The thing about blogging is that it is incredibly effective or incredibly not depending on what you put into it. Search engines love blog posts, but only if they appear regularly. Readers love bloggers, but only if they have something useful or controversial to say.
So, your blogging career is going to largely depend on your niche, your expertise, and your willingness to take the brand that is you and turn it into a megaphone for your business. Many people have trouble with this part of their marketing campaign and that’s not necessarily a problem, presuming you can create a second ego or have someone else become the face of the company. Regardless, the goal here is to put a face on your business and use that face to build trust, develop rapport, and streamline more traffic toward your website.
What Blogs Do
Blogs are great tools, but what do they really do? Here are a few very specific things a blog can do for you and your business:
To start with, a blog will help you enhance the communication between you and your clients. You can discuss updates to your products and services, ask for feedback, and answer questions that your customers and clients may have of you.
In addition, you can start personalising exactly how you conduct business. This goes right back to the social networking chapter where we discussed branding yourself as the face of your company. With a blog, you again are the drawing point. You need to sell yourself and your knowledge, and also your personality. A blog will vastly improve how your customers identify with you as an individual.
In the purest sense, a blog is a good way to get traffic for your main site. It draws regular readers and taps into traffic sources that your other marketing campaigns may not be accessing.
I cannot overstate how much value comes in setting yourself up as a trustworthy expert in your field. When people start coming to you for information in a niche, you can bet that they’ll buy pretty much anything you ask them to. That’s a powerful place to be and while a blog won’t do that entirely on its own, it is a very good starting place.
Quick and Easy to Maintain
A blog is easy to maintain and you can do it even with minimal website expertise. If you’ve never worked on a website before or have never worked with blogging software, it doesn’t really matter because most blogs are incredibly easy to use. They set up in 5 minutes and then all you have to do is write your posts.
How to Create a Blog
Now it’s time to put your blog together and see what we can make of it. This is actually an incredibly easy process, so I’m not going to spend all that much time discussing it. If you have trouble, there are simple video tutorials on both the WordPress and Blogger websites to help you get things set up.
There are a lot of ways you can write a blog, but in my book there are two major ones that you can use – WordPress or Blogger. Blogger is the web based blogging platform that Google runs and that you can set up in less than 5 minutes with a Google ID. WordPress has both a web based service and an installable server side service that you can download and install on your own. If you can, I recommend using the self-install WordPress option. You may need a bit of help from your programmer, but it is a quick and easy installation and you have far more options to customise your blog. Blogger will work well for you though if you do not want to put a blog on your main domain name.
Setting up the Blog
Signing up for the web based blogging services is incredibly easy. The only thing you need to do is setup a profile for yourself when you create your blog. Additionally, make sure to play with the template settings until the blog looks right to you. Once you’ve done those two things, it really is just a matter of writing into a blank space and pressing “publish”.
Writing for a Blog
Now we come to the important part, where you start writing your blog. This is much more important than anything else we’ve discussed in this chapter and will require that you have a clear, very well developed idea of what you want to offer your readers.
I don’t recommend you use the same style or tone that you use for your article marketing. Blogging is a different beast altogether and requires that you are personal while informative. People come to blogs to receive regular updates as well as in-depth coverage of specific topics. To start with, you need to narrow in your coverage onto one topic. This should be easy because you have a niche already in mind with your business.
Next, you need to think of ways you can provide information in that niche that is unique and useful to your readers. This can be done with how-to write-ups, reviews of new products or services, announcements about your service, or news related to your niche.
Another great way to draw readership to a blog is to use the same information that you have been using in your email lists. Provide something very useful and free and people will come back regularly to read up on the newest free info you have to offer. You can even outsource this to content writers, having them write informal guides that can be very useful for someone interested in that particular niche.
In the end, refer to the article writing and viral marketing chapters to learn what people are looking for in content and how to format it. The biggest issue here is that you provide something useful whenever you post. Don’t write about your latest flight or your trip to see grandma. Unless you’re very funny, most people are not interested.
Comments and Engaging
The other thing about blogs that sets them apart is that they have comments, and you should take full advantage of those comments sections. To do this though, you need to encourage comments in your posts by saying things like “what do you think?” You also need to respond to comments that you get. If someone provides their opinion on a topic, respond to it and tell them your thoughts about their opinion. The more interactive you are, the more engaged those readers will become.
Creating Viral Content
Writing useful information is one thing, but creating viral content that will spread rapidly and draw huge volumes of links is another. This is where you may need to pour some serious effort into your blogging. Things like Top 100 lists are always incredibly successful. Other things like original strategies for various tasks or how-to guides with screen shots and a walkthrough also tend to go viral.
Getting Traffic to Your Blog
Finally, once you have a well written blog up and running, it is up to you to find and bring back traffic to your blog. Luckily, you’ve just read a book that tells you exactly how to get traffic to a website. However, there are a few things that are slightly unique to a blog that you should keep in mind.
Every blog is built with an RSS feed, a technology that automatically sends out the new posts you put on it to various feeding services. You will however need to occasionally ping these sites and tell them to check your feeds. This is where pinging comes in handy. There are large blogging circuits like Technorati that are good places to do this. But, I generally like to ping as many services as possible each time. See Appendix B for a full list of pinging services that will help you increase your total traffic.
Luckily for you, blogging platforms happen to be among the best SEO platforms on the Internet. They are built for the stuff and that makes them incredibly valuable for many people who are interested in getting quick and easy traffic. In terms of taking advantage of that, you should be sure to have keyword rich categories for your blog, as well as a glossary of keywords that you can use to integrate into your posts as you write. Every time you post something new, try to integrate a keyword somehow.
Directory and Social Bookmarking Links
You can gain quite a bit of traction by backing up your subscription feeds with links posted in directories and social networks like Facebook. Additionally, submit the posts that you are particularly proud of to sites like Digg and Reddit! where they can be spread around. This is especially important if you write something you feel could go viral like a Top 100 list. If you Digg it and three other people do the same afterwards, it could easily spread like wildfire just by pure curiosity alone.
Blogging is all about syndication, which means you need to post as often as possible. The best way to stay on top is to try and post every day. However, if you are in a less competitive niche or one in which you can gain a lot of traffic from old posts over time, you can also post on a less regular basis – every two days or so. However, try to never go more than 3 days without a post to your blog.
Linking to Other Blogs
By citing sources and creating trackbacks to other blog posts, you can not only create a better network of links that the search engines will respond well to, but you can engage those other blog posts to check out your blog and see who is linking to them. This alone can help you create new links to your site.
Blogging is one of those tools that is effective as long as you use it. It is not like article marketing in which you can continue to gain valuable traffic from an article that is two or three years old. With a blog, you need to post as often as possible and stay on the cutting edge of your niche. However, if you can do that, the benefits of a good blog are tenfold times that of a good article.