Blogging is a key component in a social media strategy. You are not bound by 140 characters or limited by your Facebook Business Page fan base. It is an ideal platform for you to disseminate great content around the world to your readership and start to become known as an authority in your field. The goal should be to become the person people think of when they think of your product or service and it’s important to use ‘big picture’ thinking. It’s also important that your blog site contain the right elements to maximize your success in this environment. Here are my top 10 blog must haves for 2012:
Having a blog on WordPress.com or Blogspot.com is not ideal. They are fine if you are publishing a personal blog but if your blog is business related, then you should be self-hosted. This means that you manage your blog on your own domain name rather than something like yourname.wordpress.com. The implications of self-hosting are that you own your own content and have accessbility to the myriad of templates and plug-ins out there to really make your site sing. The analogy here would be renting vs owning your own site/content. My personal preference is WordPress. For more information or to start a new blog, click here for more information.
Content is King on the web. The more valuable information you provide, the more attractive your site becomes. What goes around, comes around in the social media space. By sharing great content, you share your expertise and become known as the go-to person in your industry. You may even become known as a thought leader! I usually advise your post contain between 500-1000 words and a weekly blog would be ideal for most small business owners. The reality is, people will only spend a few minutes on your site, so it’s important that your content be engaging and provide great value. Here’s a tip for those of you who like to include outbound links to video in your posts. Use the embed feature on YouTube instead of just providing the link and embed the video right into your post. In this way, you keep people on your site. If you give someone a link to YouTube, there is a good chance they will become distracted and never come back to your post. Additionally, any other links you provide on your post, should open in a new tab so that readers can easily navigate their way back to your post.
You will want to make sure that your blog site is properly branded. By this I mean, if you also have a ‘static’ website, the logo, colours and general feel should be repeated on the blog site (and everywhere else on the web including your Facebook, Twitter and YouTube Channel). What is a ‘static’ site? If your website does not provide a vehicle for people to engage you on the site, has no blog and you don’t refresh your content on a regular basis, your site would be considered ‘static’. The reality is people are gravitating in droves to user-generate content sites where they can start to build rapport with you and add their own input hence the popularity of Social Media and sites like WordPress.
There is good news if you are already using WordPress as your vehicle to blog because you can also use this site as your main website. Your content can be easily moved from a static site to your WP site. One site means easier maintenance for you, less confusion/navigating for your prospects and clients and no doubt less expensive. If you are determined to retain your static site, your hosting company does not support WordPress and you wish to start blogging, you have a couple of choices:
1. Move your domain and site to a Host provider who does support WP and set up a blog that runs in a subfolder.
2. Get a secondary domain name and hosting on a host provider who supports WordPress and just run your blog there. You will want to ensure that your static site can connect to your blog and vice-versa. A domain name and hosting fees can generally be setup for less than $100/yr depending on your requirements.
4. Reliable Host
It is important that you choose a reliable host for WordPress. You’ll want a hosting company that has a good understanding of this platform, keeps its server capabilities in line with the ever changing upgrades on WordPress and has a great up-time record. There is nothing more frustrating than slow load times for sites and errors in the back end of WordPress when you are an administrator. My personal preference is Hostgator for a number of reasons – not the least of which, is that they are a ‘Green Hosting’ Company. You can check out a recent post for more information by clicking here.
There is a list of must-have plug-ins that I install for my clients. Among them are:
- A firewall
- Spam protector
- Login protection against hackers
- Comment vehicle to aid with backlinking (great for Google). Also, remember to respond to valid comments in a timely way. Treat this like customer service.
- Email subscription capability – most readers still prefer to subscribe to content via email rather than RSS
- Syndication buttons – very important to be able to push your content out over the web rather than hoping people will find your post
- SEO (search engine optimization) capability
6. Render to Mobile
With the rapid growth of smart phone sales, it is important to consider the fact that people might be accessing your site on their mobile device. If your blog site or static site relies heavily on Flash players for images for example, it might be time to revisit this and find an alternative method. You don’t want people getting to your site to find large blank spaces where the images or video should be, particularly if you rely heavily on these to promote your product or services.
It is very important that you track your results using some form of Analytics. In this way, you can review how people are finding your content (what vehicle, what referral sites etc.), what the most successful content is and what is and what is not working well. It can also reveal some great key word strategies.
9. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
It doesn’t matter how great your content is if you don’t have a tool to get yourself found on the net. Enlist the help of someone who understands what people are searching for and how to incorporate those metatags and descriptions on your site – not only as header tags but also in your blog posts. I use Market Samurai for site setup. It’s a great tool.
10. Structure for Google
Last but not least, it’s important to understand how Google crawls your site. There are strategies one can use in your blog posts to help you get your content indexed higher in the search engines.
If you don’t already have a blog for your business, now might be a great time to start! If you are unsure as to how to properly set up your site or need help with publishing and syndicating your posts, make sure you enlist the help of someone who understands this space to maximize your success.
Happy New Year everyone and Happy Blogging!
Until next time,
While Joanne resides in Newmarket Ontario with her family, she is virtually yours, anywhere.