16 Tips for Starting a Business Blog (Part 2)

31st Aug, 2010

This is the second of two posts looking at setting up a business blog. The first part, with tips 1 – 8, can be found here. Tips 9 – 16 are below.

9 – Developing Blog Content Ideas

Another advantage of a business blog over a personal one, is that the business is an already defined organisation with set of products and services to sell or promote. This helps define a direction for the blog and where potential blog content ideas could come from. A business blog will almost always deliver information to customers about the organisation and the industry within which it operates. Look outside the company for ideas of blog posts such as news articles, interviews, presentations, video clips, audio clips and bring these to the attention of your reader. Add your own commentary and insight into why these links are important to the industry and your customers. Don’t just re-post the same information from the original link without adding something new. Also look internally for ideas – company news, staff information, happy customers and case studies could also form the basis of blog posts. I would also suggest keeping a notepad for sudden bursts of inspiration. You don’t know when they might come and even if a burst of inspiration doesn’t result in a blog post immediately keeping notes you can refer back too, might help spark an idea in the future.

Another way of looking for content is to check what posts are popular on your blog and what search queries are bringing people to it. For this I suggest using Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. Analytics will identify your most popular posts in terms of clicks, but also look at additional information such as length of time on individual posts. The longer a person stays on a page, you could assume, the content is more engaging. Once you have identified a number of popular posts, is it possible to return to those from a different angle? By using Google Webmaster Tools, you will have access to what search terms bring visitors to your website and how many websites link to content on your site. Again these may be useful in identifying more content ideas. One final Google product worth using is Google Alerts. This allows you to set up email notifications for certain keywords or search terms, so when they are mentioned across the web you receive an email and a link. Last week Google announced Realtime, which will monitor social media for search terms, also allowing realtime alerts be set up for these terms whenever they appear. These notifications can help point you towards fresh content related to you industry or a particular aspect of it.

Getting good blog content isn’t easy, especially not in the beginning. I always think of it like doing exercise or playing a sport. If you haven’t done it before it will start very tough, but by persisting at it each week you will get that bit better.

10. Getting Traffic

Getting traffic can be difficult, but there’s a number of things that can be done in order to increase your blog’s exposure. Writing regular content is important in order to get noticed in search engines. But for newbies I would think finding a balance between quantity and quality is important. You could post 10 articles a day, but if they are of a poor standard few visitors will return.Make sure there’s a visible link from your homepage to you blog. Also look at other online resources you participate in.

Do you visit or post on any message boards, discussion forums or Linked In groups? If so you might be able to include your blog address in your signature or (depending on the rules) be allowed to publish links to new blog posts.

Look at your own networks and profiles – do you use Facebook, Linked In, Twitter? If so make sure your blog is integrated with these other networks.

Does your company have a newsletter or e-mail list? Think about sending out an email newsletter letting subscribers know about the blog. But don’t do this until after the first month at least. You need to make sure you have interesting content that will tempt them to subscribe or at least return to the blog at a later date.

Are there other ways you can let your customers know about your blog? Maybe you don’t have an e-mail newsletter but look at ways your company communicates with its customers maybe through press releases or advertising, look at including the blog address in these.

Finally, make sure to read blogs of others within your industry, be sure to comment and include a link back to your blog. Making other bloggers (and readers) aware of your blog is one way of driving traffic and if they see something of interest on your blog they may post about it or include it in a post, which in turn will send more traffic to your blog.

11. Time

Make sure to set aside some time each day to do some work on your blog. As I mentioned earlier, creating content gets easier but only if you give it the time it needs. When I started out I set aside an hour a day. It’s a ball park figure, but you have to see how much you can honestly fit in. The last thing you need is to over do it in the beginning, it may put you off blogging for good.

12. Monitor

Always monitor whats going on with your blog. From comments to traffic its essential to see what it is people are saying, what they are reading or where they are coming from. This is why I suggest installing Google Analytics and Feedburner. With Feedburners e-mail subscriber list you can even check what companies or organisations people are subscribing to your blog from. You know if you have people within your industry checking you out, you’re obviously doing something right.

13. Taking A Break

A long break from blogging can have its advantages and disadvantages. Twice in the last two years I had to stop blogging due to increasing work load, both times for over five weeks duration. The first time it was very difficult to get back into, I almost didn’t, and traffic had dropped substantially. But it also made me evaluate what I was doing, how I could produce better quality and more focused posts. The result was a massive increase in traffic. When it came to the second long break, instead of traffic decreasing it actually increased, even though there was no new content going up. I put this down to better quality content.

14. Hitting A Wall

What happens when you can’t think of anything to post? This will inevitably happen, and it will happen in the beginning more than at any other time. Why? Because if you approach blogging in a strategic way, knowing why it is you are doing it, understanding what content to post, dedicating time to write, promote the blog and have the tools to measure its development, you will see rewards – in the medium to long term. Blogging is not a short term strategy, but once you see the rewards you understand why you blog. Blogging can be great for business, building relationships with customers, generating leads, positioning a company and a blog can act as a competitive advantage between your organisation and that of a competitors.

But that’s not much use when you have hit a wall and dont know what to write. I suggest taking a break, if you treat blogging as a chore then you won’t last at it. Also think about aspects of the business you really enjoy, how can those experiences be turned into posts? The most important thing is to not give up!

15. It Get’s Easier!

As I mentioned blogging does get easier. It may seem like walking in the dark initially but eventually you will see the light. Ideas crop up in unexpected places, you start to get feedback and achieving the goals you set out to achieve.

16. If You Do Quit

I suggest giving blogging at least six months of your time (I did say it wasn’t a short term strategy) before deciding to quit. If you do decide to quit then I suggest deleting your blog and removing any links from your website to the blog. There’s so many businesses out there that set up blogs and don’t have much more content that then obligatory ‘Welcome to the Company Blog’ post. On some company blogs there’s been no content posted in years. Being half-hearted is not a trait customers like to see, are there other aspects of your organisation that might also be half-hearted? By having an unused blog on your website it also looks like the idea to blog was not fully though through. This is a medium to long term strategy, and if you expect instant gratification, then you might be disappointed. But if you set realistic goals and time frame, then this last point will not apply to you.

There’s my tips for starting and maintaining a business blog, I’d love to hear what your tips you might have?