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    Business Blog post IdeasOne of the key concerns I get asked about by people writing their business blog is what they can do when they are looking for topics to write about. Don’t worry! I can guarantee that this will really not be a problem unless you let it be one. You know your subject inside out (or else you wouldn’t be writing about it) and you have a huge resource of information that will be useful to them – it’s really a question of picking the right topics for your readers.

    For me, there are two main sources of ideas: you and everyone else.

    Blog Post Ideas
    – You’ll want to make sure that you don’t forget any of the ideas that come to you during the day and personally I use a nice and easy solution for this: quite simply, I keep a notebook with me at all times. Why? So I can jot down ideas that occur to me – and, let’s face it, they can come at the weirdest moments. Anything could trigger them – something I see which sparks a connection or perhaps a comment that somebody makes to me. I note down the idea and any other thoughts that crop up at the time which I can go back to, review and use as and when I need to.

    Blog Post Ideas – Everyone Else

    When it comes to “everyone else”, the best people to take ideas from are your customers, your prospects and your partners – these are all the sorts of people who are likely to ask those questions which others would benefit from as well, so can be a great source of inspiration.

    So, make a note of the main ones and make a point of talking about them on your blog. Treat it in the same way as you would when you take questions from the audience during a presentation – that’s to say, repeat the question that has been asked so that the rest of the audience can hear and then go ahead and answer it.

    Do the same in your blog – you will be providing information which will answer relevant and real questions that should help your customers use your product better and help your prospects to understand its potential better.

    So that you have this resource developing on an ongoing basis, I suggest that:

    • you keep a folder in your email system and make a copy of both the question you receive and the response you send back – this will in itself form the basis of your business blog post;

    • after meetings with clients, prospects or suppliers, note down some of the key questions that they asked and which were clearly on interest to them;

    • at Conferences and Exhibitions, keep a record of the questions or the areas that visitors to your stand keep asking about and are showing most interest in.

    You’ll soon find that you have topics for your posts planned out well in advance and as you write the posts, you will hopefully also start to receive comments which will start to take the discussions and questions in other directions as well.

    In the meantime, here are some of the ones that I tend to use.

    Write about current events

    Something that you probably do on an ongoing basis is keeping an eye on what is being written about your industry, perhaps through various news media and ideally with the help of RSS feeds which of course saves you a load of time and gets you the news in double quick time. So just choose an event or piece of information which is of interest to you and your readers and give your comments on it and perhaps its implications. Don’t forget to reference the article and the site where appropriate though.

    Read other blogs

    Keep an eye on other blogs and what they are talking about you will probably find subjects that you wish to develop further, ones that you wish to comment on in your own blog (dont forget to use a trackback!) or ones that simply spark new ideas that you can write about. Other blogs are great sources of current thinking and new potential ideas.

    Write a Series

    Select a topic and write a set of posts around the theme you have selected. Try to plan the series out in advance (at least the titles) and then write them as you need them. Alternatively, once you get into the series, you may find that you write a number of them all at once. That’s great! But don’t get carried away and post them all together, instead postdate them (in WordPress, just change the “Post Timestamp”) so that they publish automatically a few days apart.

    Revisit old posts you have written

    Check back over some of your old posts and see if there are ones that could be developed more fully. You may feel that there are now updates or new information that you would like to add to them, so do so in a new post which references back to the original one and develops the ideas further.

    Answer Questions from Comments on Posts

    Use contacts from people who have asked for information or have asked questions which have developed on your original post and opened up in turn new areas or topics. Take these questions or the points that they raise and develop the answers into new posts.

    Get a guest blogger in

    You do not need to write all of the posts yourself, many Business Blogs will in fact have two or even more people working on them. However, if you dont have people who post regularly, you can still have a guest blogger who might come in to post on a particular subject where they have a specialist knowledge.

    There is of course a final option – simply take a break from posting for a few days. Theres no issue with that – just let your readers know and theyll be waiting for your return with bated breath.

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    One of the key worries that businesses have as they start to develop their blog is what to write about and how best to communicate their messages across to their readers. Effectively, what sort of posts they should write. Well, posts can take many shapes and forms according to the authors inclination and the readers preferences I think the skill comes in matching the two as closely as possible.

    To help the process, heres a list of 17 possible types of posts that you could look at to develop the conversation on your business blog. They wont all be relevant for every blog but they should help to spark some ideas on ones that would be most applicable for you.

    1. Foundation Posts

    Foundation posts are the core posts that your blog should be built upon and which focus on the key subject areas that the blog is going to be talking about. They are likely to be longer than other posts, focused in the content and, more often than not, will contain tips or practical advice centred around your main topics. These are posts that you’ll want to spend a bit more time on and which people should want to refer back to and share, time and time again.

    2. Expertise Sharing

    No doubt a familiar type of post for small business bloggers and a key one at that. These posts will demonstrate and share information on important topics relating to your expertise, with each post focusing on a particular aspect of that topic. The subject will be of direct interest to your readers and should have primary goal of developing or reinforcing the confidence and trust that they have in your abilities.

