1 The 11 Biggest Mistakes Small Business Bloggers Make It s easy to start blogging...blogging software is inexpensive, powerful and a snap to learn. However, it s a lot more difficult to blog successfully; creating a business blog that increases your search engine visibility, establishes your credibility, generates quality leads and helps you grow your business. Too many small businesses and non-profits jump into blogging without a plan in place. This in turns leads to lots of missteps, false starts and costly mistakes. Here are some of the biggest mistakes small business bloggers make and how you can avoid them.
2 1 They blog without a strategy Blogging is a tactic, not a strategy. Too many entrepreneurs start blogging because they ve bought into the hype or they re playing the me too game with the competition. They have no idea how to create a blog that will attract the right audience or build their business. Directionless, they flail, wondering why their blog is providing no ROI (return on investment.) WHAT TO DO Answer these questions: 1. What are your business goals? 2. Who is your audience? 3. What problems or concerns does your audience have that you can help solve? Once you have a clear vision of your business goals you ll know if you re best served by a blog that s built for inbound marketing, thought leadership, communication, product support, monetization or some combination of these popular blogging types. Once you know your audience, and what they re looking for, you ll be able to create content that addresses their questions and problems. This will drive qualified leads to your site where you can convert them into customers and clients. 2 They don t get their own domain name for their blog The problem with piggybacking your blog on someone else s URL, such as mycompany.typepad.com or mybusiness.wordpress.com is that it locks you into that blogging platform. If that company goes out of business or you decide to move your blog to another platform, you ll lose all of the incoming links you ve so carefully cultivated and the trust you ve built up at the search engines; this will have a huge negative impact on your traffic and search engine visibility.
3 WHAT TO DO From day one, get your own domain name for your blog and make sure it s set up properly at your blogging platform of choice. Then, if you re forced to move, you ll be able to keep your domain and all of your incoming links. Since the details vary between platforms, be sure that your platform allows such a setup. 3 They don t customize or brand their blog s design One reason it s so easy to get started with blogging is that you can start blogging moments after you ve signed up...as long as you go with the default settings of the blog platform. From design templates to color choices to pre-chosen categories for organizing your content, a lot of the decision-making process has been simplified or removed for those who want to jump right in. Unfortunately, these are the same templates, the same color schemes and the same categories that so many other bloggers are using...including your competition. Every communication from your company including your blog should be representative of your brand. To paraphrase Michael Levine, author of A Branded World: will your content have more weight in a Tiffany Box (your branded design) or in the same plain wrapper that every other blogger is using? Generic templates are the calling card of the fly-by-night company. The more branded, the more customized your blog is, the more authority it radiates. WHAT TO DO If you don t have a talented designer in house, hire a professional to design a branded blog for your business. You ll likely have this blog design for 3 5 years, so you can get world-class design for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day. If that s still not possible within your marketing budget, at least get someone to create a unique page header and change the color scheme to match your business colors.
4 4 They don t realize how essential search engine optimization is to the success of their blog Search engines will deliver the majority of the traffic to your blog, including almost all your first time visitors. (You know, the very people you re trying to reach.) All too often small business bloggers write content that s filled with industry jargon or is just out-of-sync with what their prospects are searching for at Google. This results in poor search engine visibility, anemic traffic and little to no new business. WHAT TO DO Start with a keyword analysis to determine what phrases your audience is using at the search engines. Either hire a search engine marketing firm (http://www.flyte.biz/internet-marketing/seo/) or use a tool like Keyword Discovery (http://www.keyworddiscovery.com) to uncover these phrases yourself. Writing great content about rhinoplasty is pointless if everyone s searching for a nose job. Once you ve uncovered your best keywords, make sure they go in the titles of your blog posts. Titles are the most important element of your blog post. Good titles improve your search engine visibility, engage your audience, and often get people to share your content before they even read it. Follow up strong, compelling titles with strong copy and keyword-rich links to appropriate pages on your Web site to seal the deal. Remember that every blog post is another Web page, and every Web page is another opportunity to rank well for a given search term. 5 They don t read other blogs Blogs are often the best way to stay on top of trends that affect your industry and your clients businesses. By ignoring these blogs you re missing a real opportunity to stay in the loop and establish yourself as an expert.
