Here are some tips help you provide more useful information in your blog ~ Tips to help you promote your blog as well as help sell yourself and your products and services to your blog readers ~ Plus a few usability tips ~ With examples from some of Americas top corporate blogs.
Don’t already have a blog?
Why do you need a blog? Read 13 reasons your business needs a blog by Chris Garret for Wordtracker
Where should you put your blog? See “Where to put your blog for best search engine results: Blogging Tips Part One”
Providing Useful or Interesting Information
When your blog includes helpful information and interesting content you’ll attract more readers, get them coming back, signing up for RSS updates, linking to your blog and specific posts, and leaving comments.
Here are a few Tips to provide more useful information.
Summarize posts on other blogs. Most of your posts should be original, but It’s ok if some percentage of your posts are summaries of other’s articles that you point to as long as they are useful or interesting to your readers.
Subscribe to key blogs in your industry. Summarize useful posts and link to them from your blog. As an added benefit they will likely be alerted to your link, possibly check out your blog and become aware of you, and maybe return the favor.
Include occasional reprints from “guest” bloggers Ask permission to reprint content from other bloggers occasionally. This lets you include useful information on your blog and it gives you the opportunity to start a relationship with other bloggers. They will likely want you to include a short bio with a link in your post.
Ask other bloggers and writers to contribute After you’ve built up relationships with a number of other bloggers and writers you can occasionally ask them to help contribute to a post you’re working on. For example, send a message such as, “I’m writing an article of tips for TOPIC. Do you want to participate and send me a couple tips? We’ll include a place in the blog where we thank those who contributed with a short bio and link to their blogs”.
Hire writers. Ideally most of your posts should be original, but it’s ok to hire writers to produce useful articles such as how-to’s etc.
There are networks of writers who specialize in many topics. Be honest and include the writer as the author.
Here’s an example of a company that specializes in printers. Check out the informational articles they include http://blog.databazaar.com/. These types of articles can be written by freelancers that specialize in the field.
Empower your people to blog. Each blog can have multiple authors and you can have multiple blogs. You’ll need to develop some blogging policies and templates for your people to use.
Here are some examples of companies with multiple blogs:
Adobe blogs – http://blogs.adobe.com/ Looks like they have about 20 blogs. Most use the same basic template.
googleblog.blogspot.com/ See the Directory of Google blogs they link to in the left column and the list of “Blogs By Googlers” I can’t count that high!
1000words.kodak.com/ Kodak’s blog says, “A Thousand Words” is a place for stories from the people of Kodak. We love what we do, and we want to share our stories about imaging and its power to influence our world.” Each post is from a different past or present employee.
Empower your readers to contribute. You could let your readers/subscribers submit useful or interesting posts about how they use your products or services etc. Ask them to submit outlines first.
Include a Blogroll
A blogroll is a list of other useful blogs that is typically displayed in the right or left column of a blog. It’s a standard feature in most blog systems. A blogroll makes your blog a bit more useful to your readers. Plus the owners of the blogs you point to will likely be alerted to your link and check your blog out, become aware of you, and maybe return the favor.
Here are a couple of examples –
-The typical blogroll:
Monster’s Blog: monster.typepad.com/monsterblog/
I like the way Google does it in their blog (Below)
They call their blogroll “What we’re reading”
Sell Yourself and Your Products & Services
You spend so much effort developing a useful blog and promoting it. Take the opportunity to let you readers know about you, your company, and its products and services.
But DON’T clutter your blog up with ads. Show your content right way.
We see blogs with lots of banners and search engine ads that must be scrolled through before reaching the content of the blog. Although we haven’t tested it ourselves, reading the tests done by others it’s clear that this hurts usability. This would seem intuitive, all this clutter not only makes it hard to “find the trees for the forest” it likely gives a bad first impression to new visitors, “Is this blog about providing good useful information or is it mainly an advertising vehicle?”.
DO add links to your key products, services or content
Setup your blog so that there are links to important pages on your main site.
You can setup a top banner with links to key pages on your main site. At the very least this shows people what you have to offer. Some of your blog readers will follow these links.
Here are some examples:
Monster’s banner includes links to important pages on their main site. They also have links to other useful content such as Career Advice in a navigation bar just above the body of the blog.
Dell’s blog banner includes a Shop link to the Dell Online Store.
Databazaar includes all the links to the main site in their banner.
Also see “Where to put your blog for best search engine results: Blogging Tips Part One” about the added benefit this can bring in higher rankings to the pages on your main site.
Add links to pages on your main site from within the blog posts as appropriate. Link to additional information on your main site from within the body of the post.
Here’s an example from the Boeing blog:
“Advertise” in the Side Bars of your blog pages
It’s OK to have some “advertising” for your products or services in the left or right column of your blog. Just don’t get carried away with this, as it will clutter up your blog.
