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    Business advice
    25 August 2021

    James Francis

    10 Tips For A Business Blog

    Do you need a business blog, and how can you ensure it works for you?

    A blog for your business can be a great way to spread your message, keep customers in the loop, and attract new clients. It's not for every business - more on that in a second - but blogs represent an opportunity to publicise your business' views and purpose without spending money on advertising. If done right, a blog also gives you material to use for press releases, newsletters, and social media posts.

    I've been writing blogs professionally for several years, and they can be very effective. But many companies start blogs without knowing why, other than everyone else is doing so.

    Under what circumstances should you start a company blog?

    • You have something valuable to add to your industry or client base
    • You can write or have access to a professional writer
    • You can consistently produce (or support producing) blog articles
    • You want to position yourself, your staff or your company as a thought leader in your field or market
    • Your company frequently has news or announcements

    A business blog doesn't have to cover the entire business. It could focus on a specific division or even project. But whatever the reason for the blog, it should match at least three or four of the above points. To help make the choice easier, here are the wrong reasons to create a blog:

    • You want to improve your company's search rankings - this is technically an outcome of a successful blog, but it's not enough of a reason to create a blog
    • Everyone else has a company blog - yes, they do, and you might find those are often stagnant and even abandoned
    • You are a great writer - being a writer is helpful, but having a message to share is much more important
    • You want to set the record straight - if you have to get the news out there and don't have a blog, rather send it via an agency or a site such as pressportal.co.za or mypr.co.za.

    A quick aside - what exactly is a blog? The typical picture in our head is something that resembles a journal or very casual writing. But a blog (originally called a weblog) is a publishing platform. Blog software makes it easy to create individual articles that have their own headlines, are ordered by date and category, and can be easily searched and shared.

    Blog software is used everywhere, from casual gossip sites to massive news organisations. Often, you'll be reading articles on a website that uses blog software and never realise it.

    My point is that a blog can be anything: casual, formal, laid back, serious, personal or professional. The content is up to you - a blog just makes it easy to publish what your company writes.

    10 tips for better business blogs

    Now that we've covered that, here are ten tips for better business blogs:

    1. Don't call it a blog

    To echo the point made above, a blog is a publishing platform, and the content can be styled in any way - even like a more structured news article. But when people hear 'blog', they think of online journals. So avoid calling your blog a blog. Terms such as 'news & views' or 'thoughtleader columns' are better.

    2. Post consistently

    This is the number one reason why most blogs are failed projects. If you cannot post content consistently, then don't bother. It may be daily, weekly, monthly - but keep it consistent. And you have to commit - nothing looks as bad as a company blog that was last updated a year ago.

    3. Provide relevant and valuable information

    A business blog is not a diary. It's not cathartic - it has to serve an audience. That audience may be your customers, your industry peers, or to demonstrate your company's knowledge to potential clients. Whatever the reason, think about who you are trying to reach, what you want to tell them, and why they would care about it.

    4. Avoid sales messages

    You can punt your services and expertise but do it smartly. Direct sales messages can be tacky, and audiences might feel you are wasting their time. Promote your services by blending them with knowledge. For example, a brief look at a recent successful job is an excellent way to inform and push a sales angle simultaneously.

    5. Focus, but also go off-topic

    If you are selling bread, nobody is coming to your blog to learn about flowers. Yet if you have a good story about flowers that can relate to bread, consider using it. How far you can go off-topic depends on the parameters you set. Even topics vaguely associated with what you offer can be attractive to your audience. Just avoid topics that have nothing to do with your business.

    6. Have a publishing strategy

    A blog is not really much on its own. You will need to put a lot of time and money behind a blog to make it a stand-alone sensation. The purpose of your business blog is to give your company a voice and a place to express itself. But then you should take it further. You can reuse the blog content for press releases, newsletters, or social media posts. LinkedIn, for example, has awesome tools for publishing articles. And always link back to the blog article - that will help improve traffic and awareness.

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    7. Use different mediums

    The primary way to create blog content is through writing. But you can also post images and videos. Infographics and event photos are good choices. Embedding exciting videos from Youtube is also a good idea. If you feel resourceful, using your own photos and videos will help attract more interest from search engines.

    8. Look at search engine optimisation

    Search engines discover content on the web through several channels. They can crawl through the site with a spider - software that indexes web content - but they can also look for specific keywords or how many sites link back to a specific page. Much of this is covered by search engine optimisation (SEO), and the simplest way is to use specific keywords. Sites such as https://app.neilpatel.com/en/dashboard can help find better keywords that you sprinkle throughout your text.

    9. Start sharp and end inspirationally

    Tackle your blogs like a rock 'n roll drummer: start big and finish big. People have limited time, and they will judge your blog by its first few sentences. Create a catchy headline, then start with a good story or with a problem statement. Give them a sense of what the blog is about and a reason to keep reading. Keep the blog as short as possible - don't waffle. And when you get to the end, give them a reason to hope or think. Resolve a problem, give action points, or bring the story to a conclusion. Your business blog is out to make friends.

    10. Make it visually interesting with formatting

    If you look at this article, it uses several formatting tricks, such as bullet points and subheadings, to divide the content. These make it easy for someone to scan the page and get a feel for the article. It also makes the reading easier - you perhaps skipped all the stuff at the start and jumped to the ten tips. Give some thought to how your article will look good by using formatting. Use bold to draw attention and italic to differentiate. Create regular paragraphs, turn lists into bullet points, and use indents to push out quotes or specific paragraphs.

    A blog can be very satisfying. It can represent the intellect and soul of your business. If your company has something to say, a blog is the best place to create such content. Stick to the above tips, start a blog for the right reasons, and it can become a key part of your business identity and expression.

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    James Francis