Should I Keep Blogging?

If you have put some time and effort into setting up a blog, posting regular updates, and attempting to share your posts and engage with your blogging community, but you’re still not seeing many results, business owners will often ask: “Should I keep blogging? Is there any point?”

The quick answer is: “Often, yes.”

There are a few things that you might be missing. For example, your blog may be low on views, or comments, but if it is hosted on your company website, the updated and refreshed content could still be really helping your site in the search engines. Search engines love fresh content but people don’t often have a reason to update their company’s “About Us” page on a regular basis. Having a blog page on your site is a great way of keeping your site’s content new in an authentic way, which can only help your search engine ranking. So it’s often good to consider the benefits your blog may be providing that aren’t as easy to see.

If your blog is not hosted on your website, then rather than stopping blogging, consider moving your blog over to your site, and that way you are at least gaining some benefit.

If you honestly feel that the blog is taking up too much time and energy, then perhaps revisit the frequency with which you are blogging. Cutting it down may help balance out the effort to results ratio.

You can also revisit your content. Are your blog posts easy to read – are they fairly brief (200-300 words is a good guideline), interesting and well written, without too many grammar errors or typos to distract the reader? You can use a blogging service if you don’t feel confident writing your own posts.

Lastly, it can often be as simple as the blog design that is off-putting to readers. Aesthetics are everything, after all! Consider the size of your font – is it too small? The font itself may even be hard to read, so consider changing that. The blog’s interface design could be too bare or too cluttered – try changing that. Or incorporate images or video into your posts – online readers love multimedia.

Try out these changes before quitting your blog altogether. And remember – sometimes things just take time to grow, just like business! So stick with it.

The Power of Blogging, Part 3

The folks at Prompt Proofing, a copywriting, editing and proofreading service that also offers blogging services, finish off their 3-part guest post on the power of blogging:

We have talked about two major benefits of business blogging in Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series. We have discussed how a blog allows you to have your own voice on the world wide web, and how you have the opportunity to become known as an expert in your field through informative and interesting blog posts. Today we finish up with a major benefit of business blogging – this benefit is the main reason many businesses start a blog in the first place:

INCREASE TRAFFIC TO YOUR SITE

That’s right, that elusive Google ranking can start creeping up without the expense of an SEO consultant or a huge marketing campaign. It could be as simple as keeping a blog. How does that work?

There are several factors to improving your SEO rank, and here are a few:

  • Increase the number of quality ‘backlinks’ to your site (backlinks are other sites linking to your website)
  • Get your website indexed by Google and other major search engines (this means they will ‘spider’ or ‘crawl’ your website and log your individual web pages as results to potential searches in their search engine)
  • Refresh your content regularly – new content leads to an increase in indexing, which leads to an improvement in your SEO ranking as websites whose content never changes tend to get pushed down in relevance by search engines

How can blogging help? Well, congratulations if you thought that the last bulletpoint above is the most important benefit of blogging. If you have a professional, attractive-looking business website, it probably took you some time to put it together. You may have used a website copywriting service (which Prompt Proofing offers) to ensure your content was word-perfect, and that’s a great idea. But that means you don’t want to change it much once it is posted. Therefore, your content is not going to be regularly updated, meaning you will miss out on that crucial benefit to SEO ranking. The search engines will continue to push your website down the rankings until it barely even factors anymore.

Well, simply add a blog page to your site. Update it once a week or – at the very least – once a month, and bingo! Your website is suddenly being regularly refreshed with new content and will start to crawl its way back up the search engine rankings.

As for the first two bulletpoints above, the statistics below will help show how blogging helps out with these.

The statistics below are courtesy of Janet Meiners Thaeler, an SEO consultant who provided them in her article, Blogging: The Best SEO Tool for Small Businesses:

Bloggers see:

  • 55% more visitors to their websites (people will be finding your site who wouldn’t have before because they are looking for the information provided in your latest blog post – as discussed in Part 1)
  • 97% more links to their website (people will link back to your blog if they think it’s worth a read)
  • 434% more indexed pages (more blog posts means more pages for the search engines to crawl and index!)

You can’t fight statistics! Get blogging now to see a huge improvement in your business website’s performance.

