I had lunch with my creative writer peeps last week and was asked why businesses blog. Someone related tales of wonder about Dooce whose wildly successful blog waxes ironic about life as a 30-something, "liberal, ex-Mormon" mom in Utah.
Her site rakes in more than $50k per month! She clocks 100,000 visitors to her site per day! I was asked, "How do businesses blogs compete with that?"
Well, mostly they don't. And that's ok. Dooce's blog is art. Her objective is to write stuff that pleases herself and her muses.
A business blog can be artful, but its reason d'etre is communication not self-expression. Businesses have work to do, problems to solve, people to help, worlds to change. A business blog is a means, not an end.
What do businesses get out of blogging?
A blog will help you grow your business. It will bring you more people who are hungry for what you offer. Another way of saying this is that blogging increases website traffic.
Once these hungry folks arrive, a blog gives you a better shot at turning them into clients and evangelists. According to HubSpot's 2010 State of Inbound Marketing Report, 58% of businesses that blog weekly report getting new customers because of their blog.
How does blogging help grow business?
Blogging gets you found by more people
Posting relevant, remarkable articles to your blog on a regular basis can help your website to rank higher in Google search results.
If your blog allows people to easily share on Facebook, Twitter and the like, readers will begin forwarding your posts to their friends.
When you write a post that strikes a chord with other bloggers, they'll link to your content and that will send new people your way.
Blogging is one of the easiest ways to establish your expertise
It used to be that you had to get a journalist to interview you and publish a story. Great when you get the ink, but not so easy to score consistently. Hello, PR budget. A blog lets you be the expert every day.
Blogs let prospective clients and customers get to know how you think and work
They start to develop a relationship with you and your business. If it's a fit, they'll feel an affinity and be more likely to sign up. If not, they'll look elsewhere. And this is a good thing.
Case in point: whenever I catch Car Talk on NPR, I feel like I've reunited with dear friends. If I lived in Boston, I'd line up outside Click 'n Clack's garage for an oil change every 3,000 miles. My 92 year old grandmother, however, finds the Car Talk guys so irritating that she unplugs the radio on the weekend and removes her hearing aids so as to avoid a chance encounter. Better for everyone that she was never a walk-in customer.
A blog builds community and creates evangelists
Comments allow blogs to become conversations. When people are engaged by what you write, they can join in--both in conversation with you and the other readers. You learn more about what's important to them; they get inspired to spread the word.
How to blog for businesses: the basics
Blog about stuff that interests your clients/customers and prospects
Good sources for posts are questions that you field frequently. Such as (ahem), "Why should businesses blog?" Current events and industry news also provide fodder.
When I work with clients, we brainstorm story ideas together and come up with an editorial calendar. We don't stick rigidly to it when something more timely or compelling comes along, but the calendar keeps us on track when we're feeling uninspired.
Write in an authentic voice
By authentic, I mean authentic to you and your business. Be real.
This is both a matter of generating volume and keeping relevant. For the best results, start off blogging at least three times a week until you get up to 30 posts.
Blog on your own domain
When your blog sits on Blogspot or Wordpress.com, but your business website lives elsewhere, it's time to call Casey Kasem because you are having a long distance love affair.
Zen koan: If you are never seen together, are you really together? Google doesn't think so and you are making it arduous for your visitors to jump between information about your business offerings (website) and your most interesting conversations (blog).
Move it under one roof. It should help increase traffic and improve customer conversion.
Check your analytics regularly and make adjustments.