When I said I blogged five years ago, people looked at me as if I was crazy. Well I was, but blogging didn’t drive me to insanity. Today it is a bit more mainstream and bloggers are everywhere.
I actually like blogging. I enjoy it and it has been a huge help to me professionally. Last weekend I attended WordCamp Detroit and I was surrounded by bloggers. I wasn’t prepared for that one, as I use WordPress for website design and I guess I assume everyone in the room would too. Was I wrong. There were bloggers everywhere. Many who had day jobs and blogged at night about their hobbies or in an effort to make a few bucks. WordCamp Detroit reminded me that blogging is a profession that if done properly and with dedication, can provide a healthy income.
Is there a right way or a wrong way to blog? Absolutely. Over the last year I’ve trained a number of clients and presented webinars on blogging best practices. I enjoy blogging and I try to teach others that they too can not only learn to blog, but learn how to create the “perfect” blog entry and love it along the way. Over this last year I’ve realized not everyone is a blogger and you cannot force them to become one. That being said, you can teach wannabe bloggers to blog better.
So What is a Blog?
A blog is short for a “web log” and is maintained by either an individual or a group of authors. A blog will typically focus on one topic or niche and is published on a regular basis. There is no limit to the variety of content a blog can contain. A blog can include commentaries, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics, charts or videos. It can be, and often is, a multi-media experience.
Individual bloggers, when they are good, are often times branded as authority figures or celebrities and gain momentum in and of themselves. Personally I’m in love with Matt Cutts, but I would not have even known about him if it were not for his blog.
The public has gotten so conditioned to blogs, that many now expect to find a blog on both business and personal websites. If you are selling something on your website, most visitors will expect some educational commentary in the form of a blog on the website. They’ll want to read about why product A is better than product B and they’ll want to do this before they even consider purchasing. This is best done via a blog, because you can communicate to your reader is a more informal and natural manner.
Why Does the World Love Blogs?
- People Like Blogs – Blogs provide a sense of intimacy. And it’s this intimacy over the Internet that allows the marketer to capture an audience. And if you can do this, you will capture Google.
- Search Engines Like Blog – Search engines like blogs, because they create fresh content that is relevant to the website and the reader. I believe this is most demonstrated with the speed in which Google picks up and publishes blog content. Google can spider and index a blog entry in as little as 30 minutes.
- Marketers Like Blogs – Blogs help a marketer promote their website, business, product or service. They feed and nurture the core website, help to cultivate branding, convey the marketing message and recruit people to follow their website, business, product or service. Blogs can also be picked up by other bloggers, the media, and blog entries can quickly create a momentum all on their own.
What Are Some Best Practices for Blogs?
- Focus on One Key Topic or Niche – If you don’t know what to write about, think about what is of interest to you. Look at other blogs and what makes them interesting or think about something that can relate to the product you are selling.
- Build Your Blog Around the Kitchen Table – If you are using your blog as a marketing tool, think about what the reader would want to hear if you were sitting at the kitchen table with them casually discussing your product or service. My boat dealership has a gentlemen who is a natural salesperson. My kids love him and if someone walks through the door of their store, Ron is going to be able to close the deal because he is a people person and he has a natural way about him that makes you like him. If you can translate Ron’s natural ability with people into a blog post, you’d have people from around the world wanting to buy his boats.
- Write About What You Know – If you try to blog about something you hate, you will in turn hate blogging. Blog about something you love and your blogging will become a passion and not a chore. If you are a marketing person and you hate your product, it is going to be difficult for you to blog. You’re better off asking someone else to write the blog posts and you edit it, as you can only be a good blogger if you have a passion for what you blog about. It is kind of like cats and people who hate cats. Cats have a sixth sense for people who don’t like them and I swear my cats will stalk you if this is the case. They just know. The reader will “just know” too, so don’t bother talking about something you hate.
