by Alan Metcalfe
The term “blog” is merely an abbreviation of “weblog” meaning a frequently updated web-based journal on virtually any subject reflecting the style and/or personality of the writer. Just a few short years ago, blogs were mainly personal journals created for the amusement of the writer and for sharing ideas with friends and associates. This situation persisted until some blogs started to generate hits in the thousands, then millions and their potential as serious money making concerns became apparent. The fundamental question is: what is the objective of writing a blog? If it is merely to record impressions of cousin Jane`s wedding for friends and family, the barriers to success are pretty low. On the other hand, if the blog can generate wide appeal or it is designed to convey information about a company or any topic where site users will pay money to subscribe, or where advertising revenue can be generated, that opens up a whole new scenario. Assuming the latter, then a few simple tips may be of value.
What? Not another one!
There are now some 60 million blogs existing on the Internet. Of course, this number becomes more comprehensible when broken down into category and region, but it does give some indication as to the level of competition for mind-share. In this respect, the techniques for gaining traffic and visitor action vary little from those applying to a conventional business website. The first important tip relates to Focus – note the capital “F.” Any kind of niche marketing where the information presented meets the needs of the target audience will always do better than some vague rambling within a highly popular category. Out of this focus should come keywords that searchers will use to locate the information they seek. Definitive, descriptive keywords that are as specific and relevant as possible will generate higher resultant rankings in the search engines. Fortunately, it is not necessary to wade through 60 million blogs to research available niche topics and opportunities when Technorati can do it instead. This is still one of the most useful all-round blog search engines and directories on line.
Software and tools
One of the most useful of all resources is the publishing tool WordPress. It is open-source (free) and is the best established of its type in the world. A series of tips would be incomplete without a recommendation to use this software as the most useful starting point to acquiring the technology and understanding the processes. An entire industry has been built around WordPress with endless `themes` and plug-ins now available. These allow you not only to customise the look and feel of your WordPress site to the point where it is barely recognisable as WordPress, but they extend core functionality to allow anything from easy data feed or news feed integration through to adding fully fledged eCommerce functionality. In selecting themes and plug-ins, do check for reviews and the reputation of the provider as quality varies widely. Many are free and of excellent quality whilst others will require a free which may range from nominal through to significant.
A blog needs quality links to promote integrity and expertise within a particular community. Social media and aggregation sites have changed many of the older rules about the importance and effectiveness of links, though a blog itself is frequently used as a tool to generate links to a website, links being one of the major factors in raising search engine rankings and one of the basic concepts of search engine optimization. Aggregation sites have also helped to change the importance of links, because they do much of the work of searching by combining relevant results without reliance on standard search engines. Link trading between associated, yet non-competing marketers is another good method and blog networks are a way of gaining links and contacts within blogging communities. The latter are essentially clusters of blogs under a common banner of which Gawker and Weblogs are among the best known.
Content is still king
There is still one fundamental truth and that is the absolute importance of well written and relevant content, without which a visitor is unlikely to read on and certainly not return, which is the essence of building a loyal user base. Thus the same generic skill required in any exercise focused on writing content for the web can be brought to bear here. Driven by your target keywords, the combination of fresh ideas, written communication skills, persistence and luck will often produce exceptional results.
Reputation through value
Given the availability of the blog search tools outlined above, it makes a great deal of sense to thoroughly research existing material and posts in determining the content and focus for your own material, seeking to `fill the gaps` as it were. There are endless blogs and forums of good quality but with poorly answered questions, many of which will be relevant to your focus and sector. Identifying these, creating in-depth and original material on your own blog and then posting useful summarised responses on other blogs with a link to your more in-depth response is by far the strongest approach. Over time, this should help in building a strong reputation and, indeed brand awareness if you are operating as a business.
Avoiding the main pitfalls
We have all seen those inflammatory posts. Whilst some marketers believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity, an ill-thought through or unwarranted attack on others does little for your reputation. We all feel like writing `that` blog post on occasions but a deep breath and a more measured or balanced approach are called for. Even if you deem it appropriate to level some criticism, this should be added in a way that clearly demonstrates an understanding of both sides of the argument and of the core issues in question. Precisely the same guidelines apply when responding to any criticism directed at you.
About The Author
Alan has extensive practical experience in natural search and social media and advises a number of clients. He writes regularly on these these, together with wider earch marketing issues.