For many companies, maintaining a blog has proven to be hard work. There are far too many commercial blogs with tumbleweed blowing across the screen, with no posts often for weeks or even months. It is for this reason that many companies have turned to micro-blogging tools – 140 characters is much less onerous a task!

However, blogs should not be overlooked for their ability to generate long-term traffic which can help bring visitors to your site by often obscure routes that you may not have expected, or even paid for – through links on other blogs, in discussion forums, on Twitter etc. Therefore, corporates really need to get on the blogging bandwagon and blogs should be nurtured.

How do you create blog posts which attract readers whilst remaining easy to write in-house (or by guest bloggers or copywriters)?

Unless the subject matter is complex or technical, it is often better to write short blog posts than long ones. Many people find that lengthy sections of text are off-putting, and quite often will bookmark for reading at a time when they will have more time to absorb the content, and this often means that the post will be forgotten. Seth Godin has mastered the art of short blog posts, and become internationally renowned in the process.

Adding images to a blog post is always a good idea, even if it is simply a screenshot to illustrate a point, or to refer or accredit another website. Cartoons may suit your blog style and cartoonists can be found on the freelance sites, such as ifreelance.com, or through the search engines.

Some of the most popular blog posts are lists of points eg 11 Search Trends for 2011, or Five Handy Twitter Tips. These can be easy to put together as a blog post, and for a corporate blog, it could be as simple as “Five Things To Remember When Placing Your Order.”

Catchy headlines always help to attract a reader’s attention. You may not be a top headline creator, but potentially someone else in the office has this skill, so ask around. Look at popular blogs for headline ideas, and remember that your headlines are often used to create the filename for the URL of that post, which then can help with your SEO, so try to include keywords. You can also help to create a personality with your headlines, so whether you want to be formal or funny, your headlines will help set the scene for the type of visitor you wish to attract to your blog.

Capitalising The First Letter Of Each Word Of The Headline. This can be a matter of personal choice, but it does seem that capitalisation like this can help make any text more readable. Love it or loathe it, try it to see what effect it has on clickthrough rates before deciding one way or the other.

Blog posts that contain links imply that there is a level of authority and research behind the article, whether these are links to content within your site or external links. Obviously, links to your own blog will create more churn within the content on your own site, but by linking to further reading elsewhere you will often attract the writers of those articles or blog posts who may well return the favour with a reciprocal link, or even a comment on your site.

If you find that your blog has been referred to in someone else’s post, or with a trackback or pingback, it is always worth going to read what has been written and, where appropriate, make a comment. It may be that you can dd further information in the context of the post, reply to comments or just say thank you for the link. If you are lucky, you may be able to start a dialogue with the blog owner or the commentators, and some of these conversations can lead to offers to guest post, swap blog posts, or links on further sites.

Use your blog to promote your products and services, but without doing the ‘hard sell’. It may be that you reveal why you have developed a particular product i.e. in response to market research or consumer requests. Or you highlight the gap that the product or service is intended to fill, but from your consumer’s point of view rather than the benefits to your business. You may share some of your expertise or expand on an FAQ. Remember though that people are reading to discover what is in it for them (the WIIFM question – What’s In It For Me) so always write bearing that in mind.

Write a short excerpt or summary of longer blog posts so that your readers can discover within a single paragraph whether the post will be of interest to them. Respect for other people’s information overload is always important.

And bearing all the above in mind, make sure that you maximise each internet marketing opportunity by ensuring that your posts are promoted via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, within your own company, and to your customers and potential customers. A link on the front page of your site showing new content will always bring more readers.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology