By Jeff Wuorio
A Web log, or blog, can be a boon to your business. In an accompanying article, I offer reasons why business owners and managers might want to establish themselves as bloggers.
But now comes the inevitable question: How do you get started?
Here are seven tips to get your Web log up and blogging.
1. Identify your audience. A basic precept of any business is just as essential with your blog. It's critical to pinpoint your audience and, in the process, decide what you're going to say that will make them read what you write. "It's really a process of elimination —what's not being covered by someone else?" says Scott Allen, co-author of the upcoming book "The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Using Online Social Networks." "What's your unique spin? If you don't have an original voice, why is anybody going to read it?"2. Decide where your blog should live. Next up is determining where to locate your blog. There are numerous software packages that let you add a blog section to an existing Web site. A more automated and perhaps easier option is a blog hosting site (with a link from your Web site bringing visitors over). Here, the setup is easy, as the site usually provides preformatted designs and other options from which you can choose. In particular, watch for features that may be helpful in building traffic, such as trackers that identify recent posts and the most popular message threads. (See sites such as Businessblogconsulting.com for reviews of various publishing platforms. One easy place to create a blog is on Windows Live Spaces.)
3. Start talking. At this point, bringing your blog live will mean little more than placing your thoughts, observations and insights into the blog for others to read. But to really kick start your blogging traffic, don't just vent marketing-speak about how great your business is, or chatter about news and current events for which you offer no expertise. Instead, aim for a fresh, unique take. Provide a perspective that is heartfelt, compelling, and has the potential to help you market yourself and your business.
One way to get up to speed on what to say is to read other blogs and, in turn, offer your own viewpoint on an industry or business topic for which you know something about. "It's not a matter of competing with other blogs," Allen notes. "But one way to attract other bloggers to your site is to start reading other blogs and commenting on what they're writing about."
4. Get into the practice of "blogrolling." Getting regular visitors to your site isn't just a matter of fresh, insightful commentary. Building traffic between blogs is another central element to luring repeat visitors. Here, "blogrolling" is an effective tool. This, in essence, is a set of links on your blog site that identifies other sites on the Internet --- related to your business, industry or expertise --- which you find valuable. Developed in conjunction with a fresh voice, blogrolling encourages a steady back and forth between various sites, including other blogs. "Write commentary about what other bloggers have written, then link to them," Allen says. "That really gets you into the overall bloggers' pool."5. Emphasize keywords. Search engine hits are another element of generating traffic. One strategy to attract search engine interest is through careful use of keywords in both your headlines and blog copy. For instance, if your topic focuses on marketing a business overseas, use of the words "marketing" and "overseas" as often as possible and in varied permutations can help push your blog site toward the head of the search engine line. "Stay on one topic, so your content is focused on keywords," advises Sally Falkow, a Pasadena, Calif., brand strategist who uses a blog in her business. "That, and link to other blogs on the subject."
6. Keep it fresh. One cardinal snafu that can bring down even the best intentioned of blogs is stale content. Nothing is more discouraging to prospective readers than returning to a blog site to find old or outdated material. So, be prepared to work at keeping your blog as fresh and current as possible.
That doesn't necessarily mean regular entries as lengthy as a Michener novel — indeed, many engaging blogs are built of short, concise messages. But make a commitment to update your blog on as regular basis as your schedule reasonably permits. “You need to develop what I describe as a ruthless persistence toward posting, particularly if you disseminate the blog's address, and customers or suppliers come to depend on the information," says Rich Hanley, director of graduate programs in the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. "People view blogs as daily information vehicles, not once in a while musings on a stray issue. Think of blogs as a conversation, and that will help with the daily focus."7. Watch your traffic closely. Don't make the mistake of feeling locked into your blog's initial topic. Monitor the amount and quality of the traffic you receive. If things seem slow or stagnant, don't be gun-shy about varying your themes or subjects to boost interest. But don't stray too far from your business or expertise. Also, advises Falkow, "Investigate how effective the [publishing] platform you choose to blog in is. I have tried several that did nothing for my search visibility."
Jeff Wuorio is a veteran freelance writer and author based in southern Maine. He writes about small-business management, marketing and technology issues. Send Jeff an e-mail.