    3. Lists

    Lists remain one of the most commonly referred to types of posts and hence a very good way of getting a lot of information over in a short space of time. People can dip in and out as they see fit, so these are also the type of post that often gets referred to and shared in places like Digg.

    4. News Delivery / Reporting / News Breaking

    Blogs are a great way of sharing news and information and, because of their immediacy, also for breaking new stories. Unfortunately, few of us are able to be on the spot when we get a scoop but we are able to share news and information that we have found with our readers. While you could simply share a link or story as is, if you want to develop your own relationship with your readers, try to add your own perspective and comments to it when you write about it.

    5. Guides / Instructional

    A “How to” guide is an excellent way of passing on information and creating something which has the ability to go viral. While sharing information in anecdotal form is great, sometimes you just cant beat a clear guide that’s easy to follow from someone who has been there, done it and got the T-shirt to prove it. Think of it like instructions on putting together a piece of furniture from Ikea (hopefully with all the pieces there) and make your “How to” guides the definitive ones for your specialism.

    6. LinkBaiting

    A post which is designed primarily to attract attention and incite people to link to it, hence link baiting. This might be a post with contentious or provocative content aimed at getting a reaction from readers or might be one based on humour. In essence though, it’s sole goal is to provoke a reaction and generate links.

    7. Surveys & Polls

    Facts and figures lend weight to an argument and by using figures from a recent survey or report and then adding your own commentary, you can get your message across with up to date information to support it. Alternatively, why not run your own poll in your post and gather information from the people you really want the opinion of your own readers.

    8. Article Reply

    So youve seen something that caught your attention on some one elses blog or website and left a comment on it but you want to expand on that. Great, write a post which references the original but then goes on to either develop and expand on the points it makes, or to counter them.

    9. Rants

    Never get abusive or personal, but if you write about something that really bugs you and you believe is worth sharing, then this can come over very powerfully in a blog. It adds to the 3D view of you, the person, and helps tell your readers something more about you. Hey, we also like a little bit of Victor Meldrew, letting off steam now and again.

    10. Industry Commentary

    You are going to be well placed to pass on information about what is happening in your industry and how events are likely to effect your readers and other players in it. So make sure that you become the place that people visit to get informed opinion about what’s going on by delivering posts which report on developments in your industry.

    11. Conferences / Exhibitions / Seminars

    A great way of getting across information and sharing with a larger audience is to take information from a conference and report back via your blog. This could be your own conference or one that you are attending as a delegate – beforehand, highlight that you will be there (and willing to meet up no doubt) and then feed back what you found interesting or particularly useful.

    12. Company Specific

    There may be some specific news about your company which will be of interest to your readers, perhaps new capacity, extra staff or additional clients, all of which reflect favourably on you and your business. A constant stream of these might be considered unimaginative and prove boring, but the occasional one thrown in adds to the information pool your readers have about you.

    13. Press Releases

    While not to everyones taste, a blog is also an excellent distribution method for information (using RSS, pinging etc) as well as being the platform for conversation and relationship building. Dont use it simply as a Press Release conduit, but if you believe that it is relevant and interesting to your readers then there is no harm in putting PR information out through your blog as well.

    14. Guest Post

    Ok, perhaps a slightly different angle here, but why not get someone else in to write a post for your blog. Your readers get additional great information on a subject, you can get extra publicity as the guest writer will probably reference it from their own blog and it will add to your reputation in the process. Perhaps a reciprocal arrangement with a number of different authors? [BTW – if you’re looking for guest bloggers, drop me a line! ;) ]

    15. Links Post

    Theres always going to be information that you have unearthed during the course of the week that youd like to share and is useful to your readers, but which doesnt suit a full post on its own. So create a post with a series of links to articles, information sources, new stories etc. with just a short one line commentary on each.

    16. Reviews

    Might be of a book or white paper, or perhaps of a service or product which is relevant to your readers give your own opinion on it and then open it to the floor and get your readers opinions as well.

    17. Video or Podcast

    Its becoming ever easier to integrate either podcasts or videos clips into your posts and they are also a great way to offer something a little extra to your readers. Ideally make them your own but you can of course embed videos from sites like YouTube that you believe would be beneficial. If you put commentary around them (and a transcript for your own) then youll take the SEO on the post up a notch as well.

    Of course, a post doesnt need to fall into just a single category this one, for example, is clearly a list post but I would like to think also falls into the area of expertise sharing. At the end of the day, focus on what will appeal to your readers (you could always ask then what they are looking for!?) but hopefully you’ll find some ideas here to be going on with!

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    Balance in Blog Writing Ive always been a big advocate of planning your posts on a business blog but I was asked recently whether I felt that this would have the effect of stifling the spontaneity and authentic voice that blogs are supposed to have.

    For me, the answer is a categorical no. The issue, as I see it, stems from the belief that the two elements, planning and spontaneity, are diametrically opposed. Theyre not – in fact, they sit very comfortably alongside each other. From a blogging perspective, it’s good to be able to find a balance between the two while, from a business perspective, planning is all important not to stifle spontaneity and creativeness but to channel and focus it.

