Business Blogs PDF Ebook

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Page 1 Page 2  VARINDER TAPRIAL & PRIYA KANWAR BUSINESS BLOGS THE BEST SOCIAL MEDIA TOOL FOR BUSINESSES Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 2 Page 3 Business Blogs: The Best Social Media Tool For Businesses 2nd edition © 2017 Varinder Taprial, Priya Kanwar & bookboon.com ISBN 978-87-403-1639-1 Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 3 Page 4 BUSINESS BLOGS Contents CONTENTS Introduction 6 1 Basics of Blogs 10 1.1 What is a Blog? 10 1.2 History of Blogs 11 1.3 Classification of Blogs 12 1.4 Who Can Blog 13 1.5 Why do People Read/Write Blogs 13 1.6 How Does a Blog Work 15 2 Business Blogs 17 2.1 Define a Business Blog 17 2.2 Categories of Business Blogs 18 3 Why Businesses Should Blog 19 3.1 Reasons to Start a Business Blog 19 3.2 Business Blogging Stats and Facts 25 A C A R EER W I T H I N F I N A N CE & I T Denmark’s largest provider of financial software solutions needs YOU! 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Care to join us? – Visit us at www.simcorp.com SIMCORP A/S · Oslo Plads 12 · DK-2100 Copenhagen O · Denmark · +45 35 44 88 00 · www.simcorp.com Download free eBooks at bookboon.com Click on the ad to read more 4 Page 5 BUSINESS BLOGS Contents 4 Benefits of Business Blogs 26 5 Planning the Business Blog 29 6 Creating a Business Blog 33 6.1 Choosing a Blogging Service 33 6.2 Creating the Blog 37 6.3 Other Essential Elements of a Blog 39 7 Start Blogging 41 7.1 Essentials of a Great Blog Post 43 8 Content Ideas for the Business Blog 47 8.1 General Ideas for Content 47 8.2 Content Generating Tools 50 9 Guidelines for Business Blogs 55 10 Google’s Insight into Good Content 58 11 Enhance Your Blog 61 12 How to Promote Your Business Blog 64 13 Monitor Blog Performance 72 14 Free Handy Tools 74 14.1 Domain Name for Blog 75 14.2 Google Webmaster Tools 76 14.3 Google Analytics 76 14.4 Google Traffic Estimation Tool 78 14.5 Google Website Optimizer 78 14.6 Google Alerts 79 14.7 Google Suggest 79 14.8 FeedBurner 80 14.9 Scribefire 80 15 Blogs Go Mobile – Moblogs 81 Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 5 Page 6 BUSINESS BLOGS Introduction INTRODUCTION The history of computers and related technologies played a vital role in the emergence of e-businesses that brought new dimensions to the traditional “brick and mortar” way of doing business in the early 1990s. It follows a very logical sequence, of course, that is not difficult to comprehend, considering the speed with which the computers could be used to add, sort, analyse and process all sorts of information and data with just a few keystrokes. It was a boon for any business, big or small. In the late 1990s, the Internet transformed the business world drastically replacing dusty old ledgers with modern computer networks that connected millions of businesses worldwide and helped in the transaction of billions of dollars across fiber optic cables. Use of Web in Business: e-Commerce/e-Business The Internet opened to commercial use in 1991 making e-commerce possible, and since then many businesses have made their online presence on the web, in the form of websites. In 1994, e-commerce was mostly restricted to buying and selling on the web and it took another four years for the development of the Internet security protocols like HTTP and DSL that allowed for rapid access and a consistent connection to the Internet. Therefore, it was only in the year 2000 that a great number of businesses from the US and Western Europe represented their services on the worldwide web. This was when the meaning of the term “e-commerce” changed to be defined as, “the process of purchasing of available goods and services over the Internet using secure connections and electronic payment services.” It didn’t take long for the “brick and mortar” companies or businesses to recognize the advantages of this electronic commerce and they soon began to add these capabilities on to their web pages in the form of online stores. By 2001, the largest form of e-commerce, Business-to-Business (B2B) model, had around $700 billion in transactions. The advantages of e-commerce were obvious. The consumers were able to browse and search through a large database of products and services very easily from the comforts of their homes. They could see actual prices and compare them with others online. They could prepare a list of their orders at their own convenience and time, conduct the transaction online and even have them delivered at their doorstep. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 6 Page 7 BUSINESS BLOGS Introduction The businesses were also at an advantage as the web and the search engines provided an easy way for them to be found by the consumers without having to pay too much for an advertising campaign. The big and small business companies could now reach global audiences equally, thereby eliminating the geographical limitations. Amazon and eBay were among the first successful Internet companies to allow electronic transactions, which were soon followed by others like Dell, Staples, Office Depot and Hewlett Packard. The immense success of these companies due to their online strategies brought into focus the importance of e-business. E-business was no longer about just buying and selling online but went deeper into the processes and cultures of an enterprise. It encompassed the entire business systems that are directly connected to the customers, employees, vendors, and business partners, using Intranets, Extranets, e-commerce technologies, collaborative applications, and the Web. Successful new-businesses could now emerge from nowhere taking little more than two years to formulate an innovative business idea, establish a web-presence and reach a dominant position in its chosen sector. The Internet facilitated equal opportunities for both big and small businesses to reach out to a global audience, thereby expanding their reach and business horizons. Therefore, establishing an online presence became an important factor for the overall growth and prosperity of any business, especially if it wanted to remain ahead of its competitors and visible to all. It can be seen, the Internet had a very positive and forceful impact upon the business world in many ways helping them to evolve and formulate newer marketing strategies that are not only cost effective but very productive and profitable too. The Rise of Social Media Businesses all over are always looking for new ways to beat their competition, get more customers and interact positively with them hoping to increase their sales and profits. Although, having an online presence in the form of websites did help businesses to increase their visibility, provide information to customers about their company, products and services but it was still a one-way communication from the business to the customer. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 7 Page 8 BUSINESS BLOGS Introduction Maintaining a website requires special technical skill and knowledge. The company or business has to rely on a website developer or designer to make even small changes to the content or layout of the pages if they need to update any information. They could not interact directly with their customers on a one-to-one basis on their websites, nor could they get any feedback about their services or products. For this they relied on separate mediums, mostly in the form of customer care centers, or call centers. By and by it became clear that having a website alone was not enough and there was a need to engage the customers in a two-way dialogue. Web 2.0 provided the answers. Businesses started interacting with their customers by means of, what has now become popularly known as social media, Internet based applications that allow for user interaction. It came in the form of groups, forums, blogs, microblogs, communities and other social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter etc. All businesses could now use this medium to advertise, market, sell products online, network with people, get feedback, communicate and engage with customers. Additionally, in contrast to the traditional means, these methods were cheaper, faster and accessible 24×7. Social Media Bandwagon Big and small businesses are now using, or at least trying to use, the social media in varied manners to support their offline endeavors. The results are as varied, if not more, and the jury is still out on what works the best. However, there is a unanimous view on two aspects; first is that the consumers are lending credibility to what they read on the social media especially coming from someone they trust and second that the traditional means of marketing are becoming less effective. These are good enough reasons for all businesses to pull up their socks and get on the social media bandwagon. There is a wide choice out there for social media, each one having its pros and cons, but blogs stand out for their sheer power and versatility. Unfortunately, most businesses overlook this medium in favor of more easy to handle applications, which powerful as they might be, are restrictive in nature. Having a blog offers many benefits that other social media may not. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 8 Page 9 BUSINESS BLOGS Introduction The Power of Blogs In the early days, the blogs were nothing but a form of a personal diary or a journal that was easy to maintain and log daily. This was made possible due to the fact that the blogging platforms were freely available with free hosting and domain facilities, creating a blog was easy, and did not require any special technical skill or knowledge to post content. Therefore, anyone could open as many blogs as they wished, using the free templates provided, and maintain them very easily. It was a breeze to post content of any kind without too many hassles. As the Internet evolved, so did the blog; making it a very powerful medium through which you could get your voice heard. Any individual could express strong opinions, suggestions and even provide useful up-to-date information through blogs. Even more attractive feature of a blog was the fact that one could interact directly with its readers in the form of comments that could be posted below the posts. Blogs were an easy way to target specific audiences and also could be optimized, by virtue of the content posted, for it to be found on search engines. Another advantage of the blogs was that it was