Business blogging guide: getting started

Wednesday, 03 December 2008

I just had one of those “ohmygodIknowI’mforgettingsomethingwhatisit?” moments and realized I hadn’t posted on here in like 2 months. Bad, I know, but it’s the same old story of the cobbler’s kid having no shoes, or in this case the blogger not blogging. I get so caught up in ghostblogging for clients that my own blog always gets put on the back burner. I also just redesigned my site (OK, I didn’t, Dan Zarrella did. Thank you!), but that’s still no excuse for being lazy.

However, I know a lot of people that I blog for or train to blog for themselves go through the same kinds of issues; there is always something more pressing to get done, and blogging just sounds so not serious to a lot of people. Someone (probably me) convinces them they need a blog, for search, or marketing, or branding, or reputation management, or sales…you get the idea. So they agree, start posting…and then just stop.

To help people overcome this, or avoid it altogether, I came up with a mini-guide to blogging for business. It pulls together what I tell blogging clients, as well as all the internal stuff I do that I never really thought about until now, because while the basic premise of blogging sounds easy—write what you know, provide some useful information, keep it short and simple—the actual practice turns out to be daunting for some. Throw some keywords and a crash course on SEO at someone who’s not real familiar with how search works and maintaining a blog quickly becomes an overwhelming job that is always getting put off until “tomorrow.”

Designate a day for blogging

Admittedly, our own blog gets pushed to the back of the pile when we have client work that always seems more pressing than keeping up with our own site. This is also the reason it took us forever to update this website while creating dozens for clients. But a blog can be great for search without taking up the greater part of your week. I’m big on lists and calendars and I’ve found it helps to set aside part of one day each week for posting, commenting, responding to comments and other general blog upkeep.

Do you need a whole day? Probably not, but it helps to know that Tuesday morning=blogging. Inevitably, meetings and rush deadlines will get in the way every once in awhile, but try to schedule blog maintenance the way you would any other appointment.

You’ve made the time, now where do you start? If you’ve been slacking on the blog, try to start fresh; don’t get too bogged down in what you’ve missed or try to change the dates to look like you’ve been posting more frequently. Pick up where you left off. If the scheduling method works for you, try this checklist of the steps I go through when tackling a new blog post:

Check News and RSS Feeds

You should always be keeping up to date on what’s going on in your industry, but a CNN article’s viewpoint can differ from an industry blogger. You probably know the top stories, but look for the different sides to each. I’ve found BlogLines to be an effective and easy-to-use RSS reader, and I also get a lot of blog post material from Twitter. When I’m ghostwriting blog posts for clients I set up a new folder in BlogLines with all of their industry info, and I also recommend this in their blog training sessions.

Brainstorm Your Blog Post

There’s a lot of news buzzing around the internet; don’t try to cover all of it, at least not at first. After scanning your RSS feeds and whatever else you use, take a minute to think about what you’ve read. Chances are, one or two articles piqued your interest more than others, probably because you have some specific knowledge or experience with whatever they’re talking about. Figure out what you can add to the material that’s already out there. For instance, I love Facebook and do a lot of social media marketing with the site, so whenever they change something I think about how that will impact what we’re doing for clients.

Write First, Post Later

Some people find outlines helpful, but I’ve never been a fan so I just dig write in. I might jot down some notes on things I want to cover or bookmark links to articles I want to reference, but for the most part, all the planning is in my head. Teachers didn’t like this, but it works for me. If you need a written outline, go for it; it might help you focus, especially at first. If not, or once you’ve done this, just start writing. I do all my blog posts in Word so I have a copy offline; I’ve also had some unfortunate incidents where my post was “lost” in the blogging program. Bottom line, it’s nice to have a second copy somewhere should something get lost online.

Make It Sound Like You

My “just start writing” philosophy also helps with making my posts sound more like me and less like research papers. Blogs are part of social media; they’re meant to be conversational. To that end, I also leave off subheads until the end (see above). I jump around when I talk, and therefore when I type, so I’m never sure where a paragraph will end up. Instead of writing to a headline, I write a headline to fit the content. Same goes for the title of the post. I’ve heard a lot of authors say that the title of a book, movie, essay, or other written work was the hardest part to get, and the last thing they came up with. So I think I’m in good company.

Format Your Post to Be More “Bloggy”

Once you’ve got your post written, copy and paste into whichever blogging client you use. One caveat: lots of programs don’t like Word’s formatting, so you may want to strip it out before pasting. I copy and paste into Notepad first and format entirely in the blogging program. What is this mysterious blog-ness? Adding links, writing subheads, bolding key phrases, adding images where appropriate. This makes it easier to read, more pleasing to look at and conveys a general blog feel, as opposed to a white paper or news article.

As I’m sure you noticed, this post is rather long, longer than I would advise most people to write. And I didn’t even cover keywords or writing SEO blog posts; this is the bare bones basics to blogging. But, I’ve also set myself up for the next couple of posts to cover using a blog for SEO and getting into the details of making your post “bloggy.” So stay tuned!

No Comments

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI