By Paul Sawers
That’s a rather alluring title, isn’t it? It’s even more alluring if you’re striving to build a brilliant business blog.
There are countless how-to articles across the web. Many promise much in their headlines but deliver very little in terms of actionable points. And many are way too simplistic for people with even half-a-brain in their head.
So how does this how-to guide differ? Firstly, it’ll be honest from the start - this isn’t a quick-fix, easy-way-out guide for those who have no real desire to blog but have been told it’s a vital part of their ‘social’ business.
This guide is for those in it for the long-haul, who understand where blogging fits into the broader social mix and who understand that time and commitment is needed to build a blog from the bottom-up.
Without further ado, here’s how you can build your first brilliant business blog...
Know your place
There are countless professional journalists and reporters breaking news and analysing trends — people who are paid a lot of money to dig up stories and bring their expertise to the blogosphere. Don’t try to compete with these people - this is one of the biggest mistakes bloggers make.
And it’s understandable why you would want to do this, as it’s a quick, easy way to add fresh content to your website. But you have to ask yourself is someone more likely to follow your blogging efforts regarding the latest social media news stories, or are they more likely to follow the likes of Mashable or ReadWriteWeb? We think you know the answer.
And when the government reveals its latest budget, do you really want to report the details on your little blog, or do you want to admit that you simply can’t compete with the likes of the Financial Times, The Guardian and The Times? Again, we think you know the answer.
What to blog about
Whilst you shouldn’t try to compete with the major news publications, that doesn’t mean you can’t discuss major headline stories. You just have to take a different angle — analyse these events, discuss how it affects you and your business.
You have to differentiate yourself from the dedicated professional writers out there who don’t have the one thing you have — insider insight. Sure, journalists can interview people, but a first-person, unedited account can be far more effective.
To use the government’s budget as an example, you could look at all the nuances of any new fiscal measures and work out if they’re good or bad for your business and say why that is the case.
Of course, you won’t always have major headline stories such as the budget to write about. So before you launch your blog, decide what insights you can offer relating to your industry or the wider business world in general.
And anything positive or problematic you encounter in your day-to-day business dealings are potential blogging topics.
Always carry a notebook with you and anything you think has the potential to be fleshed out into an insightful tidbit can be filed away for the right moment.
Commit to at least three blog posts per week
Business blogging is all about adding value, being relevant and being regular. Commit to at least three blog posts a week at first — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. If you have time to write more, then even better. Indeed, if you are a dedicated blogger/social media manager for a company, you should really be updating your blog(s) at least one a day.
Know your industry
Corporate blogging is all about providing insight. Attending conferences, keynote speeches, exhibitions...anywhere that is likely to give you knowledge should be high on your to-do list. And when you’re not attending events, you should be reading other blogs and industry publications so that you know what the key industry trends are.
All this knowledge can then be aggregated in the form of interesting, insightful articles for your company blog.
Don’t be bland...be controversial!
This is a key point. Balanced-writing is for journalists and reporters to worry about — your business blog can be as opinionated as you like. In fact, the more controversial the better — it will get people interested.
This all points towards one key thing: don’t be bland. There are lots of bland blogs online, so don’t be one of them.
But exercise common sense — the usual rules apply, so don’t be needlessly offensive. And if you’re blogging for a big corporation, you will have far more restrictions in place than if you’re blogging for a small startup which, quite frankly, will need all the press it can get.
Social media: spreading the good word
Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook...social media is a blogger’s best friend. It’s how you push your work out into cyberspace.
Besides, you should probably be using social media anyway to network and build your business’s brand. The networks you build online through social channels are the perfect audience for your blogs and may even help spread the word for you, through retweeting and even linking to them from their own blogs.
Search engine considerations
Search engines will likely be a key channel for much of your business blog’s traffic. For that reason you have to strike the right balance between fully optimising the text within your blog’s content, and maintaining a high level of editorial integrity.
Sure, your blog is ultimately designed to promote your business but it shouldn’t do so in a blatant manner. So don’t stuff your blog posts with keywords and links to other parts of your company website, it will be obvious and readers won’t return.
However, writing for the web is inherently different to writing for print. In a newspaper headline, for example, you have a little more freedom to get creative, using puns and colloquialisms that you know most of the readers will understand.
To maximise your blog’s exposure online, your headlines should be more descriptive about the content of the post. Really think about what keywords people are likely to use that’s relevant to your blog post.
You can even use Google’s Keyword Tool to help identify popular phrases and search-term combinations.
Look and feel
Content is important, but so is the look of your blog. It should have a solid editorial feel, with clear menus, signposting and contact information for all the key contributors. Basically, all the usual design principles that apply to any good website.
Take a look at established blogs, such as ReadWriteWeb and TechCrunch, and don’t be afraid to borrow some of the general layout ideas.
Growing your blog
Getting to grips with Google Analytics will be the best thing you ever do. There are simple plug-ins available for WordPress that do all the coding for you, so you can easily keep tabs on your top-performing blog posts.
You can then look at why certain blog posts are attracting more visitors, where these visitors are coming from and what search terms took them to your website. This information can then inform your future blogging behaviour.
And the best way to grow your blog — similar to how you would grow a business — is to set yourself targets. This could be number of visitors to your company blog, or the number of retweets your posts are receiving. Don’t be afraid to aim high, either.
Maximise your productivity
A decent five-hundred word blog post really should take no more than a couple of hours to churn out. But it can take a lot longer if you’re sitting at a networked computer, with emails, Facebook and many other online distractions at your fingertips.
Any time you have away from the desk — maybe if you’re travelling on a train, plane or bus — can be quality blog-writing time. Remember, have a notepad and pen with you at all times.
Finally, delivering insightful, relevant an engaging free content via your blog is the smartest way of growing traffic to your website and, subsequently, growing your business. Your writing skills will become more sophisticated, as will your understanding of social media and the general way of the web.
About the author
Paul Sawers is Writer and Blogger at blur Group, a Creative Services Exchange™ where businesses and brands brief their requirements and a Crowd of professional Creatives pitch to deliver the services, providing optimal value, choice, creativity and efficiency compared to traditional ways of sourcing creative work. Follow blurGroup on Twitter.