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    Business Blog DiaryPrevious Instalment: Part 1 – the decision

    At the end of the day, the decision had essentially been taken out of his hands. Daniel could see that his competitors were already benefiting from the type of industry exposure and customer contact that he had envisaged getting for his own company. And this was coming from their blogs.

    However, this was NOT about keeping up with the Joneses – that would be pointless. To make it work for his business, he knew that he had to have a clear idea of what he wanted to do with the blog and what results he wanted it to achieve for him. He also needed to be clear about the people he was looking to attract to his blog – if he knew that then he could focus on writing articles that they’d want to come and read, and pass on others. This sharing of content was going to be key.

    This was the business marketing side and he felt comfortable with it – after all, it was what he knew and was passionate about. However, he also needed to know how to really use blogs and get the best out of them. How could he engage with his readers, how to set up a blog, what software to use, how to get it into Google? So many questions and much of which he felt he knew little about.

    He had to start somewhere. So he decided to check out what similar companies were doing online and how they were using blogs to promote their businesses. His searches on Technorati and Google’s blog search gave a lot of good starting points – he then followed the links they referred to and added the best ones to his RSS feed so that he would receive their news automatically. He could see RSS was going to be a real timesaver and made a mental note to make sure his blog would offer it too.

    He also used Google to search on “Business Blogging” and that provided some excellent reference sources – the more information he had, the better equipped he would be to get the best results out of the effort he’d be putting into the blog.

    Based on the advice there, he decided that the blog should appear as part of his current website as that would help promote all his other pages as well and that he would integrate it properly. It would give visitors to his site the ability to leave comments and ask questions directly – a great plus in developing closer relationships with them. It would also distribute and promote his information automatically for him, giving his company greater visibility.

    Having looked at the alternatives, he decided that a blog system called WordPress would probably offer the best solution – lots of future development potential and tried and tested on many thousands of blogs. In this instance, going with the crowd did seem to be the best option. He’d need to load it on his own server but it looked straightforward and, during his research, he’d also seen there were people around who could give help if he needed it.

    He felt that his readers would appreciate a constant flow of articles but would probably feel overwhelmed if he tried to send information every day. He planned to post 2 to 3 times a week and worked from that standpoint. He also felt that the he had a handle on the sort of information they wanted – a mixture of industry information, links, informed opinion and an insight into what made him and his company tick. He also wrote out a big “Don’t try to sell!” post-it note to remind himself that the blog was not a direct sales tool. That he knew would just be a turn off to his readers.

    Feeling much more comfortable about the organisation of the blog, it was now time to put that into action, get it set up and work out what elements would be important to make sure it had a successful launch.

    Next Instalment: Part 3 – the launch

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    Mindmaps for planning business blogsAs you may well have gathered, I’m a great advocate of planning your business blog before you set out and actually write it. It’s also good to keep that development going so that you can keep track of the different subject strands you are working with and allow you to expand them further.

    Previously, I’d always done this with pen and paper but have recently started to try something again that I first dabbled with a number of years ago as a student – and no, this is not going to be a politician-like cannabis related admission!

    What I’m actually referring to are mindmaps. They work really well in helping to develop different subject areas as well as extending the boundaries of what your blog could be doing for you – all without losing track of the key elements that you want to concentrate on and that your audience is looking for.

    Granted they are not for everyone but for someone like myself, who is very visually focused, they are an excellent way to visually represent ideas that you have for your blog and help you to develop them in different directions. And since business blogs need to be focused on and around the main subjects that you want to address, then using this method will allow you take your main subject areas and develop them naturally into adjacent areas. This is turn will help give your coverage of the topic even more scope and breadth.

    The mindmap of course does not need to be a static representation of your blog – by its very nature, it’s perfect to be developed as necessary. So as the needs and requirements of your readers expand (or even change) then so can the mindmap and your planning to reflect the additional elements that you need to be considering.

    As an example, I’m working through a new series for this blog at the moment on Blog Marketing and using a MindMap to help develop the different strands it should cover (still work in progress of course)

    This particular one was created using MindMeister which has an excellent free option as well as the upgrade to their premium and team services. However, even the free version gives you the chance to collaborate with others so if you have multiple authors on your blog then it would be an ideal tool to help co-ordinate input from all of the them and develop ideas for new posts and future direction.

    There are a number of online mindmap systems which you could use and a good start point for information is would seem to be MindMapping.org which lists a whole range of these elements as well as a range of other mindmap related resources – well worth checking out.

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    Promoting books with blogsOver the weekend, I popped into Waterstones book shop in Richmond a frequent haunt in the days before Amazon and still a favourite one. On this occasion, rather than my normal top floor seat in the business and foreign language section, I had to be content with the ground floor (baby + pram + no lift = ground floor) and so spent a few moments looking through the books on the current Best Sellers lists.

    There were some authors there that I recognised, and a number that I did not. What I certainly did spot was the number of books which were connected in some way either to either TV programmes or films currently on at the cinema. Jamie Oliver at Home was at the top of the hardback list while Atonement sat astride the paperback list with Nigella Lawson, The Bourne Ultimatum and Michael Palin’s New Europe all making top 10 appearances. Now, good as they may be, one thing is certain. Without the publicity afforded by the TV shows or cinema appearances, these books would never have achieved the same level of sales or enjoyed the same level of success.

    So whats my point? Well, although only a very small number of books published have TV help to promote them, all books need promotion to succeed. One such promotional medium which is available to all authors is a blog, and its a good one at that! Using a blog allows you to get in front of your potential readers, engage with them and hopefully really grab their attention done correctly, it can not only give a feel for the book but expand on it and pique the interest of potential buyers, readers and future loyal fans.

