11 Tips on How to Improve your Business Blog

by Paul Wilson

 

Recently, I was looking through my draft folder on mymarketer, which holds all the posts ideas I’ve wanted to write but saved for a slow rainy day. I noticed that my oldest blog post idea dates back to August of 2007. I feel 33 months is a bit too long for a draft idea to stay dormant, and obviously that slow rainy day isn’t coming anytime soon.  The occasion has come to blow off the cobwebs and allow this idea to come to fruition.

My idea stemmed from an article in the Wall Street Journal, which gave some interesting data about the importance of business blogging.  I have always had a keen interest on this subject. Mainly, because business blogging is what really launched my Internet marketing career. Having seen a great deal of success with blogging, I am an avid believer that, if done correctly, blogging can be a great online tool for boosting a business’s bottom line.

It is interesting to see that almost three years later the debate continues concerning the importance of businesses utilizing blogging as a resource and a business tactic. Having just left corporate America I still believe that business blogging is not used enough as an online tool. With this in mind below are my 11 tips on how to fully take advantage of blogging as a resource for your business:

11. Wearing the Coattails of Bigger Blogs


A while ago I wrote a blog post called, “The Mother of All Lists.” This list was a compilation of all the lists people had created during Darren Rowse’s (Problogger) 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge. During his second lesson he encouraged his followers to create a list and submit their list as a comment on his blog.  I went through all these comments and extracted over 500 lists and then truly created the mother of all lists.

I gave Darren a heads up about my blog post, he tweeted my post out to his 90,000 followers at the time and in minutes I received thousands of visitors to my blog. Not only did Darren bring tons of traffic to my blog but all the bloggers who wrote the hundreds of lists received pingbacks since I had linked to their original post. In a matter of very short time I had close to 100 comments—the most I have ever received on one post. The lesson learned: try to do something that gains notice of bigger blogs. They have already gained the trust of their readers and their promotion of your blog will have a bigger impact than anything you can do on your own.

Another great tactic of coattail wearing is guest blogging. Everyone recommends you guest blog to help build your own blog. However, many people do not realize how simple it is to guest blog for the biggest fish in your pond. I recently discovered how easy it is to write for blogs that receive lots of traffic. Obviously, you are offering to write for free, but if the BIG blog gives credit for your writing you are paid in traffic to your own blog (and if they don’t give you credit than why are writing for them in the first place).

The best thing you can do is to find well known blogs with lots of readers and read their guest blogging policy (some recommendations: twitip.comfreelanceswitch.com, mashable.com, and marketingpilgrim.com—#3 is in the form of a news story). When I write for blogs outside of my niche I always put a twist on my post which ties in both my niche and the blog’s niche that I am writing for.

10. Dancing to the Right Keyword Tune


When it comes to paying attention to your business’s keywords you need to be careful to not buy into all the hype. Don’t get me wrong, keyword focus is important, hence why I have it on the list. However, many people these days put their focus on the wrong aspects of keyword development. I personally feel, and have proven to myself,  that keyword density, lsi, and keyword sculpting tactics don’t really do too much for your blog except waste a lot of precious time. If you write solid, well thought out posts, surrounding the topic of your business blog then you are going to be okay.

So, when I talk about being keyword centric I have something completely different in mind than your blog content. What I think is crucial is having a keyword focus in your domain name or url. This means three things:

a) Avoid buying the unfocused domain names and instead purchase a domain that is centered around a high traffic volume keyword. I’ve noticed that exact match keyword domains not only rarely unaffected by algorithm changes, but they also seem to have bonus points in ranking on that specific keyword. This means you don’t have to work as hard to get your domain to the top of Google with that specific keyword. To prove my point, I read an article about how Patrick Galvin, founder of Text Link Ads, recently purchased SearchEngineOptimization.net for $62,500. He did this because he wants to prove how he can become #1 in Google for such a competitive keyword. If an exact match domain was worth over $60,000 to Patrick you should probably take heed when considering your own domain name!

b) If you already purchased a domain that is not a keyword match, then you need to focus on having your keywords found in your URL. You do this by making your permalinks on your blog focus around your post titles. This tip helps even if you have a high traffic keyword domain, because I am willing to bet you are not focusing on just one keyword. Note: This technique is helpful, but I don’t encourage anyone changing their link structure who already has a well established business blog. You will do more damage changing your established linking structure than if you just stayed put. Overtime Google is able to understand your linking structure with the keywords found on the pages. Look at the largest webmaster forum, Digital Point, as a great example. They don’t have keyword rich linking structure, but the popular webmaster forum ranks well due to abundance of their content.

c) Finally, you need to focus your keywords in your backlinks, but I will talk more about this in the next tip.

