“To Blog or not To Blog?”

As a consultant for many small businesses, I’m often asked for advice on ways to improve a business visibility on the web.  Most of the standard advice still holds true, if you’re familiar with search engine optimization from years ago: make sure your keywords are appropriate, choose concise and appropriate tags to describe your site to search engines, and have as many business partners linking to your site as possible.  
All of these strategies help, but one of the most effective tools for getting your site recognized and ranked by search engines today is the blog. A blog is short for “Web Log”, a site that is dedicated to displaying regular entries, or “posts,” of commentary, observations, descriptions of events, or even multimedia such as pictures and videos, geared towards an audience of the author’s choosing.  Think of it almost as a journal or diary that can touch on any number of topics, from personal to professional.  
So, is a blog right for you?  The answer depends on a number of factors. 
If you’re considering creating and writing for a blog, consider these 6 things before taking the plunge:
  1. Select and focus your topic – There are many blogs out there for which each post is simply a stream of consciousness piece by the author.  This may be a great way for you to keep in touch with your buddies, but if you’re using your blog as a tool to draw people to your site and look at what your business has to offer, your commentary should reflect something relevant to the topic you’ve chosen.  If you’re a recruiter, for example, one week you could write about common mistakes you see in resumes, and the next week you could write about the latest hot job.  Focusing on a topic that you know about will enrich not only your writing experience but also your visitor’s reading experience.
  2. Write, write, write – Writing a blog takes time.  Make sure that before you delve in, you’ve allotted the time for at least one post per week. Consistency is important to both your readers and search engines, and while an occasional slip is fine, not updating for weeks on end can have a serious impact on the number of people visiting your site.  A perfect recent example is something that happened on my blog.  For a period of about a year, I’d been updating my blog twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays with new posts on various trends and news in the Pharmaceutical industry.  My readership reached 700 visitors a month, up from an average of 70 visitors per month when I started.  In the 2 months I stopped my blog, I lost about 300 visits from my average.  The lesson?  Keep it up.
  3. Write well – To write a blog is not enough.  Being able to engage your users with well-written copy will keep them coming back, and you should be as efficient as you can be with your works.  Blog entries should not be feature articles or white papers on your industry.  They should get right to the point and provide food for thought in the end — if you’re lucky, someone may even post a response to something you write.
  4. Add pictures – A blog can’t be all words — I’m guilty of this myself — so add some pictures and other media to your blog to make it more visually appealing to your audience.  It doesn’t have to be much, maybe even just one picture per post, but it will make a difference in terms of what stories appeal to your visitors.
  5. Set up your blog on YOUR site – A common mistake when setting up a blog is to do so on a generic blogging site like WordPress, Blogger.com, or the like. These blogs are great for personal use, because they cost nothing to the blogger. However, for businesses, it makes more sense to install a blog package on your own site so that it’s part of your domain.  If your blog eventually becomes really popular, search engines like Google and Yahoo will reward your effort by making your site more popular overall, not just your blog.  This, in turn, will increase your ranking in the non-paid search results for those search engines.
  6. Promote your blog – Once you’ve established a pattern where you’re writing regularly and have got a couple of articles under your belt, have people link in to your blog via the social media tools that are available out there.  Facebook, del.icio.us and Digg are all great bookmarking tools that will tell your friends about your blog and validate it as a good source of reading material.  Also look for opportunities to have others link to you; for example, if you run a nutrition blog, see if one or more local gyms will link to your site from their site(s).  Finally, be sure to have a link to what’s called an RSS (Real Simple Server) set up on your blog so that people can be alerted whenever your blog is updated.

Blogs can be a great opportunity to garner interest in your company and improve communications with your existing customers.  But a blog, like anything worthwhile, takes time and care in order to be an effective marketing tool.  Before delving in, make sure you have at least 2 hours per week to make a high-quality entry, and spend an additional 2 hours per week promoting the site.  With the right promotional strategy and good content, the visitors will come.

Introducing the author of this article Mariano DiFabio a partner at Avelient, Inc., a web development company based in New York, NY.  Mariano has over 18 years of experience in the technology sector, with a recent focus on helping small businesses build solid web foundations appropriate for their company.  Mariano uses our Concierge Services for his business and personal needs.
If you’d like more information about Mariano go to: http://www.avelient.com, or send him an email at: mariano.difabio@avelient.com.
Mariano’s blog, which focuses on trends and news in the Biotechnology, Pharmaceutical and Personal Health Industries, can be found at: http://bpblog.avelient.com