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    Better Business Blogging - Quick Bloggers GuideOne of the key characteristics of a blog is the ability for people to comment on what you have posted there are some people who will even argue that it is not really a blog without them! Having this capability gives the blog its interactive element, opens up the opportunities for communications and can help forge the start of a real business connections.

    Hopefully, when looking at how to approach the question of comments, you won’t be deciding whether to allow them or not, but rather how to elicit comments and how to handle the ones you receive. As you are doing so, here are some points that you might want to bear in mind:

    a) How to allow comments
    Just because you open up your blog to comments doesnt mean that have to let anything and everything appear on your blog. You have control over comments which appear and, on most blog platforms, there are a range of options open to you these can range from readers having to be approved and logged in before they can comment at one end of the scale, through to an open policy of no moderation at the other. For most, the right approach lies somewhere in the middle and depends on you, your companys requirements and the aims of your blog. As a good default position, I recommend starting with a level of moderation (ie. you approve comments before they appear) and then develop it from there.

    b) Make sure you respond
    When people have taken the trouble to leave a comment on your blog then make sure you respond where appropriate – remember, in most cases, you are looking to engage with the people who leave comments, so if they respond and ask a question then make sure that you reply to it. This gives you the opportunity to develop the conversation and work towards establishing and then building on a connection with your readers.

    c) Consider a Comments Policy
    Not just appropriate for corporates, any business blog whether its run by an individual or a company can benefit from openly stating what their policy on comments is. If you moderate them, then let people know that there comments wont appear immediately – at the same time, if you are clear about what is acceptable on your business blog and therefore what is not, you can cut down the comments which contravene them.

    d) Encourage comments
    Dont sit back and just rely on the comments simply appearing actively encourage them! This could be in the way you write your posts or by posing open questions as a closing line in your blog inviting opinions from your readers or simply by asking for them. And if your template just says No comments when a posts is still waiting for its first reply, then why not change it to something like Come on – be the first to comment! You never know!

    e) “Reward” comments
    In most blog software, the comments just appear on the individual posts, so why not highlight the people who are commenting and encourage other readers to join them by displaying a Latest Comments list in the sidebar of your main pages which will give both them and you additional visibility. For WordPress users, the Get Recent Comments plugin makes this easy to do.

    f) Don’t simply block negative comments
    Dont simply delete critical comments which come in. At least on your blog you have the chance to respond to them, while elsewhere they will go unchallenged and unanswered. You will find that by allowing and responding to them, you are more likely to gain greater respect by handling objections with grace and tact in the eyes of other readers of your blog. Also, if you are able to answer their points and solve the issue they have, then you have the opportunity not only to keep them as a customer but also perhaps turn them into an supporter for your company again.

    g) Avoiding spam comments
    Youll find that you do attract spam comments but there are ways to avoid them appearing as well as taking up your valuable time. You could use CAPTCHA methods or registration but, for me, the method that has least impact on your readers will be to use specialist software. In my opinion, the leader in this respect is Akismet which identifies the comments that it believes are spam and impounds them – free of charge, except for commercial use and very good.

    h) Help people follow the conversation
    Using a plugin such as Subscribe to Comments, you can allow your readers to sign up for an email notification of when any further comments have been left on the post. It’s a good way to help keep the conversation bubbling away and of course encouraging people to participate more. You could also encourage them to use comment tracking services such as CoComment, Co.mments and Commentful.

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    Better Business Blogging - Quick Bloggers GuideWriting a business blog can be time consuming but it is also an excellent and successful way to develop your business and to connect with your customers as well.

    Here are some suggestions of things that you might consider keeping in mind as you get into writing your posts and start to develop your blog.

    a) Publish on a regular basis
    You should aim to publish posts on a regular basis – this doesnt mean that you need to post every day, although it’s better to post more frequently than not. Aim to post two to three times a week and then keep to that regular rhythm. If you leave it a long time between posts then people will tend to wander in and out rather than become dedicated followers, but if you are going to be away or know you won’t be able to post for a while then simply let your readers know in a post! However, one last reminder dont post for the sake of it. Better not to post than sacrifice quality!

    b) Stay on planned topics
    Try to avoid mixing lots of different subject areas in your blog: as a business blog you want to keep the content as targeted as possible to your niche market area which will help you to get more exposure and build your reputation in that area. Focusing on your main topics is likely to bring you much more success than if you start to stray onto a number of different areas. If you decide that you do want to cover them and the area warrants it, then you might consider setting up a new separate (focused) blog.

