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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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    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 SeriesWell, this may not have been the quickest series that I’ve ever written, but over the past weeks I’ve written a series of posts looking at some of the business elements to consider when designing a Business Blog.

    As I’m no graphic designer, I’ve been focusing on blog design in terms of how to use the layout and key components of your Business blog to your best advantage from a business perspective.

    Anyway, here are links to the posts all together.

    Business Blog Design: Initial Post
    Business Blog Design: Profile and Contact Details
    Business Blog Design: Navigation and using your Content
    Business Blog Design: Generic Blog Templates
    Business Blog Design: RSS Feeds & Subscriptions
    Business Blog Design: Onpage Advertising
    Business Blog Design: Comments
    Business Blog Design: Categories, Archives and Search

    Do let me know if they’ve been useful and also what other things you considered when you set up your own blog and perhaps they can be included in a follow up post.

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


    One of the key elements which makes a blog easy to use (as an author) and to navigate (as a visitor) is the fact that it is self structuring and self organising. The main way this happens is that posts are automatically stored in both Categories and Archives. However, even aspects like these can be used to our advantage if they are used properly.

    Categories
    Essentially, the categories on a blog allow you to organise your posts by filing them into various folders according to their subject matter. From a usability and navigation point of view, this has three main results:

    • it makes it easier for people to find what they are looking for either browsing through the subjects covered by the blog

    • it allows them to go directly to an area they are interested in

    • from the author’s point of view, it gives us the chance to try to direct their investigation of the blog rather than just let them search blindly.

    If I take the example of my own blog as well as those that I monitor for others, I find that the categories are where readers tend to look first when they explore the blog further rather than turning immediately to the Search function. So if we can get the naming and positioning right, then this is really going to help to increase the areas and posts which get explored.

    The choice of Category names is also important and has an impact both with regards to our readers and also to search engines. It impacts in a number of areas namely:

    • Visitor focus – using clear names allows readers to get a quick view of your content and focus just by scanning your category names;

    • Friendly Permalinks – with certain permalink structures the category name is included, so make it count by covering your keywords in your category names;

    • Category Headings – these are included at the top of the individual category pages usually in a ‘header tag’ and then of course relevant content follows below in the posts in that category. Great focused search engine content.

    • Anchor text – the anchor text is the word(s) which make up a link. In your blog, the category links on every page point at your individual category page with relevant keywords as anchor text – Search Engines give added weight to this.

    • Keywords on page – as well as everything else, just having the category names (and the keywords they contain) on each page is going to be beneficial!

    Basically, category names need to be descriptive (there’s no getting away from that) but at the same time they should naturally include your primary as well as secondary keywords.

    Don’t forget, that if you are using WordPress, then you can have subcategories as well as the main ones. This can be of use if you want to have different divisions on your page such as Geographic areas and Business areas because you can split your categories automatically into separate lists.

    Archives
    The Archives are another ever present feature on blogs although they come in a variety of forms, primarily monthly but also sometimes weekly or in calendar format. It’s good to keep them on the blog but I don’t recommend that they feature prominently, simply because visitors are less likely to search by date of posting (unless it’s something very specific) than they are by topic.

    A long list of archives can sometimes help to give a feeling of gravitas and substance to a blog, though really this should come out in the writing in any case. Therefore, so as not to clutter a sidebar which could be used for other purposes, there’s no real need to give direct links to more than 12 – 18 months worth.

    There is also a school of thought which says that it is better not to allow indexing of archives by search engines because they just end up in the supplemental indexes and clutter the results. Personally I’m not in favour of doing this, though I agree that the robots.txt file is the best place to control it from – however, I am in agreement that the calendar display formats can cause problems and hence recommend avoiding them where possible.

    Search
    While I find that many people dont use this function, often preferring to navigate using the categories, it is nevertheless one that most people are familiar with and would expect to see on a blog or a website. It particularly comes into its own when they are looking for something specific and when the blog has grown to contain a large number of posts or perhaps a particularly large number of topics.

    Make sure that the Search function delivers as much of the functionality that they would be used to as possible … and, let’s face it, that experience is likely to be based on Google. Particularly, try to make the results page as familiar to users as you can as it will help them explore your blog.


    Make use of all opportunities available to help your visitors find the content they want and also to attract those Search Engines!

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

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


    Being able to open up a dialogue between author and readers by leaving comments is one of the key aspects of a blog and one of the elements that make them as effective as they are. They open a door onto the interactive side of the web and give the opportunity to engage with people, start conversations and create connections.

