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    Marketing your Blog: here are all the key posts


    I’ll admit that usually I’m not a fan of lists, hence you won’t find many long ones here at Better Business Blogging. However, when they are recommended by people like Brian Clark at CopyBlogger or Darren Rowse at Problogger then who am I to argue?

    Although I have presented this as a single list, there are really three distinct groups of techniques that I would recommend that you consider in here – firstly what I would call “Blog methods”, then the more general online marketing methods and of course offline marketing and PR techniques. We’ll be looking at all of these on an ongoing basis at The Blog Coach.

    In the meantime, here are 52 Great Ways to market your blog:

    1. Submit your site to the main web directories – you�ll find a good list at Directory Maximiser

    2. Make sure that the whole of your blog is indexed on the main Search Engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN/Live

    3. Get a Google Sitemap on your blog to help to get it fully indexed

    4. Participate in online business networking sites such as Linked In, eCademy and SoFlow

    5. Make it easy for your readers to bookmark your blog on the social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Del.icio.us, Furl etc.

    6. Make sure you submit your blog to the main Blog directories (Good list here and here)

    7. Also submit your blog to the main RSS directories

    8. Ensure that you automatically ping the main blog Search Engines and Directories suach as Technorati and IceRocket to get instantly indexed – good list of pinging addresses

    9. Join a number of relevant online communities or discussion groups for your market area

    10. Maximise the design of your own blog: highlight posts or subjects that will attract and retain readers

    11. Add comments – relevant, useful comments – to other people�s threads or blogs

    12. Use Pay per Click (PPC) advertising like Google Adwords or Yahoo Search Marketing

    13. Advertise on sites such as Gumtree or Craigslist

    14. Make sure that you run an ezine (e-newsletter) alongside your blog and make the two work together

    15. Make sure that you link out to other blogs in your blog posts and, for special recommended blogs, in your BlogRoll

    16. Join MyBlogLog to be able to make contact with other MyBlogLog users and develop relationships

    17. Set up a social network part of your blog with Ning

    18. Write your own e-book (perhaps using content from your blog) and give away free chapters to encourage visitors or subscribers

    19. Start your own meme or viral networking idea (such as 2000 Bloggers)

    20. Attend local networking groups such as BNI, BRE etc – tell them about what you do and reference your blog

    21. Set up and develop a profile on online social networking sites such as MySpace, Bebo etc.

    22. Create a free account on BT Tradespace

    23. Interview people for your own regular podcast – perhaps you could make it like your own online radio show

    24. Contact other relevant ezines and offer to write articles for them

    25. Submit your articles to article directories (Ezine Articles, Article Alley etc.)and link to your blog in the signature

    26. Submit your own ezine to ezine directories such as Ezine Directory or Best Ezines

    27. Include podcasts as part of your blog to distribute interviews, informational pieces etc.

    28. Convert some of your existing articles into podcasts

    29. Create a lense at Squidoo

    30. Distribute and syndicate your articles and podcasts via your RSS feed

    31. Offer free white papers or specialist documents which are branded with your blog and RSS details

    32. Set up teleconferences or teleseminars focusing on your main content areas

    33. Write a review of books on Amazon.com linking back to your blog

    34. Distribute press releases via online news services such as PR Web or Press Box

    35. Add a poll or survey to your blog and post/distribute the results – try SurveyGizmo if you are a WordPress user

    36. Read other blogs and leave your own comments on them

    37. Use trackbacks when you reference other bloggers� posts

    38. Create podcasts of your best posts and syndicate them, as well as submitting them to iTunes and other podcast directories

    39. Sign up to Feedburner and include the Headline Animator in your email signature and the one you use when you post to forums

    40. Make sure you include your blog address on your business cards and company stationery

    41. Customise and improve your RSS Feed using Feedburner – include special offers, sign up opportunities and make sure the feed delivers the full post

