Many small businesses these days are creating powerful websites to market their products and services, and the really successful ones have excellent, high quality information for their customers. The tool they're using to publish this information is the business blog.
First of all, what exactly is a blog? Simply, it's a system integrated into your website that allows you to quickly and easily publish articles or items of interest to your target audience. Usually the idea is to publish on a reasonably regular basis, in order to continually provide fresh and valuable information to your audience.
The advantages can be substantial:
- It serves as a structured way to create informative content for your business website related to your field of expertise, something that both your target market and search engines like.
- Blogged articles can serve as good content for newsletters, which allows you to promote your business outside of your own website.
- If your content is good, over time other websites are likely to start linking to your site as an authoritative source on your chosen subject. This increases traffic to your site directly, as well as boosting how important search engines view your pages (a major indicator of value to a search engine is the number of other reputable sites linking to your pages).
So what should you ask for? These are some of the better features of a good blogging system that you should be chatting to your web developer about:
1. Ease of use
This really applies to every aspect of your business internet site, but it is particularly important for a blog, for the simple reason that it is already a lot of work to write relevant articles for your blog without the headaches of having to undertake laborious procedures simply to publish it.
At the very least, your website's blogging system should allow you to:
- Format text using a word-processor-like interface.
- Insert and arrange images.
- Implement basic workflow (create content, preview, approve, publish).
- Manage the display of your articles in a logical (usually reverse date-ordered, with newest content at the top) manner.
- Manage the promotion of your new content in a visible high-traffic area of your website.
- Easily convert your blogged content into a newsletter for sending to subscribed readers.
A spell checker is also a very valuable part of a good blogging system. There's nothing that looks less professional than multiple spelling mistakes in a professional article. Many blogging systems don't yet offer this, but if you can get one built in, it is well worth having. If not, make sure you run your content through a spell checker such as that in your favourite word processor before posting it on your own system.
Ideally, your blog should just be another valuable section of your business website. If it looks different, navigates differently and runs on a completely different platform, it will not come across nearly as professional as an integrated system. Full integration should also mean that it will be as easy to update any other content on your site as it is to update your blog.
What should it cost?
The proverbial length of a string analogy applies, of course, but the good news is that it will probably cost a lot less than you might think. There are free websites, such as Blogger (www.blogger.com) that will do the job for you for free, minus the advantages of full integration into your website. There are also free open source software solutions that your web developer will be able to integrate for you, the only cost likely being their time. The second choice here is of course the better one, simply because it is a much more viable long term solution, and much more professional.
The best thing you can do, however, if you have not yet already built your website, or you are planning on a full website upgrade, is to have your site built such that your blog is incorporated into the content management systemi of your site. This will provide all of the functionality and benefits of blogging tools to your entire website, not just your blog section.
With a little bit of planning and clever integration into your business website, you can very quickly add new life to your business with a business blog. Search engines will start referring more traffic to you as they pick up better and more relevant content, your customers will appreciate the value you add by way of relevant information they can use, and with their increased numbers and loyalty will come ongoing business benefits.