The blogging three step

Since you’re reading this on a blog, you may not be the exact target I have in mind for this message so, feel free to pass it along to someone you know who might need to hear it – I’ve been on a speaking and workshop binge this past 60 days and I am still finding the need to evangelize blogging as a small business marketing tool.

One of the most common questions I receive is “how do I get started blogging?” Some might find it a bit odd that I suggest a three step approach and the first two steps don’t have much to do with directly working on your own blog. No, I think you get started blogging by working on your blogging mindset and blogging presence. So, here’s my 3-step blogging start-up plan.

1) Monitor – Spend a couple hours one day finding blogs in your industry, competitors, journalists who cover your industry and other related and relevant content. You can find them by cruising Bloglines, Ask.com, Google Blogs or Blog Pulse. Figure out how to subscribe to some of them using an RSS readers such as Bloglines or Google Reader and then start reading or scanning them on a daily basis. This is a great way to learn how to blog and how to develop your unique niche or voice

2) Participate – Start leaving relevant comments on your list of blogs above. Relevant, not spam – don’t put links to your site in your comments, just make very smart conversation – it’s okay to disagree with the point being made by the blogger, just don’t be a tool about it. (Many blogs publish an RSS feed for comments too so you can add these to your RSS reader and know when a comment stream gets pretty hot and jump in.)

3) Blog – Okay grasshopper now and only now should you start blogging. Here is where I would recommend you take a good hard look at WordPress. I know that there are lots of other options such as TypePad, Blogger and even WordPress.com, but I’m going to push you toward one way that I know works on all the levels you want to blog for.


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  1. I think the first two points are very valid – I know when I first started blogging my posts we almost carbon copies of articles I’d prepared for print media (in fact they still are a little too much in that direction).

    I’ve only recently begun to venture back into blogging after spending the last months reading everyone else’s.

  2. Without a measurable ROI or tangible goal it’s difficult to find time to invest in Small Business Blogging. We like to focus our small business clients on Search Engine Optimization. That is something that is easy to measure and provides clear value. When you start actually seeing the success you find ways to provide more effort.

    This is why WordPress is not actually a good choice for Small Businesses. Too much effort needs to be spent on configuring and IT related activities. It’s not a core competency of most small businesses need to worry about. Let the software vendor manage the Software. This is why SaaS is growing so fast in the SMB segment.

    Small Business have the competitive advantage of humanization and passion. Use them both to successful blogging…and use blogging software that’s designed specifically for them.

    Chris Baggott
    CEO
    Compendium Blogware
    http://www.compendiumblogware.com

  3. Chris – I’ll disagree with you on this one – WP kills for SEO and is worth investing a little money in IT to get it set-up, although, anyone who can read can get it set-up in about 15 minutes or even installed automatically by a host.

  4. I definitely agree with you, John.

    I am developing a youth-oriented marketing firm that builds brands, and I am constantly reading different trend forecasting and marketing blogs. Yet, I never knew exactly when I should begin my own.

    My only issue is the amount of blogs currently on the web. How do you differentiate from the noise?

  5. We have been doing benchmark keyword and overall traffic studies between Compendium Blogware and traditional sites and blogs.

    You are correct that WordPress is great for SEO if you are only targeting one or a few keywords. What’s broken is the difference between SEO and PPC.

    Businesses think they are doing great when they rank on a handful of important keywords…but when actually buying keywords in PPC programs, the average business targets 100’s to thousands of them.

    The goal should be a system that enables you to rank highly on hundreds of terms and only Compendium does this. I wish I could upload some graphics here, I’d share some of our charts.

    As far as Arielle’s question about noise, it doesn’t matter. John here has developed a unique franchise through a lot of hard work and years invested. For most people you can’t expect to have enough people follow you like they do DuctTape. That is why SEO is the most important criteria for SMB blogging. You have to be found….and you have to be found across hundreds or thousands of keyword phrases that all lead back to you.

    Blogging is a spectacular tool for Small Business, but you have to use the right tools.

