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    Spotlight on UK Blogs - all postsNow back again on Better Business Blogging, I will once again be highlighting some of the Business Blogs which exist in the UK. The aim is to show a cross section of what people and businesses are writing about and how they are approaching the task of using blogs in their business activities. As a result, you’ll find that these posts will contain a mix of Blogs displaying a range of topics and styles.

    In addition, I am working with others to build a list of Business Blogs in the UK. So if there are UK blogs which you have visited and would recommend (including your own!), then please let me know by leaving a comment or sending me a message. You can also reach me on Twitter @BlogCoach Thanks!

    Blah Blah Technology BlogBlah Blah Technology
    Blah Blah Technology was recently catapaulted to the top of the Wikio rankings – another overnight success, hey? Not really, Wayne Smallman’s been working at it for some three years now so all well deserved – good blog, accessible and, despite appearances, not just for techies! (Twitter: @Octane)

    Jim’s Marketing BlogJims Marketing Blog
    Lots of great information and a very dynamic approach to the benefits, approach and opportunities great marketing can offer with the focus very much on people not search engines. Check Jim out and get him in your RSS reader (or at least his blog to start with!) (Twitter: @JimConnolly)

    The New Adventures of Mr Stephen FryLateral Action
    Well what can you say – all the charm and wit of Mr Fry and a great new design which shows it all off just blissingly. You’ll also find Mr Fry keeping us updated on his travels on Twitter at @StephenFry where his arrival some few short weeks ago produced a veritable avalanche of followers.

    Lateral ActionLateral Action
    Creativity + Productivity = Success or at least so says Mark McGuinness and pals over at Lateral Action. Heavy and preachy? Not at all. It’s good, engaging stuff from some guys who really know how to do it and get the message across. (Twitter: @MarkMcGuinness)

    Marketing BlaggerMarketing Blagger
    Marketing Blagger is written by Andy Bargery where he covers topics on marketing, the internet, blogging and social media. If you are in the London area though, come and meet Andy in one of his other guises as the driving force behind the excellent London Bloggers Meet Up Group. Well worth a visit! (Twitter: @Abarge)

    Number 10Lateral Action
    Well even the PM (or at least the PM’s office) is in on the act and they have a blog which they are keeping updated. Even built on WordPress which gives extra kudos to my preferred blogging platform, I guess. (Twitter: @DowningStreet)
    Now, if only they could post on how best to get through the economic downturn … “use social media” did I hear you say? Great idea! :)

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    No, I really do mean it, why do you link to your blog?

    I’m thinking here of the people on business or social networking sites who insist on blindly linking to their blog (as well as their website) from their profile because they have been given a space to do so. Great if you have a blog which you keep updated but why do it when it hasnt been touched for several months? For me thats like proudly linking to your website, encouraging me to visit and then all I find is a big Under Construction sign or the hosting companys holding page. It looks bad and its bad for business.

    The whole point of having a business blog that it tells the reader more about you, markets what you do and opens up a conversation or connection, all of which is likely to reflect positively on you and your business. But a blog where the most recent entry is from the previous year not only doesnt add anything positive to peoples perception of you and your business, it can be distinctly negative.

    So why do people still do it is it that they think it’s still worth maintaining a link just in case it helps with Google? Maybe they just added it and forgot about it as part of a frenzied attempt to sign up with as many social networking sites and forums as possible. Bad move. Every profile you create adds to the pool of information about you on the internet its best to treat them with respect and keep track. The internet has a long memory, for good or for bad.

    From a professional perspective, its particularly disappointing because many of the profiles I read are in fact small business owners who are highly specialised in what they do and clearly have much to offer. Ideal candidates for a successful and focused business blog. More than that, by actively participating in networking sites theyve already shown a real understanding that building trust and confidence online can add so much to their business, leading to referrals and generating real partnership opportunities. All things which running a business blog can also offer in bucket loads.

    But not if its left to die. So even if its just once a week, keep your blog live and then make sure that you do link to it! If not, then please delete that link until you do seriously, its a lot better for your business that way.

