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    This post is the 4th part of the series which looks at the 5 key elements of creating a successful Business Blog. These elements are:

    ReadReplyReturn – Recommend – RSS

    Let’s turn our attention to the fourth ‘R, which is:

    This could also have been R for 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!

    Online “Word of Mouth” recommendations
    Recommending can be done in many ways including simply telling people about the blog – and the simplest way is so often the best and most effective! Online, this type of ‘word of mouth’ is achieved through reference and linking the lifeblood of the blogosphere. The main difference, of course, is that rather than just telling one person, they are recommending your post to all the people who read their blog.

    References from posts
    Writing posts which reference another blog is the best way to recommend them in doing so, you are likely to refer directly to the original article and then develop the points it raises or give your own thoughts on them. A post can also be referred to in an article or indeed in a comment. In each case, the author is giving a clear indication that the content is valuable and acts as a personal recommendation that their readers should visit the blog to read the full post.

    Follow up with those who recommend you
    When you are referenced and thereby recommended from another blog, the likelihood is that the blogger will also use a trackback, and so you will be aware of the link that has been made. If possible, you should consider commenting on their new post and also thanking them for the reference. What does this achieve? It allows you to contribute additional information, to develop the conversation further and also to progress the relationship.

    Blogroll or Recommended List
    Perhaps the simplest way to be recommended in a Blog, and yet the one which will take the most time, is to be added to its Blogroll – the Blogroll is the term used to indicate Recommended Blogs and is a series of links which will be found on most serious blogs. On some these lists can seem never ending, however, this is only likely to happen once you have established a strong relationship with the owner of that blog.

    Contacting Bloggers
    You can always actively seek out other Bloggers to refer to one of your posts. This is not quite as unusual as it may seem, though it is important to go about it in the right way. You can contact bloggers who write in similar areas to yourself with details of one of your posts that they may find interesting if you have researched properly and your post is of good quality, there will be some who reference the post on their blog and hence link back to you. Not exactly active recommendation but certainly a way to spread the word and allow those who did not know you previously the opportunity to recommend you to their readers. It is only advisable to do this occasionally and on posts which really warrant it.

    Keep doing the right things well
    However, except for these unusual circumstances, in general how do we get someone to recommend us? Well, by continuing to do the other elements correctly in ensuring that we get people returning regularly to our Blog, making sure the content they read there is of consistently high quality and of relevance to them, which in turn will make sure that they feel confident in recommending it.

    These are PERSONAL recommendations
    At the end of the day, it is not something that you can force someone into. Nor should you want to. By linking to you, they are effectively giving you a personal recommendation to their own readers which reflects on themselves. In essence, when you recommend a blog to someone it is like inviting them to join a network or a community, just as if you are sharing something important with them.

    And remember that these types of recommendations come from the most important source: from your readers – from people and not from computer generated links.

    Key Elements: write posts which warrant recommendations, follow up trackbacks, continue quality content, develop relationships into communities, treat personal recommendations with gratitude

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    5. 5 ‘R’s of Business Blogging – a Summary

    This post is the 3rd part of the series which looks at the 5 key elements of creating a successful Business Blog. These elements are:

    ReadReply – Return – RecommendRSS>

    Let’s turn our attention to the third of the 5 Rs, which is:

    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 develop not only a loyal readership but you will also be developing a level of trust and a bond between yourself and those reading your Blog.

    Targeted, quality content
    In planning a Business Blog, one of the key elements to decide is who is the intended audience of the blog. If we have managed to maintain this focus with posts whose content is directly relevant to our target group and of high quality, then we are on the way to exceeding their expectations and encouraging regular readers. They will not come back just to read excerpts from your product portfolio which are nothing more than classified ads. They will, however, return to hear more of the same original, interesting and information based opinion that drew them in the first place.

    An inviting “Look & Feel”
    You should also make your Blog look inviting you need to make a good first impression to turn visitors into regular readers so let your graphics and the format of your Blog help you. Two things that you definitely want to avoid:

    • using a default template which then puts you in the same category as thousands of others. You need to differentiate yourself and so let the look and feel of your Blog help to display the quality of its content;

    • and, secondly, just having long pages of text. Break up the text perhaps using images or graphs, include bulleted lists where appropriate and use other formatting to keep the look interesting.

    Make it easy to return
    As you have persuaded them to return, make it easy for them to do so. RSS [the 5th R] is the ideal way to achieve this for blogs which we will examine later, either directly or even via email. But dont forget about the inclusion of a newsletter on your Blog if that is appropriate which can also direct readers back to you RSS and newsletters can work well hand in hand. If nothing else, at least suggest that they put your Blog in their Favourites on their browser, and then show them how to do that.

    Entice them with a series
    You can also encourage them back by the way you structure what you are writing. For example, if you write a series of posts on a single subject which attracts attention, then you are encouraging your readers back again to read the rest of the articles in the series. In the same way, you can pre-announce certain topics ahead of posting them so that people are eager to return to check for them.

    Be THE place for information
    Develop your Blog as THE place to go to for information on your niche area. In addition to demonstrating your own ideas and thoughts, make sure you reference and provide links to other relevant articles and also invite in other people to write a post or a short series. These guest bloggers will give an additional dimension to your Blog, assuming the subject matter remains focused, and will add kudos to what you are doing. Readers will return because you will be providing all the information they require on your chosen subject area – it may be available elsewhere on the web, but they KNOW they can find it on your Blog so that’s where they go.

    Easy Navigation especially to Key posts
    Once they have returned to your Blog, make sure that it is easy to navigate and make sure that all of the information can easily be found and the posts are categorised sensibly. It is also a good idea to highlight your key articles so that they can easily be found just create a page with links to all your main articles and then create a special link to it in your sidebar.

