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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...
  • Jennifer Rai: All points mentioned above are very well put together. Blogs having purpose and a focus on certain...
  • jessica@lukeroxas: I ran a small home based business, and lately I’ve decided to put up my own website,...
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  • Ayala Land: Perhaps I was one of those companies who, as you put it “think they can avoid it” but thanks to well...

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    Today, I am focusing not solely on blogging but also on WordPress which, as regular followers will already be aware, is my blogging software of choice for business blogs. Why’s that I hear you ask? Well simply because it lets you run a fully fledged blog on your own website which is easy of use, has great functionality and is expandable. For me, that’s the best way to make sure that your investment in your blogging and your online presence in general is effectively future proofed.

    So where did it start?

    Wordpress started life as simply an open source personal publishing tool used by people wanting to run a personal diary on the web. However, since then, both the use of blogs in business and WordPress itself have developed at a frantic pace – for me, a blog is now an essential tool for businesses and WordPress fills the role of blogging tool of choice for individuals, small businesses and more and more large businesses too.

    What has also happened, though, is that it has also developed beyond being a simple blogging system and is now also an excellent CMS - Content Management System perfect for creating complete websites which business owners can then develop and update themselves as they require. Along with this it still has great Search Engine attractiveness and of course extends our ability to interact with customers and prospects from just the blog area to all parts of the site. This helps immeasurably to improve customer relations which are going to be more and more key for businesses in today’s environment.

    Ideal solution as money gets tight

    If this is starting to sound like a sales pitch for WordPress then my apologies, its really not meant to be. My goal is more to show the benefits that you can achieve by using WordPresss to create your online presence rather than a simple static website – all this at a time when costs are having to be shaved wherever possible and yet a strong presence on the internet is still going to be crucial for developing new business.

    Having a standard website is often the route that small businesses take as they first create their online presence and often its a decision which is taken on cost. The trouble is that it doesnt take into account ongoing costs cost of their web developer to add new pages or change text, cost for further development, or even the costs to add the interaction that customers are not only demanding but now coming to expect.

    Given this is the case, the advantages you can gain are:

    • the ability to add pages as and when you require which develops your web presence and your website content for both customers and search engines alike (which in turn adds to your web promotion opportunities);

    • the chance to interact with your prospects and demonstrate why you are the partner of choice;

    • the ability to modify text on the pages as and when you want to without additional costs or any delay waiting for someone to do so for you;

    • the chance, with appropriate knowledge, to run your own ecommerce section directly from the blog as well as link in with your enewsletter subscribers etc.

    • the opportunity to differentiate your business. When theres less business about to be had the need to stand out and be able to adapt quickly is important;

    • easy and instant dissemination of key information out to sites and subscribers intereested in what you offer.

    Conclusion

    The point that I wanted to get across is that, while WordPress opens up huge possibilities as a blogging platform, it offers so much more than this as well. For a small business needing a strong and developing online presence, it is the perfect tool – having it set up correctly at the start gives an interactive, SEO rich website which can be developed by the owner at will. In addition, with a seemingly never ending stream of plugins being developed, the expansion possibilities are also hugely impressive.

    So whether you are looking at setting up a standalone blog, integrating one into your current website or looking at a full website for your business, take a look at what WordPress can do for you in this respect. And if you have any questions, why not give me a call?

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    Optimising your Blog for Search EnginesWarning – Long Post (even for me!)

    Remember that when it comes to “Optimising your blog”, looking at the factors which will be picked up by the Search Engines is only one part of the equation. You also need to consider optimising the blog for your readers and optimising for your business objectives – creating a blog which happens to rank highly for certain relevant key word phrases is going to be of zero value to you if you can’t back that up with things that your readers are interested in. (We looked at Optimising for your Readers in part 1 and optimising for your business comes in part 3).

    Most of the elements mention here can be applied to all full blown blogs – however, hosted blogs (particularly free ones) are unlikely to offer the flexibility to allow you to change all of these elements. So, if you are looking to really benefit from a fully optimised blog then I recommend you check out what’s on offer before you begin. For me, the full WordPress system, particularly because of the wealth of specialist plugins, is extremely powerful in SEO terms (and my first choice of blogging system), and so I will be referencing suitable sources from the WordPress community where possible.

    While we will be looking at individual SEO elements, you have to remember that there are very few factors which will cause a major shift change to a post or page ranking on their own. Rather, it is the cumulative effect that has real value a prime example of “the sum of the parts being greater than the whole”. So on each page, decide on the specific keyword phrases you wish to target and make sure that all of the individual elements come together to support them. Although vitally important, I won’t be looking at inbound links here, but rather concentrating on elements on the blog itself.

    1. Title Tag

    Generally considered to be the most important individual item so well worth spending the time and getting right. While opinions vary, general consensus is that you have about 8 words to play with, with greater relevance awarded to those at the start of the tag to gain most benefit from this, ensure that as a default format, the title tag displays your “Blog post title” followed by “Blog name” so that the keywords in your post title are highlighted at the start of the tag.