    However, just as in the real world, its important to show that you are willing to talk with people rather than turning your back on them (proverbially or otherwise) or give the impression that you are unapproachable and arent looking to engage with them.

    Allow and learn to love comments
    You should always allow people to comment on your blog, unless you have very specific reasons why not at the same time, you should make sure that you have the ability to deal with the comments that come back. I dont just mean in terms of time (for most that will not be an issue – and if it is, it’s often a good one to have!), but also in terms of responding appropriately.

    Whether the comments you receive contain information, praise or criticism, you need to deal with them openly and correctly. You can achieve a huge amount by doing this, gaining respect in the process, especially when responding to negative comments. You will also encourage additional comments by the way that you have dealt with previous ones, so take the time to do so.

    Actively encourage comments
    Creating dialogue through getting responses is a key element to a successful blog, so dont sit back and wait for comments help to initiate them, either on your own blog or on those of others. Dont be afraid to openly ask for comments you should feel comfortable enough to encourage or challenge people to reply, or ask them for information. Basically, start that conversation!

    You can also encourage comments simply by the way that you write, either through inspiring people to respond, goading them or by opening up a discussion on an area that you know people will have an opinion that that they want to express. Some other ways might include:

    • Asking for opinions in general or asking a direct question at the end of your posts;

    • Challenging people to put their point of view forward on the topic;

    • Writing in an open ended style which allows people to add further thoughts on the topic rather than consider you’ve covered all aspects of it;

    • asking for additional information to help build up a bigger collection of thoughts and ideas on the subject

    • Running a competition (prizes help encourage participation!)

    • Starting group writing projects such as a Metaphor for Blogging

    • Drawing attention to comments made either by referencing them or by displaying “Latest Comments” in your sidebar

    Make it easy to comment
    We want people to comment, so make it easy for your readers to do so and don’t put barriers in their way which may put them off. Probably the biggest barrier in this regard is where you ask people to register before they can leave a comment – while I recognise that comment spam is a very real issue, there are other ways around this which will not impact on the relationship between author and reader.

    How to deal with them
    You should try to respond to the comments that your readers leave where appropriate – 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.

    Of course, there will be cases where the comments will not be favourable this is to be expected. You cannot please all the people all of the time. You should still try to respond to their points and present your point of view – its best not to ignore this type of comment because at least on your blog you have the chance to put forward your side. Elsewhere, negative comments will go unanswered. You will also often gain greater respect by handling objections with grace and tact by doing it this way.

    How to avoid Spam Comments
    Spam comments appearing in our comment section doesn’t give a good impression, but luckily there are a number of ways to avoid this. So what are our options – other than turning off comments all together, which I don’t advocate.

    The main ones you might consider are:

    • Specialist Software: like email, there are providers of specialist software which can help us and here, in my opinion, the leader in this respect is called Akismet. It identifies the comments that it believes are spam and impounds them – free of charge, except for commercial use and very good.

    • Comment Moderation: moderating out spam by looking at each comment which has been left and allow genuine ones to appear on your blog while deleting the spam comments. This can become very time consuming (not to mention frustrating!)

    • CAPTCHA methods: this is the distorted series of letters and numbers which appear on the page and that you have to type in to prove that you are a human and not an automated visitor. Good but a bit of a barrier to readers.

    • Registration: only accept comments from people that have already logged in to a registration system which you run on your blog secure but can dissuade people from commenting.

    Designing your business blog to encourage and display comments appropriately will hopefully help to develop more and more feedback, thereby developing an ongoing dialogue or relationship with your readers. This in turn should have a positive effect in terms of both reputation and trust.


    Learn to love comments (positive and negative), encourage readers to leave them and make it easy for them to do so!

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    RSS is a key element of blogs and for their successful use in business it is also one of the 5 Rs that I consider to be key to business blogging. This is primarily because of the enormous benefits of what is effectively an instant and very efficient method of distributing information, as well as a great marketing tool.

    For publishers, RSS should really have a similar importance as an newsletter sign up box because it gives you the same opportunity to communicate with people who have expressed an interest in what you have to offer. The added benefit is of course that you have an assured method of delivery which is not hampered by email filters and the like.

    If gaining loyal readers (and hence subscribers) to your blog is important – and let’s face it, it is to 95% of business bloggers – then it’s important to consider where it appears on your blog design. Higher up the screen and certainly above the fold is clearly going to be better, though this needs to be balanced with the other elements that you wish to promote – however, if RSS subscriptions is a key aim, then get that up at the top, big and bold.