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    I’d love to be able to describe a blog as an all powerful “magic wand” which will single-handedly solve all your marketing woes. Unfortunately, in spite of what some over eager blogging enthusiasts might have us believe, its simply not the case. What blogs are, however, are excellent tools which sit perfectly at the centre of your online marketing activity and which you can use to drive your business development efforts. Now thats not too shabby, is it?

    The problem is that that, all too often, a business blog is set up and run in isolation within the company rather than treated as part of a larger set of activities. No matter how successful you make your blog, it is still important to consider it as part of the overall mix – any company thinking of running one in splendid isolation is just guilty of actively stopping it from fulfilling its full potential. Running it in conjunction with other activities will prove to be far more effective both for the blog and your company.

    If, as is often the case, the blog is designed to help market the company and its offerings or enhance its branding efforts, then treat it as a part of the overall marketing mix. Make sure to link it with the other activities you are using or even use it as a hub to coordinate them online and gather the responses they generate.

    Ideally this coordination should happen at the planning stage so that the main interlinking set out in advance and all of the marketing strands can work in tandem. If not, then you will find that a blog is flexible enough to be able to adapt to a change in focus and direction later on if required. Employing this approach will give results which go far beyond those you could achieve using any of the activities on their own, boosting your blog and the overall campaign. The diagram above, while clearly only giving examples of the many online, offline and social media marketing methods available, tries to show the type of integrated approach that will produce the best results.

    Likewise, if you are using the blog for Customer Service or Product Development reasons, then again make sure that it is part of the overall process, integrated with your Call Centre, your Developers or your Product Marketing team and not stuck out on a limb under the control of a separate department. Use the information that your customers provide through it and share it with others. Treat it as the tool that it is, rather than a solution to all ills, and you will be able to tap into a collective resource that your readers and staff can jointly add to – you can then in turn make that available to all those who visit and use the blog, both internally to your company as well as externally.

    So, whatever the job you have in mind for your blog, make sure that from the planning phase onwards you run it in conjunction with the other activities you have in the same area. A blog can be a real hub for your customers, prospects and staff alike so dont isolate it connect to it and through it!

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    At the end of 2006 and perhaps prompted by Time’s lead article declaring “Person of the Year: You“, there was a lot of talk about user generated content, thats to say information on sites being supplied by those using the site rather than those who set it up and run it.

    There are many good examples of websites which work primarily on content which has been generated by the users themselves. Sites such as YouTube and MySpace are ones which have attracted a great deal of press coverage at the social end of the spectrum.

    Business and Networking Examples

    In business, there are equally impressive examples. Amazon contains a huge amount of product information but arguably more valuable are the reviews written by people who have read the books. Similarly, sites such as TripAdvisor contain lots of information but the dynamic part comes from guests who leave their own opinions on the hotels and holidays mentioned.

    In social and business networking, many sites are primarily online structures or shells which allow their members to post articles, share information and advice or generally interact in forums. Their challenge lies in creating something which is appealing and then attracting users with similar interests who will use them and participate. Many do this very well and it shows in their success and their growth.

    Collaboration on Business Blogs

    But it is not only sites of this size which can benefit from this trend towards online collaboration and sharing of information. Your company blog offers the ideal place for exactly this type of cooperation and community building after all, it is targeted at a specific group

    So, for your own business, look at the benefit that you can accrue by getting some of the stakeholders in your company working with you:

    • Sales & Partner Networks: companies with non competing sales or distribution networks can use their blogs as a central source of information that their partners can use to increase their sales and coverage, as well as share their own experiences

    • Internal Communications: from a company perspective, tap into the collective ideas that bounce around inside of a company with nowhere to go. Give them an outlet and a chance to be expressed. Using an internal blog, you allow them not only to be put forward but also developed as others add to the initial idea

    • Market Research: tap into the combined ideas of your most valuable assets your customers. Give them a place (open or private) where they can suggest new ideas or show how they are using your products and services already. It may be quite eye opening

    • Product Development: in certain industries, particularly in hi-tech, allowing developers and customers to put forward new ideas extends the type of research and product marketing that you can achieve 100 fold. You also increase the chances of developing a group of product evangelists into the bargain

    As you can see, you don’t need a site the size of Amazon to enjoy the benefits that collaboration can bring – your business blog has all the elements that you need provided that you focus it correctly.

