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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...
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    Small Business Blogging: here are all the key posts


    While there’s always been lots of debate as to what criteria Search Engines use to rank web pages in their search results, what there is little debate about is that appearing high up on the Search Engines Results page has become of key importance to most businesses. Why? Simply because currently, Search Engines are the preferred research tools in today’s marketplace.

    As a result, Search Engine Optimisation (aka SEO) has developed into a thriving (if often maligned) industry as organisations, both large and small, strive to gain higher positions and greater visibility in the Search Engine results pages (SERPs).

    The other thing that has become increasingly apparent is that blogs (and business blogs in particular) have a number of attributes which help them rank highly in the Search Engines, making them an important or even, dare I say, a key part of Search Engine Marketing. To understand why, first let’s have a quick reminder of how Search Engines work.

    Search Engines: a few basics

    The main Search Engines – I’m thinking here primarily of Google, Yahoo and Live – collect information from websites using electronic programs called “robots” or “spiders”. They find new sites and content generally by following links and then reading and indexing the code which creates the individual pages (and hence the text they contain). This is all stored on their servers so that when a search is submitted, the Search Engine sifts through all the relevant pages in its index and then ranks them in terms of relevancy using a mathematical algorithm. The result of all this is what we see on the Search Engine results page.

    They determine this relevancy using over 100 different criteria, if we are to believe the experts in this field, though some criteria are obviously considered more “valuable” than others. Those considered particularly important include the text itself, the inbound and internal links, focus and relevancy of the information and some key onpage elements such as the Title tag. It is also worth reminding ourselves that search engines rank individual pages rather than whole websites when they create their results pages.

    So how can we apply this to blogs?

    Armed with an overview of what Search Engines are looking for to rank pages highly, it’s clear that blogs do in fact fulfil a number of these criteria perfectly, which goes a long way to explain why they rank so well. Specifically:

    • Text: Business Blogs tend to be focused in their content and that is ideal for what Search Engines look for when they are searching for pages which fit with specific search criteria;

    • External Inbound Links: the overriding philosophy in the blogosphere is to reference other blogs by linking to relevant sources; so blogs offering good (and often specific) content are likely to attract a greater number of links;

    • Internal Links: blogs are automatically structured in such a way that the internal linking is excellent with highly relevant anchor text (the words that actually form the link) which is an extra bonus;

    • Up to date information: the most successful blogs are generally ones which are regularly updated and hence offer a growing resource of recent and relevant content;

    • Onpage elements: good blogging software has excellent flexibility which gives you the opportunity to have specific onpage elements (such as the Title Tag) for each individual page.

    Blog Search Engines, Pinging and Instant Indexing

    Although blogs appear in the main Search Engines like any other online site, they also have their own set of Search Engines which focus primarily on blogs. This is important because the way that these Blog Search Engines find new content is different to the main Search Engines.

    If blogs are set up correctly, they will automatically “ping” these search engines – this is the digital equivalent to a ‘tap on the shoulder’ telling them that there is new content for them to index. This happens instantly and, with one of these Blog Search Engines belonging to Google, this means that Google’s main index can pick up your post almost immediately – my best is 6 minutes.

    Of course, if the blog is part of your main website then there is also the greater chance of the rest of your site being indexed more frequently too, let alone all the pages benefiting from the value of the inbound links coming into the blog, linking to your new articles! Ah, is there no end to the benefits!! ;)

    Conclusion: keep developing your Business Blog

    If, like me, you already use a blog for your business, then these Search Engine benefits will not be anything new – no doubt you will have already have seen the sort of great results that you can achieve. If you haven’t, then we really need to talk! :) However, they are particularly impressive when you consider that you are probably writing your blog with your readers uppermost in your mind and these benefits are merely a welcome (albeit very beneficial) side effect.

    Business blogs however are not a magic solution and nor should they be used in isolation – they are at their best when used in conjunction with other marketing activities, both online and offline. Equally, they are not trying to manipulate Search Engines – an accusation sometimes levelled at SEO companies. Simply put, well written and focused blogs give Search Engines exactly what they want to provide for their users – good, specific and up to date information on the subject matter that they are searching for.

    And providing that is of course where both the challenge and the benefits lie!

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    Blog sidebars: adaptable in any situationAs we put together new posts for our business blog, our main focus, time and effort is centred on what appears in the middle of the screen, the place where we write and display the content for our readers. It’s the key area and it’s right that the effort we put in reflects this.

    Use your sidebars to your advantage

    Nevertheless, there is more to a successful business blog than just the writing. We have specific goals for it and we need to both maintain and direct our readers’ interest to what those business goals are. The blog posts will do a lot of this work but there is also a lot that can be achieved by careful use of both the sidebars and the header of a blog. Some of this will be to highlight our own services/products, others will help readers find other posts or pages in the blog and others will highlight certain aspects that we want to encourage them to look at.

    They play key roles in achieving our blog’s aims and the sidebars are “prime real estate” on the blog which we need to use effectively. We may find that a single sidebar works best for us, however, wider screen sizes that are now the norm give us the opportunity to include two sidebars without compromising the area displaying our main content. More area to work with! However, what we put in them and the order they appear are important considerations which combine good blog design and achieving our business goals.

    Many options – here are just some!

    There are lots of different options that could be used (and space is after all limited) but here are some ideas which you might like to consider as you develop your blog:
    • Contact Details: could be on a separate page linked to from the sidebar but should be prominent. It’s no good someone liking your work and then not being able to contact you!

    • Author Profile: blogs are personal so it’s important to let your readers gain an insight of the blogger whose posts and articles they are reading. Give them an overview of who you are and what you do, then let your writing fill in the gaps;

    • Purpose of blog: it’s often a good idea to give readers a snapshot of why you are writing the blog and what you want to achieve with it – it can help to give context to the posts and encourage them to read further and pass it on;

    • Promotion of future events: if you are running seminars, courses or presentations, then this would be a great place to make your readers aware of them and promote them to them;

    • Promotion of products and/or services: in the same way as you might promote your events, then you can also make them aware by linking through to your products or services and introducing them (in an appropriate fashion!);

    • Social Networking profiles: with the proliferation of social media sites and networking groups such as Linkedin, Twitter, del.icio.us etc. links to your own profiles on each of these platforms helps promote your presence on them;

    • Photo of the author: taking the idea of blogs being personal one step further. Let them see what you look like! Make it relevant to the tone of your blog, though.

    • Most commented posts: one possible way of demonstrating what has created most interest with your readers and inspired most comments;

    • Last 5 posts: let people have easy access to your latest posts. This is particularly good on the individual post pages rather than the main blog page where, of course, the most recent posts are generally visible;

    • Recent comments: whether you show the last 5 or last 10, let people see who is commenting and on which posts. Additionally, it can act as a small “thank you” to those who have taken the time to leave comments as well as inspire others to do so;

    • Recommended sites: a list of sites that you are recommending to your readers as being well worth visiting. Adds value and helps make your blog a central resource of information;

    • RSS Subscription (RSS reader and email): you’ll want to encourage readers to sign up to receive your regular blog updates, so make it clearly visible and make sure that they can do so via email too! Not everyone loves RSS (unfortunately).

    • Newsletter Signup box: you should be running a newsletter in conjunction with your blog (there’s great complementary value) so explain what it offers and then get the signup box clearly visible;

    • Categories: one of the key structural elements and a principal tool in navigating your blog is through the categories, generally divided along main topic lines. Make them visible and keep them to 10 or 12 [unlike me :( ];

    • Monthly archives: again a key structural element of a blog though probably less used by readers now;

    • Search: the search box should be a standard feature on every blog so make sure it’s easily accessible and that it will look through both posts and pages;

    • Tags / Tag Cloud: a way to demonstrate the areas that the blog focuses on and a second navigation method to supplement the categories;

    • Testimonials: either testimonials or even customer logos can be a good way to link through to case studies or project overviews as well as showing the range of clients you work with;

    • RSS Feeds from other sites: bring in relevant industry news from other sites can be a good way to add specific information to your blog – and of course it’s all automatic;

    • Polls / Surveys: conduct your own poll on a topic relevant to your blog. Helps increase the interactive element and should provide you with some useful information as well;

    • Favourite books: recommended books which will interest your target audience, perhaps linked through to Amazon with or without affiliate code in the links;

    • Adverts: if you are looking to monetise your blog then adverts will feature prominently … but remember the distraction value;

    • Industry News: perhaps using the RSS feeds as suggested previously or using other inputs.

    As you can see, there are wide variety of elements that you can place in the sidebar or sidebars of your blog and this is probably only scraping the surface. What you place there and the order you show them will depend very much on the goals that you have for your blog, though, so choose wisely.

    What do you have on yours? Let us know below!

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    Business Blog DiaryDaniel was visibly excited – Monday was the day that he had pencilled in for the launch of a blog that he hoped would be the mainstay on his online presence, designed to help develop his business.

    While Monday was the day when the wheels were starting to turn in earnest, it had been some 4 weeks since Daniel had first decided that his business really needed a blog. He’d been noticing a drop off in prospect calls over the previous weeks (perhaps a factor of the credit crunch and the current economic situation) and had begun to feel that he didn’t have as much contact with his customers as he would have liked.

    What was certain was that he was determined that his would not be one of those businesses that didn’t make it through – that much he was very clear about.

    He’d also noticed that blogs were cropping up in lots of different places. Sure he’d seen that the BBC and The Guardian had lots of blogs and he particularly liked reading the comments that other people left on the articles. “You get a sense of what people really think rather than relying one person’s opinion”, he had explained to friends. “It’s more like taking part in a conversation than listening to a speech.” And he preferred that.

    More importantly, he had noticed a couple of his competitors had started blogs and were clearly getting attention because of them. One had even been featured in the main trade magazine which he had been trying to get a mention in! People were also leaving comments on them so clearly they were spending more time on his competitors’ sites than on his own.

    It was this that had swung it for him. He was just as much of an expert as they were, perhaps more so, and yet they were getting all the attention. He needed to make sure that more came his way and so it had been key to find the best way to get that information out in front of his prospective companies. He’d also been reading that it was important for sites to be “sticky” and have ways to encourage people to spend more time on them and he’d been advised a little about optimising his website for Search Engines.

    Lots to do, but a blog seemed to have a key role to play in all of these areas and Daniel was looking forward to see the results it could achieve for him and, more importantly, his business.

    Next Instalment: Part 2 – the preparation

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    Blogs for businessI had the pleasure of having some friends over this weekend – it was great to see them, as it seems so long since we hosted at home following the arrival of our first born aka “he who shall be obeyed”! :)

    After dinner, I was chatting with one of my friends and we touched on something that I wanted to share with you because it’s just so relevant to what we are doing.

    He kindly asked how my “blogging business” was going and I replied that at the moment there seemed to be a growing interest in both social media and blogging which meant that things looked positive for the coming year. He was very pleased for me but he went on to tell me that the while he knew of my interest in blogging, he had never actually read a blog himself. “Bollocks,” I thought. I said that I’d be surprised if he hadn’t, as I knew he was someone who liked to keep up to date with the news in general and the financial news in particular.

    So I asked him if he read the Business section of the BBC news website. “Everyday”, he replied. “I particularly like Peston’s Picks – it’s the best bit of the whole site.” (That’s written by the BBC’s Business editor, Robert Peston).

    “Yep, one of my favourites too”, I replied. “What do you like about it?”

    “Well, he always seems to have written it that day so it’s got the latest news – exactly what I’m looking for – and you know that he’s got the inside track on the stories because of his reputation from the TV. I also like that fact you can also leave your own opinion at the end of the article and, to honest, some of those are really interesting too.”

    Well, if those all sound to you like key characteristics of a blog then you’d be spot on and indeed Peston’s Picks is one of the most read blogs on the BBC site, particularly in the current economic climate, for exactly the reason my friend cited. But the fact is that although there are references to it being a blog, it just comes across as the place on the site where you can read what Robert writes. The fact that the technology he uses happens to be called a blog is frankly immaterial – it’s just the name we currently give to it.

    So, in fact my friend is an avid reader of a blog (and no doubt others) without even knowing it. Perhaps he’s also exactly the sort of person that we should be seeking out and listening to as we start blogs for our own businesses. Rather than focusing on creating a widely read “blog”, I believe that he reminds us that instead we should be looking to write widely read articles or to engage in conversations or create connections with people we want to associate with. The fact that we do so through something called a blog happens to be because it’s the perfect tool for the job.

    So when we plan our blogs, let’s put ourselves in the place of my friend and look at what matters to him – that’s all about content, authenticity, discussion and relevance. And it’s very little about the technology that we choose to use to supply him with those things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ________________




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Today, I am focusing not solely on blogging but also on WordPress which, as regular followers will already be aware, is my blogging software of choice for business blogs. Why’s that I hear you ask? Well simply because it lets you run a fully fledged blog on your own website which is easy of use, has great functionality and is expandable. For me, that’s the best way to make sure that your investment in your blogging and your online presence in general is effectively future proofed.

    So where did it start?

    Wordpress started life as simply an open source personal publishing tool used by people wanting to run a personal diary on the web. However, since then, both the use of blogs in business and WordPress itself have developed at a frantic pace – for me, a blog is now an essential tool for businesses and WordPress fills the role of blogging tool of choice for individuals, small businesses and more and more large businesses too.

    What has also happened, though, is that it has also developed beyond being a simple blogging system and is now also an excellent CMS - Content Management System perfect for creating complete websites which business owners can then develop and update themselves as they require. Along with this it still has great Search Engine attractiveness and of course extends our ability to interact with customers and prospects from just the blog area to all parts of the site. This helps immeasurably to improve customer relations which are going to be more and more key for businesses in today’s environment.

    Ideal solution as money gets tight

    If this is starting to sound like a sales pitch for WordPress then my apologies, its really not meant to be. My goal is more to show the benefits that you can achieve by using WordPresss to create your online presence rather than a simple static website – all this at a time when costs are having to be shaved wherever possible and yet a strong presence on the internet is still going to be crucial for developing new business.

    Having a standard website is often the route that small businesses take as they first create their online presence and often its a decision which is taken on cost. The trouble is that it doesnt take into account ongoing costs cost of their web developer to add new pages or change text, cost for further development, or even the costs to add the interaction that customers are not only demanding but now coming to expect.

    Given this is the case, the advantages you can gain are:

    • the ability to add pages as and when you require which develops your web presence and your website content for both customers and search engines alike (which in turn adds to your web promotion opportunities);

    • the chance to interact with your prospects and demonstrate why you are the partner of choice;

    • the ability to modify text on the pages as and when you want to without additional costs or any delay waiting for someone to do so for you;

    • the chance, with appropriate knowledge, to run your own ecommerce section directly from the blog as well as link in with your enewsletter subscribers etc.

    • the opportunity to differentiate your business. When theres less business about to be had the need to stand out and be able to adapt quickly is important;

    • easy and instant dissemination of key information out to sites and subscribers intereested in what you offer.

    Conclusion

    The point that I wanted to get across is that, while WordPress opens up huge possibilities as a blogging platform, it offers so much more than this as well. For a small business needing a strong and developing online presence, it is the perfect tool – having it set up correctly at the start gives an interactive, SEO rich website which can be developed by the owner at will. In addition, with a seemingly never ending stream of plugins being developed, the expansion possibilities are also hugely impressive.

    So whether you are looking at setting up a standalone blog, integrating one into your current website or looking at a full website for your business, take a look at what WordPress can do for you in this respect. And if you have any questions, why not give me a call?

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    Business Blog post IdeasOne of the key concerns I get asked about by people writing their business blog is what they can do when they are looking for topics to write about. Don’t worry! I can guarantee that this will really not be a problem unless you let it be one. You know your subject inside out (or else you wouldn’t be writing about it) and you have a huge resource of information that will be useful to them – it’s really a question of picking the right topics for your readers.

    For me, there are two main sources of ideas: you and everyone else.

    Blog Post Ideas
    – You’ll want to make sure that you don’t forget any of the ideas that come to you during the day and personally I use a nice and easy solution for this: quite simply, I keep a notebook with me at all times. Why? So I can jot down ideas that occur to me – and, let’s face it, they can come at the weirdest moments. Anything could trigger them – something I see which sparks a connection or perhaps a comment that somebody makes to me. I note down the idea and any other thoughts that crop up at the time which I can go back to, review and use as and when I need to.

    Blog Post Ideas – Everyone Else

    When it comes to “everyone else”, the best people to take ideas from are your customers, your prospects and your partners – these are all the sorts of people who are likely to ask those questions which others would benefit from as well, so can be a great source of inspiration.

    So, make a note of the main ones and make a point of talking about them on your blog. Treat it in the same way as you would when you take questions from the audience during a presentation – that’s to say, repeat the question that has been asked so that the rest of the audience can hear and then go ahead and answer it.

    Do the same in your blog – you will be providing information which will answer relevant and real questions that should help your customers use your product better and help your prospects to understand its potential better.

    So that you have this resource developing on an ongoing basis, I suggest that:

    • you keep a folder in your email system and make a copy of both the question you receive and the response you send back – this will in itself form the basis of your business blog post;

    • after meetings with clients, prospects or suppliers, note down some of the key questions that they asked and which were clearly on interest to them;

    • at Conferences and Exhibitions, keep a record of the questions or the areas that visitors to your stand keep asking about and are showing most interest in.

    You’ll soon find that you have topics for your posts planned out well in advance and as you write the posts, you will hopefully also start to receive comments which will start to take the discussions and questions in other directions as well.

    In the meantime, here are some of the ones that I tend to use.

    Write about current events

    Something that you probably do on an ongoing basis is keeping an eye on what is being written about your industry, perhaps through various news media and ideally with the help of RSS feeds which of course saves you a load of time and gets you the news in double quick time. So just choose an event or piece of information which is of interest to you and your readers and give your comments on it and perhaps its implications. Don’t forget to reference the article and the site where appropriate though.

    Read other blogs

    Keep an eye on other blogs and what they are talking about you will probably find subjects that you wish to develop further, ones that you wish to comment on in your own blog (dont forget to use a trackback!) or ones that simply spark new ideas that you can write about. Other blogs are great sources of current thinking and new potential ideas.

    Write a Series

    Select a topic and write a set of posts around the theme you have selected. Try to plan the series out in advance (at least the titles) and then write them as you need them. Alternatively, once you get into the series, you may find that you write a number of them all at once. That’s great! But don’t get carried away and post them all together, instead postdate them (in WordPress, just change the “Post Timestamp”) so that they publish automatically a few days apart.

    Revisit old posts you have written

    Check back over some of your old posts and see if there are ones that could be developed more fully. You may feel that there are now updates or new information that you would like to add to them, so do so in a new post which references back to the original one and develops the ideas further.

    Answer Questions from Comments on Posts

    Use contacts from people who have asked for information or have asked questions which have developed on your original post and opened up in turn new areas or topics. Take these questions or the points that they raise and develop the answers into new posts.

    Get a guest blogger in

    You do not need to write all of the posts yourself, many Business Blogs will in fact have two or even more people working on them. However, if you dont have people who post regularly, you can still have a guest blogger who might come in to post on a particular subject where they have a specialist knowledge.

    There is of course a final option – simply take a break from posting for a few days. Theres no issue with that – just let your readers know and theyll be waiting for your return with bated breath.

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    Statistics can improve your business blogIf you want to improve the focus of your blog and make sure that it’s doing its job, then the best place to start (as well as asking your readers directly) is to check on your stats or analytics package. It contains a mine of useful information which will allow you to target areas which could do with a modification (or an overhaul) on your blog.

    Most of the the stats packages worth their salt will offer a range of statistics covering your readers, their journey through your blog and how they found it in the first place. It’ll give you details of who is reading what, which are the most popular (and unpopular subjects) that you’re writing about as well as showing you what are the phrases being used to find you. It’ll also let you see how easy it is to find information on your blog – we all know where to find it on our own blogs but can other people?

    Make it part of your routine

    Analysing and using this information is best done as part of a circular flow which we carry out on our blog, not on a daily basis, but at least regularly. By doing this, we can make sure that we’re keeping up with what our readers are demanding of us … even if they don’t really realise it! :)
    Blog Development Wheel

    I’m sure that we are all aware of the Research > Write > Promote of the equation, although we probably all know that there’s more that we could be doing … well, that’s certainly the case for me anyway. However, the Analyse and Modify might be less automatic. For me, this means getting the information I can from the stats available and then modifying either the blog (to better suit my business aims) or the style and perhaps the focus of future posts. A useful exercise though not after every post!!

    Getting down and dirty with your Stats

    So what should you look for in your stats and what can you do with the information you find? Well, personally, I focus mainly on three things, though no doubt all of the figures they provide can be put to good use one way or another:

      i) what people are reading most of

      ii) what keywords they are using to find my site in the search engines; and,

      iii) which other sites they are coming from.

    i) What people are reading most of (coupled with the figures I get from Feedburner for my RSS feed) helps me hone my content and lets me try to write more articles which will appeal to my readers. Obviously you can’t do this exclusively or the blog posts get very “samey” – and that’s got to be negative – but catering to your audience is a good thing, so use the information to help you write on relevant topics but don’t be dictated to by it.

    What is also does is help me introduce them to relevant services I offer – if a post on Blog Optimisation is getting a lot of interest, then it makes sense for me to promote my Blog Consulting services alongside that post. Relevant information for people clearly interested in a topic I cover.

    ii) When I see that there are certain keyword phrases which bringing new readers to the blog (particularly when they go on to visit other pages), I can presume that I’m ranking well for them and that they are relevant to my target audience because they are finding other articles of interest. This lets me know that, while I should obviously continue to write on this topic bacuse it’s popular, I should concentrate on other keywords as well if I want to widen the scope of my ranked pages in the search engines.

    iii) Finally, when I see that there is a lot of traffic coming from a certain site, then the likelihood is I’m going to check it out. If it is a link from another blogger or an article referencing my blog on another site, then this is an opportunity to get in touch, make contact and thank them for referencing my site. There might also be other opportunities for collaboration on other topics or even projects. If the link is coming from a social bookmarking site such as Stumble Upon or Digg, then again I know that an article has struck a chord and that my own blog promotion efforts are working, giving me additional focus for the future.

    Some Stats packages

    There are a couple that I use primarily: as an overall package Google Analytics is a good bet. It’s free and comprehensive in the figures it feeds back, if a little overwhelming at times. The only downside is that the figures take 24 hours to come through, not too much of an issue if you are looking at overall trends but not so good if you want to track a campaign you have in place as it happens. For this, I run Statcounter which has a free service and then a paid one for extra capacity – also recommended is GetClicky which again I have had good feedback about. If you are using WordPress, then there are also a number that you can run internally – as a start point you might like to check Mashable’s article from last year or WordPress own Plugin directory.

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