16 Tips for Starting A Business Blog (Part 1)
posted by Luke on 25th Aug 2010
Blogging can be time consuming, difficult and very hard to maintain frequency of posts once the initial momentum has worn off. But more and more studies identify consumers as using the internet to be better informed about the products they are going to purchase. If you think about a company website, they usually don’t detail much more than the products or services they offer. All in the best possible light, nice write ups and product shots, but with no insight to the people behind the website or company name. With a little online investigation you can fill in some of the blanks, maybe customer reviews or opinions on message boards. All of which are outside looking in.
Blogs provide a view from the inside of a company looking out – a way of communicating how on top of their game an organisation may be. Blogs help to paint a rounder picture of an organisation by providing regular insight into the people, their skill, talents and knowledge in their field. It helps to build make companies feel less corporate and, like most things in social media, it’s all about the content.
This blog might be relatively new, but my own experiences writing blogs for business goes back several years. So here’s a few tips that any new business blogger should find useful.
1. Understand Why You Are Blogging
Why are you blogging for your business? What goals have you set out to achieve with the blog and how do you intend to reach them? It could be to generate awareness, position a company as a leader in its industry, help to generate leads, or even to help with search engine rankings. Blogs help make your main website more visible as search engines pick up on regular new content. Whatever your goal is, defining it at the beginning will help give it a focus and provide an framework to your blog.
2. Get a self-hosted blog
Make sure you use a self-hosted business blog. That means a blog installed and hosted somewhere on your business website. This is important for a couple of reasons, firstly it will look more professional than one hosted elsewhere, and it gives you much more control over your blog. I suggest starting with installing the latest version of WordPress.org, (try not to get it confused with WordPress.com which is for blogs hosted on the WordPress site). You may need a little computer knowledge in order to set it up but having your own self-hosted blog will be worth it in the end.
Next up is how you want your blog to look. There are thousands of free theme designs available online that can be installed in seconds. Ideally use one that isn’t too different in appearance from your main site. Again a bit of HTML knowledge will go a long way in customising it. Also think about what you will be posting to the blog – will it be mainly images, text or video? As this may dictate what kind of theme you install. In the beginning I think providing access to as much content as possible is important to keep readers on your blog. Even if they don’t read all the posts, reading such things as titles can give readers a sense of what a blog is about. Try installing widgets to highlight previous posts and archives. However, I’d wait until there’s several months of content before installing anything like ‘Most Popular Posts’ or a ‘Related Posts’ plugin’s as you don’t want the same content to be repeated several times.
4. Pre-Launch Widgets & Plugins
There’s a few plugins that should be installed on your blog from the beginning these include;
All in One SEO – This helps with the optimisation of the blog for search engines. A must have.
Google Analytics – the best free website traffic analysis tool. You should have this already set up on your website to track what visitors do when they are there. With the UA code for your website (available from your Google Analytics Account) and this plugin you are set to go. You can now check who is visiting your blog, from where and how long they spend on it.
Sharing Plugins – There’s a number of plugins that enable readers to share content with their own networks at the touch of a button. This means if someone see’s a post on your blog they they can post it to their Twitter or Facebook at the touch of a button. These appear at the end of most blog posts. I suggest using Share This.
Facebook Social Plugins – Sharing buttons are great for posting content to say Facebook of Digg. But with the advent of Facebook’s ‘like’ or ‘recommend’ button these can be installed separately to your blog. They can be adjusted to include names or faces of friends of the blog visitors (once the visitor is logged into Facebook). Once someone clicks the ‘like’ button notification goes into their newsfeed. There’s a few plugins for this these include Facebook Social Widgets and Me Likey.
Topsy Re-Tweet Button – For Twitter, this can track how many tweets a particular post receives across the web. It’s handy to see how many times a post gets re-tweeted and can help identify popular content.
Twitter Tools – Use this to link your blog and Twitter account. It will automatically tweet your latest blog post title and link to your followers.
5. Pre-launch Content
The point of blogs is to provide content to the reader. Launching a blog with no content defeats the purpose. So I suggest writing 5 posts before the launch. This should be enough to give the blog a bit of depth. Also have another post ready to publish within a day of the launch. I have seen 3-5 posts per week is often quoted as ideal for a business blog, but in reality that number can be hard to achieve for businesses. In the beginning try at least one post per week and focus on quality.
6. Post Structure
I have found that trying to keep posts as short and to the point as possible is best. Posts with numerical lists (for example ’16 tips for starting your first blog’), can prove to be popular. Also try to break up posts with images and try link externally to other websites and internally to posts on your own blog if you are referencing their content. I have read 350 – 500 words as an ideal length, I don’t disagree, but if its interesting going over this is acceptable. Keep in mind readers will often skim through posts so bullet points, headings can be useful. If a post is too lengthy think about splitting it up into multiple parts.
7. Post Frequency
I wrote last week how often I think you should post. It really depends on how often you can provide relevant and interesting content rather than posting to a defined schedule – until you find your feet at least. But aim for one quality post per week as a good starting point. I do think quality wins over quantity.
8. Finding Your Voice
Finding your voice in blogging terms means understanding where it is the blog fits in. In other words what is the purpose of it, why would people read it? A business blog does have certain advantages over a personal blog, because a business blog is about creating a PR channel for the company. That in itself provides an area to find a ‘voice’ in. Defining what exactly the voice is will come over time by posting different content and seeing what works best with readers.
Part 2, with tips 9 – 16, can be found here.