    42. Increase RSS feed sign ups by offering a sign up bonus to subscribers – how? Just ask!

    43. Offer readers the chance to sign up via email (Feedburner and Feedblitz offer the service

    44. Put files and follow ups to presentations, conferences and seminars on your blog for attendees to read and download

    45. Offer to become a Guest blogger on other blogs and invite Guest bloggers to write on your own blog

    46. Make sure to submit articles to and participate in Blog Carnivals (more on Blog Carnivals here)

    47. Optimise your blog where possible and particularly the Categories, Title Tags and Meta Tags

    48. Participate regularly in conversations on other blogs

    49. Post answers on LinkedIn Answers and Yahoo Answers

    50. Try LinkBaiting using controversial subjects or opinions � be careful though!

    51. Contact the main bloggers in your market area and introduce yourself or send details of a particular post that might interest them

    and above all,
    52. Write great content that people will want to read, recommend and link to!

    What other methods (or which of these methods) do you find work best for you as you promote your Blog? Please share them with us by leaving a comment!

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    The recent survey by Vizu Answers and subsequently reported on by eMarketer was interesting reading but I believe somewhat distorted if we are looking at blogging from a business point of view.

    One element that I was surprised at was the fact that the report stated that only some 20% of blog traffic comes from Search Engines (blog specific or otherwise). In my own case, across the blogs that I manage, the split is nearer to 50% which either means that either:

    • I am doing something right; or

    • I’m missing out on attracting even more readers of my blog; or,

    • the report is skewed in some way.

    I think that the truth lies somewhere as a mix of all three.

    I get the impression that the way that Vizu ran the survey meant that the questionnaires were primarily on personal blogs in which case the figures make more sense. Recommendations from other bloggers are important when it comes to personal blogs – they are also very important on business blogs but, since business blogs should be very focused in terms of content, they also attract readers through Search Engines as people carry out product research or are looking for specific information sources.

    You do of course have the added element that there is no reason why the unitiated should have any idea that they are on a blog. A blog is a website with special characteristics after all and the people who arrive there via Search Engines are simply looking for the specific information that they contain rather than a site which is a blog or is not a blog or contains a blog or … well, you get the picture.

    So will the Vizu report make me change my focus in terms of marketing my business blog? No. I believe that people will continue to use Search Engines and will continue to focus on finding the information they want rather than worrying if it is on a blog, website, forum etc. However, at the same time I will be looking to encourage readers to refer to my blogs either directly or via social networking and social bookmarking sites.

    Of course, the only way to do that is to try to continue to write posts which are worth recommending.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    Business blog designWhen I consider Business Blog Design, Im not just thinking about the graphics side of blog design, but rather all of the elements that go together to make a successful business blog. For me, the key aspect to the design is that it should enable your business blog to support the business goals that you are looking to achieve with it.

    Use your blog’s “prime real estate”
    To make this happen, you need to ensure that you place the elements which are most important in achieving these goals in the most prominent places. These are areas which are going to be viewed most often by your readers and so, in property terminology, would be your blogs prime real estate. Generally, these will the areas in the header and at the top of the columns and, to a lesser degree, all of the area above the fold (ie. what you can see on screen without scrolling). Use these areas carefully when designing your blog.

    What should be the focus?
    There is no single answer as to what should be there, simply that it should support the business objectives of your blog. So if you are looking to increase subscriptions to a free download, course or newsletter, then make sure that the sign-up box sits prominently at the top of your page. Likewise if you have a special promotion or service to push or perhaps a book that you want to publicise, then make sure that there is a clear link there through to a page where you can talk more about it.

    In addition to this, there are certain other key factors that you really need to be focusing on when it comes to the design of a business blog. To help on this, I’ll be doing a series of posts here which will cover these points in more depth starting next week – check it out, I think it’ll be useful! ;)

    Some key elements to consider
    However, in the meantime, these are the areas of blog design that I believe should carefully be looked at, with a brief overview of why that’s the case:

    • Profile and contact details
      At the end of the day, the goal of 95% of Business Blogs is to encourage people to engage in dialogue with you so make it easy for them to do so. And while you are at it, take the opportunity to let them know a bit more about you oh, and dont forget the information you need to provide by law now!