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    If I see one more person just one!! introducing blogs simply as the magic solution which will instantly turbo boost my sales or promising to show me the one secret about blogs that the experts dont want me to reveal that will skyrocket my bank balance I think Im going to snap.

    [The image you want to conjure up at this point is from Fawlty Towers – just cast your mind back to the car breaking down in Gourmet Night – for those of you without a copy handy, you will find that particular clip about 2 minutes into this excerpt.]

    Thats how I feel. Probably in red letters, bold , font size 30 with yellow highlighter pen over it!

    Why does it rile me so much? Wouldnt I be happy for small businesses and corporates alike to launch a blog and have explosive and instant surges of cash cascading into their bank accounts? Well, yes, I would of course be delighted.

    My issue (apart from the bad English) is that these people are setting unrealistic expectations and time frames – this results in people starting blogs expecting immediate success and then abandoning them because they fail to live up to these hyped levels.

    Blogs are excellent marketing tools, they are brilliant at developing dialogue and thereby fostering relationships and they do give great benefits in the Search Engine Rankings – all of this will bring new customers and greater visibility. But it will also take time and effort.

    So, come on people lets cut back on the spin and focus on the very real benefits that blogs bring to business. Dont think of a blog as something which will give an instant turbo boost to your sales consider it more as a top of the range car that you keep well serviced and which then provides you with years of high quality performance, higher profile and admiring comments.

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    In the first part of the series, I looked at the variety of different methods available when you are looking to promote your Business. In this second part, we will take a look in more detail at some of the options we can use which are specifically used for blogs.

    Firstly, though, it should be pointed out that good content will in itself attract visitors to your blog as people recommend your blog to others – it will also attract people wanting to link to your site. The essence of the Blogosphere is its power of communication, much of which is achieved through linking, and is based on merit and quality. People will reference your site and comment on what you have written if it warrants it this will create a buzz around your blog and acts in a viral marketing way.

    a) RSS Feeds
    All blogs should have at least one RSS feed and over time possibly more as you segment both your content and your blogs readership. The RSS feed will generally be created automatically for you by your Blogging software and so your main task will be to make sure that it can be found – you can then augment the information that you gather from it and improve its use as a promotional tool by using Feedburner as outlined in this post.

    b) RSS Feed Directories
    There are also web directories where you can submit your RSS feed and where the content from the RSS can be searched on both for general subject area and in terms of the content of individual posts as well. A good set of RSS Directories can be found at All RSS.

    c) Blog Directories
    There are an increasing number of directories which are dedicated to blogs and which can offer a good way to get your blog referenced and linked to. Most are general directories with sub categories which function in the same way as the main web directories, though there are also some which are focused on certain particular market areas. Being found in these directories will help not only to direct visitors directly to your Business blog but also add to Page Rank element and so your Blog’s rankings in the main Search Engines.

    d) Blog Search Engines
    There are some main Blog Search Engines such as Technorati which are important to be indexed in luckily, this can be done rather more simply than is the case with the mainstream Search Engines by pinging the relevant web servers (see below). The Blog Search Engines will generally then index the new posts on your Blog almost as soon as you have posted them. This is one of the key reasons why you can find such up to date information using these Search Engines and a contributory factor as to why blogs are so valuable.

    e) Pinging
    Pinging, in terms of blogs, is where you send a short automatic notification to the blog servers (such as Search Engines) to tell them that you have posted new information on your Business Blog and that they should come to index it! Simple just remember to post and ping!

    Pinging can be set up to happen automatically within the Blog system itself in most cases and this is by far the simplest way. Alternatively, you do not have to ping lots of different places manually fortunately, there are some specialist sites which will help to do this for you such as Pingomatic or Pingoat.

    f) Blog Tags
    These are tags or phrases which can be added to a post by its author to indicate the main categories of its content and so should give an accurate reflection of what areas the post is talking about. For blogs, the most commonly used are tags for Technorati the Search Engine then allows you to search not only in a general fashion but also by individual tags. Other sites which were the pioneers of this type of social tagging are Flickr and del.icio.us

    g) Post Comments on other Blogs
    You should be keeping your eye on a number of other Blogs and following those that most interest you or you find most relevant. Ideally, once you have your own blog up and running then you should not only be reading them but also commenting on them. Its a way of getting your name out into the blogosphere as well as encouraging people back to your own blog.

