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Blogging is no longer optional for entrepreneurs

April 27, 2009
When I talk to small-business owners about adding a blog to their Web site, one of several things happens:

• They tell me they don't see the business benefit.

• Their eyes glaze over and they pretend I am speaking a foreign language.

• They make excuses: too busy, not techy, don't know what to write about.

Six months ago, I let them have their excuses, but no more. In 2009, blogging is not optional. If you have a business, you must have a Web site. If you have a Web site, you must have a blog!

Even traditional business-to-consumer, nontechnical businesses are going online and adding blogs to their marketing mix. DJs, optometrists, insurance agents, plumbers and architects—they are all exploring the tools and finding ways to incorporate blogging into their business, creating ongoing conversation with customers, prospects and other business associates. Where is the business benefit?

Visibility and credibility

Visibility: Blog posts ad fresh content to your Web site. Search engines love recent content. Adding content that consistently contains common search terms makes your Web site more accessible to people looking for companies just like yours.

Credibility: Sharing what you know, information on key trends, industry news and your opinions on those topics establishes you as a go-to source for clients, prospects and referral sources. In addition, the new information gives these people a reason to come back to your Web site again and again.

No foreign language

Blogging is a new name for an old strategy. For years, smart business owners have used printed and then electronic newsletters to create relationships with their customers. Using these vehicles, they share the latest news about the company, new products, industry trends, and the occasional comment from a customer. Business blogs do the same thing, only better. The advantages of a blog:

• Simple: Once a blog is established, posting to it is as easy as sending an e-mail.

• Less invasive: Rather than being one more piece of information in an already-cluttered in-box, your readers receive regular updates from you when and if they want them. Visiting your blog becomes an appointment for your most loyal followers.

• Interactive: In addition to becoming a destination for customers and prospects to learn more about your business, the blog allows these visitors to share comments, testimonials, questions and feedback.

While some of the early blogging tools were a little confusing, today's products are simple and many are free. I like Wordpress for beginners and locally created CompendiumBlogware when you are ready to step up a notch. So with the cost and technical skill barriers removed, what is holding you back?

Keep it simple and short

Blogging does not have to be time-consuming. A short blog post, with a link to something of interest to your readers, takes just a few minutes to write. Short, frequent posts, at least several times a week, give readers a reason to return.

This doesn't have to be a chore. Divide the workload; invite your employees or referral partners to blog. One of our insurance agent clients invited a series of other home-service professionals to share homeowner tips with his readers. The diverse content made the blog more interesting to a wider audience. Invite your readers to participate as well by asking questions and building on the comments and ideas shared by your readers.

Don't make each post an advertisement for your services. If the blog provides valuable content, your readers will associate the expertise with you. From time to time, it is OK to insert a more promotional piece, but, like network television, if you overdo the advertising, people simply find another source of entertainment and information.

And finally, don't give up. Even if you have few or no comments, the fresh content is attracting visitors and improving your visibility on search engines. Many people will remain spectators. It doesn't mean they don't like what they see. Keep writing.

___

Ball is president of Roundpeg, a Carmel marketing firm, and president of Rainmakers, a local networking association. She can be reached at lorraine@roundpeg.biz.
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