The Power of Blogging, Part 2

Continuing their guest post series is Prompt Proofing, a copywriting, editing and proofreading service that also offers blogging services for business:

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about the fact that a blog provides you with the unique opportunity of having your own voice, speaking directly to customers, Internet readers, other business owners and more. This week’s benefit elaborates on this. Not only does a blog provide you with a unique opportunity to show off your own style of communication and, therefore, business, but it also gives you a forum through which to educate your readers. Therefore, this week’s benefit of business blogging:

BECOME KNOWN AS AN EXPERT IN YOUR FIELD

If you are in business, chances are it is because you have specialized knowledge in one or more areas. For example, if you are in trades, then you have specialized knowledge in the area of plumbing, welding, bricklaying, electrics, etc. This is knowledge that John Doe walking down the street doesn’t have. If you’re an accountant, you know how to balance books and handle complex financial information. If you’re a lawyer, you know the letter of the law inside and out – or at least you know how to find it out! If you’re a hairstylist, you know what you’re doing with a pair of scissors close to a head of hair.

You get the point. You have something to offer; a niche (however small) to fill. That’s why you are in business. Use this knowledge and exhibit it in your blog and there’s a good chance you could become known as an expert in your field. So what, you ask? Well, here are just a few of the results that could come from being recognized for your specialized knowledge:

  1. Your blog could develop a following of people who want inspiration, information and education in a certain area.
  2. Through this following, your presence on social media is bound to increase as people spread the word and share your blog. This is the best form of advertising: FREE and reliable for the customer (people trust word-of-mouth referrals far more than any paid business advertisement).
  3. You could even become a consultant for a journalist. Journalists often have a ‘beat’ that they cover, meaning that they tend to focus on writing stories on one type of news, such as finance, travel, entertainment or sports. Generally, each journalist will have a list of experts they can consult for quotes and background information on issues they need to write about. Yet again, more advertising that is respected and FREE!

These benefits certainly help to outweigh the cons that many business owners fear – if I give away my secrets, how will I have a business anymore? Well, I promise that by giving some DIY tips to a home owner looking to do some renovations, you won’t be put out of business. If anything it will save you working on small, poorly-paying jobs, and will instead give you the promotion to land larger jobs where no one will attempt DIY, even if they have read your blog for advice! Just choose what you blog on carefully. For example, a hairstylist can blog about ideas for styling hair or updos, or can post photos of great colours or cuts that the reader can then take to her hairstylist to replicate. That doesn’t mean people will stop getting their hair cut professionally. An accountant can provide information on how to keep a personal budget and good tools to use to manage your personal finances. This doesn’t mean businesses will stop requiring accountants to balance their books throughout the fiscal year.

Blogs create a win-win situation for everyone, especially the small business owner. Take advantage of this!

The Power of Blogging, Part 1

This 3-part blog post series is provided by Pat Wootton of the copywriting, editing and proofreading company, Prompt Proofing, who offer blogging services:

No matter what your area of business, even if it is as seemingly localized and simplistic as a lawn-mowing service, you cannot ignore the power of the blog in today’s world of business.

True, the area of social media as a whole is vital but this has become such a daunting subject, deserving of several months of blog posts to even scratch its surface, that it is easier to focus on one area, and the blog is certainly one effective and very doable area in which businesses can market themselves at a low cost, reach a whole new demographic of customers and dictate their entire brand image.

Because even the blog is a huge area of interest and study, we will analyze its benefits to business over a series of blog posts, focusing on one core advantage each week.

This week, we have advantage #1, perhaps one of the most important benefits of all:

YOUR BLOG = YOUR VOICE

Yes, even if you aren’t writing it yourself!

Many businesses use a blogging service, and Prompt Proofing also manages blogs for its clients, writing and posting blog posts on a regular basis in order to keep up the company’s search engine presence and provide the blog’s readers with regular, informative news that is well written.

The fact of the matter is, with marketing and word-of-mouth whispers between current and potential customers, a blog is the one space in that vast web of the Internet that you can dominate and claim as your own, allowing you to exert some influence over how your business is perceived.

Readers much prefer reading a business’s blog to its marketing materials because, quite simply, they don’t feel as though you are trying to sell to them. Obviously you are, as there would be no point in putting your time and energy into a business blog if you didn’t eventually hope to gain some customers from it, but the fact is, you cannot maintain a sales pitch throughout every single blog post (or at least, you shouldn’t).

Blogs read more informally than marketing literature, and are there to provoke discussion and provide information rather than simply to persuade the reader to hand over their credit card. Prompt Proofing’s blog is a great example – we essentially charge people to improve their communication and writing, yet we constantly write blog posts advising you how to improve your own writing. That’s because we recognize that education and information are two key factors that bring people to peruse blogs and we don’t want to just sell our services to you. We want you to find something of interest to read on our site, and – because it is our passion – we desperately want to improve spelling and grammar everywhere!

