To get sales, your website has to get visitors. And one of the best ways to get visitors to your website is to rank well within the search engines. That is an entirely different subject, but one of the easiest things to consider is implementing a weblog for your business.
Originally, back around 1998, weblogs (aka “blogs”) were mainly online diaries. Bloggers wrote entries about their lives, their families, posted photos, and more. By 2001, weblogs were becoming more mainstream, as political weblogs appeared and gained popularity. It still took awhile before blogs caught on for businesses, but in 2005, the publication Business.com published an article entitled “Blogs Will Change Your Business“, that is still popular today. (For a more in-depth history of blogging, see Wikipedia.)
So why would you want a weblog for your business? A common reason is to attract search engines, and as a result, to gain new visitors to your website. Well-written, unique content is one of the tenets of search engine optimization, and a weblog is a relatively easy-to-implement tool for publishing content.
It doesn’t hurt that Google loves weblogs, both directly and indirectly. For example, many weblog tools will ping Google when a new post is made. In fact, on one of my weblogs, I have an alert set up for the domain name, and whenever a new post is made, I get an alert about the post within 2 hours, often less! That’s pretty quick for Google to get information from my site out to customers.
Second, weblogs encourage links. Most bloggers maintain a “blogroll”, which is a list of other blogs they recommend. When a blogger comments on a website, often other bloggers pick it up and add their own posts on the subject, linking to the same website. And weblog software manages things called “trackbacks”, which is a mechanism for weblogs to notify each other about posts. (For a good basic description, see the post How Trackback Works.)
Here are some tips for integrating a weblog with your ecommerce site:
- Decide on a Blogging Platform – There are tons of options when it comes to weblog software. Remember the cardinal rule of software: the more options it has, the harder it is to learn. Find the one that suits your style – quick and easy, complex and robust, or somewhere in the middle. Some of the common platforms are WordPress, Typepad, and Blogger.
- Where to Locate your Blog – You can host your weblog on a server provide by some of the software options (such as Blogspot.com for Blogger), but for a business weblog, you’re better off using your own domain. For one thing, it looks more professional. For another, it’s under your control. You can either dedicate a subdomain to your weblog (blog.mysite.com) or just a folder (www.mysite.com/blog). For more discussion on the pros and cons of these choices, see at “How Changes To The Way Google Handles Subdomains Impact SEO” at SearchEngineLand.com.
- Integrate your Blog with your Website – Make sure readers can get from your weblog to your store, and vice versa. Your sitewide navigation should allow for moving back and forth. Even better, when possible, link from your posts into products or categories in your store.
- Pick a Design – whether you choose to go with a premade template, or design your own, pick a look and stick with it. Don’t change to a new template every week, or your visitors will have to re-learn how to navigate your blog. Your weblog can have the same layout as your store, or it can be different, but it should be clear that both parts of your site belong together.
- Find Your Voice – Start by identifying your audience – both your current site visitors, and any new segments you are trying to attract. Then make sure your content and your voice appeal to your visitors. You need to find the balance between being professional, and engaging the audience. Choose whether to use “I” or “we”, and try to be consistent. A weblog about manufacturing, with an audience of professionals, may use “we” and a more formal tone; a blog about children’s products might use “I”, be informal, and refer to more personal anecdotes, to attract parents.
- Commit to It – To encourage repeat readers, you need to establish a routine and stick with it. For business blogs, you should probably post a minimum of twice a week…daily, if you can swing it. Make sure your posts are related to your business; don’t meander from topic to topic. If necessary, focus on frequent, short posts, instead of sporadic, longer ones. Also, take the time to proofread. Nothing screams unreliable like misspellings and grammatical errors.