I repeatedly tout blogging to all my clients and remind them that the days of static, landing-page based websites are long gone. A dynamic and influential presence on the web requires a consistently relevant site that is regularly updated and modified. This is especially true if you are or own a business.
Only a little while ago, you could have gotten away with one of those automated software programs that combines words and phrases based on your keywords and then generates almost nonsensical gibberish. In those days, it didn’t really matter what you said, as long as you got it out there, and the more backlinks you had out on the net, the better for you search engine ranking. It was a system based on quantity and not on quality or relevancy. Not anymore.
Today content quality and recency are the words of the day and the social networks and search engines have revised their algorithms to reflect this. As a result of these frequent and seemingly sporadic changes, it’s become increasingly difficult and confusing for business to maintain their page and edge rank, especially without a blog.
Technorati puts a lot of effort into staying on top of internet trends. According to their research concerning consumer behavior, consumers are now turning to blogs when looking to make purchases. The latest findings can be found in Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report and a condensed analysis can be found here at Social Media Examiner. In a nutshell, if you’re a business owner or entity such as artist or musician, and you don’t have or use a blog, you’re missing a big portion of the market.
When I introduce blogging to my clients, I’m met with resistance in the form of, “I don’t know what to write about.” They draw a complete blank. Below is a technique I use with many of my business owners to jump-start their blogging experience.
Start with a concept map for your business or product. Teachers have been using this for a long time since it’s such a great tool to stimulate creative thinking. I like to use an oversize writing pad on a lap desk while I’m watching TV or reclining on a patio chair in the warm sunshine. It’s almost like doodling, and you need to give yourself permission to just “doodle”. Include whatever comes to your mind and remember there is no right or wrong way to do this.
Say, for example, that you own a candle store. In the center of your map, you would write, “candles”. Then start branching off with other concepts –“my favorite candle” . Continue on this branch with items like . . . “Is it my favorite because of color, aroma, texture or a special memory?” You should get the idea by now.
So just from this simple map with only one branch and several sub-branches, you have the following topics for a blog:
1. My favorite aroma is bayberry, and it’s not just for Christmas. Bayberry is good for . . .
2. Pastel-colored candles are not the norm, especially in soft hues of amber, mint green or lavender. They’re perfect for spring or when you need to be reminded of spring . . . .
3. My favorite scented candle, or anything for that matter, is gardenia because it brings me back so quickly to my happy childhood days when we would visit my grandmother in Philadelphia.
4. Candles made from beeswax are deliciously delightful and easy to make on your own.
5. If you want to add a little bit of texture to your homemade candles, try using rose petals or glitter.
6. Watch for our Easter special: lily-scented candles will be 20% off.
I did this little exercise in less than ten minutes, and I don’t even have a candle shop. So from this one offshoot, we have 6 possible blog posts and only one of them is a direct promotion for the business. . . less than 20%. One is a personal, human interest post, and the rest are informational and helpful to the reader. A perfect mix! The possibilities are endless if you just turn your imagination loose.
Points to keep in mind as you begin to “flesh out” your writing:
- Keep your posts succinct and focused. If you feel the urge to “branch off” in the post, simply let the readers know that you’ll cover that in your next post.
- Include visuals, especially if you can’t be brief.
- Don’t be afraid to use links to other valid sites if you’re paraphrasing some of their content. Most bloggers/authors welcome back links from legitimate sites.
- Respect intellectual property rights. If you want to use someone’s photo or art in your blog, ask the owner first. Chances are it’s already covered under a creative commons license or the owner will easily grant you a one-time usage license. Just because it’s on the web, does not mean that it’s free. The same goes for writing. A safe and ethical practice is to give the original author credit and a backlink, even when only paraphrasing.
- Don’t overdo the promotions for your business. A good rule of thumb is to limit direct promotions to 10% or less. Otherwise, you’ll come across as the proverbial “used car salesman” and your posts will be ignored.
- Remember to give back to your readers. Write posts that are genuinely meaningful and helpful.