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    Starting a Blog: here are all the key posts


    Building a successful blogYou want to have a blog which benefits your business – yes?

    You want a blog which people are going to want to come back to time and time again – yes?

    Essentially, you want a blog which is going to be successful – yes again?

    Well, to give you the best chance of a successful business blog, then you’re going to need to make sure that you tick all the boxes to ensure that all of the underlying elements are in place to make that happen. It’s not difficult but it is important.

    For me, there are 5 elements which are like building blocks that make a blog what it is, 5 layers if you like that constitute the makeup of a blog and so 5 key aspects that you need to keep in mind as you plan and develop your blog.

    1. Philosophy
    Underpinning everything else are the general philosophy needed for blogging – you’ve got to be comfortable with the basic ideals of what people expect from blogs or else you’re going to fall at the first hurdle. The key one is that of openness – if you, or your company, are not willing to be open and honest in dealing with the readers of your blog then the likelihood is it will not achieve the goals you have for it. Be transparent and honest, and you’re off on the right foot.

    2. Technology
    You need to build the blog on the right technology base so that it supports what you want to do with it. It has to be one that will help your blog achieve the requirements that you have for it, both now and in the future. Making sure that it can grow with your ongoing needs is key to effectively future proof all the work and effort that you’ll be putting in. There are a number of excellent blogging platforms available – my own preference being for the full self hosted WordPress – but just ensure that you pick one that will be able to grow with you.

    3. Business
    Getting the business elements right means that you are treating the blog as the business and marketing tool that it is rather than as a piece of technology divorced from the company’s aims and requirements. Getting the business part right means that you’ve planned your objectives and aims for the blog, know how you intend to promote it (including with social media tools in place) and have answered the 3 key questions in the planning phase which are:

    • i) What do you want the blog to be used for

    • ii) Who is your target audience and what do you want to attract to your blog

    • iii) What you want to achieve with it and how to measure that?

    4. Layout and Graphics
    The so called “look and feel” layer focuses on how the blog will be laid out and takes into account not only the graphical elements and branding but also how the layout and structure can reflect the goals of the blog and the company. In addition, the layout should support the business goals by ensuring that the key “real estate” areas are used as effectively as possible and navigation remain intuitive and compelling giving a “stickiness” to the blog.

    5. Content
    Finally the content is ultimately where your ongoing focus needs to be, with all of the other elements essentially being there in place to support and market what you write about. This is of course the key part which needs to have our ongoing focus since all of the other elements will ideally be planned and implemented in the planning and preparation phases.

    While the content element does rightly get the lion’s share of our attention and much of the online advice on setting up and writing blogs, the content will only work to its full potential in a blog built with a foundation of the other elements outlined above. They are what ensures that the content is correctly focused, distributed, read and shared – essentially delivering you a successful blog in the process.

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    Successful Corporate BlogsI’m currently writing a series called “The Diary of a Business Blog” (you can find part 2 here) which looks at an imaginary business owner going through the process of setting up and developing a blog for his business. One of the questions that the first couple of posts has elicited from BBB readers (thanks, by the way!) is “what makes a successful blog?” and I guess that this is probably a key question for any organisation looking to create their own business or corporate blog.

    My answer: a successful business blog is one which fulfils the purpose and achieves the results that it was created for.

    Now that may sound like a bit of a cop out on my part and I suppose that, in one way, it is. However, there is a good reason why.

    There’s more than ONE type of blog

    The issue is that there are so many different types of business blog, it’s simply not possible to give a single definitive definition of what success would look like or indeed a blueprint for creating one.

    To give a couple of examples: if we look at a CEO Blog (such as Jonathan Schwartz at Sun or Richard Edelman’s 6am blog) then the writing style, format and content are going to be very different from one designed as a product blog. So too will be its aims. Likewise a corporate blog which brings together a community of users and developers for market research or product development, will have a very different definition of “successful” from an “expert blog” written by a consultant or legal professional looking to directly improve his/her profile and reputation.

    However, what they will have in common is likely to be a clear set of objectives, albeit all different, which they are focused on achieving. These objectives would have been identified as part of the planning process and should always be in the back of your mind (or written on a postit in front of you!) when writing and promoting your business blog. [Aside: I’ll be looking at some possible objectives and metrics to measure them in a post next week.]

    Some pointers for your Business Blog

    However, having ducked the question once, I’ll try to make amends now. If I had to make some suggestions to organisations starting a blog that would help to achieve the goals that they have set for it, then I would recommend the following:
    • Don’t try to be everything to everyone: the best type of business blog will often be very targeted in nature. It will have identified the people that it wants to appeal to and should be written in such a way that it attracts, retains and develops that audience;

    • Plan, focus and stay true to your goals: you planned your objectives when you started, so try not to be distracted from them. If those are what you want to achieve, then make certain that you concentrate on them and don’t get pulled off in different directions;

    • Write interesting, compelling, focused content: you know the audience you wish to attract and hopefully you also know what will interest them. So try to present them with that information in a way which is authentic and which communicates the passion that you have for the subject;

    • Make it visually appealing: that doesn’t just mean images, although they certainly play a major role, but also break the text up with sub headings, use a header which supports and shows off your brand and ensure that above all it is easy on the eye. Don’t distract your readers from your content or make it difficult to take in;

    • Launch it properly: Plan the launch and make sure that you use all of the means at your disposal to tell people about it. Get your Foundation posts in place, use your mailing list, pre-announce it if applicable, create online press releases to support it and ensure that you put some weight behind the activities. If you believe it’s worth reading (and let’s hope you do!) then tell people and enthuse about it;

    • Vary the style of posts: while the content should be targetted, there are different ways in which you can present it from “expert pieces” to lists and from news stories to links to other key sources. Make sure that you break it up and present the information in different ways – it’ll help get across the points you are looking to communicate. [Some ideas on blog posts here might be of use];

    • Market it religiously: there is no point in having a blog and just letting it sit there – tell people about it. Use all the methods available both online and offline, generic and blog specific and then use all of them again! While your writing will hopefully attract readers over time, you should still “spread the word” at every opportunity.

    Ultimately, the person best placed to judge whether the blog you are running has been a success is … you! However, don’t make it hard for yourself – know what you want to achieve with it and then going all out to make it happen.

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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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    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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    1. STOP!!
    Before you rush in and publish your first post on your new blog, stop. Thats right, stop, hang fire, wait, take a chill pill, or whatever phrase you care to use. First, lets do a little bit of thinking and, heaven forbid, planning before we rush over to the nearest free blog site to register an inappropriate name, choose a bland design and start to write things your customers dont have any interest in.

    2. Plan what you want to use it for
    [Sorry to mention plan again so early on] If the answer to this is that you dont know, its just that your competitor has just set one up, then go straight to jail, dont pass Go and dont collect 200. You need to be clear what you want to do with your blog right from the start or else you are quite simply planning to fail and join the ranks of businesses with forgettable (and most likely forgotten) blogs. At a basic level, decide if you want to focus on company branding, or perhaps differentiating your services by writing about your specific expertise or perhaps carrying out market research with it in fact any use other than Well, Im not really sure.

    3. Decide who you want to read it
    Everyone anyone someone?! Try to be all things to all people and the likelihood is that youll fail to appeal to anyone. The best types of business blogs tend to be specific in nature so, if you know who you are writing for, then you should be able to write things that are going to interest them. If they are interested then theyre going to come back and read some more and maybe even pass on the news to others that theyve found a company who really knows what theyre talking about. Sounds like a plan to me! (plan sorry)

    4. Check out other blogs in your market
    When you move to a new neighbourhood, youll always want to visit the area first, have a look at the other houses, see whats going on, maybe talk to some people and listen to what they are talking about. See who people take notice of and who runs the local sports club that you are interested in. You get to know the place before you move in. Do the same with blogs get to know the blogs that already exist in the market you are going to be writing about. Use a Blog Search Engine like Technorati or Google Blog Search to see whos talking about what and how the blogs are being used. You might get some ideas for when youre planning and putting together your own!

    5. Decide what you want the blog to achieve
    And while we are thinking about the blog from a business perspective, how about some targets? You just know someone, sometime, somewhere is going to ask about Return on Investment (particularly in corporate blogs) so make sure you can tell them what you planned to achieve and whether it hit those targets. Youll need to measure the results of course and decide on your criteria – sales enquiries, newsletter signups, referrals, reduction in customer support requests or reader numbers are just some of the ones you could use. In any case, if you dont know what you want to achieve then how can you tell if you are doing the right things?

    6. Decide where to run your blog
    And dont say Blogger! (I still prefer to have control over the information in my blog when its such a key part of my marketing.) My question is really whether you want to have it on your own website or run it from a separate domain? Lots of variables you can take into account but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, if it complements what you have on your website then integrate it; if you want to take a different stance in your blog which doesnt sit comfortably with your main site, then use a different domain. From an SEO perspective, no issue same domain.

    7. How much time to spend on it
    Blogging takes time – there is the research as well as the writing that you need to consider and although there are lots of ways to help streamline this process, the posts still have to be written and you are going to want to maintain the quality of what you produce as well. The posts can take a number of different forms from Foundation posts at the start to long involved articles or simple link referrals – all are valid if they add value to your readers. Anyway, I digress. Plan how much time you are willing to dedicate to your blog, you’ll find it much more relevant than deciding how often you want to post.

    8. How do you want it to work with your business?
    As I mentioned in a recent post, no blog is an island, so you need to make sure that the blog can work with other parts of your business. Plan (damn, damn, damn) how you want it to work with the other activities that you have ongoing or at least that you know how you are going to achieve it. A blog can do lots for you on its own but it can do even more when used in conjunction with the rest of your business.

    9. Check if you really need a blog
    This may sound bizarre given all that I do here to help people use blogs to promote their business, but its a really valid question. Youve looked at the other points above? Have you got answers to them and, with those in hand, do you still want to run a business blog? It’s good to be clear from the start that a highly effective tool when used correctly and worse than useless if you are going to start it with lots of enthusiasm but no planning, only to let it die as soon as that initial enthusiasm wanes. However, if the answer is still Yes, then great – now you can get started properly!

    10. Plan
    As you may have noticed, there is a theme running through all of these elements and that is … planning! Planning, or rather the lack of it, is the root cause of more blog failures than anything else, either because they lose focus in terms of content or business focus, or because the author(s) lose impetus. All things that can be avoided with prior planning. So don’t fall into that trap and before you start your Business blog … stop and do the planning which will ensure your blog is a success.

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    Blog on website or on own site?Judging by the search terms that people use to find Better Business Blogging, a topic which seems to be a constant issue for people looking at setting up their own business blog is how and where to locate their blog. Primarily, should it be as part of their own website or should it be on a new domain?

    I considered this previously in two posts which looked at the question of where to run your business blog and how to integrate a blog on your site, but I think that it is worth bringing together my thoughts and opinions on this again and developing them further.

    Although it can depend on what your intentions are in terms of branding, specific aim and focus, target audience, domain name and general marketing requirements, my take on this would boil down to:

    If it complements the content and focus of your site and appeals to your readers
    then always have it on your own website in a subdirectory.
    If it clashes with your site in these respects,
    then run it as a separate site on a separate domain.

    While there are other elements which could have an impact on your decision making, that should be the key aspect on which you make your decision.

    But – what about the Inbound Links!!

    The other reason often put forward for preferring an external blog is the benefit of inbound links that you can create back to your main site – “I’ve got a blog at mynewblog.wordpress.com and I’m using it to create lots of links through to my main site at www.mymainsite.com which will help me get to no.1 in Google”.