    • Navigation and usability
      While you want to use the key areas for the elements that you particularly want to promote, you still need to make it easy to find all the information that it contains. As a basic, use categories and archives sensibly and let the blog software do the work for you there are some other tips on that which I’ll expand on in the Blog Coach post.

    • Blogging software generic templates
      The templates supplied with blogging software are the basic building blocks for a blog – in most cases, a common denominator which, by its very nature, needs to be all things to all people. It supplies a good basic format but can never give you the real benefits which will truly differentiate you from others and allow you to promote your key business elements properly. If you use a template, take the best from it but then make it your own.

    • RSS Subscriptions / Signups
      Just like an ezine subscription box on a normal website (in fact, make sure you have one on your blog – they work well together), RSS subscribers are important or even key to developing your business blog. So make it easy to subscribe and give them options such as specific chicklets or subscribing by email – incentives such as a free ebook to RSS subscribers are an added bonus.

    • Onpage advertising
      Its so offputting having to wade through adverts to get at the posts and its the posts that are going to do the real work for you – if you have to include ads then keep them clearly differentiated. Ideally, unless you really need to directly monetise your blog, dont include them. Youll get all the benefits you need from the extra business your blog generates.

    • Make it easy to leave comments

      You want to encourage dialogue, so dont make it difficult for your readers to leave comments – having to log-in or fill in a CAPTCHA (one way to protect against comment spam) just puts up additional barriers. However, make sure that you dont allow rubbish comments either which could damage your blog. Ah, so much to think about!!

    • Search Box

      It’s important to include a Search facility on your site by its very nature, a blog focuses on your most recent posts but is meticulous about storing everything that you write. Its the cumulative information that is the real value both to your business and to your readers. So its important that you give readers every opportunity to access it and the Search function is of course at the centre of that.

    • Categories and Archives
      Keep the names relatively short and where possible have them contain some of your keyword phrases. Like the Search function, these are key ways for readers to explore what you have written in more depth.

    At the end of the day, making sure that you have the basics in place is key after all, you are spending a lot of time on your blog and you want it to be successful for you and fulfil your business objectives. So get the design right and make sure that it helps and not hinders what you want you blog to achieve.

    A blog is wonderfully flexible, despite first appearances, so incorporate different side bars on different pages where necessary and ensure that they help re-inforce your business objectives. After all, a business blog is a tool (albeit a very powerful one) so make the best use of it you can and make sure that the blog design supports the business goals … and not vice versa.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    If you are serious about developing your blog for your business then the likelihood is that you will be keeping a keen eye on tracking visitors to your site, seeing which posts are attracting most interest and which keywords are being used to find you.

    There are a number of tools of the market which can help you in this, many of which are free. Most of these are generic tracking packages are aimed at websites in general, but there are also some excellent ones which are specifically aimed at blogs which should also be considered because of the additional elements they bring.

    Blog Tracking Tools

    There are four services that I have looked at specifically, though there are of course many more which exist in the market. The first two, MyBlogLog and Feedburner, were created with blogs specifically in mind while Statcounter and Google Analytics are general analytics packages, designed for a wider audience.

    MyBlogLog: (recently acquired by Yahoo) is much more than just a tracking package. You are given a dashboard overview of where readers came from, what they’ve viewed and what they clicked on, as well additional more comprehensive details in the detailed area, but I believe that the real value comes from the community element it also offers.

    With MyBlogLog, you get the chance to make contact with the people who read your blog, make contact and link up with others as well as join communities on individual blogs or sites (join the Better Business Blogging community here). You can see which members last visited your blog in your profile area on MyBlogLog and, through an easily installed widget, also display it on your blog encouraging others to join.

    Overall, a nice set up combining relationship options and tracking combined, though I notice that the statistics reported are generally lower than through other packages.

    Feedburner: Feedburner is perhaps best known for its RSS tracking and manipulation but during 2006 they also bought blog tracking company BlogBeat. This has now been integrated as a blog analytics element into their free StandardStats package which sits alongside their more familiar RSS feed services.

    Following the familiar Feedburner look and feel, you get page and visitor tracking, entry and exit pages together with browser information and location delivered in a “tag cloud” format. There are also a couple of nice touches linked to the RSS feeds, insofaras you can identify sites where your content has been resyndicated including other blogs and directories and you can track downloads of podcasts etc.

    Lots more integration to come by all accounts so definitely one to keep an eye on in terms of new developments.

    Statcounter: Real time stats and a whole host of information about who’s doing what and where on your site. A comprehensive and very popular stats package which gives a whole host of information across every aspect that you might need, perhaps with the exception of detailed information on exit links clicked on. Other than that you have everything that you might need from Search Engine referencers, keywords used, visitor tracking, popular pages etc.

    The free service offers all the functionality but retains only 100 page views to drill down into for detailed information – however, upgrading is relatively inexpensive if required. The interface is functional without being anything to write home about but the fact that it is real time statistics from the word “go” is a real plus if you need to know what is happening on your blog immediately.

    Google Analytics: After a few initial teething troubles of its own making (I guess that’s what happens when you give away something like this for free), Google Analytics has settled down to be probably the most comprehensive free tracking package out in the market.

    In some ways in fact, it’s possibly overkill for what most blogs require but it is certainly very complete in what it tracks, and it presents the information in graphic format as well as raw data. The click paths are particularly nice but there is going to be a lot of the functionality which will probably not be used.

    Which to go for

    All contain more than enough basic information in their tracking to satisfy most users, so it is really their individual specialist additions that make the difference where they play to their own strengths.

    There is of course nothing stopping you using more than one package and this is the road I would probably recommend. If you use a comprehensive overall analytics package such as Statcounter or Google Analytics, then these will certainly cover all your indepth tracking requirements. But the community elements at MyBlogLog are an excellent addition and Feedburner’s RSS expertise offers tracking through your feeds that the others can’t provide, so incorporate these as well and get the best of all worlds!

    One word of warning – it can get addictive! So try not to keep popping back to your stats every 5 minutes to see who’s visited, the information will still be there later.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    As we now approach the end of 2006 and we also near the first anniversary of Better Business Blogging, I thought that it would be appropriate to look back and highlight some of the most popular posts from this year.

    Thanks to you, the readers of this blog, I’ve been able to look back and have listed below the 10 posts that you have chosen because they have attracted the most attention and comments over the course of the year.

    And so, without further ado, and in the traditional reverse order …

    10. Blogs and Newsletters: complementary marketing tools

    9. Spotlight on UK Business Blogs (Now moved to their new home on The Blog Coach)

    8. The Green Cross Code of Blogging

    7. Why Search Engines love Blogs

    6. Promoting and Marketing your Business Blog (Intro)

    5. Linking out isnt negative, its essential!

    4. Starting a Business Blog – BBB Quick Guides

    3. The 5 R’s of Better Business Blogging (A 5 post series starting with this post)

    2. Why Small Businesses should have a Business Blog

    ... and finally, the most popular is …

    1. Business Blog: separate domain or on your website

    I hope that you have found it useful to revisit some of these – it has certainly proved very useful to me as it has given me a clear indication of the areas where I should be focusing most attention.

    I look forward to doing so and sharing much more with you in the year ahead.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    Permalinks are key to blogs – they let us find the posts that we are looking for and allow us to link to them. Every post and page has a permalink which is created automatically for it but we do have the option of improving them to really get them working for us.

    Since they are created automatically, many of us just forget about them and get on with writing our posts and interacting with our readers. However, with a little bit of effort when we set up our blog and we can make the permalinks much more useful for our readers and attractive for Search Engines.