    Remember that there is also no need to restrict yourself to a single feed – if you are writing material which is has very distinct areas, then use the capability to set up an RSS feed for each category and promote them individually. Let your readers decide which parts they want to receive, they’ll appreciate that more than having to filter out the elements they want, particularly if you are a prolific writer.

    Other things that you should consider to encourage signups from your blog are:

    • Use Feedburner to optimise your RSS usage: I’m a great fan of Feedburner because they offer a number of services which allow you to increase the usability and marketing potential of your RSS Feed – I outline some of those in this post about Feedburner.Give yourself the best chance of using RSS - sign up to Feedburner.

    • Use a Giveaway to encourage Subscriptions: Taking a leaf out of email subscription good practice, use a giveaway to encourage sign ups to your RSS feed. Its sensible and it works! How to do it though? Well, using Feedburner, you can create a custom FeedFlare which links back to a download page on your site. Still unsure? contact me here!
    • Email subscription to RSS: even for readers who are not familiar with RSS, you can make sure that they can still benefit from the instant access that RSS offers by offering them a subscription via email. There are 3rd party services which allow you to do this such as Feedblitz or the email subscription service from Feedburner.
    • Link from each post: to cater for readers who arrive at your posts directly, encourage readers at the bottom of each post to sign up for the RSS feed. This can be done directly, or if you are a WordPress user, this can be done through a plugin such as Subscribe Remind.
    • Highlight Feed Readers: you may like to consider using the little chicklets highlighting the different Feed readers that people could be using to receive your feed. Don’t go overboard (there are more important things you can have in your sidebar) but you could benefit from using some.

    One final thing to reiterate is that promoting your RSS in your blog design is no good without the content behind it – it is easy to unsubscribe so that puts the onus on you, the writer, to make sure you give content that they’ll want to come back to read. The inimitable Hugh McLeod summed this up beautifully in one of his cartoons, which is what I leave you with.

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

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

    I realise that this might be verging on a bit of an obsession with me, but I dislike standard generic blog templates with a passion. Just to clarify, these are the templates that are supplied as standard with the blogging software – one such example is the basic Kubrick template that comes with WordPress.

    It’s not that they are bad as such because they’re not. The trouble is that they aren’t going to help the aims of your business blog very much either and, in certain circumstances, they will actually hinder your goals.

    So what are the main reasons for avoiding the generic templates and making sure that you use a more bespoke one for your business blog?

    • Differentiate yourself – to run a successful business blog, you will need to spend time setting up and writing your blog. Let the look and feel of your blog support and promote your posts and help to differentiate them;

    • Avoid looking like a splog: “splogs” are “spam blogs” which are most often created automatically and, because of this, use the basic template that the software is supplied with. You only have a few seconds to attract a new visitor to your site so make sure you don’t give the wrong first impression;

    • Show that you care: don’t hamper the good work that you are putting into other aspects of your blog by displaying a lack of care and effort in how it looks. You want others to care about what you are writing about so show that you do as well;

    • Optimise your Information: generic templates will never optimise the information in your blog to make the most of what you are writing. To use your content properly, select the right software and then getting your template working for you;

    • Highlight your important elements: you need to use your blog layout to promote and highlight the elements which are most important to your business – get a template which displays your sign up box and your special promotions in the prime positions.

    Ideally, get a blog design which is going to fit with the aims and requirements of your company and what you want to achieve with your blog. If not, then at least choose a template which appeals to you and work with it to achieve your business objectives.


    Make sure that your blog template supports your business goals and so avoid the generic templates your software comes with!

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

    Making it easy for readers to get around your blog is essential – it’s also very sensible. You put a lot of time and effort into writing your posts, so you want to make sure that they can be found easily and any associated information also highlighted to your blog readers.

    As I mentioned in the original article, if you have special elements – these could be promotions, services, products, giveaways etc. – that you are looking to highlight, then these should be positioned accordingly at the top of your blog, above the fold. This will make these elements easy to locate and additional variations to the blog, as they will no doubt vary over time as your business priorities change.

    However, the rest of your content also needs to be shown off to best effect! The main methods will be via the individual categories and the archives and, from personal experience, the categories which will be most frequently used, so make sure that they are prominently positioned.

