from peaceofmind flickr

from peaceofmind @ flickr

This is part of a larger Strategy of Online Marketing, but for now you are going to have to take in just a simple piece of the pie.

Blogs have been around for almost 10 years. But I still find many people and companies hesitant to grasp the why’s and how’s regarding blogging. In order to have that conversation we need to talk about online goals.

Online Goals

Unless you are an online store, where the goal is to sell product and close the deal online, your online goals fall into one category: convert. You desire for your website, blog, and all your online marketing efforts to lead people to call/email/take an action which will have a real world affect offline. Colleges want potential students to apply. Manufactures want orders. Social Services want clients in the doors. Car Dealerships want you to test drive cars. I’ll call these conversions or inquiries. A conversion may happen by the user filling out a form, calling a phone number, or sending an email. But these are the goals of any business’s online marketing efforts.

Why a Blog?

A Blog, or multiple blogs can help that in a couple of specific ways:

Dialog

By their very nature blogs encourage comments, responses, or simply put, dialog. Website users are not encouraged to comment on a page listing the services of a dentist. However if that same dentist were to write a blog post about how he offers a full line of services that no one else in town offers, then people might enter the dialog by commenting and mentioning that another dentist does offer the same services.

from crouch @ flickr

from crouch @ flickr

Subscriptions

Email and blogs are the only online tools where users subscribe, where they ask for your content again and again. A potential hurdle here is that users now consume your content in their format, through their feed reader, in their device. The look and feel of your blog, as well as the navigational information is not in the feed. Therefor the user doesn’t see it.

But Subscriptions offer return visits to your content, they offer the ability for a potential client to tell you they want more of your content. Subscriptions also offer you the ability to convert this person at a later date.

How to blog?

Tactic

Internal blog or External blog? There are SEO benefits to both. I recommend starting with and internal blog: A blog that uses the same look and feel of your website, is tied into the navigation of your site, and shares the same domain as your website. An External blog will help SEO efforts with increased incoming links, but it’s better to start internally.

Engine

Blogger, WordPress, MovableType, tumblr, posterous, etc. I recommend wordpress. You can setup a free wordpress blog at wordpress.com but I recommend downloading and installing the wordpress engine from wordpress.org. Many more benefits are found in the installable version, but this discussion surpasses the context of the entry.

Look and Feel

If this is an internal blog you want the look/feel to match that of your existing site. If it’s an external blog then get a free theme, customize it if needed. Get any plugins you might want or need.

Frequency

How often do you have the time to generate content for a post, weekly? Monthly? Choose a schedule and stick to it. If you haven’t blogged before and you leave it up to random it will not happen for a couple of months at a time. I recommend for businesses who are just starting their first blog to post an entry a week.

Content

What content are you going to post? All original? Review of content/tools out there? Or Stories: success stories, customer stories etc.?

Keywords

Blogs are generally SEO friendly, so be sure to pick your keywords/phrases and use them while generating content for the blog.

Example

I suggest developing a one page bullet point Strategy. An example follows:

  • Goal: Increase number of application forms filled out.
  • Tactic: Internal blog
  • Engine: WordPress
  • Look and Feel: Free theme found on web, CSS wiz kid making it look like our existing site. Plugins used to make twitter feed appear on blog, and to allow commenter’s to subscribe to updates on comments.
  • Frequency: Starting weekly on Fridays, hope to increase in 3 months to 2x a week
  • Content: Half Original content (how to fill out form, why our service is the best) Other half will be recommending good resources for our potential customers
  • Keywords: “Special college” “down home farm college” and “college of the lakes”
from misrt @ flickr

from misrt @ flickr

Next Steps

  1. Develop Plan
  2. Develop content. Have at least two entries before moving on
  3. Setup/Configure look and feel of blog
  4. Launch blog
  5. Write
  6. Write
  7. Write
  8. Tell others about the blog (Drive traffic)
  9. Be sure to reply to comments, it’s a dialog!

Now if you comment here and I don’t reply you can submit me for a fail