    So what is a Permalink?
    A Permalink is simply the individual address of a page on your blog which is otherwise known as its URL. Theres nothing mysterious about it. Every page on every website has an address and its what both your readers and Search Engines use to identify it. The main permalinks that people refer to on blogs are those for the individual posts but also each category and each monthly archive has its own unique one too.

    Why are permalinks important?
    Most blogging systems have a basic and rather uninspiring permalink structure as their standard set-up which simply includes the number they have allocated to the post or category. The format is something like:

    www.betterbusinessblogging.com/?p=14

    Not very helpful to your readers and absolutely no help to Search Engines.

    However, by making a couple of small changes and including the name of the post in the permalink, you can make it much more useful. Immediately people will have a better idea of what it contains and, if you have keywords in your post title, then you are giving Search Engines a real boost as well.

    What are the options are available?
    If you are using a system like WordPress, then the options are endless. Apart from the standard or default setting above, there is also two preset possibilities using the Date and name version’

    www.betterbusinessblogging.com/2006/12/17/name-of -post/

    and the numeric version

    www.betterbusinessblogging.com/archives/14/

    By far the most useful, however, is the custom version which gives you almost total flexibility with the elements that can include in the permalink – WordPress allows you to include the year, month, category, post name, author and a number of other options. These options can be changed from the Administration area by going to Options > Permalinks and then selecting the format that you require or creating your custom format.

    What is the best permalink format?
    While I dont think you can say that there is a single best format, my personal preference is to use a combination of the category and the name of the post in the permalink such as

    www.betterbusinessblogging.com/category-name/name-of post/

    Why that combination? Personally, I like to make the best possible use of all elements of SEO and so prefer to include the category that the post belongs to rather than the date – the categories, of course, should also be descriptive and include relevant keywords.

    Including the name of the post is essential in my opinion, whatever other elements you decide to include. Not only does it provide additional information about the post, it will hopefully have at least one keyword for the search engines. Does this create more work for you in the future? Not at all. Once you have chosen the structure, WordPress still creates the permalink automatically for you by using your post’s title and inserting hyphens in between the words instead of spaces.

    Importantly, you can also modify the exact form of the words that appear as the ‘post name’ element in the permalink by changing the post slug. You can find this as one of the boxes on the right hand side of the page when you write or manage your posts.

    Word of Warning
    At the start of this post, I mentioned that a permalink is the address of your page. When a Search Engine indexes a page or a blogger links to a post, they do so using the page’s permalink thats how people can then find your post. If you decide to change your permalink format after you have been posting for a while, then you run the risk of breaking these links so do be careful.

    If you change from the default ?p=14 to a friendly, custom, permalink then you will be ok – the database should still recognise the original default setting as well as the new friendly one. However, changing from one custom permalink to another will need additional work to maintain your inbound links.

    Conclusion
    Getting the best out of your permalinks may seem a small element but it is another important building block in creating a blog which has all the elements in place to push your business forward. Easy to recognise addresses online are beneficial for your readers and Search Engines so take a moment or two to create the best one for you when you set up your business blog.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    This post is the 5th part of the series which looks at the 5 key elements of creating a successful Business Blog. These elements are:

    ReadReplyReturnRecommendRSS

    Let’s turn our attention to the fifth and final ‘R, which is:

    Communication and dissemination of information is key to achieving a successful blog and the RSS functionality is the way to achieve that. So as the 5th R, Im including is RSS.

    When someone subscribes to your RSS Feed, it means that they have shown a commitment to continuing the interaction they are interested in receiving more information from you and you are now able to provide them with immediate and unobtrusive updates from your blog.

    RSS is definitely “Opt-in”
    Being completely “opt-in”, it is also a totally safe method for readers to receive information, after all it is anonymous and they can opt out whenever they wish. This may sound unappealing from a writer’s perspective but all this in fact means is that the onus is on us to create content that people are going to want to read. RSS is the perfect way to deliver it safely.

