An effective blog can turbo charge your business and boost bottom line results.
Operating a small business has its advantages. Unfortunately, a huge advertising budget and cushy margins aren’t among them. So when it’s time to ratchet up exposure and boost customer interaction, more and more entrepreneurs are turning to blogs.
“Blogging is changing the way companies and consumers relate to each other,” says Jeremy Wright, president of New Brunswick, Canada, firm B5Media and author of Blog Marketing: The Revolutionary Method to Increase Sales, Growth, and Profits. “What makes a blog so powerful is that you can post something online and have thousands of people reading it within a few hours.”
Roughly 42.8 million blogs exist currently, and the number of business blogs is growing rapidly, according to consulting firm Technorati. WordBizReport, a site focused on the growing use of weblogs, found that 55 percent of respondents at more than 700 companies surveyed believe that blogging will be a “must- have” business tool in the months and years ahead.
Of course, developing and maintaining a blog isn’t easy. Success requires dedication, focus, creativity and hard work. Yet, for those who cultivate loyal subscribers, it’s possible to communicate far more intimately and provide highly targeted and relevant information. The end result? A more loyal customer base and improved performance and profits.
Here are five ways to turn your blog into a success story:
Provide useful material and information.
A blog must offer more than regurgitated marketing or PR pap. It should provide information, insight or analysis that attracts readers — customers, employees or others — and compels them to come back for more. For example, a small organic dairy might discuss its animals and organic farming methods. A realtor might discuss market trends and opportunities. It’s also essential to update the blog regularly and write in a lively and entertaining style. Photos and art can further boost the appeal.
Make it easy for readers to view the site and subscribe.
Readers should be able to find the blog easily from a link on your main web site as well as through search engines. Lee Odden, president of Minneapolis-based TopRank Online Marketing says that using keywords when constructing a blog title is important and optimizing the design template is essential. Also important is incorporating Really Simple Syndicating (RSS), which allows a subscriber to view updates through a newsreader and serves up the blog as a newsletter for those who prefer to read it in their inbox.
Allow comments and feedback.
Part of the power and appeal of the Web is its interactive nature. Offer a way for readers to add comments and feedback to help, generate discussions and ratchet up the overall appeal. While it may be necessary to prohibit vulgar language or outright attacks in a discussion, it’s also best to check your ego and listen closely to what readers are saying. You might get some new ideas or help addressing problems with existing products or services.
Submit your blog to directories but also publicize it.
Obviously, with millions of blogs available, breaking through the clutter is no easy task. One way to gain exposure is through directories, such as Yahoo!, Techorati, and Blogwise. Submitting your site to a directory is essential (Yahoo! offers a “Suggest a Site” link on its main blog directory page). But it’s also possible to generate interest by including a link on the signature line of your email messages and by linking to other blogs, which in turn may link to yours. Avoid sending mass emails, which could be considered spamming.
Participate in other blogs and engage in social networking.
Post on other blogs, particularly those that relate to your industry or business, to increase your exposure and raise your profile. As you become more familiar with the blogging community — and better known within it — you may find others linking to your site. A mention at a major blog can result in a huge spike in page views. If you’re able to establish yourself as an expert, you might also find major news outlets requesting interviews.
“Blogging is an extremely effective way for a business to communicate with its customer base and increase interaction and feedback,” concludes Michael Gartenberg, vice president and director or research at Jupiter Research.