a comprehensive service, which offered a variety of tools and gadgets that made it versatile and user friendly. Obviously, it did not take long for businesses to appreciate the full potential of a blog in attracting customers to its site and also providing a great platform to communicate with them directly. Some of the big business companies like Google realized this power, importance and effectiveness of the blog and incorporated it into their business strategy very effectively. These companies have shown how a blog can be used for different purposes like marketing, educating, community building, public relations, customer feedback and announcements etc. Thus evolved the strategy of blogging for business, or using blogs effectively as a business tool. If the company website is thought of as a “store front” then the blog can be thought of as the “salesperson, customer care, evangelist and a public relations officer” all rolled into one. Why wouldn’t anyone want that? Statistics show that the businesses that have blogs as an integral part of their social media strategy have shown more sales growth than the businesses that use social media without blogs. In this book, it shall be our endeavor to discuss why blogs are an important business tool and how blogs can add value to any business in terms of branding, credibility, achieving goals for the business or company, driving targeted traffic to generate inbound leads and getting conversions in a very cheap and effective manner. We will also discuss the tools, which can help in measuring the performance of the blog and analyzing the information effectively. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 9 Page 10 BUSINESS BLOGS Basics of Blogs 1 BASICS OF BLOGS Since this book deals with the topic of using blogs as an important and effective business tool and business blogging, it would do well to first understand a few basics of blogs. This includes its terminology, understanding its history or genesis, its classification, the reason for people to read and write blogs and also how a blog works. 1.1 WHAT IS A BLOG? A Blog is a contraction of the term ‘Web Log’. A log, as we all know, is the written record of events/messages in a chronological order. It is like a journal or diary wherein people record events, experiences and observations. Therefore, we can describe a “blog” as a journal, which is available on the web. Technically, a blog can be defined as the chronological arrangement of a collection of text, data, images and other media objects recorded and retrievable through a web browser. Originally, blogs started out as static websites but over the years they gradually evolved to include many advanced features making them much more conversational and interactive in nature. Figure 1.1 Blogs Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 10 Page 11 BUSINESS BLOGS Basics of Blogs 1.2 HISTORY OF BLOGS Although digital communities existed before the blogs in the form of Usenet, Internet forums, email lists and Bulletin Board systems, Justin Hall, who began his blog, Justin’s Home page in January 1994, is credited as the first blogger. Justin’s Home Page, which later became Links from the underground, had links and reviews of websites in existence at that time. In 1996 Justin Hall began writing an online journal, which had dated entries, each entry linked through an index. The term weblog was coined and first used by Jorn Barger in 1997. In 1999, Peter Merholz, playing with the term used ‘We Blog’ on his blog and the term blog stuck. Most early blogs were websites, which were being manually updated by the person maintaining the blog and knowledge of web technologies was essential if someone wanted to blog. However, the developments in technology made it feasible for the non-technical people also to blog and that was the turning point in the history of Blogs. Consider this, in the beginning of 1999; there were only 23 blogs as recorded by Jesse James Garrett, editor of Infosift. Jesse James forwarded this list to Cameron Barrett, who included the list on the sidebar of his blog “Camworld.org”. Soon he started receiving URLs of similar sites maintained by other people. Suddenly a community started forming around these blogs, since it was easy to read all the blogs on his list. Subsequently, more and more people started their own blogs and the numbers grew rapidly. In Jul 1999, Pitas launched the ‘build your own weblog’ tool, followed by Pyra Labs releasing Blogger in Aug 1999. Blogger caught the imagination of people and got blogging closer to the mainstream Internet users. The rapid growth turned into an explosion and blogging as a phenomenon had taken off. Today there are more than 200 million blogs in existence. About 2 Million blog posts are written every day and 400 million people read blogs every month. Figure 1.2 shows the statistics of US blog readers from 2008–2014. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 11 Page 12 BUSINESS BLOGS Basics of Blogs US Blog Readers, 2008-2014 millions and % of internet users 150.4 141.6 (60.0%) 133.8 (58.0%) 122.6 (56.5%) 112.7 (53.5%) 102.6 (51.0%) 91.4 (48.5%) (45.0%) 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Note: internet users who read blogs at least monthly Source: eMarketer, Aug 2010 118542 www.eMarketer.com Figure 1.2 Statistics of US Blog Readers, 2008–2014 What started out as just links to other pages or personal diaries, blogs today have evolved to facilitate inclusion of media-rich content, scripts and also many interactive features to allow a two-way communication between the blogger and the reader. 