    Setting up a blog to promote your book should be an automatic step in the book promotion process and it can be a very powerful approach. However, there are some elements that you should bear in mind to make sure that it will be as effective as possible:

    • Give your Blog the same title as your book: that way, when you are promoting the book via the blog or simply promoting the blog, you are still always focusing peoples attention on the key thing you want them to remember, your books title

    • Use the same domain name too: for exactly the same reasons, make sure that you buy the domain containing your books name and develop your blog there. You are writing the blog on a specific subject and for a specific reason so make sure that you have a specific domain too. Youve probably seen film companies do exactly the same to great effect with websites to promote their films (eg. Atonement) ... so follow their lead!

    • Make sure it is linked visually with the book: take the graphics from the cover of your book and build these into your blog so that the two are instantly associated. This will really help from a branding point of view and, when someone sees the book online having visited your blog, then it will trigger their memory too

    • Make use of the layout and design: just like a general business blog, make sure that the layout and design works for you to achieve your business goals in this case, promoting your book. For example, get your newsletter sign up box and your RSS subscription logo (I recommend running both) prominent on your blog to encourage signups and then use that information to grow your supporters

    • Incentives and Promotions: remember that incentives work – if you’re not convinced then pick up a copy of Freakonomics and see why you should rethink. They do! So, perhaps you can give a chapter away free as a taster, or offer an ebook which develops on some of the themes you discuss in the book. You could even go as far as Seth Godin did when he gave away his book the IdeaVirus in ebook form … this in turn catapaulted the paper copy into the best sellers list! We might not all have the pulling power of Mr Godin, but the principle is a very powerful one

    • Use your blog marketing opportunities: just as you would do with any blog, use the mainstream blog marketing opportunities to spread the word about your book. As a start point, comment on other relevant blogs, submit your blog to blog directories, use links and trackbacks and get your RSS feed into RSS Directories. Here are some other blog marketing methods Id recommend considering

    • Dont forget your offline and other online marketing: the more targeted traffic you can get the better so dont forget to use other methods which will benefit you. Ive listed some ideas incorporating both online and offline methods in a called 52 ways to promote your blog.

    Of course, you need to make sure that you can deliver the content – but this should be the easy part, you are the author after all! :) Take the opportunity to expand on the themes that you covered in the book, talk about adjacent areas that lead into the subject matter of your book and talk about background areas which will be of interest but which you were unable to include in the book itself.

    Use the blog to pique the interest of readers at every opportunity and ensure they remember the name and branding clearly – give them a link to Amazon or your preferred outlet too. Display comments and recommendations from others who have already bought it and ask them to refer people to your blog who might enjoy it. Intrigue them and give them every opportunity to decide that they wish to buy BUT … a word of warning … avoid overtly / directly selling to them.

    Above all, enjoy doing it, just as I enjoy sitting and reading what others have written, whether I’ in a Richmond book shop or online. If you enjoy it, then it will shine through in the writing on your blog. When that happens, your readers will be able to share your enjoyment and enthusiasm and, as likely as not, then enjoy reading your book as well.

    Footnote: if you are considering writing a book but need help and guidance as you do it, then can I recommend a chat with Mindy Gibbins-Klein “The Book Midwife – you’ll find it will be time well spent!

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    As we now approach the end of 2006 and we also near the first anniversary of Better Business Blogging, I thought that it would be appropriate to look back and highlight some of the most popular posts from this year.

    Thanks to you, the readers of this blog, I’ve been able to look back and have listed below the 10 posts that you have chosen because they have attracted the most attention and comments over the course of the year.

    And so, without further ado, and in the traditional reverse order …

    10. Blogs and Newsletters: complementary marketing tools

    9. Spotlight on UK Business Blogs (Now moved to their new home on The Blog Coach)

    8. The Green Cross Code of Blogging

    7. Why Search Engines love Blogs

    6. Promoting and Marketing your Business Blog (Intro)

    5. Linking out isnt negative, its essential!

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    3. The 5 R’s of Better Business Blogging (A 5 post series starting with this post)

    2. Why Small Businesses should have a Business Blog

    ... and finally, the most popular is …

    1. Business Blog: separate domain or on your website

    I hope that you have found it useful to revisit some of these – it has certainly proved very useful to me as it has given me a clear indication of the areas where I should be focusing most attention.

    I look forward to doing so and sharing much more with you in the year ahead.

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    Blog Consultant questions: Ask the Blog CoachBusiness Blogging Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Q – Can business blogging be effective for local companies or is it only for national and international companies?

    A – Blogging should certainly be a consideration for any company, whatever its geographic coverage. For companies with a national or international target client base, then the advantages are obvious both in terms of reach and coverage that a blog can offer. For local companies, the issues remain the same in terms of needing to reach a certain audience, it is just the size and geographic spread of this audience that has changed. Therefore to be successful, the focus of the blog posts need to change as well to accommodate this.

    Since so much searching for local services and suppliers is now done on line, it is likely that you will want to make sure that Search Engines will rank your posts as highly as possible for people searching for your products in your local and regional area. So when writing, ensure that you include references to these places alongside those on your products. For example, if you are a florist based in Richmond then your post would not just mention “flower bouquets” but rather “flower bouquets for Surrey from Richmond upon Thames based Flowers4U”, thus making sure that the geographic references were included alongside those of flower arrangements themselves. If you include these in the title of the post then this will help further.

    To complete this, you may also like to intersperse the blogs with local news so that in the Category sections and the other main pages, there is an equal spread of posts relating to different flowers and flower arrangements as there are to references to local names and places. Guaranteed to help boost your rankings and get you found by a local audience.

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