Blog like it’s 2001: how to get the passion back into your business website

Remember the day you launched your new business website? Think back to how excited you were, how full of promise it all seemed. Can you recall how proud you felt after writing your first, second, third blog posts?

Fast forward to now. Are you still getting a kick out of blogging? Chances are, you’re not.

Somehow, over time, blogging became an inconvenience. It was taking too much time and effort. You ran out of ideas months ago. You’re not even sure why you ended up with a blog in the first place—it probably just came bundled in with the site. Nobody reads it so it just sits there, unloved, neglected, growing ever more out-of-date and irrelevant.

What happened?

The novelty wore off. You fell out of love. You broke up with your blog. And if so, you now have two options:

  1. work on rekindling the spark (hint: do this)
  2. take the blog down (hint: don’t do this)

The truth is that in most cases, you can’t run a successful business website without a blog of some description. Here’s a reminder why:

Six reasons why your business needs a blog

1. Blogs are dynamic

Your visitors want to see that your business is active and willing to engage, that stuff’s happening and you think it’s important enough to share. No news equates to nothing going on—not a good look.

2. Blogs build relationships

An effective blog allows potential clients to peek into your world, obligation-free. It’s far less confronting than walking into a physical shop or office, yet people can still get to know you and your business, and see how you like to do things, all at their own pace. Ultimately, this will create trust.

3. Blogs keep search engines interested (if updated regularly)

Search engines don’t look for just any old content; they like nice, long, wordy stuff. If you don’t have a blog or something like it on your site, how will you provide this?

4. Blogs can build credibility

If your posts are well-written and contain information that’s not readily available anywhere else, you’re well on the way to positioning yourself as an expert in your field. That stuff’s gold.

5. Blogs can open doors

Once you’ve built up enough street cred, you then become the go-to person for anyone wanting expert commentary: media; industry groups; special interest, lobby or advocacy groups, depending on your industry. Take it from someone who used to work in the media: experts aren’t always good communicators. If you happen to be both, once these groups get wind of you they’ll keep coming back and your public profile will increase.

6. Blogs create better communicators

Writing engaging posts might take time, thought and commitment but working on your communication skills will benefit every area of your life, not just work.

So why blog like it’s 2001?

Because that’s the year that blogging really took off. We might be blasé about blogs now but back then they were a revolutionary new way to connect with a potentially huge audience and people were excited. This was mass communication on a global scale—the new media—and as long as you had a computer and an internet connection, you could participate. The possibilities seemed huge and it was thrilling.

Early blogging templates were very basic and certainly not pretty but the first mainstream blogs weren’t about design; they were all about content. There was some superb writing from that first wave of  bloggers; everything from political punditry to tech commentary to the humour and wit of the original “mommy bloggers”.

These people connected with thousands of loyal readers. They became the online equivalent of rock stars—all because they could put together a convincing argument, explain complex things in a simple way, make people laugh, or a combination of the three. They were relatable, proving that anyone could attract an audience if they had the skills to get their message across well. And they were authentic because they were blogging simply for the love of it (the book deals came later).

Then businesses cottoned on. Websites! Blogs!  Perfect ways to connect to the global market without expensive advertising and middle men. Think of all the stuff they could sell! That’s when everything changed . . . which brings us back to the here and now.

How to re-kindle the spark with your business blog

To keep any sort of blog going, you need three key ingredients: passion, authenticity and creativity. If you’re blogging for the love of it you’ll already have the first two, and the third will come if you stick at it. But if you’re going through the motions because you think you should, or if you’re not really interested in what you’re writing about, your blog will be boring and you’re better off not bothering. You can’t fake passion or authenticity and people will always sniff it out if you try.

It’s still possible to build an audience with a well-crafted blog, even a business blog. People still want to be informed, inspired and entertained. They still want to know how you can help them make their lives easier. Yes, there’s a lot more chatter out there than there was in 2001 but a lot of it isn’t very engaging or well done. If you can offer both, you’re already ahead.

Let’s look at ways to inject some fun and life back into your blog:

1. Get the most invested people to blog

Who is the most passionate and invested person in your business? Probably the owner, so if that’s you, ideally you’re the one who should be blogging. That’s not usually how it happens in small businesses, though. Responsibility for updating company social media accounts and blogs is often delegated to the admin person or receptionist, who is invariably flat-out as it is. Unless these people are writers and/or marketing graduates, it’s a risky way of promoting a brand.

If, as a business owner, you can’t or won’t blog yourself, make sure that whoever you delegate gets all the training they need to make a good job of it. Then they’ll buy in to it. The additional sales will re-coup the expense and the staff member will have an additional skill that adds value to your company.

Another way to inject some variety into the blog is to identify staff members who love what they do and invite them to write a post about their role, how it fits into the broader scheme and why they like their job. If writing isn’t their strong point, use your phone to record a 20-second interview, take a photo of them and transcribe the audio. Use the blog to celebrate your staff’s achievements out of work too. They’ll share the posts on social media, your website’s hit rate will rise and who knows . . . you may get some business out of it.

Excitement is contagious. Generate a buzz and get your staff invested. Then use your blog to share your milestones and great news.