    When you post a comment, most blogs request your name and your website address then, when you submit your comment, it appears with your name which forms a link back to your site. Try to avoid comments which just say “Great Post” or something similar; although it will create a link back to your site, it really doesnt encourage people to use it.

    However, if you add value to the post in your comment, then there is a greater likelihood that people will want to follow the link from your comment back to your own blog to read more of what you have to say.

    h) Trackbacks
    When you write a post which reference other blogs, then you should always credit the original source and place a link to it within the text of your post. Wherever possible, you should also use a trackback. A trackback will automatically inform the author that you have referenced their post in your blog and are continuing the themes from their article in your own post. At the same time, it will also create a link in the comments section of the original post which people can follow back to your blog.

    To add a trackback, you need to find the trackback address at the bottom of the post you are referencing and this should be copied into the relevant boxcon the screen where you write your post. Once again, the quality of the post that you write will then determine whether people consider it worthwhile to have followed the trackback and visited your blog so try to ensure that you are adding something to the original or taking it in another direction.

    If you use all of these techniques then you will already be going a long way towards to successfully marketing your Business Blog. In part three, we will look at the general online methods that you can use in conjunction with these.

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    This is the first of a four part series which will look at the important subject of promoting and marketing a Business Blog. The other three parts of the series will individually focus on the blog specific promotion, general online promotion and finally offline promotion.

    There are a number of different ways in which you should be looking to promote and market your Business Blog to encourage the sort of traffic that you are looking to achieve. Like a normal website, if you believe that you can simply build your site and people will immediately swarm to it in their thousands, then you are going to be sadly disappointed.

    I have divided the methods into 3 areas covering:

      1. Marketing and promotion techniques which are specific to blogs;
      2. General online promotional techniques;
      3. Offline marketing

    These can be shown as below:

    While the methods have been divided into three sections, they should be considered and implemented as a single set of activities. An integrated approach combining all of the elements will provide the best results and so should be considered as such.

    1. Blog Specific marketing and promotion methods

    At the heart of a good blog will be good and focused content which will in itself attract visitors to your blog as people recommend your blog to others and also attract people who will want to link to your site.

    In addition to this content, you should be looking t at the following elements to promote your Blog.

      a) RSS Feeds
      RSS feeds are an excellent and easy method to help readers to find you and your content so use them wherever you can.

      b) RSS Feed Directories
      There are a growing number of directories where you can submit your RSS feed and where the content from the RSS can be searched on topic area and the content of individual posts.

      c) Blog Directories
      There are an increasing number of directories which are dedicated to blogs and which can offer a good way to get your blog referenced and linked to.

      d) Blog Search Engines
      There are some main Blog Search Engines which are important to be indexed in luckily, this can be done rather more simply than is the case with the mainstream Search Engines by pinging the relevant web servers.

      e) Pinging
      Pinging, in terms of blogs, is where you send a short automatic notification to the blog servers to tell them that you have posted new information to index. Simple just remember to post and ping!

      f) Blog Tags
      These are tags or phrases which are added by its author to indicate the main content focus – for blogs, the most commonly used are tags for Technorati.

      g) Post Comments on other Blogs
      You should not only be reading other blogs but also commenting on them. Its a way of getting your name out into the blogosphere as well as encouraging people back to your own blog.

      h) Trackbacks
      When referencing other blogs, then you should always link to the original source and wherever possible, you should also include a trackback as well.

