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  • Warren: Blogging and Social Media definitely go hand in hand. Having a successful social presence can do a lot for a...
  • Jennifer Rai: All points mentioned above are very well put together. Blogs having purpose and a focus on certain...
  • jessica@lukeroxas: I ran a small home based business, and lately I’ve decided to put up my own website,...
  • Rob: Rather weird that a blog on blogging hasn’t been updated since 2009!
  • Ayala Land: Perhaps I was one of those companies who, as you put it “think they can avoid it” but thanks to well...

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    Marketing with Blogs: here are all the key posts


    One of my favourite analogies when I talk about social media and online marketing is the concept of spreading “welcome mats” around the internet. The more individually made mats that you make and strategically place, the more chance you have of being found in an increasingly competitive online market … and of course the better the chance of developing those all important contacts and relationships.

    What’s a Welcome Mat?

    So, what do I mean by “welcome mats”? Well, for me, they come in many different shapes and forms but are essentially places on the web where you invite people back to your website or blog by introducing yourself (through something you have written yourself or via someone else’s reference or recommendation) and making contact with them. Essentially a “doorway” back to your site indicated by a “welcome mat”.

    Still not clear? Well, let me give some of the forms that they can take. Some of the principal ones that come to mind are:

    • Website pages which appear as Search Engines results

    • Blog posts (individual, categories etc.) in Search Engines and Blog Search Engines & Directories

    • Social/Business Networking Profiles pages and the posts or comments you leave on these sites

    • Bookmarked articles on Social bookmarking and Crowd Sourcing sites

    • Links coming from other websites or blogs

    • Blog comments you leave where the “name” will link back to your blog

    • YouTube profiles linking your videos back to your site

    • Reference to your post from a Twitter message (either your own or someone else’s)

    • AdWords (PPC) Adverts

    • Directory entries

    • Articles posted with a link in the signature file

    • Forum / Bulletin Board signatures

    In each of these cases, you are effectively creating a Welcome Mat – something which provides information about you and your business, and then extends both an invitation and the means to find out more about you, via a link back to your site.

    So, how will people find me?

    As people use the internet for research, social interaction, fun, information gathering or whatever they individually want, they “cross the internet” in a variety of different ways – just how they go about it, is totally out of our control. In fact, it’s likely to change each time and so the ‘route’ that they take will be different too.

    They might use a search engine and then follow links in a directory they find, or head straight for the blogosphere and check Technorati. More and more, they may use a tool like Twitter to ask others’ opinions or they might start off with some Press Releases via Yahoo News. Whichever they choose, our goal as online marketers is to make sure that we appear in as many relevant places as possible to increase our chances of being part of their search – creating multiple and specific Welcome Mats allows us to do this.

    Our mission – should we choose to accept it! – is to make sure that we give ourselves the best chance possible to place a welcome mat in their path and make it attractive and relevant enough for them to follow and read our information. No small task!

    Where do blogs fit in?

    The trouble is that creating Welcome Mats is all well and good but the internet is vast and there are a lot of people vying for attention – so you have to take the time to make them relevant and to make them stand out. They have to demonstrate why they should spend time on your site rather than someone else’s. Blogs have two key roles to play in this scenario.

    In the first instance, they are a great way to create welcome mats. For example, each time that I write a post which I hope will first and foremost be of interest to people who read my blog, I also know that it will also automatically:

    • create 5 or 6 new pages (individual post, home page, archive page, 2 category pages) 5 potential Welcome Mats on the main Search Engines;

    • ping 35 blog search engines, directories and RSS directories – let’s say at least 10 Welcome Mats;

    • if it is well written, it may be fortunate in having 5 people reference it in addition from their blogs giving another 5 Welcome Mats;

    • add to Feedburners Headline Animator which I use when I post on Business Networking sites which displays links to my RSS feed on average another 5 Welcome Mats;

    • perhaps referenced, tweeted or dugg on relevant social media sites if the post is something that people believe is worth sharing.

    So, by posting on my blog and focusing purely on my key aim of writing something which will prove useful and interesting, it is also likely that I will automatically create over 25 new Welcome Mats. That for me is a bonus rather than the primary reason that I write … but is also an additional reason to encourage businesses I work with to get their own business blog.