9. White Hat and Armed


In order to have a fighting chance in the search engines you need to have targeted backlinks. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you don’t focus on your backlinks that the traffic you receive from the search engines will very unlikely be the traffic you want or need. Having already addressed the importance of keywords you should take your desired keywords and sprinkle them into your backlink tactics. Doing this will help build your rankings on the keywords that bring you the right type of web traffic.

Having said this, I give a word of warning here. According to the Almighty Triune search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo), there are right ways to build backlinks and wrong ways. The search engines frown heavily on paid backlinks, which to me is hypocritical since that is exactly what they do—they just call it PPC. Anyway, it doesn’t matter because it is their search engines and they make the rules. So, to not get kicked out you need to do what is called “white hat” link building.

Some white hat link building techniques are directory, forum, blog, and article submitting. These focus on reaching out to other sites and submitting your information or content. There is also press releases, RSS, and blog commenting. All of these techniques are considered on the up and up with the search engines. What is considered “black hat” and abominable to the search engines are: excessive link exchanges (think back to the late 90’s websites and their link pages), link farms (not always wise to have your backlink on any site that has more links than content), spammy sites (you know exactly what these are when you see them), illegal content (you are asking to be penalized by associating with these sites), and sites you personally own specifically used for backlinks (yeah, Google, particularly, hates this black hat tactic).

8. Give till you Bleed


Okay, the title for this concept is a little strong, but it offers you vivid imagery on how important I feel this is. However, don’t mistake this advice with what I recommend in my #2 suggestion. In that suggestion I talk about providing value to your readership, which you certainly do by giving through your business blog. Yet, the difference is that offering value can be found in many other ways than just giving to your readers. My concept of blog giving, is offering to something to your readers no strings attached (usually).

One of the best ways to build a strong loyal community around your blog is to create a giving atmosphere with your readers. You can give in a lot ways, whether it is content, software, or actually giving something real and tangible to your readers. Three blogs come to mind who have implemented this rule flawlessly—CourtneyTuttle.com, Invesp.com, and Yoast.com.

If you are a beginner Internet Marketer and you want a blog that will pull out all the stops and tell you anything and everything about web marketing, than you can do no better then Courtney’s blog. Personally, this blog was my bible back in the day. Court simply shares everything he learns. I didn’t feel he was holding anything back. There was some other marketing blogs I frequented, but with Court’s blog I didn’t feel that he was trying to sell something to me. In fact, I was so impressed with Court that my partner at the time and I took him out to lunch. He was no different in person, he was willing to answer any questions we had for him and was willing to share his secrets of his personal success (which is a rare trait in the Internet marketing world) .

The second blog, Invesp, also provides you free content, but in exchange for your email address for their enewsletter. As I stated above, you really should give without strings attached, that’s how loyal communities are built and fast. In fact, at first, I was quite reluctant to give Invesp.com my email. However, their ebook “Breaking the Digg Code” compelled me to hand over my email. The ebook was phenomenal and I have read every single enewsletter since. So, the no strings attached rule isn’t steadfast, but do keep in mind that if you remove the strings and offer quality content you quickly overcome the roadblocks of building loyalty. People just don’t like to be compelled to give up their email address. We all know that we have a special spam folder for just these types of requests!

The third blog that has a giving nature is Yoast.com. Joost de Valk is the author of Yoast.com and, frankly, I absolutely love his blog for its content. Yet, what I think makes his blog even more valuable is the free wordpress plugins Joost builds for his readers. In fact, some of the most popular wordpress plugins are built by Joost. At one time, you could directly request Joost to build you a plugin for free. Not your typical approach to blogging, and that is why Joost has a strong and loyal reader base.

What I have found interesting is that the blogs that are constentantly giving to the readers obtain even more readers. Out of the three blogs I shared with you, I only found Invesp.com by searching (I was working on a Digg.com project). Both CourtneyTuttle.com and Yoast.com were found by word of mouth. I’ve learned that no matter how much traffic I drive to my site by Google, my word of mouth readers are the ones who interact the most with my blog, and are avid in sharing my content with others (just like what I am doing now with you).

7. Finding Super Powers in Friends


At one time point or another in our lives we all desire to have long lasting friendships. Business blogging isn’t and shouldn’t be any different. When I first started blogging the #1 thing that helped launch my blog was being a part of a blogging network—offline. In Salt Lake City there is a great blogging group that gets together once a month for dinner. I began going to this group and started making great friends. What’s interesting is that none of the represented blogs in the group, at the time, where in the same niche. We had everything from a mommy blogger to a wedding blogger. However,  we were all passionate about blogging.

