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  • Warren: Blogging and Social Media definitely go hand in hand. Having a successful social presence can do a lot for a...
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    Linking Business Blogs and Corporate BlogsLinking is part and parcel of blogging and its an important part of it as well. The blogosphere thrives on links & connections and those blogs which create those outbound links will tend to thrive with it.

    Put simply, linking out is good good for your blog and good for your business.

    As you link to others, you strengthen your own position. Partly because you are validating and supporting the content of your posts but also because you are developing a repository of information which will benefit the readers who are attracted to your blog.

    In fact, there are lots of positive reasons for linking to other blogs and sites which I tend to categorise as follows:

      Informing your readers and Supporting your posts

      Links are probably the sincerest way of recommending other blogs as valuable sources of information – you are effectively giving them a big thumbs up. Equally, they are an important way of providing reference sources to support and corroborate the arguments or assertions you are making in your own posts.

      Business & Blog Promotion

      By linking out, you will also be spreading the word about your own blog. If you use trackbacks to the sites you link to, then youll appear in the comments section of the post you’re referring to, giving more people the chance to find your blog. Owners of blogs are also generally interested in who’s referencing them, so you’ll often get a visit from them, and hopefully they’ll like what they find!

      Developing Reputation and Creating Value

      You will get more readers using your blog as the start point for their research, primarily because they trust the information and the links that you provide effectively, in your area of specialism, you act as their online directory and general resource. For them, you become THE person to go to.

      Creating Community & Networking

      By linking to other sources, you are creating a mini resource in your area of expertise this in turn can start to generate a community or network of readers using it with you and your blog at its centre. The links you provide help your readers to learn more about the subject and direct them to discussions going on elsewhere. Essentially your blog becomes the place where your readers know they can get up to date information on issues that they consider to be important.

    So next time you worry about linking to other sites, blogs or resources of any type, try to think instead of the business benefits instead – not just to your readers but to you as well.

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    Optimising your BlogThis is the first of a 3 part series looking at blog optimisation. When people talk about how to optimise blogs, they are generally referring to Search Engine Optimisation while this is important, and something Ill be looking at in depth in part 2 of the series, its only part of what we should be thinking about when we optimise a blog.

    First of all, I think that its important to look at optimising a blog for the people who really count – your readers! Its in your interest to make sure that their experience is as pleasant, productive and straightforward as possible. Why? Because these are the people that you want to connect with, the ones you want to talk to, the ones you want to work with and the ones that you want to recommend you to others. Be nice to them!

    You need to make sure that you help them to find the information that they are looking for, point them in the direction of other subjects they might also find interesting and generally ensure that they stay around to concentrate on the content you are offering without struggling to find or use it.

    So, in this respect, what are the areas that we should be looking at and how can we help our readers really benefit from what we write in our blog:

    1. Write posts on topics which interest your readers
    I know that we come back to content time and time again, but it really is so key that I’m afraid it’s worth repeating once more here. Write things that your readers will find useful, relevant and interesting! You already do? Great – then concentrate on the rest of this post and the other two in the series because they’ll support what you’re doing every step of the way. If you’re still looking for help then, when you’ve finished here, may I suggest checking out Brian Clark at Copyblogger – recommended. Seriously.

    2. Consider the layout of your posts
    Try not to have great swaths of text which create an often impenetrable barrier between your readers and the ideas you wish to communicate. Make sure that you break it up, have areas of white space and use subheadings to highlight your points – where appropriate, use bullet points as well and generally make sure that the layout supports your content rather than hides it.

    3. Good Navigation
    Good navigation should be consistent, easy to find and easy to follow. When your readers are on your blog, the last thing you want is for them to be floundering around trying to find other posts or searching unsuccessfully for them. Why not? Because they wont keep searching – they will have already left and gone to find it elsewhere.

    Try to keep the main navigation menus in the same place on each page and if you use the general blog conventions such as the home page link being in the header, then remember that you are also looking to attract non blog readers who will be looking for a ‘home’ button. Bottom line, make navigation as intuitive as possible for everyone and let them concentrate on your content.

