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how to blog

Introduction

A common question new business bloggers ask me is “What Do I Blog About?”

This is a common problem as blogging gets more popular for businesses.

Most corporate bloggers who are creating business weblogs internally have established parameters about what they can share, or what a particular blog is supposed to be about. Personal bloggers know that the theme of their site is their life, so any information they decide to provide is fair game.

But the business blogger often knows what a good theme is, but is often hard-pressed to find compelling daily content. It gets even harder if you’re not in a field that related to doing business online or providing search engine related news.

Since I’ve begun to hear this question several times daily, I figured it was time to write a short article about it. As I started to put together the material, I realized that there is just too much information to cram into 1000 words. So I decided to put together this short guide.

The key thing to understand is that your blog is more of a marketing and communication tool than a sales tool. In fact, if it is to be used as a sales tool at all, it’s an indirect relationship at best.

While your sidebar may contain links directly to your product, sales pages, or other main parts of your site, the purpose of your blog is to inform, not to sell.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that starting a blog won’t affect your bottom line, and help to increase sales, sometimes directly-talking about a benefit of your product when relaying a customer story about it can lead directly to one sale or several at times.

Sometimes, I link directly to my ordering page, as I find that some of my blog readers are more resistant to sales copy, and yet, because they trust me, more willing to take my word for it that this or that product of mine or someone else’s is worth the money.

Rather, not using a blog directly as a sales tool just means that they aren’t the place for sales language, technical specifications, or a dry re-hash of product features.

But ....

  • referring to product benefits in answer to a customer question,
  • writing product comparisons of two affiliate products you’re marketing as reviews,
  • quoting customer feedback and testimonials

are all fair game, if presented as updates, news, tips or other types of information.

Does this mean you have to write like a reporter, and structure your entire blog as the Daily Widget Times?

No, though if you have this skill and you write about industry news, you might consider it.

You could also think of your blog as a mixture of a brief site newsletter, a mini-magazine, a tip sheet, and/or multi-media presentation all rolled into one.

That description is fine for general purposes, and may give you an idea what to do. For most people who aren’t used to this volume of writing, it helps to have topics, tips and exercises, to jog your brain for more ideas in case you run out.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Section One : General Blog Tips and Topics

1. Cover Some Industry News

Information is good, News is better. Find a news article that related to your product or service, and report on it. Be sure to hyperlink the mention of your product in the sentence.

2. Report Your Internal Product News

Did you release an upgrade? Is there a new product line out? Are you going to have a sale? Did you remove or add something at a client’s request? If it is new, better, improved, or if it’s on your site map and you haven’t talked about it yet, your blog karma won’t be reduced by talking about your product. Just be sure the post isn’t a sales letter.

3. Site News

If you have a dynamic site, with forums, an article directory, a links directory, other bloggers, or static site that has a new feature, it’s totally fair game to mention what has changed at the
site. Updates are news and they should be in your blog or feed.

4. Opinions/Editorials on News

Did something tick you off that you read in the news today, which may affect your business or the consumer group that primarily makes up your audience? Share your frustrations. Just keep your rant short, and back it up with facts.

5. Articles You Wrote

Why should others benefit from your free content more than you? Post the articles you wrote before you started blogging. Link to the ones you’ve written since then.

6. Articles Someone Else Wrote

Come to think of it, why shouldn’t you benefit from other people’s willingness to give you free content. Just keep that resource box intact - you’d want others to do the same for you. And yes, this may send someone away from your site. I have an amazing discovery about that phenomenon.... Even when bribed with cookie dough flavored ice cream or money, eventually the people at your site leave, at least to go to the rest room, to work, or to sleep. Sometimes, you can stall them for hours, but eventually, they have to leave.
If you have your Auto-Discovery tag on every page, have linked to your feed from every page, promote your newsletter if you have one and have your “My Yahoo!“ button showing, you’ve done all you can to ensure a return visit. Just update soon, and remind them of a great reason why they should visit you again.

