What is a blog? Why have a business blog? What should you write about? How to form a strategy? Who should write it?
We’ve talked about blogging a few times on the show before but we haven’t really addressed what it is and how you should do it. In this week’s episode I chat to Nicole Leedham from Black Coffee Communication to answer those questions.
- What is a blog?
- What is a post?
- We’ve talked about WordPress on the show before, is this the blogging platform you recommend too? Are there any others worth considering?
- What are some of the benefits of blogging?
- Why blog rather than just adding more pages to your website?
- How do you come up with ideas?
- Writing techniques, how to get into a routine, how to avoid writers block?
- How to come up with a strategy?
- Who should do the writing?
Video[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VEWpU_EthQ” width=”560″ height=”315″] [spoiler title=”Transcription” open=”0″ style=”1″]
Nick: Good day everyone. Welcome back to Web Marketing Adelaide. I’m your host Nick Morris and today we are talking about blogging. This is a subject that we’ve broached with various shows in Content Marketing, WordPress. We haven’t really got to the nuts and bolts about what blogging is and how to blog and why to blog. So, this week, I’ve invited a guest on, Nicole Leedham from Black Coffee Communications and she’s gonna help us explain and explore this topic. Good day Nicole, welcome to the show.
Nicole : Hi Nick, thanks for having me. It’s great to have a talk with you.
Nick: Before we get started on the questions, how about you tell us a little bit about yourself, about your business?
Nicole: Sure, I am the person behind Black Coffee Communication and really, I guess the best way of explaining it is to say that I’m a writer for hire. So, I do all kinds of different writing, mapping writing, blogging, news letters, annual reports, cover profile you know, everything from the smallest flyer up to the multi-faceted projects. So, as long as I can write, I’m happy. I do a little bit of communication strategy as well but it’s mainly the writing.
Nick: Great, and we’ll start simple with this topic so that we can capture everybody, from the beginners up to the people who have a little bit more experience. So, let’s get started with what is a blog?
Nicole: A blog is a part of your website that isn’t static, I guess is the first thing. I think it is the first thing, that your other pages tends to be static pages whereas your blog it allows you to do new posts in it and it runs a bit like a diary. I mean blog is short for web blog so, it’s a captains log, a ship diary, something that you keep up updating reasonably regularly on a particular subject matter. I guess that’s the easiest way I can put it.
Nicole: It doesn’t have to be writing. It can be photos, it can be little things you found on the web. It can be jokes, it can be all sort of things. It’s just updated regularly.
Nick: Yeah and also it can be for business obviously as well.
Nick: Even the original idea behind it is a diary type thing and could also be for business.
Nicole: I think you know, it’s still a diary even if you use it for a business because you are doing it regularly and you’re putting your personality into it, even if it’s a business, there is the personality behind the business.
Nick: Cool, and what are posts? I mean, you mentioned posts a second there.
Nicole: Well, the blog itself is all of the articles in one thing. The posts are the individual articles, so for example, with my blog I post once a week. Each week there is a new post, which is really a different word for article or entry.
Nick: Great. We’ve talked a little bit on the show about WordPress before and this is my blogging platform of choice and a lot of other people’s. Is this yours as well?
Nicole: Yeah, I use WordPress. My health site the WordPress site with the blogging part of it and most of my clients are also using WordPress. The few of them that use their own CMS and have it, you know, I just use the Word version of it and I upload it and I have also worked with another one called Square Space, which a few people swear by. It’s not quite well known as WordPress but it is quite a nice platform as well and easy. It’s an easy platform, so, I guess that’s the main thing. It doesn’t have quite so much adaptability outside of blogging as WordPress does, so, I like WordPress.
Nick: Yeah, me too. Is Square Space, is that another open source type of platform or is it like a …?
Nicole: Yeah. Now, as far as I know, it’s an open source platform. I know a couple of designers that swear by it and I know a few people that have built their own websites on Square Space. So, if even people that have said to me, oh, WordPress, I could never understand WordPress and I could do Square Space, which to me, is quite interesting because I find WordPress very easy but I guess it depends how different brain works.
Nick: Yeah. What are some of the benefits of doing blogging? Why should people do it or be considering it?
Nicole: To me, the benefits of blogging is two fold. The first one is the Google, so I’ll talk about that one first and the search engine optimization. The way it was described to me, which I thought was a really clever way of describing it, is to think of Google as a huge spider web and it sends out spiders regularly across the internet to check out all the different websites out there. Now, if they don’t have any fresh content, it doesn’t even bother reporting back to Google. So, Google doesn’t even really know it exist. Fresh content makes them run, scurry back to their web and tell Google that there’s this fresh content out there. So, that’s the first way of doing it and it is also a really good way of getting your keyword in regularly without keyword stuffing and without overdoing at it and making your website look good for Google but not so good for humans and I think there’s a balance between that.
The other reason, which is the main reason I blog, is that a lot of small businesses and micro businesses don’t have a huge amount of marketing budget, so what they can do, is set themselves up as, what I call a subject matter expert. So, you blog about what you know about, you blog about your niche. People start seeing you as “Oh, that’s Nick Morris, he knows about SEO’s. I’ll go to him” So, they may not actually need your services now but when they do need your services, you’re a friend of mine because I’ve read your blog and I can see that you know what you’re talking about and I don’t think that necessarily has to just be for service providers like you and I. I think that can also be the hairdressers, you know. You talk about the latest trend or you speak about celebrities hair cuts and things like that. Builders can talk about the projects they’re working on and what they’ve done to make it a little different than the next builders project. So, I don’t think that’s just for the service industry, I think if you run a small business, you’d know your industry. So, make sure your clients know that too or a potential client.
Nick: Yeah, that one is an interesting one. I often wonder about product businesses, I mean, I guess if you have some sort of expertise, you’ve got something you can talk about but does it translate to product based businesses as well?
Nicole: It really depends on the product and it depends on why you are doing the product based business. If you are doing, if you run a product based business because you are passionate about the product, then I think you can definitely blog. If you are running a product based business because you are passionate about retail and it’s a good way to earn a living, maybe it’s a little harder. I mean, for example, you know, I know a couple of people that run online for children’s shops, educational toys and things like that. So, their blog is about not necessarily the toys but parenting as a whole and bringing play into education and how their products can help and without pushing the products constantly but every now and again on their blog.
Once every four or five posts, they might have a little thing that says, we’ve talked in this post about separation, anxiety and this is a really great toy to send your kid off to preschool with because it gives them a bit of an understanding that you are gonna be back and all of that sort of stuff. So, I think you can do it as a product based business. I mean, really, it depends on how passionate you are about your product and what it offers. It goes back to the same thing that any business you talk about the benefits, not the features. So, if you can blog about the benefits of your product or the benefits of your product line as a whole, so you might sell hats, and sunscreen and shade cloth. So, you talk about protection from the sun, rather than just about, I sell this. You don’t want your blog to be a platform to push your product.
Nick: Yeah, that is a good tip there. What are some of the benefits of using a blog for collecting your articles as opposed to just putting up new pages , for instance on your website?
Nicole: For a start, it means people know where to go. They can see that you’ve got blog written on your website, so they know that’s where the most current stuff is. It’s also good for your website architecture, I mean adding extra pages just makes the website incredibly unwieldy, whereas, you can put all the blogs on the one page with the posts. I think it also goes back to that subject matter expert thing. I mean sure, you can do static, parked pages about your product and all of that but it doesn’t bring the personality through like a blog can and these days, I think people like to see the personality behind the business, even a reasonably large business. They like to see the personality behind the face, if it fits with their morals and ethics and all of that sort of thing.
Nick: My next question is about coming up with ideas on stuff to blog about and you did mention in your introduction that you do blogging for other businesses as well as for yourself, so, you obviously have the experience with coming up with ideas for different industries and different types of businesses and things like that. Do you have some tips for how to come up with ideas for what to write about?
