I recently published an article entitled ‘Why do I need to be blogging?‘ in which we looked at the primary reasons for starting a blog. To recap lets look at a summary of why you need to blog.
Reasons Why You should Start A Blog
- A blog allows you to address very specific questions by way of a highly focused blog post, questions that your potential clients may be searching for on Google, Bing Yahoo or other search engines.
- Blogging lends itself well to product reviews and comparisons.
- The voice of a blogger can be more relaxed and personable than a website allowing you to connect with your current or future clients.
- The more quality content that you publish about a particular subject the more you become an authority on that subject in the eyes of the search engines. This in turn pushes you up the search rankings.
Where Should I Blog?
You have two main options here, an on site blog and an off site blog, ( Assuming you have a website) If you don’t have a website then skip straight to the section below called Off Site Blog.
On Site Blog
Wherever possible I’d always advise to blog ‘on site’. By this, I mean to blog on the same URL as your website. So, if your website is www.mycompany.com then it’s always best to blog on this same domain name. Most websites are already able to accommodate a blog, s long as your website is based on a CMS ( content management system) such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal then it’s already geared up for blogging. If not then you should be able to install WordPress into a subdirectory such as www.mycompany.com/blog.
Feel Free To Skip This Bit If You’re Easily Bored.
Although i’ve just suggested creating a directory called /blog, I’m going to contradict myself for a second. I don’t actually think that referring to a blog, as ‘a blog’ is a good thing.
I always feel that if you’re going to blog on site then it adds more value to refer to your blog as ‘news’ or ‘what’s new’. This of course is just my humble opinion as I remember the stigma that was once attached to blogs when they were just a way of opinionated people to digitise their fascination with knitting their own organic yoghurt.
Back in the 1990s, if I ever stumbled across a website that had a menu link called ‘blog’ I’d just avoid clicking on it at all costs. This was further compounded by the web spam crew who after the new millennium created a network of free blogs in the name of SEO that consisted of regurgitated content that made little sense but that provided a fabric from which they could create back links to other websites in a feeble attempt to improve SEO.
The number one reason that I’ve suggested blogging on site is because you’re adding value to your existing website. Let’s put this into perspective.
Imagine that you are a supplier of hot tubs, you currently have a website consisting of 5 pages. If you were to start a blog on the same domain as your website and set yourself a target to blog twice a week then by the end of the first year you’d have added an additional 104 pages to your website. So now, you’ve probably got a whole host of relative and informative content all centred around hot tubs. You’ve perhaps wrote an articles about cleaning your hot tub, the best type of cover for a hot tub, heat saving tips for hot tubs, how to keep your hot tub in good condition during the winter months, how to move your hot tub, the best base on which to put your hot tub and so on.
You can see then, that from a search engine perspective, your website has, in a short space of time, become something of an authority on hot tubs. When people land on your site or blog, chances are they visit several pages and spend quite a bit of time reading. This will help lower your ‘bounce rate’ (the ratio applied to measure when someone visits your website and then immediately leaves usually due to it being irrelevant / slow to load / poorly presented etc. A high bounce rate will be penalised by the search engines)
If you’ve planned your blog integration and ‘calls to action’ well then it will be easy for your visitors to click through to your shop or enquiry page and before you know it, you’ve gained another new client!
An on site blog can be integrated seamlessly into an existing CMS website. If done well, it helps to grow your website organically and can result in higher order values, better conversion rates, and quite possibly the most valuable asset that your business owns.
Off Site Blog
If you don’t have the ability to easily integrate a blog on your main website URL then you may want to consider an offsite blog. You’ve several options here. A stand alone self hosted WordPress blog or a free blog at WordPress.com or Blogger.
WordPress.com & WordPress.org Explained
Often a source of confusion, WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two separate things. WordPress.com is a free blogging service very similar to Blogger that is owned by Google. The service is free and you’ll be able to choose a URL that will be something like ‘yourbusiness.wordpress.com’ WordPress.org on the other hand is a provider of an open source software that you can install on your own hosting package. Infinitely superior to the .com option, WordPress.org allows you the freedom to build highly functional website or blog that is considered by many to be the best CMS system available today. When people refer to WordPress ( me included ) it’s generally the self hosted .org version that they mean.
Of course WordPress isn’t the only option. Blogger, is a free blogging platform that is owned by Google™. Like any other free blogging platform, you run the risk of appearing to be quite amateur if you build a presence on here as a commercial enterprise. It’s something of a shame really as Blogger isn’t a bad platform, especially for the beginner or those who aren’t too tech savvy. With just a few clicks you can be up and running in no time. Just like WordPress.com, Blogger allows you to associate your own domain name with your blog which is a must if you’re going to be blogging for business.
I’ve used Blogger a few times as a support blog for clients. By that, I mean that I’ve used it in addition to an onsite blog and then linked back to the main website. As Blogger is owned by Google it does have the benefit of being well favoured. That said, your content still needs to be good. Long, informative and well optimised articles will rank in the search results just as well on Blogger as they would on a privately hosted WordPress blog.
Blogger, WordPress.com, Typepad and more are often favoured by seasoned bloggers who want a second blog on which they can be more themselves and blog about non work related things. Blogger owns the blog, you just use it. Think of these free blogging platforms as a rental property and think of WordPress (on your own hosting) as a property that you own. If you’re serious about blogging then do it right from the start and get a self hosted WordPress Blog.
I’ve already started to write a series of beginners guides to WordPress here, you’d be surprised how quickly and easily you can set up a website or blog on WordPress.
Blogging Is A Selfless Task
To be successful at blogging you have to understand the ethos behind running a blog. Your readers will expect fantastic content, informative posts and variety all for free. Don’t set up a blog with prospecting or selling in mind. If you do then you’ll fail at the first hurdle. Instead, put your business to the back of your mind as you blog, imagine for one second that you’ve inherited billions and so money is no longer a motivation for you. Informing the public is your main goal here.
Whatever industry you operate in, chances are you’re something of an expert. At the very least, it’s safe to assume that you know more about your industry and it’s products and services than the average joe. Set about blogging with the aim of helping those who want to know more about a particular service, product etc. Don’t go about writing blogs with the sole intention of promoting your business, that will never gain you any respect. If you happen to mention a product that fits in naturally and flows with the text then by all means include a reference or a link to it.
Generating Business By Blogging
We’ve already looked at the hot tub example, imagine then that this can be applied to any business, regardless of if you’re a florist in Winchester, a tyre depot in Chicago or a retailer of buddhist statues in Melbourne, the principle is the same. By creating posts about your industry, by solving problems for others or providing reviews, you’re naturally attracting traffic to your blog. If you’ve planned the layout of your blog right then you can easily divert readers to other areas of your website, maybe products that solve the problem that you’ve just blogged about or introductory offers etc.
See the screenshot below, this is a highly ranking off site blog on Blogger that also has limited adverts displayed in the side bar. The posts on there have been tightly focused on some search terms that are known to have high traffic. You can see that in the side bar on the right are some offers that when clicked take you through to the company website with an online shop. This blog accounts for 22% of the organic traffic that results in a sale on the main website owned by a client.
Getting Blog Post Ideas
Imagine for a moment that you need to make a purchase, lets assume that you need a dishwasher. What’s the first thing that you do? I don’t know about you but I generally turn to Google, some people prefer Bing or Yahoo, but my point is a purchase usually starts with some form of research.
As the internet has grown we’ve self taught ourselves how to search online without realising. Gone are the days when we could just type in “dishwasher” and get the results we wanted. Through trial and error we are now quite specific with our searches. People looking for a dishwasher may type such things as “The best dishwasher for a large family” or “what is the most efficient dishwasher” or “what is the most reliable brand of dishwasher” or even “cheapest dishwashers London” assuming you live in London.
