Are you looking for practical tips for blogging success? Are you wondering what to avoid? While my position is generally that there are no “rules” in blogging, there are best practices that will help your business blog succeed.
There are a lot of obvious elements you need to include to make a blog reader-friendly: quality, compelling content, good navigation, a contact page, an about page, focus and clarity about the subject of the blog… and there’s a lot of not-so-obvious or overlooked things that can really help make a blog stand out if they’re implemented.
While I do have my own list of do’s and don’ts included, I decided to get input from other smart, savvy bloggers. I posted a request on LinkedIn Answers and received many great do’s and don’ts. I’ve grouped the tips into five categories: Planning, Content, Design, Marketing and Engagement.
#1: Planning Your Business Blog
Do: Know your “Big Why” – Why are you in business? What is your purpose and ultimate goal for serving others? Clarity about your purpose, your goals, your ideal client and how you transform people’s lives will help guide all the content on your business blog.
Do: Know what you mean when you say successful. Are you trying to get more sales? Develop relationships? Inform current customers? Having a specific goal for your blog will shape the rest of your strategy. From Cordelia Blake
Do: Keyword research before starting a blog. First, compile a list of keywords (and, more importantly, keyword phrases) you think your business should rank for. Then, go to Google Keyword tool and type in those phrases to find out how many actual searches are done per month. You would be surprised how different Google’s list may turn out from your own. Use the list Google suggests as your starting point. From Boris Mahovac
Do: Define your target audience and develop a content strategy that they will find interesting, entertaining or informative. Don’t focus too closely on product. As a Twitter friend once said, “If you make dog food, don’t talk about dog food, talk about dogs.” From Heidi Cool
Do: Give it time. It takes a while to build real relationships. From Christopher Gronlund
Don’t: Hide the author of the blog. Make sure you have a real-live person behind the blog. Add his or her photo, name and role in the company. It’s OK to outsource to get help, but for the most authentic connection, have a real employee available to guide, answer questions and provide a true look inside the organization. Even if you only have a few people in your company, this is vitally important. From Phil Gerbyshak
#2: Your Blog Content
Do: Be real.
Don’t: Be stuffy, dull and pompous or use bizspeak jargon. A blog isn’t a lecture hall or a billboard (i.e., one-way or solely self-promotional communication), but is ideally a place for people who are hungry for good information to find you and start to see you as a reliable and trustworthy resource. From Caitlin Kelly
Do: Find an optimal posting schedule that works for you. The more you post on your blog, the more traffic you’ll attract. But more than frequency, focus on posting quality content consistently and constantly.
Do: Establish an editorial calendar that helps you plan for future articles and topics. Set reasonable deadlines. If you know you can’t publish daily, don’t establish that as your goal.
Don’t: Publish junk just to keep up with your calendar. It’s better to miss a post than to post gibberish. (Heidi Cool)
Do: Keep the Four E’s in mind when writing your blog posts: Educate, Entertain, Engage and Enrich. Mix it up to ensure your message is delivered in the way that your ideal reader wants to consume it.
Do: Create Scannable Content. People have different reading patterns on the web than they do on the printed page. They tend to scan down web pages rather than read every word. So give them what they want! Break up your content with shorter paragraphs, headings and bullets. Add images. Incorporate video. From Chris Cree
Do: Create compelling, keyword-rich titles that address your audience’s needs. From Rich Brooks
Do: Use a variety of post types. Some posts can be a quick paragraph, while others are a deep dive into an important issue. Posts can be based around a video, or based around text content. If you mix things up you’ll keep the blog interesting, expand your list of post ideas and fight the tendency for blogger burnout. From Kyle Deming
Don’t: Get too self-promotional. At least 80% of your content should focus on helping your audience. (Rich Brooks)
#3: Blog Design
Do: Blog on your own domain, period. It should also be under “yourdomain.com/blog” subdirectory rather than “blog.yourdomain.com”. This lends some of the search engine goodwill earned by your blog to your root domain. From Scott Allen. (Just about everyone made this recommendation.)
Do: Customize your templates and menus to make it easy for readers to explore page articles. Make good use of categories and tags. (Heidi Cool)
Do: Give your blog readers the tools to amplify your message to their own communities. Have retweet/tweet buttons, Facebook Like button, Digg, StumbleUpon and other relevant social sharing buttons on your blog posts. This falls under marketing and engagement as well. When designing your blog, make sure you include plugins and widgets that can support spreading your content far and wide.
Don’t: Hide author, contact, and subscription information. Make sure you have pages that are easy to find in the navigation so your reader can find out more about you and your company and can contact you with questions and feedback.
Do build an opt-in mailing list and autoresponder. Don’t rely solely on an RSS feed for your readers to get your blog updates. Most people do know what an RSS feed is; they do know how to opt in to get email. I see this mistake on 90% of the blogs I review. Check out Feedblitz, Feedburner and AWeber for email delivery of your blog content.
#4: Marketing Your Blog
Do: Build time into your schedule to market your blog. You’ve got to put some effort into steering people to your blog posts so that they actually find the great content you’re creating. (Chris Cree)
Do: Automate syndication of your blog posts to your social profiles. Make sure your posts are showing up on your Facebook page, Twitter stream and LinkedIn profile, at minimum.
Do: Find the right balance of keywords. Keywords are important for improving the ranking of your blog in search engines and for increasing visibility and readership. However, more is not always better. You want your blog post to read like a conversation you’re having with a person face to face. From Emily Madsen
Do: Repurpose your blog content in multiple formats and syndicate it on other content-sharing sites. Recreate your content in audio and video formats in order to leverage your time and extend your reach on the web.
#5: Engaging Your Audience
Do: Make time to respond to all of the comments you receive. A primary purpose for business blogging is to build a strong relationship with your audience. When you reply to their comments, your readers will appreciate your personal interest and this will build credibility and trust in your expertise. From Sydni Craig-Hart
Do: Spend as much time engaging as you do creating content. Some of that can be on your own blog replying to comments, but a substantial portion of it MUST be on other blogs in your industry. Competitors are a touchy situation—you really have to take it on a case-by-case basis. But for vendors, clients, industry associations, industry thought leaders/authors/speakers, you should definitely identify all of them and be engaging on a regular basis. (Scott Allen)
Don’t: Disable or heavily censor blog comments. Commenting is one of the best ways to engage and you may get called out if you filter out all negative comments. Use negative comments as an opportunity to respond graciously. (Kyle Deming)
Do: Have a clear plan in place for handling criticism and negative comments. Take the high road and respond to these comments carefully and politely. (Heidi Cool)
Don’t: Take for granted you know what your audience needs. Survey and ask them what three things they struggle with in their business. This one exercise could have you supplied with relevant blog posts for weeks. But also, you’ll be providing great information to your readers to keep them coming back for more. From Terri Brooks
Do: Be as authentic as you possibly can. People know when they’re being fed a party line or propaganda. We know when we’re being marketed at or PRed at. Be as real as the circumstances allow. From Erica Friedman
What would you add? Do you have some business blogging do’s and don’ts that are not covered here? Leave your comments and ideas in the box below.