By Melissa Albano-Davis, Grapevine Marketing LLC
We regularly hear these questions and comments from small business owners and marketing directors: “How could blogging help my business?”; “No one reads blogs”; and “I have written a few posts, but don’t think they’ve really had any effect”. The answer to these and similar questions is, yes, active blogging can have a positive effect on website traffic, search engine positioning, awareness, lead generation, market positioning, and sales conversions. However, a few guidelines must be followed in order to achieve success.
Build a Strong Foundation
The first step to developing your blog is to ensure your platform and content strategy are properly established. Too often, business bloggers will create a free blog on a platform such as Blogger.com or WordPress.com, thinking this is going to help their search engine ranking and site traffic. In fact this has little to no effect. In order for blog content to contribute to your website, it must be hosted on your domain. For instance, the domain should be blog.yoursite.com or yoursite.com/blog, and not yourblog.wordpress.com.
Incorporating a custom theme, developed by a web designer, or a template theme from a system like WordPress.org into your domain is a great way to deliver the functionality you’ll need.
You’ll also want to be sure you have a strong pipeline of content, videos, photos, and/or podcasts, and a team that can deliver consistent, targeted messaging. Ideally, it is helpful to have multiple contributors to establish a well-rounded forum.
Define your Goals
Before you start writing, you should have a clearly defined vision for what you are looking for your blog to achieve. Are you looking for more site traffic? Are you looking to convert site visitors to new leads or sales? Or is this more of a resource to provide information to existing clients?
Once you’ve defined your goals, you’ll be able to create topics to meet them. For instance, if your goal is to increase traffic to your site from moms of toddlers, your blog should address questions and concerns that they are likely to be searching for. The key is to think both like your prospect and a magazine editor. Your title and topic should focus on the question or concern that the person is likely to search for, and should be compelling enough to entice your viewer to click through. For help determining search trends, try Google Insights http://www.google.com/insights/search/
Find your Voice & Know your Audience
Often, business owners and marketers think about how they want to portray their topic, and not about how their audience relates to it. Try to avoid industry jargon, and instead focus on speaking to your audience directly, as you would in a conversation with a friend. A great place to research blogs in your industry with excellent content is http://technorati.com/blogs/directory/
Over time, you’ll start to develop your voice, and you’ll learn what topics and strategies work best by the comments, traffic, and ‘shares’ you receive.
Measure your Success
Measurement is crucial to understanding the effectiveness of your posts, the impact you’re having on your audience, and the ways they find you in the first place. A few of the best free measurement tools are Google Analytics: http://www.google.com/analytics/ and FeedBurner (for monitoring subscribers): http://feedburner.google.com/
Promote, Promote, Promote!
While a percentage of your blog’s traffic will no doubt come from organic search results for the topics addressed in your post sand from the sharing of posts, you’ll also need to promote your blog outside of your site. This can be accomplished by: delivering a regular e-newsletter with links to posts; posting blog topics to your company’s social media communities; posting to industry publications; guest-writing on complementary blogs that reach your audience; and by commenting on relevant 3rd party articles with a link to your own for additional information and resources.
You will find that by following these guidelines and actively adding new, interesting content, your success will multiply over time, and your blog may likely become the central focus of your online marketing strategy.
About Melissa Albano-Davis:
Melissa Albano-Davis is the Principal & Founder of Grapevine Marketing LLC, a New Hampshire-based integrated marketing agency, specializing in web development & online marketing. She has developed successful online marketing campaigns for companies in the financial, real estate, consumer product, entertainment, legal, recreational, and home improvement industries; and regularly hosts online marketing workshops for business leaders. More information can be found at www.grapevinemktg.com. For questions and feedback, please email Melissa@grapevinemktg.com