If you or your small business is struggling to get onboard the blog-marketing train, here are six essential Must Haves to set you on your way:
1: The Right Domain Name
Before you do anything, purchase a domain name that will suit your purposes. If your company already has a website consider not just setting your blog up in a subdirectory: e.g. www.yourdomain.com/blog/
Purchase a domain name that reflects what your business does. For example, if you’re a canine behaviourist you could select something along the lines of www.dog-training-tips-com to complement your established website at www.yourdomain.com. Or if you’re an psychoeducational assessor who helps kids go with something like www.help4students.org.
It’s much better to run a blog on your own server than using a free service (such as Blogger.com) as you retain control of it and build the value of the domain, rather than helping someone else build theirs.
2: The Right Blog Software
Choose WordPress. It’s free and very easy to use. More significantly, there is a wealth of plugins and information to help your site perform well in Google’s search results.
3. The Right Theme Framework
Even if you can afford the skills of a designer, I would personally recommend you use Chris Person’s Thesis Theme as a framework (no affiliate link, just a recommendation!). It’s easy to tweak for Search Engine Optimisation and there’s excellent support and resources available from the Thesis community. It’s not free but the minimal cost will benefit your business blog no end.
Tip: Bookmark Matt Files 100 Resources for Thesis. You’ll find a lot of these links useful.
4. The Right Permalink Structure
Google likes friendly urls (web addresses). Out of the box, WordPress creates rather strange looking urls.
To overcome this you should change your permalink settings in WordPress so each post you write creates its own friendly url:
To do this simply go to:
Select Settings > Permalinks (once you’ve logged into WordPress).
Paste the following into the Custom Structure field: /%postname%/ and hit save.
5: The Right WordPress Plugins
Although WordPress is geared for excellent Search Engine Optimisation out of the box and easy to use, I have found that the following Plug-ins are indispensable in improving SEO and building a successful weblog:
This redirects commenters who just made their first comment to a page of your choice. On Jon Buscall.com it directs first time commenters to Dagon Design Sitemap Generator
This generates a fully customizable sitemap. Google likes this â€“ a lot.
Google XML Sitemaps
Excellent â€“ because it generates a sitemaps.org compatible sitemap of your WordPress blog which is supported by Ask.com, Google, MSN Search and YAHOO. All you need to know is that this will benefit your SEO.
This plug-in creates a PrintFriendly.com button which will help people easily print your site. Don’t forget, people still like to print out material to read on the train home or sharae with colleagues.
This plugin allows you to add all the appropriate robots meta tags to your pages and feeds, disable unused archives and nofollow unnecessary links. Important for SEO; in other words how Google ranks you!
Let your visitors share a post/page with others. Supports e-mail and posting to social bookmarking sites. You want people to be able to easily share your content with others.
Subscribe To Comments
Allows readers to receive notifications of new comments that are posted to an entry. A conversation shouldn’t just end with one comment. Readers like to know what other people are saying.
WP Greet Box
Show a different message to your visitor depending on which site they are coming from. It’s a great way of encouraging people to subscribe to your RSS feed.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin
This plugin returns a list of related entries that can tempt your reader to browse through more of your site. It’s a great way of encouraging visitors to your site to explore more of your work.
There are plenty of other plugins available, but these are the ones I personally recommend.
6. The Right Blog Content
Having sorted the technical stuff, it’s time to set down and do some serious writing as you generate your site’s content. This requires planning, time and commitment.
Fill your blog with meaningful content about your subject. A good rule of thumb is to try to think of what people might look for in Google within your field. E.g. How to stop my dog barking (if you’re a canine behaviourist), How to write formal emails (if you’re a communications strategist), Tree Pruning Tips (if you’re a gardener), Getting AD/HD Diagnosed (if you work with psychoeducational assessment), etc.
You might also include product information, tips, guides, special offers and basically anything that you might think could be of interest to potential customers.
You don’t have to update your blog everyday but you should do so fairly regularly. Three times a week is a good amount to start off with as you build content and hopefully a regular group of followers.
There is, of course, much more to blogging but if you follow the advice here you should at least have a solid foundation for growing your business blog.
You can download this post as a PDF from Slideshare.