    Chris Baggott
    CEO
    Compendium Blogware
    http://www.compendiumblogware.com

  6. Ok I’ll let this go after this comment 🙂

    Here is a great story out today from Direct Magazine featuring a dentist. They measure their blogging success by number of patients who come to them through blogging. they have 100% conversion with three of them blogging…what the article doesn’t say is that they have 50 blogs that get populated by those three….That’s one of the main differences between Compenidum and the others.

    Anyway, here is the link: http://directmag.com/casehistories/ecommerce/0508-comfort-dental-starts-blog/index.html

    Chris Baggott
    CEO
    Compendium Blogware
    http://www.compendiumblogware.com

  7. John,
    May I make a contribution from a sales professional’s perspective?

    Is it possible that the focus on SEO aspects of blogging causes us to lose sight of the primary business objective of blogging – building a relationship of trust with our prospective customer.

    Getting my prospect to engage, and continue to engage, in a dialog that delivers value to him and the community is the metric that I care the most about. That requires a blog template that makes it easy for him to subscribe to a blog, search for the information within the blog that interests him, comment on it, and receive notification when other people comment on his post. I have found WordPress to have more publically available Plug-Ins to deliver these “best practice” capabilities than any other platform.

    Another consideration is the capability to use your Blog to drive the content in your website. WordPress driven websites are always fresh and relevant with dynamic content that links to your website. It also gives you the advantage of tracking the analytics of your visitor across both your website and blog. If you structure your blog categories correctly you can gain valuable information about your prospects area of interest and where he is in his buying process.

    While search optimizing blog tools like Compendium are attractive in theory, I question what you give up in usability and community engagement. With thousands of WordPress aficionados developing new plug-ins and new templates, I am doubtful that the proprietary blogging platforms will ever catch up.

    In summary, using your blog for SEO purposes is just one aspect of why we blog. Getting your visitor to trust, engage, and contribute valuable content is the primary driver for a business blog. Anything less is just a scam to affect the Google rankings. My vote and my money goes to WordPress.

    Brock

  8. John, I endorse your 3-step process. I followed the same basic steps as I entered the blog-world and the first two definitely help develop your blogging mindset. I would say however that you really do not start developing your blogging “voice” in step one. That only comes once you begin writing on your own blog and it certainly is refined over time.

  9. @Brock – I agree completely – I think the reason it is so tempting to sell the SEO aspect is because it’s pretty immediate and tangible. The long term conversation building the real reason to blog, but it’s just so, well, long-term, and that’s not always very sexy to sell – but, yes, it’s the reason to play the game.

  10. This advice is all well and good but the one thing overlooked when telling a small business to blog is encouraging them to really think through what they’re going to blog about. Too many small business blogs just blog about themselves/their business rather than blogging about something their target audience finds interesting. It’s fine to post that you’ve got some new items in your online store or that you’re having a sale but these types of posts do not make for a good sticky blog. To keep the attention of their target audience/customers it’s crucial that the small biz blogger consider a coming up with blog topics that are going to really appeal to their audience.

  11. John,

    I’m somewhat new to blogging for my business and have followed your 3 steps out of common sense (or I’m a genius). I’m still in a beta/testing state with my site so my expectations of results are low. I am having a good time and the writing for my blog or posting on blogs is expanding my knowledge in my area of expertise (Photoshop).

    I wanted to make a comment about the process of creating a blog. Since part of my business is spent in helping customers with new web sites, including blogs, I can say from hands-on, day-to-day experience that setting up a blog can be a bit of a challenge (that’s why my clients hire me). But if you don’t want to hire me (or someone else) there are hundreds (thousands?) of resources available to help you set up a blog for free or at a reasonable cost. The great thing about WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and many others (I use Drupal), is that there are hundreds (thousands) of add on modules. So once you have a basic blog and are comfortable with the process it relatively painless to add functionary to your blog.

    I say, if you have a small business jump in and give it a try (if you’re not a genius like me follow John’s suggestions).

  12. I remember when I first started, thinking “but what do I have to say that is unique?” AND “if my clients were to look at my blog NOW, all they’d see is a few posts that don’t exude alot of expertise.”

