The business of blogging: Six ways a blog can help you
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Over the weekend, Melbourne hosted the annual Problogger conference, a gathering of around 300 bloggers who met to swap tips and network.
Many of the attendees were bloggers who are looking to turn their blog into a business, following the lead of Darren Rowse who founded the Problogger site and generates income from eBooks, affiliate sales and conferences, or Sarah Wilson who makes most of her money from speaking engagements and her I Quit Sugar eBooks.
However, there are also a rising number of business people who write blogs as a way of raising the profile of their business, generating leads and improving the search engine optimisation of their business website.
Women's Agenda sister site SmartCompany talked to those businesses, which now have "write a blog" on their list of daily or weekly tasks, about the benefit of blogging.
- Building a brand
Valerie Khoo, founder of the Sydney Writers' Centre, spoke at the Problogger conference about "How to use your blog to build your brand", a strategy she has used successfully.
Khoo told SmartCompany that blogging has "definitely" helped her build her business.
"It is all about content making. It is helping establish that you are an expert in an area and helps establish your credibility," she says.
"You can give opinions and showcase expertise, giving a fuller picture of what you are about."
While Khoo loves to write, she says that business people who are not comfortable writing should not be put off blogging.
"They need to work out what they are going to do; some people hate writing, so if you hate writing then then do a video or podcast. It has to fit without your personality and skills."
Khoo says her primary concern in writing a blog is not improving search engine optimisation.
"My goal has been around creating quality content. I believe if you produce quality content people will keep coming back," she says.
- Marketing without using traditional media
Shelley Winkel, publicity manager at Tourism Queensland, spoke at the Problogger conference about bloggers working with businesses, following Tourism Queensland's success with its Best Job in the World competition and the tourism body's recent partnership with Problogger to send 10 international bloggers to the Great Barrier Reef.
As well as working with bloggers to market the destination, Tourism Queensland also started producing its own blog two months ago.
"What was missing was timely and relevant information for people who want to find out about Queensland," Winkel says.
"If the media does not want to pick up on a story we can bypass the media and post it on the blog."
Winkel says the Tourism Queensland blog, while still in its infancy, provides customers with first-hand experiences and provides richer information for people who are looking for a holiday in Queensland.
"The nationalisation of daily papers means it is harder to get content in if it is not appealing to a national audience. This is a way of going direct to the customer," Winkel says.
- Forming relationships with customers
Jodie Benveniste, psychologist and director of Parent Wellbeing, attended the Problogger conference and says blogging helps her build relationships with her customers.
Benveniste's business is about making parenting enjoyable and less worrisome. She started blogging as part of her online business model after finding it hard to get people along to face-to-face events at a particular time.
"I think it is a really good way for businesses to connect with customers and is about offering really good high value information and it helps build our database and relationships," Benveniste says.
She says online businesses need good content on their websites, which a blog provides, as well as giving people a taste of what a business does and how it does it.
"The benefit is I can really connect directly to parents who are my customers as masses of them are online and it also helps with search engine optimisation and it also helps as an avenue for working with brands," she says.
"For example, Officeworks is sponsoring one of our online programs so we are also doing a giveaway through our blog."
Benveniste recommends using a schedule to blog (she publishes two blog posts a week) and rolling that content into a regular newsletter.
- Helping recruit staff
White says he initially started blogging about his thoughts in the form of an online journal but found many of his blog posts were about the culture he was building at The Physio Co, which is the subject he now focuses on.
"Doing that has attracted a lot of employees," White says.
"By blogging, we have been able to show what happens at The Physio Co, which has resulted in a lot of new employees joining."
White says the information on the blog allows potential employees to see what the culture is like at The Physio Co and some are instantly attracted, while he jokes others "think it is some sort of cult".
For White, blogging enables him to show what the inside of the business is like from the outside while an added bonus is improving search engine optimisation for The Physio Co's website.
"Blogging does not drive sales because we do not do sales online but it does help with search engine optimisation and Google rankings," White says.
- Generate sales leads
Problogger conference attendee Adam Franklin is also the co-founder of Bluewire Media and he uses his blog to generate sales leads.
"About 1,500 people visit my website each week and more than half of them are finding it through the blog," Franklin says.
He estimates 75% of people are looking for information and the next 23% are looking to compare service providers.
"At the end of each blog post we have a call-to-action and more premium content. I find it really effective because people get to know you for free, then you are educating them and our whole job is educating them," Franklin says.
Franklin sets aside Thursday afternoons to write his blog post but always has Evernote open on his phone so he can jot down notes on the go, which "eliminates the paralysing feeling of looking at a blank page" when he goes to write a post.
- Strengthen search engine optimisation
The final word on the topic comes from Google's chief technology advocate, Michael Jones, who recommends writing a blog to improve the popularity of your business' website.
SmartCompany spoke to Jones last month and, according to him, you need to ask yourself a few simple questions about your business' website.
"Why would somebody come to your website? Why would they spend time there? Why would they recommend it to their friends? Why would they bookmark it?"
"The way you get ranked more highly is to have a genuine interest in other people," he says.
For example, Jones says if a florist wanted to be ranked higher than other florists, the florist should have a section on its website's front page that showed a new floristry tip every day.
"That would certainly cause your relevance to shoot up in Google without any strange or unnecessary activities, you'd just be more popular, and people would come to your site more often," he says.