    Make the RSS Feeds easy to find
    You want to make sure that the RSS feeds are prominent on your blog to make it as easy as possible for visitors to find. The generic orange logo is now becoming more and more commonplace although even more sites still retain the orange box with RSS or XML in it. You can also add a series of small logos which are set up with the names of the main RSS Readers to help make the process easier and more visible – this is great as it can help people feel more comfortable about subscribing.

    Offer RSS by email too
    To cover all options, you should also make use of the 3rd party services such as Feedblitzwhich give people the ability to subscribe to the RSS feed by email not quite the way that RSS was intended to be delivered but the main point is delivering the content it contains to those who want to receive it. In any case, the take up of RSS, which has been steady but still relatively slow, is likely to increase dramatically as it is incorporated directly into the main browsers this year.

    Explain RSS and how great it is to use
    To help the take up levels, create a page which explains what RSS is and what RSS Readers are available this may not seem necessary, but if it helps to break down the barriers to its use then it is worthwhile and both you and your readers will benefit from this additional effort because they will receive your content as and when you post it.

    Customise your RSS Feed
    You should look to customise your feed where possible to include branding elements such as your logo and have the feed appear as you would like it to. Differentiate yourself in your feed. However, if you are not proficient in XML, then don’t worry. If you use the tools available from a company such as Feedburner then you can easily do this at the click of a button – you may also find my post Feedburner: using your RSS feed more effectively useful in this context.

    Wider syndication
    Although RSS Feeds are generally read in individual’s browsers, the syndication of this information doesn’t need to stop there. RSS Feeds can also be taken and displayed on websites elsewhere using software which turns the feed into text which is visible in a browser – this allows you to syndicate and spread the information from your Blog even more widely.

    Target more with multiple RSS Feeds
    As your blog develops, you should consider creating a separate RSS Feed for individual topics, probably divided according to the categories you have set up. This will allow your readers even greater choice in terms of the information they receive from you and in terms of giving your readers what they want, more choice is going to be better.

    But whether you work from a single RSS feed or develop multiple feeds, it is important that you make RSS a central part of your blog promotion and reader retention program. It is something which underpins the other elements and allows the Business Blog to reach its full potential by making the information we produce as widely available as possible.

    Key elements: explain benefits of RSS, make RSS easy to subscribe to, customise your RSS feed, push the use of RSS, use multiple RSS Feeds where appropriate, syndication of information

    So remember, we are looking to cover these 5 elements:

    ReadReplyReturnRecommendRSS

    If we can achieve each of these 5Rs successfully in our Business Blogging, then we are well on the way to creating a Business Blog which will achieve the goals that we set for it, whether they are focused on creating a network, improving our reputation or positioning, developing a solid base of subscribers, increasing our Search Engine Rankings or simply generating new business.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    This post is the 4th part of the series which looks at the 5 key elements of creating a successful Business Blog. These elements are:

    ReadReplyReturn – Recommend – RSS

    Let’s turn our attention to the fourth ‘R, which is:

    This could also have been R for Refer, but I prefer the concept of recommending which has a more positive connotation and when someone recommends your Blog, that is a very positive thing!

    Online “Word of Mouth” recommendations
    Recommending can be done in many ways including simply telling people about the blog – and the simplest way is so often the best and most effective! Online, this type of ‘word of mouth’ is achieved through reference and linking the lifeblood of the blogosphere. The main difference, of course, is that rather than just telling one person, they are recommending your post to all the people who read their blog.

    References from posts
    Writing posts which reference another blog is the best way to recommend them in doing so, you are likely to refer directly to the original article and then develop the points it raises or give your own thoughts on them. A post can also be referred to in an article or indeed in a comment. In each case, the author is giving a clear indication that the content is valuable and acts as a personal recommendation that their readers should visit the blog to read the full post.

    Follow up with those who recommend you
    When you are referenced and thereby recommended from another blog, the likelihood is that the blogger will also use a trackback, and so you will be aware of the link that has been made. If possible, you should consider commenting on their new post and also thanking them for the reference. What does this achieve? It allows you to contribute additional information, to develop the conversation further and also to progress the relationship.