    4. Easy Subscriptions
    Whatever you may be using for subscription forms, make sure that it is easy for your readers to sign up for – this goes for both your RSS feed and any newsletter sign up you might have. For your RSS feed, offer an RSS via email option (and link to a quick overview of what RSS is and its use to your readers) and for your newsletter sign up, include it on all pages, reassure about your privacy policy and perhaps include a giveaway as a sign up sweetener too.

    5. Help them to read more
    If someone has been interested in what you have written then make sure they can find other posts on your blog which might cover the same or closely related topics. Either in your sidebar or following the individual posts, give them a list of the most popular, frequently read or other related posts which they would be interested in. Any element of this type, well placed, will help to direct them to other related posts helping, in turn, to keep your blog “sticky”.

    6. Use Descriptive Categories
    Blogs in general offer you a wonderful automatic filing system in the form of categories and archives – WordPress also offers you the option of using tags as well to help classify your posts. When it comes to naming your categories and selecting your main tags, choose them carefully and make them descriptive as they will provide another method for your readers to find relevant posts which will be of interest. If the category names also contain your key words then there will be additional Search Engine value as we will see in part 2. As they will also act as a type of secondary navigation for your readers, try to keep them consistent.

    7. Search
    The Search function is another element which needs to be on every page if someone has arrived at your blog for the first time and is looking for something specific, then the search box is likely to be their first port of call. So make it visible … and make sure it works!

    8. Don’t forget to link out
    Although conventional wisdom on normal websites says that linking out equates to losing a potential customer, this is not so on a blog. Links out are of great benefit to your readers because it takes them to sites that you deem to be worthwhile to read, hence developing further the trust they have in you and your recommendations. So when you write posts, dont forget to link out where applicable either to support your arguments or to direct your readers to other valuable resources.

    9. Make Commenting easy
    Comments should really be the lifeblood of blogs which enable you to develop interaction with your readers and ultimately a community feel, so make sure that you make it as easy as possible for your readers to leave them. At the same time you do need to safeguard your blog against spammers so what would be the best solution? Making your readers sign up or log in to leave a comment is likely to dissuade all but the keenest commenters and especially first timers. So do your comment moderation behind the scenes and use spam filtering software such as Akismet.

    10. Can they contact you?
    Try to ensure that you are as easily accessible as possible. I know a number of bloggers who are reticent to do this, but in a business blog it is imperative that your contact details can be easily found, ideally on a specific contact page. You should also have a Profile page so that people can get a little more background on you and what you do which again should contain contact details. It might well be to your benefit!!

    As a final check, if you are able to make sure that your readers dont have to jump through hoops when they want to do something on your blog, then incorporate it. What do I mean? Well, look at it from your readers point of view as a test, go onto any blog or website and any time that you hesitate or arent sure what to do next on it, try to think why and then make sure that situation doesnt happen on your own blog.

    To paraphrase the well used phrase – “they hesitate, you lose”. So make sure that your readers dont have to hesitate but can find their way around your blog and around the information it contains.

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    SEO in business blogs for rankingIt is an absolute waste to set up a business blog with the sole intention of using it to enhance your Search Engine rankings. If you do, then you will not only be missing out on the important benefits that blogs offer but also jeopardising the success of your own, right from the word go.

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

    But that’s not the point. Blogs enable you to do so much more, whether you are using them to communicate with your readers, build trust and connections with both customers and prospects alike, carry out market research or customer service, or indeed any of 101 different business uses that they can be put to. And that’s where your focus, effort and attention should be directed, not simply on helping your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) efforts!

    If you do these things correctly and keep the content of your blog focused on what your target audience wants then, believe me, the so called “Google Juice” will flow naturally because of what you write and the way you write and structure it, but as an automatic by-product rather than the sole result.