    In the second instance, blogs are also a great place to refer people back to – so not only do they fulfil the role of information creator and distributor, they are also a great place for all of these welcome mats to lead back to, rather than a static website. This is particularly true when it comes to social media and the interactive nature of the blog acts as a central focus for the other tools such as video, microblogging or social bookmarking. There is no better place for someone to get to know you (and decide whether they want to do business with you) than on your blog – so let it reflect the information and values you wish to communicate.

    So, go for it!

    It’s no longer the case (if it ever really did work this way) that you can simply put up a “roadblock” and divert people automatically to your website. This smacks of so called “interruption marketing” and as such gets short shrift from the net savvy users that we have become today. Today, we have to use our powers of attraction and our networks instead to help to deliver our message and information to the people interested in it.

    The ‘Welcome Mats’ of today need to be much more based upon four of the principles of social media – creating, sharing, participating, involving – than on the advertising bias of a few years ago. These also offer many more opportunities. So take the time to look at your own and see whether you are creating attractive invitations that people are going to want to follow and share with others – if you find that you’re not, then I’d suggest that now’s the time to start.

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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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    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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    Blogs in ecommerce sitesI guess that I consider myself to be a relatively typical shopper, albeit probably a little bit more comfortable online than most. My own tendency, particularly when Im buying anything out of the ordinary, is to turn to the internet to first check out and research whats available and then to compare pricing.

    It seems that I am not unusual in this. A recent survey carried out by Nielsen online (followed up by this post by Nielsen’s Ken Cassar) and reported by eMarketer, has added additional credence to the idea that whether we ultimately buy online or in the shops, we (as consumers) routinely carry out research online before we do so. Indeed, 8 out of 10 respondents who had purchased a product in store said they had visited the store’s website first.

    Perhaps even more telling is that the survey, which focused on consumer electronics purchases, reported that more than half said they ultimately bought from the retailer on whose website they had spent the most time.

    What does this tell us? Well, clearly that we, as consumers, are becoming more and more web savvy which is re-assuring. But from an online retailers perspective, it also shows us that the stickiness of our site is going to be a crucial factor in not only keeping shoppers there but encouraging them to buy. This is going to be the case whether we are running a small online store with a few items or a full ecommerce setup.

    Enter blogs. I feel a full post on the subject of blogs and online retail or ecommerce is in order, but for now Ill restrict myself to a few key benefits of getting a blog on your site alongside your online store.

    • More Information: the more information you give about your product or service (not just description but also how people have used it etc.), the more confident your readers are likely to be that it is right for them and the more comfortable they’ll feel about purchasing it. Just as critical, as the survey shows, the longer they stay on your site the more likely it is they will buy from you;

    • Answer their Questions: giving people the opportunity to ask questions and re-assure themselves that their choice is correct will help develop trust not only in the product but also in you as the vendor;

    • Customer Reviews: the importance we place in other peoples experiences and feedback with products has been proven time and time again. Using a blogs ability for people to leave their own comments will allow you to use the same techniques to improve your own sales that sites like Amazon, ebay and Hotels.com rely on;

    • Search Engine Ranking: you’ll always want your products to be as visible as possible. Giving the Search Engines more to get their proverbial teeth into with a specific post about an individual product (linked back to its page in your online shop) will give you a search engine friendly page you can optimise for it and so the chance to appear more highly;

    • Distribution: whether you have new products, special offers or just extra information on products, remember that a blog also distributes this information automatically through RSS and pinging, so it gives a proactive as well as passive side to your marketing.

    Whether you employ just one aspect that a blog can offer or you build it in as an integral part of your online store will largely depend on time and resources, I guess. However, do remember to think outside of the standard blog format and try to use the functionality in specific business ways, such as incorporating customer reviews. That’s when blogs can really start to work for you.

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    One of the key worries that businesses have as they start to develop their blog is what to write about and how best to communicate their messages across to their readers. Effectively, what sort of posts they should write. Well, posts can take many shapes and forms according to the authors inclination and the readers preferences I think the skill comes in matching the two as closely as possible.

    To help the process, heres a list of 17 possible types of posts that you could look at to develop the conversation on your business blog. They wont all be relevant for every blog but they should help to spark some ideas on ones that would be most applicable for you.

