissingly. You’ll also find Mr Fry keeping us updated on his travels on Twitter at @StephenFry where his arrival some few short weeks ago produced a veritable avalanche of followers.

Lateral ActionLateral Action
Creativity + Productivity = Success or at least so says Mark McGuinness and pals over at Lateral Action. Heavy and preachy? Not at all. It’s good, engaging stuff from some guys who really know how to do it and get the message across. (Twitter: @MarkMcGuinness)

Marketing BlaggerMarketing Blagger
Marketing Blagger is written by Andy Bargery where he covers topics on marketing, the internet, blogging and social media. If you are in the London area though, come and meet Andy in one of his other guises as the driving force behind the excellent London Bloggers Meet Up Group. Well worth a visit! (Twitter: @Abarge)

Number 10Lateral Action
Well even the PM (or at least the PM’s office) is in on the act and they have a blog which they are keeping updated. Even built on WordPress which gives extra kudos to my preferred blogging platform, I guess. (Twitter: @DowningStreet)
Now, if only they could post on how best to get through the economic downturn … “use social media” did I hear you say? Great idea! :)

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Blogging ideas from TwitterLast month, I wrote a post about “Where to get ideas from for your Business Blog” which covers some of the methods that I use and recommend.

Yesterday, I asked people on Twitter how they went about it and what methods they used to do the same thing. There was a mixture of responses as you might expect, but the main thing that came through was that, understandably, we all draw on our own experiences when we put pen to paper … or should that be fingers to keyboard!

These experiences may be drawn from talking with clients, reading posts, books or newspapers or indeed from just walking down the street. All around us there are examples we can use which are relevant to the topics that we write about. And, of course, by the very fact that they are our own experiences, we can bring through our own personality and take on things when we write. Exactly as it should be, both for personal and business blogs.

So the message seems to be, keep your notebook at the ready and your RSS readers primed and you should have lots of content to work with.

In the meantime, here are a selection of those people who replied on Twitter and added to the conversation. Thanks all!

________________




Ideas for blog posts come from hanging out with the topic, say Calif. wine tasting road trips (mine)!
Twitter: @winequester | Web: WineQuesters

Everyday experiences, business knowledge, news programmes & websites, radio and other peoples blogs
Twitter: @rocketrobin2 | Web: Dolly Char

Everyday life mostly. I get ideas every time I interact with a business owner or set foot in a retail shop. I also read A LOT. (More comments here)
Twitter: @originalquill | Web: Original Quill

I set a schedule of topics for myself and then look for tips and links from my Twitter peeps. I will look at yours as well.
Twitter: @15minutesaday | Web: 15 Minutes a Day

I love that you do as I do and keep a notepad with you ! I have been derided as “old-school” for doing that. I see industry news & rip from headlines
Twitter: @Cars4Causes | Web: Cars4Causes

Life events are my biggest inspiration.
Twitter: @justinlandis | Web: Justin Landis

I use Google News to look for current sports business topics and RSS feeds from other SportsBiz bloggers.
Twitter: @rscibetti | Web: Business os Sports

I keep a pad to note Leadership questions posed by clients, coachees
Twitter: @CoachEva1

I learned from being a writer to keep a notebook with me at all times. You just never know when that great idea will come.
Twitter: @weborglodge | Web: News from the North Country

Setting up Google Alert to your topic can provide some useful things to blog about & keep “up to speed”
Twitter: @David365 | Web: Confident 1

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Business Blogs Grow UpI’ve been running this blog for nearly three years now and have seen a lot of changes in the acceptance and usage of blogs in business during that time, first in the US and then more recently here in the UK as well.

Unlike many, I never really entered the blogging fray with a truly personal blog which was designed simply to broadcast my opinions – that wasn’t of interest to me. Personally, right from the start I have approached blogging from a standpoint of it being a business tool – hence the name of this blog – and wanted to share those business possibilities with others.

Blogging is Dead, Long Live Blogging

Latterly, I’ve seen a spate of articles about the death of blogging, most notably one on Wired – however, I have been encouraged by the quantity of comments on these posts which in the most part have been supportive of blogging. For me, blogging as I perceive it (ie. in business terms) is not only not dead, it is still to reach its prime – in terms of the Technical Adoption Lifecycle, I see it still very much in the Early Adopter phase, particularly in the UK.

This was made abundantly clear to me last week in two very different situations:

  • in the first, I was giving a presentation to a group of marketing managers on “Blogging and Social Media” at a workshop run by Generate UK. For most of the attendees, blogging was still something which they were planning and preparing for rather than tiring of it.
  • Equally, in the second, a meeting with a FTSE100 company demonstrated their desire to fully engage with blogging, but only subject to demonstrable benefits and previous examples. Once again, classic drivers for companies in the early and late majority phase.

In both instances, after discussion, it was clear that there were still huge benefits to be had for them from starting a corporate blog, supported by other social media activity we looked at.

A great response

The best overall response to the “Blogging is Dead” theme, though, came from the Economist in an article entitled Oh, Grow up with “Blogging is no longer what it was, because it has entered the mainstream” as its subtitle.

Spot on – that’s exactly what has happened.

I particularly loved the analogy that was made with PDAs, not least because I was working at Psion as handheld computers went through their initial boom and bust phase and so have first hand experience of the way that particular market morphed into what we see today.