Nicole: Like anything else, I think research is a big part of it obviously, a few particular niche, do some Googling, look around the web, see what other people are writing about. It’s a really good idea to have a strategy behind your blogging, so, spend time to sit down and have a look maybe three or six months in advance if you want to blog weekly, how to think about what is coming up in that week. Let’s say, for example you’re a beautician, you know Valentines Day is a certain time every year, so you’re gonna schedule a blog post, something to do with Valentines Day there. In Winter, you might schedule blog post about how to keep your skin from getting dry in Winter, so it’s about having a strategy about knowing who your target audience is, knowing where they get their motivation from and how they might be interested in knowing what keywords they’re using when they are Googling and incorporating notes into your blog. So, for me, when I do it for someone else and I obviously have to get into their head, the strategy is where it’s all at.
I spend the most time with them, having a chat about all of those things and then coming up with a strategic plan and a calendar, which includes things like the keywords we’ll be targeting, the days we’re going post, the seasons or things that are coming up and then once you’ve got that behind you, once you’ve spent the time necessary on that, the extra blogging comes very easily. I mean, obviously, I’m a writer, writing companies will see me. Even if you’re not a writer, I think the blogging itself, will come reasonably easy. You already know what you’re gonna blog about, you already know who you are speaking to, you already know your keyword, so, just start random. Don’t worry about grammar, don’t worry about spelling, don’t worry about anything, just dump it and come back to it and fix that all up any time after.
Nick: Yeah, great tips. On the note of coming up with ideas, so you talk about strategy, is it good to have a content calendar? I mean, you mentioned [Inaudible 00:12:31] on it?
Nicole: I think it is a good idea to have a content calendar. I think you can probably, it needs to be flexible because there are certain things that happen every time of the year. There are times when it’s worth getting into what might be happening in the news and let’s say for example, you install solar panels and there was all those issues a year or so ago with fires in roofs or something with the solar panels. You get on to something new, where you use the keyword something like, safe solar panel installation at a time when people might be looking for safe solar panel installation and that will be your blog. They might read the other things, so for example, I have a little bit of an idea in my mind, what I do on my blog but I leave room and leave flexibility for certain things that happen. The things I can think of recently that PR marketing, Coms kind of related that I’ve blogged about it. I did something on the Spring Valley issue here in the Adelaide and how good their crisis communication was. I did something on the media culpability of that Nurse in England when Kate was in hospital and I did something on, I don’t know whether your viewers would remember back here 6 months ago. They tried to do a big site called click frenzy and the whole website fell down and their process of communication was not good. So, you need to leave room for that sort of thing so, you have an idea of what the generic blogging things are but then you need to leave space for things that are in the news, that people might find by Googling at that time.
Nick: Yep, yep, that makes sense, and also on strategy, do you have tips on how – you mentioned at the beginning one of the reasons for doing blogging is to set yourself up as the next expert of the subject matter but do you recommend that people also be finaling and directing people towards like a contact page or like a buy now page as well, to drive on traffic? And what is the best way to do that?
Nicole: I think you can certainly do that. I don’t recommend doing it in every single blog post because I think that becomes too obvious. I know people that do it and they swear by it at the very least they might get the internal links to Google rather than anyone actually clicking through to the links, so, I guess there’s that side. You get , whenever you have a website you are torn between what’s good for Google and what’s good for humans. So, I think yes, having that is very good for Google, I’m not entirely sure it’s good for humans and I guess it depends on what the purpose of your blog is. If the purpose of your blog at the end of the day, is to make sales, and to drive people to your sales pages, if that’s the way Google sees your sales pages, then that’s great.
If you are setting yourself up more as the subject matter expert, it doesn’t hurt to bring in something at the end that said and you know if you want widgets, you can buy them from us, but I don’t necessarily think it needs to be done every time and you can do it in a reasonably soft way. So, instead of buy, buy, buy, buy, buy, it can be if you want more information about how this widget would help you do this contact us here rather than necessarily buy, buy, buy, it can be, if you want more information about how this sort of widget will help you do this, contact here, rather than necessarily, like I said, buy, buy, buy, sell, sell, sell. I think people are very jaded by that. Google, on the other hand is a different story, having the internal links as you know is great for Google. I tend to internally link to other blog pages or occasionally my package pages rather than having the big sell at the end of it.