    There are some other ways and means that you can include to help encourage people to explore your blog further and therefore allow you to gain maximum benefit from the time that you invested in your posts. Some that you might like to consider are:

    Related posts
    Link to other posts on your blog which contain information related to the post that they are currently reading they are clearly interested in the topic, so help them find more details about it. In WordPress, you can do this with a plug-in called Related Posts.

    Links in your posts
    Within your posts, reference other posts on your blog so that you make it easy for people to find them. Just as you should reference other people’s blogs in your posts as sources of additional information, theres no harm in referencing your own as well.

    Key posts
    You probably have set of key posts (which I call Foundation posts) and which contain information that is key to your services and your business in general – so highlight them, perhaps by creating a list under the heading of “Key information”. If you can’t specifically identify ones, then check your stats package for the posts that attract the most hits or appear most prominently in the Search Engines and then highlight them.

    Most Popular posts
    Check which posts attract most comments or which have the most visitors (again a plug-in can help WordPress users here) and make sure that they are highlighted so that more people can read and share them. The sidebar is a good place to create this list although you could alternatively make a special page.

    Recent Posts
    List your last 5 posts in the sidebar thus encouraging people to read your most recent (and possibly most relevant) offerings. You might avoid these on the main blog homepage as they will be visible but is great for individual post pages – a quick modification to your template will allow you to achieve this.

    Recent Comments
    With blogs being all about communication, show the last few comments in your sidebar so that people can read not only your initial posts but also the comments that your readers have taken the time to leave.

    Show Categories in the Post headers
    Include the names of the categories that the post appears in alongside the title or at the bottom of the post. It will help people to find other posts which are related and that you have categorised in the same way.

    By using these methods, you are giving additional value to your readers by helping them find further information that is relevant to them – at the same time, you are of course promoting more of your own content and so helping the marketing of your blog. As an added bonus, you are also extending the internal linking within your blog which the Search Engines will be pleased to use and give you an extra “plus point” for.


    You spend a lot of time creating good content on your blog so make sure that your Blog Design helps and encourages your readers to find it!

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

    While Ive written on this subject before, I feel that it is worthy of inclusion again as part of the Business Blog Design series.

    It’s all about communication!

    When we talk to someone face to face, either at a personal or business level, there will be a point when the conversation turns to questions such as “what do you do?”, “where are you from?” or something akin to “what team do you support?”. Why? Because we are interested in knowing more about the people that we deal with – its in our nature

    In the same way, blogs are really all about communication too, as well as interaction and conversation. Personal blogs approach this with certain goals in mind – getting in touch with people with common interests or just wanting “to be heard” for example – while companies using business blogs have a different agenda and may be looking to generate trust, differentiate themselves and ultimately develop additional business.

    In both cases, you need to make sure that people can find out more about you … and also find you! When you are reading a business blog and find what is being said interesting, it can be very frustrating if you want to contact the person or find out where they are based only to discover that that little (but crucial) bit of information is nowhere to be seen. Not only is this frustrating but it can also be damaging from a business point of view too!

    Make your details easy to find

    So make sure that you provide your readers with a clear way of finding out about the person who is writing the blog and who they are communicating with. They’ll already have a good idea but what you write and how you write it but help them on their way – always remember to put up a profile up on your Business Blog as well as a way for your readers to get in touch with you, though of course those can be on the same page.

    If you prefer to include your details as part of your sidebar then keep it short and sweet thats part of your prime real estate that we talked about in the original post so youll have lots of business specific stuff that you also want to be highly visible there. I personally prefer a link through to a separate page where you have a little more space to include whatever details seem appropriate to you. And a photo … always remember a photo! Most of us work visually, so that help your readers picture you, even if you’re not totally comfortable with it like me.

    What to include?

    Some profiles will focus on past work and experience ( no CVS though, please), others will have more of a current focus and outline future plans. What ever you put there, try to make it personal though and don’t forget that picture as well! :) Remember that from a networking perspective, your Business Blog acts as the hub at the centre of that network – people are therefore going to be interested in the real you and what makes you tick so give them some insights into the person behind the Blog.

    You also want people to be able to contact you. They can do this by posting comments on your blog, but they may also want to get in contact with you directly. So, make sure that you also have your contact details on your blog, either as part of your profile or in a separate section or both!

    Don’t forget your legal obligations

    Finally, in Europe at least, a new law which came into force at the beginning of 2007 requires that emails and websites (and hence blogs) to display certain details about the company and/or individual that is writing them so make sure that you comply if necessary. Theres more information about this here.


    Make sure that your profile and your contact details are clearly visible on your Blog – make it easy for others to find out more about you and contact you!

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