I talked a little about using Blogs for your business in my previous article, Make Web 2.0 Work for Your Business . I'd like to elaborate on this topic, as it's becoming an increasingly valuable tool for online business marketing.
What is a Blog?
Let's start with the basics. Blog is short for Web Log, and is essentially a series of articles or posts categorized by the date they were created. Sound too simple? That's really it. Blogs started as online journals for web savvy folk as an extension of their online presence. It was a way for them to express themselves and share their experiences with friends. Eventually Blogs started linking to each other, which caused them to exponentially explode into what is now called the Blogosphere.
Why is this important for my business?
While Blogs continue to be used to express one's self, the platform naturally lends itself to other uses. One problem that many small business websites have is Content Stagnation. In other words they create a website with all it's content and maybe update it once a year. The consequence is that your website essentially becomes a business card, with no other purpose than for people to find your phone number or email. Once a potential customer sees your website, there's no reason for them to ever come back.
Blogs get the stream flowing again and add life to your website. Because you are entering new content monthly, weekly, or hopefully daily, your customers have a reason to keep coming back and to interact with you through your website.
The positive side effect is that you are filling your site with good content that search engines love. The more you Blog, the more likely it is that potential customers will find you.
What do I Blog about?
Just because Blogs started out as a way for people to talk about the new video game they bought, doesn't mean you can't use it in other ways. As an owner of a business you're most likely an expert in your field. The very best thing you can do with your Blog is to write about the topics surrounding your business. If you're a Construction Company, write small articles about how to plan for your new house. If you're a Pet Store, write about how to trim your dog's toenails. There are people out there searching for information, so why not let them find it on your website.
A common pitfall among new Bloggers is that once you become an expert in a certain topic, you think anything you can write about it is too basic. However what you have to realize is that there are people of all levels of experience out there looking for help. Create your target audience based on your level of knowledge and cater to them.
Other great uses are product updates, company news, press releases, emergency information or just for fun.
Where can I get ideas?
There's a joke that most Blog posts are just links to other people's Blogs. This is partially true, however it's not always a bad thing. Once you start Blogging you'll naturally start to visit other people's Blogs. You might find something interesting and want to post about it. The important thing is that you take the time to write down why you enjoyed the other post and add your own spin to it.
Otherwise, take advantage of your own knowledge pool and just start writing.
How do I put a post together?
If you're not accustom to writing, it can take awhile to find your Blogging groove. Start out by doing some research. Find other articles and statistics you can reference. Linking to other Blogs can create a network which will help other people and search engines find your post. Create an outline of the topics you'd like to discuss, you know like in English class in high school. Get a second opinion from colleagues, they will always have some good feedback. And most importantly, take your time. Good entries can take time to put together. If you don't feel that something is ready to post, save it on your hard drive for later.
How do I spread the word?
One of the great things about Blogs is that after you get things going, they kind of spread naturally. However it does take a bit of impetus to get it started. One of the best ways to promote your Blog is by becoming a part of an online community. Find other people talking about the same thing. If you join a Forum, put a link to your latest blog post in your signature. When you comment on other blog posts, put in your Blog URL if there's a place for it. Try to establish yourself as an authority among the community.
You can also use the tools of the Web 2.0 trade like social bookmarking and democratic news sites. Bookmarking sites like delicious let you post links to your own blog posts and "tag" them. These "tags" are simply keywords that relate to your article. The benefit is that other people will be looking for articles based on these tags, and some websites are even setup to automatically post links to articles by tag. News sites like digg let anyone post interesting articles, and lets others vote on which they think are the best. At the very least you'll get a moderate amount of traffic, and at most you'll need to make sure you have a good server.
As you start acquiring readers, they can use an RSS feed to see new posts come in. An RSS feed is basically a copy of your latest blog posts that a computer can read and understand. Readers can then subscribe to the feed and be updated as soon as new content is posted.
If you're serious about your businesses online presence, then there's no easier way to establish it than Blogging. It does take some time, but it's well worth the effort. If you ask any search engine optimization expert about the best thing you can do to be number one, they'll always say "content".
So signup for our free website maker trial today and see how easy Blogging can be.