    Ive seen the same issues come to light elsewhere recently as well. I belong to a couple of online business networking organisations and on one of these, Ecademy, there has been a lot of debate recently following Googles last algorithm change. This resulted in the site not delivering page 1 results as regularly as it had previously been prone to do due to its structure and overall page rank. A number of people have commented that there has therefore been a drop in value of the site because of this and have been asking whether it remains worth the subscription.

    My response again is that the Google / Search Engine benefits have to be viewed for what they are an excellent by-product which is great to have. However, the reason for joining a site like that is to help foster relationships with other business people and provide networking opportunities. Thats why its called a Business Networking Club rather than a Google Ranking Club. Google juice is great but that cannot be the main reason for your being there or else the networking element will ultimately die, killing the site with it.

    And the same is true with blogs. Business blogs are great in providing enhanced Search Engine opportunities but try not to focus too much on those or you risk losing everything. Focus instead on your readers in your blog and I guarantee that your SEO desires and requirements will follow.

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

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    I’ve mentioned a number of times how important title tags are and how useful they can be (and need to be) in different aspects of search engine optimisation for blogs. So I was glad to see that in one of the first sessions at the recent BlogWorld conference over in Las Vegas, that this subject was covered again by the speakers.

    However, as I listened to extracts from the session, there was one element that I picked up and hadn’t considered that was mentioned by Andy Beal from Marketing Pilgrim, and it’s one I’d like to pass on here. But first a little background.

    The title of the post (or Post Title) appears at the top of each individual post on the blog, whereas the words which appear at the top of the browser window is the so called Title Tag. Hopefully, the image below will show the distinction between them.

    Normally in blogs, there is a close relationship between the two elements because most blog software automatically creates a Title Tag from the title of the post, usually mixing it with the name of the blog something like

    “Better Business Blogging >> Title Tags are great”

    To an extent this is good because it it gives a distinct and relevant Title Tag for each page (which is positive) and it’s done automatically for us (which saves us time). However, even better is to have control over both elements individually which is where the SEO Title Tag plugin comes into its own if you’re a WordPress user as it disassociates the post title from the title tag.

    Anyway, where exactly do these two elements appear :

    • RSS feed – Post Title

    • Blog Search Engines – Post Title

    • Main Search Engine results – Title Tag

    • Search Engine Optimisation – Title Tag (primary) and Post Title (secondary)

    Anyway, what is the suggestion? Well, simply to change the title and the title tag after a few days so that you can appeal to the different groups that will be reading them. Basically, different people use the RSS feeds and blog search engines from those who might be searching with the main search engines. So target each.

    When you publish your post, use an attention grabbing headline for readers who may find you in amongst their other RSS feeds – often something time related is good and aimed specifically at your readers. But after a few days, you will have been seen by all those who are likely to find you via RSS or Blog Search Engines (which are also time sensitive) so we need to turn our attention to the main search engines. In this case, we need to make sure that we appeal to search engines with keyword phrases that we want to be found with as well as our readers, and this needs to be done in our title tag.

    So, as ever, pay attention to the needs and interests of your readers but be savvy enough to know when you have to change your focus to the search engines to give your blog posts even more longevity and ‘findability’.

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    Looking for Business BlogsWhen starting a blog of our own or one for our company, hopefully we take time to plan out the content and look at what we want the blog to achieve for us and perhaps follow a process such as the one I advocated in the Green Cross Code of Blogging.

    One of the key parts in this process is the “look and listen” phase. This is when you take time out to research what is already going on and what is being discussed around the blogosphere in your industry or area. By following other blogs which address the same subject areas as your own, you should get a better feel for some key elements which will help you with your own blog, such as:

    • what others are writing about

    • what conversations are ongoing,

    • what topics are already being covered and by whom

    • who the main players are

    • which are the key blogs to read and be seen on

    • ideas on how to present your own blog




    But of course first of all, we have to find them!

