Blogging is a very effective form of online marketing.
What is a blog?
A blog is a essentially a website setup as an online journal. It's characteristtic features are regular article posts. Each article generally has a title, and or some of the following, graphics, photos, and videos. The article that was posted by the "blogger" is often followed up br readers' comments. Each blog article has its own web address. Blogs can be setup and kept by individuals, organisation, groups and businesses.
Aim of blogging
A blog enables you to share your thoughts and opinions with the rest of the world. Blogging has added a whole new dimension to the way information is shared. Recent research has shown that the majority of people with access to the internet now turn to the web when they need to address problems and issues. Only a quarter still turn to traditional media and even less to libraries or other sources.
Blogs are a very useful market research tool as they provide an unlimited source of updated information on public opinion. Blogs are the biggest resource of user-generated content. Just like websites or customer reviews on websites such as TripAdvisor, they get indexed by search engines.
How blogging can help your organisation or business
Blogging will allow you to:
- Establish yourself as an authority in your area of expertise
- Regularly interact with your customers
- Engage in discussion with peers, and increase your knowledge
Anyone can set one up in less than 15 minutes using one any one of a number of free blogging websites (such as http://blogger.com) and become a blogger. A blog can also be integrated into your own website, which usually requires the assistance of a web professional. Maintaining a blog incorporated into your own website is advisable in terms of an SEO perspective, keeping visitors on your site will help increase the number of unique visitors to your site, and give you the benefits of improved search engine ranking. It also keeps the design and look of your blog seemless with your website.
How People Read Blogs
As search engines index blogs just as they do for websites, it is important for your blog to be Search Engine Friendly, and to be optimised so that the search engines pick up on your keywords.
Once visitors have found your blog, and if they find it interesting, they may choose to subscribe to it using a feed.
RSS and ATOM feeds
A feed is basically a list of recent articles in a computer readable format. A program known as feed reader or feed aggregator visits the blog and collects the updates on behalf of the user. The article content is then presented in a user friendly layout.
Subscribing to feeds
To subscribe to a blog, a reader will look for the universal feed icon (shown on the left; an orange button with dot and two curves). They are then provided with a feed address (it looks like a web address e.g. http://web-duka.com/feed/).
The web browser may ask which feed the reader would like to subscribe to. RSS 2.0 would is a popular option.
Once the feed icon has been clicked by the reader, they will need to copy and paste the feed address into their feed aggregator - this is similar to an email inbox.
There are a number of feed aggregators to choose from:
- Google Reader (http://www.google.com/reader) is a popular free web-based reader.
Other similar aggregator programs that reside on your computer are:
- FeedDemon (http://www.newsgator.com/individuals/feeddemon) for Windows - popular and free.
- NewsFire (http://www.newsfirerss.com) for Mac is free as well.
If you are not familiar with blogging - a good way to start (before setting up your own blog) is to search for blogs realted to what you are interested in, subscribe, and check your feed aggregator at the same time as when you check your emails. You can then get the feel of blogging from bloggers who have plenty of experience.
This brief video explains what RSS feeds are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0klgLsSxGsU.
Google Alerts allow you to see what the world is saying about you or about any topic of your choice. You can set up as many Google Alerts based on your keywords, any new webpage mentioning them will be sent to your inbox by Google alerts.
E.g. If you have a guesthouse called “White Sands Beach House” on Zanzibar, create a few Google alerts: “White Sands Beach House”, “ beach guesthouse”, “tourism Zanzibar” etc. You could set alerts for the name of your competitors, your staff, your region etc…
To setup Google ALlerts:
- Go to http://www.google.com/alerts
- Enter the terms you want to subscribe to. Put the terms inside quotes if there is more than one (so write “zanzibar tourism” if you want to subscribe to Zanzibar tourism).
- Confirm your email address
- Repeat the same process for more alerts
- Set up a Google account if you want to manage your alerts (however, you don’t need one to set up the alerts)
- It is free and you don’t even need a Google account.
Blogging is a Great Way to Promote Your Website
Blogging is a way to advance the world’s knowledge of what it is you do or offer, it will allow you develop a personal connection with your clients with the added benefit of driving more traffic to your site from search engines
Blogs allow you to communicate with potential clients, and give you and your organisation a level of exposure that you never had before.
As content is key to encourage search engines to rank your website higher in the results page,and since each blog post is made of short, up to date and relevant content, it is obvious that a blog can significantly improve your search engine rankings. Search engine crawlers (or robots) will regularly return to your site for more relevant content. Your online popularity will grow exponentially the more you blog, and the more people link back to you.
Reading Blogs and Commenting
If you are not sure about setting up your own blog just yet, you could still increase your familiarity with blogs, and research ideas for a blog by searching for blogs you are interested in, reading them and interacting with them by leaving comments. You can also gain more user experience with rss feeds, updates and Googel Alerts.
How to Setup a Blog
As we have seen, blogging is an excellent method to increase web content, grow your organic visitors and develop your business or organisation.
A popular, topical blog can demand as much as 3 to 5 hours of your time each week. If you have less time on your hands, you may want to consider setting up a team of bloggers who can contribute to the blog as and when they have time - in this way, your blog should be kept fresh and up-to-date driving more traffic through your website, and increasing your readership.
Once you have decided to setup a blog, you will need to choose a platform for it.
Free, hosted solutions
These are good to start with, however they can be restrictive as their hosting is outside your control. Should you wish to move your blog to a more flexible blogging platform you will have problems redirecting your users.
- Blogger (http://www.blogger.com) is Google’s blogging platform. It is a very simple way to get started and your blog will be hosted on Google’s servers.
- WordPress.com (http://www.wordpress.com) is similar to Blogger. Your blog will be hosted on Wordpress’ servers.
More flexible solutions, hosted on your server
- If you intend to take blogging seriously, WordPress.org (http://www.wordpress.org) is a better solution than the two above. The blogging platform is free, all you need to do is to organise hosting.
- Alternatively - you can have a blog that runs seemlessly on your own website, integrated into the navigation menu, and conforming to the same theme as the rest of your site. A CMS site will enable you to access the administration area of the blog, and easily manage posts and comments. You would likely need the assistance of a web professional to get this up and running, but once setup, is easily managed.
Suggestions on blog content
- Setup a team who have permission to post articles to your blog, the content will have variety, and the chances of regular posts will be higher. Try and keep to a schedule.
- Sharing news about your services or products. Tell stories, discuss visitor experiences, surroundings, unique facts and other entertaining content.
- Regularly use pictures, videos and hyperlinks. Keep paragraphs short and 'punchy'
- Do not use your blog to try and directly sell a prodcut or service - ensure there is no "call-to-action", if there is, chances are people will not subscribe; and youo have missed the point of what blogging is all about
- Empower your staff to blog
- Promote your blog on your website, and other marketing material.
- As a blog is essentially a website, remember to think about keywords and search engine optimisation techniques to encourage search engine 'robots' to crawl your blog articles.
Become an expert "blogger"
Blogging has taken on a form of its own. If you want become an expert blogger, why not search for blogs about blogging and learn from the others who have a lot of blogging experience.