7. A Frequently Asked Question and the Detail Behind the Answer

Most site have FAQs of some sort, though not all sites post them. If you have a question that is constantly repeated to you, why not answer it on the site, and explain why people ask you that in the first place.
For example, people constantly ask me if it’s true that you can blog your way to a good Google ranking without cheating. I’ve written several articles and blog posts to clarify how, and there’s no reason why you couldn’t do the same for your area of expertise.

8. A Unique Question and Answer and how it came about

If someone’s question ever made you scratch your head and go “Now, that’s the darnedest thing”, describe it to your audience. If there are special conditions under which your widget behaves differently, let your customers know. This can either be a known bug, like in a software product, or some added benefit, like some people say Avon’s Skin So Soft can be used as insect repellent.

9. Customer Feedback and Thanks

Turn those occasional critiques into news. Show off your humanity and excellent customer service, by publicizing that minor problem that occurred the other day, and how you resolved it.

10. Customer Testimonials as News

If your customers have web sites, post a short blurb to your site, thanking them for their comment as well as a link back to their site. With their permission of course, include the comment and post it as customer news.

11. Tips Related to Your Product

Is there some special, little-known way to use your product that makes it easier? Tell people about it. If it’s in a book, share the page number - anything that heightens curiosity and/or is specific can heighten interest.

12. Tips Related to Your Industry

How can you help your customers do something better, like finding a source of news, or tracking industry developments. Maybe there is an association they’d like to join. Be a resource to your readers and increase your circulation.

13. Tips Related to a Parallel Industry

As I mentioned in an article I wrote about linking to your parallel market, I discuss what this term means in relation to web sites - which is simply, markets that are related but not competitive. If you write about internet marketing, a parallel industry to you may be search engine optimization. If you find an SEO solution that has a marketing spin, you can speak on the tip you found from your perspective.

14. Tips Related to the Theme of the Blog but not Your Product specifically

This is a similar idea to the one above. Suppose you sell organic shampoo. Yet there is absolutely nothing you can think of that is interesting to write about shampoo, at least not interesting enough to amuse a person on more than one occasion.
There are two things you can do. You can change your entire blog’s focus to something slightly broader or related to shampoo, such as hair styling. Or you can create a story starting your products and services.
This doesn’t even have to be written by you - hire a freelance fiction writer or a creative writing graduate student to create fictional character around your product and tell its stories. You could also tell a story about just your characters the J Peterman way. (Did you know that the character who played the real J. Peterman on Seinfeld, John O'Hurley helped the real J. Peterman bring the company back from bankruptcy? True Story.) People Love Catalogs. Why can’t your site have a talking, picturesque one?

15. Featured Site of the Day

People eventually leave your site, unless you tie them to their PC, and that can get you in a lot of trouble. Don’t ask me how I know this. Since you know they have to leave anyway, send them to the site of the day. You can even charge people to have their site written about using their desired anchor text, and add a permanent link to a prominent page of your site to sweeten the deal. It can even be an affiliate product you’re promoting, or just one that you like.

16. Featured Product of the Day

If you’re not linking to your own site when you blog, you’re making a mistake. People are surprisingly receptive to posts about your product line; it’s all in how you put the information across. Writing a sales letter in your blog, as we’ve discussed, is just asking for trouble.
But put a different product on sale every day, and just announce it? Suddenly you have everyone’s attention. If you sell ebooks, or other intangibles, this may not be as feasible a plan. But you can do this to offer after purchase rebates, free upgrades, limited resale rights, etc. in exchange for testimonials. That’s news.

17. Featured Tip/Article/Story of the Day

This is along the same lines as the featured product of the day, for sites that sell services, or don’t have enough products to rotate a feature. Link to a tip/article of the day, but make it one that originates at your site. Link to a tip you have posted elsewhere in your site.
Or repeat some true story about anything that has happened in relation to your site. People love a good story, and it gets their guard down. The better to see how you can help them.

