SEO

Blogging in the cloud: How to create an effective blog for your small business

A guide on why blogging can boost traffic, the range of platforms available and setting up your own text blog

Having found your space on the web and begun gathering a crowd, the next natural step is to start engaging them. You can do this by creating interesting, unique content, stuff that they will want to link to and share with their friends, which will make sure that your name keeps bubbling up in the search rankings.

The stats

On average, companies that run a regular blog experience 55% more web traffic than companies that don’t, with more than half believing that they’ve taken on new customers directly because of the blog.

Surprisingly, then, given those numbers, only 60% of companies actually do run a blog and more than half of those admit to not having updated it for over a year. It’s not essential that you become a prolific blogger, but creating a new page every now and then that is optimised to help your performance in the search rankings can never be a bad thing. If business is a bit slow and you’re just sitting there waiting for the phone to ring anyway, what have you got to lose? You might even uncover a hidden talent and become an Internet sensation! Maybe. Bloggers now have so many ways to express themselves that it is getting ridiculous, and there are more than 133 million blogs (though, to be fair, the active bloggers I know all have more than one blog running, covering various different projects).

A range of blogging platforms

Twitter is a form of blogging platform, known as micro-blogging, though in reality it has evolved more into a highly effective noticeboard directing people to deeper content on the web. You can choose to blog the traditional way, using pictures and text, or you can make an audio blog, known as a podcast.

You can screencast your desktop at the same time as recording your voice – a great way to create detailed ‘how to’ guides and step-by-step computer instructions if that is your line of work. Or you can go the whole hog and wow your audience with a video podcast, also known as a vlog (a contraction of video-blog). You can even blog with pure pictures if that’s your thing – there are plenty of very popular photo-blogs and cartoon series if you look around. Pretty much anything goes these days in the blogosphere.

It may seem far-fetched right now, but if you have the right idea, and do it in just the right way, at just the right time, you may be surprised at how quickly your link will spread. Remember, the more pages that link back to you, the higher your search engine ranking.

A good old-fashioned text blog

Whatever medium you ultimately choose, there’s a useful tool available, but we’ll start with the basics and look at the good old-fashioned text blog.

There are a lot of great free platforms if you’re not going to be overloading your pages with high-resolution images; if your business is photography I suggest that you consider one of the premium upgrades to cater for your needs. All the platforms offer a nice range of templates that can be set up in minutes, but you can also go pretty deep with the customisation if you want to. Most offer some kind of analysis of your traffic and they almost all have some kind of smartphone app these days, so you can share thoughts the moment they occur to you. There are obviously possible downsides to this if you are in the habit of having ‘brilliant thoughts’ when you are out drinking with your friends! You can write as much or as little as you want – just try to make it interesting or useful. Always remember who you’re writing for. Post accompanying photos whenever you can – people do like a bit of eye candy – and put plenty of links to other sites throughout the text. Remember, the more pages linking to and from your blog post, the more credible it will look to those search engine bots, pushing your page rank upwards.

You can add web addresses without it being annoying for your readers by using the ‘insert hyperlink’ option you can find in all the popular blog-posting tools. The icon usually looks like a three-ringed chain and lets you put a web address behind some words you’ve highlighted on your page. Readers will expect these links to lead somewhere relevant, and it’s a great way to back up your words with source articles if you want to do some halfway decent journalism while you’re at it.

Popular websites for publishing your blog

www.blogger.com Blogger is Google’s own platform, so it will integrate nicely with your other Google properties. It’s quick and uncomplicated – you can be up and blogging in just a few minutes after registration. www.wordpress.com WordPress is one of the long-standing web favourites for bloggers. Fast and unfussy, it has options for both beginner bloggers and those who want more control and customisation. www.typepad.com Typepad is another popular platform where it’s quick to set up and get posting, with deep design customisation and all manner of plug-ins and extras if you want to get more involved. www.tumblr.com With its trendy, clean design, Tumblr has become known as the place to blog about anything visual, like art, photography or design. It would be a good place to post something like a step-by-step pictorial guide or photographic journal.

This exclusive extract is taken from technology journalist Kate Russell’s new book Working the Cloud, published by Crimson Publishing. Available to order on Amazon now.

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