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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.

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

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    I really liked Brian Clark’s post The Five Essential Elements of an Influential Blog over at Copyblogger. In fact, that is generally my reaction to a great many of his excellent posts so I’d certainly encourage you to get him in your RSS Reader if you haven’t already.

    In this post, he proposes that, to be truly influential and by implication gain the level of readers and traffic we are looking to, a blog should have 5 key components:

    • Simple - so that the core elements behind it can be easily communicated which will help your message to spread

    • Unexpected – so that it stands out above the others in its field either because of its different ideas or the way in which it expresses them

    • Concrete – so that the information the blog contains is directly useful to your readers

    • Credible – because your readers need to trust you and what you are communicating for the blog to be valuable to them

    • Story – which brings together and helps to communicate all of the other elements of the blog in a way which triggers not only an intellectual response but also an emotional one

    I think that from a Business Blog perspective, I would probably also add Focus to this list – while it may already be implicitly bound up as part of some of the others, I believe it worthy of its own mention.

    In some blogs, this focus can result in a blog with a relatively narrow field of content, but with a real depth of comment which makes it worth reading and hence influential. In others, the focus is more of a central theme around which other ideas gravitate and spark off from. In both cases, the focus is a key factor in the blog’s success and ultimately its longevity.

    Brian also concludes the post by stating:


    How you say it is important.

    But what you say is critical.

    Absolutely, but it is the combination of the two that makes certain blogs really stand out – Copyblogger among them, in my opinion.

    Business Blogs, whether run by large corporates or individual professionals like myself, should certainly aim for this. However, we need to remember that it is an ongoing process so making any change, no matter how small, will be a step in the right direction.

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

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    As you might have gathered from the title of this post, content is all important in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)!

    First and foremost, it is content that Search Engines look for when they index a website or blog. So, from the outset, a blog has an ‘unfair’ advantage because it is primarily made up of words whereas websites will often be driven just as much by their graphics – something which search engines just don’t see.

    A well set-up Business Blog has an even greater advantage because it also has a well defined focus and so its content will be targeted towards a particular subject matter. This means that there is likely to be a lot of relevant content and in Search Engine Optimisation terms this is key to all the other elements you add in around it.

    Remember though that while good use of content and keywords will certainly attract the Search Engines, it is the quality of the content that will bring the visitors back, so you need to make sure that what you write is useful and “attractive” to both of them. You can certainly “overoptimise” a post and if it sounds stilted to you when you read it, then it probably will to others as well.

    So, what should you remember when you want to use your content to help your SEO and hence your Search Engine rankings? Well, try to bear in mind:

    Keyword density: this is the number of times a keyword phrase appears on the page divided by the overall number of words it contains. If you are serious about optimising, then you should aim for 5 – 7%, any more than this and it is going to sound very stilted indeed. However, do not churn out text which is keyword rich but doesn’t engage your readers – if you do, then it doesn’t matter if you are highly placed by a Search Engine because people will arrive and then immediately get turned away by the content.

    Placement on the page: Another element to remember is that where you place the text on the page is important as well. Text at the top of the page is considered to have more importance (although it is important to spread your keywords throughout the page) so this means that you should look to get the keywords in the opening paragraph and then continue this throughout the post.

    In blogs, this is not only important in the post itself, but also in the categories. It is possible to have a key article which is always at the top of the category it relates to – this article would summarise the important elements to the category and so, in the best principles of SEO, have content full of key words. Some blogging systems have the functionality built to create this so called “Sticky” post, but with our recommended system of WordPress you will need a plug-in to achieve it. The best we have found is called Adhesive although there are others which achieve the same.

    Highlight key elements: the use of bold and/or italics to highlight keyword phrases makes them stand out not only on the page but also in Search Engine terms. As with all SEO techniques, don’t overuse them but do use them in relevant places to focus on your important key phrases.

    Update on a regular basis: Search Engines also recognise that a website or blog which is constantly changing is likely to have the most up to date information and so be most relevant. So make sure that you maintain a flow of new and relevant postings … BUT, remember the idea of quality content for your readers so don’t post just for the sake of it as this will reduce the overall quality of your blog.

    So to summarise:

    • make the content targeted and well written

    • ensure that the posts contain the keywords that are relevant to the subject

    • aim for good level of keyword density within the context of the article

    • get keywords in at the top of a page or category, and then also spread them through the page
    • use ‘bold’ and ‘italics’ on occasions to give extra weight to your main keywords
    • update regularly to add new content

    But, just to re-iterate one final time, getting good Search Engine rankings is important but you must write for your readers or else all your other efforts will be in vain, so use SEO with this foremost in your mind.

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

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