Business Blogging For Beginners: How To Get Started and Get Results
Trust is one of the biggest factors in the sales process. If potential customers don’t trust you, they won’t buy. This is where blogging comes in. Quality blogging will not only provide your customers and target audience with additional value, but it will also help builds relationships.
Is Blogging Right For Your Business?
Blogging must have some kind of pay off, but for this to happen, you have to be targeting people who read blogs. Some of the biggest consumers of blog content include the tech savvy, who are hungry for information and comfortable using the Internet, but don’t let that fool you.
You’ll find people are hungry for gardening information, parenting tips, and virtually any other topic you can think of. If you want them to choose your blog over someone else’s however, you have to do it right.
The number one requirement for a successful blog is regular content (I should really take my own advice and post more often but there’s not enough hours in the day unfortunately) — ensure it’s detailed, informative, and full of tips and hints. It also helps if it’s easy to navigate and easy on the eye to look at.
Blog Hosted Or Self Hosted?
When planning your blog, you’ll quickly discover you have two main choices: hosted, and self-hosted. Hosted blogs, such as those found on WordPress.com, Blogger, Tumblr, and Posterous, are stored on someone’s server. You can easily identify them because the URL is often a sub-domain of the main site e.g. (BlogName.wordpress.com).
Self-hosted blogs, like those available at WordPress.org, are downloaded and installed on your own domain or added to an existing website. Both types of blogs are great, but the best option will depend on your needs and preferences.
Hosted VS Self-Hosted: Costs and Site Setup
Hosted blogs eliminate the hassle of arranging web hosting, server maintenance, updating software, and many of the other technical aspects. They are often free as well. Unfortunately, there are downsides to running this type of blog too.
Hosted blogs limit your ability to customize the technical side of your blog. This can make it extremely difficult to alter the structure and functionality of the site as well as hamper usability. You’ll also want to check the platform’s terms of service page. Some platforms can’t be used for business purposes, host ads, or link to sites that sell goods and services.
Self-hosted blogs give you freedom. You can set them up however you’d like, and make the transition between your website and blog seamless. You’re fully in control when it comes to the architecture of your blog, the page titles, URLs, and you can even add plugins and code to extend its functionality. If you already have a website, you likely won’t need to pay for additional hosting.
Before choosing self-hosted, you do need to consider a few things. The technical aspect of self-hosted blogs is usually the first trouble spot people encounter. A blog takes some work to get started, but you’ll also have regular maintenance and upkeep, so if you’re not comfortable with this side of things, and have no one you can call on or hire to do it, self-hosted migh not be the best option. Hosting companies may however offer easy install options so it’ll be worth checking that out with your host.
Hosted blogs are completely separate from any of your other online real estate. Hosted blogs do often have their own network, however, which sends traffic and makes your blog searchable from their own site. This can potentially expose your content to new markets and audiences.
A great example of this is WordPress.com. Right on the homepage, you’ll find an area where they feature blog posts from throughout the network. There is also a search function at the top, which lets you search all the blogs on WordPress.com by keyword or tag.
Self-hosted blogs, on the other hand, can be incorporated into your existing site. Then, you can funnel visitors and page rank through internal linking. All of your site issues can usually be dealt with through the main dashboard for your blog, and the blogging software can even power the rest of your site.
Design and Branding
How a blog looks can have a huge impact on its success. Design options are often very limited for hosted blogs. Many of them don’t allow original designs and may not allow you to add branding to the site. Self-hosted varieties, however, are quite different. Because you’re in complete control, you can have almost any design concept you can dream of. You can fully customize the navigation, architecture and branding on your site to meet the needs of your business and your site visitors. For WordPress there are some excellent free WordPress designs from sites such as site5.
Hosted, Self-Hosted and SEO
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is an extremely important factor when deciding between hosted and self hosted blogs. After all, if the search engines can’t index and rank your site, no one will find it. And considering the large amount of fresh content and links that can come with running a blog, this can be a very powerful tool for almost any website.
With self-hosted blogs, you can decide whether each link should be “followed” or not, where they appear, how they appear, and even set the attributes for various links, images, and pages. You can determine the URLs, alter the code, and improve page load speed, as well as add plugins to give your pages more clout and more page rank to pass on.
Even SEO royalty like Matt Cutts prefers WordPress for SEO. With a few tweaks, of course. He says 80-90% of all basic SEO tasks are either accessible or already done for you, right out of the box. In addition, Cutts says it offers excellent security and usability. (You can find a good breakdown of things at HowToMakeMyBlog.com.) To make SEO even easier, you can install plugins such as Dagon Sitemap Generator, Platinum SEO Plugin, KB Linker, SEO Friendly Images, and Link Redirection.
In short, hosted platforms can rank, but might not give you enough control and flexibility to compete strongly in more competitive markets. If you do choose a self-hosted blog, adding it to an existing site can give both the blog and the site a boost in the search engines while improving indexation rates, and passing page rank and authority throughout the site.
Lastly, you’ll need to consider how much to spread the link juice around. If you use a hosted blog with your website, the links and page rank will be split between the sites. With a self-hosted blog, however, all the link juice flows to one site where you can use internal linking to funnel it to the right pages.
Both hosted and self-hosted blogs can be extremely helpful, but you have to use the right one, at the right time. If you’ve never owned a site before, are concerned about running the blog, have no budget whatsoever, or are just looking to learn the ropes and experiment, you may wish to stick with hosted platforms. Otherwise, opt for the freedom, flexibility, and additional power of self-hosted platforms like WordPress. Either way, you’ll love the link juice, authority, and relationships that come with creating your own ‘blog community’.