“Gone, in other words, is any sense that blogging as a technology is revolutionary, subversive or otherwise exalted, and this upsets some of its pioneers. Confirmed, however, is the idea that blogging is useful and versatile. In essence, it is a straightforward content-management system that posts updates in reverse-chronological order and allows comments and other social interactions. Viewed as such, blogging may “die” in much the same way that personal-digital assistants (PDAs) have died. A decade ago, PDAs were the preserve of digerati who liked using electronic address books and calendars. Now they are gone, but they are also ubiquitous, as features of almost every mobile phone.”

I see blogging as such. The way in which I see blogs and websites merging more and more reaffirms this small businesses I work with are now deciding not just to set up a blog but rather use the technology to run their whole site giving them control over updates, the ability to post and distribute information as required and of course the all important interactivity.

For me, the research by Gartner reiterates this in their Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. They also position Corporate Blogging at the start of mainstream acceptance and use as you can see in their diagram below.

Business Blogging by Gartner


Where do we go from here …?

Well, if I had to sum all this up, I think that I would have to say, that if you are looking to start a business blog because you think that itd be a cool and trendy thing to do then youre probably a couple of years behind the times now. Have a look at Twitter instead (in fact you should anyway – follow me for starters at www.twitter.com/BlogCoach) but be prepared to move to the next up and coming technology when it arrives.

However, if youre starting a blog because of what they can bring to your business, and you want a tool that will really help your relationships with customers and prospects as well as generate new business for you, then you have found the perfect time to start a blog for your business. Just make sure you plan ahead and set it up to future proof your investment.

So now, without even an small tear of remorse in the corner of my eye, I can happily announce that blogging is now all grown up – and rearing to show you what it can do!

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Spotlight on UK Blogs - all postsI used to run a series here on Better Business Blogging called Spotlight on UK Blogs where I’d link to business focused blogs based in the UK which had caught my attention. The aim was to show a cross section of what people and businesses were writing about and how they approached the task of using blogs in their business activities. As a result, the posts contained a mix of Blogs displaying a range of topics and styles.

I haven’t written one for a while but there has been such an upturn in the use of blogging for business over the past year that I feel a return for the series is long overdue and so will be starting again next weekend.



As an intro, and because it is particularly relevant in the current economic climate that we all find ourselves, there’s one that I’d like to draw your attention to ahead of this. It’s also one that I have been following avidly over the last couple of months simply because of the sort of information it has been offering. The blog in question is Peston’s Picks written by the BBC’s economic editor, Robert Peston.

So why do I think that this is a good example of a blog? I think because it goes back to the core elements of clear writing and pertinent topics, couple with excellent use of the immediacy of the web. Specifically, it offers to us as readers:

  • Authority: whether it’s direct reported information or informed opinion, you get the feeling from the blog that this where you need to go to get the low down on the subject at hand;

  • Instant access to news: when I’m looking for an up to date view on the latest situation in the financial markets or general economy then I know that I’m likley to find it here first;

  • Clean format: the short paragraphs and clean text doesn’t distract the reader away from the information being displayed, while the overall format gives a clear branding message while still making it clearly RP’s;

  • Encourages Debate: no matter whether it is because of the topics covered or the way that they are covered, the posts encourage comments and discussion, which then duly arrive!;

  • Informed opinion and trust: this comes clearly across as an expert writing about a subject area that knows intimately. As such it helps develop trust in both him and the information he provides;

  • Encourages further reading: the use of the sidebar encourages further reading of the blog and, just as importantly, makes it easy to do so.

  • Authentic voice – when I read the words I can hear Robert Peston delivering them. That adds to both the experience online and when we see him elsewhere

Are these what we should be looking for in every blog? No, not necessarily. Every blog has a different goal and hopefully uses what a blog format and technology can offer to help achieve them. However, as I’ve often said before, it’s not the technology which makes a blog, it’s the content; and here, I feel that the content delivers on all counts, allowing the blog to then do its job too!

BTW, if you have UK Business Blogs you’d like to recommend, then please drop me a line or leave a comment here. Thanks everyone!

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Google Alerts via RSSI’ve long been a fan of using Google Alerts – as far as I’m concerned, alongside subscribing to relevant RSS feeds, it’s certainly the best way to make sure that I keep up to date with any new information appearing on the web on topics that I’m interested in. It’s also a great way to ensure that I can follow conversations and articles which are relevant to my clients, their own reputation management as well as the markets they work in.

Now for me, Google have recently made it even more useful through the simple act of allowing me to receive this information via RSS rather than by email. This means that I can now have all of this information coming into one place (my Google Reader) as well as any keyword searches I have running through other sites and of course all the feeds from the key blogs I follow.

Google Alerts via RSS

All you need to do is select RSS instead of email as shown above and the system does the rest. Of course, there’s no longer a need to specify the frequency (ie. immediate, daily or weekly) because RSS will always update as soon as you have new information to read. (BTW, if you want a recap on the benefits RSS can bring in general then have another read of this.)

Anyway, if you aren’t already doing so, then set up some keyword searches on Google Alerts, get them automatically sent to your RSS Reader and keep a step ahead of your competition by getting all the latest information before they do.

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