In this instalment of Words that Bite, I look at how to work out whether a blog can help your business and, if so, how to approach writing a business blog.
The word ‘blog’ is a truncation of the term ‘web log’ and it refers to an interactive website that delivers content to readers.
Often blogs are used as a tool to connect with fans, customers, or anyone interested in a particular topic. People set up blogs for all sorts of reasons. Some people may use them to write about their hobbies or interests. Others might write a blog in the way they’d write a diary or to document a personal journey. Others write opinion pieces.
Unlike print magazines or newspapers, blogs provide an opportunity to get a response from readers and, in this way, they can function as a sounding-board for ideas or views, and are interactive. They can be useful for businesses because they enable customers to provide feedback on products and services.
Blogs are usually formatted like a newsfeed, with the newest content at the top of the site. Older posts sit below the latest entry, in reverse chronological order.
Blogs can be useful for businesses selling products or services because they can help to:
This is an interesting question, because a blog is not the right tool for every business. You need to think long and hard about whether you can produce a blog that will effectively promote your product or service.
For example, blogs often work well for professional services firms such as lawyers and accountants, because they can use them to update their clients about developments in their industries. In this way, they generate goodwill because they provide an educational resource for clients.
In contrast, a blog might not work for an online store selling cheap imported clothing, simply because there isn’t much for such a business to talk about in a blog-type format.
That said, some interesting and innovative brands have been built around blogs. There are numerous examples of people who have started a blog devoted to their passion or hobby and, from this, have started a business.
A good example is Joel Henriques, who, once he became a stay-at-home dad, became fascinated by watching his children play. Based on his observations about what interested them, he began making toys for them. He then started a blog called Made by Joel to document what he was making. Ultimately, it led to a licensing agreement with a toy company in the UK and a book deal.
If you are thinking of including a blog as part of your business strategy, you need to ask yourself a few tough questions:
In short, a blog is not something you should tack onto your website as a half-baked afterthought. If it is going to help your business, you need to:
If you have got this far and have decided that you want to use a blog as a marketing tool, here are my guidelines on how to approach blog-writing.
If you look around the blogosphere, you will see that the most successful blogs have a theme or a niche. This usually is obvious in the case of a business because the business itself dictates the subject matter.
The advantages of focusing on a niche are that:
Finally, Google seems to favour sites that have a well-defined topic with pages that relate to one another.
Another important step in creating a blog is to work out its purpose.
This is important in differentiating yourself from the competition. My aim with Words that Bite is to provide a resource for people who can’t afford to hire a copywriter to help them market their business.
I then decided to run a series of blogs on ‘How to Avoid Website Headaches’ because I came to the conclusion that many blogs on the topic are difficult to understand, especially if you have no previous experience of preparing content for websites or SEO copywriting. Many of those I’ve looked at were full of technical jargon and had a tendency to gloss over difficult concepts.
My objective with ‘How to Avoid Website Headaches’ was to demystify the area, and show people how to prepare high-quality website copy that would help boost their ranking on Google and other search engines.
One invaluable tip for writing anything at all, and especially a blog, is first to write for your target audience.
My target audience for Words that Bite is any business owner who needs promotional copy but can’t afford to hire a copywriter. I work on the basis that my blog may be their first exposure to the principles of copywriting and SEO.
One of the best ways to make your blog stand out from the crowd is to ensure that it is well-written. We all know that the web is full of waffle. I know I appreciate nothing more than coming across a blog that is not only interesting but easy to read.
Readability is often assisted by a distinctive writing style. Obviously, some businesses are more suited to a voice that is a little bit different or quirky. For example, if you are selling your own designer dresses, there is plenty of scope to include a blog that provides readers with your personal take on the world of fashion.
When it comes to a blog for a law firm, however, you are clearly more restricted in the style you can use. Even so, you might focus on writing a blog for clients that explains complex legal concepts in a way that everyone can understand.
It is important to focus on the quality of your content. There is no point churning out the kind of stuff everyone else is churning out, because:
Blogging isn’t easy and it is time-consuming if you do it properly. Therefore, you need to think long and hard about whether you are willing to make that kind of commitment.
Ideally, you should blog once a week.
There are three reasons for this:
As with any piece of writing, it is crucial to think about how to structure your blog.
Here you need to focus on two key elements:
First, you need to think about how you are going to structure the blog entries as a whole and decide whether:
Second, you need to think about how you structure each individual blog:
Blogs should never consist of large slabs of text. Most people are turned off by pages and pages of words.
This is especially true on the web, where people tend to scan pages rather than read them. Although blogs devoted to specific interests or passions might be able to get away with not breaking up text, you can’t expect people to read slabs of text on a business website blog that has an informative or educational purpose.
Therefore, for a business blog, you should:
When you create your blog, it is always advantageous to come up with a title that grabs people’s attention. In addition, you should try to use keywords in your title that are likely to boost your ranking on Google.
Sometimes these two objectives clash. Ultimately, high-quality blog-writing is about balancing these two elements to get the best possible title.
You should also make your headings and subheadings interesting and informative. Basically, headlines and subheadings have three roles:
It is hard to say exactly how long a blog entry should be. I’ve heard people say that around 300-400 words is ideal.
Personally, I don’t agree with putting a limit on the length of a blog. I think it depends on the blog. After all, if the blog entry is actually intending to provide useful information to its target audience, there is not much you can say in 300-400 words. Often blogs of this length are so general as to be meaningless and posting it seems like a meaningless gesture.
In short I think that, in a blog, you need to say something useful in as few words as possible. If that takes 400 words, great. However, if it takes 1,500 words, then that is fine as well. Ultimately, it is about providing high-quality content to your readers.
If you are thinking of setting up a blog as part of your online marketing strategy, you need to make sure you consider the following questions:
If you consider each of these questions and decide to go ahead with a blog for your business, make sure you:
In the next instalment of Words that Bite, I will look at how to market your blog and build up a community of readers.
Are you too busy running your business to look after your blog? Would you like someone to look after it for you? If so, call the Pink Rottweiler on +61 (0)409 609 903 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.