After a recent post about the value of blogging, I got a few requests to go deeper into strategies for maximizing the effectiveness of blogging. I've thought about effective blogging for a long time, so I have quite a bit to say on the topic—too much for a single blog post. So consider this part one of a multi-part series on the topic.
It used to be you could just "show up every day," or blog consistently, and you'd have a high search-engine rank on your topic. Do a great job, and lots of people would add you to their blog rolls and point to you as an expert, or at least someone interesting to read.
Read anything about blogging today, and the latest wisdom on the subject involves "SEO," or "Search Engine Optimization," and "SEM," or "Search Engine Marketing." These strategies aim to help a site become the top result returned by a search engine when someone types in a particular query. Most of these practices are legitimate and helpful, but your ultimate goal isn't to be the top search result--it's to be relevant, show yourself off to potential and current customers, and ultimately build your business. You need your blog to be read, of course--but if the content isn't valuable, the traffic alone won't help you succeed.
So, what makes a blog effective? Depends on your goal. Are you using it to sell? If so, then search engine ranking may be very relevant. I'll go more into depth on those topics in another article. If you are using it to help your customers understand your business, as Mark LePage is doing in this article, then an effective blog is one that teaches your customers what they need to make effective decisions.
My top 5 tips for effective blogging (this week):
1. Tell people you have a blog! Make it a clear part of your website, and of your marketing. If you're going to blog for business, don't be embarrassed. Put it in your signature line of your email. Add it to your stationery and brochures.
2. Write for your customers, or write for your colleagues--but whomever you write for, write regularly and with a bias towards being helpful and informative. Remember, that helpful bit may be the thing that convinces someone to do business with you.
3. Let your passion shine through. Writing about what you know and care about, with careful consideration and research, can go a long way toward getting you known and respected as a blogger and as an entrepreneur or marketer. Don't be afraid to have a strong voice, as people can identify with it. And that voice should be yours, not a "company voice."
4. Blogs encourage interaction—so interact! Use your blog as a way to get customer feedback. A recent academic study at University of California, Irvine, reported: "Blog readers feel a responsibility to make insightful contributions...the study found readers also place pressure on themselves to produce coherent, worthwhile comments in response to good blog posts."
5. Reach out to other bloggers, and connect with the ones that you respect and read often. Cite and link to what they write. Add them to your blog roll. They may do the same--quoting you and sending you traffic--which will help your branding and exposure. You don't want to do this gratuitously, but only when it makes sense.
More tips on effective blogging coming soon. In the meantime, here are some additional resources I feel comfortable recommending:
The Everything Blogging Book by Aliza Sherman Risdahl is available here.
Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel is available here.