What made my blog more known was when we all decided as a group to get Seth Godin to come to Salt Lake. All of us blogged about it and really pushed it. For my part in this challenge I created statistical posts about our efforts and everyone in the group linked to my posts. My new found friends owned blogs that were high trafficked and high page rank. Having them link to me directly really gave a boost to my blog and gave me fresh new readers. As a business, being engaged with the other bloggers around your community will only help you.

When I moved to Pittsburgh, though, I realized creating offline relationships with bloggers wasn’t as easy as it was in Salt Lake. I asked around trying to find a similar blogging group but didn’t have much success. It wasn’t until I reached out on a LinkedIn group that I found business bloggers who wanted to meet in the real world. If you don’t have any success with your local LinkedIn groups, create your own. Having a LinkedIn group is sometimes more valuable than just being a part of one.

One company I feel exemplifies the rule of creating meaningful offline friendships is the website and blog Twelve Horses. Steve Spencer is the CEO of this company and it is a rare occurance to not see Steve heavily involved in the offline SLC blogging activities (and many times his company is sponsoring these events). I’ve seen Steve really grow Twelve Horses and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some real positive street blogging media that helped with this.

6. Having a Love Affair with your Clients


In the last point I talked about creating meaningful friendships offline, and now I am talking about having a love affair with your customers. Obviously, relationships are an important factor in building a strong community around your business blog. Yet, for any relationship to thrive, business or personal, communication and personal interaction must persist.

Why has blogging, over the past five years, taken center stage on the web? I believe the biggest reason is that it has empowered the masses, both by giving it a voice to be heard and also by offering a means to interact. Before Internet (B.I.), life was very different, particularly for the customer. If customers were unhappy and they wanted to amplify their disastifaction they really only had traditional media to engage, and that was often a very difficult task. The beauty of a business having a blog is that not only does it allow for customers to feel that they can have their gripe heard, thus circumventing possible damage to the company’s brand, but it also enhances the business’s ability to have a conversation with the rest of their customers (not just the unhappy ones).

However, just communicating with someone doesn’t mean you are having a passionate love affair with them. To have this type of relationship you have to genuinely care for the customer, and they have to reciprocate. It seems that businesses often try to sterilize their interactions with their customers. It is all about money for certain businesses, and though, money is essential, money in of itself is not the factor that helps businesses organically grow.  The old saying, “Nothing personal, it’s just business,” couldn’t be farther from the truth. Business is personal, and business blogging gives you the opportunity to show this.

Apple computers is a perfect display of a business love affair between company and customer. I personally do not own anything Apple, but I have many friends who do. Often I wonder if Apple decided to go spiritual and create a religion if my friends would be the first to convert! Apple does a spectacular job in listening to their customer base and creating absolutely superb products for their customers. Apple communicates, listens, and responds and their customers love them for it.

5. Embracing Your Genius

I stole the title of this recommendation from an April 30, 2010 post by Launch Interactive. Their post, which I recommend, is about creativity, but in the context of this post I use genius more as the unique nature each of us have, or in other words—personality.

I discovered Launch Interactive back in 2001 when I was trying to find a domain for my this now marketing site, mymarketer.net. However, back then Launch Interactive was Web Marketeer. The group behind this company inspired me. I loved their website because it wasn’t your typical site. It had personality, and it was actually fun to read. Each page was creative and spoke in a causal, but professional way. They had really embraced their genius.

Web Marketeer taught me that website users were people with names, lives, goals, dreams, and thousands of other other features that make us different from each other. We all like a good laugh or the feeling that we are talking to a friend, but we are unique on how we approach these feelings. There is nothing worse than a business blog trying to be everything to everyone or coming across stuffy and boring. I really believe that a blog stands the test of time due to the power of its personality. The blogs that don’t have personality will die, because they don’t make their readers feel connected (and isn’t the whole point of a blog to be more personable).

A blog I feel has embraced its genius is DoshDosh.com. Not only does Maki (the author of DoshDosh) offer amazing content, but every post has a bit of his geniusness by adding a Japanese anime to his writing . Maki has been doing this for years and it has become his signature for his blogging. In fact, his blog taught me the genius of images in your own writing. I try to have something visual in every post I write, and I spend a lot of time (sometime too much) trying to find these added benefits to my posts. For me, I give you something more than my words.

