What Is A Blog?
Essentially a blog is a website but what makes it different to a normal website is how much more “human” it is. You can loosely categorize most websites as online magazines or brochures, used for entertainment, research, business or education. A blog is closer to a diary. The term blog is derived from “weblog” otherwise known as web diary. Blogs are generally operated by one individual and clearly branded with the personality of the author, often with a photo of the author prominently displayed.
If you are reading this article at Small Business Branding then you are in fact reading a blog.
Blogs contain articles that are called “posts”, which are categorized and typically listed in chronological order. While blogs may have started as online diaries nowadays there are blogs on any topic imaginable and command a lot of attention from the mainstream media, allowing any person anywhere to establish a following as a writer. For our purposes we are interested in blogging for business and marketing, and in my opinion no independent professional or small business should be without a blog.
Blogs Are Not Technical
From a technical standpoint blogs have succeeded because of how easy they are to maintain. If you know how to use email and surf the web then you can learn how to blog in a matter of hours. You write an article in a web form the same way you would type an email into Hotmail. Choose which category the article should be in, click publish and your article goes live on your blog. There is of course a lot more to it, but essentially that process forms the basics of what blogging is – a really easy method for the average web surfer to publish content online.
As already discussed in previous parts of this course, relationship building with potential customers is very important. When a customer establishes trust with you they are more likely to buy something from your business. A blog is the perfect conduit for establishing trust and is the ideal online communications tool for an independent professional to reach their audience online. It’s easy enough for a non-technical individual to make use of and the benefits can be significant at very low cost. That formula has seen an explosion of blog usage with an estimated 70 million blogs in existence as at July 2005 (source: http://www.blogherald.com/2005/07/19/blog-count-for-july-70-million-blogs/).
For updated blog statistics, including 2006 data read – State of the Blogosphere, February 2006
What Content Do You Publish To A Blog?
Today you can publish virtually anything on your blog, including audio, video and software, but of course the basic foundation is the written word and that’s where you should start. Once you know your target market and are clear on what you offer to them you need to produce content that meets the needs and interests of the market and provides a sample of what you do.
As was previously mentioned in chapter 3: Email Autoresponders of this course, you should demonstrate your skills and provide value to your potential customers by teaching or giving away a part of what you offer, a tempting sample of what your full service or product can do. This could be as simple as the first chapter of your book, a limited use version of your software, a collection of articles discussing hot topics in your industry, a short course teaching the basics of you full seminar series or just advice directly from you.
The options are truly limitless but the important considerations for small business blogging are to keep on topic, stay relevant, provide value and target your audience. The target audience is where your customers will come from so if you do intend to make sales make sure you discuss topics relevant to your industry.
Example – Targeting A Market With A Blog
Let’s stick with the Sydney plumber example from previous articles in this Internet marketing series. If a plumber from Sydney created a blog and the purpose of the blog was to get new customers, then getting the blog high into search engine results for terms like “Sydney plumber” would be an important goal. The plumber should write lots of how-to articles on plumbing topics such as:
- How to fix a toilet
- How to seal a bathtub
- New technologies in the plumbing industry
- How to fix a leaking faucet
- Where to buy cheap plumbing supplies in Sydney
Now you might argue that the plumber is giving away all of his best secrets. This is exactly the right thing to do. Most people that read the articles won’t go and fix their toilet themselves, all they want to know is that they are hiring someone that knows what they are talking about. The better the quality of the articles the more convinced they will be of the value of the plumber. These topics promote the expertise and credibility of the plumber.
From a web marketing point of view articles like these would bring in lots of links from other sites raising the search engine ranking of the blog for terms like “Sydney plumber”. Chances are there is not much competition for that term and the first plumber that devotes himself to blogging about his plumbing business is going to very quickly come to dominate Google results for plumbing related terms.
Blog Search Engine Marketing
Another fantastic benefit of blogs is that right out-of-the-box they are very well optimised for search engines (chapter 5: Search Engine Optimization). As long as you write good content your blog will present it for you in a well optimized format. There is of course a lot more you can do to further enhance your blogs performance in search engines but you will be off to a great start if you choose good blog software (incidentally I use and recommend WordPress, which is completely free).
Why Is Blogging Taking Off?
Blog usage is exploding because blogs foster great content and collaboration. Blogs are built to communicate with other blogs and no doubt if you do become a blogger you will find yourself meeting many other bloggers (meeting through the Internet however because quite often you will live in different countries). Not only will you form relationships with your customers but you will also meet people working in your industry, opening up opportunities for joint ventures, cross promotions, business collaboration and even friendships.
The real power in blogging comes from leveraging the blog network (called the blogosphere – yes it is cheesy!) to reach hundreds and even thousands of people. One popular article can be picked up (linked to) by hundreds of other blogs filtering your name and blog around the web like a virus. You couldn’t buy viral marketing of this magnitude, which penetrates so far so quickly at no cost, in the real world. If you blog consistently it can happen on a regular basis.
Blogging For Business
I’ve only touched on the basics of blogging and there is an endless amount of information to digest and things you can do if you choose this path, however the first steps are the most important. Get yourself set up with a blog with a standard basic template and make an effort to start producing content.