    So what are the best places to find what blogs are already out there in the area that you have an interest in. Personally, I’d always start any search of this type with a Blog Search Engine and specifically Technorati which I suppose doubles as a Blog Search Engine and a Blog Directory. Being able to see who is linking to whom allows me to easily trace a route through to find the blogs that I am looking for. Others you could also check are Google’s own Blog Search Engine and Icerocket.

    However, there are other ways of locating blogs which would be of interest to you (and then of course adding them to your RSS reader – makes life a lot simpler afterwards!) and here are some which should make the job easier:

    • Blog Directories and RSS Directories: check through some of these blog focused directories which are usually organised along business and general interest lines. Choose your sector and start reading.

    • Social Networking / Business Networking sites: with the proliferation of the sites such as Facebook, Linkedin, Ecademy, Xing etc, there are a good bet for finding information on relevant blogs. This may be listed on the profile page of the person but it is also worth checking the “signature” text that appears under their posts on the discussion forums where they are often promoted;

    • Other Blogs: once you have a blog you are interested in then use the links and recommendations that they provide. These links may well be in the text of the post itself or in the Blogroll (or Recommended sites) in the sidebar of the blog;

    • Press Releases: as companies take on board the fact that press releases should contain more social media tools and be aimed at their target audience rather than editors, they are including blog addresses in their contact details. Get a Google Alert set up to include their News section and get a daily email on who’s making press releases which contain your keywords;

    • Blog Awards: there seem to be a number of Blog Awards now, either at national level or in specific sectors. Either way they should throw up blogs which are worth looking at;

    • Search Engines: of course the main search engines also include blogs along with the other websites and so may throw up different results to the blog search engines. In any case, always worth a look because of their “firepower”.

    • Blog Carnivals: Blog Carnivals are generally arranged around a theme so check out ones that might be happening in your area of interest and see who is getting involved.

    • Corporate Sites: as more and more companies realise the benefits of a having a blog (or more likely multiple blogs) you will find links to them from their sites. So check the company you are interested in and have a look around!

    • Google Alerts: don’t just use Google Alerts for Press Releases, make sure that you cover all the Google sections available – you can find some research ideas with Google Alerts here.

    Of course, since these are good places to find blogs, they are also excellent places to promote your own. As a first step, do make sure that you have your blog submitted to the various blog and RSS Directories and that your blog software is automatically pinging the Blog Search Engines every time that you post. After that you can look at some or all of the other methods for your own promotion purposes as time permits.

    Try to pick up as much as you can from the ones that impress you most but above all enjoy reading the blogs you find – that’s what they are there for!

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    Can we use blogs for selling? Im often asked this question and Ive also seen a bit of a debate going on around the blogosphere about it of late, so heres my take on it.

    For me, it depends totally on what you interpret as “selling”. According to what your response to that is, then my answer will range from “absolutely not” to “yes, of course, thats the whole reason for having a business blog”. Basically, anywhere from zero to ‘off the scale’.

    Not too much help as yet, I know.

    To help explain how I think selling should be done on a blog, Id like to tell you a story a fable from Aesop called The North Wind and the Sun. It goes something like this:

    The North Wind and the Sun disputed as to which was the most powerful, and agreed that he should be declared the victor who could first strip a wayfaring man of his clothes. The North Wind first tried his power and blew with all his might, but the keener his blasts, the closer the Traveler wrapped his cloak around him.

    At last, resigning all hope of victory, the Wind called upon the Sun to see what he could do. The Sun suddenly shone out with all his warmth. The Traveler no sooner felt his genial rays than he took off one garment after another, and at last, fairly overcome with heat, undressed and bathed in a stream that lay in his path.

    The stated moral of the story is that Persuasion is more successful than Force. So let’s take that idea and look at it in the context of selling.

    If you are thinking of using your blog in the style of a door to door salesman, then please dont. If you are looking to focus on the interruption style of marketing that weve been subjected to for years, then I would also advise a rethink.

    Why? Most people have a real aversion to the hard sell and it’s certain to have a negative effect on your readers. In any case, a blog is never going to be a good method of engaging in this type of selling – blogs work best as a two way dialogue rather than a sales pitch monologue. This type of strong arm tactic, represented by the North Wind in the fable, will generally result in the reader leaving our blog, unlikely ever to return.