Let’s go back to our example of ABC Lawn Mowers Ltd. Their blog posts could cover issues such as how to care for your garden or what model of lawn mower to buy. That’s right, they could be providing information about how to buy a machine that would mean their services would not be needed! Seem counter-intuitive? The fact is, you want to draw readers to your blog. You cannot be naive enough to assume that every reader will become a customer. The most important thing is to increase traffic because that will increase awareness of your business. Even if that reader buys the lawnmower and never uses their service, they may direct someone else to your site in future who doesn’t have time to mow their own lawn and just wants ABC Lawn Mowers Ltd. to do it for them.

This is a very simplistic example of how business is gained from a blog, but truthfully the ways in which blogs can lead to business growth are far more nuanced and plentiful than it is possible to outline here. The bottom line is: Blogs lead to business growth. End of story. So why aren’t you doing one?

If you don’t have time, dedicate a few hundred dollars from your marketing budget each month and pay a service to blog for you, once a week to start with, steadily increasing after that if you feel like it. The important thing is not to miss out on this low-cost and easy opportunity to have your voice heard!

SEO is Affected By What’s Going On in Your Business

What’s important to understand about SEO is that in order for a campaign to be successful, all business decisions need to be considered.  If SEO operates by itself in a silo, it won’t be working at its full potential.  Within an organization, all team members should be on board with an SEO strategy and willing to share what’s going on in their department with the SEO provider.  For larger organizations, that might be an in house SEO Specialist.  For small to medium sized businesses, that may be an outsourced SEO company.  If so, the SEO company needs to be viewed as a part of the team.  Keeping the SEO company out of the loop can result in missed opportunities or an SEO campaign that isn’t quite hitting the mark.  Internal business decisions affect important components of an SEO campaign like the keywords that are targeted, the content that is shared, and how social media will be executed.

The following are just a sampling of important business decisions that affect an SEO campaign:

  • Changes to the website

It may seem obvious to keep your SEO partner in the loop about website changes but for some reason many website owners forget to mention it, or casually mention it as part of a conversation when it may be too late.  Making drastic website changes can have a huge impact on SEO results if certain items aren’t implemented properly.  The worst thing that could possibly happen is changing your website and ruining all of the hard SEO work that you’ve been putting into the site for years.  Website changes are necessary every few years to keep things fresh, but website owners need to be smart about it.  Pull the SEO team into the process right from the get go so that they can work with the website designer/developer that may not have any SEO knowledge or understand how certain changes can affect SEO.  Once site changes have been made, an SEO provider can monitor tools like Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, and SEO Moz to ensure that things remain consistent.

  • Other marketing decisions

SEO is a powerful way to market your business, but very few businesses can survive by only investing in SEO.  The search engine algorithms are always changing and any site can become vulnerable over time.  That’s why it’s important to continue to market a business in other ways.  An SEO campaign can leverage these other efforts.  The PR team should run press releases by the SEO team for optimization recommendations and improvements.  The advertising team should provide the SEO team with a list of places that run ads so that the SEO team can look for link opportunities.  The events team should provide a trade show list so that content can be shared in social media about those trade shows.  Almost any marketing effort can be turned into an SEO benefit in some way if you take the time to look for opportunities.

  • Changes to services/products/offerings

In order to survive, businesses need to evolve over time.  It’s unlikely that exactly the same products or services are offered that were offered 5 years ago, or even just a year ago.  An SEO campaign needs to reflect what is going on in the business currently.  Not keeping your SEO Specialist in the loop can result in the wrong keywords being used and new pages of the website going un-optimized.  If a new product or service is added, new keyword research should be conducted.  If pages are going to be eliminated from the site, an SEO provider can make best practice recommendations for doing so.  As a business evolves, the SEO campaign needs to evolve along with it.

About the Author:

Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a Boston SEO firm.  For more information please call 781-999-1222 or visit http://www.brickmarketing.com.

How Often Should I Blog?

One of the most oft-asked questions when a blogger sets up their first blog is: “How often should I blog?”

The answer is the same for everyone: “Whenever you can.” Or, even, “Whenever you want.”

The truth is, more frequent blog posts are always better except when you’re blogging about nothing. Filling your blog with garbage, or uninteresting information, just because you want to have a blog post up that day, often harms your blog more than it helps it.