Nick: Yep, that make sense and good to point out. I think it actually served the thing of what you’re trying to do with the blog is it the directly generating sales for more of the subject matter expert thing. I guess something else that often people seem to do with the blog is having a mailing list and try to encourage people to join that, as another maybe an in between some selling and just some other stuff. Do you do some of that stuff with your clients as well?
Nicole: I do. I think it’s a good idea to have a mailing list and have a strong mailing list and to drive people on to them. People out there that know a lot more about marketing than I do, talk about it’s all in the list, everything’s in the list, it’s all in the list, driving people to the list. A lot of people rely on say, their Facebook fans or their Twitter followers and think that, that’s all they need but I think even though social media things like blogging which, I guess, is a different form of social media, is to drive people to the list and I know a lot of people, they’ll do a blog and then they’ll do a monthly newsletter, which is a bit of a wrap up of the blog plus maybe a special deal plus maybe a couple of other great articles that they’ve found in their niche around the web.
So, it’s about integrating it all and yes, certainly trying to get people up on the list you know. If you are writing a blog and you’re doing it regularly and you do have a newsletter, then there’s no harm in every now and again in every post, saying, want more of this fantastic content in your inbox? Sign up now, have a bit of an incentive to sign up because everyone wants people signing up and you kind of go from there but your list is people that have actually shown an interest in your product, so you can’t go past that.
Nick: Awesome. Do you have some tips on promotion? Once you’ve already written some posts out there, how do we try and get them out to your audiences?
Nicole: The best way of promotion, apart from through your newsletter, if you are doing it and through the list, is social media, quite obviously. Whenever you do a post, you should certainly post it on your Facebook, send it through your Twitter page, Google Plus, how many just getting around Google Plus but it’s a good platform for that as well and depending on your audience LinkedIn is really good as well. Certainly for me, as a service industry, the target is business. LinkedIn is my best place to put my links in and again it’s not just the who might be driven there from the social media platforms but it’s also Google. Google sees the link, the more valuable links that you’ve had and with Google Plus, that Google is seeing those links, more than seeing other links quite obviously. I think certainly, business to business could use Google Plus quite well. So, that’s I mean that’s the thing.
Nick: Yep, so you’re posting out on your own social profile, do you think people should also be posting it in other social places like Google, not Google, Facebook groups, business groups, their member zone?
Nicole: Yeah, I certainly do that as well. You do it just on your profile but also in the groups, in the communities that you are a member of, the LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, Google Plus communities. You need to be clever about it because quite often, the same people are in a lot of those different groups, so you don’t want to spam them. Say, for example that you’ve written something about gardening for example. You wouldn’t necessarily put that in a group, just a group of copywriters, which in a couple of LinkedIn groups and also Google Plus groups. I mean you wouldn’t necessarily put that there but you would put it in say a broader, small business group. So I think it’s being clever about where you put it. I know, one of the things that drive me most insane about social media, is the people that just post the same thing everywhere and it starts looking a lot like spam. I think you have to be careful and clever, again I post weekly, I don’t share every single post in every single group because I figure people will get really, really sick of me after a while with that.
Nick: Cool, yeah. So you want to take advantage of these platforms but don’t go too far that it looks like spam because it’s gonna start working against you.
Nicole: That’s right and you know you can re-purpose them as well because there’s a lot of places out there that take guest post as well and quite often, I re-purpose my more popular blog, change them slightly, keep the same but change them slightly for two reasons. One, that people don’t want to read exactly the same thing twice and two, Google doesn’t see exactly the same thing twice but you can re-purpose them and send them off to places that accept guest blogs in your niche and I do a little bit of guest blogging around the place and it’s another good way to drive traffic to your website. In fact, I’ll say it’s like, that if you can’t be bothered doing or you don’t have time or you don’t have the resources or you don’t think you can think of enough topic to do to blog yourself, consider guest blogging in popular blogs elsewhere. I mean don’t just guest blog anywhere but if you’ve got a popular website in your niche that attracts thousands of visitors a day, then try and see if you can guest blog there.
Nick: Great yes. So, that’s basically writing an article for someone else’s blog and then you have a little buy button at the bottom with a link back to your website, so people can go find out more about you. If they find you interesting and obviously got a link there as well for Google as we were talking about before. Let’s just talk a little bit about blogging for yourself as a business owner versus getting someone else like yourself to do the blogging. What are the pro’s and con’s of the two approaches?