    However, there is another way. Instead we can engage in relationship or educational selling (or marketing if you prefer), building trust with our readers and letting them familiarise themselves with the product or service that we offer. How do we do that? Through our posts, we engage with them and allow them to get to know us. We also help them to understand what we do by continually delivering information which is relevant to them … and yet also relevant to our business, our products/services and the market in which we work.

    The result is a much deeper understanding of how what we do can benefit and impact their business – this is because they will have had the opportunity to examine and develop their ideas of its actual uses in their situation. Therefore, when you do sit down with the (now) prospect, it will be with one who has already gone far down the road to deciding that they want to commit and one with a much greater likelihood of implementing and using it properly.

    All of this benefits us because it results in a happier client, a strong ongoing business relationship and positive word of mouth about us and our product/service.

    At the end of the day, for me, its all about the difference between trying to sell something to someone and helping them decide that they want to buy from you. As a customer, I know which I prefer – so, be like the Sun and try the persuasive approach as a seller as well.

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    Browsers, Searchers and Subscribers to BlogsWhen visitors arrive on your business blog, you need to make sure that they can explore it in the way that suits them, at least as far as possible, so that they can get the most out of their visit. To do so, you have to try to preempt their requirements and their habits.

    If we look to group visitors by the way that they are likely to want to explore your blog, then I think that they will fall into browsers, searchers and subscribers. To help them locate information and articles on your blog which will interest them, you should aim to cater for all of these groups and offer them methods to look through your blog which suits their requirements.

    Browsers

    As the name indicates, browsers are generally not looking for something specific when they arrive at your blog. Instead, they are simply following links from other blogs (from an article or perhaps via a Blogroll) to see where it takes them and whether anything appears interesting or catches their eye.

    Once on your blog, browsers will generally follow links – theyll move between posts by using links that you create so it’s sensible to reference your own posts where appropriate as well as other peoples.

    As a result, they can be quite random in what they look at and also easily lost if their attention wavers, so ensure that there are always links in your posts which reference other posts with relevant information. You may also find that creating related posts after the post (either manually or automatically) will help to increase their continued browsing of your blog.

    At the same time, they are open to being guided so point out posts which you consider to be most important (a Very best of page for example) or ones that others have recommended (such as “most commented” or “most viewed” posts) and get your best articles in front of them. Your goal here is of course to turn them into a subscriber so give yourself every chance.

    At a more sophisticated level, it may be possible to track what they have been looking at and therefore offer tailored or personalised advice as to what else may interest them websites such as Amazon are great examples of this in action.

    Searchers

    By contrast, searchers have clear aims in mind so are likely to be looking for a specific subject area when they arrive at your blog. They will be much more single minded in their approach when reading your blog, and so what they want are clear methods of locating the information that they are looking for as quickly as possible.

    Probably the most conventional way to do this is through a search box which should ideally be easy to find and on every page of the blog. However, they will have keywords or key phrases already firmly in mind and therefore may well latch onto the category names or the tags associated with your posts to help explore specific topic areas.

    Its still very important to offer searchers other links, particularly to related posts. This is partly because it may help them to locate the information they are searching for but, in any case, it will give similar or adjacent topics and so show the depth or your blog’s content. It should also encourage the searcher to delve deeper into your blog once they have found the specific information they are after ultimately to help them subscribe to your blog via RSS or via email.

    Subscribers

    It is probable that on your blog, the subscription is mainly run through RSS and so this is where we need to concentrate our efforts to encourage greater access to your content for those who are already subscribers.

    One element of this is the selection of a full or partial RSS feed. With partial feeds, an excerpt is delivered to the subscribers reader and if they want to read the full post then they have to click through to your blog. Most people, however, prefer full feeds which means that articles can be read directly from the feed the downside of this is that they dont actually have to visit your blog to read its content. However, fear not. Its still possible to incorporate other links and offers in the feed itself to encourage them to explore further different medium but still very useful.