    2. General Online Methods

    I have previously described blogs as websites with special characteristics which set them apart and make them so very useful. Nevertheless, this does mean that they can therefore be promoted in the same way as a normal website using the online methods available to us.

      a) Search Engines
      Search Engines are an excellent source of traffic so give your Blog the best chance to be found by making sure that it employs Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and is referenced where possible.

      b) Generic Directories
      Submit your blog to the main web directories and any other relevant general web directories.

      c) Search Advertising
      Search Advertising, or Pay Per Click advertising, is just as applicable to Business Blogs as it is to websites for bringing additional qualified traffic to your blog.

      d) Write Articles
      Posting articles to online article sites is a good way to both raise your profile and create additional inbound links to your Blog.

      e) Online Forums
      Participate in online forums which are relevant to your business both content and the signature will add additional traffic.

      f) Email Signatures
      Not strictly online as such, but you should always make sure that the signature that you have on your email contains your Blog address.

    3. Offline Marketing

    Offline marketing techniques are equally effective for promoting your blog. You should therefore consider integrating the emarketing methods outlined above with the traditional offline methods that you already employ to market your company website.

      a) Personal and Company Stationery
      Make sure that your Business Blog address appears on your personal and company stationery such as business cards, letter heads and compliments slips.

      b) Business brochures and collateral
      Likewise in your brochures, flyers and leaflets, you should take the opportunity to give the recipients a direct link to further information on the subject.

      c) Presentations and Seminars
      You will normally have a section regarding you and / or your company so include here the address of your blog and the type of content that they will find there.

      d) Conferences and Exhibitions
      On your stand, on the flyers that you distribute and in any presentations that you give, you will have the chance to focus peoples attention on your blog.

      e) Direct Mailings
      A blog is often an excellent place to direct people for passionate views on the product or for a centralised information source for a conference you are running, for example.

      f) Press Release
      You could also issue a Press Release outlining the fact that you have decided to create and develop a Blog and giving the reasons behind it and the benefits that your customers can expect to gain from it.

      g) Word of Mouth
      Dont forget the age old method of simply telling people about it!

    It is the integration of the methods that are mentioned above which will bring the best results rather than individual elements in isolation. So concentrate on focusing on those which are most appropriate to your main target audience and the continue adding the others to build up the traffic over time.

    The next part in the series will look in more depth at the Blog based promotion methods.

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    It seems to me that, while most businesses could benefit from using a Business Blog as part of their marketing and business development activities, there are some types of companies which would find them particularly beneficial.

    Companies which need to present a human face to their activities: some professional services organisations have been known to suffer from a bland image. Using a blog, you can break down some of these preconceptions and reveal some of the personalities carrying out the work which will help to engender greater trust in what is a customer focused environment.

    Companies which rely on their specialist knowledge to attract clients: consistently demonstrating expertise in a chosen field can quickly help to build a positive reputation and encourage potential clients to gravitate towards you. Client case studies go part of the way, but displaying both your general and specialised knowledge over a period of time in a Business blog helps more than a sanitised case study can ever do. Think of it as multiple case studies on steroids if you like. This is particularly relevant for independent consultants and specialist consultancies.

    Companies which have progressed beyond the hard sell approach: direct advertising and the hard sell has become less and less successful as an approach. However, an educational marketing approach, where you provide potential clients with information on which to make their own informed decision on their purchase, has gone from strength to strength.

    Companies wanting to become more of a partner than a supplier: as you engage potential clients through your Business Blog, you develop trust and a relationship which can position you as a partner rather than a simple supplier. People prefer to work with and buy from people and companies that they trust and a blog will help to achieve this.

    Companies wishing to be THE information resource for their market niche: most of the information that your prospective clients are looking for is available on the web, it is just a case of finding it. So rather than let potential clients find it on a competitors site, provide it yourself or provide links to it on your Blog. You will become the preferred place to go for this type of information and so attract anyone interested in your niche to your blog. This is turn provides you with the ideal opportunity to open a dialogue with them.

    Companies organising conferences, seminars and exhibitions: blogs are the ideal focal point for collating and distributing information to attendees pre-Conference and for gathering feedback from them during and after the Event. You can update the conference details and add new information yourself, and you automatically develop a powerful online Search Engine marketing tool as well.

    Companies looking to develop a network or community around themselves: as a networking tool, a business blog can help in many different ways but one of its most powerful is when it allows the creation of a network of like minded people interested in a particular area. It is particularly positive for the company setting this up and running it because they find themselves at the centre of this network and therefore in a high profile position.