    Think of it like a river

    If I could use an analogy here, think of your business blog as a long winding river a river flows in a clear overall direction and has a destination which it moves towards; sometimes it meanders off but ultimately rejoins the main flow of the river and continues back on track. It also has its own boundaries in terms of its banks and encounters obstacles which it has to overcome.

    If you can achieve the same with your blog then you are doing well. Keep the blog moving along and focused; also make sure that the goals you outlined when you initially planned it are clear in your mind thats the ‘destination’ you want for your blog. You can go off at tangents where appropriate and display all the spontaneity you like, provided that you return to the main flow of your core topics. There lots of scope for flexibility but ultimately there are boundaries as well which you need to respect.

    Plan where you can

    So do plan your posts ahead of time where possible:

    • try to outline a week or even a month ahead, at least with some of the main topics and potential post titles that you want to cover;

    • have a themed series ready to go even if you then develop it more later once it is started;

    • make sure that you continue to add to your Foundation posts which will often add most value to the overall blog.

    But at the same time when you spot something in your RSS Reader that you feel is important to comment on, then do so. From a publishing point of view, blogs give you an exceptional speed of response, so take the chance to report on breaking news in your industry and voice your opinion on it ahead of your competitors.

    As a final key point: dont look at planning as a constraint, think of it more as giving a focus and direction.

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    I’m a great fan of RSS and all that it can do and I use it on a daily basis both to keep me up to date on a range of business topics that I’m interested in and also for writing my blog. However, I’m also realistic enough to know that RSS use by publishers is still relatively hit and miss, and so if I want to keep abreast of all information being published on the web, then I need to be looking at other tools as well.

    Enter Google Alerts. A great research tool and free to boot which can really help you with your blog posts, either to add additional reference sources to a topic that you have already written about or indeed to help you if you are searching for ideas of new topics to write about.

    It’s very easy to set up – just head along to Google Alerts and select the search terms that you are interested in. If you like, you can select new entries just from Google News, Google Search, Google Blogs or Google Groups, but by far the best option is the comprehensive search which checks all of them. Then when a new post hits the top 10 or 20 in your selected terms, you receive an email alert with description and link.

    So what different pieces of information might be of use to you when writing your blog? Well, anything that you think your readers would be interested in really, but here’s a few thoughts on the subject.

    • Industry information: news and announcements regarding the industry that is relevant to your readers including developments, company news and trends;

    • Competitor information: either new product or service releases or the different go-to-market strategies that your competitors are using. Forewarned is forearmed.

    • Exhibitions, seminars or other live events which might be of interest, either before they happen or to give reports afterwards on what happened there, announcements, who made the news etc.

    • New reports or surveys which might give you figures to add to your blog post and add additional credence to the points that you want to make

    Of course, you can also see what comes up with your own name or your company name as well – a lazy form of egosurfing, I guess.

    However, knowing who is talking about you and the areas you’re interested in as soon as it happens certainly puts you ahead of the game. So, alongside your RSS feed reader, make sure you have Google Alerts set up and get the comprehensive search sent over to you every day – you’ll be surprised how valuable it can be.

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    I was recently reading a post by Chris Lake over at e-Consultancy discussing the relative merits of Witty vs Descriptive Headlines for your blog posts.

    Interesting stuff and some nice examples but not quite the whole story.

    Firstly though, why are they important? They are important because they act just like a newspaper headline – they attract the readers’ attention and encourage them to read the full article. With the huge amount of information that we have nowadays it is vitally important that we attract people’s attention in the short space of time that we are given to achieve this and generally we only have the post title at our disposal to achieve this.

    However, we need to remember that we are in fact trying to attract the attention of two groups: readers (or should I clarify by saying ‘human readers’) and Search Engines. Unfortunately, they don’t react in the same way and they aren’t attracted by the same things. While human readers are attracted by humour, nuance, plays on words as well as information, Search Engines are attracted purely by the words which we provide.

    But there’s more!! More? Yes, there’s more! Because we are working on-line, we have to remember what people actually see in different situations and places – bear with me here, it’s important!

    In RSS Feeds, the title of your post appears, as it does in the main Blog Search Engines such as Technorati or Google Blog Search. As people browse here, then the title is critical because it is the only real element that you can use to attract their attention as they skim through the articles on offer.

    However, in the main Search Engine Results pages (such as Google and Yahoo) what you see is not the title of your post but the “Title Tag”. This is distinct from your post title and something which you can control separately. The Title Tag is doubly important because it is a key element that the main Search Engines look at when ranking pages – they do take note of the title of your post, but they take much more interest in the “Title Tag”.

    So which way to go? My own preference is to keep the title interesting without making it too cryptic, and I always try to include the main keyword for the article. I then make sure that I modify the Title Tag to ensure that that is keyword rich – if you want more details then you ‘ll find more information in my SEO series.

    So, try to appeal to both audiences. You are best placed to know what will appeal to your readers and you can guess that, for Search Engines, the principal keyword phrases for the post are going to be key. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to combine both as well as you can.

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