    Blogroll or Recommended List
    Perhaps the simplest way to be recommended in a Blog, and yet the one which will take the most time, is to be added to its Blogroll – the Blogroll is the term used to indicate Recommended Blogs and is a series of links which will be found on most serious blogs. On some these lists can seem never ending, however, this is only likely to happen once you have established a strong relationship with the owner of that blog.

    Contacting Bloggers
    You can always actively seek out other Bloggers to refer to one of your posts. This is not quite as unusual as it may seem, though it is important to go about it in the right way. You can contact bloggers who write in similar areas to yourself with details of one of your posts that they may find interesting if you have researched properly and your post is of good quality, there will be some who reference the post on their blog and hence link back to you. Not exactly active recommendation but certainly a way to spread the word and allow those who did not know you previously the opportunity to recommend you to their readers. It is only advisable to do this occasionally and on posts which really warrant it.

    Keep doing the right things well
    However, except for these unusual circumstances, in general how do we get someone to recommend us? Well, by continuing to do the other elements correctly in ensuring that we get people returning regularly to our Blog, making sure the content they read there is of consistently high quality and of relevance to them, which in turn will make sure that they feel confident in recommending it.

    These are PERSONAL recommendations
    At the end of the day, it is not something that you can force someone into. Nor should you want to. By linking to you, they are effectively giving you a personal recommendation to their own readers which reflects on themselves. In essence, when you recommend a blog to someone it is like inviting them to join a network or a community, just as if you are sharing something important with them.

    And remember that these types of recommendations come from the most important source: from your readers – from people and not from computer generated links.

    Key Elements: write posts which warrant recommendations, follow up trackbacks, continue quality content, develop relationships into communities, treat personal recommendations with gratitude

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    This post is the 3rd part of the series which looks at the 5 key elements of creating a successful Business Blog. These elements are:

    ReadReply – Return – RecommendRSS>

    Let’s turn our attention to the third of the 5 Rs, which is:

    If people are interested in what you are writing about and find value in it then the likelihood is that they will return to read more. By maintaining the quality of your posts and demonstrating your expertise on a consistent basis, you will develop not only a loyal readership but you will also be developing a level of trust and a bond between yourself and those reading your Blog.

    Targeted, quality content
    In planning a Business Blog, one of the key elements to decide is who is the intended audience of the blog. If we have managed to maintain this focus with posts whose content is directly relevant to our target group and of high quality, then we are on the way to exceeding their expectations and encouraging regular readers. They will not come back just to read excerpts from your product portfolio which are nothing more than classified ads. They will, however, return to hear more of the same original, interesting and information based opinion that drew them in the first place.

    An inviting “Look & Feel”
    You should also make your Blog look inviting you need to make a good first impression to turn visitors into regular readers so let your graphics and the format of your Blog help you. Two things that you definitely want to avoid:

    • using a default template which then puts you in the same category as thousands of others. You need to differentiate yourself and so let the look and feel of your Blog help to display the quality of its content;

    • and, secondly, just having long pages of text. Break up the text perhaps using images or graphs, include bulleted lists where appropriate and use other formatting to keep the look interesting.

    Make it easy to return
    As you have persuaded them to return, make it easy for them to do so. RSS [the 5th R] is the ideal way to achieve this for blogs which we will examine later, either directly or even via email. But dont forget about the inclusion of a newsletter on your Blog if that is appropriate which can also direct readers back to you RSS and newsletters can work well hand in hand. If nothing else, at least suggest that they put your Blog in their Favourites on their browser, and then show them how to do that.

    Entice them with a series
    You can also encourage them back by the way you structure what you are writing. For example, if you write a series of posts on a single subject which attracts attention, then you are encouraging your readers back again to read the rest of the articles in the series. In the same way, you can pre-announce certain topics ahead of posting them so that people are eager to return to check for them.