For many small business owners who are already wearing a dozen and one different hats, blogging once a month may be all they can manage. Any less frequently is not really advised as it wouldn’t have the chance to garner much of a following, and even once a month is a little on the sparse side. Once weekly is a great commitment if you can keep to it – and if you can’t, you can always employ the help of a blogging service to do the work for you. At least that way the post is written and – with blogging tools’ various scheduling facilities – you could line a whole month’s worth of blog posts up all at once, and not have to think about the blog again until the same time next month.

So the concern is really not with the frequency of blogging. So long as you are putting out quality content and you’re making regular updates, you should be fine. Daily posts are great in an ideal world but we rarely have something of worth to say every single day, so don’t pressure yourself. You will just burn out and not want to blog at all before long, and that won’t help your business at all.

Sharing Blog Posts

Sharing your blog posts is a surefire way to ensure the growth of your blog. It’s one thing to craft a well-written post, put it up on your blog and then sit back and wait for the comments to come flooding in but chances are,  if you are a fledgling blog, you’re going to have to put in the legwork to get those readers to your site, and the best way to do that is the golden rule of blogging: Share, share share.

Set your blog up with a Facebook page (or your company, and promote your blog posts on your company’s page). Make sure you have a Twitter account. Share your blog posts on LinkedIn. Ensure you use the opportunities social media has to offer as much as you can, as this will get you readers with very little time or financial investment. Use a tool like HootSuite and you can post your blog link to all of your social media accounts with just one click.

Another way to share blog posts is through commenting on other blogs. We talked about this in our post on Engaging with Other Blogs and Bloggers last week, and it remains one of the best ways to share your blog posts. It could just be that people will click on your link and therefore discover the latest blog post, but many comment box plugins used by bloggers actually post the title of your latest blog post under your comment, ensuring that more readers see what you’re writing about – which will ultimately grab the interest of many more readers. (For this reason, it is always a good idea to title your posts well – short, snappy titles are good but make sure they accurately describe what your post is about! It’s often all someone will see before deciding to click or not!)

Guest posting on other blogs is another great way to share your blog. Reach out to other bloggers in your area of specialty who you have connected with and ask if they would be so kind as to post a guest post you have written for their blog. If they are going on vacation or just want a break from blogging one day, they will often agree, and as long as your post is well written, it should be accepted. When guesting, be sure to spend a short introductory paragraph introducing yourself and your blog and what it is all about. Then it is usually polite to say how you know the blogger whose blog you are guesting on, and then launch into your post. The post itself should be about a topic that is of interest to the readers of the blog on which you are guesting. Hopefully these are shared interests with your own blog but sometimes that’s not the case (for example, if you are a sports blogger but tend to focus on hockey, and you are guesting on the blog of someone who predominantly talks about golf, perhaps write a golf-focused post this time). That way you ensure more people make it to the end of your post, and once they’ve completed that they may well want to read more.

It always takes an investment of time and energy when you start blogging, but it often pays off in more ways than just an increased readership. You can make worthwhile connections and form beneficial relationships, so put in the legwork and reap the rewards!

Blogging for Business

In this week’s guest post, Pat Wootton from Prompt Proofing, a copywriting, editing and proofreading service, discusses blogging for business:

Why should your business start and maintain a blog? It seems almost obligatory to write a blog if you have a business nowadays, but what is the purpose? How will it help your business and what should you include or not include? We will endeavour to answer these questions in this week’s blog post.

Why?
A blog can increase public awareness and enhance your search engine optimization. Your main goal, presumably, will be to increase sales and/or your client base. Increasing your visibility is one of the main stepping stones towards that main goal, and a major way to increase your visibility is to have a presence in social media. A blog provides an excellent public relations opportunity and can also serve as a forum, if you choose, to invite feedback from your clients.
Social media is hugely important; if people see something they like then they may well share it. A well-written blog will give you the opportunity to increase your keyword exposure and may help drive traffic to your site.
When?
Having new content on a regular basis contributes to an effective SEO strategy. A weekly blog might be a good rule of thumb for many businesses but you should blog as often as you can so long as your posts are of a high quality. There are many services out there that produce articles loaded with keywords but they are of a low quality. Having readers take interest in what you have to say will prove more valuable than simply being associated with a barrage of keywords.
What?
A blog serves as a teaser, leaving your readers wanting to know more. It does not need to be too detailed and should avoid being blatantly advertorial. You may want to inform your clients about new products or services, or to share your goals or achievements. Write what you are passionate about and what you are knowledgeable about, and that will come across to your readers.
Remember that you are writing for the screen and that concentration spans, when reading online, are notoriously short. Divide your writing into short paragraphs, separated by plenty of white space. Unbroken blocks of text are off-putting and rarely read.
Your reader may not be your customer, but converting every reader of your blog into a customer should not be your ultimate goal; it’s not realistic and it will affect what you write – and not in a good way. You need to bear in mind that providing information is far more valuable and that although many readers may not ever be customers, they may well help you gain other customers, through word of mouth or sharing on social media.
Still not sure? Hiring someone to write blogs for you may relieve the pressure for many business owners. A lackadaisical blog, written out of a sense of obligation, will probably not serve your business well. Consider using a blogging service if you are not sure you want to take this task on yourself.

