Interactive marketing has its fashionable trends like any other industry, and the business blog has been its red carpet champion for the past few years. Heck, the blog has gained such widespread popularity that it's almost become passe in some circles — particularly among those who look up to vlogs (video blogs) like those uploaded on sites like YouTube, or to more outside-the-box guerrilla marketing techniques.
Web experts have begun to recognize and understand the underlying value of these online journals. A blog for your ecommerce business, done right, can most certainly produce positive results.
Business blogs require expertise in the business at hand. They also require at least a nominal ability to write, albeit informally, a dash of creativity and a ton of perseverance.
5 Tips For Successful Business Blogging
Post often, at least three times per week. Daily is ideal.
Write about subjects related to your business, such as news and trends. Establish yourself as the expert in your field. As you do so, subtly link to pages within your website that showcase products and services.
You don't have to achieve perfect English with each post, but befriending a good writer or copy editor is never a bad idea. Simple spelling and grammatical mistakes can actually serve to undermine your efforts to demonstrate subject-matter expertise.
Allow people to comment on your posts. It gets them talking about your business and makes them feel connected to it.
Set up a link for people to subscribe to your blog via RSS in such a way that every time you enter a new post, they'll be notified.
"The most common mistake is starting your blog for a couple weeks and then stopping," said professional blogger Tris Hussey, the chief technology partner for One By One Media, a professional blog consultancy.
He says the most common outcome of a successful ecommerce blog is that its creator is recognized as a subject matter expert or a thought leader in an industry or in regard to a product or service. This can provide value to an online business insofar as consumers would prefer to buy things from companies positioned as experts in a particular market.
However, what many bloggers don't recognize immediately is the effect their efforts have on an ecommerce website's position in major search engines relative to industry-specific keywords. First and foremost, blogs help businesses establish more links to their websites, an important means to boost a site's rank in major search engines like Google.
Cluny Grey runs her jewelry business at Clunygreyjewelry.com and maintains her blog at Jewelrytrends.blogspot.com. "I can link from the blog to interior pages, which is very helpful," she said. The linking is still valuable, and now, people link to my blog so I'm really getting increased traffic and notice."
A notable byproduct of blogs is the way they provide websites with a ton of fresh, original content.
Jason Billingsley, vice president of marketing for ecommerce software company Elastic Path, says blogs also give businesses the opportunity to associate their websites with popular keywords related to products and services.
"We still keep it at arm's length," he said, referring to posts that could be considered too promotional.
Hussey noted, though, that blogs can still indirectly boost your business.
"People come to the blog to read interesting stuff," said Hussey, "but you are allowed to earn a living and still blog."
He suggested bloggers add a sidebar with links to products and services that always appears on the blog, in an anchored position. In posts, bloggers can link to pages full of information about products and services; it's best to do so in an informal, conversational manner.
Many businesses approach blogging as a way to educate people and build brand awareness without a second thought, initially, about sales.
Donna Miller, of Gourmetstation.com, said her initial goal in starting a blog was to extend her brand "through value-added content dealing with food and international culture." However, she said introducing readers to information about regional foods such as Parisian, Tuscan, Cajun, Fusion and Americana, actually resulted in a better bottom line.
There are a multitude of blog software applications. Wikipedia has a list of developer-hosted and user-hosted options at Wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloghostingservice. In addition, one blogger has developed a matrix (though it's not a comprehensive list) that compares features of many blog software options. You can find it at Asymptomatic.net/blogbreakdown.htm.
"We never expected the blog to generate transactions, but it does," Miller said. "It also improved our search rankings, which was not expected."
Successful blogging can even build an audience so big that business owners find themselves catering to customers at both a product and content level. Bloggers can develop an audience of such proportions that the blog takes on a life of its own.
Matt Blumberg, CEO of ReturnPath says his blog OnlyOnce attracts upwards of 15,000 readers via Rich Site Summary (RSS) feeds and email alone. The blog focuses on his experience as CEO, and it was so successful that ReturnPath reorganized its corporate website to take the form of a blog.
"That has been transformational," he said. "It drives huge leads, visibility and other online press and blog mentions."