    1. Foundation Posts

    Foundation posts are the core posts that your blog should be built upon and which focus on the key subject areas that the blog is going to be talking about. They are likely to be longer than other posts, focused in the content and, more often than not, will contain tips or practical advice centred around your main topics. These are posts that you’ll want to spend a bit more time on and which people should want to refer back to and share, time and time again.

    2. Expertise Sharing

    No doubt a familiar type of post for small business bloggers and a key one at that. These posts will demonstrate and share information on important topics relating to your expertise, with each post focusing on a particular aspect of that topic. The subject will be of direct interest to your readers and should have primary goal of developing or reinforcing the confidence and trust that they have in your abilities.

    3. Lists

    Lists remain one of the most commonly referred to types of posts and hence a very good way of getting a lot of information over in a short space of time. People can dip in and out as they see fit, so these are also the type of post that often gets referred to and shared in places like Digg.

    4. News Delivery / Reporting / News Breaking

    Blogs are a great way of sharing news and information and, because of their immediacy, also for breaking new stories. Unfortunately, few of us are able to be on the spot when we get a scoop but we are able to share news and information that we have found with our readers. While you could simply share a link or story as is, if you want to develop your own relationship with your readers, try to add your own perspective and comments to it when you write about it.

    5. Guides / Instructional

    A “How to” guide is an excellent way of passing on information and creating something which has the ability to go viral. While sharing information in anecdotal form is great, sometimes you just cant beat a clear guide that’s easy to follow from someone who has been there, done it and got the T-shirt to prove it. Think of it like instructions on putting together a piece of furniture from Ikea (hopefully with all the pieces there) and make your “How to” guides the definitive ones for your specialism.

    6. LinkBaiting

    A post which is designed primarily to attract attention and incite people to link to it, hence link baiting. This might be a post with contentious or provocative content aimed at getting a reaction from readers or might be one based on humour. In essence though, it’s sole goal is to provoke a reaction and generate links.

    7. Surveys & Polls

    Facts and figures lend weight to an argument and by using figures from a recent survey or report and then adding your own commentary, you can get your message across with up to date information to support it. Alternatively, why not run your own poll in your post and gather information from the people you really want the opinion of your own readers.

    8. Article Reply

    So youve seen something that caught your attention on some one elses blog or website and left a comment on it but you want to expand on that. Great, write a post which references the original but then goes on to either develop and expand on the points it makes, or to counter them.

    9. Rants

    Never get abusive or personal, but if you write about something that really bugs you and you believe is worth sharing, then this can come over very powerfully in a blog. It adds to the 3D view of you, the person, and helps tell your readers something more about you. Hey, we also like a little bit of Victor Meldrew, letting off steam now and again.

    10. Industry Commentary

    You are going to be well placed to pass on information about what is happening in your industry and how events are likely to effect your readers and other players in it. So make sure that you become the place that people visit to get informed opinion about what’s going on by delivering posts which report on developments in your industry.

    11. Conferences / Exhibitions / Seminars

    A great way of getting across information and sharing with a larger audience is to take information from a conference and report back via your blog. This could be your own conference or one that you are attending as a delegate – beforehand, highlight that you will be there (and willing to meet up no doubt) and then feed back what you found interesting or particularly useful.

    12. Company Specific

    There may be some specific news about your company which will be of interest to your readers, perhaps new capacity, extra staff or additional clients, all of which reflect favourably on you and your business. A constant stream of these might be considered unimaginative and prove boring, but the occasional one thrown in adds to the information pool your readers have about you.

    13. Press Releases

    While not to everyones taste, a blog is also an excellent distribution method for information (using RSS, pinging etc) as well as being the platform for conversation and relationship building. Dont use it simply as a Press Release conduit, but if you believe that it is relevant and interesting to your readers then there is no harm in putting PR information out through your blog as well.

    14. Guest Post

    Ok, perhaps a slightly different angle here, but why not get someone else in to write a post for your blog. Your readers get additional great information on a subject, you can get extra publicity as the guest writer will probably reference it from their own blog and it will add to your reputation in the process. Perhaps a reciprocal arrangement with a number of different authors? [BTW – if you’re looking for guest bloggers, drop me a line! ;) ]

    15. Links Post

    Theres always going to be information that you have unearthed during the course of the week that youd like to share and is useful to your readers, but which doesnt suit a full post on its own. So create a post with a series of links to articles, information sources, new stories etc. with just a short one line commentary on each.