    In short, no. A more complete response, no, no, no!

    Google is many things but blind in Search Engine terms isn’t one of them. Multiple links from one individual site through to another suffer from what is best described as “diminishing returns”. To explain: the first link you create from the blog you have set up as a separate domain is great and registers a, let’s say, resounding “1” on the Google link scale. The second from that blog (and hence that domain) through to your site is seen as less valuable as you have already “recommended” the site with a link. In this case, it’s given, let’s say, half the value – the next, half again and so on for all of the other links from that blog domain to your main site. Result, as you add more links from your new blog back to your main site, the additional ones quickly become worthless.

    blog on own site or separate domain

    Compare that to holding the blog on your own site, taking the time to write content that people consider worth linking to and working to attract links from a number of different sites – as shown on the right above. Each of these will be fully valued and counted, as they are external links into your blog from different domains – in a very short space of time, having your blog as part of your own site and domain will have benefited your overall site more than an external blog ever would, no matter how many links with great anchor text you use. (I’m even ignoring the benefit of higher page rank here, which established blogs linking to you would have but your newly established blog would not!)

    So, when faced with the decision of where to run your blog from, if it is relevant to your site and to your visitors then integrate it as part of your own website. But, if you are setting it up to primarily boost your search engine possibilities then … definitely integrate it as part of your website!

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    Start or set up a blog: Key question 1This is part of a 3 part mini-series looking at the planning phase of setting up and starting your business blog.

    Each post will focus on one of the 3 key questions that you should have clear answers for as you set up your blog before you start to write it.

    Question 1:
    What you do want to do with your blog?

    This may seem like an obvious question or rather you may think that the answer to it is obvious. Great! If you have a clear idea of what you want to do with your blog and how it will help your business, then write it down and stick it on your computer screen. Keep it in mind as you write your posts, make changes to your blog and work on promoting it because that sort of focus is going to be all important if you want to achieve the best results.

    It does seem to be the case, however, that many companies (and this applies equally to multinationals as it does to small businesses) still look at blogging as something which needs to be done to keep up with the Joneses. Unfortunately, blogs set up with this in mind often suffer a swift demise since they generally have no real substance, identity or direction.

    Blogging will cost you time and therefore money. In my case, if I am writing posts for my blogs, then I cannot be doing paid work on blogs or online marketing campaigns for other companies, engaging in other marketing activities, carrying out my duties with my accountants hat on etc. So plan what you want to do with your blog.

    Marketing focused blog as an example

    Lets take the example of a business blog which has a marketing focus, one where you are essentially looking for it to communicate your expertise or the benefits of your services or products, and to start to generate interest and trust in them (and you of course!).

    Blog planning

    So to get the right balance and focus in the blog, youll want to incorporate important influences both from within your company and from the market you work in ie. from customers, partners and competitors etc. You also need to look at how it fits in with your other marketing activities and the general direction of the company. If you can incorporate all of these, youll then be developing a marketing tool which will reflect the companys goals, will work in tandem with everything else you are doing and will allow you to communicate with your target audience in as unfiltered a form as possible.

    Other business uses for a blog

    Of course, marketing is just one of the many uses you could put your business blog to and as the focus of your blog changes, so of course will the influences which are important to it. If you are looking at an external blog to support your customer service or technical support activities, then the targeting and format of the blog will change to suit that goal. Likewise, an internal blog to help your internal communications or perhaps one dedicated to pre-sales / sales team information sharing will be different again.

    Other ideas of possible ways to use a blog as a business tool, both externally and internally, might include:

    Blog types in Business blog planning

    But at the end of the day, whatever you decide to use your blog for, it needs to reflect the requirements of both the company and your target audience, and add value to both parties. Do that and you are well on the way to creating a business blog which will prove an invaluable asset to you.

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    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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