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    Writing your Business Blog: here are all the key posts


    SEO in business blogs for rankingIt really is a total waste of effort setting up a business blog if your sole intention is to use it to enhance your Search Engine rankings. If you do, then youre not just missing out on the important benefits that blogs offer, youre also missing the point of blogs altogether. Oh, and in the process, youll also be jeopardising the success of your own, right from the word “Go”.

    “But I thought a business blog would help my Search Engine rankings!”, I hear you cry. “Absolutely”, I reply, “it will. Enormously so!”

    The thing is, thats not the point.

    Running a blog will give you the chance to do so much more, whether you are looking to use it to initiate dialogue with your readers, build trust and foster new connections with customers and prospects, carry out market research or customer service, or indeed any of 101 different business uses that blogs can be put to.

    And thats where your focus, effort and attention should be directed – your readers – not simply on helping your SEO efforts!

    However, if you do spend the time to keep the content of your blog focused on what your target audience wants then, believe me, the much lauded “Google Juice” will flow naturally because of what you write and the way that you write and structure it. However, it will do so as an automatic by-product rather than the sole aim.

    The same values hold good in all areas of social media – concentrate on the people you are talking to and what you are talking about and youll go far. Social networking sites, for example, are called that rather than Google Ranking sites for a reason. If Google is your main reason for being there then the networking activity will ultimately die, killing your presence on the site along with it.

    I might add that if you use these tools to do nothing more than sell, then youre also missing the point and once again youll find that this comes back to bite you. Using social media to employ the same “old school” marketing tactics that we, as consumers, are rejecting en masse shows a lack of understanding in my book not only of the medium but of people.

    Anyway, enough ranting about this – back to my main point. Business blogs are great in providing enhanced Search Engine opportunities but try not to focus on this to the exclusion of everything else or you risk losing everything. Focus instead on your readers and I guarantee that your SEO desires and requirements will follow.

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    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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    Well, according to Comscore’s latest report, YouTube has now overtaken Yahoo and sits in second position (behind Google of course) when it comes to online search. Quite an achievement! But, to be honest, it some respects, it really doesn’t matter where they are in the rankings – the fact is that the 60m+ visitors it attracts on a monthly basis speaks volumes on its own. It also begs the question – how are you using video to benefit your blog and your business?

    Where videos prove their worth

    Video, together with the increasing use of social media such as blogs, social networking and podcasts in marketing, has been winning new fans because of the extra dimension that it can give to our marketing activities. Using video not only helps to differentiate you from your competitors, it also allows you to convey your message in a different way.

    The use of video has had a huge rise in popularity over recent years, with steeply rising user numbers. YouTube, with its estimated 64 million visitors every month leads the way, (more…)

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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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    Blogging: one piece at a timeI love sport and while I may now have changed from active participant to armchair pundit, I am still a fervent follower of a whole range of different sports. With the Olympics dominating our TV screens over the past two weeks (certainly here in the UK), I could have quite happily sat watched 24 hours a day, had the prickly subject of work not intervened!

    The exploits of the now global stars that are Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt have been mind blowing and almost as impressive, from a Brit’s point of view, has been the performance of the British competitors in “Team GB” – 39 medals overall with 17 golds as of today and sitting 3rd in the medals table.

    Among those golds, the highest number came from the cycling team which has dominated the track events in the velodrome. How come? What has been the difference which has set them apart? Well, according to the Times Online, British Cycling performance director, David Brailsford believes:

    there was no specific ingredient or secret that set his sport apart and that success has come by way of the aggregation of marginal gains

    Interesting? I think so and it’s something that I think is very relevant to many other areas including blogging. Here too, there is no single “secret” or magic spell which will revolutionise what we do – although that doesn’t stop websites continually popping up claiming they have “The One Secret that will supercharge your Blogging, flood your Bank Account with money etc etc. ...” < yawn >

    Instead, focus on getting get all the elements working together so that you can benefit from the marginal gains that each element offers. Clearly the subject matter is all important – without that you’re not going to get off the starting line. But I’m thinking beyond that and more of the complementary elements that help set the blog apart and push it: make your post titles and title tags work for you, illustrate the text with graphics, add friendly permalinks, make social bookmarking easy, offer readers other related posts, consider other SEO factors, add an email a friend option, make your RSS feed work hard for you and so on.

    Each of these adds another piece to the jigsaw and helps to develop the blog. So whatever stage your blog is at, take a look at it and see what else could be included to add to the experience of your readers and to increase the benefits to you.

    Then go back and repeat the process. You’ll soon find how those marginal gains add up.

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

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

    1. Foundation Posts

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

    2. Expertise Sharing

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

    3. Lists

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

    4. News Delivery / Reporting / News Breaking

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

    5. Guides / Instructional

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

    6. LinkBaiting

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

    7. Surveys & Polls

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

    8. Article Reply

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

    9. Rants

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

    10. Industry Commentary

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

    11. Conferences / Exhibitions / Seminars

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

    12. Company Specific

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

    13. Press Releases

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

    14. Guest Post

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

    15. Links Post

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

    16. Reviews

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

    17. Video or Podcast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    2. Don’t swamp your blog with adverts

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

    3. Spend time on your blog design

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

    4. Add easy referral methods

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

    5. Can they print it?

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

    6. Make it easy to comment

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

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

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

    8. Include Calls to Action

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

    9. Be easy to contact

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

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

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

    11. Make your blog as sticky as possible

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

    12. Use TACT Track, Analyse, Change and Track

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

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

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

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    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 3This 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 3:
    What do you want to achieve?

