vineri, 26 martie 2010

What makes a successful business blog?

My answer: a successful business blog is one which fulfils the purpose and achieves the results that it was created for.

Now that may sound like a bit of a cop out on my part and I suppose that, in one way, it is. However, there is a good reason why.

There’s more than ONE type of blog

The issue is that there are so many different types of business blog, it’s simply not possible to give a single definitive definition of what success would look like or indeed a blueprint for creating one.

To give a couple of examples: if we look at a CEO Blog (such as Jonathan Schwartz at Sun or Richard Edelman’s 6am blog) then the writing style, format and content are going to be very different from one designed as a product blog. So too will be its aims. Likewise a corporate blog which brings together a community of users and developers for market research or product development, will have a very different definition of “successful” from an “expert blog” written by a consultant or legal professional looking to directly improve his/her profile and reputation.

However, what they will have in common is likely to be a clear set of objectives, albeit all different, which they are focused on achieving. These objectives would have been identified as part of the planning process and should always be in the back of your mind (or written on a postit in front of you!) when writing and promoting your business blog. [Aside: I’ll be looking at some possible objectives and metrics to measure them in a post next week.]

Some pointers for your Business Blog

However, having ducked the question once, I’ll try to make amends now. If I had to make some suggestions to organisations starting a blog that would help to achieve the goals that they have set for it, then I would recommend the following:
  • Don’t try to be everything to everyone: the best type of business blog will often be very targeted in nature. It will have identified the people that it wants to appeal to and should be written in such a way that it attracts, retains and develops that audience;

  • Plan, focus and stay true to your goals: you planned your objectives when you started, so try not to be distracted from them. If those are what you want to achieve, then make certain that you concentrate on them and don’t get pulled off in different directions;

  • Write interesting, compelling, focused content: you know the audience you wish to attract and hopefully you also know what will interest them. So try to present them with that information in a way which is authentic and which communicates the passion that you have for the subject;

  • Make it visually appealing: that doesn’t just mean images, although they certainly play a major role, but also break the text up with sub headings, use a header which supports and shows off your brand and ensure that above all it is easy on the eye. Don’t distract your readers from your content or make it difficult to take in;

  • Launch it properly: Plan the launch and make sure that you use all of the means at your disposal to tell people about it. Get your Foundation posts in place, use your mailing list, pre-announce it if applicable, create online press releases to support it and ensure that you put some weight behind the activities. If you believe it’s worth reading (and let’s hope you do!) then tell people and enthuse about it;

  • Vary the style of posts: while the content should be targetted, there are different ways in which you can present it from “expert pieces” to lists and from news stories to links to other key sources. Make sure that you break it up and present the information in different ways – it’ll help get across the points you are looking to communicate. [Some ideas on blog posts here might be of use];

  • Market it religiously: there is no point in having a blog and just letting it sit there – tell people about it. Use all the methods available both online and offline, generic and blog specific and then use all of them again! While your writing will hopefully attract readers over time, you should still “spread the word” at every opportunity.

Ultimately, the person best placed to judge whether the blog you are running has been a success is … you! However, don’t make it hard for yourself – know what you want to achieve with it and then going all out to make it happen.

A to Z of Business Blogging

A is for Archives

A blog’s archives are effectively anywhere that posts are stored once they disappear from the blog’s front page. The two main areas which I consider as archive areas are the “Archives” themselves where the posts can be found according to the date they were published and “Categories” where the posts are kept according to the subject matter that they deal with. Both of these are organised so that they are easy to use for your readers and help posts to be easily indexed by the Search Engines – for both these reasons, they are very important.

The archives in a blog, whatever their format, are also particularly helpful to the author because they are self-organising – this allows us to focus on the posts and the message that we want to communicate rather than worry about the structuring of the blog. The Archives are usually organised by month (though some systems do so weekly) while we have control over the naming of the Categories. This of course allows us to include the main keywords that we wish to focus on as well as making them descriptive.

But don’t just leave it to the automatic archives to promote the posts that have disappeared from the front page – make sure that you promote your own posts from within your blog as well as encouraging other blogs to link to them as well. To help this:

  • Highlight your most popular posts: make sure that the best or most popular posts you have written are not lost in your archives, so highlight them by linking from a separate page or from your sidebar. A “Top 10 of your Best Posts” is always going to get good results and encourage additional readers;

  • Link to related posts: at the end of a post, link to other posts on your blog which cover similar topics which might interest them. You can do this automatically within Wordpress or manually with a little effort – but it’s well worthwhile;

  • Write a Series: By writing a series of posts on a topic, you will have the opportunity to interlink all of the posts and so encourage your readers to make sure that they read all the posts in the series;

  • Link from within posts: you should reference and link to your own posts as well as posts on other blogs or websites when you want to add weight to what you are writing about.

Whichever way you decide to go about it, use the blog’s archives to your own advantage for both readers and Search Engines alike. However, at the same time, make sure that you don’t leave your posts to simply disappear into your archives – work with your archives and keep the posts they contain as accessible and active as possible.