18. Audio, Picture and Video

Post a little picture with your blog post. Share a screenshot that illustrates what you want to say, and add a couple sentences after it. If you have Blogger, you can send your post in audio, too for up to five minutes. (Try audblog if you don’t have Blogger, but after the free trial, you’ll have to pay $3 for 12 2 minute posts.)
If you’re more of a talker than a type-er, you could post your entire blog in audio and get someone to edit your posts with transcripts later. With a series of five minute posts, you can even turn this into a bonus for a product.

19. How-Tos Related to Your Products and Services

Even if there’s a manual that comes with your product, or the application of your services seem obvious to you, spell it out for your visitors. Packaged as information, this can turn a light bulb on over your client’s head.

20. Survey Questions leading into Polls

If you have a poll on your site, blog about it. If you don’t have one, get one. Share the purpose of the poll if it won’t bias the study. “We’d like to know who you are and what you do so that we can serve you better.” I’d rather answer that poll than a link to “complete this survey.”

21. Survey Questions with Prizes (for more detail)

If you have to ask an open-ended question that requires an expansive response, throw in a free T-shirt for the first 20 people who come back after the poll and comment on their answers, and you might have yourself a competition. This can turn into a service you can sell if you develop a system of getting a definite number of respondents per survey.

22. Announcement of Company Events

The company picnic is probably not news if your clients don’t get to come along. A store-wide sale or the change of the physical location of the offices might be.

23. Announcement of Press Releases

When your site has something it wants to make news, tell your audience. Even if the news you’re sharing sounds like you’re bragging, mention it anyway - you never know who might be reading and cover you in their publication.

24. Quotes and Links to Your Company/Site/Product in the News

This will definitely sound like bragging. Do it anyway, just keep it as much of an announcement style as you can. Think “ FreeTrafficTip.com awarded Whiner of the Year 2003" not “In Your FACE FreeTrafficDirectory.com!!”.

25. Quotes and Links in Reference to

Company/Site/Product Mention at Non-Media sites Just because it isn’t a news source doesn’t mean it’s not worth a mention if they quoted you. Make some noise.

26. Staff Profiles and Interviews

Got someone interesting working with your company? Talk about them. Met someone interesting on someone else’s staff? Talk about them too. In fact, if you can conference them in for a quick question when you post to your audio blog, why not?

27. Company Profile

Quote something from your About Us page, then jazz it up with some unknown back story. Why’d you start your company? Who were you intending to help?

28. Product Profile

Either pretend your product is a person and interview it, or write it up as a personal ad seeking the kind of person your clients may be. You are allowed to have fun with your blog, you know.

29. Customer Stories

Has your customer got a good yarn that in anyway relates to your business? Let them share. Ask for letters and promise to post them.

30. Site Stories

What’s so special about your site? Does it have bells and whistles that people who use them find helpful, but most people don’t use? Bring the hidden glory of your site into the light. Tell
a joke. Have some fun.

31. Product Stories

Don’t just limit these to customer tales, or incidents that have occurred between you and your products. Make them up. Tell your audience they’re made up at the end. Share the dream you had about your new M & Them candy bar taking over the world. You can get a little personal in your blog. Just keep in mind that if it’s related to your product and company and is something you might tell a client who would walk into a brick-and-mortar store, it’s probably fine - but even new personal friends don’t need to know what happened with the lady you met at the pool hall. That probably sounds like it’s obvious to you. Sadly, no. It’s fantastic that you know that, though.

32. Affiliate Product Reviews

Selling affiliate products through your site? Instead of just linking to the sales page, do a review. Be as objective as you can. If you have trouble, fill in these blanks.
“This product is best for people who ________________. You
may not need it if you already _____________ but I do and it
saved me time/money/learning a new skill.”

33. Affiliate Product Comparison

If you have more than one affiliate product in a category, put them head to head. That same fill -in the blanks paragraph above can be used to summarize the strengths of each product.