    First – on being unique – I found that it is not always necessary to have totally unique content – like you said, John, by pulling hot blogs into my Bloglines, I get fed fresh content from blogs that are talking about important matters. Often, my blog posts simply borrow from them (with proper source info) or I’ll just link to them. Rather than having to be THE one and only expert, I become a resource for my clients who do’t have time to read all those other blogs. I use my blog to be a resource for them so they don’t care if I’m unique or not – as long as it is practical for them.

    Secondly, I just started writing. At first, I did something every 2 or 3 days, sometimes daily. With my feeds into Bloglines, I was actually stacking up content for potential blog posts so that on those busy days (or when I had writer’s block), I could pull from my blog posts that were “on deck”. Now, it is several months later and I’ve got a pretty good archive of posts on a variety of topics. So you gotta just START and in no time, you’ll have a reservoir of information, education and inspiration for your clients and readers!

  13. This is a fantastic dialog everyone. I want to go back to the salesman’s perspective about dialog. All blogs have to begin with the core philosophy that the content had to be human, passionate and authentic. Anything less is going to be transparently a waste of time.

    Compendium simply offers the benefits of wordpress in a SaaS model so that the Small Business doesn’t have to mess with plug ins or technology in any form. As well as the beneift of how content get’s organized around topics vs. Authors. It’s very similar to the Email Marketing business 6 or 7 years ago.

    Back then, anyone could set up a list-server and fire out email using free tools. They could ‘easily’ code html templates and there were add-on’s that let you manage your unsubscribes and another add-on that would manage your bounces. You had add-on’s that would also manage your analytics….simple right? You just needed some technical skill or hire someone to do it for you.

    Until along came Constant Contact, Vertical Response, ExactTarget and a bunch of others who showed Small Business that there were real benefits in focusing on the content and not on the technology.

    This same evolution is happening in SMB as well as Enterprise Blogging.

    Has anyone read “The Big Switch”? http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=the+big+switch&x=13&y=21

    This is a great look into what is happening with business software….the future looks grim for IT focused folks, but fantastic for small businesses who finally have these tools that are basically the same as what the big guys use only without all the IT hassle or cost.

    In blogging that just means you focus on content, not ‘plug-ins’

  14. @Meredith:

    This is very true. It’s important to not just blog to hear yourself talk (type?). Really think about what your audience needs and wants to hear, and focus on that. If you’re not sure what that is, then you need to figure that out before you bother with a blog.

  15. My readers are after content. While they appreciate IT and I would too, I’ve found that they respond and sign up and stay with me even though I’ve not gotten terribly complicated with the template. I’ve changed the colors on a basic WordPress.org template and given them something to read. Maybe later, I can get fancier. But, I’ve had to make a choice, write or design. Hiring out a design at this point in time isn’t an option.

  16. John,
    I am just starting to Blog and I am thankful for your direction. I have concluded that many of the blogs that I read are people that run there own business and very seldom do I get the point of view of the end user, why is that? I would love to hear the perspective of the end-user about their experience with a new technology or product. where would I find a blog like that?
    I feel that Management give a view of what they like about it and why they made a decision of why they choose, what they choose.
    Any feel back would be appreciated.

  17. My website started out with lots of bells and whistles. But it went nowhere. After a while I trimmed it all down and made it as simple as possible and that helped alot. Oftentimes, simple really is the best way to go.

  18. Apologies, but this comment is directed more at Chris Baggott rather than the original post.

    As far as I understand it, there can be issues with SaaS and SEO – especially if, in this case, the blogs sit on a separate domain. Whereas using software such as WordPress on your own domain, there is no issue of Google and the other search engines disassociating the blog from your site (which won’t help the rankings for either).

    Another point is that most small business ISPs offer CPanel/Fantastico solutions that make the setting up of software such as WordPress a breeze – the whole thing can be up and running in a few clicks.

  19. thanks for all of your useful comments. I’m starting out as a guest blogger and let’s see where it goes from there. I’m hoping to come back and contribute from my own insights soon.

  20. its nice to read a useful article for beginner like me. Some of points from this article are very helpful for me as I haven’t considered them yet. I would like to say thank you for sharing this cool article. Bookmarked and sharing for friends.

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