2. Don’t call it a blog

Think about your average, bog-standard, five-page website and the main menu items it’s likely to feature: Home, About, Services, FAQs and Contact. Each of these offers useful information.

Then think about menu item #6: Blog. What’s that offering? Where’s the inducement for visitors to check it out? What’s it got to do with them?

If you want people to read it, don’t call your blog a blog. Call it “News” or “Ideas” or “Thoughts”, or something else in keeping with the nature of your business. Make it attractive and relevant to your visitors. It’s there for their benefit, after all.

3. Become an ace researcher and think outside the box

Here’s where you can get creative. Pay attention to what’s going on locally, nationally or internationally and if you can connect that to your business in a meaningful way, incorporate it into your blog. For example, if you have a dental practice and it’s early winter, write a post aimed at spring brides. Better still, create a series of three or four posts looking at different treatments or things to avoid if they want dazzling smiles on their big day. If you’re in Wellington and Seniors Week is coming up, find the latest research on dental implant technologies or post-menopausal oral health and write a commentary to accompany it (that’s important; don’t just link to it). At the start of the winter sports season, write about mouth guards and triage for knocked-out teeth.

Whatever your field, occasionally get quirky and have fun. Poll your co-workers to create an industry-themed playlist of your company’s greatest hits. Think up quizzes—people love quizzes. Write light-hearted profiles of staff members. Just don’t overdo it. If it’s starting to feel contrived, take a break and concentrate on Point 4 below.

4. Let your readers and customers dictate your content

Hopefully, you’re already scrolling through the comments on your social media feeds or on previous blog posts looking for the “But what about?” comments. These are potential new blog subjects and they show your readers that you’re paying attention and addressing their queries. If you have sales staff, find out the most common questions people are asking. If you don’t have sales staff, ask the person who answers the phone.

Your blog is also a very valuable tool for addressing objections. It’s a lot easier to outline the value of your product or service in a blog post than during a phone call or meeting when you might be feeling a little defensive. Pay attention to why someone doesn’t want to take their initial inquiry any further and work out how to turn it around. Always stay positive and give real-life examples of benefits. Case studies are excellent for this.

5. Schedule time to blog

Make blogging a habit. If you don’t, it will always fall to the bottom of the list. Create a list of topics so you know in advance what you’re going to write about. Then set aside a couple of hours every week and stick to it.

Alternatively, allow half a day every fortnight to write two or three posts and then schedule them for publication once a week. Do whatever works for you. The point is to keep it regular but from a motivation standpoint, little and often usually works better than large chunks infrequently.

6. Use social media to grow your audience

Businesses should use social media to drive traffic to their own websites, not everyone else’s. In order to do that,  you need a regular supply of new content to share. The more you blog, the more unique content you can link to on social media. And if it’s useful content it will attract more shares and boost your website traffic. Efficiency!

Occasionally, we’ll hear a business owner say, “I don’t need a blog, I can interact directly with people on Facebook instead.”

That’s true, assuming their target market uses Facebook for business purposes. But social media doesn’t make sales or give in-depth information about business products and services. And without paid advertising, it’s getting harder and harder for businesses to be seen on Facebook.

Opting not to have a blog also raises the question of how to regularly update content on the site. See “Blogs keep search engines interested” above.

7. Monitor each post’s progress and refine

If you’re not already using Google Analytics (GA) to get insights about the traffic on your site and its origins, start doing so right now. Please. Not because we told you to, but because it’s an incredibly useful tool and it’s free.

GA will identify your most popular posts, so you can expand on them. It will reveal the search terms people use most often to find your site, so you can tailor more of your posts to include those terms as keywords and key phrases. GA will reveal bounce rates on pages and posts, so you know where you need to work harder to improve visitor experience. And if your visitor numbers keep increasing, GA gives you hard evidence that all your blogging efforts are paying off.

Get good at blogging and reap the rewards

Creating blog posts—yes, business blog posts too—can be interesting, inspiring and fun. It might feel a little strained at the beginning but if you’re passionate about your brand, your enthusiasm will infect others and take you a long way.

Be creative and occasionally take risks. Not every blog post will break readership records but once you build an audience, you’ll find they can be surprisingly loyal and forgiving. Remember to put your readers first. Give them the information they want, make their lives easier somehow, and enjoy yourself. That’s how to create an irresistible buzz.

The year 2001 saw the launch of Wikipedia, the iPod, Windows XP and the first Lord of the Rings movie. Events in 2001 also changed the world in darker ways. But for the first time, people were able to communicate their reactions to these events in a new way; one that was both public and intensely personal at the same time.

2001 was the year that blogging really took off. Head back there and get excited, my precious. Crank up the Destiny’s Child, U2 or Incubus, draft a post and fall in love with your blog all over again. It will do your brand a world of good.

Niki Morrell

Niki has been freelancing as a digital copywriter and journalist since 2012. Before that, she chattered incessantly as a radio host for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. A former New Zealand ballroom dancing champion, she now boogies in the kitchen of her Nelson Lakes farm, writes dark works of short fiction and steadfastly refuses to eat cabbage.

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