34. Book, Ebook, or Software Reviews

Every post doesn’t have to benefit you financially. What you want is a stream of content that keeps your readers coming back every few posts to see what you’ve said. The more headlines you have for them to choose from, the better. Build a relationship with them, show that you can be trusted. Isn’t it easier to spend money with someone who has already helped you for free?

35. Tutorials

Speaking of free help, why not give your audience a full-blown tutorial? Record it in video and stream it to your blog, or schedule it in a chat room and post the transcript as a series.

36. Excerpts from User Guides

Maybe there’s already a guide that will show your visitors the ins
and outs of your product. Post part of it to your blog - maybe
when they see how easy it is to use, they’ll want one of their own.

Section Two: Writing Exercises - Smash Writer’s Block!

The next 23 questions are prompted questions and free- thought exercises. The following three step process will help you create a blog entry in less than five minutes.

Step 1: Answer the question or fill in the blanks,

Step 2: Edit as needed (lengthen/shorten/spell check) and

Step 3: Post it to your blog.

I’ve left some extra spaces between each question in case you’d like to write out your reply instead of typing it in.

37. What is my site a solution to?

38. What are my visitors/subscribers/colleagues always asking me about? (Think Who/what/were/when questions)

39. “I wish I never had to _________________ ever again.” (What would someone in your audience say this about that your product can help them with?)

40. “Are you tired of having to ______________ every time you ________ ?“

41. “Are you the only person still ________________________________ ?”

42. “Are you the only person still not ________________________________ ?”

43. What did you learn to do this week that saved time for your business?

44. What did you read this week that increased your business knowledge?

45. Which software tools did you download or install within the last year that helped you run your business better?

46. How did a site you visited help you solve a problem?

47. How did your site help solve a problem?

48. Why did you create your site/business/product?

49. Who have you forgotten to thank? Why are you grateful to them?

50. How did one of your clients or subscribers describe the way your site or newsletter solved their problem?

51. What “known secret” are you just itching to tell?

52. What is your biggest problem? (Is it one you and your audience shares, or one that they may be able to solve?)

53. What is your audience’s biggest problem? (How does your product or service address it?)

54. What are the keywords most people use to get to your site, and how can you incorporate them into today’s conversation? (Check your server logs or stats.)

55. What keywords would you like to get ranked for that you can incorporate into today’s topic? (Don’t get carried away.)

56. What keywords that get barely any traffic, but have few relevant results, can you write about? (20 small trickles of 30 visitors a day can turn into 600 targeted visitors. If you can convert them to sales at the rate of ten percent, they are worth ten times their weight in untargeted visitors - standard conversion rates online hover around 1%.)

57. What did you read in Google News, Yahoo News, or at Bloglines that your audience might find to be of interest?

58. What did link did you see today at del.icio.us, Bloglines or Furl?

59. What Are the Top Ten Reasons to Use Your Product

60. What Are the Top Ten Reasons to Hire a Professional to _____ instead of Doing It Yourself?

Section Three: Tips that lead to Topics

These teasers will get your mental muscles moving.

61. Oppose a widely-held belief

In the process of overcoming objections to a sale when writing your sale letter, you’ve probably come across some reasons a person would give for not buying. This is a good starting point for finding beliefs people may have about your product that generally aren’t true. Be sure and tell under what circumstances, if they matter.

62. Support a widely-held belief with surprising new evidence

Everyone loves your vitamins - is there a new advance telling why they are such a great source of melatonin? Or maybe there’s news about why melatonin is necessary for the body’s functions. Lay out your case in your blog.

63. Write a Why-To

Lots of people know how to use your product, it may seem. Maybe they don’t know why they should buy your specific brand. Why is it better? Why is it cheaper?

64. Write a Didjaknow

I did it to you earlier. I took a topic we were on and put a slightly off-topic link in parentheses. I’m betting that most people who are Seinfeld fans clicked that link. Would your audience? If it’s attached to a “Did You Know... “ question that proves something of interest to them, they might.

65. Write a letter to an inanimate object

I once wrote an Open Letter to Google regarding Gmail that went over quite well with my audience. It was a little wacky, but after studying my audience, I knew how they reacted to my humor. Don’t be afraid to sound just a little crazy.

