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  • Warren: Blogging and Social Media definitely go hand in hand. Having a successful social presence can do a lot for a...
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    Last week, I wrote – granted, tongue in cheek – a post called How to avoid negative comments which looked at the problem of companies which are reluctant to blog because they feel that they will open themselves up to an avalanche of negative comments.

    Another concern that I often experience (rather than hear expressed) is a reluctance to link to other websites and blogs from posts. Creating links which go away from your blog somehow seems contradictory in many peoples minds. I think that this comes from the idea that linking out means losing something, whether that be visitors (and by implication potential customers) or Search Engine Power! as it were, in terms of Page Rank.

    Difference of Approach

    Its true that perceived wisdom online has always suggested that once you have a potential customer on your site, you should direct them to do one thing and one thing only get them onto the page where they can buy from you! This is exactly the right approach on sites which are set up with direct selling in mind however, that isnt the case with most blogs.

    Personally, I consider that there are 4 key things we are looking to encourage visitors to our blog to do Read, Reply, Return & Recommend as I explained in The 5 Rs of Better Business Blogging. If I had to pick a single goal for a blog, I think that it would probably be to get visitors to return and become regular readers. By fostering and developing these relationships, sales will still be the likely result if that is your end goal.

    Informing and Supporting

    The blogosphere works on different parametres from most other websites. It thrives on links & connections and those blogs which create those outbound links will tend to thrive with it.

    Linking is carried out for three principal reasons:

    1. referencing and connecting to sources of information as part of the support and corroboration that you are providing for one of your posts;

    2. as a general recommendation of other blogs as excellent sources of information;

    3. as a way to help readers follow an ongoing discussion or topic by following the links between blogs carrying on that “conversation”.

    So, as you link out to other blogs, you lend greater relevance and credence to your own. At the same time, you are encouraging others to look at and hopefully reference your own blog – trackbacks in addition to links in the body of your posts will help this.

    Creating Community / Network and Value

    Every time that you link out, instead of giving away or losing value, you are in fact gaining it. In the process, you are creating a mini resource in your area of expertise which will in turn help to generate a community or network around it with you and your blog at its centre.

    The links that you provide help your readers to discover more about the subject matter as well as follow and track discussions that are going on. They will use your blog as their start point for their investigations because they trust the information and the links that you provide effectively you become their online directory and general resource in your specialism. You become THE person to go go to for them.

    And, if you are worried that you are making it easy for them to find other authors on the subject, then dont. With Search Engines, they would find these articles anyway – however, by helping them, you are in fact strengthening your position, as you are providing them with a resouce and network which they will keep returning to.

    Conclusion

    So should you just link to everyone? Well, no. The quality of links that you provide and the sources that you refer to reflect on you. Equally, there is no point linking just for the sake of it – your blogroll of sites is likely to show your general recommendations so keep the links in your posts relevant to the subject that you are writing about.

    Above all, never worry about linking to other sites that you wish to recommend or refer to – you will find that just as you link to other blogs, others will link to you because your writing and blogging ethos merits it. What goes around, comes around – in a good sense!

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    The use of Business Blogging by small businesses is a topic that has been covered by many but is certainly important enough to be revisited here. I am convinced, given the wide range of potential benefits and the different ways in which a small business can use a Business Blog, that the discussion should not be if a blog is worthwhile but rather where its focus should lie.

    A blog can play a central role in the marketing activity of a Small Business but, like all forms of marketing, it needs to be planned, targeted and measured. Consequently, a key phase in creating a successful Small Business blog happens ahead of its launch when you plan out how you want to use your Blog, who your target audience is and what you want to achieve with it. All three of these elements are key to its success.

    If we now take a look at some of the potential types of focus that a small business Blog can take, then you will see what a powerful tool it can be.

    Demonstrate and communicate your expertise
    Most small businesses offer specialist knowledge and skills – it’s what differentiates them – but what they often lack is a way to demonstrate them to potential customers. A Business Blog offers the ability to do this and much more beside. By what you write in your posts and also how you write them, you can show your expertise without overtly selling to your readers this gives you the chance to build up a positive reputation and a degree of trust with potential clients and partners alike.

    Build individual networks and foster collaboration
    Small businesses may be specialists but they also need a strong support structure and partners around them. Business blogging is not only an ideal way to start to engage with customers, as we have seen, but also to foster partnerships, collaborations and joint ventures with others in your industry. As you attract other players in your marketplace to your blog, opportunities for collaboration and networking will develop naturally through the conversations taking place.

    Communicate with a local, national or global audience
    While Business Blogs are most often used to communicate with a targeted, but geographically widespread, audience, they can also allow you to focus in on a local customer base, primarily by changing the emphasis of the posts and the structure. This flexibility of approach means that small businesses of all types and with all types of customer base can use blogs to promote their business and develop relationships with their customers.

    Developing reputation and trust
    We all need to get closer to our customers and a Business Blog is an excellent way to achieve that. It allows us to engage customers and readers of our blog in a way that no other online method can achieve. This in turn gives us the time and the opportunity to develop our reputation in their eyes and foster a high level of trust between ourselves and our customers.

    Great Search Engine rankings
    With so many people using the internet to research products and services before they buy, small businesses need to achieve a prominent position and high ranking in Search Engine Results for their chosen key phrases. Business Blogs can help immeasurably in this. The structure of a blog combined with the focused nature of the posts, regular updates and the interlinking which is part and parcel of blogs, will all push you towards to the top of the rankings. This makes a Business Blog ideal for small businesses looking for greater visibility and enquiries.

    Dominate a Niche Market
    Small businesses usually have a set of services or products which are designed to answer the needs of a specific, and often, niche market. Getting exposure in that market is key to being able to dominate it and ensure that your business is the one that the market itself recommends. Using a Business Blog, you can raise your profile and lead the discussions on any aspect affecting that market. Talk about it and get talked about!

    Project your personality
    As a small business, you will tend to work very closely with your customers. Your expertise is highly important but so are you as a person and how you get on with your customer – a strong relationship will help to ensure that the project develops well. Blogs can let your personality shine through before you enter the relationship and may give you the edge in being selected.

    Easy Web Publishing no webmaster required!
    While we rightly focus on external benefits, we should not forget that there are also solid internal reasons for using a blog in a small business and ease of use is right at the top of that list. Blogs can be used in addition to a business website or as part of it they can also be used instead of a website. In all of these cases, once established, you can publish new content or change pages on your site without relying on a web designer or webmaster. Reader friendly, user friendly and cost effective.

    Research your Market
    Your Business Blog provides you with a two way communication tool, and the information that you can get from your readers may be highly important. By participating in the discussions that your posts will generate, you should be able to get a clearer idea of what the up to the minute interests of your clients are. Surveys and focus groups can achieve this to a certain level but open conversations on your Blog will achieve much more, both in terms of depth and breadth.

    Finally a word of advice: dont get hung up about the word blog a blog is a tool and its what you do with it that counts. Many people use Microsoft Word but the documents that they produce are as varied as the author. The same is true with Blogs for small businesses. So, evaluate what you need as a business and then focus strongly on using the Blog for that purpose and it will be successful for you.

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

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