    c) Always keep your readers in mind
    Whether you post twice a day or twice a month, always bear in mind who is going to be reading your posts. Then make sure that you write about things that will be of use to them, inform them, amuse them, inspire them, encourage them or any mixture of the above. As Seth Godin commented, “The mistake most blogs and books make: they are about the writer, not the reader” – try to avoid falling into this trap.

    d) Make your titles attractive (in all senses)
    When you write your posts, spend time on the titles that you give them. You need to use them to attract your readers’ attention (in RSS feeds or Search Engine Results) but ideally they should also include your post’s main keyword so that it helps on the Search Engine front as well. [No-one said it was easy! ;)] The title will often form part of the posts permalink as well as the Title Tag which makes it doubly important to get the keywords in there if possible.

    e) Reference other sites and any sources
    If you write a post which references other articles then you should ensure that you state where the reference comes from and add a link back to that article where possible. Its akin to good manners in blogging, adds credibility to your own work and benefits your readers. If the article is on a blog then add a trackback this creates a link back to your post from the original, as well as informing the author that you are developing the themes of their post.

    f) Spelling and Grammar
    While Blogs may be slightly less formal in terms of writing style, you should still try to avoid spelling and grammar errors in your posts, partly because it displays professionalism and partly because mistakes can distract people from the content they are reading.

    g) Check back to your planning document
    From time to time, check back to your original planning document where you outlined the aims of your blog and what you wanted to achieve with it. It’s always good to make sure that you are still maintaining those aims and that you are both measuring and achieving the results you were working towards. If you are not, then take a good hard look at your blog … or at your plan.

    h) Reference your Foundation articles
    When you started your business blog, hopefully you created a number of Foundation articles which put down a solid base for your blog in the key subject areas that you would be dealing with. It’s good, as you write, to reference back to them in your posts on a regular basis to encourage new readers to your blog to review them. Make sure that you have links back to these key articles elsewhere on your blog as well.

    i) Encourage comments and follow up
    Since the first step in establishing a conversation with your readers is going to be through the comments that they leave, encourage them to do so. Try leaving an open ended question at the and of your posts or simply ask them to comment – nothing ventured, nothing gained! Remember when they do leave comments, make sure that you respond to them wherever possible – a conversation is two way after all!

    What other suggestions would you give on ‘Writing your Blog’?

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    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!

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    Better Business Blogging - Quick Bloggers Guide

    As you start to post you want to set out your stall early on, both for yourself and also for your readers. You can do this by giving a clear indication of what subject areas you are going to be covering, how often you are going to be posting and what your approach is going to be.

    Getting the first posts in place is always a telling time and you will probably spend longer on these than on any of the others. Dont worry though, the more you write, the easier it will become, and you will find that you soon settle into a rhythm and develop your own approach to the Blog.

    Some elements that you should remember and which will help you in this are:

    a) Plan out your first posts
    As you start, map out what you want to cover during the first few days and weeks, and note down the topics that you feel comfortable with. This will provide you with a framework to work with and will allow you to concentrate on your writing.

    b) Decide how often you want to / can post
    There is no set timescale as to how often you should post though, in general, the more frequently you can post the better. The one caveat is that you need to maintain the quality of your posts, because this is what you will be primarily judged on. You may find this post on How often should I blog? useful.

    c) Try to define your style
    One of the reasons that blogs work so well is the personal style you add to it which differentiates them from the sanitised marketing speak of some corporate websites. While you can develop your own style and tone as you go along, try to settle on one you are comfortable with early on.

    d) Write some “Foundation” Posts
    In the first month, try to write and include 3-4 key “Foundation” articles, ones that sum up some of the areas and concepts that you will be focusing on in your blog as a whole. These could be simply instructive in nature or could contain a number of different key concepts that you will expand on in later posts over time.

    e) Plan a Series
    Writing a series of posts on a subject which is important to your overall subject area is a good method of getting you going and establishing a relevant area of focus in your Business blog. It will allow you to write on a topic you are particularly comfortable with which will help give you some momentum and, as they will be themed around a single topic, they will also be nicely attractive to Search Engines.

    f) Keep abreast of what is happening in your chosen area
    If you are going to be a primary source of information for your readers in your industry or niche then you will need to keep up to date with developments in it and be prepared to give your opinion on them. In any case, this will not only help you to add relevant content to your site but will also add value to your readers and build their trust and confidence in you and what you have to say.

    g) Avoid trying to directly sell or directly market
    As a word of warning, avoid the temptation to use your Blog to sell directly. A blog is not a tool for direct selling or direct advertising and trying to use it as such is likely to be counter productive. Your readers will come to your Blog because they are interested in what you are writing about and want to find out more about the subject this will allow you start to engage with them.

    h) Make sure you have key elements in place
    There are some key structural elements in your blog that you want to make sure you have such as a profile to help your readers easily identify whose blog they are reading and a way to contact you, and a prominent positioning of your RSS feed to allow them to subscribe. (Check out some mistakes in blog design.)