Another great example of a business taking their blogging and adding their genius to it is Southwest Airlines. Here is a several hundred million dollar company that knows and understands the value of personality. Not only has Southwest perfected the art of allowing their true colors to show, but they take that genius and try to help others ignite their own. Last year they had a contest to find their next blog-o-spondent. You had to send in a one minute video sharing your personality and showing why you would be a perfect vid blogger to travel around (on Southwest’s dime) to different cities Southwest flies to. It seems there is always some contest or fun activity going on with Southwest’s Blog. Yet, these contests and activities don’t come across as marketing ploys, but rather honest pure personality. To bad more companies don’t follow this great example on how a business blog can show its true genius!

4. Storytelling Magic

My mother is a master storyteller. From a young age my mom’s words grabbed my hand and took me on many wild and wondrous adventures. This is a tradition I hope to pass onto my own children, but in the meantime I try to incorporate this gift of storytelling into my own blogging by using real life examples. You might have noticed with this post, but every tip has at least one story of some blog exemplifying the tip. Believe it or not storytelling is a form of persuasion. Being able to paint an image in the mind will more deeply root itself than just about any other form of persuasion. We are emotional beings, and stories help us build ties to those emotions.

One person who is an amazing business story teller is Janet Meiners-Thaeler aka NewsPaperGrl. Janet is a close friend and the person who dragged me kicking and screaming into the world of blogging, and I have praised/cursed her name ever since. What makes Janet so great is her ability to express her emotions professionally. She can openly be persuasive and give her opinion without being offensive. It makes reading her blog rather enjoyable. However, you will find Janet more on Twitter these days than on her blog. She has always been a HUGE fan of twitter and is as skilled with her storytelling in 140 characters as she is with 141+ characters elsewhere.

I would be quite remiss if I didn’t finish this tip off with highlighting the master of business story teller, Seth Godin. If you have ever heard him speak you know exactly what I mean. Truly, Seth baits you with an emotional story and then reels you in with his marketing philosophy, it is quite amazing to behold. In fact, Seth wrote an entire book around storytelling called “All Marketers Are Liars.” It is great read and one I strongly recommend. He also has a post on his blog titled “Ode: How to Tell a Great Story.” You can never go wrong learning from Seth on how to incorporate storytelling into your business blog. He truly is the master…well, only second to my mother =).

3. The Destruction of Blurring Reality

One common mistake found with business blogs is when a company blurs the lines between business and personal. Sometimes businesses mistake the above fourth and fifth recommendation as way to be too personal (TMI, or Too Much Information, become a popular saying for a reason). Obviously, personal is the root word of personality, but there is a difference between story telling your company culture and venting political or religious frustrations. When you do the latter you may have some readers who readily agree with you but over all you alienate your readers. Mainly because your readers are following your blog for your business philosophies, not your personal ideologies.

I recently was followed on twitter by a business coach whose main post on his blog goes into depth about his strong political views. For me, his views were a little strong for my taste and so I decided to not follow him back on twitter. Now, was this rational business sense on my part? No, not at all, but I didn’t feel I wanted to further network with a professional who wasn’t professional. As stated previously, we are emotional and irrational beings. This simple fact can work both for and against a business. A business puts so much effort into its brand, and for a business to take its brand and turn it into a off topic soap box doesn’t help the brand.

With that said, I am well aware that there are business bloggers who do quite well branding their business with their personal identity. If you have ever followed Penelope Trunk you will know that Penelope has a talent for taking all that should be personal and very much making it business. In fact, the first line on Penelope’s About page states, “This blog is about career advice. And about me.”  I might venture to say that the second part of that statement might be the strongest element of her blog. To get a taste of what I mean read disliking for David Dellifield from Ohio.

I won’t spoil the article  with a synopsis of her post, but keep in mind while reading that Penelope’s blog is considered a business blog. Quickly you will notice her skill for the English language, she really is quite gifted, but you will also see her love for slaughtering the sacred cows of life. Definitely not your traditional business blog. It would be quite easy to paint a bullseye on Penelope and say that this is not how you should do a business blog, but you may have noticed while reading the suggested post that she has over 400 comments. Really, Penelope’s type of business blog is riddled with land minds, but it can be done right.

I don’t want to finalize this tip without first giving an example of a business blog that ties both personality and professionalism together quite well. CHGPulse.com is a corporate blog that tries to highlight the culture of company by showing the personal and professional lives of its employees. In the true spirit of transparency and to give full disclosure, I was employed with this company for almost two years and worked closely with a team to put this blog together. So yes, there is a little bragging here, but honestly, the credit goes to the company’s corporate communications department for giving this site a flare of fun, but a tone of professionalism. It is no surprise that they were recently ranked in the top 100 companies to work for by Fortune magazine.

