Have you ever wondered why the humble business blog is still the powerful marketing communication tool it was years ago?
Although we’ve seen dozens of digital entities rise up and faceplant months (or even weeks – remember “Blab?”) later, why is it that the humble blog is still in there fighting your business’s corner, establishing your brand and driving traffic to your website?
Here are some notes from a workshop session I led recently in England, where we looked at the basic strengths of the business blog within the current marketing communication mix. After the event I thought these notes, with a bit of editing, would make a useful summary of where business blogs are today after a history that – in online terms – is truly ancient…
Business blogs may be a bit battered, but they’re still hanging in
Digital marketers have been saying blogging is dead since about 2012. So why is it still here? Depending on who you ask – you get lots of answers.
And there are so many statistics about how blogging does or doesn’t increase a business’s bottom line! Depending on whose they are, they rate blogging anywhere from outstanding to negligible.
However – there is one criterion that matters more than all those stats: Google.
If you depend in any way on your ranking on Google, good old fashioned blogging – you know, the text version – is still the safest way to secure your Google spot.
As time goes on Google gives more and more brownie points to good quality content. Ridiculous keyword stuffing just gets trashed now.
By a happy coincidence good quality content is also good for promoting your business to customers and prospects.
Business blogs belong on your own real-estate – not someone else’s
There are two good reasons to blog on your own site before you post it anywhere else
One – You own the real estate. If on a platform, they own the real estate and can pull your content if they want
Two – Google will attribute the original material to your site. If it goes on LinkedIn or other platform first, they get the attribution. Bad news for SEO.
You can always rejig a blog post for a social media platform like LinkedIn later on, if you want the exposure. More on that below.
However business blog posts aren’t much use if no-one knows they’re there
To get traction you need to promote yours. Ideally you should promote every blog post on social media.
Social media, especially Facebook, strangles the number of people who can see public posts.
The answer? Join, engage in and post in relevant business groups in your most appropriate social media.
Main stream or groups?
Not much, except the platform owners – especially Facebook – usually restrict the number of posts you’ll going through your stream. If you’ve noticed that recently you’re seeing far more advertisements going through than organic posts, that’s how the social media platforms are monetising their businesses.
But what a lot of people don’t realise is that groups or communities in the social media are not so tightly controlled by the platform owners.
Generally, your posts in groups will only not be seen if a group member has shut off notifications, or if the group owner or moderator has restricted you.
Even on Facebook, there are a number of business-to-business groups. And there are local business groups, too, not just generic ones.
Covering my smallish region of south-central England alone, I belong to about 20 local business groups on Facebook and LinkedIn alone.
So it’s worth exploring groups relevant to your business AND its locality on LinkedIn as well as Facebook, and Google Plus which is very useful for me as have international audience, mainly of people who use English as a second language for their business and other work.
And what do we post?
Well, one thing you sure do NOT post, is something like “I’ve just published my latest blog – click here to read it.”
The answer to that is, “why the hell should I? What’s in it for me?”
On the other hand, business blogs being business blogs and therefore intended to drive traffic to your website, you don’t want to reveal the whole point of your blog. If people get the main gist of it in the social media post, they may comment and like it, but probably won’t bother to go and read the whole thing.
When posting in groups – 3 key things to remember:
One – don’t advertise or you’ll p*ss everyone off and get kicked out. These groups have a responsibility to deliver quality information, not ad copy, although having said that some group/community owners do let posters get away with murder. But others are very strict, as advertisers usually find out the hard way.
Two – write an abstract or summary that shares not what your blog post is about, but what it will do for readers when they click through and read it – solving a problem, saving them time, saving them money, making their job easier, reducing stress, etc.
Three – if your business is local with a local customer base, use that local element to add to the value of what you blog about. In other words, you have the option to write about a wider range of issues – local, as well as generic – which often gives you the edge over larger and/or less savvy competitors.
OK, business blogging doesn’t just have to be text!
Although my own favorite medium is text, there are now several other forms of content which can work very well, although text still forms the bedrock of Google-ability.