1.3 CLASSIFICATION OF BLOGS Since blogs have been used in every conceivable way over the years and have covered almost all topics under the sun it is very difficult to try to categorize or truly classify each one of them by type. Hence, blogs have been broadly classified in the following ways:- • By Genre: Blogs that focus on a particular niche or subject are grouped under this category. Some examples are: Political Blogs, Celebrity Blogs, Art Blogs, Music Blogs, Sports Blogs or Travel Blogs etc. • By Media Type: Blogs can contain any kind of content other than simple text in its post, like photographs, videos, audio files or even games and therefore they can be grouped according to the specific media content present in the blogs. Using this form of classification, a blog that contains primarily videos is called a “Vlog”, blog that contains photos is called a “Photolog” and a blog containing links to other web pages is called a “Linklog”. • By Status of Publisher: Here the word “publisher” refers to the blogger. Therefore, blogs can be grouped according to its purpose as defined by the blogger as “Personal Blogs”, “Business Blogs”, “Corporate/Organizational Blogs” etc. • Moreover, studies were also conducted to try and classify blogs based on tags and even moods. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 12 Page 13 BUSINESS BLOGS Basics of Blogs 1.4 WHO CAN BLOG Well, anyone can start a blog at any time. However, the idea is not just to start a blog and leave it at that but to be able to sustain it, and be read too. To become a serious blogger, there are certain things that one needs to know before a blog is started. Blogging involves extensive writing, so be sure that you have enough time to spare to be able to keep up with regular postings on your blog. You can write anything that fancies your imagination or interests. Usually blogs are written in an informal tone, especially if they are personal blogs, however, if they are for business or official purposes, then the writing has to be of a higher quality and sound professional. The quality of the content on your blogs will determine the kind of traffic it will draw. Knowledge and passion for writing are both important factors. It is always better to write about topics that you have knowledge of and are passionate about as it is reflected in your writing. Even the most seasoned writers find it difficult to write on topics that they have no knowledge about. Be passionate about writing if you want it to be a long haul, otherwise you will find yourself slipping away after a few months. Maintaining a blog is a long-term activity that can be quite time consuming. To be a successful blogger requires a lot of consistency, hard work and commitment on your part. Many blogs that have been started in full earnest fall by the wayside just because people cannot stick to the schedules they have set for themselves. Writing new articles or posts requires a lot of research to be done unless of course, you are a specialist in your field and know exactly what you are writing about. A lot of time is also required to promote your blog and individual posts in order to get traffic. But, all said and done, just about anyone can start a blog and there is no special qualification or experience needed. 1.5 WHY DO PEOPLE READ/WRITE BLOGS As we pointed out earlier, the simplistic features of a blog made it easier for individuals to start blogging and they did so for any number of reasons, be it as an extension of their passion/hobby, an outlet for expression of thought, to share information, opinions and knowledge or maybe just for fun. However, the underlying reason for reading or writing blogs remained the same: to be a part of a community. A place where they could have a sense of belonging, could gain respect from others as individuals, could express their thoughts without the fear of being judged, could contribute and where their voice would be heard. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 13 Page 14 BUSINESS BLOGS Basics of Blogs This aspect of human nature evolves from real life, wherein people tend to form groups or communities based on the similarities of their caste, religion, ethnic backgrounds, or common interests etc. Humans, being social in nature, have an innate desire to find other people that they can relate to and thereafter form a network of sorts from which they can gather all kinds of information and feedback relating to the real world. Therefore, if a person had to buy a product, he/she would rely on the direct feedback of the people within his/her network of friends or colleagues instead of relying on information given by sales persons or evangelists. Since blogs are written and maintained mostly by individuals for their personal reasons or passions, it is much easier to believe in the content as being honest and sincere in nature rather than believing in a celebrity