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19.1.16

5 tips on starting a blog this year

Starting your first business blog can be a nervous process - what if no-one reads it? Worse, what if we get a bunch of negative comments after every post? What should we even post about? Don’t worry. If you build it well, readers will come. In fact, it’s not unknown for a smart company to create a massively successful blog in under a year, and the reasons for doing so, of course, are legion, from potentially converting readers into customers, to gaining some control over how your business is perceived. Here’s some advice on how to go about it the right way.

Platform
Where to host your business blog? Most companies will have a section on their main website, and if you are using Wordpress, it’s easy to add extra pages. There are numerous reasons why you might want to use Wordpress to build your site: it’s incredibly easy to use; it costs nothing and there are gazillions of free themes (a very professional theme with good support will cost you only around £40-£50); and there is an extensive network of users who can provide advice.

If you are using a specialist provider such as UK2 Hosting to keep your site online then you can also expect your blog to have solid security and uptime, which can be vital, since your blog is a window to your company servers.

Content
It’s a crowded field. There’s no sense in beating around the bush - if your business doesn’t yet have a blog, then you’re behind the curve. That means careful planning is necessary to make your blog stand out, and where that’s really going to be important is the type, and the quality, of the content that you post. You want to ensure maximum engagement from readers; comments, sharing, and - if that is the aim of the blog - conversion to sales. So look at what your competitors are doing with their blogs, especially the market leaders. Can you do likewise, or better?

Remember that a common aim of business blogs is to stamp authority over an industry, and drive as much traffic as possible to the main company website (through social sharing), so create content that people will recognise as knowledgeable and want to share. What helps in that instance? Answering questions. Being helpful. Being interesting. Being funny. Being unusual. Being well-written and produced. Being diverse. Being original.

One last tip for content - find out the most important keywords for your business and place them in text, but don’t keyword stuff. You should be aiming for readability rather than maximum possible search engine optimisation.

Regular Posting
There is no point in starting a blog if you don’t plan to update it on a regular basis. Nothing says 'lack of enthusiasm' more than a blog that’s only getting updated every couple of months. Aim for producing something every day if you can, but at a minimum once a week. You may want to consider appointing a member of staff to take responsibility for this, or even spread it around a few people. Guest contributors can also add authority.

Yes, it can be tough to continually produce original high-quality content at such a rate, but remember that a blog post doesn’t need to be an essay. It can be a quick bullet-pointed list of tips; it can be a video embedded from Youtube demonstrating how to use one of your products; it can be a few images with description of a new product you’re launching. Aim for a variety of different types of content to keep things fresh and see what works best for your readers.

Design
Your company’s branding presumably reflects its personality - in terms of colours and fonts - the blue used by Twitter and LinkedIn, for instance, indicates dependability and honesty. Your blog should match entirely so the relationship is clear. Dress your blog to impress with a clean design that looks functional and is easy to navigate - remember that form should follow function at all times.

You want your company to appear professional, and your blog is a face you turn to the public, so don’t settle for a shabby design.

Build Subscribers
How do you go about getting people to visit the blog regularly? Sharing over social media is vital, with links to the blog. Post on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn whenever a new post goes live. Another useful way is to build a list of subscribers, perhaps by introducing a pop-up that tries to collect an email address whenever someone visits your site - nothing too intrusive or pushy, but a friendly invitation to receive exclusive content or details of new posts.

Make a point of replying to as many comments on your blog as possible, and keep things positive. If someone has something negative to say, address it head-on but provide a means for them to contact you to take the discussion out of the public eye.

One final tip - visit blogs operated by others in your field, particularly those you would consider 'influencers', sharing their posts and leaving comments. Hopefully they will return the favour and allow your blog to be seen by more people and gain more authority.