Here are some examples:
Here’s an ad for Monster Job Fairs in the right side bar of their blog
This Boeing blog includes a list of links to key pages on their main site in the right side bar of their blog
An ad in the left column of LinkedIn’s blog. I didn’t even know they sold products. Now I do.
“Advertise” at the end of your posts
You can include a “For more information” or “Related information” section at the end of posts that gives short descriptions of other useful information on the topic as well as some related products or services you offer.
Include a short company bio
You could include a short bio at the end of some or all posts that says something like “COMPANY is a leading provider of xxxxxxxxxx. Click here to see…”
Advertise in a footer
You could have a standard footer at the bottom of your posts with links to some key products or services on the main site, or at least a link to the main site.
Here are a couple of examples:
The footer at the bottom of the Dell blog post includes links to key pages on the product sites:
At the end of some of the Databazaar posts there’s a Supplies link that goes right to the item in their store:
Some Usability Features and Tips
Make it easier for people to find your posts.
One drawback of most blogs is that it can be difficult to find useful older posts. Most blogs show summaries of only a limited number of posts on the opening page. Typically there’s also a sidebar listing of some recent posts. In addition, there is usually a list of archives by month which is very cumbersome to browse through. Here are a couple of features that help people find more of your posts:
Table of Contents – See if a Table of Contents (TOC) feature is available. A TOC will list the headlines, possibly with a short description of the posts, for some period of time, often categorized.
Add a Blog search – A search feature gives readers another way to find your articles. Also see if your blog analytics allows you to see what people are searching for and what results where listed (see below for more on blog analytics).
Link to past posts. Link to past posts from within your newer posts as appropriate.
Look at the sorting options on the Dell blog. See if your blog has a sorting feature available you can try.
RSS Feed or an Automated Newsletter
An RSS news feed lists the headlines and often summaries for new blog posts. They can be viewed with news feed applications like Google Reader and in some browsers.
Automated Newsletter. You can have a newsletter automatically generated periodically that includes new blog posts since the last newsletter. This has been a real timesaver for us and it was one of reasons we switched from our old newsletter format (which took a tremendous amount of time) to a blog.
Allow others to submit comments; it makes your blog more useful, more “social”. You could use a moderator system if needed so the comments can be reviewed before they go public. Most blog software is very good at automatically catching most spam you don’t have to deal with too much.
Include Social and Sharing links. Most blog systems have the ability to add links to social sites such as Digg, Technocrati, etc and sharing links such as “email this””. See if you can add sharing links for any key social sites for your industry.
Add photos of the blog author(s). This helps personalize your blog. You may be able to set up photos as Avatars that are automatically added to the posts for each author.
Kodak displays a picture of each author in its blog:
Install Analytics. You run analytics on your main site don’t you? Well, you can run analytics on your blog too so you can see what referral sites are bringing readers to your blog and to specific posts, what keywords people are searching on to find your posts, what are the most read posts, etc. You can follow the paths people take from page to page. Then make changes to the blog layout, add calls to action and new features etc and watch the results. See below for more on blog analytics,
Promote your blog
Include latest Blog Headlines on other pages – See if you can have a list of the latest blog headlines automatically appear on other web pages, such as right on the home page of your main web site, like this site does
Link to your blog from Social Media Profiles – Many Social sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook allow you to setup a profile of yourself or your company. Some allow you to add links to your web site and/or blog. Find other social media sites that fit your audience & market (See below for a link to a past post with more social sites that allow you to setup profiles)
Submit very useful articles. There are some sites, such as StumbleUpon that allow you to submit your own content, such as posts from your blog. Look for sites that fit your audience & market.
Participate on other industry leading blogs with thoughtful comments etc. Some will allow a link in your signature. And again it will make those bloggers aware of you, beginning a relationship that you may be able to leverage.
Put your blog address in email signatures etc.
Develop optimized online press releases about newsworthy posts (such as surveys, first person research, etc) and point to the post in the press release.
Also See the tips in the “Tips to provide more useful information” section above as some of those tips will also help you promote your blog.
More useful info on blogging
DailyBlogTips – I’ve found lots of useful general blogging info here.
Blog Analytics. Lee Odden is running a survey of the “Best Blog Analytics Software” here. The post has links to the analytics packages being voted on along with links to info about blog analytics.
Your Customers are talking about you! And your potential customers are listening. An article I posted in May with social marketing tips including more social sites that allow you to setup profiles.
How to Feed Your Content into the Social Web, Web Marktieng Today (Video 5:16) – How RSS feeds, sometimes called news feeds, can channel your media into the social web where it can begin conversations about your products and services. Most blogging and content management software have RSS feeds built-in