    Companies developing new products or services: customer feedback and input is essential in the product development process. By taking the step to allow this feedback to take place on a Blog, you are allowing discussions and generating ideas which can be invaluable to the process. Added to this, you have a group of people who have contributed to the product and so are likely to be its strongest evangelists and advocates.

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    Using a Blog as the central Public Relations tool for a general or internal event can add really weight to the publicity and profile that it can achieve, as well as providing the perfect focal point for other marketing and promotional activities supporting it.

    The Event might be a conference, a seminar (or a series of seminars), an exhibition, a Trade Show or a product launch, but the requirements of being able to distribute information as widely as possible remains a key factor. Only when people know about the Event and get information on it can they choose to attend!

    What are the key elements which makes a Blog such a great tool for anyone organising an event, whether internal or to the general public? Some of the main reasons are:

    • Blogs are ideal vehicles to generate Search Engine attention and hence spread information to a wider audience

    • Marketing department can enter the information themselves so making updates are easy and immediate

    • Information remains always up to date and is permanently accessible: no need to send out hundreds of follow ups because people have lost part what they have been sent

    • Communications with attendees is simplified either using RSS or email by referring people to the information contained in the blog rather than sending it to everyone.

    • Instant feedback can be obtained from attendees to give valuable information for future events

    • It provides a central point for all information which both online and offline marketing for the event can then focus in on

    There are several phases during the event where the blog will lends extra value to the event and a valuable source of information and feedback for the attendees. These start right from the moment that the Event is announced through to the post-Event distribution of information and the ongoing ability for continued publicity for your company and your follow up events.

    The main benefits are:

    1. Announcing the Event
    The starting point is an announcement of the Event, outlining its format, its content (or expected content) and providing an explanation of its goals and who it will benefit from it. By including the framework of the event, you give the initial key information, start the work on the Search Engines visibility and give yourself the basis of future enhancements to the blog.

    2. Additions and updates to agenda
    The Business Blog format gives the perfect method of keeping the agenda up to date, no matter how many changes are made to it. It is likely that the conference agenda and the speakers will not be finalised before announcing the event but, because updating a blog needs no technical input, it can be done easily and quickly by those running the event. Updates are then instantly available and attendees can be kept up to date using RSS ideally or email.

    3. Pre-Conference Promotion
    By adding additional information on the content of the event, you can continue to drive the publicity machine through your general marketing activities and through the Search Engines. Articles around the subjects the event will cover or information from the speakers, for example, will bring people back to your blog and ensure Search Engine coverage.

    4. Commentary during the Event
    Commentary can come from two sources during the event: from the organisers as they add details about the presentations and keep coverage of the event up to date; and, perhaps more importantly, attendees can contribute their own thoughts and impressions about the event. These can be incorporated immediately and so be displayed while the event is still ongoing.

    5. Event survey
    Often surveys are run during targeted events to get feedback on certain aspects of its set-up and running, including content of the presentations or initial thoughts on the product if relating to a product launch. The survey can easily be run through the blog and then of course the results can be posted there (and distributed by RSS) or emailed out.

    6. Distributing Presentations and other downloads
    Presentations and other supporting material from the Event are often made available to be downloaded after the event. The Blog is the ideal place to post this information and, because of the focus before and during the event, it will also be the natural place for them to look.

    7. Post event appraisal
    After an event, all of the feedback and comments from the attendees who have used the Blog to comment either on the presentations or the vent itself will be invaluable to assess its success and help future developments. This, together with the event survey, will form the basis of the internal evaluation of the event.

    8. Ongoing permanent archive
    Of course, after the event, all of the content that you have created remains to be continually indexed by the Search Engines, giving a continual boost to your business profile and, for regular events, free promotion for the next one. If you wish to remove it you can, but the benefits from leaving it and letting people access it will be much more powerful.

    One event at last year which shows the power this can bring and also gives additional information on the use of Business Blogs in general was its use for Global PR Blog Week. Check out how they used it it created a large amount of publicity for the Event and continues to do so.

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