Blogs are increasingly popular and many have become amongst the web’s most popular destinations (I.e Huffington Post, Mashable, PerezHilton). For organizations they represent a great way to showcase your expertise, engage with website visitors, and are an effective way to boost your visibility in search engines since blog posts are a source of fresh content that search engines are always hungry for. If you have a blog or are considering one for your organization, below are five best practices regarding the structure and type of content it should include.
1. Add value. Produce content that will be valuable to your audience in relation to the industry or topic you are associated with. So, if you are an agricultural input provider then it would be valuable if you developed content relating to global markets for agricultural commodities, emerging trends in crop production, and best practices related to farming practices. The content doesn’t need to be overtly promotional although it should tie back into your offering in some manner. If you provide valuable content people will respect you for your expertise and hopefully think of your organization in a positive light and be top of mind when it comes to making a purchasing decision or tell a friend about your organization who is in need of services you offer.
2. Include a picture and a little blurb about yourself. The sidebar area of the page is a perfect place to put a picture and short description since it shows up as a permanent feature on every blog post. Don’t assume website visitors will finish reading your blog and then peruse the rest of your site to find out more. Obviously, this would be ideal and you should strive to make posts that encourage visitors to do so, but the reality is most people leave after reading a single blog post. It is therefore important to include something about yourself so that people can quickly understand who you are, what you provide and why it matters. In addition, you may want to provide a list of related links at the end of a blog post to encourage people to read other similar subject matter.
3. Encourage comments and feedback to make your blog personal. A blog without commenting capabilities is a bit self defeating since a primary goal of any blog should be to encourage engagement and develop a following. It’s tough to get a following if you don’t communicate with people or allow them to express themselves. You may want to create a commenting policy so that people know what sort of material is acceptable and many blogging platforms also allow you to moderate comments before they get posted. Don’t be afraid of allowing negative comments since it will allow you an opportunity to address their issue and sometimes a disagreement makes things a bit more interesting for other readers to follow!
4. Incorporate sidebar widgets to encourage interaction. Many people are too shy to write comments, so build in other ways they can interact – Consider adding a poll related to the blog post asking people to submit their response or integrate twitter feeds where tweets related to the blog or topic are being shown. Another thing to consider is incorporating a social sharing feature such as the Facebook “like” button or adding a tool which allows people to quickly share the post via email, twitter or other social networks like Digg and Mixx. By doing these things you allow people more options to interact with you and help spread your content.
5. Commit to frequent and consistent postings. Not every blog post has to be a thousand word opus. Admittedly, I am guilty of writing long blog posts and often try to cram in as much value as possible. The key thing a person really needs to focus on is providing value and trying to achieve that in a succinct manner with a judicious use of keywords relating to your industry. Two or three paragraphs is all you really need for a blog post if it’s well written. If you are responsible for marketing and communications and find yourself too busy to make posts on a frequent basis then enlist other people in your organization that are experts in their area and are interested in writing. Also consider reaching out to customers to provide information on their experiences and turn it into a blog post. Finally, try to provide a mix of media in your blog to keep things interesting. Not all blog visitors want to read text, so try to cater to different preferences by incorporating video, pictures, charts, and audio. This will create a more dynamic experience and make your blog more interesting. I promise my next post will have some pictures!
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