    16. Reviews

    Might be of a book or white paper, or perhaps of a service or product which is relevant to your readers give your own opinion on it and then open it to the floor and get your readers opinions as well.

    17. Video or Podcast

    Its becoming ever easier to integrate either podcasts or videos clips into your posts and they are also a great way to offer something a little extra to your readers. Ideally make them your own but you can of course embed videos from sites like YouTube that you believe would be beneficial. If you put commentary around them (and a transcript for your own) then youll take the SEO on the post up a notch as well.

    Of course, a post doesnt need to fall into just a single category this one, for example, is clearly a list post but I would like to think also falls into the area of expertise sharing. At the end of the day, focus on what will appeal to your readers (you could always ask then what they are looking for!?) but hopefully you’ll find some ideas here to be going on with!

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    Optimising your Blog for Search EnginesThe 3rd part of the series and a lot of what I have been talking about in the first two posts on Optimising your blog for Search Engines and Optimising your Blog for your Readers, will be relevant here. In fact, it probably all is. Generally, when it comes to our businesses, our online relationships with our readers and with the search engines are inextricably linked in todays world.

    After all, we use optimisation techniques to try to get a higher profile in the Search Engine results pages and so attract more visitors. Then the optimisation for readers comes into play by keeping them on the blog, getting them to read and enjoy the posts, and ultimately encouraging them to return or recommend the blog. Optimising your blog for your business, ties these two together and supports them through the use of additional elements which further promote what you are doing and why.

    So, make sure that you consider these as well if you want your blog to make the impact that it should on your business and support everything that you are writing:

    1. Promoting your own services? Keep them above the fold

    If your intention is to use your blog to attract people to you and make them aware of the services / products that you offer, then ensure you keep the links to them visible and above the fold, so that they can be seen without having to scroll down. At the same time, don’t make them so in your face that they take over. Balance is the name of the game. Your readers are astute and are likely to judge you on what you write but also on how you conduct yourself and this falls under the latter. Essentially, it comes back to the idea that you should not try to sell to them on a blog, rather help them discover why they want to buy from you.

    2. Don’t swamp your blog with adverts

    This means both yours and other people’s. If your readers are likely to lose the will to live because of the number of adverts that they have to wade through to find your posts, then they will quickly fall out of love with your blog and you. So if you intend to include adverts and partner links, make them relevant but don’t let them take over your blog.

    3. Spend time on your blog design

    When I talk about blog design, I’m not just thinking about the graphic design (ie. the look and feel) of your blog and how that relates to your business, but also the placement of the different elements such as navigation, categories, special posts, sign up boxes, offers etc. on the blog. Just as you may well have spent time on your website and possibly worked with a web development company, take the same care with your blog to ensure that it best serves your business goals.

    4. Add easy referral methods

    Referrals and recommendations are the lifeblood of many businesses and are possibly the best type of business introduction that you can get. In blogs, your posts provide information about your business both through the content and the way in which they are written – help your readers to share this information by making it easy for them to pass it on. Include an email a friend option as well as links to social bookmarking sites such as Digg, del.icio.us or Stumble Upon and, with the current interest in micro-blogging, a link to Twitter might also be beneficial.

    5. Can they print it?

    Sometimes I wonder if I am not yet fully embracing the online experience because I still often like to print off blog posts and webpages that I find useful so that I can read them at my leisure offline. I know that Im not alone in this. Unfortunately, printers often truncate these posts because the page width is, well, too wide. So make sure that if people want to print off and refer to your article (yes!!) then they can without having to guess what are the missing words. [Wordpress users might like to include WP-Print for this.]

    6. Make it easy to comment

    I mentioned the need to make it easy for people to leave comments when talking about optimising your blog for your readers, but of course it works both ways. Comments are the start of a conversation which hopefully will benefit both parties and they should also benefit all those who come to your blog – they’ll not only see extra information but will also get a better picture of you through your replies. In addition, you may want to consider using the comments on special pages as live online testimonials, product commentaries, hotel/restaurant rating or whatever use that your business can put it to. If you want to know how valuable this so-called User Generated Content is, just look at companies like Amazon, Hotels.com or eBay!

