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Blogging – How to set up a blog for your small business

October 8, 2011

You hear a lot about blogs. It’s said that every second a new one is set up somewhere in the world, or that most blogs are never read by anyone other than the writer.

The reality is that a blog is just a way of communicating to your audience. For a business it can be an excellent and cost effective way to keep in touch with customers and potential customers. It’s particularly good for showing expertise in your field.

The word blog is short for weblog – or an online diary. It represents a new way of communicating; a kind of instant publishing, where anyone can write anything about anyone at anytime, and publish it quickly and easily for the world to see.

You can get a blog up and running in about 20 minutes. Here are the 7 simple steps you need to follow:

1 Pick a blog service

Blogging is either free or dirt cheap. One of the most used services is Blogger.com. Now owned by Google, it only takes a few minutes to create a new blog and get your first entry published. It’s even quicker if you already have a Google account (i.e. you use Gmail).

The downside of Blogger is the lack of detailed customisation and the fact everyone will know you’re using Blogger… your blog address will have the word “blogspot” in it. But the upside is Blogger does all the hard work for you, including the hosting.

The main alternative – WordPress – is free and open source (meaning it has been put together by many people and is free for anyone to use). But you have to download the blogging software and host your blog on your server. Not a problem if you have techy people to help you. Paid for alternatives to WordPress are Movable Type and TypePad.

2 Pick a domain name

If you are linking to your blog from your website, then you won’t need a separate domain name. In fact if you use WordPress, you can use www.yourdomainname.co.uk/blog.

A separate domain name can help to make a blog look more professional – people type www.yourblog.co.uk rather than www.yourblog.blogspot.com.

Pay a few pounds with a service like Easily or 1and1, and then point your domain name at your blog address.

3 Pick a subject

Congratulations, your blog is up and running. Now, what are you going to write about? The most successful blogs are about a specific subject, and stick to it. Who do you want to reach and influence? If it’s customers, then write about your industry, relevant changes, and insider knowledge.

Watch out for giving extreme opinions which may come back to haunt your business. Also don’t try to make your blog a big sell for your business. Instead concentrate on giving free relevant information and comment. Your readers will start to respect you as an expert in your field.

4 Decide who you will be and how you will interact

Blogs seem to broadly fall into two categories – those that write about things, and those that link to other people writing about things. Doesn’t matter what kind of blog you have; in fact many blogs are a successful mixture of the two. But decide how you want people to perceive you.

Do you want them to come to your blog because it the latest industry news updated daily? Or because you provide in-depth analysis of something once a month?

Links to other sites are always good in your blog. And it’s good practice to allow other people to leave comments. That way you can try to get a conversation going… that kind of interaction with customers is valuable. If you are worried about spam or inappropriate comments, change your blog settings so you have to approve comments before publication.

5 Monetise your blog

A few people around the world are making a good living from their blog. You probably won’t; but you might earn a few pounds from it (not bad if it’s there to promote your business). Sign up for one of the well known advertising providers such as Google Adsense or Yahoo! Publisher network. They will place relevant adverts on your blog and pay you if someone clicks on them. You have some control over the kind of adverts you do or don’t want to appear.

Another possible source of revenue is affiliate links, where you get paid commission if someone clicks through to a website from your blog and buys something. Amazon and eBay run good schemes. Also try searching for “affiliates” on Google and looking at the different networks available.

6 Tell everyone about it

Job number one is to register with Technorati, which tracks the content of millions of blogs worldwide. If you use Technorati tags in your blog, it will help people find your content more easily.

You should also ensure you offer RSS feeds and email subscription. RSS – which stands for Really Simple Syndication – is a way anyone can see your blog headlines without having to actually visit your blog. It’s the perfect way to keep people in touch, and also the reason why interesting subject headlines are vital. An email subscription allows someone to get an email copy of everything you blog.

Don’t forget to let your existing customers know about your new blog. It would be good to link to content in email newsletters.

7 Blog away – regularly

Like lots of marketing, many blogs are set up with good intentions, but forgotten after a few weeks. A blog that works hard for you needs to have new entries at least a couple of times a week. Build it into your daily routine to look out for things to write about and don’t let it fall by the wayside.