Business Blogging or Corporate Blogging
What is a business or corporate blog?
A blog, (short for web-log), is a regularly updated collection of content, like a diary or comment page; think of it as the online equivalent of a newspaper column, with the newest information presented first. Unlike newspaper columns, blogs are two-way communications that allow readers to post comments and interact with the opinions being presented. This brings many new opportunities to interact more closely with your customers.
Traditionally, blogs have been created by the public, offering opinions on anything from politics, to why they love football. But from a business perspective, blogging offers many benefits, both in terms of search engine optimisation and in terms of engaging with consumers, customers, partners and employees. Having an open dialogue with the people who affect the profitability and success of your business is a huge potential benefit in its own right.
What are the benefits of blogs?
Fresh content attracts more attention from search engines. Search engines have limited resources for regularly crawling websites. While most search engines will attempt to index all web pages found on a frequent basis, daily visits have to be limited to those that are more popular and more importantly, those offering frequently changing content. Hence news sites like BBC Online will attract hourly visits from the major crawlers. Getting search engines to regularly crawl a company site, where content changes infrequently can be very difficult. For some finance sectors like insurance and mortgages, the same content can be in place for years; legal restraints governing the product/service related copy and buying mechanisms seldom need to change. In most cases, a blog can offer an easy means of introducing fresh content on a regular basis, and therefore attract the major crawlers more frequently and attract traffic for terms related to current issues. Fresh content can also help a site to be seen as a greater authority on a topic.
Increased Link Equity - Community Building
Link equity (measure of relevant links from other sites) is possibly the biggest factor used by modern search algorithms for evaluating relevance. Blogs by their nature, create online communities quickly and efficiently. They offer a simple way to link to other blogs and encourage commentary and feedback. The Trackback protocol, common to most blogging platforms which enable readers to trace commentary between bloggers, create interlinked blogging communities around specific topics.
For company websites, a blog offering original insight and opinion can be an invaluable way to attract links from other blogs and websites in your market, improving visibility in general, while raising your profile in a relevant community.
RSS - helping to get your content syndicated Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a powerful means of distributing your Blog commentary around the web and directly to your target audience. RSS is a web feed specified in an XML format, which can be published easily by other sites and blogs. It is common for a blog to provide a headline summary, with links to the full post via RSS. When the feed is published on other sites, links will automatically be generated to the posts on your site, which will allow readers to access the full post, while increasing the link equity of the publishing site. It will also provide additional traffic through specific blog search engines like Google Blog Search (blogsearch.google.com/), Technorati and Feedstar. As well as generate direct traffic through the increased use of RSS readers. RSS readers are small applications installed on PCs, which enable people to simultaneously monitor one or more RSS feeds of interest, without the need to check every site individually for the latest comment.
Online RSS readers offered by the main search engines like Google have also helped spread the use of remote RSS monitoring, and the good news is that these facilities are now integrated into both Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2.
Where should your blog sit?
Most personal blogs are created on special sites like Blogger, which offer all the tools to create and maintain a blog, without the need to register your own domain and pay for hosting. For companies, integrating the blog into the main company site is recommended for the following reasons:
- The additional attention from search engines will benefit the company site, and not just the blog
- Any link equity generated to the blog will propagate through the entire site, increasing visibility for the website as a whole, not just the blog
- A blog can provide a rich user experience making it easier to convert to a customer
- Attaching the blog to the branded website will make it seem more credible
What to put in your blog?
A successful blog must offer original content and insight to its audience. A blog devised simply to reiterate the company line will fail to engage the community and links. It will also fail to spread its message to other websites through syndication or attract direct visitors through RSS readers. Indeed, a blog that reads like an extension of the marketing line, pushing product and services in marketing
speak, may well damage your standing and the brand.
Remember a blog can be about anything and is only limited by the imagination of the
blogger/publisher. For a business site, a blog should be about the industry. Growth, legislation, takeovers and mergers can all be talked about in a blog if you can offer some genuine commentary beyond the regular business news channels. Funny stories (for example, unusual claims for car insurance or customer travel experiences) can attract links from personal blogs, and more importantly links from news sites, which may choose to pick it. With so many consumer generated opinions, often a journalist will seek a counter opinion from an industry expert.
Blogpulse.com is just one entity that is using blogging as a way of identifying current trends. They offer tools (www.blogpulse.com/tools.html) that enable you to identify ‘the buzz’ - what everyone is discussing right now, track trends and follow conversation threads. It’s good fun and could be invaluable in helping you to understand what people are interested in, and to position your own blog.
Is it OK to include press releases in your blog?
While it makes sense to make your news as widely available as possible via syndication, including a straight press release in a blog is too corporate. You could pick up an issue in a press release and refer to it with an inline link, but you shouldn’t simply reproduce it word for word.
