Have you ever clicked on the “Blog” or “Latest News” section of a website that you are browsing, only to see the last post is dated “August 2012”? Not very impressive, is it? Abandoned blogs make me shiver. It’s a depressing sight, like an old, once-beautiful airliner that has been carelessly dragged to a corner of an airfield and left to rot away. Luckily, there are several time-tested methods for keeping the mold and mildew away from your website. With practice, it is a task that you and your team will come to enjoy…..and that your customers will actually look forward to reading!
How Often Should a Blog Be Updated With New Posts?
Ahh, the million-dollar blogging question. The answer is, there is no set rule, and it certainly depends on your audience and your industry – however, a serious online marketing strategy would include a new post once every other week. This is really the minimum you should aim for. At least one new blog post per week is the aim of many of our clients, and this can earn your business solid results. Think of it this way: every time you add a new blog post, you are giving previous visitors to your site a very good reason to visit it again. If nothing has changed since their last visit, why should they bother?!
You’re also adding value from the point of view of first-time visitors to your site, who will be impressed by the scope of resource available to them – a large, searchable, “back-catalog” of blog posts will add to the sense of authority and trustworthiness of your site and your company. Not only does having a regularly updated blog section increase the “attraction factor” of your company website for SEO, it also offers you a perfect platform to give visitors a taste of your team culture. So, without further ado, let’s get stuck into some practical, usable advice on blogging for business, shall we?
Hold on tight, it’s going to be quite a ride!
Finding Topics and Subjects To Write About
This is a regular sticking point with clients I work with. Remember the definition of “blog” (according to Merriam-Webster) is “a webpage containing personal opinions, activities, and experiences” – the origin of the word is from “weblog” – in other words, an online version of a journal. Despite all the advice about persons only being interested in themselves, you may be surprised to know that visitors to your company website are actually interested in you, and your experiences. It’s just human nature to be interested in the lives of other humans. (How else can we explain the phenomenon of reality TV or our secret fascination with what other people are sharing about their lives on Facebook?!)
The oldest form of human entertainment is storytelling. In bygone centuries, our great-great-great-great-grandfathers and mothers would entertain and educate the next generations by telling stories, some of them from their own experiences, and some of them passed down from even older generations.
So, use your blog to tell stories. Here are some business-related story ideas you can use:
- Case studies – what you have done for other clients.
- Crazy customer requests you have had.
- Charity events you have supported.
- Any changes/improvements you have made to your premises or systems – added facilities, resources, opening hours, etc.
- New products – weave into a story format, showing how it can be used to solve a problem that a customer may have
- Your company “take” or reaction to a news or weather event. (For example, cold weather hits, you run a blog post telling how you offer a free food delivery service for senior citizens whenever the temperature is below zero degrees in your area.)
- There is a trade show that your company will be exhibiting at. Tell the story of why the trade show is a “must-attend” for your target market and how they can visit your stand there and get their caricature drawn for free!
- Your purchasing department made a huge mistake and ordered far too many Type E Widgets. Tell the story about how your team can hardly move for piles of the widgets, and then let slip about the super-low price promotion you are running for a limited time to free up some space!
- You just finished reading an awesome business book. Relate a story from it, or tell how it has affected your life or your decision-making in business.
And here are some non-business-related* ideas you can use:
- You’re a keen amateur star-gazer. There is a once-in-a-lifetime astrological event coming up. Write a blog post telling everyone what’s going on and how they can witness it!
- Something really blew up on social media. It seems like everyone is chiming in with their opinion. Instead of remaining outside the fire, why not jump in with both feet and let your thoughts on the matter be heard? It may generate some controversy, but it should also generate some good traffic to your company website!
- Your Sales Manager is getting married on Saturday. Why not write a blog post telling everyone about it and wishing him the best!
- You just experienced appalling service at the hands of a national bank/airline/insurance company. Why not share the experience with your readers? People love stories with strong emotions, and will identify with you in your frustration.
* Sure, you can write about non-business related stuff on your company blog! All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, as the old saying goes. Your customers may be at work, but that doesn’t mean they only want to talk about business, does it? Think about how often you talk about matters unrelated to your business with your customers. Don’t underestimate the power of “small talk.” It matters, especially when building relationships online, with maybe thousands of miles separating you from your audience.
Getting Past Writers’ Block
So you’ve got your subject, and now you’re staring at a blank page, with nothing but an impatiently blinking cursor staring back at you. You’ve done the “check-email-check-Facebook-check-news-check-Twitter roundabout” several times and now you’ve activated flight mode on your phone to avoid any further distractions. Still, the completed blog post seems as far away as ever, mainly because, well, it is….Other things start to compete for your attention. Precious seconds are slipping away. Don’t worry, we’ve been there. The writer that says they never have this problem is either, shall we say, being “economical with the truth” or has a secret superhuman power not known by 99.9% of the general population. I think it was Mark Twain who is supposed to have said “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” This might seem a flippant comment at first glance. When you think it through though, it makes a lot more sense.
If you are just in some mood that does not correspond with writing at all, remember this: as soon as you start writing it gets easier. So, just write anything, even if you know some of it is rotten. Then, you can go back and cross out all the bits that are really bad. And you replace them with good stuff. Your inner writer is reluctantly prized out and the real work commences.
How To Use Humor To Make Your Readers Love Your Company Blog
“But I’m not witty, or clever, or funny!” my clients often complain to me, when I suggest they experiment with injecting a little humor into their blog. I understand. You may feel like you have to be one of those people that light up a room in a party, those that seem to have a natural genius for making people laugh, that can think on their feet, always apparently ready with a witty comment. But listen, you can be funny in your company blog. Yes, even you. It’s easier when you have a little more time. Here are some things you can do that will guarantee that your audience will be eagerly looking out for your next post:
- The crazy comparison – use a wild, ridiculous metaphor to illustrate a point. This is easy. For example, instead of saying “the organization chart was extremely complex” you can say “the organization chart looked more complicated than the DNA map of a wooly mammoth” – this gets the point over in a way your readers will never forget!
- The borrowed joke – keep copies of things that you come across online that make you chuckle. You can often re-use these to great effect in your blog. The skill is in finding jokes that will resonate with your audience, and ensuring they are in good taste. It gets easier with practice!
- The embedded YouTube video – this is a way you can leverage the power of an amusing viral video to get more reader engagement on your site. Be aware, though, that “related videos” can show up after the viewer has seen the video you embedded, so make sure that this is something you are comfortable with.
- The ludicrous exaggeration. Here is a real example from a client with an agricultural store: “As part of our ongoing plan for world domination, we and our trusty show stand will be at Sevens Park tomorrow, Friday 28th August, for the Farmers Mart Breeding Sheep Fair! All of your free prize draw entries will be placed in a sealed vault deep underground in a secret military facility, under a 24 hour armed guard…”
How To Use Images To Spice Up Your Blog
Remember what we said about humans being interested in other humans? That especially applies to photographs. Use real photos, taken by you, to illustrate your posts whenever possible. (Come on, nowadays we almost all have a camera in our pockets 90% of our waking hours!) It doesn’t matter if the images are not of professional quality. Customers are tired of perfectly-airbrushed promotional shots in any case. Wherever you can, get some people in the pictures, and include their name in the caption – so for example, if you are doing a review on a new fishing rod reel that has just come out, get one of your team to hold it up for the photo and caption