Engaging With Other Blogs and Bloggers

To start a blog – even if it’s only for ‘business’ purposes – is to join a community.

Blogging has taken off like never before. Just a year ago, it was predicted that there were approximately 173 million blogs on the Internet (source). Blogging has begun as a hobby for many and turned into a full-time career. No matter what kind of blogger you are, there are countless blogger communities waiting to welcome you.

And truthfully, if you want your blog to be a success, engaging with that community is going to be one of your best methods of exposure. Commenting on blogs is a great way of getting your own blog out there. Think of it this way: when you comment on a blog, most if not all blogs have a way for you to link your name to your own blog. Therefore your comment will appear with your name above it and a link to your blog. When readers scroll through the comments on a post of a blog they love, when they see your blog name and realize that it is similar in nature to the blog they are already reading, they will most likely click on your link to check out your blog, and see if it’s another they can add to their blogroll of daily reads.

Referrals from comments made on other bloggers’ sites often ends up being one of the biggest traffic sources for a blog, and it’s free! It costs time, truthfully, but that time is usually well rewarded because you are able to keep up with what other bloggers in your field are doing and talking about, and this information usually helps to make you a better blogger.

So what community will you join? If you are blogging strictly to boost your small business, you can seek out others who run similar businesses to you and also blog; you can look for small business bloggers, or you can abandon the business side altogether and join in with communities who are interested in what you have to offer – for example, if you run a sports shop, you could blog about current events in sports and then join in with the community of sports fan bloggers out there.

Don’t just join in by commenting on other blogs either – reach out to bloggers on Twitter, Facebook and through email. Most of them are tapped into social media as a way to promote their blogs, so they’ll be keen to connect on those channels as well.

The opportunities are endless, but engagement is a key part of growing your blog and, ultimately, growing your business.

What Should You Blog About?

Blogging for business is undoubtedly beneficial. It can get you known as an industry expert, help you to build a community around your readers and customers, encourage two-way communication between your customers (or potential customers) and your business and, of course, assist with your search engine optimization efforts.

But if you are a small – or large – business owner and you are persuaded of the benefits of blogging, the immediate question which comes to mind is usually “What do I blog about?”.

The answer to this is often the simple and obvious one, but we can put it in one phrase for you: Blog what you know.

You want to make sure that you know a lot about the topic you are going to blog about, otherwise you can end up doing more harm than good when it comes to your company’s reputation. And, for business purposes, you also want what you’re blogging about to be related to your company. It’s great if you are passionate about and knowledgeable of American football, but blogging about football won’t help your insurance company too much. It may be a great personal blog to launch, though!

You have to consider who your readers are – are you wanting to attract the attention of the everyday consumer, or professionals in your industry? That will help tailor your tone and method of writing – whether to keep it casual and free of jargon, or whether you can use more sophisticated industry speak, because you trust that your readers will be the people who would know this language well.

You also, of course, want your blog’s content to be interesting to readers, no matter who they are. In keeping with the previous example of an insurance business owner, if you’re trying to attract the everyday reader, don’t fill your blog posts with endless statistics and information about deductibles – instead, try to make your topic a bit broader. For example, do you offer travel insurance? Then blog about fun travel destinations, and tips and tricks to avoid things going wrong when on holiday. Do you offer home insurance? Talk about interior design tips or new products that caught your eye that make the home safer or more efficient. And if you offer car insurance, well – lots of people love to read about cars!

As long as you tie the topic back into your business in the final paragraph, you will have a relevant blog post. And truthfully, one which only relates back to business in the final sentence is the best kind of blog post to read – a blog post that is basically an extended advertisement will have people clicking “Close” before they’ve even finished the first sentence.