    7. Make use of RSS Marketing (and basic RSS Advertsing)

    RSS is a key element of getting our information out into the right places on the internet, automatically and directly – it will also ensure that our messages reach people who have subscribed. However, there are many ways in which you can use your RSS feed to reinforce the business messages that you wish to get across. Presuming you are not hot on XML coding (I certainly fall into that category), then use Feedburner – you can add logos and notes to each post sent via RSS through their service. In addition you can add links after the post to promote/inform about your business, services or special offers using their Feed Flare facility. Think of it like adding a couple of relevant links to your email signature – great visibility without being too intrusive.

    8. Include Calls to Action

    I know that a blog should really just be about engaging with your readers, starting a conversation with them and creating those all important connections, but you are running a business too, so it’s important to give the process a little helping hand. Make sure that you have calls to action on your blog – it’s not direct selling or straying from the general ethos of blogging, it’s just letting your readers know how to take it to the next stage.

    9. Be easy to contact

    Just in case you were about to forget, the aim of a business blog is to encourage people to get in contact but you still find bloggers who make it difficult to find out how to do so. Make sure that you have a contact page and that its easy to find and use in this instance, its nothing about being transparent or open, its just good solid business common sense.

    10. Want sign-ups? Where’s your form?

    If a key goal is to get subscribers for a newsletter or ecourse, then make sure the signup box is given a prominent position on your blog. Email marketing and the use of autoresponders for sequenced messages works really well with blogs and is something that is often overlooked as we keep our head down trying to write new posts. Remember the research which indicates that we tend to read pages in an “F” shape starting with the top left hand corner, working our way across the top and then reading down the left hand side – use that information and judge the placement of the important elements accordingly.

    11. Make your blog as sticky as possible

    A lot of the stickiness of a blog will come through the content that you write, but there’s no harm in giving it a helping hand. Judicious use of both videos and podcasts, for example, means that you can get your message across in a number of different media, and use them as additional avenues to promote your business through video optimisation and podcasts directories. Consider running online surveys or contests, offer free downloads, reviews of relevant books – all can complement the content you write to help keep your readers on your site and keep them coming back.

    12. Use TACT Track, Analyse, Change and Track

    Make sure that you know what your readers are really reading, what are your most popular posts and what the Search Engines are referring people back to. Use a program such as Google Analytics or Statcounter to give yourself a good level of visibility of what is drawing attention and whether your calls to action are having the desired effect. Of course, this will only be beneficial if you analyse the information that it gives you and make changes accordingly. The process then starts all over again – it is certainly worth it though and will help make your blog work better for you.

    In optimising your blog for your business, what you are really doing is giving it every chance to help promote and develop it. In doing so, you are ensuring that your blog can be found by your readers and potential customers and that they have easy access to the information that it contains. They should then be in a position to act on that information, ideally by getting in contact and by also sharing that information with others.

    As ever, don’t get hung up on trying to optimise your blog purely for Search Engines or even purely for your readers. Remember what it is really there for – a tool to market and promote your business. Instead, keep a watching brief on the requirements for both readers and search engines, but make your main focus one of optimising it for your business.

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    Optimising your Blog for Search EnginesWarning – Long Post (even for me!)

    Remember that when it comes to “Optimising your blog”, looking at the factors which will be picked up by the Search Engines is only one part of the equation. You also need to consider optimising the blog for your readers and optimising for your business objectives – creating a blog which happens to rank highly for certain relevant key word phrases is going to be of zero value to you if you can’t back that up with things that your readers are interested in. (We looked at Optimising for your Readers in part 1 and optimising for your business comes in part 3).

    Most of the elements mention here can be applied to all full blown blogs – however, hosted blogs (particularly free ones) are unlikely to offer the flexibility to allow you to change all of these elements. So, if you are looking to really benefit from a fully optimised blog then I recommend you check out what’s on offer before you begin. For me, the full WordPress system, particularly because of the wealth of specialist plugins, is extremely powerful in SEO terms (and my first choice of blogging system), and so I will be referencing suitable sources from the WordPress community where possible.

    While we will be looking at individual SEO elements, you have to remember that there are very few factors which will cause a major shift change to a post or page ranking on their own. Rather, it is the cumulative effect that has real value a prime example of “the sum of the parts being greater than the whole”. So on each page, decide on the specific keyword phrases you wish to target and make sure that all of the individual elements come together to support them. Although vitally important, I won’t be looking at inbound links here, but rather concentrating on elements on the blog itself.