5 In addition, by reading other blogs, even ones not in your industry, you can get a better understanding of what works and what doesn t. The best chefs eat at other great restaurants. WHAT TO DO Use a blog search engine like Technorati (http://www.technorati.com) to find blogs in your niche, as well as popular bloggers in other niches. Subscribe to the ones you enjoy through the RSS feed or subscribe box. In this fashion, you can keep track of dozens of blogs every day without having to visit each one. Not sure how to subscribe to an RSS feed? Here s a video that will show you how: 6 They don t leave comments at other blogs Leaving intelligent comments on other blogs serves many purposes. It shows that you re an active, contributing member of the community, it generates good will with the blogger in question, and it creates a link back to your own blog. Why does this last item matter? If you ve said something of value, visitors to these blogs will follow the link back to your blog to see what other brilliant insights you might have. WHAT TO DO Leave intelligent, appropriate comments on the blogs you read. However, if your comment comes across as a crass attempt to lure new prospects to your blog, expect that these other bloggers will delete your comment, and might even ban you from commenting again!
6 7 They don t engage their community Personally, I don t believe that comments reflect how effective a blog is. Certain blogs and topics are just going to attract more feedback than others. Want comments? Start a political blog or take a stand on a controversial issue. However, when people leave comments on your blog, they re most often responding to something you wrote, or an experience they had with your company. They ve taken time out of their day to add to the conversation on your blog. WHAT TO DO When someone leaves a comment on your blog, do your best to follow up with them by answering their question or addressing their issue. You may also want to a copy of your response directly to them, in case they don t revisit that post. If the comment is especially well thought out, you may want to follow the link back to their blog and engage with them there. 8 They make it difficult to subscribe There are two kinds of readers at your blog: those who discover it via a search engine or a link, and your subscribers. Once someone has subscribed to your blog via RSS or , your content is delivered to them automatically. Almost all blogging platforms offer RSS feeds right out of the box, and many also allow your readers to subscribe to the feed via , delivering each post into their inbox. However, some small business bloggers don t enable these tools, or make them difficult to find on the page. WHAT TO DO If your platform doesn t offer RSS and/or options, or if you want more control over your feeds you can use a 3rd party service like Feedblitz (http://www.feedblitz.com) or Feedburner (http://www.feedburner.com). Both of these services offer RSS feeds, feeds, tracking tools and more. In addition, you ll want to place your subscribe options above the fold on your blog, making them easy to find.
7 9 They don t take advantage of social media A blog is not an island; it s part of your social media activity. These days, sites like Twitter, Facebook or Digg can deliver substantial targeted traffic to your blog. Ignore this at your own risk. WHAT TO DO Encourage your readers to share your content on a wide variety of social media platforms with a tool like ShareThis (http://sharethis.com/). Although it might seem redundant if you already have ShareThis enabled, we ve also seen great results from the Retweet This button that appears at the top of blog posts. This encourages people on Twitter to tweet a link to your blog post. Of course, you don t need to wait for others to promote your post. You can submit your own posts to Digg (http://www.digg.com), Delicious (http://delicious.com), StumbleUpon (http://www.stumbleupon.com) and a dozen other Web sites to extend its reach. However, people who only submit their own work usually don t see the same level of results as people who also promote the work of others. If you are going to use StumbleUpon or a similar tool, try and promote other people s work in an 80/20 ratio to your own. Trust me on this one. 0 They measure the wrong things They focus on how many comments they receive, or how many people have subscribed to their blog. Comments aren t customers, and subscribers aren t sales. WHAT TO DO Review your business goals, then take a look at your traffic reports to determine if you re achieving your goals. If you wanted to increase your search engine traffic your analytics will show that. If you wanted to double the number of qualified leads to your Web site your analytics can show you this as well.
8 11 They re not committed to the blog s success Too many entrepreneurs are excited about the idea of a blog, but aren t willing to put the work into it that it requires. Or, they start strong, but after a few months with little to show for it they cut back on their blogging. Few blogs are successful in the first six months; they take time and commitment to the process. WHAT TO DO Budget 3 hours a week to blog for a minimum of six months. In that time you should be able to generate at least 3 posts a week, and leave comments on a handful of related blogs to drive traffic back to your blog. Don t use the excuse you don t have time to blog. One of the great things about blogging it can be done at off hours. Fit in some time after the kids are in bed, or first thing in the morning. Sacrifice a night of TV each week or eat lunch at your desk and create another post. There s probably no more versatile tool in your Web marketing toolbox than your blog. It powers both your search engine optimization and acts as your social media hub. By avoiding these 11 common blogging mistakes, and by committing time and resources to your blog, you ll increase your online visibility, drive more qualified leads to your Web site, and help convert those leads into real business. For ongoing advice in the ever changing landscape of Web marketing, be sure to visit the flyte blog at and subscribe to our RSS feed.
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