2. Knighting Your Blog With Value

If you talk to my wife Lindsey about blogs she will tell you about the personal bloggers who share all and bare all about the inner workings of their own lives. She will also tell you how she keeps up on these true-to-life blogs almost daily. Why do millions of people eagerly read these blogs? For the same reason why millions of people watch reality shows or soap operas—entertainment.

There is a great lesson to take from the popular personal blogs and that is: how does your blog communicate value t0 your readership? Entertainment isn’t the only way of communicating value to your community. I cannot say I am always entertained when I read Caroline Mccarthy’s The Social blog, but I am a faithful reader of her blog. Why? There are lots of blogs about digital media. What makes me read Caroline Mccarthy’s CNET blog over Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch rantings? Well, I feel I get more value out of Ms. Mccarthy’s writings than Mr. Arrington’s. The Social, I feel, is useful, on subject, and accurate, which is important for my business life. Though TechCrunch has good content I find low value out of the strong opinions found on that blog.  Obviously, this is my opinion, and, as the Michael Arrington’s of the world have discovered you can’t please everyone.

With that in mind, you want to understand your readership and determine what you feel is the best value for them. One person who I feel has mastered this technique is Shelly Palmer. He has quite the blogging empire and offers his information in a lot of different ways. I receive his daily email, which highlights the top technology stories in bite-size information (usually, small one paragraphs for each story). Recently, I emailed him concerning a change he made with his email format, and how it would negatively affect his overall website traffic. Here was his reply to me:

Paul — thanks.  I am of the personal opinion that websites in the 21st century are for web designers and the people who commission them.  My job is to give you branded value where you are in the most convenient way.  Web traffic is not my goal, giving you “Shelly Palmer branded value” is.  You don’t watch the video (you don’t know what you’re missing), but people who do enjoy a different experience.  My radio show, my podcast, my video, my email, my RSS feed, my social media updates throughout the day all drive my business.  Unique visitors do nothing to further my cause, it is loyal followers who keep me in business.  I resisted this notion for a year longer than I should have because, although, I understood that I was not in the web traffic business, I could not bring myself to let even one unique visitor go.

So, stats for the week.  Overall web traffic is up 5%.  Video views are up 10%.  Recency is up 2%.  Loyalty is up 4.4%  Unique visitors down 3%.  Conversion goals on things I sell, up 1.4%

Now, to be fair, this was a very big news week and our traffic and relevance is directly related to the news cycle.  We’re watching this with a magnifying glass and I’ll keep you posted.  The goal is ROI, let’s see if it goes up or down. :) s

There is one sentence that should ring out to you as truth: “Unique visitors do nothing to further my cause, it is loyal followers who keep me in business.” Truer words were never spoken concerning how you should approach your business blogging! To build loyal followers you need to know exactly the value they are looking for.

1. Persistent Consistency Wins the Day

The web is a great canvas in illustrating those who succeed and those who don’t at blogging. I have illustrated in this post numerous examples of successful business blogs. On the flip side, there are a million times more examples of blogs that have failed miserably. Truth be told, setting up a blog is really easy, building a community around it is not. Over the years, the blogosphere has conditioned us to crave originality and in depth content. Those who succeed at blogging understand the #1 tip of this post as a  universal principle of  blogging. Obviously, it helps to follow the other points shared, but ultimately the web has a way of rewarding the persistent and the consistent.

The best example I can think of for persistent consistency is Johns Wu of Bankaholic.com. For many, this is a Cinderella story. Jonhs Wu sold his blog Bankaholic for $15 million dollars to Bankrate. That’s pretty impressive, but I wouldn’t dare say that it was just luck that got Mr. Wu to that point. Several interviews with Johns Wu show how Bankaholic wasn’t started for the sake of selling, but rather it was a passion of Johns Wu’s. A passion that he worked on daily for three straight years. I wish I could find the interview I read that shared Johns Wu stating that he would still be working daily on his blog even if he never received an offer to sell.

This is an important concept most bloggers need to accept. It is quite unlikely that many of us are going to ever sell our business blog for 15 million dollars. Yet, for that to ever even remotely happen a persistent nature and a consistent routine need to be developed. Blogging is not just another good idea for a  business to casually do when there is time. Instead, blogging can be as important for a company as the other day-to-day business operations are. As stated throughout this post the reasons are many on how a business blog can be helpful and profitable to a company. It truly only takes someone to take the mindset that blogging is going to be like brushing one’s teeth. It needs to be done often and with vigor.  ~Paul W.

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