Infographics can look nice, but sometimes can be hard to read on mobile devices.
Podcasts (audio recordings) in business blog terms are like mini “talking books” and are quite effective. It did worry me once, however, when a client said how much he liked podcasts because he could listen to them while doing something else. Unless you’re sure your customers and prospects are good at multi-tasking, I’d think twice before doing your blog as a podcast!
Live chats (texting live on your website, so it’s a conversation) are handy but you need to have them manned for long hours.
And there are various others, or at least variations on those themes. The main rival for the text business blog, however, is video – both recorded and live.
Is video the greatest thing since sliced business blog?
Video blogging (sometimes called “vlogging”) is hugely popular now, but has its drawbacks.
The problem goes all the way back to Papa Google
For more detailed help with business blogs, check out this category here on HTWB – more than 250 articles and tutorials to inspire you
Much as the gurus say Google interprets videos now, it’s still a bit iffy and not an ideal way to maximise the search engine optimisation: see below.
Once again, the more “experts” you ask about that the more – and different – answers you will get.
Current recommendation is that you obtain your own video channel on Youtube (which belongs to Google), then create and upload your videos there. You can also run them on your own website as well: remember the warnings above about only running your content on your own real estate?
Unfortunately at the time of writing this, you don’t have a choice. If you want your video to be picked up by Google, it’s Youtube or nothing.
Google’s learning, but it’s probably not there yet
Given that Google’s original functions were all about text, it’s now going through the process of learning to listen as well as read. To be on the safe side for now, anyway, digital gurus recommend that you upload a transcript of the audio track of every video.
Youtube offers the “closed caption” option which supposedly interprets the words in your soundtrack and generates written captions to match. (Having asked an expert in voice recognition software what he thought of this as an accurate way to generate captions, he just smiled. Hmmm.)
In your shoes I would generate your own captions for your video, and/or rely on the uploaded transcript to catch Google’s eye with carefully placed keywords.
Remember you can repurpose business blog content – really useful
For now though here is a check list of recycling ideas, with a bit of reworking
Podcast or audio recording as an “audio newsletter”
LinkedIn Pulse article but remember what I said – only about a week or more after it has appeared on your site
Curation of the top XX articles from your site about your topic
Now, if you don’t think you’re good at writing, here are 6 tips…
- Short answer is you don’t have to be good at writing.
- You just need to be reasonably good at expressing yourself.
- When you write a blog post, forget what you were taught at school.
- Just write as you speak, informally – as if you were sharing something with a friend or colleague over a cup of coffee.
- If you find it hard to write stuff down in that way, record yourself speaking it and transcribe that. It sounds weird but it works.
- Alternatively, of course, you can use voice recognition software.
And finally, what should you write about for your business blogs?
Here’s a thought that could guide you.
It’s not about what YOU think you should be blogging about
It’s about what’s important to your clients or customers and prospects
It’s about what keeps them awake at night
What makes them sweat
What makes them reach for the antacids or Omeprazole
And how you can lift those loads off their shoulders
Good example was a family solicitor who came on one of my workshops
**We brainstormed her practice. She thought she should be writing about pre-nup contracts and divorce documents.
**Our brainstorm showed that she should blog about much more personal issues … because that’s what’s likely to be on her clients’ minds
**Like how to tell your kids you’re getting a divorce
**Like how to cope with stress before a court hearing
**Like how to deal with a hostile husband or partner
**She was amazed, and transformed. Since then she has followed our advice and has a very successful practice.
Another classic example is an IFA (financial advisor)
**Thought he couldn’t blog because of legal restrictions
**But what about blogging on stuff that’s entirely different?
**Works in a smallish town in a rural part of England
**Is a larger-than-life character in his community
**Blogs about what he’s doing in his town, his hobbies, local news
**Has developed a big following
**Which leads him to new business opportunities
Business blogs 2017 – that about wraps it up
Reading back through these notes I’m surprised not at how much has changed since I first started writing about business blogging back in 2010, but how little has changed in the roots, the bald basics of this incredible digital medium.
Just goes to show how valuable business blogging is. Enjoy yours!