The word “blog” is short and sweet and on everybody’s to-do list. Writing your own blog seems deceptively easy.
Marketers (myself included) throw the “B” word around with abandon these days, telling business owners to identify a specialty that can be written about and, in true Nike fashion, “just do it.”
I fear we’ve oversimplified the act of blogging.
While I know that a business blog for a printing company or any company is a highly effective inbound marketing tool, there are some rules of thumb you should deal with before launching your own blog.
- You need commitment. Good blogs have longevity, so planning your content and schedule is the very first step. The planning stage is critical. Involve your management and creative team.
- Be specific with your blogging topic. What is it you’re passionate about – and familiar enough with – so that your blog has the longevity it needs? Good blogs have a focus.
- It must be search engine optimized. You need to know what words or terms people use to search for your company and your expertise, so that your blog reflects these key words and includes them.
- Professional writing and compelling content are a blog’s cornerstones. Business blogs reflect on the company, not only the blogger. Bad writing won’t win you followers. If this means you outsource your blog, then do it. I do not believe a blog has to be written from the inside. As long as there are guidelines for and strong communication with your external blogger, you’re fine. See my previous post about this.
- It needs to be regular. A blog isn’t an occasional post; it requires a schedule. Just imagine you’re publishing a weekly newspaper. Establish deadlines and respect them.
- A blog is not promotional. The blogs that annoy me aren’t blogs at all. They’re ads masquerading as a blog. Your blog is not the place where you announce a new acquisition (like a piece of equipment) or an award you’ve won. Those are news items.
- It’s not about you. See #6. Although business bloggers certainly put their own experiences into their posts, they write to educate and inspire, not crow.
- A blogger knows her audience. Who are you writing this blog for? Keep your audience in mind every time you write.
- Encourage comments – and reply to them. Since they live on the Internet, blogs are social by nature. Make sure you have commenting functionality and that it works. If there are technical issues with it, you’ll turn people off and rob yourself of feedback. Reply to comments quickly.
- Have social sharing buttons that work. Your blog will only be an effective marketing or branding tool if it can be shared. You’d be surprised how often I come across blogs that lack sharing buttons. Read what Melissa Leiter has to say about social sharing.
- A blog’s headline matters. I always rewrite my blog’s headline before publishing it. Start with a working headline and revise it as you write. Because the headline often determines what people click on, yours always has to capture interest. A recent post of mine dealt with headlines for emails. The same rules apply for blogs. I learned these tips from Nancy Harhut of the Wilde Agency; check them out.
- It’s ok to link. An old way of thinking was that you should never use links, for fear of losing readers who wander off to other sites. Today, it’s smart to show examples of some of the points you’re making, and more than that, to indicate that research was involved. Plus, it’s social.
- Keep a list of future blogging topics. Oftentimes your ideas for content come to you out of the blue. To avoid losing them, write them down in a handy notebook or in a folder on your computer. Dump every related thought and idea into this notebook, then flesh them out when you sit down to write.
- Leave room for spontaneity. While it’s smart to have a calendar of blog topics, you’ll often come up with new posts that are timely. Don’t be afraid to interrupt your scheduled posts when this happens.
- Add a visual to every blog post. Posts with visuals are more interesting and get more attention. I haven’t found a better post about the value of visuals than this one from HubSpot, one of the leading Internet marketing firms. Check it out – and yes, the visuals used to make their point are fabulous.
- Take the high road, always. Your business blog may be your personal opinions about your specialty, but it shouldn’t veer into complaining about competition or airing your own political views.
- A blog is not a novel. Don’t feel that you have to write a book. Short posts are fine. I always say a few hundred words are perfect.
- Speak in your normal “voice” as a writer. Write as if you’re speaking to one person. Keep your sentences short.
- Don’t dash off a blog in haste. It should take you at least an hour to write, revise, proofread, revise again, craft a great headline, and upload. This goes for spontaneous posts as well as scheduled ones.
- Read it aloud before posting it. Edit accordingly until it sounds natural. Delete extraneous words.
- Learn from other blogs. Sign up for a Hubspot blog or two – these are the best in class. You’ll keep learning ways to improve your own blog.
Have I left off any key points about the makings of a good business blog? What makes yours so successful?
(c) 2014 Margie Dana.