- Make it Interesting to Read – Your blog post should be easy-to-read, fun, and interesting, so make sure it doesn’t read like a dissertation or thesis. If it’s not immediately interesting to read, it doesn’t sell across the Internet. The easiest way to make a blog interesting is to tell a story of interest and make it personal. I’ve related Girl Scout cookies to ERP software and ERP software to buying Christmas gifts online because it was relevant and it was my personal experience. It was real, which made it interesting.
- Aim for Dialog and a Two-way Communication – Talk to the reader like they are human and allow people to respond to your blog. Today’s Internet is about interaction. Anyone hear about a little website called Facebook? Yes I said interaction. That means you need to allow comments and you need to reply to them – the good, the bad, and the really ugly.
- Include a Great Title – Pick a great title that is unique and reaches out and grabs your audience’s attention and makes them want to read more. I believe so much in this point, I wrote an entire blog post on it. Visit my post A Good Blog Title is Like Wrapping Paper on a Present to hear my full views on the subject.
- Have a Great Introduction Ready – You have a few seconds to engage the reader, so your introduction or initital paragraph better be good and it better align with the rest of the blog entry. It needs to set the scene and provide something that entices the reader to stay with you and actually read the full blog post.
- Don’t Forget About Subheadings – Use H2 and H3 headings to help balance the blog post and give readers sections where they can focus their attention. It will be beneficial to both the reader and the search engines.
- Don’t Forget About Bullets – Not everybody likes to read paragraphs, so mix it up. I rarely sit and read an entire paragraph. I scan the paragraph and actually pay more attention to bullets than anything else. This is just my personality, because I’m a constant multi-tasker. You have to be prepared for me and the millions like me. You also should remember that human nature dictates how we read bullets. Most people read the first one or two then skip to the last one in the list. This item is number nine so much likely you aren’t even reading it. If you are, then kudos, you’re a better person that I am.
- Don’t Forget About SEO – Remember that your blog is many times targeted at both the reader and the search engine spiders. When a SEO client tells me he has the perfect idea for a blog post, my first question I ask him is what keyword are you targeting. Eric absolutely gets this, but Jeff and Andy, well, not so much. So I nag them about keywords and I make sure the blog posts uses our targeted keywords to link to an internal web page to help build deep links within the website or blog. And yes, we always use use keyword-rich anchor text. If you don’t know what that means, you need an hour discussion with an good SEO consultant, because it is important.
- Bring it Back to Your Product or Service – If your website sells a product or service offering, remember not to lose site of your marketing goals. If you’re an affiliate marketer or business who’s sales heavily rely on internet traffic, you need to write content that can be associated with your offering. You can discuss virtually anything, as long as you bring it back to your product or service and the key focus of your blog itself. It’s okay even if the topic is off the wall, as long as you bring it back to your product or service. My most off the wall blog topics are the ones people remember most. And for me, they were the most fun to write.
- Stay Focused – Stay on point and your audience will then stay in touch with you. Don’t be my daughter. I call my daughter the clock builder, because she just can’t give you the time. If you ask her the time, she just can’t say it is ten o’clock. She has to go into painfully slow detail about how she built the clock or how she figured out how to tell time. As much as I love her – and I do – she loses my attention because I really don’t care what type of jelly Tommy had on his sandwich at lunch. We were talking about her homework. See I almost lost you there didn’t I?
- Update Your Blog Regularly – Okay this one is funny, because this is like the pot calling the kettle black. I know and believe this, but I struggle with it bigtime. I spend so much time on my clients’ projects, I forget about my own blog. But I digress. If you post blog entries irregularly, your benefits from blogging with be limited. To gain a base of followers or subscribers, you need to have something tangible for them to follow or read. This means regular and meaningful updates and posts. I prefer at least one blog post a week and you can go up to five posts a week if you have something relevant to say. I have one client in a very competitive keyword environment and we blog three times per week with fresh content. He is going up against the big boys, so we have no choice. But we win on strong content and on keywords.