    However, whenever possible, you should take the opportunity to write a custom Title Tag – with WordPress you can use the plugins such as Stephan Spencers SEO Title Tag or All in One SEO which will allow you to do this easily. What to write? Well, remember where the Title Tags appear youll find it at the top of your browser window and, more importantly, as the clickable link on the Search Engine Results page. So while you should look to include your keywords to appeal to the Search Engines, you also need to write something which will inspire your readers to click on that link!

    2. Post Text

    The old adage of content is king still holds true and perhaps is even more compelling in blogs as the writing is intended to be more “personal” than the normal text penned by a corporate website scribe. In any case, what you write about and then the actual words that you write is clearly crucial in all good business blogs, there should be a clear focus or direction for the blog overall, and it is likely that the content in each post is going to be focused on a certain subject matter as well. This will naturally lend itself to a keyword targeted post but and it is a big “BUT” it must be written in a way which will attract and then appeal to your readers. They must be your primary concern and focus!

    (more…)
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    Unless we are in a very fortunate position, then when we start a business blog we are likely to be faced with the challenge of how to attract visitors to it, how to encourage them to become readers and then how to build their trust and confidence in us and our blog over time.

    This comes through building, developing and of course maintaining a relationship with our blog readers and it’s a process that Ive been trying to represent visually for a while. Recently, I came across something that I feel comes very close while flicking through some books at home and one in particular called How to Succeed as an Independent Consultant which is written by Timothy RV Foster.

    In it, I found a diagram and section entitled the ‘Ladder of Goodwill’ which the author had developed to explain the developing relationship a supplier has with its clients. The various rungs on the ladder were described as ranging from ‘Nowhere’ at the start where a customer has no knowledge of you or indeed that you even exist, through to ‘In Position’ where you have the total trust of the customer and you are the primary supplier in your area or field. The goal of course is climb as high as possible up the ladder in your relationship with each of your clients.

    For me, I can see a lot of similarities with the way that we have to develop a business blog as well, particularly in the case of a small business or individual where there is not already a significant offline or online presence to act as a springboard.

    First of all, it is a case of creating awareness that the blog exists and developing its visibility through marketing or word of mouth, Then you need to get people to come to read it and have their first experience of what you are writing about and what topics you cover. To get a positive first reaction you need to make sure you deliver, ideally every time. Follow up on this by providing something (perhaps a newsletter or white paper) so you have the opportunity to reinforce the first positive experience. Building on this means being consistent in your writing and content thereby encouraging people to recommend your blog to others and share their experience. From there the positive experience can be developed further over time resulting in a loyal reader and, from a business perspective, perhaps a potential future customer as well.

    Each rung of the ladder represents another building block as you build a sense of confidence and trust in what you do and, at the same time, you are gaining the active involvement of your readers in your blog and your business.

    Of course, for a really active blog, youll be looking to have readers at all levels, hopefully all moving upwards! So how many readers do YOU have on each rung on the ladder?

    Ladder of Goodwill diagram is copyright to Timothy R. V. Foster

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    The post was inspired by some of the commentary that followed Jason Calacanis’s keynote speech at Blog Business Summit where he effectively had said that if you were not an A-list blogger (and ideally in the Technorati Top 100) then your blog is rubbish.

    In fact, effective business blogs should never even try to achieve so called A-list status – if they do, then the focus of the blog will undoubtedly be too broad to achieve its real business goals. The most successful type of business blogs should be focused on a market sector or niche and designed to attract a specific audience interested in that area. Lose that focus and you lose your audience.

    In fact, as I think about it, the title of this post is itself misleading – trying to become an A-list blogger in your niche is also totally pointless.

    What you want to do is become the recognised expert in your niche. Now this you can achieve with your business blog – through your posts, you can build credibility and gain both recognition and trust from the market and customers that you work with. Being considered as an A-list blogger in your area may come about as a result of your blog but it shouldnt be its aim.

    So are there any special steps to follow to achieve this? Not really. Just follow the key principles of blogging mixed with some business and marketing common sense:

    • Know your subject area inside out you probably do already – and communicate that through what you write and how you write it

    • Keep up to date with what is happening in your industry (RSS really helps here) and then put it in context on your blog together with your views on it

    • Write passionately and intelligently about subjects which will be of interest and of use to your readers within your niche

    • Build your credibility and demonstrate your expertise through the information and knowledge that you share in your blog

    • Link and reference to others as well as your own work so that you become the key information source for your market – if your readers don’t need to go elsewhere for the information, they won’t

    • Promote and market your blog to help people find you – hopefully your posts will then keep them coming back

    It’s impossible to be all things to all people. So by picking a subject area or market niche which we can focus on, we have a much better chance to establish a reputation in that area and so attract people to our blog who are really interested in what we do. Exactly the people that we want to talk to and do business with!

    (Oh, and in case I forgot to mention, the Search Engines will love you for it too!)

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