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Using a blog to boost your business

Done properly, a blog can provide you with a cost-effective way of getting your key messages in front of thousands of users, often in a targeted way. This article will help you to promote your business using a blog.

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Blog is short for web log. It is a series of online commentary or news item that is created by an individual 'blogger'. There are millions of blogs online covering a huge range of mainstream and esoteric subjects.

Blogging has grown in popularity over the years and is used by people to promote ideas, arguments, products, services and news commentary. Some blogs have attracted a huge and loyal following of readers; others are cries in the wilderness not read by anyone.

It's worth noting that blogs can contain images as well as text, so you can also use these to get your message across. Other types of blog include a vBlog (video blog), photblog (photographs) or podcasting which is an audio blog.

Why would a business owner bother to blog?

For the busy small business owner spending time on a blog could seem to be a waste of time. In truth, not every business will benefit from a blog and you will need to weigh up the pros and cons of starting such a venture.

For others, a blog has become a very useful marketing tool. Blogs can be found via popular search engines such as Google or MSN search.

Typically the following small businesses may benefit from blogs:

  • Specialist/niche product vendors
  • Those in new or emerging markets
  • Businesses selling to IT ‘savvy' consumers or professionals
  • Media-orientated businesses
  • Marketing companies 
  • Businesses focused on popular culture.

If you are in doubt, why not try to write a blog for a few weeks and see what happens? You may be pleasantly surprised and it is also fun to let off a bit of steam and get creative.

Techniques for improving your blog coverage

The key to a successful blog is content. If you start trying to sell your products via your blog you will soon loose any readers you may have gained. Instead, try to think of commentary concerning your industry area or expertise and then let people refer back to your web site for details of the products and services you sell.

Checklist of good content:

  • Insightful, compelling and fun
  • Does not overtly sell or self-promote
  • Newsworthy and regularly updated.

Things to avoid:

  • Anti-social subject matter
  • Sales pitches
  • Too much obvious self-promotion.

I'm not sure blogging is for me

Blogging is not for everyone. It takes time and effort, and for a blog to be successful you need to update the content on a regular basis – weekly at least. If you don't update your blog frequently then your blog will no longer be fresh and interesting.

For many small business owners making time to blog can be difficult. Think about the benefits and decide if you have time. With practice you can create simple updates in minutes. Many small updates are better than less frequent big updates.

The business benefits of a blog

All small businesses are focused on generating sales and profits. A blog may enable you to show another side to your business or personality that people find amusing or interesting, which may in turn increase your market visibility and your sales.

Blogging technologies

There are a number of companies that will host a blog for you. Some will be free, others will charge, depending on the type of service you want. Note that for a commercial entity you are more likely to be charged, so you may wish to blog as an individual rather than as a business owner or director.

Blog software

There is a lot of blogging software available. The good news is that much of this software is free or very cheap. If you have not blogged before it may be an idea to take advantage of one of the free products. Sites like Blogger, Typepad and Wordpress will host your blog for you.

Hosting your own blog

You may decide to host your own blog. This entails working with a service provider to configure your own website to contain the blog. It is possible to simply add a blog to the pages on a website, but you may decide to invest in a more streamlined solution.

The benefit of hosting the blog yourself is that you are driving business to your own website, making the sales opportunities a bit easier. That said, remember that some blog readers will get upset if they are being actively sold to via the blog content.

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