    If you can concentrate on making sure that these elements are in place over the first few weeks of writing your blog, then you will have an excellent foundation on which to build.

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    5. Who should write my Business Blog?

    Better Business Blogging - Quick Bloggers Guide

    Whether you are a large corporate organisation or an independent consultant or small business, as you start a Business Blog, there are a number of elements that you need to consider in order to ensure that you give it every opportunity to be a success.

    While the exact requirements will differ according to the goals and expectations, you should be able to answer the following questions from the start:

    a) What do you want to do with your Business Blog?
    Make sure that you have a clear vision of what you want to do with your Business Blog it should have focus and you need to ensure that it does not become a jack of all trades and master of none – the more focused it is, the more successful it is likely to be.

    b) Who is your target audience for your Business Blog?

    Avoid trying to make it be all things to all people it isnt possible. Once again focus is important, so decide on your target audience and write the blog for them with content they are looking for and a style that they will warm to. If you have lots of different audiences that you wish to appeal to then you might like to consider setting up separate blogs to cater for each area.

    c) What results are you looking to achieve?
    What goals do you have for your Business Blog and just as importantly, how are you going to measure them? There is going to be time and effort involved and you need to show results at the end of it – therefore, from the start, you should know what results you are looking for. So decide on the criteria you want to work with and how you wish to measure them.

    d) How will it integrate with your other marketing activities?
    Blogging is an excellent marketing tool, as well as having being strong in other areas. However, it is not a magic wand to cure all marketing ills, so it is necessary to decide how to best use it in conjunction with your other marketing, business development and customer service activities. (Check Marketing and Promoting your Business Blog.

    e) What Blogging software to choose?
    There are a number of options available each with different benefits by deciding what you wish to do with it, what it will be integrated with (if anything) and what degree or control or customisation you require, you will be able to focus in on which would be best for your needs. The best advice is to choose one which will grow and develop with you as well as fitting with your current business and technical requirements. Free hosted software (such as Blogger) will seldom do this or give you sufficient control, so look at WordPress (full version) or Typepad as good starter points.

    f) What to call your Business Blog?
    Rule of Thumb: choose something which you are still going to feel comfortable with in a year’s time. Either let it reflect your company and branding, or make sure it contains your keywords … or preferably both. You might like to check some additional ideas on choosing a Business Blog name here.

    g) Host it on your website or on a different domain
    As a general rule, if it sits comfortably alongside your website and complements the information on it, then integrate it into your website. If, on the other hand, you are looking to present an objective view on your industry or want a separate identity for branding purposes then choose a separate domain name.

    h) What domain name or subdirectory name to use?
    Try to use something descriptive – if you are using a separate domain, then choose a domain name which either reflects the branding you wish to achieve or contains your main keyword (or preferably both!). If it is a subdirectory then describe the purpose it will be serving such as Information Centre for example.

    i) Look and Feel of the Blog
    If you are using it as part of your website, then integrate the look and feel with that. There’s no need for your visitors to really know that they are on a blog – remember it’s the benefits that blogs offer that is important, not the technology. If it is on a separate domain, then design your Business Blog with the image you want to portray but don’t use the default template = zero differentiation!

    With all of these elements in place then you are starting off on the right track and should have the foundations in place to create a successful Business Blog. By doing so, you will find that it will save you a lot of time and inconvenience in the future and will make the blog that much more effective in what you are looking to achieve.

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    Better Business Blogging - Quick Bloggers Guide
    Running in conjunction with the series of specifically focused Bloggers Guides which are being developed, the Better Business Blogging Quick Guides will deliver checklists for the main stages in the Business Blogging process.

    These will range from setting up your blog, through marketing & promoting your blog successfully, and also deal with the wyas in which you can best achieve your marketing calls to action.

    If you have areas that you would like to have covered here , then let me know and I will look to include it as soon as possible.

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