endorsement or a magazine review for that matter. Of course, there are many other reasons for people to blog, which includes making money, self-promotion, connecting with their fans, gaining popularity or becoming famous or simply because they love to write. Whatever the reason may be, at the heart of it all, it is getting into or keeping in touch with a community. Blogs allow this in a very simplistic and discrete manner and that is why they have such a large following. Lighting, beyond illumination In 10 years 2/3 of people will be living in big cities. At Philips we focus on providing lighting beyond illumination to make these cities more livable, enjoyable and safe. #makeitmeaningful What will be your impact? www.philips.com/careers Download free eBooks at bookboon.com Click on the ad to read more 14 Page 15 BUSINESS BLOGS Basics of Blogs 1.6 HOW DOES A BLOG WORK So far you have been reading about creating and writing blogs, but have you wondered about how this is made possible? What are the elements that go into the whole process of blogging? Well, there are three distinct elements that are involved in the process of blogging, which are: Blogging Client, Blogging Platform and Blogging Host. • Blogging Client: The Blogging client is an application that allows the blogger to post content and edit it with the help of a text editor. The text editor may also have some add-on features that allow the addition of pictures, photos or videos to their posts. Here, the blogger does not have to bother about creating web pages in HTML, as everything is included in the application. In other words, it is an application that allows the blogger to post, edit, format and perform a variety of functions for a blog without launching a browser. There are two types of Blogging Clients available, one where you need to post content online, e.g. Blogger.com or WordPress, and two where you can post content offline, also known as Desktop Blog Editors E.g. Open Live Writer, Windows Live Writer, Thingamablog, BlogJet, Scribefire, Qumana, Blogo (For Mac users) and many more. An offline blogging client is something similar to an email client like Outlook Express. See Figure 1.3. Figure 1.3 – Windows Live Writer (Screenshot) Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 15 Page 16 BUSINESS BLOGS Basics of Blogs • Blogging Platform: Behind the blogging client is the software, which contains the code that helps you perform all the tasks explained above. It can be called the backend of the blogging client. The Blogging platform is hosted on a server along with the add-ons that include the software languages like PHP, ASP etc. used for creation of the client as well as the database like MySQL that stores all the content that is created with the help of the client. The code helps in creation and the presentation of the blog as well. According to PC world, the top five Blogging Platforms are Google Blogger, WordPress, Six Apart Typepad, Tripod and Squarespace. • Blogging Host: Every site on the Internet needs to be hosted on a web server. Unless a page or a website is uploaded on a web Server it is not available online. A Web Host is the entity that offers the web space and web server to publish and deliver web pages. Similarly, a Blog host is the host or a server that goes one step further and installs the blogging platform and relevant add-ons. With a Blog host, a blogger is freed from the task of installing, configuring and maintaining the modules that make up the back-end of the blog. For example, Google Blogger is a Blog Host available online where anyone can create a blog very easily in three steps and is automatically hosted on the Google server at Blogspot.com. See Figure 1.4. Figure 1.4 Google Blogger (Blogspot.com) A blog can always be configured to a new web address (new domain name) or server should you choose to do so at a later date when your blog gets popular and you want to upgrade it to a proper website with a “www” address. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 16 Page 17 BUSINESS BLOGS Business Blogs 2 BUSINESS BLOGS Whether you are a small or big business, a company or a corporate, an individual proprietor or even a shop owner, it doesn’t matter because blogs are a phenomenon that you just cannot ignore, postpone, or delegate. Given the changes that are barreling down upon us, blogs are not a business elective anymore. They have become a pre-requisite. So let’s take a look at business blogs. 2.1 DEFINE A BUSINESS BLOG Wikipedia defines a business blog (b-blog) as, “a corporate weblog that is published and used by an organization to reach its organizational goals. The advantage of blogs is that posts and comments are easy to reach and follow due to centralized hosting and generally structured conversation threads.” Techopedia defines a business blog (b-blog) as, “a blog of published, informal online articles that are either included in a company’s internal communications system (intranet) or posted on the Internet for the public to read. Business blogs use a more personal tone than corporate websites and are primarily used for public relations purposes. A business blog may also be referred to as a corporate blog or corporate Web log.” In other words, a business blog can be described as a communication tool that allows business owners to communicate directly with their employees, clients or customers. Used correctly, in alignment with the stated objectives, a blog can be used for branding, spreading awareness of the products or services and creating a buzz around them, building credibility and reputation as a subject matter expert or industry leader, customer and media relations, exchange of knowledge/ideas/opportunities with like-minded professionals, building a community around the products/services and testing or creating support for business/product ideas by getting the market reactions. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 17 Page 18 BUSINESS BLOGS Business Blogs 2.2 CATEGORIES OF BUSINESS BLOGS Business blogs can be categorized as either external or internal. The internal business blog is a web log that can be accessed through the company’s Intranet and can be viewed by any of its employees. These blogs are generally informal in nature, thereby encouraging participation by the employees, free discussion of issues and collective intelligence that serves as a source of direct communication between different layers of an organization and also helps to build a sense of community within the company. It generally uses RSS feeds to promulgate content to its employees. The external business blog is a publicly available weblog that serves as a platform for communications for the business or company. It can be used to announce new products or services to its customers, clarify business policies, react to criticisms offered by the public on certain issues, educating customers about products and a lot more. The advantage of a business blog is that it offers a glimpse into the internal work environment of the company that may not be evident from its corporate website. According to a study published by the Centre for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, in January 2011, 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies maintained a blog in 2010. The number of Fortune 500 companies using blogs reduced over the next 4 years to 21% in 2015. Having said that, please note that the top two i.e. Walmart and Exxon Mobil do have blogs up and running. But then let’s not worry about the Fortune 500, they already have too many good things going for them; the fact is that a blog is the perfect medium to connect with people, internal or external and all it requires is commitment which, may in fact, be the reason companies shy away from it. Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 18 Page 19 BUSINESS BLOGS Why Businesses Should Blog 3 WHY BUSINESSES SHOULD BLOG Now that we have been introduced to business blogs, let us explore the reasons why a business should have a blog. A business blog can be used as a cheap, effective and targeted source of marketing on the web and can represent the business in the best possible manner to a targeted audience, or its customers. Listed below are some of the primary reasons why businesses should blog. 3.1 REASONS TO START A BUSINESS BLOG Unlike a website or a business function, a blog is quick to set up and involves negligible costs. It is versatile and simple to use. The content can be updated regularly. A blog can easily be integrated with the existing traditional functions of the business. A blog can be used to either carry out a function or support the offline functions like marketing/ PR/customer relations etc. Maintenance of a blog is a simple activity and does not need a geek or an expert to handle it. In fact, many businesses have their employees doubling up as bloggers for the business. Blogs are not intrusive unlike some other forms of marketing like emails, cold telemarketing calls and newsletters. In this case, the customer is coming to your blog and hence you would not be intruding into his space. This by itself is a strong indicator that he will spend a longer time at understanding what you are offering. Figure 3.1 Starbucks Blog is an Example of Business Blog (Screenshot) Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 19 Page 20 BUSINESS BLOGS Why Businesses Should Blog • Affordable Marketing: All businesses need promotion and marketing of their brand as well as products/services. Traditionally, it came in the form of advertisements in TV/Print media, brochures, pamphlets, trade shows, surveys etc. However, most of these methods are quite expensive and inflate the bottom line of the company to a large extent. A blog on the other hand, is relatively cheaper to establish and manage. While most blogging services are free to use, some of them are paid but even they are not that expensive. Compare this with traditional means of advertising and marketing and you are spending nothing or a minuscule part of your marketing budget to use the opportunity. The traditional marketing also has the disadvantage of scale. The higher the number of customers you are trying to reach, the larger in scale your campaign needs to be, which directly reflects as enhanced costs. How many people are actually touched by the campaign is anybody’s guess. Figure 3.2 Illustrates Small Business Blogging Map Download free eBooks at bookboon.com 20



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