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    Better Business Blogging - Quick Bloggers GuideOne of the key characteristics of a blog is the ability for people to comment on what you have posted there are some people who will even argue that it is not really a blog without them! Having this capability gives the blog its interactive element, opens up the opportunities for communications and can help forge the start of a real business connections.

    Hopefully, when looking at how to approach the question of comments, you won’t be deciding whether to allow them or not, but rather how to elicit comments and how to handle the ones you receive. As you are doing so, here are some points that you might want to bear in mind:

    a) How to allow comments
    Just because you open up your blog to comments doesnt mean that have to let anything and everything appear on your blog. You have control over comments which appear and, on most blog platforms, there are a range of options open to you these can range from readers having to be approved and logged in before they can comment at one end of the scale, through to an open policy of no moderation at the other. For most, the right approach lies somewhere in the middle and depends on you, your companys requirements and the aims of your blog. As a good default position, I recommend starting with a level of moderation (ie. you approve comments before they appear) and then develop it from there.

    b) Make sure you respond
    When people have taken the trouble to leave a comment on your blog then make sure you respond where appropriate – remember, in most cases, you are looking to engage with the people who leave comments, so if they respond and ask a question then make sure that you reply to it. This gives you the opportunity to develop the conversation and work towards establishing and then building on a connection with your readers.

    c) Consider a Comments Policy
    Not just appropriate for corporates, any business blog whether its run by an individual or a company can benefit from openly stating what their policy on comments is. If you moderate them, then let people know that there comments wont appear immediately – at the same time, if you are clear about what is acceptable on your business blog and therefore what is not, you can cut down the comments which contravene them.

    d) Encourage comments
    Dont sit back and just rely on the comments simply appearing actively encourage them! This could be in the way you write your posts or by posing open questions as a closing line in your blog inviting opinions from your readers or simply by asking for them. And if your template just says No comments when a posts is still waiting for its first reply, then why not change it to something like Come on – be the first to comment! You never know!

    e) “Reward” comments
    In most blog software, the comments just appear on the individual posts, so why not highlight the people who are commenting and encourage other readers to join them by displaying a Latest Comments list in the sidebar of your main pages which will give both them and you additional visibility. For WordPress users, the Get Recent Comments plugin makes this easy to do.

    f) Don’t simply block negative comments
    Dont simply delete critical comments which come in. At least on your blog you have the chance to respond to them, while elsewhere they will go unchallenged and unanswered. You will find that by allowing and responding to them, you are more likely to gain greater respect by handling objections with grace and tact in the eyes of other readers of your blog. Also, if you are able to answer their points and solve the issue they have, then you have the opportunity not only to keep them as a customer but also perhaps turn them into an supporter for your company again.

    g) Avoiding spam comments
    Youll find that you do attract spam comments but there are ways to avoid them appearing as well as taking up your valuable time. You could use CAPTCHA methods or registration but, for me, the method that has least impact on your readers will be to use specialist software. In my opinion, the leader in this respect is Akismet which identifies the comments that it believes are spam and impounds them – free of charge, except for commercial use and very good.

    h) Help people follow the conversation
    Using a plugin such as Subscribe to Comments, you can allow your readers to sign up for an email notification of when any further comments have been left on the post. It’s a good way to help keep the conversation bubbling away and of course encouraging people to participate more. You could also encourage them to use comment tracking services such as CoComment, Co.mments and Commentful.

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    Better Business Blogging - Quick Bloggers GuideWriting a business blog can be time consuming but it is also an excellent and successful way to develop your business and to connect with your customers as well.

    Here are some suggestions of things that you might consider keeping in mind as you get into writing your posts and start to develop your blog.

    a) Publish on a regular basis
    You should aim to publish posts on a regular basis – this doesnt mean that you need to post every day, although it’s better to post more frequently than not. Aim to post two to three times a week and then keep to that regular rhythm. If you leave it a long time between posts then people will tend to wander in and out rather than become dedicated followers, but if you are going to be away or know you won’t be able to post for a while then simply let your readers know in a post! However, one last reminder dont post for the sake of it. Better not to post than sacrifice quality!

    b) Stay on planned topics
    Try to avoid mixing lots of different subject areas in your blog: as a business blog you want to keep the content as targeted as possible to your niche market area which will help you to get more exposure and build your reputation in that area. Focusing on your main topics is likely to bring you much more success than if you start to stray onto a number of different areas. If you decide that you do want to cover them and the area warrants it, then you might consider setting up a new separate (focused) blog.

    c) Always keep your readers in mind
    Whether you post twice a day or twice a month, always bear in mind who is going to be reading your posts. Then make sure that you write about things that will be of use to them, inform them, amuse them, inspire them, encourage them or any mixture of the above. As Seth Godin commented, “The mistake most blogs and books make: they are about the writer, not the reader” – try to avoid falling into this trap.

    d) Make your titles attractive (in all senses)
    When you write your posts, spend time on the titles that you give them. You need to use them to attract your readers’ attention (in RSS feeds or Search Engine Results) but ideally they should also include your post’s main keyword so that it helps on the Search Engine front as well. [No-one said it was easy! ;)] The title will often form part of the posts permalink as well as the Title Tag which makes it doubly important to get the keywords in there if possible.

    e) Reference other sites and any sources
    If you write a post which references other articles then you should ensure that you state where the reference comes from and add a link back to that article where possible. Its akin to good manners in blogging, adds credibility to your own work and benefits your readers. If the article is on a blog then add a trackback this creates a link back to your post from the original, as well as informing the author that you are developing the themes of their post.

    f) Spelling and Grammar
    While Blogs may be slightly less formal in terms of writing style, you should still try to avoid spelling and grammar errors in your posts, partly because it displays professionalism and partly because mistakes can distract people from the content they are reading.

    g) Check back to your planning document
    From time to time, check back to your original planning document where you outlined the aims of your blog and what you wanted to achieve with it. It’s always good to make sure that you are still maintaining those aims and that you are both measuring and achieving the results you were working towards. If you are not, then take a good hard look at your blog … or at your plan.

    h) Reference your Foundation articles
    When you started your business blog, hopefully you created a number of Foundation articles which put down a solid base for your blog in the key subject areas that you would be dealing with. It’s good, as you write, to reference back to them in your posts on a regular basis to encourage new readers to your blog to review them. Make sure that you have links back to these key articles elsewhere on your blog as well.

    i) Encourage comments and follow up
    Since the first step in establishing a conversation with your readers is going to be through the comments that they leave, encourage them to do so. Try leaving an open ended question at the and of your posts or simply ask them to comment – nothing ventured, nothing gained! Remember when they do leave comments, make sure that you respond to them wherever possible – a conversation is two way after all!

    What other suggestions would you give on ‘Writing your Blog’?

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    Better Business Blogging - Quick Bloggers Guide
    Running in conjunction with the series of specifically focused Bloggers Guides which are being developed, the Better Business Blogging Quick Guides will deliver checklists for the main stages in the Business Blogging process.

    These will range from setting up your blog, through marketing & promoting your blog successfully, and also deal with the wyas in which you can best achieve your marketing calls to action.

    If you have areas that you would like to have covered here , then let me know and I will look to include it as soon as possible.

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