There has been lots of talk lately that micro-blogging, using sites like Twitter, has taken the place of blogging and blogs are just no longer relevant. Not only is there still a place for blogs, but it is a perfect way for companies to begin to understanding social media and begin to engage with their customers and prospects. We recently wrote about the four-year old Boeing blog, which by many measures is a successful blog, so this seems like a perfect time to list some best practices for business blogging. Even though this site is geared towards business to business companies, these best practices are for anyone planning, or even currently writing, a company blog.
This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but is to help you get started or improve an existing blog. Each one of these points could be expanded to a full blog post, and probably has by others. There are lots of resources for blogging help, but one of the best is copyblogger.com. You can also leave comments below with your own suggestions on starting and maintaining a quality blog that communicates a business message.
1. Establish a Strategy
A business blog needs to begin with a strategy, which does not happen in isolation. Every company should have a marketing plan, or at least a targeted list of customers and prospects. Your blog needs to be part of that strategy with a specific target audience, whether it is for brand building, increasing sales, or communicating with employees, customers, prospects or vendors. A blog without a strategy will not survive. Do not create a blog just to create content for search engine optimization purposes. It will wither and die, as many have.
2. Define an Editorial Policy
Once you know what you are trying to accomplish through your company blog, you need to determine what kinds of articles you will post. If you have regular press releases (and quarterly statements for public companies) posted in a news section on your web site, and you should, there is no reason to re-post them on your blog, unless you are commenting or adding more information to the release. You need to decide whether to blog about employee activities, client projects, internal processes and other things that reveal the human side of your company. This is generally a good thing, but the information on your blog must be relevant to your target audience.
3. Find a Voice
You blog should have some personality and not sound like it was written by committee. This can be conveyed through the voice of a blog, which is the way you speak to your target audience. There is a tendency to write blog posts in a more informal, breezy style that can be skimmed easily. This definitely is driven by your content and readers. If your blog is about complex technical solutions and you are writing for engineers, snarky copy written with broad strokes is not the way to communicate with them.
4. Create Compelling Content
A blog is not just an exercise in creating content and tossing it over the wall at your readers. The content must be compelling, informative and relevant to your audience. Think about your blog from the point of view of your target and decide if your latest article provides any value. If you are using your blog to find prospective customers, you can blog about industry topics, or conduct interviews with industry leaders. After your readers find your blog, you want them to return. Or better yet, subscribe to your feed (ours is in the upper right), so they don’t miss one word of your compelling content.
5. Use Keywords
One of the jobs a blog can do is help improve the search results. You do this by making sure your post titles and posts contain the keywords that your customers and prospects search. Search engine dynamics and algorithms are constantly changing, so you can think of this as relevance to your readers. If you will be writing for an audience outside of your company and customer lists, your blog and site must be found. Writing about topics relevant to this audience will naturally contain appropriate keywords, but you should make sure your titles are keyword rich. Search for the term “keyword density” to gain a better understanding of this topic. Search marketing is a huge topic and is best digested one concept at a time. SearchEngineLand.com is a good site for search help.
6. Post on a Regular Schedule
Something that many bloggers struggle with is publishing content on a regular schedule. No matter what role you play in your company, whether CEO, PR/marketing person, or copywriter, blogging is not your full-time job. Consistent publishing takes discipline and time. The first can be learned, but the second has to be found. One way to address time is to remain at least one post ahead. If you publish weekly, make sure next week’s post is written before you publish this week’s. This is obviously more difficult if your posts are timely and draw on current industry news, but this is a good reason to have a variety of post types. Hubspot provides a good post about five types of business blog posts.
7. Show Author Pictures
One reason to create a blog is to create a human face within the company. The best way to show a human face is to show a human’s face. If the blog is written by one person, a photo in the header or about section is fine. Multi-author blogs should have author photos with each post. This allows readers to easily scan posts for authors writing about topics they follow.
8. Link from Home Page
As readers of the blog may already know, this is a big pet peeve of mine. Since a blog is a very different kind of content on most corporate web sites, unless your site visitors can find, you cannot achieve your goals. All the strategy in the world goes out the window if no one reads your blog. If you cannot get approval to link from the home page, find a logical place to provide a prominent link. Some common options are from the Company page or the About page, but it still needs to be obvious. How can you engage with your audience if they can’t find your content?
9. Engage with Readers
Since one of the goals of any blog is to engage with your readers, you need to make sure you do that. You write compelling content that brings your audience back for more. They leave comments. They link to your blog from their blog or social networking sites. And you need to continue these conversations in the comments. Every real comment should get a real response. This is something that we try to do on this site. And it really makes a difference to readers to see the post authors responding in the comments. And when you find your content shared by your readers elsewhere, thank them and continue the discussion over there. Being appreciative of comments goes a long way.
10. Spread your Content
And finally, if you can spread and encourage the spreading of your content to your target audience, you will be that much closer to meeting your goals. While I was planning this post earlier this week, I saw this post about about making your website more social and knew that it would fit perfectly as a last point. I began by saying starting a blog is a good way for a company to start understanding social media. Leveraging your blog and expanding it out to other social networks is a great way to take the next step.
As always, we appreciate your interest in this blog and please leave any questions or comments below. Not only do we like them, but it’s a great way to continue what I started in this post.