    1. Title Tag

    Generally considered to be the most important individual item so well worth spending the time and getting right. While opinions vary, general consensus is that you have about 8 words to play with, with greater relevance awarded to those at the start of the tag to gain most benefit from this, ensure that as a default format, the title tag displays your “Blog post title” followed by “Blog name” so that the keywords in your post title are highlighted at the start of the tag.

    However, whenever possible, you should take the opportunity to write a custom Title Tag – with WordPress you can use the plugins such as Stephan Spencers SEO Title Tag or All in One SEO which will allow you to do this easily. What to write? Well, remember where the Title Tags appear youll find it at the top of your browser window and, more importantly, as the clickable link on the Search Engine Results page. So while you should look to include your keywords to appeal to the Search Engines, you also need to write something which will inspire your readers to click on that link!

    2. Post Text

    The old adage of content is king still holds true and perhaps is even more compelling in blogs as the writing is intended to be more “personal” than the normal text penned by a corporate website scribe. In any case, what you write about and then the actual words that you write is clearly crucial in all good business blogs, there should be a clear focus or direction for the blog overall, and it is likely that the content in each post is going to be focused on a certain subject matter as well. This will naturally lend itself to a keyword targeted post but and it is a big “BUT” it must be written in a way which will attract and then appeal to your readers. They must be your primary concern and focus!

    (more…)
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    Blog Broadcast from AweberThe RSS Feed is one of those key underlying technologies in a blog that can do a huge number of things for us and yet most of us, myself included, are still only scratching the surface with it.

    Its main use is of course to give your readers a secure and immediate way of receiving your latest posts by subscribing to your RSS feed through an RSS Reader. Nevertheless, with so many internet users still unfamiliar with RSS in spite of its many benefits, I always recommend also offering the option of subscribing to the RSS feed via email as well.

    The easiest way to offer this is by using a third party supplier. Feedburner, for example, provides you with the code to create a basic sign up form on your blog and then visitors can use to subscribe to receiving your blog updates automatically via email. A similar service is provided by Feedblitz and Zookoda.

    Normally, you receive these on a daily basis as posts are published. However, there is another provider, Aweber, which gives you the option to take that one step further and effectively create a newsletter with your posts.

    Aweber is probably best known as an autoresponder and email service provider along the lines of Constant Contact and Vertical Response. However, last year, they also launched a service called Blog Broadcast which essentially delivers your blog posts via email but also offers other features in as well. As you would expect from a company which specialises in email and newsletter delivery, this is includes a range of templates to control the look of the emails sent out, personalisation of aspects of the message and title, and tracking of links or ads.

    In addition, as of this week, they have added a scheduling feature to the service. This means that you can now use the service to send out your posts on a schedule which suits you and your readers rather than one decided by the software. For example, you can now automatically send your readers a newsletter every week or every month by email with all of your posts. A great way to use emails to help support your blog.

    Granted this is not a free service but the additional benefits that this gives you are certainly worthwhile and particularly if you also use the other services it offers. For example, I use the autoresponder to deliver my Business Blogging eCourse and you can also use the email broadcast system to send other ezines or general communication to your readers.

    So, if you want to do more than simply send out each post as you make it or you’re looking for an automated way to publish a newsletter to your list of readers, then this might well be worth looking at.

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    keyword phrase selection for blogsI should say right from the start that you should always write first and foremost for your readers – that’s Rule #1 when it comes to creating a successful blog.

    Nevertheless, we shouldn’t forget that a blog is also an important tool in helping our positioning and Search Engine ranking for keyword phrases which are important to us and our business. These may be ones which cover central themes in our blog and our business activities, or they could be targeting areas that we would like to benefit from as part of the “Long Tail” effect that blogs are excellently positioned for.

    The key first step is identifying the right keyword phrases is going to be key to our efforts to get better rankings through Search Engine Optimisation. This will allow us to focus our articles at areas which we know will appeal both to our readers and to the Search Engines at the same time. It can also help to achieve a more comprehensive coverage in our chosen area by identifying keyword phrases in adjacent areas that are relevant to what we offer.

