Blogging is a great way for e-commerce businesses to reach new customers and establish themselves as authorities in their field. In part 1 of our blogging series we look at the business case for starting a blog and how the content can form an integral part of a marketing plan.
Web logs, or “blogs”, rose to prominence a decade ago as a way for anyone to publish content of interest to a global audience. Businesses quickly adopted blogging as a way to reach target customers and augment traditional external communication channels. Many businesses, however, are yet to realise the potential of blogging as a way to generate publicity and, ultimately, new customers. Blogging can be a particularly useful way for e-commerce businesses to highlight new products and services, or to explain to customers how products work.
Getting the blogging conversation started
For many businesses, blogging might not seem connected to other marketing activities, but that shouldn’t stop them from starting a blog, says Jen Bishop, a former business magazine editor turned full-time interior design blogger at Interiors Addict.
“I believe any business can benefit from having a blog and increasing their digital footprint,” Bishop says. She adds that a business should always have something to write about that can help its customers. This could include industry issues, which help to place the business as an industry expert. If your business has nothing to write about, “you’re in trouble!”
To get started, Bishop recommends drawing up a blogging content plan so you stick to it. “There’s nothing worse than checking out a company’s blog and finding the last post was three months ago. Commit to a frequency of posts that is realistic and start brainstorming the things you’ll write about,” she says.
Bishop’s tips include writing about the questions customers ask the most. “In the early days it’s a good idea to have your first couple of months’ worth of posts at least planned out, if not written. Put deadlines by posts so they actually get done,” she says.
For most businesses, blogging is all about communication and raising publicity, which ties directly into other marketing activities, like lead generation. Bishop believes blogging should not be done in a silo and should be integrated into an overall content marketing program.
How to grow your blog
Once your blog is up and running, the next step is to grow your blog’s audience and influence. Bishop says one way to grow your audience is to approach other influential bloggers in your area and offer to write a guest post for them, linking back to yours. “This is a great way to start putting yourself out there as an expert,” Bishop says.
Another way to increase the reach of your blog is with social media. Posting your blogs to social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ can expand the reach of the content and increase the likelihood of it being shared in a “viral” manner.
With most blog content being hosted on the web for a long time, bloggers should also be thinking about the search engine value of the content before they start writing. Every day thousands of people are searching the internet for information of value, so making sure your blog has good content – and search engine optimisation (SEO) – will help you tap into that vast audience.
Measuring blogging success
Once your business’s blog is attracting readers, it’s time to take a look at how the blog is performing and the value it provides to the business. According to Bishop, there is a business case for blogging even without a hard return on investment (ROI) but, “as with anything, make sure you measure,” she advises.
How can businesses put a tangible ROI on their blogging activities? Bishop says this can be “very difficult to do” and not something you should get “too wrapped up in”.
“See how many people are reading the posts and which are most popular and learn from it. Blogging is a long-term proposition,” she advises.
There are plenty of options available for measuring the success of a blog, from the number of new prospects exposed to your business’s brand, to online advertising services that can help monetise the content.
In a guest blog for professional blogger forum ProBlogger, author and marketing consultant Tom Fanelli advises a few key ways to measure your blog’s value. Start by tracking the cost of content development, calculate your cost per visit, determine the revenue of each visit and don’t forget the value of the content itself. “Armed with this data, you can evaluate your overall content strategy. Do you need to make adjustments? Should you double down on your current success?” Fanelli writes.
For Bishop, her simplest blogging tip is “keep it real”.
“A blog is a great place to give yourself a little freedom with your writing style, make it less corporate and more engaging and human,” she says.