    Never fall into the trap of thinking once you have subscribers you can forget about them just the opposite. You have done the hard work by encouraging them to subscribe but now it is up to you to maintain the quality and relevance of what you are writing so that they continue to return and read and also hopefully recommend your blog. (Remember the 5Rs!!) With RSS, it is both easy and immediate to unsubscribe from a feed so the onus is on us, as business bloggers, to maintain a standard which will keep their interest.

    Whatever type of reader arrives at your blog – browser, searcher or subscriber – try to make sure that you cater to their online habits by ensuring that they can find your best information as easily as possible. With a good business blog design, the main elements should be in place but adding a little extra for each of the groups is always valuable. And hopefully, if they can find information which interests them, they will not only become subscribers but remain subscribers too!

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

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    When it comes to Business Blogging, there are 5 Rs which we should focus our attention on if we want to create a successful and sustainable small business or corporate blog. Our aim should be to put all the necessary elements in place on our Blog to allow these 5 Rs to happen as smoothly and automatically as possible. When we manage this, well have created a Blog which fulfils both our readers requirements and our own business needs.

    These 5 Rs are:

    Read - Reply - Return - Recommend - RSS

    Simply put, we need to create and maintain a Blog which in the first instance will attract readers and then encourage them to participate by commenting on our posts or contacting us directly. We then need to make sure that it provides sufficient value or creates enough interest to make them return and become regular readers as well as recommend our Blog to others. The 5th R of RSS underpins all of the others by supporting the distribution and the promotion of the blog.

    If we want people to read our blog, then logically the quality of what we write in the posts will be important. However, we first have to attract readers to our blog – if they dont know about us or cant find us then we are going to fall at the first hurdle, no matter how good our content or services are!

    So promoting the blog is always going to be a critical phase in getting our posts read and its important that we make use of all the methods at our disposal to achieve the best results possible ideally this will combine offline marketing as well as online and blog specific marketing methods.

    As part of this, we need to consider the Search Engine aspects when we write. Its essential to focus on making the content interesting and useful to your readers but it also has to be written in such a way that it is appealing to Search Engines they are a key way to attract readers so we need to write with one eye on ensuring our search engine ranking is as good as possible.

    In addition, to make all of our other efforts as effective as possible, everything about the blog should be attractive and easy to use, from the general design to the layout of the blog and the positioning and display of our own marketing elements.

    The first step in engaging properly with your readers is to have them reply to one of your posts and allow them to voice their opinions, thoughts, ideas and concerns. This creates the interaction, conversations and ultimately the connections that business blogs need to develop and thrive.

    However, we cannot sit back and just rely on the comments simply appearing instead, we need to be actively encouraging them, either by the way in which we write the posts or by asking open questions as part of the text or even by specifically asking for them.

    Having encouraged people to want to reply, try to avoid putting barriers in their way getting people to fill in a form in order to leave a comment is never going to get good results! Its also important to listen and respond to the comments which are left, hence developing the conversation and working towards establishing and then building on a connection with the reader.

    Effectively, we need to get to love comments and make sure that we respond to as many as possible that we receive. We should ensure that we respond to any negative comments which arrive negative comments can often be the most important type!

    As a last thought, you might even consider adding a list of recent comments as part of your blog to highlight those who have made the effort to leave a comment and to encourage them further.

    If people are interested in what you are writing about and find value in it then the likelihood is that they will return to read more. By maintaining the quality of your posts and demonstrating your expertise on a consistent basis, you will be giving yourself the best chance of this happening.

    In the process, you will develop not only a loyal readership but you will also be developing a growing level of trust between yourself and those reading your Blog. Make your blog THE place to go to find information on your specialist subject area.

    Once readers return to your blog, make sure that they can explore all your posts as fully as possible let ALL of your content shine through. To help this, make sure that the navigation around the blog is as clear as possible, that you highlight your key articles (the Foundation articles) and that you include links to related articles at the end of each post.