Nicole: Well, look obviously the biggest pro of doing it yourself is you know your thing very well and you can probably do quite a good brain dump in there and even if you’re not a writer, you can get enough thoughts together to do something. I guess the con of that is that most business owners don’t have the time to do that and I think that if you’re not a writer or if you’re not, if you don’t love writing, I mean not everyone that loves writing is necessarily a writer but if it doesn’t come easy to you, then you’re gonna spend hours getting blood from a stone, when you could be doing something that’s more profitable that’s actually making money for your business.
One of the cons of hiring someone else is having the faith in them that they will speak for your business and they will do the right thing and say the right thing. You can do it in a couple of ways , you can hire them as a ghost writer I guess, in which case, they are writing and they are being you, in which case you need give a lot of information on your ethics and your personality and they need to get it out of you. They can also write as a guest or write at a more generic pace rather than eye piece. To me, that’s one of the biggest cons but if you do the early bit right, if you brief the writer well and if you’ve got a good strategy behind them, then they should be able to step into your shoes. You know, a good writer should be able to take a brief, understand the client and [Inaudible 00:25:03] and obviously the client gets the final say. I mean, until you get up to a really good relationship – I’ve got a couple of clients where I’ve got a very good relationship and I just post on their behalf without them necessarily clearing it but that is very rare and it’s after a long time of the relationship.
Nick: Great. Yeah. That’s some good tips there. That pretty much brings us towards the end of this interview. Do you have some perhaps if you could bring some of the threads together from the episode and some key takeaways for people, other business owners about blogging?
Nicole: Sure. There’s a few. The first thing that I really want to stress is that strategy. I think if you’re going to commit to weekly or monthly or whatever blog, you will pull your hair out, you suddenly get to, oh my God, it’s the day I meant to blog, I have no idea what I’m gonna do etc. So, I think taking that time like anything in business, spending that time to really plan, works out much better in the long run. The second thing that I want people to take away is don’t panic if you’re not a writer. I don’t think that is a problem. I mean, obviously you want to have it correct and reading well and all that at the end but anyone can do a big brain down, you know your thing. Do a big brain down on something and then go back to it. Don’t panic about not being a writer and really it doesn’t even have to be a lot of writing.
If you are a builder and you are doing a project, take a few photos of the project and just do captions. You don’t even really need to necessarily write reams and reams of copy and I guess, the third takeaway is promotion. There is no point writing if you then don’t follow through with the other things. I think it’s a unique time at the moment with take up of social media and with newsletters and emails and blogging platforms and how easy Word Press is and other CMS’s. Integrating them all has never been easier, so integrating your social media protocols with your newsletter with your blogging it’s the easiest thing in the world and that’s the way to promote and to drive people there.
I mean, if I look at my Google Analytic from my website and hopefully everyone that has a website has a Google Analytics on it and if they don’t, they should. It spikes every Tuesday, which is when I blog. It spikes from fairly nothing up into the hundreds sometimes. So, you can see that it’s worth it and even if all of those people don’t become clients, some of them do, a percentage of them do and Google saves it. So, that again, you’ve got that two things and quite often, when I get a call about a job from a potential client, their opening comment either by phone or email is, I’ve been reading your blog for a while and I’ve been meaning to contact you. You seem like the kind of Writer I want. So, even if it’s not immediate, even if you can’t see the immediate pay, persist.
Nick: Awesome. So, a good success story there to end on. Thanks very much for coming on the show, Nicole. It’s been fantastic having you and having this conversation about blogging. Where can people find out more about you and your business?
Nicole: Well, they can go to my website, which is a really long one but I’ll try. It’s www.blackcoffeecommunications.com.au or they can find me very easily on Facebook and on Google Plus and Twitter and all of that sort of stuff and I’d be happy to have a chat with them.
Nick: Well, I’ll put links to all those in the show on this episode to webmarketingadelaide.com.au and people can go check you out there.
Thanks again for coming to the show and have a good one.
Nicole: No problem. Thanks very much for inviting me Nick.[/spoiler]