By Charlie Boss

The World Wide Web has changed the way virtually every business in the world operates. Whether you want to buy a book or a car, find an old friend or a new job, the internet is the first place a consumer will look. As a marketer, the challenge is to find a way of harnessing that potential to deliver growth for your business. Website design, per-per-click advertising and search engine optimisation are all multi-billion pound industries world wide. But in my opinion, when it comes to cost effective, high impact and measurable internet marketing initiatives, it is hard to beat a blog.

There is a myth surrounding Web 2.0 marketing that the best approaches are the flashiest or the newest. However, behind the smoke and mirrors any Web 2.0 solution has to be judged by the value it adds to your business and the bottom line, rather than how funky or cutting edge it is. A blog may be old news, but executed well it will help you engage your consumers and build your brand in a controlled environment.

FreshMinds Talent, a recruitment consultancy for high-fliers, launched their blog back in July. In just three months, we have attracted nearly 10,000 visitors and the attention of journalists writing for the national press, not to mention regularly coming in the first page of Google organic results for a number key search terms. It has also helped us position ourselves as recruitment and HR experts who know the sectors we work in inside out.
That thought leadership is precisely what differentiates us from our competitors, and it has traditionally been very hard to communicate.

So how do you go about setting up a blog? The good news is that there are some fantastic open source publishing tools that make it very easy. My preference is for WordPress, which will provide all the software and framework for you so that you can get the blog up and running quickly and efficiently – but there are a host of others including Google’s Blogger tool. These applications will let you choose how your blog looks and feels, however I would strongly recommend that you host the blog on your own server. That may be something you’ll have to delegate to your technical support, but it is definitely worth the extra effort. Hosting the blog yourself will help you to track visitors and reap the rewards of that traffic for your business and search engine results.

With the technical part put to one side, the two key factors that will make your blog a success are its content and how you publicise that information.

Remember, content in king. The primary reason people will keep on coming back to your blog is if they find new and interesting information every time they visit the site. That means constantly updating your posts, every day at first and in the long-term no less than twice a week. There is nothing sadder than a corporate blog that’s out of date. It’s a sign of sloppiness and will do more harm than good. Fortunately, there is a way of generating frequent ideas and copy for your blog. All you have to do is set up Google Alerts around some of the key terms in your industry — for FreshMinds Talent, it might be “flexible working” or “talent management”. Reporting and giving your opinion on news from the industry will make your blog a valuable resource for your target audience. They’ll keep coming back to stay informed, and while they’re there they will be primed to take on board your subtle marketing message.

Once the blog is up and running, you are going to have to help people find it. Yes, Google will sooner or later kick in to give you a hand. But that takes months of good copy and links coming into your site. It’s much easier to be bullish and go out and grab those visitors for yourself. The easiest way is to use a social networking site like Twitter to warm up a pool of potential visitors. Sign up, find a group of other people blogging and talking about the same kind of subjects as you and follow them. In time, you will build your own network of followers — and don’t be afraid to go on to their blogs, post your comments or ask for them to link to your site. You should always keep an eye out for opportunities to comment on articles and new, making sure again to link back to your site. Once you’ve begun to generate traffic you can rely on the snowball effect to help the blog’s popularity grow, but give the process a helping hand by using applications like StumbleUpon, Digg and All of these are ways for visitors to recommend your blog to other users of the application, and in time they’ll be your blog’s best friend — a digital word of mouth approach to publicising your work. Personally, I use the AddThis[/b] social bookmarking widget to manage and bring all these applications together.

All that remains is to attempt to gauge the relative success of your blog. Technorati will give you a snapshot of your blog’s “authority” — in other words the number of other blogs linking to yours — however I would personally always recommend Google Analytics. Again, you may need some technical support to get the tracking codes installed, but once that’s done Analytics will give you a break down of how many people are visiting your site, where they have come from and how they behave once they’re there. In my experience, there is always an appetite for the insight and information every business and its employees generate about their industry. It’s just a case of finding your audience and using the blog to convince them that you’re the only expert worth listening to.

Charlie Boss is in charge of marketing for recruitment consultancy FreshMinds Talent. He joined FreshMinds in 2007 and has helped the company launch the FreshMinds Talent Blog as well as managing all their online marketing activities.