    Unsurprisingly, what we want to achieve with our blog is linked inextricably to how we intend to use it and who we are trying to appeal to – the first 2 key questions. If you want your blog to help raise your profile and demonstrate your expertise in your field, then you might be looking to build up references (and hence inbound links) or potential business contacts; on the other hand, if it forms part of your customer service offering, then you will want to see an improved customer satisfaction and reduced customer care calls.

    In both of these cases, though, to get the best results from the blog, we need to both write and develop the blog with a clear focus and goal in mind. It not only gives us direction but also gives us a yardstick to measure each decision about our blog against, whether that’s what topic to post about, changes to blog design, positioning of services etc. If it doesn’t help us to achieve the goal, then perhaps we should be rethinking it. It sounds harsh, but ultimately our business blog is an element of our business and therefore needs to be contributing to it.

    What we need to know clearly at the start is what we want to achieve with the blog and this, combined with the answers to questions 1 and 2, will help us to decide how the blog should look, where key elements need to be located, what to write, how to market it and so on.

    But, what criteria should we be using to see how successful the blog is? Ideally they will be in line with the main objective that you set out for your blog but its necessary to have some way of measuring this. Here are some possible ones to consider:

    • You might consider that it is the number of new or repeat visitors to your blog;

    • It could be the number of comments that you receive on your posts which can indicate the level of interaction you are achieving;

    • Number of subscribers to your RSS feed may be important because you feel this shows active interest;

    • Number of blogs and websites which link to your blog or refer to your articles via trackbacks;

    • Quantity of new customers who get in contact through the contact form on your Blog or specifically the sales generated by the blog either directly or indirectly;

    • Number of sign ups to a newsletter which you have as a marketing call to action

    • Reduction in support or care calls if you are running your blog as part of your technical support or customer service function

    • Number of additional book copies sold if you are using it as part of your book promotion activities

    • Comments and suggestions if your blog is being used as a market research tool or product development support

    • Press contacts or offline articles generated directly as a result of your

    Because the possible uses of a blog are so wide, so are the possible goals you can have and ways to measure them – it’s simply a case of deciding which is the most appropriate for you in accordance with the aims you have for the blog and your business. Bringing them all together should give us a feel for the overall Return on Investment (ROI), at least to a certain extent.

    Above all, have your objectives and goals in mind will help your blog fulfil its potential and deliver the results you want. As the refrain goes, “when you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will do” – so keep a careful eye on what you want to achieve and you’ll make sure you’re on the right road from day one.

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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 2:
    Who are you writing for?

    Unless you are writing a personal blog, and thats really not what we are dealing with here, then you are writing your blog with a business purpose in mind just as we looked at in the 1st Key Question. This in turn means that you are writing for someone, for an audience, who you are hoping will not only read your blog but react well to its content and to you as the author.

    To achieve this, need to be clear about this audience – your readers – and what they are going to expect from you and from your blog. You’ll also need to know how best to go about getting those reactions and building on them. This knowledge needs to influence every aspect of your blog including:

    • what your blog looks like

    • the content of your blog

    • the style of how you write it

    • the length and frequency of the posts

    • how you elicit comments and feedback
    In fact, what you are looking for is to encourage your target audience to engage with you and your blog in what I term the 5Rs:
    • Read: first of all you need to create subject matter which will encourage people to visit your blog and then read what youre writing about.

    • Return: once they have visited for the first time, you have the opportunity to give your readers something theyll wish to read more of, hence encouraging then to return to your blog.

    • Reply: you are looking to encourage dialogue and communication so you must find subjects and a style which encourages them to express an opinion about it and reply to the post.

    • Refer: provide your readers with enough compelling, relevant and interesting content and they’ll want to recommend it to everyone.

    • RSS: encourage them to sign up and receive what you are writing as and when it appears using RSS either directly or via email.
    So just how do you find out what they want? Well, first and foremost, you are as much a part of the target audience as you are the author! Its your area of specialism, so bear in mind your own areas of interest as you write, but a also look at what you are doing and writing with a critical eye from time to time and check you are still on track. In addition, take the time to listen to your readers. Listen to what they are saying in the comments they post on your blog or in the emails you receive from them. When you are at conferences and exhibitions, note down what are the hot topics that everyone is talking about they are literally giving you your killer content posts on a plate!

    But do remember that different blogs have different aims and therefore very different audiences. An internal blog, for example, will be aimed at talking primarily at employees, while an external blog with a customer support focus will need to provide exact information and specific answers within tight timeframes. Of course, the more than you can prepare for this in advance of starting the blog, the better focused and (probably) more successful it will be.

    To take a look at how all elements of a blog come together to fit with the audience it is targeting, Id like to recommend that you take a look at Sony and the two blogs that they launched last year for different parts of their business and for very different audiences.

      1. The first was the Sony Playstation blog which is heavily branded with a very specific topic range and audience in mind which has been attracted in droves to the site. Everything about the blog caters to this audience, their interests and ultimately the games that they are being encouraged to find out about and buy. Language, content and imagery all support this beautifully.

      2. The second was the Sony Electronics blog dealing with a very different part of the business, a very different product range and therefore a very different audience in terms of both interests and priorities. The frequency and content were both targeted towards their expected readers and they responded in their own way which, of course, also needed to be handled correctly.

    In summary, you need to ensure that you are always encouraging your readers to act on an appropriate aspect of the 5Rs. So, make sure that your business blog has a well defined theme and, once you have decided that, write your posts with it firmly in mind (remember keeping your aims on your monitor). Dont forget to use your RSS reader to keep up to date with what is happening in the areas that your blog covers and keeping offering your opinions on relevant and interesting items in your posts. Finally, keep encouraging feedback from this target audience and make sure that you respond to the comments that your readers leave.

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