    As a final point, try to keep an uncluttered look and feel make it easy on the readers eyes again so that they want to return. No-one will come back simply because it looks nice but you want to avoid people deciding to stay away because it doesnt.


    This might have been called Refer but I prefer the concept of recommending which has a more positive connotation and when someone recommends your Blog, that is a very positive thing!

    How do you recommend a blog? Well, clearly, you can tell people about it directly! Word of mouth (WOM) is the most widely used form of recommendation there is so use it to your advantage. When people are considering books to read, films to see or hotels to stay in, arguably the most important element in the decision making process will usually be recommendations from friends. The online world works in the same way and blogs really are the online equivalent of W.O.M.

    There are other online and blog specific ways which are just as important. The most frequent one is to simply reference a post or article from your a post on your own blog, as well as including a trackback. Another option is to include someone in your Blogroll, which is where bloggers highlight the blogs they recommend to their readers high praise indeed. When this does happen, then just like the replies to your posts, follow up and thank the person for the link and hence the recommendation.

    Dont forget that you also make it easy for people to tell a friend about it using an email a friend type of function or links to social bookmarking sites such as Digg or Del.icio.us which will automatically add the post to then be shared online.

    Lots of ways to be recommended so encourage them all!

    Communication and dissemination of information is key to achieving a successful blog and the RSS functionality is the way to achieve that. So the 5th R included here is RSS.

    When someone subscribes to your RSS Feed, it means that they have shown a commitment to continuing the interaction they are interested in receiving more information and with RSS you can provide them with immediate updates from your blog, cleanly and instantly. With so many benefits on offer for all parties, make sure that the RSS feeds are prominent on your blog to make it as easy as possible for visitors to find them.

    To cover all options, you should also give people the opportunity to subscribe to RSS by email – 3rd party services such as Feedblitz or Feedburner make this straightforward. In any case, as RSS is still an unknown quantity in many quarters, it may equally be wise to provide a link to a page which explains what RSS is and what RSS Readers are available.

    Once you have your RSS in place, use it to your benefit. Try to differentiate yourself in your feed and include branding elements such as your logo tools such as Feedburner can really help you to do this simply enough. RSS will also allow you to syndicate your content on a number of different sites immediately and, as a final comment, dont forget that you can create any number of individual RSS feeds to cover individual topics.

    But whether you work from a single RSS feed or develop multiple feeds, it is important that you make RSS a central part of your blog promotion and reader retention program. It is something which underpins the other elements and allows the Business Blog to reach its full potential by making the information we produce as widely available as possible.

    Summary

    If we can achieve each of these 5Rs successfully in our Business Blogging, then we are well on the way to creating a Business Blog which will achieve the goals that we set for it, whether they are focused on creating a network, improving our reputation or positioning, developing a solid base of subscribers, increasing our Search Engine Rankings or simply generating new business.

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    Use graphics to help your Business BlogsThere is a lot of talk about what you write on your blog being all important … and of course it is! The title of your posts should entice people to read the post itself and the content itself will do a lot of the work in determining if your blog finds its way into the RSS reader, the favourites file or the proverbial dustbin.

    However, its also important to make sure that the look and feel of your blog (including the individual posts) support and promote the information you’re providing. It’s just like when you’re selling a house – you make sure that you do a “House Doctor” on it and present it in a way that will appeal to potential buyers. It doesn’t actually change the physical structure but it does show it off to best effect. We can do the same with a blog and influence the way in which people react to it as well as how they take on board what we are writing about.

    Make your Blog stand out from the crowd

    So, the way your blog is presented plays a key role in differentiating not only your blog, but also you and your business. After all, thats what we are looking to achieve in business, being noticed so, any way which helps us to stand out from our competitors has to be positive.

    I dont know about you, but when I see blogs which, for example, run WordPress but just use the basic template – you know the one with the blue box at the top my first reaction is that there cant be anything of value there. In fact, I probably write it off as a splog (spam blog).

