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Making sure your business blog delivers results

Business blogging is now firmly wedged in the consciousness of any self-respecting business. Organisations of all sizes are increasingly heading online to share their thoughts about everything from product development to industry commentary and expert-advice. While this enthusiasm is admirable, simply writing content and hoping people will come to your site isn’t enough anymore, especially if you’re starting from scratch.

blogggTo really get the most out of your brand’s blog, it’s essential to have a degree of technical know-how, or you’ll end up wasting a huge amount of time, effort and money. With that in mind, here’s our guide to maximising the potential of your brand blog.

1)      Think carefully about how you build your blog

There’s a multitude of platforms available to build a blog in, and each web developer will have their preference. Getting this right is important. From a search engine optimisation (SEO) perspective – that’s how well your content will appear in Google rankings –  WordPress is the best option.  It’s extremely cost-effective, and having run blogs across many platforms, WordPress just seems to perform better and is extremely easy to use.

2)      Think about Plugins

One of WordPress’ great advantages is that its software is open source. That means there’s huge amount of free plugins available that can enhance the performance of your blog and tailor it to your requirements.  All these can be searched for and uploaded via the WordPress  ‘plugins’ tab on the left of the back-end dashboard. Essentials include Yoast, a simple-to-use SEO tool to maximise the visibility of your posts, and,Google XML Sitemaps, a tool that generates a special XML sitemap which will help search engines better index your blog. Both these result in a more visible blog, which can only be a good thing.

3)      Properly research your content

As dumb as it sounds, planning and researching what content you write about is an essential part of running a successful blog. Q&A app, Quora is a good starting point, allowing you to track the most popular questions around a particular topic. Once you know what people are asking, then you can answer it in your blog post. And if you’re one of the lucky people to be on Facebook Graph Search, you can see what your brand community is in to. Just go to Graph Search and type: Pages liked by people who like ________ (inserting your page name). This will give you a list of pages your fans like and follow, which you can then use as a basis to keep on top of the topics and issues your fans care about – and craft your content around this.

4)      Properly optimise your content for search

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to write about, then make sure your blog post is properly optimised. We’ve already mentioned Yoast, but you also need to tag each post with the relevant key words, and come up with a killer headline. This should both draw people in (think BuzzFeed), but also be optimised for search. A quick and easy way to do this is through Soovle – simply start typing your proposed headline and see what people are searching for around this. Also get your head around Google’s keyword planner, which allows you to identify the most popular key words used around a particular topic. Once you’ve found them, make sure you include them in your headline and first paragraph.

5)      Embrace hub and spoke

One of the key ways to create an audience for your blog is by channeling readers from your existing social media channels. This approach is known as ‘hub and spoke’ where each time you make a blog post, you also post about it on your social media channels. If you’ve not got any social media channels, then get some, quick! Start with Twitter, Facebook and Google+, and you’ve got the lion’s share of audience.

6)      Get your head around metrics

Whatever blog platform you use, you should have Google Analytics set up for it, as well as on your company website. Your in-house tech expert will know how to do this. Key metrics in analytics include bounce rate – this is the percentage of people visiting your blog then ‘bouncing’ straight off it. A lower bounce rate indicates a more engaged readership. Analytics also gives you an idea of what blog content is most appealing, allowing you to refine it accordingly. The emphasis should always be on using the data to constantly refine your creative approach when it comes to blogging.

7)      Think about what success looks like

Finally, think honestly about what success looks like. Forget about your blog driving sales (for now). That’s a long way off. Is it about building an engaged, loyal readership? Is it about driving traffic to your website? Or is it about establishing a thought-leadership position for your company? Whatever it is, stay focused on achieving it, and set challenging but not impossible metrics.

Image credit: Unsplash, used under Creative Commons. 

 

The closure of LinkedIn Answers closure could drive people away from the site.

The decision taken by professional social media website LinkedIn.com to close down their question and answer page is one that could damage the entire site.

It was announced last week that, from January 31st, the page will no longer be accessible to LinkedIn’s 200 million registered users. The site has decided to close down this area and will apparently be emphasising the use of groups in a similar fashion instead. The reason could be that, as Mashable has suggested, there has been a lack of people using it recently. However, shutting it down completely seems an unnecessary move.

LinkedIn AnswersBy accessing Answers, users could get advice in order to help them improve. For example, as PR experts, we were able to offer our knowledge and experience to help other users get what they needed to. It will be the same if you work in recruitment, web design, advertising or online gambling. There is always some way you could help someone out with a useful answer. I think the removal of this could lead to the rest of the site suffering due to a lack of engagement. Those seeking advice in their professional lives will be driven to other sites (I am thinking of Quora) and will therefore be less likely to use their LinkedIn accounts. Business2Community has looked at some of the alternatives, such as the shiny new Google+ Communities and Yahoo Answers. You can see what they have outlined here.

Also, as our friends at E-consultancy have suggested, the move towards groups and pages could lead to more spam appearing on the site. Whilst spam appears in the Answers section and it could be hard to find what you need sometimes, it also appears in the Groups section and can clog up the notices in each group, so it cannot be said that this move will completely eliminate it from the site. Its article states:

There is of course a solution: become a premium member. Get extra inmails and access to those you couldn’t connect with before. it’s a smart move by LinkedIn to drive paid registration, but may ultimately restrict growth as many users are unlikely to make the switch.

LinkedIn Groups, which aims to create interaction between users and therefore can be a place to answer questions, is limited in its effectiveness. Although you can set up your own group to find out what you want, it is more time-consuming than LQA has been, and is only accessible to those connected to it. It raises a question: Will people bother to use it as much?

Whilst it is easy to understand that spam can accumulate on a page like LinkedIn answers, it’s closure takes away an invaluable tool for professionals seeking advice from their peers.

People who used this tool a lot may be put off going on the site in the future and other invaluable pages on the site may be underused because of this. But enough from me what do you think? Has LinkedIn made a mistake or is it taking the right steps forward? Did you ever use Linked-in answers or was it just a load of cobblers that never got used properly by anyone?

Quora – The Ultimate Q&A Site?

Just a couple of months ago, few people had heard of Quora, the suddenly very fashionable social question and answer site. Founded back in 2009 by CharlieQuora Cheever and Adam D’Angelo, traffic to the the site suddenly exploded around Christmas and it now has comfortably in excess of 500,000 registered users.

The premise behind Quora is very simple. Registered users post questions – and other registered users answer them. Despite the enthusiasm of some social media commentators, Quora is a social networking site in that sense only: the connection it forms between question setters and those who answer them.

A visit to Quora reveals a sparsely designed, text-heavy site with a clear message: it’s the content that is important here, not eye candy. The latest questions to be posted scroll down the home page, in an simple feed. A straightforward search box at the top is available to users looking for questions and answers on particular topics.

Of course, Quora is the not the first question and answer site – but a few relatively simple factors distinguish it from well-established rivals like Yahoo! Answers and WikiAnswers. Firstly there is the uncluttered design, free from the rather garish ads and colour splashes of other sites. Then there is the fact that users must use their real names rather the internet pseudonyms so common on the other sites. The belief – or at least hope – is that this will encourage quality material. People are far less likely to troll, flame or post nonsense when their real name is attached to the result.

Finally, Quora has attracted some big names – particularly amongst the technology industry, including Steve Case, co-founder of the once enormous AOL, and Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook. If you want to know exactly what the latter thought of recent – and much lauded – film ‘The Social Network’, for example, Quora is the place to look.