Blogging good for business

I was recently approached by a client asking about putting a blog on their business website. The request was odd, as it wasn't the sort of site that would typically lend itself to having a blog attached. Apparently someone told this client that having a blog was good for business.

Blogs have typically been a place for personal scribblings of varying quality, and using them as a business tool has never been a priority. Oh how things have changed.

The first blog I saw

I still remember one of the best blogs I have ever seen. I have no idea of the address or whether it still exists. This was back in the days of Windows 95, and blogs hadn't yet been invented. This site was a "web based diary" of some high-school kid trying to get a girlfriend. Every day, he would update his miserable attempts at making contact - on a good day he actually speak 5 or 6 words to a female . I read about 6 months of his musings, and thought the whole thing was quite humorous.

Mostly because it was completely honest.

The personal element

Most web copy is crap. How many times have we seen this kind of thing on websites.
We are the leaders in (service) across (country). Our qualified and friendly staff will guarantee the best (whatever) for your needs.

I'll admit many of my sites still read like this.

The problem is that there is no proof inherent in these statements. Every company says they are the best, so naturally we take statements like these with a grain of salt. We look for further proof that the company is actually the best.
We look at the brand (or lack thereof), which either reinforces or discredits the statements made. We look for photos of the people involved - do they look like people we want to deal with?

A blog is an opportunity to be honest with your visitors and give them an insight into who they are dealing with. Because the writing style is more casual, it's more believable. The writing is usually in the first person "I think this...." rather than the corporate "We are the best...".
You can get away with pointing out the flaws of your competitors in your blog (in a subtle and fair way of course), and you can offer some free advice to people who may convert to customers later on.

You can talk about things related to your area of business without sounding like a corporate press release. In the SEO/SEM industry, there are plenty of good sites with an attached internet marketing blog - the blog usually contains more content than the main part of the site.

You can use your blog to authoritatively speak on your subject of choice. This reinforces to people that you are an expert on whatever topic, in a way that saying "I am an expert" never can.

Digg this

Blog posts often show up on sites such as Digg - a good way to pull extra traffic. More importantly, extra exposure through these sorts of sites will get you links from webmasters who think your blog is interesting. Getting these kinds of links to a brochureware site can be really difficult unless your product is exceptionally good or cheap.

Blogs for companies

If you have an existing company website, and are prepared to add something at least every week or 2, then adding a blog is probably a good idea. A good blog can be used to build traffic, and more importantly build trust.

Many businesses host their blog on a separate site to the main company website - this can be useful to keep the formal and casual styles from conflicting. Just don't be surprised if your blog site starts pulling more traffic than your main site.
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