Quick – name five people you know. Chances are excellent that one or more of them has a blog. Your sister, your co-worker, your kid’s school bus driver…come to think of it, you probably have one, too. The numbers on bloggers and blog readers are astounding. According to a 2008 report by Technorati , 12% of internet users in the United States are bloggers, and a whopping 50% of US internet users are blog readers! Worldwide, 184 million people have started blogs, and 77% of internet users read them.
While a blog is great for keeping far-flung family members up-to-date on Your kids teething or sharing the really funny thing that happened in the supermarket the other day, it is also a terrific way to drive traffic to your website.
Attract the Spiders
Out there, in scary Web Search Land, each website is battling for top position in search engine rankings. Search spiders look for websites that have other sites linked to them. When you create your blog, which links back to your website, you are creating another notch for the spiders to grab onto. In addition, when you post frequently, your blog has more content – and sites with a lot of content are given a higher ranking by the search engines.
Promote Your Product, But Also Be a Resource
Of course, you are going to use your new blog to advertise your product, whether you’re highlighting certain features, or letting customers know about a change or new service. But don’t talk only about your product. Include posts that are of general interest to your target audience, and add links that may be of use to them as well. For example, if you sell sports paraphernalia, write an article about how to properly care for your baseball mitt. Include a link to sports sites such as www.espn.com or www.mlb.com. If you are in the web design business, talk about related issues such as customer service or choosing a theme.
Your blog shouldn’t be a monologue – don’t just be a fountain of wisdom, make it interactive! Ask pointed questions that invite responses and opinions.
“Keep them coming back,” is your new motto. Write new articles based on your customers’ responses or ideas, so they truly feel like they are helping drive your company and making a difference.
The Technical Side
A well-done blog is essential, and there are many free websites that will help you do it quickly and easily. WordPress and Blogspot are the two most frequently quoted blog sites. Both are easy to navigate and full of features that can make a good-lookin’ blog. Remember to make it attractive but not busy – customers have evolved past the point where they’re impressed by animated doo-hickies and things flashing across the screen. In addition, those pages take much longer to load, for which your average busy customer simply does not have time. Make it easy for your readers to visit your site by displaying a link to your site on each page of the blog. Include an RSS feed link as well, so your customers can sign up to receive your newest posts right in their inbox. You can also list your blog with many blog directories for free, including www.blogcatalog.com and www.bloghub.com. Remember to use your other social networking sites, such as MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, to promote your blog and attract visitors.
The Creative Side
It’s Time to Find your voice! Nothing turns readers off faster than reading highly sanitized “corporate-prose.” Be yourself – your blog is in essence a written conversation, so write as you would speak. Of course, you should edit your work for clarity, and check for spelling and grammar usage. Your goal is to create something highly readable, that people will want to check every day to see what you’ve got to say. Remember to post often – in the beginning, once a day is best. Even a short post is fine, just have something new up there frequently to keep that conversation going. You are looking for feedback, so when people comment, that’s great! In fact, reward your “top commenters” with discounts and special offers, or maybe a sneak peek at your latest product. You should have a clear “Comments” policy before you start to keep your comments section clean and obscenity-free. But don’t be Big Brother and delete comments just because someone disagrees with you. Use that as an opportunity to engage the customer in a dialogue. What is she upset about? How can you fix it?
Conduit to Your Blog
Make sure to include a link to your blog on your Conduit community toolbar. It’ll be easy for your customers to check your blog frequently. In addition to using the toolbar to access your site, read about updates to your products, and of course, while away some time with their favorite gadgets, now you’ve also made it easy for them to participate in the conversation on your blog. They have lots of reasons to keep reaching for their Conduit community toolbar all day, which makes them one click away from your site.
You want your customers to connect with you in as many ways as possible. Your website, your ubiquitous toolbar, and your blog are ways to interact with your customers in an authentic way. You elicit opinions, they offer advice, you ask questions, they respond. Your blog can become something your customers look forward to checking every day, and the time you invest in creating a meaningful, entertaining, and relevant blog will be well worth the end result – more customers who come, and more customers who stay.