- Make Your Post a Multi-Media Experience – Consider it eye candy for your blog. A blog can include a variety of content that can consist of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics, charts, or videos. Didn’t I say this already? Yes, but it is important so I’m going to say it again. One word of caution is just don’t include a graphic or video that isn’t relevant. That is just annoying. I love blog eye candy as long as it provides a real purpose.
- Soften the Sales Pitch – Your blog post isn’t a constant sales pitch. If it feels like a sales pitch to the reader, you will lose your audience and you will fail in your blogging effort. You can insert a call-to action, as this will be your pitch opportunity, just don’t be too aggressive. And for heaven sakes, make the pitch relevant to your post itself. Talking about chicken soup and offer your reader a new car doesn’t provide any continuity so don’t do it.
- Watch Your Spelling and Grammar – Make sure you proof your post before publishing. Check for any spelling, punctuation and grammar errors that may appear. A poorly written post can damage your credibility. Once you post, check it out online just to make sure it is correct. I often see an error online that I didn’t see in the backend publisher. And yes, I’m a horrible speller and have been so since about age six. While I try to find errors, you still might find on within my blog posts. I apologize for this now as I know it will happen.
- Spread the Word About Your Blog – Extended your blog entries with RSS feeds to websites like Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media sites. An RSS feed will automatically be updated each time you release a new blog post. You establish your RSS feed connection once and then allow the RSS feed to automatically update your page or profile with each new blog post. That means new inbound links and you do not have to touch anything beside your blog post.
- Chirp Like a Bird – Tweet your blog post and encourage others to retweet it. Thank those who help spread your message and be appreciative. And yes, I’d love if you tweeted this post. There is a little button at the top of this post that makes it super easy for you to do so. If you want a a cool button like mine and you use WordPress, there are a bunch of plugins that will whip it in for you.
- Remember to Ping the Post – Utilize a ping service, that allows you to automatically notify blog directories that your blog has been updated. I use WordPress for all my blogging and website design projects, so the ping ability is built right into the software. Get a good ping list established, so whenever you write a new blog post, the blog directories on your “ping list” will automatically be notified of the change. The bigger your ping list, the higher the chances of receiving traffic from those sources. The bigger your ping list, the higher the chances of receiving traffic from those sources.
- Have an Sitemap.xml File – For some unknown reason, this is the one topic area where clients look at me as if I’m from Mars. Venus maybe, but certainly not Mars. Make sure you have a sitemap.xml file that includes content for your entire website, that is submitted to all the major search engines and updated each time you add or edit a page or post. When you have a robust sitemap.xml file this will literally “reach out a touch” the search engines and nudge them in a way to inform them that you have new content available. This is critical for keeping the search engines up to date on your fresh content and for encouraging them to quickly provide your content in search results. WordPress has a number of great plugins to manage this process, although I can tell you from experience with my client base, not every web software does so be careful.
So now I’m getting ready to close so this is where an excellent wrap up discussion would come in and then I’d sneak in a suttle call to action. But I like blogging and I could talk about SEO and internet marketing all day long, so I’ll skip the pitch.
Okay I’ve changed my mind. I will tell you one quick story to close. A few years ago I was at a technology trade show in California. I’m a Michigan girl so this is a little but of a journey. At the show a man continued to tell me we had met and he knew me. I had never seen this guy in my life, so I had no idea what he was talking about. Finally after a few hours, he remembered that he subscribed to my blog on IT Toolbox and he started to tell me his favorite posts. Not only did he recognize my face from my blog, he remembered individual posts and could tell me what I had said. He actually had personal favorites. Now tell me any other method of marketing that can touch people and imprint on them in that manner? At that time I was marketing ERP software, which is generally considered a necessary evil and not something you want to digest and remember. But Jay did and I thought that experience was very cool and an excellent example of how internet marketing just works.
That my friends, is the power of blogging and one reason I love internet marketing as much as I do.