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Blogging and Website Promotion: What to Say

You know that a blog would help with your website promotion efforts, but you’re at a loss about what to say. Here are some suggestions.

1. Go behind the scenes. A key aspect of Web 2.0 is community building. If you sell a product or service, you want to use blogging to create a community of customers and potential customers who feel connected to your company. One way to do this is with “behind the scenes” posts. What’s going on at your company’s headquarters? Maybe you’re celebrating an employee’s birthday, or perhaps you’re preparing to go to a trade show. Letting your customers peek behind the scenes is a great way to make them part of your “family.” One note of caution: Make sure that your posts don’t cross the line of propriety. If you’re not sure, here’s a litmus test: If your blog entry were broadcast on the evening news, would it embarrass the company? If not, you’re safe.

2. Give readers a sneak peek. What’s coming up for your company? If you sell clothing, what styles or fabrications will customers see in your next catalog? If you are a tax preparer, what are the top three new IRS Code changes that will affect your clients? If the people who read your blog feel like an “insider,” they’re bound to be more loyal. Don’t give away secrets though… Never post anything that you wouldn’t want your main competition to know.

3. Answer questions. You can invite your customers to ask questions, and answer them in your blog. Make sure to acknowledge the customer by name (if he’s given you permission to do so), and make the answer chatty and entertaining. You don’t want to come off sounding like a dry FAQ.

4. Offer opinions and commentary. If there’s a topic in the news that affects your industry, use it as a springboard for your opinions and commentary. As events unfold, keep readers posted about the latest details. A half-told story will keep readers coming back to hear the rest. One caveat, though: Don’t be divisive in your commentary, or offer opinions that will alienate a portion of your readership. You don’t want to turn off customers and potential customers!

Check in tomorrow, when we’ll talk about how to promote your blog, and thus your website.


Promoting Your Blog – Part 2

Yesterday, we covered several ways that you can promote your blog, which in turn will help with website promotion. Here are some additional suggestions:

1. Use all of the features offered by your software. If the blogging software you use allows you to tag your entries, by all means do so. Dividing your entries into different subject areas enables readers to find relevant posts and makes it easier for search engines to find you.

2. Syndicate your blog. Many people subscribe to blogs, so be sure to give them a way to do so. On a related note, provide readers a way to forward your blog posts via email to their friends and colleagues.

3. Include hyperlinks. When you are riffing on a story in the news or are commenting on another blog post, make sure to include a hyperlink to the original source. Having these links helps those you mention, who may just return the favor.

4. Use a blogroll. A blogroll is a list of sites or blogs that you think are great. Having a blogroll gives your blog more credibility with the search engines.

5. Write like clockwork. A blog loses its relevancy if the entries are dated, so set a goal for a certain number of posts per week and stick to it. Updating your blog two or three times a week is fine, but daily is even better.

As a closing note, your blog will look more interesting if you include photos or video. Blogging software walks you through the process, so don’t be afraid to add visual interest to your entries.


Promoting Your Blog – Part 1

We’ve been discussing the role that blogs can play in increasing your brand awareness, website promotion, and enhancing customer loyalty. But once you launch your blog, how do you promote it? Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Email marketing. Send out an email blast to your customers and potential customers announcing your blog and inviting them to read it and send you their comments. This helps with website promotion and with community building.

2. Use social bookmarks. Web 2.0 is all about social networks, so give your readers the chance to bookmark your blog. Including the bookmarking icons from digg, del.icio.us, furl, and others will help you get noticed.

3. Use blog directories. There are directories specifically tailored to blogs – Technorati is one such directory. Make sure that you register your blog with any relevant directories.

4. Offer to guest blog. Seek out bloggers who write on topics related to your primary topic, and suggest a trade. You’ll write a guest post for their blog, and they can write a guest post for your blog. Include a link to their blog in the post on your site, and they’ll do the same for you.

5. Participate in discussion boards. Contributing to discussion boards may be time consuming, but if you’re a valued member of another community, the chances are good that those members will read your blog – and patronize your site. When posting on discussion boards, make sure to include your blog URL in your signature.

Check back tomorrow for more suggestions on promoting your blog.


Blogging Basics for Website Promotion

Yesterday, we noted that blogs can help drive traffic to websites, increase brand awareness, and act as cross-promotional vehicles. If you want to start blogging to promote your website, here are some basics you need to know:

Software: There are two basic kinds of software you can use – software that’s kept on your server, and hosted software that’s kept on another company’s server. If you want to have the software on your own server, there are several free an open source software packages available. The two most well-known packages are WordPress and MoveableType. There are many software services that offer blog hosting, so you don’t have to install software on your server – Blogger and TypePad are two such services.

Web-Based Interface: Blogging software almost always has a web-based interface. In other words, you don’t have to continually upload new pages to your server. You can simply type into the web interface, or copy and paste your entry. The software then rebuilds your blog “database” so that it displays your entry.

Features: Software features vary, but typically you have a title field for the headline, a body field for the main text, and a post date that displays the date and time you posted the entry. Usually, you can create categories for blog posts, save drafts, post date blog entries, and so forth. Most blogging software allows you to enable or disable pings, trackbacks, and comments from readers. Even if you enable those features, you usually have the option of moderating comments, so you can approve or delete each comment. Some software also allows you to enter keywords, and provide readers with a URL of your entry that they can use in their own blogs or web pages.

Site Integration: Even with hosted software, it’s fairly straightforward to integrate a blog into your website. There are a variety of blog templates you can use, and you can usually adjust the colors so they match those of your site.

Now that we’ve covered the technical side of blogging, tomorrow we’ll discuss what to say in your blog.


Website Promotion: Blogging

Last week, we discussed the phenomenon broadly referred to as “Web 2.0,” and how the ways in which Web 2.0 features like wikis, user reviews, multimedia, discussion boards, and interactivity can be used in website promotion. This week, we’ll talk about the aspect of Web 2.0 that has arguably had the greatest impact on the new face of the Internet: blogging.

Unless you’ve been living on a remote island, you most likely know that blog is short for “web log.” A blog typically consists of content that falls into the category of commentary/opinion, news, or a combination of both. Blog entries are usually displayed in reverse chronological order, and have a less formal tone than traditional web copy. Blogs can also incorporate multimedia, such as video and audio, or can forego text altogether, as is the case for video blogs, or vlogs.

Blogs were initially viewed as a way for individuals to have a voice on the Web. Eventually, blogs gained influence, and today are seen by many as augmenting the mainstream media and by some as supplanting it. It’s not uncommon for bloggers, acting as citizen-journalists, to uncover news stories, or dig deeper for the story-behind-the-story. When they do, the mainstream media often gives the story – and the blogger – a national platform.

But, what does this have to do with website promotion? Well, the ubiquitous influence of blogs spilled over into the marketplace. Those mainstream media players engaged in a bit of catch-up and almost without exception now carry their own blogs.

For the business owner who wants to stay on the leading edge of website promotion, blogging is a necessity. Blogs serve to increase brand awareness, drive traffic to websites, and act as effective cross-promotion vehicles.

To the uninitiated, launching a blog may seem daunting. In truth, it’s easier than you think. Tomorrow, we’ll discuss some of the basics about blogging, and how to get started.