    Irrational and quite possibly untrue. Nevertheless I just think that someone who cannot be bothered to spend a bit of effort (or a few pounds) to spruce up their blog probably hasnt spent much time on the content either. Others have told me that I’m not alone in this respect. So spend a little time on the design of your blog and your posts, and help the information that you are carefully putting together get read.

    Caveat: try not to get too carried away. Remember that any graphics you include should not be there to distract your readers but rather to help them focus on the information and ideally encourage them to comment.

    Some Graphics Sites to try

    So where can I find good images to support the information in my blog, I hear you ask! Well, at one end of the spectrum, there are the files that come free with programs such as PowerPoint which offer both clipart and some photos which can be used.

    However, these can often be a little bit samey or not in keeping with what you want to communicate with your blog. There are, however, a number of excellent sites where you can find quality images covering a whole range of topics. Most of the good stock photos sites charge a small fee now, but the images are well worth it if you choose carefully.

    Some sites worth a look are:

    A word of caution: as with all images that you use off the net, do make sure that you follow any copyright requirements the last think you want is to have issues with companies claiming ownership of images which you have used legitimately.

    Other ways to break up posts

    In addition to the use of images, there are of course many other ways in which you can help to make a blog more readable. Some you might like to consider are:

    • break up the posts into manageable chunks

    • keep paragraphs shorter than you might do in a written document

    • use subheadings so that people can skim to the place and the information they want if required (better than them leaving the blog)

    • use bullets where appropriate or indeed create a whole blog comprising of a list – while Im personally not a great fan of these posts, they do work well

    If you mix in some of these and incorporate images which help your blog’s look and feel, then you’ll be taking a big step towards encouraging people to read your blog and take on board the information that the posts contain.

    Then of course, it’s just a case of writing something valuable …! :)

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    Business Blog Design Series[This is part of a series following on from a post called “Business Blog Design“]

    I see so many blogs that are clearly well thought out in terms of their content and seem to have a lot of things going for them which then go and spoil it by plastering Google AdWords adverts or other onpage advertising all over their blog.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against onpage advertising per se – it’s a perfectly good way of developing revenue from a blog, albeit one that is seeing diminishing returns for those who are merely “dabbling” with it, rather than looking at it as a business activity.

    Planning and Goals
    Once again, it comes down to the planning process and your blog’s goals. If you are looking to have a blog which has a primary goal of using onpage advertising to generate revenue, then of course you are going to make best use of the key areas on your blog and populate them with suitable advertising banners and links.

    If, however, you are using a blog to promote your business and develop relationships with your clients, then this advertising is likely to be both distracting and detrimental to your activities. In addition, the advertising needs to be prominent to work well and so will need to occupy the space that you would otherwise use for elements of your own business that you want to promote. Basically, you will be using your blog’s key areas to market somebody else’s products rather than your own!

    Change of Mentality
    It also changes your mentality when you write and promote your blog. If you are writing a blog which is strictly focused on your specialism and your industry, then creating content which will be of interest to this type of reader will be your main concern, no matter what size of market this represents.

    However, the general strategy behind a successful onpage advertising campaign is always going to be a numbers game, therefore the more visitors you attract the greater the number of clicks you will achieve. This means that you are more likely to be looking at posts with a wider appeal or perhaps more contentious ones which will attract more attention … but for attention’s sake. Equally, your blog promotional strategy will need to be focused more on quantity of visitors rather than on quality, again distracting you from targeting readers who would be most beneficial to your own business.

    So, overall, if you are intending to use onpage advertising and are serious about doing so, then make that the focus of your blog following all the principles of placement and use of key “real estate” areas that we have discussed elsewhere in this series. However, if your business blog is intended to develop additional contacts and marketing opportunities, then avoid distracting your readers with adverts for other people’s products and concentrate on helping them discover your own.


    If you intend to use onpage advertising then make it the focus of your blog – if not, then avoid it !

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