These searches are known as long tail searches and as most people tend to type detailed search terms into Google when searching then these long tail search terms are your friend.
It’s hard to get an article, page or website to rank nationally for a generic term such as “Dishwashers” but it’s remarkably easy to rank for a search term consisting of three words or more.
I always advise my clients to keep a list of the questions that customers ask when they phone or email. Why? Simply because you will perhaps spot a pattern emerging. If so, then these are the type of questions that people will be searching for online. These questions make great blog post titles!
I have a tool that I find invaluable for researching blog posts. You can start with a search term of just one or two words and this tool will then suggest search terms to target. It then goes one step further and reports what websites currently rank on page one of Google. It also tells you important information such as the age of the domain names, how many pages they have, how many links they have pointing to them etc. I’m never really put off ranking data such as number of back links etc, Google pay little attention to the number of links these days, they place more weight on the quality and relevance of the links. I’ve had websites rank with just one page link before now for really competitive search terms. You can see with the screenshot below that starting with the base term Dishwasher” I uncovered a popular search term that has little SEO competition with just a few clicks.
There are many factors included in the algorithm that decides where in the search results you’ll rank but the emphasis really is on content quality more than anything else. This tool can also let you know the volume of searches based on search phrases and also the strength of competition for the search phrase. If you’re serious about blogging then take a look at this tool and even get a free trial by clicking this link.
Other Benefits Of Running A Blog
Depending on your circumstances, you’ll find lots of benefits to running a blog. I think one of my favourite aspects of blogging is that writing a blog enables you to have a more natural voice. I personally warm to someone that allows their personality to shine through in their writing, It builds a certain trust. I dislike corporate speak, If we’re honest with ourselves we all prefer to deal with a person rather than a corporation. As a director it can be really rewarding and beneficial to connect with your clients and even your staff by way of a blog. It’s good for PR and immensely enjoyable.
Remember that the more content you produce then the more relevant you become in your chosen field. Blogging allows you to focus less on aesthetics as you would with a website and more on writing great content. If you regularly give away tips, tricks, insights and honest reviews then you’ll become an authority in your field. Not only will this score you points from an SEO point of view but more importantly it’ll result in people wanting to do business with you.
So How Do I Start A Blog?
If you’ve already got a website then check if it’s a CMS (content management system). If so then this is excellent, you should find that you can already blog on site. If not then consider opening an account at Blogger. They have tutorials online to help you get started and remember to check back here often for tips and tricks.
If however you’re serious about blogging then I can’t stress enough just how much better you’ll be to start as you mean to go on with a hosted WordPress installation. I’ll be regularly providing tutorials and tips about WordPress on this blog. It’s by far and away the best platform on which to blog and with your own hosted installation it’ll show the world and Google that you’re serious. Take a look at my web design tutorials to get started. A blog is simply a website that displays content in chronological order ( stevegrady.org is a blog but if you look I’ve customised it to have categories and archives by subject matter).[bha size=’300×250′ variation=’04’ align=’alignleft’] You’ll see that I recommend Bluehost for websites or blogs. Stevegrady.org is on Bluehost. It’s a reliable hosting service with a free domain name if you don’t already own one. They have a one click WordPress installation feature too and at less than $5 (five dollars!) per month for everything, it’s almost rude not to take them up on the offer! Click the image for more info. What are you waiting for? Today is as good a day as any to start! Click the link, get yourself set up then head on back over here and let’s get you started.
How To Start A Blog
Hopefully you’ll now have an insight on why you should be blogging and how to start a blog. Just to recap, you can blog on or off site. Onsite is always preferably. Blogging is about answering questions, freely giving detailed and honest information to people who are looking for it. In later posts I’ll cover SEO in more depth. We’ll look at how to get your blog posts ranking at the top of Google or certainly on page one. If you have any questions then please feel free to comment below. Welcome to the world of blogging!