    To help in this task and find the best keyword phrases, there are a number of tools around and a lot of them are free! In addition to the tools that I have mentioned below, also take the time to check out your competitors’ sites and see what words they are targeting in their Title tag and keyword meta tag (go to View -> Source in Internet Explorer to view these). While not to be directly copied – after all every business is different – they can be a good source of additional information and ideas.

    Here are the keyword tools that I have looked at and consider worthwhile.

    WordTracker
    WordTracker is probably the best known tool in the field and is the self styled Leading Keyword Research Tool. They is a scaled charge for a weekly, monthly or annual subscription as well as a limited free trial, but it is also very complete in what it offers across a number of Search Engines.

    Google AdWords: Keyword Tool
    The Keyword Tool is built into AdWords but Google have also made it available externally so that you can do some initial research. It gives ideas for new keywords associated with your target phrase but does not indicate relevance or give details of number or frequency of searches

    Overture Keyword Selector Tool
    This tool is a little dated now (and of course Overture is now rebranded as Yahoo Search Marketing) but there is still validity in checking it out. It returns details of how many searches have been carried out in the Overture engine over the period of a month and allows a drill down into associated keywords containing your keyword phrase as well.

    NicheBot
    NicheBot has a mix of Wordtracker and Overture based tools as well as a nice keyword analysis tool which focuses on Googles results

    Digital Point Keyword Suggestion Tool
    One of a set of tools available at the Digital Point website this engine gives search numbers on keywords from Wordtracker and Overture sources

    In addition to these, although some of the keyword tools mentioned above already include it, I would also recommend taking a look through a Thesaurus (online or paperback) to open up other avenues. Sometimes you just cant beat going back to basics!

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    Can we use blogs for selling? Im often asked this question and Ive also seen a bit of a debate going on around the blogosphere about it of late, so heres my take on it.

    For me, it depends totally on what you interpret as “selling”. According to what your response to that is, then my answer will range from “absolutely not” to “yes, of course, thats the whole reason for having a business blog”. Basically, anywhere from zero to ‘off the scale’.

    Not too much help as yet, I know.

    To help explain how I think selling should be done on a blog, Id like to tell you a story a fable from Aesop called The North Wind and the Sun. It goes something like this:

    The North Wind and the Sun disputed as to which was the most powerful, and agreed that he should be declared the victor who could first strip a wayfaring man of his clothes. The North Wind first tried his power and blew with all his might, but the keener his blasts, the closer the Traveler wrapped his cloak around him.

    At last, resigning all hope of victory, the Wind called upon the Sun to see what he could do. The Sun suddenly shone out with all his warmth. The Traveler no sooner felt his genial rays than he took off one garment after another, and at last, fairly overcome with heat, undressed and bathed in a stream that lay in his path.

    The stated moral of the story is that Persuasion is more successful than Force. So let’s take that idea and look at it in the context of selling.

    If you are thinking of using your blog in the style of a door to door salesman, then please dont. If you are looking to focus on the interruption style of marketing that weve been subjected to for years, then I would also advise a rethink.

    Why? Most people have a real aversion to the hard sell and it’s certain to have a negative effect on your readers. In any case, a blog is never going to be a good method of engaging in this type of selling – blogs work best as a two way dialogue rather than a sales pitch monologue. This type of strong arm tactic, represented by the North Wind in the fable, will generally result in the reader leaving our blog, unlikely ever to return.

    However, there is another way. Instead we can engage in relationship or educational selling (or marketing if you prefer), building trust with our readers and letting them familiarise themselves with the product or service that we offer. How do we do that? Through our posts, we engage with them and allow them to get to know us. We also help them to understand what we do by continually delivering information which is relevant to them … and yet also relevant to our business, our products/services and the market in which we work.

    The result is a much deeper understanding of how what we do can benefit and impact their business – this is because they will have had the opportunity to examine and develop their ideas of its actual uses in their situation. Therefore, when you do sit down with the (now) prospect, it will be with one who has already gone far down the road to deciding that they want to commit and one with a much greater likelihood of implementing and using it properly.

    All of this benefits us because it results in a happier client, a strong ongoing business relationship and positive word of mouth about us and our product/service.

    At the end of the day, for me, its all about the difference between trying to sell something to someone and helping them decide that they want to buy from you. As a customer, I know which I prefer – so, be like the Sun and try the persuasive approach as a seller as well.

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