66. Interview Your Product

I promise that not all these tips are designed to make you seem off-balance. You’d be surprised at how much doing something a little different will pull your audience in.

67. It’s a Secret to Someone

Your product is probably a brand new discovery to the newest person at your site. Every once in a while, write as if what you think is common knowledge is a huge secret. Some newbie out there still thinks it is.
There’s no need to lie and say it’s a secret, that’s not what I mean. Here’s an example.
I’ve been blogging for years, and business blogging, in one form or another, since 2003. And yet I still write ebooks and tools for beginners?
What was once a revelation to you, is still new to someone.

68. Examine a Trend

If you sell home made soaps, and your best-selling product is your rose-shaped bathroom mini bar of soap, then instead of saying “buy our best selling product”, you could ask your audience why they love the rose-shaped ones so much. Then let their answers sell your soap for you.

69. Make a prediction

This works with articles too. In my first book on RSS and marketing back in July 2004, I predicted that in about 18 months, Yahoo would expose its Beta RSS Headlines module to the public, taking the first major step of exposing RSS to the mainstream.
They did this in September 2004, affording me the opportunity to make more money by talking about how wrong I was. Worst case scenario when using this technique with a blog post is the opportunity to give you material for another blog post.

70. Have some gratitude

I mentioned thanking people earlier. But think about being thankful for the circumstances that allowed you to be able to come up with your product. If you’re a one man help desk, you can make a post called “Thank goodness Office Software sucks.” If you have a fitness site you could say “Isn’t it great that our personal development is in our own hands?”

71. Go Off Topic

“Talk amongst yourselves.” Talk about how every single post doesn’t have to be about your site, your company, your industry, your products, your services, your books, or even you.

72. Rant

You want to get some excitement going at your site? Rant. Get angry and start talking. Of course, you’ll have to keep your comments within professional boundaries - how personal you can get may vary depending the field you’re in.

73. Talk About What You’ve Already Talked About

Pick a topic you’ve gone over before and give it some spin. Try a new angle, like playing devil’s advocate. For example, if you are a search engine journalist, and last week your position
was that most mainstream sites need Google traffic to survive, try proving your point from the “con” perspective, instead of the “pro” position.
There are dozens of ways to write about the same thing. By putting your point another way, you might give someone in your audience what a client of mine referred to as an “Ah-ha!” moment, when they realize the true value of the items for sale at your site, to them or their business.

74. Talk About What Someone Else Said

If you want to have a popular blog, find other bloggers in similar areas, and talk about what they said in their posts. Friendly debate can often spark the soap-opera like drama that will have both your audiences visiting both blogs to see what “the other fella” had to say.
As an added bonus, if both of you are using Trackback in your blogs, you’ve got yourself a mini-link party that other people who are speaking on similar topics will want to join.. This doesn’t stop with Bloggers though. You can talk about what another expert in your field said or neglected to say, or about what you think they should have said.

75. Link like crazy

One of the quickest things you can do when you’ve run out of things to say, that works no matter what kind of site you have, on matter what you sell, no matter who you are, is the link/quote or the link/comment post.

Here’s how it works.

You find anything that would be of interest on the web or at your site.

Link to it, either making use of the link field that will make your post title a hyperlink, or by linking to it from the body of your post.

If the site in question has no dispute with their content being quoted, quote up to two paragraphs of content.

Add a few sentences about why your readers might want to take a look - does it affect them or their business? Is it amusing?

Post. You’re done.

One of a blog’s most powerful features is the ability to build a relevant, themed, updated site. This package isn’t complete if you aren’t linking.

That means you’ll want to link as much as you can. link to sites that link to you, link to pages of your sites or others that you own. Link to authority sites, other bloggers, resources, tips, tricks, do and don’ts. Link to dictionary definitions of terms you use often.

And turn all of those links in their own reasons to post to your blog.

 

Source: Tinu Abayomi-Paul

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