Ironic Aside: When I went to write this post about the many benefits of having a blog for your business, I got a message that MY blog had been blocked for having the characteristics of a spam blog. Sigh. Apparently one of the characteristics is having long strings of nonsensical text. Now, I know I am no Hemingway, but I have to say they hurt my feelings. A little. Sniff.
The days when blogs were just used to post funny stories about our kids and share our vehement opinions about whatever are over. Blogs are now being used as powerful marketing tools, and rightfully so. They are a quick, easy way to keep visitors to your site updated about your business and provide a unique opportunity to create a community around whatever you are “selling.”
But you have to work it.
Keep It Relevant
If you are selling brass buttons, blogging endlessly about your weekend kayaking trips is not going to do you a dang bit of good. But if you make kayaks, waterproof backpacks, and other outdoorsy stuff, then blogging about your expeditions supports your brand. It lets your shoppers know that you know what you are talking about and you live the lifestyle they either live or are aspiring towards.
Keep your demographic in mind. Even if you are 75 and enjoy a little macramé in your spare time, if your target demographic is trendy 18 year old girls, your blog posts need to reflect that. Keep your macramé in the living room, and blog about things that will interest the customers you want to attract.
Keep It Current
You do not need to blog every day, in fact this can be a little annoying, but you should post often enough that your blog does not start to look out of date or stale. If your most recent post is about a sale that ended 3 months ago, then you are neglecting it for way too long. People will only revisit your blog if they have some expectation that there will be something new there. Disappoint them too often, and they will stop coming back.
Keep It Interesting
It is not enough to tell people that you are having a sale, or that you added some new items to your shop (unless the things you sell are in high-demand and collectible, in which case this may be highly-sought after information). While you definitely SHOULD do those things, your blog is a great place to share more than you would put on a traditional web site – what inspired you to create this new product, what funny stories did you collect along the way, where did you get that kooky thingamajig you incorporated into the design?
Or, using the kayak example (if you sell kayaks), use it to share the stories of fellow adventurers (along with a wee plug or two for your products on the trip), tell your readers about regional outdoors events (where you also just might happen to have a booth or be sponsoring a team), or have a contest where readers send in photos of their custom-decorated vessels.
But Why Blog?
For one thing – search engines love them. Every time you post to a blog, it sort of prods the search engines spiders to come back and take another look. It is easy for spiders to read RSS feeds. And if you get a nice chunk of people reading it, it can become “important” in the eyes of Google, therefore it will rank higher. And of course, you will have a prominent link to your main web site, drawing traffic there and helping ITS ranking.
For another, a blog is way easier to update than most web sites. You can have links on your web site to “News” and have that go straight to your blog.
A blog is also a good place to put those links that you spent months and months “swapping” with friends and businesses before you heard (have you heard?) that link-swapping actually hurts your search engine ranking. Stick them on your blog (provided it is at a separate domain, i.e., websydaisy.blogspot.com rather than www.webdysaisy.com) and they won’t drain away the ranking on your main web site.
Your Own Filing Cabinet
For me, I am using my blog not so much as a marketing tool, but as a way to answer questions that I get a lot. Rather than clogging up my web site with tons and tons of advice, and my previous method of answering emails at length, I am trying to get all these topics covered here. Then I can just point people to the appropriate post and POOF, question answered. Blogs are a great way to pull all of that text-heavy information off of your web site but still have it handy and easily-accessible online.
Ok, You Convinced Me. I Started a Blog. No one Is Reading It.
You can actually reap benefits of a blog even if you don’t have regular readers – the search engines will still spider it, and it can still be a tool to give your web site’s visitors updated information. But it is kind of a bummer to do all that writing, and then no one reads it.
Make sure you have a prominent link on every page of your web site to your blog.
Post comments to posts on lots of other blogs that have the same demographic. Not ads, but just a comment on whatever they posted about, and make sure you leave your blog address. Trust me, bloggers read and love their comments – they will go visit your blog, as will many other commenters who read your comment.
If you can, buy ad space or request to have a link added to important, relevant blogs. Make sure they are popular, have a lot of readers, and are generally respected by your demographic. Blogads is a great way to buy ad space inexpensively on entire “hives” of blogs that have a particular topic or demographic.
Make sure you burn a feed with a service like Feedburner and then add prominent subscribe links on your blog. Subscribers will be notified every time you add a new post, rather than just having to remember you.
I Want My Blog to Match My Web Site.
Good idea – this reinforces branding and your overall image. If you know css, you can do this yourself, or you can hire someone to do it (ahem). Using a blog based on a standard template may be free, but in my opinion, it is worth the investment to customize it.
So blog on friends!