selection of motivational imagesFor those new to the idea of blogging, here’s my simple guide to how they work and why they could be beneficial to your business.

Many people see blogging as something  for the geeky teenagers and stay-at-home mums who use the internet to share their thoughts and interests with the world. Where that was certainly true of the classic blogger when they first made an appearance in the late nineties, now we see blogs being used much more widely and not only for personal use.

The term blog came from the word “Weblog”, which evidently proves that a blog is quite simply a website. In that respect it can be a stand-alone website, or form part of your current company website. It can be used in all manner of ways to network with others in your industry, provide information for your customers, give help and advice about your particular industry or, more interestingly, provide your company with a vehicle to enhance your brand and give your business a new dimension. If used properly and managed effectively it is also a powerful tool for maximising Search Engine Optimisation.

What is SEO?

Every day Google, and other search engines, sweep the internet for new content. The more fresh, up-to-date content it finds relating to your company, the better ranking you will be given. A good ranking means you will appear high on the results list (see illustration below). A good blog, updated regularly will maintain this high ranking and make sure potential new customers find you before they find your competitors.

A picture of a PC screen showing a Google search with a high ranking result

A good Google ranking will provide a high level result

Where do I start?

To create a good commercial blog you must first establish what your key message is. What is it that makes YOU special? We all have our own niche or specialism, even if you’re in a crowded industry, find that one thing that sets you apart from your competitors. Ask yourself  “What is it that we do best?”. Now you have your message, you have to find your voice.

It’s crucial that you decide on the right tone for your blog.

According to YouMoz, posted by SEOmoz (http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-to-become-a-blogging-superstar) the most successful blog posts are always conversational, even if they are commercial in content. A good example is Chris Brogan. His subject is matters of business, but his approach is a personal one. He takes you on a journey and offers informed advice based on his own experiences.

A screengrab of the heading for the Scottish Mum blog

Quirky, engaging blogs do best

Case Studies

An excellent starting point is to read other blogs. You can’t read too many. The more you see what others are doing, the more effective your posts will become. Research your competitors, other similar industries, or indeed businesses local to you. See what works best and decide what form your blog should take. The landscape is forever changing, too, so it’s important that you are aware of trends and new developments.

A handful of good blogs to look out for are;

http://scottishmum.com/        (thoughts and ideas from the home)

http://www.thefreefinancialadvisor.com/       (helpful, friendly advice and guidance)

http://lastyearsgirl.pixlet.net/         (views and reviews on the music scene)

http://aweebitofcooking.co.uk/      (Scottish food blog, recipes and life in Scotland)

Make your blog as engaging, original and well informed as you can.

A blog featuring a variety of images makes for a much more interesting and enjoyable read. Use your own images if you can, or source them free from the internet, though be sure to credit the source of the image. Original images, however, are always preferable and needn’t take much time or training to achieve. Have a go and get creative. Use good lighting and interesting angles, if you can, for a modern, professional look.

Posting to your blog

Once you have begun blogging, there are some good practices that you should adopt. Most important of all is to UPDATE REGULARLY!  Every day is great, but every week or every month will still provide the exposure you need and your readers will come to expect regular articles. Some blogs are more regular than others, but gerryhassan.com is a good example of one which is always current and up to date. Remember, the blog is there to provide fresh content for your website which will reflect well on your business, so there is little point in having a one if you don’t think you can provide new material on a regular basis.

The title of each post is the most important element in your blog. Firstly, a good title should be arresting, attention grabbing or even controversial. For example, “Are Financial Advisors Hazardous To Your Wealth?” is both witty and captivating. Titles should always be be unique and clearly reflect the subject of the article. Keep it brief, too – five to ten words should be enough. Use the same keywords you have used in your website. The more the content relates to your business, the better SEO you will achieve. Finally,  position your keywords at the beginning of the title. The first three words are vital in maximising your SEO, so take the time to consider the best possible arrangement of the words in your title. For example “Owning vs. Loaning – How Will You Invest In The Market?” is far more effective than “How Will You Invest In The Market – Owning vs Loaning” because the first three words have to be your most relevant keywords which relate to your business.  As time goes on you will get better at this until it becomes second nature.

Finally, when you have built up a following use it to your advantage. Acknowledge those who comment on your blog and return the favour by following their blog. Use images from other websites (credit them of course ) and use links to other blogs, or websites which will in turn boost traffic to your website in return. The more connections you make, the more your content can be shared among all social media platforms and therefore, the more exposure you achieve. Once you have created a sizeable audience, start building an email newsletter list to give your readers exclusive access to promotions, special offers or personalised advice.

In no time at all, you too could become a seasoned blogger.

Just start writing….. and keep writing!!