    Finally, remember that getting your current readers to return is easier than attracting new readers, just as it has been proven time and time again in business that it costs more to find a new customer than to keep the ones that you have. So make as much effort to get current readers to return as you do attracting new ones.

    Key elements: maintain focus on your readers, make posts easy to find, make your Blog look appealing, develop trust and a bond, become THE information source in your niche, make it easy to return

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    5. 5 ‘R’s of Business Blogging – a Summary

    This post is the 2nd part of the series which looks at the 5 key elements of creating a successful Business Blog. These elements are:

    Read – Reply – ReturnRecommendRSS

    Let’s turn our attention to the second of the 5 Rs, which is:

    In general, most of us like to be given the chance to express our views and opinions on subjects we are interested in we also like to have them listened to. This is excellent news because it is exactly what we want to happen on our Business Blog we need people to voice their opinions, thoughts, ideas and concerns because of the interaction they bring.

    Listen and Reply
    When these opinions are directed at your business, then you need to be able to both listen to them and respond to them. A key function of a Blog is that it gives us exactly this ability, with readers able to express their opinions on the posts through the Comments feature. Your Business Blog therefore serves the dual purpose of allowing readers to voice their opinions and at the same time providing you with the facility to reply to them, perhaps respond to their concerns and, in the process, start a dialogue.

    Get to love comments
    Therefore, unless there are very specific reasons why not, you should always allow people to comment on your blog and also make sure that you have the ability to deal with them. 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.

    Create the desire to reply
    To get people to reply and voice their opinion, we need to have interested the reader enough for them to want to post a comment and ideally have either challenged or inspired them as well. While a controversial post can attract a higher number of responses, it may not be wise to take this route unless it fits with your overall plan for your blog. What is more appropriate is creating subject matter which elicits interest and positive reaction rather than controversy.

    Aim for group interaction
    As we get multiple replies, the communication moves past a simple single interaction and starts to develop more of a community or network feel, with your blog at the very heart of it. The interaction may start as a one-to-one between you and one other but, as the community expands, it will develop into one to many and then many to many conversations. All of this will start to create relationships at a number of levels.

    Actively encourage comments
    As you can see, getting responses is vital to taking a Blog to the next stage so dont sit back and wait for comments help to initiate them, either on your own blog or those of others. Dont be afraid to openly and candidly ask for comments you should feel comfortable to encourage or challenge people to reply, or ask them for information. Start that conversation!

    Do as you would be done
    You will also tend to encourage comments on your own posts by commenting on other peoples. As you leave constructive comments on other blogs which add to their posts, you will encourage a dialogue which will no doubt also follow you back to your own blog. Once you show that you are prepared to take the time and effort on others blogs, they will reciprocate on yours.

    Finally, remember that although the comments feature will be the main way for people to reply to you, there is also your profile which should contain your contact details. People may be more comfortable using this method, so make sure that it is easily accessible and contains all of the relevant information.

    Key elements: make your posts worthy of replies, allow readers to comment, encourage and ask for replies, respond to the comments, post relevant comments on other blogs, help to develop a network

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    5. 5 ‘R’s of Business Blogging – a Summary

    Just as many of us were brought up on the 4 Ps of traditional marketing, in Business Blogging, I believe that there are 5 Rs on which we need to focus our attention if we are going to create a successful and sustainable Business Blog.

    These 5 key elements of creating a successful Business Blog are:

    Simply put, we need to create and maintain a Blog which in the first instance will attract visitors and then encourage them to particpate by replying to our posts. Following on from that, we need to ensure it provides sufficient value or creates enough interest to make these visitors return and become regular readers as well as recommend our Blog to others. The 5th ‘R’ of RSS underpins all of the others.

    Our goal should be to put all the necessary elements in place on our Blog to allow these 5 Rs to happen as smoothly and as automatically as possible. In doing so, we will have created a Blog which fulfils both our readers requirements and our own business needs.

    Let’s look at the first of the 5 Rs, which is:

    Our first challenge is to get someone to read our blog. Here, the quality of what we write in the posts will obviously be important but, before that, we have to attract the readers to our Blog so that they can find out what we are writing about and how good it is!

    In many cases, the only elements that they have to make the decision on will be the name of the Blog and the title of the post. These are effectively the headlines which should capture the attention of the readers and, as any good copywriter knows, the headline is crucial in getting people to read the rest of the article. In blogs, doubly so, because these elements may be the only thing that they see when they find you in Search Engines, for example. So spend time on these first when you set up your blog and then each time that you write it.

    You also need to make sure that you promote your Blog well you need to let potential readers know what you are writing about and where they can find you. In fact, you need to let them know that your blog exists at all! So use all of the tools that are at your disposal: clear links on your website, make as much use of Search Engines as you can with search engine friendly structure and posts; make sure that you submit your Blog to Blog directories, RSS directories and general online directories; get your RSS feeds found by them as well. Ping after every post ideally automatically! Promote your blog on your business cards, stationery, email signature and wherever someone comes in contact with you or your business. You want to ensure that you spread the word as widely as possible, so make the best of all the opportunities.

    Search Engines are also an excellent source of new readers so give your Blog every chance to be found. While a well written, focussed Blog is excellent Search Engine material in itself, it you are able to increase its attractiveness further through additional Search Engine Optimisation, then you should do so. You need to build these elements on top of a solid base of quality content though remember who you are aiming this at.

    There are some blogs which can get readership levels up very quickly by being contentious, by provoking or attacking in the posts. This is particularly effective if the target is a well known figure or idea. However, for most business blogs, we are looking to attract readers with positive ideas rather than negative ones, so this approach should only be considered in certain special circumstances.

    Key elements: consistent quality content, attractive title, optimised posts, good blog promotion

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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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