Earlier this week we talked about getting your e-newsletter started. Maybe instead you are thinking about starting a blog. In a lot of ways, beginning a blog can seem more intimidating than an e-newsletter. Emailing has been around for awhile now and the general concept may seem like second nature to you now. Blogging may seem more like a wild jungle where people can leave negative comments, where your blog can be abandoned and left for dead, or a place where you invest a lot of time for seemingly no reason.
We thought we would try to ease your fears as we head into the new year. If you are thinking about starting your blog, this is the advice we are currently giving to our clients.
Pick the Platform
Your first question is where you want your blog to be. There are many options, but the first choice is a basic one. You can host your blog on your site (the URL might be “yourcompany.com/URL) or you can host your blog externally and link your site to your blog. There are pros and cons for both options.
If you decide to host your blog on your own site, you will need to create a way to easily update your blog as needed. We recommend uploading WordPress.org software and then investing in a framework like Genesis. Genesis and frameworks like it take the HTML programming out of the equation. Designing and developing your blog, not to mention updating your blog, can now be done intuitively and primarily via point and click functionality.
The advantages of a self-hosted blog are numerous. By hosting the site you increase your branding efforts (when people visit the blog they are still seeing your corporate name). You are increasing the SEO of your website by adding all of that content to your site, and you are increasing the likelihood that someone will click from a blog post to another page visible in your site navigation.
The disadvantages of a self-hosted blog is that it does require a lot of work on the front end. If you are not skilled or experienced in web programming, even the process of uploading the WordPress software and other programs can be intimidating. There is also an investment necessary for a self-hosted blog that is not necessary when hosting your blog externally.
There are numerous free websites where you can host a corporate blog. The site you are seeing now is WordPress.com. Blogger and Tumblr are two other commonly used sites, although Tumblr really is best matched for short posts or image-heavy blog sites. Blogger is owned by Google but does not offer the same strong social media sharing options that WordPress offers. WordPress.com also offers more user-friendly designs and makes it easier to emphasize SEO.
The advantages of hosting externally are that you don’t have to worry about uploading programs and you don’t accrue any additional investments in terms of producing the blog itself. You can also create inbound links back to your corporate site, and your corporate site can add incoming links to your blog.
There are disadvantages to hosting externally as well. Many people feel that a corporate site hosted externally is not as credible as a blog built into a corporate website. WordPress is free but you have to purchase an ad-blocking plugin or you will see random Google ads at the bottom of your posts. You also are keeping your online community one step away from your actual website when you host your blog externally.
Designing the Blog
There are a few key points you need to remember when designing your blog. Many of these points hold true for your corporate site as well.
1. Is your company name featured prominently on the blog site?
2. Is the point of the blog easy to understand and easy to find via a tagline or brief description?
3. Do you offer easy-to-find ways for people to subscribe to your blog posts?
4. Do you offer links to important pages of your website?
You also want to make sure that your blog posts are easy to read. Avoid the temptation of using a really flowery font or reversing out your type. You also must be sure that your blog is mobile-friendly. WordPress offers a plug-in for just that purpose.
What is Your Point and Your Plan?
Just as we discussed in regards to your e-newsletter, before you do anything you want to have a plan for your blog. This will help you avoid the dreaded fate of leaving a blog site to rot in vacant bloggy purgatory. What are you hoping to accomplish by writing your blog? What kinds of readers do you want to draw? Is this a branding effort or a lead generation effort?
Again, as with the e-newsletter, we highly recommend you develop an editorial calendar before you make any move to start your blog. We actually highly favor the approach of beginning with one weekly post for an entire year. Post on the same day so that you build expectation with your audience. This will give you enough experience to learn how it feels to create content along with learning what works and what does not.
Adjust Your Expectations
If your company is wanting to start a blog because you want to increase sales, we must warn you that a blog is not a silver bullet, nor is it a quick fix. We generally warn companies that it can take 6 months to a year for a blog to gain attention and traction. That initial time period can be exasperating, as you will be producing content but perhaps not getting any comments or social media shares. That is normal. It takes time to build trust, credibility, and community. Your plan and your editorial calendar will help you keep on track.
Corporate-Wide Agreement on Action Plans
Part of your blog plan should include who is going to be responsible for what. We offer blogging services so this can reduce some of the work load on your team. You will want to determine who will give the green light for publishing blog posts or writing blog posts, who will respond to comments, and perhaps most importantly, how you will react if you receive a negative comment or worst still, a “troll” comment that is only meant to cause you trouble. It is much better to over-prepare on the front end than to be caught off-guard once you are engaged in the process.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to starting a corporate blog, but considering these tips will start you off on the right foot. If you have any questions or need any assistance, please let us know!
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/4455035915/ via Creative Commons