If you want to syndicate your news online, present your press releases in RSS format and publicise through news networks such as Topix.net or PR Newswire, which use RSS technology, but do not position themselves as blogs.
Why and how should you optimise your blog?
The main priority when writing a blog to attract search engine traffic is the language used in the post. Just like the content on the regular parts of the site, a blog entry must be written in the common language of the searcher looking for your entry. In search engine marketing terms, this means conducting search term research to understand what specific phrases and keywords people in your industry or sector are most interested in. Sources such as Overture, Google as well as Objective Marketing can provide valuable data on the popularity of search terms. Include the popular terms in your blog and you will appear against those terms in the search engines.
If you’re addressing a current issue in the news, then look at the language used in the media (online, TV news, newspapers). Also look at the language used in other blogs in your sector. Identify four or five search terms that are the most included phrases for your blog. These need to appear in the most important elements of the page: HTML page title, heading and copy.
Linking out to other blogs and websites
Blogs are about connecting with the community, so linking to relevant or related online articles or other blogs can benefit users and search engines. This will also help your blog to be seen as a genuine source of information rather than just company propaganda.
If you intend to have a permanent reference to another site or blog, place this link in the template of the blog, so it appears on all pages. If you simply want to reference another site related to the post, place this link directly within the copy of the post.
Linking to other parts of your website
While a blog is a great way to attract traffic by covering a current topic of interest, the conversion of this traffic should be considered when designing the blog. It’s more than likely, after reading your post, at least some of your audience may want to look into your company’s offering. Clearly defined opportunities for linking to the regular parts of your website will do this effectively. It may be as simple as a signature link at the end of every post.
Search engines pay greater attention to inline links (those included within the copy) compared to navigation links. Blog posts provide a good opportunity for creating inline links to other parts of your website. When linking to other pages in your website from the blog, always link the words that are most relevant to the page you’re linking to.
The text describing the link (often referred to as Anchor Text) is given relevance weighting by search engines.
For example, with rising interest rates, more and more people are careful to calculate mortgage.
Why and how to archive your blog
As more posts are added to your blog, the older posts should be archived. This enables you to:
a. Maintain fast download speed
b. Maintain the effectiveness of the optimisation. As the page grows and different content is introduced, you can optimise for different topical search terms
c. Make it easier for visitors to find what they searched for as Blogs are usually archived with links to older posts, ordered by date. But to maximise search engine
visibility, it is recommended that text contained in the link to older posts describes the subject of the post.
Choosing a template for your blog
The blog should be in the same design template as your other website pages. Remember, when your blog page ranks in search engines, visitors will arrive on this page, and not your home page, so keeping all the usual site navigation and branding visible is helpful.
How regularly do you need to update your blog?
One of the main advantages of adding a blog for search is to encourage regular crawling. If the blog is not frequently updated, search engines will pay less attention to it, the blogging community will lose interest and link references will subside. It will soon become a stale part of the website with little added benefit for search or its audience. We recommend that a blog is updated weekly or bi-weekly; once a month as an absolute minimum. Anything less, and it is no longer fulfilling its function as a blog or as an asset in your search optimisation strategy.
How to integrate your blog into your existing site
Ideally a blog should be linked from the navigation on your site. This will increase its prominence in the site structure and improve visibility in search engines. The more you reference your blog from other sections of the site, the better chance it will have of gaining visibility.
A blog can be a very useful part of your online marketing effort, and I hope this article has helped to clarify some of the benefits to your search marketing campaign. But remember, blogging is first about engaging the community, with any increase in search engine rankings an added bonus. In my experience, nearly all company blogs designed primarily to attract search engine traffic have failed to attract the links necessary for ranking benefit. If you get it right, a blog will enhance your user experience generating traffic and customers while keeping the interest of the community. If you really haven’t anything interesting to say, then blogging is probably not for you.
Blogging can play a significant role in search engine optimisation, and offers an excellent opportunity for business sites with fixed products to introduce fresh content. Blogging in the world of the individual is simple. Blogger.com explains how as an individual you can be up and blogging in literally five minutes (www.blogger.com). A business blog needs a little more thought as we have explained above. It also needs a commitment from someone in the organisation (or someone external, but on your side) who relishes the opportunity to write fresh relaxed, challenging, content about issues that will be of interest to your target audience.
The rewards are significant. Get it right and you can open an invaluable dialogue with your customers or clients, improve your brand positioning with added value opinion-leading content, increase brand loyalty with existing customers, generate a community around your brand, grow online sales, improve link equity and ultimately, improve search visibility. Visit our blog and see for yourself.
We hope you found this information useful. We would like to remind you that this subject is best served, and more effective as part of a complete marketing plan or strategy, rather than in isolation. For further expert advice please contact us to discuss your requirements or post a question in our blog.
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