    Be THE place for information
    Develop your Blog as THE place to go to for information on your niche area. In addition to demonstrating your own ideas and thoughts, make sure you reference and provide links to other relevant articles and also invite in other people to write a post or a short series. These guest bloggers will give an additional dimension to your Blog, assuming the subject matter remains focused, and will add kudos to what you are doing. Readers will return because you will be providing all the information they require on your chosen subject area – it may be available elsewhere on the web, but they KNOW they can find it on your Blog so that’s where they go.

    Easy Navigation especially to Key posts
    Once they have returned to your Blog, make sure that it is easy to navigate and make sure that all of the information can easily be found and the posts are categorised sensibly. It is also a good idea to highlight your key articles so that they can easily be found just create a page with links to all your main articles and then create a special link to it in your sidebar.

    Finally, remember that getting your current readers to return is easier than attracting new readers, just as it has been proven time and time again in business that it costs more to find a new customer than to keep the ones that you have. So make as much effort to get current readers to return as you do attracting new ones.

    Key elements: maintain focus on your readers, make posts easy to find, make your Blog look appealing, develop trust and a bond, become THE information source in your niche, make it easy to return

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    5. 5 ‘R’s of Business Blogging – a Summary

    This post is the 2nd part of the series which looks at the 5 key elements of creating a successful Business Blog. These elements are:

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    Let’s turn our attention to the second of the 5 Rs, which is:

    In general, most of us like to be given the chance to express our views and opinions on subjects we are interested in we also like to have them listened to. This is excellent news because it is exactly what we want to happen on our Business Blog we need people to voice their opinions, thoughts, ideas and concerns because of the interaction they bring.

    Listen and Reply
    When these opinions are directed at your business, then you need to be able to both listen to them and respond to them. A key function of a Blog is that it gives us exactly this ability, with readers able to express their opinions on the posts through the Comments feature. Your Business Blog therefore serves the dual purpose of allowing readers to voice their opinions and at the same time providing you with the facility to reply to them, perhaps respond to their concerns and, in the process, start a dialogue.

    Get to love comments
    Therefore, unless there are very specific reasons why not, you should always allow people to comment on your blog and also make sure that you have the ability to deal with them. Whether the comments you receive contain information, praise or criticism, you need to deal with them openly and correctly. You can achieve a huge amount by doing this, gaining respect in the process, especially when responding to negative comments. You will also encourage additional comments by the way that you have dealt with previous ones.

    Create the desire to reply
    To get people to reply and voice their opinion, we need to have interested the reader enough for them to want to post a comment and ideally have either challenged or inspired them as well. While a controversial post can attract a higher number of responses, it may not be wise to take this route unless it fits with your overall plan for your blog. What is more appropriate is creating subject matter which elicits interest and positive reaction rather than controversy.

    Aim for group interaction
    As we get multiple replies, the communication moves past a simple single interaction and starts to develop more of a community or network feel, with your blog at the very heart of it. The interaction may start as a one-to-one between you and one other but, as the community expands, it will develop into one to many and then many to many conversations. All of this will start to create relationships at a number of levels.

    Actively encourage comments
    As you can see, getting responses is vital to taking a Blog to the next stage so dont sit back and wait for comments help to initiate them, either on your own blog or those of others. Dont be afraid to openly and candidly ask for comments you should feel comfortable to encourage or challenge people to reply, or ask them for information. Start that conversation!

    Do as you would be done
    You will also tend to encourage comments on your own posts by commenting on other peoples. As you leave constructive comments on other blogs which add to their posts, you will encourage a dialogue which will no doubt also follow you back to your own blog. Once you show that you are prepared to take the time and effort on others blogs, they will reciprocate on yours.

    Finally, remember that although the comments feature will be the main way for people to reply to you, there is also your profile which should contain your contact details. People may be more comfortable using this method, so make sure that it is easily accessible and contains all of the relevant information.

    Key elements: make your posts worthy of replies, allow readers to comment, encourage and ask for replies, respond to the comments, post relevant comments on other blogs, help to develop a network

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    5. 5 ‘R’s of Business Blogging – a Summary

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