What’s a blog?
Blogs range from personal to political and can focus on one narrow subject area or a whole range of subjects. Most business blogs tend to focus on a specific subject such as web design or art but some of them are more like personal diaries and present the author’s thoughts and opinions. They look like entries in a diary and others are often invited to reply to blog posts and thereby create community engagement and interaction.
Now that Facebook and Twitter have become so popular and almost anybody can self-publish, it might be sensible to assume that creating and maintaining a dedicated blog is no longer necessary but just because a lot of the attention is looking over there doesn’t mean that you should abandon ship. A blog is superior to these platforms in many ways. If you run a business you will of course (I hope) already have a website which displays your wares and services to the wider public but a blog will perform a supporting function to your website. A blog helps to personify your business by putting a human face on your brand. It engages a reader in they way that a website is usually not designed to do. It differentiates you from the competition. A blog will help to create a brand – a personality which helps to position your website in the same way that a car manufacturer will position their products: All cars serve pretty much the same purpose but driving a Bentley will provide a different experience than a Ferrari.
A blog allows you to build a better picture of who you are and what you’re about. Besides, you can’t fully explain yourself on Twitter with under 140 characters. Some people dive in with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn as well as a blog but soon become overwhelmed with the amount of time they need to invest and run out of interesting things to say.
Facebook and Twitter right now are flavours of the month but not long ago it was MySpace and Bebo who were the bright young things. This happens a lot… something cool comes along and people rush to it hoping that it will make them appear cool too (Apple) – it’s called the halo effect. Some companies might feel pleased with their Facebook investment. The numbers can look great but they don’t always add up. You can easily buy 1,000 ‘Likes’ for $5 so I don’t consider that a good measurement of success.
Running a blog is not a fashionable trend or a soapbox to vent your grievences, apart from your website, it’s the most important marketing element of your online presence and attempting to build a business today without one is inexcusable. If you don’t have the time, don’t know what to write, whatever… the cost of not creating and actively maintaining a blog is too high and you are joking if you believe that engaging in light-hearted banter with prospective ‘customers’ on Facebook alone will cut it. I haven’t even started yet on the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) benefits of having a blog which is a massively (is that a real word?) effective way to get your website noticed. Read more about that below…
So what should you talk about?
Just research what your audience might need or want to know about. Are there gaps in the stuff that’s already out there that you can fill? Don’t just add more digital pollution. Instead, provide your own unique contribution. Once you’ve figured that bit out, just start writing. Focus on publishing great articles that put your talent, passion and knowledge on display without talking about yourself. People hate that… The more you talk about yourself the less people will care and you’ll end up on a digital soapbox in space.
Will it take long?
You reap what you sow. Try to keep your blog growing by feeding it 2 or 3 posts a week. Your efforts will pay off and you should start to see results in about 6 months or so. Don’t give up. Studies have shown that people who blog five times a week will get almost seven times more search traffic. Source
More traffic to your site can lead to more leads and when people visit your website and find well-written and useful content, they’ll learn more about you and hopefully want to deal with you.
Try to insert key words and phrases into your blog to improve search engine optimisation but don’t go crazy – keep it natural so people will still want to read it.
Blogging Builds Trust
People are suspicious… suspicious of strangers on the street and even more suspicious about strangers on the web. That’s why peer-review and ratings websites are so influential. Don’t tell me that you’ve never checked out the Amazon customer reviews before clicking ‘Buy Now’? A blog with good, helpful content will help you to bridge the gap between distrust and trust.
Blogging is fantastic for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
Google likes to keep web designers on their toes and every now and again it tweaks how it decides to rank websites and penalises the websites that are not updated often or employ certain tricks designed to gain an advantage (This is called black-hat optimisation). That kind of thing is old-school. It worked years ago but it won’t work now – not for long anyway. If you’re running a business, you do not want to make an enemy of Google. Google is way too sophisticated to try and outsmart in the long-run and if you try, you’ll be punished and it will up to you to punish your web designer and walk the long path back to the top. High quality, keyword rich, well formatted and consistently updated original content will not be penalised because that’s exactly what Google wants. It aspires to provide the best experience for it’s users and it’s the best all-round way to improve your website ranking. It’s not rocket science although some will try to convince you otherwise. It does take a bit of trial and error to begin to understand what works and what doesn’t but you’ll get there. In time you might notice more than just one page from your website showing up in search results but some from your blog as well. This way you don’t need a web designer to get you to number one on Google because you could get to number two, three, four, five as well by writing blog posts occasionally when the kettle’s on.
Having a blog can seriously improve your search engine visibility. Check out the example above… My website ranks well for the search term; ‘WordPress Paignton’ and I’m happy with that but see how it’s also supported by three of my old blog posts!
In my experience and honest opinion, I believe blogging is one of the best and most affordable SEO weapons out there; a brilliant way to personify your business and engage with interested members of a community who might actually become real customers of yours.