Blogging for Business

This month I decided to do things a little differently. Because blogs are becoming so important to the success of people’s businesses these days, I decided to interview a local “expert” on the subject: Kristin Singhasemanon, owner of The Satin Button (an online boutique specializing in unique gifts and collectibles for both kids and adults).

Not only does Kristin have a blog of her own, but she’s helped several business owners develop blogs as well, through her other business: Satin Web Solutions.

Because of the valuable information Kristin is sharing here, the newsletter is a little longer than usual this month.

The three resources I’ve listed are books offering advice on setting up and maintaining a blog. Whether you’re just starting to think about getting your own blog going (like I am) or are already a pro, you should find something helpful in at least one of these books.

* * *

Q:  So Kristin, do business owners really need to have a blog for their business?

A:  Yes, I think they do, for a lot of reasons. There are SEO [search engine optimization]
advantages. It gives people a reason to come back to your website. It establishes you as an expert. And it’s a LOT more personal.

Q:  How often should people post to their blogs?

A:  If your site is purely a blog site, frequency and consistency are more critical. If your blog is an addition to your business website, whatever you can do will help you a lot with SEO.

The more consistent you are, the better chance you’ll have of reaping the other benefits:
developing a following, creating better relationships with your customers or clients, etc.

I’ve also used my blog as part of a promotion, where I’ve offered a daily special each day for one week, and each day the new item is introduced on the blog.

Q:  Do you have suggestions for people wanting to start a blog, but aren’t sure they can keep up with the writing?

A:  They can have guests post occasionally. But since blogs are more personal, they still need to write their own posts most of the time. [EDITOR'S NOTE: I've heard you can probably get away with having guests write as many as a third of your blog's posts. Kristin says that sounds about right.]

Q:  Any suggestions for coming up with ideas for content?

A:  People can blog about their personal experiences. Customers love that. You could also write about new trends in your industry (or your customers’ industries), and how those can affect your customers.

Q:  How does a blog help with search engine optimization?

A:  Search engines like websites that are constantly adding new content. And every time you post to a blog, that’s new content!

It’s important to use keywords in the titles of your blog posts, and in the categories for your posts, too.

Q:  What type of software do you recommend people use for blogs?

A:  If you have an existing website for your business, it’s best to add a blog to your own
domain, such as www.mydomain.com/blog. The best way to do this, I think, is with
WordPress, installed on your hosting server (downloaded from WordPress.org or installed directly from your host).

Depending on how your site is built, the platform may offer a blogging option as well. Make sure it includes tagging, archiving, SEO-friendly URLs, comments, customizable title and metatags, categories, the ability to add sharing or social bookmarking links, and an RSS or atom feed. You also want a system where each post creates its own page, and posts don’t get dropped off after a period of time.

If you don’t have a website, or you already have a blog on your domain and want to start another one away from your domain, using a hosted blog can be a good option. In this case, your blog will be a subdomain on a larger site. (Your name replaces the www portion with a subdomain.)

If it’s purely a blog, several sites work well for this. The most popular include
WordPress.com, Blogger.com (owned by Google), and TypePad.com.

These sites all have very high page ranks and are good for creating links back to your primary domain (as well as to other sites – you don’t want to link only to your domain). Your posts will also be picked up quickly by search engines through the RSS feed and ranked well (at least in the short term) due to the primary domain’s established position.

If you create a blog on a new domain, you’ll need to do a lot of SEO and backlinking work to get those posts to rank well.

Q:  Do you use WordPress for your own blogs? How many blogs do you have?

A:  I use a platform called MODx for my Satin Button blog, but that’s because I’m also a web developer, and like to use my own site to test what I can do with various programs.
If you’re not planning to work with a web developer, WordPress is the best out-of-the-box
solution. I’m planning to use WordPress to rebuild my site for Satin Web Solutions, and I use Blogspot.com for another blog I recently started, focused on learning techniques I use with my sons: Raising Lifetime Learners.

Another blog I’ve set up is LuvMySmile.com/blog (connected to Cater Galante’s
website), which has the same “look and feel” as the website it’s linked to, even though it was done in WordPress.

RESOURCES

The New Rules of Marketing & PR, written by David Meerman Scott, especially Chapters 5 and 15 – “Blogs: Tapping Millions of Evangelists to Tell Your Story” and “Blogging to Reach Your Buyers.”

I like this excerpt from Chapter 15:

“Most first-time bloggers try to cover too much. It is better to start with a narrow subject and leave room to expand. Be authentic. People read blogs because they want to find an honest voice speaking passionately about a subject. You do not have to be harsh or controversial if that is not your style. If you are interesting and provide valuable information, your readership will grow.”

Blogging for Dummies, by Susannah Gardner and Shane Birley, covers technical things like setting up the blog and working with photos, videos, and podcasts, as well as the more abstract (but just as important) things like niches, ethics, and learning how to promote your blog.

Create Your Own Blog, by Tris Hussey, has a lot of visuals and step-by-step instructions on setting up six different types of blogs: personal, business, podcasting, video, artist’s portfolio, and lifestreaming.

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This post originally ran as an article in the May 2010 issue of The Write Stuff.

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