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Blogging is the latest buzzword in online marketing and PR.
But with so many marketers jumping on the blogging bandwagon, few people are giving a thought to whether blogs are really up their alley, or taking the time to consider the best ways of going about it.
If you are planning to start a business blog, ask yourself these questions before you take the final plunge.
1. Do you really need a blog?
Writing and maintaining a blog takes a certain degree of commitment, as well as a passion (or at least a liking) for stringing words into a decent sentence. If you don't enjoy writing that much, you could always create an audio or video blog.
But would your business objectives really be served by starting a blog? Or could other methods of online marketing - like SEO, ezine advertising or newsletter publishing work just as well, if not better?
2. Whom do you want to reach with your blog?
The first step to reaching your audience is understanding where they go to find information about your products.
If your audience largely consists of people who live in your town or use products that they search for in the newspapers, offline advertising might be more suited to your purpose.
If however, your target audience belongs to one or more of these segments, a blog might be just the thing to boost your business.
- Internet users
Does your target audience really use the internet? If not, then starting a blog (or any online activity, for that matter) will just be a huge waste of time and effort.
- Blog readers
Does your target audience read blogs? Or do they prefer to get their information in their inbox? If the latter is true, then an email newsletter might be a better option than a blog.
- Search engine users
A blog is an excellent way to boost your search engine rankings and get listed for a lot of your target keywords. If you know that your audience uses search engines to find information, a blog will increase your chances of getting their attention.
3. What do you want to achieve with your blog?
There are a lot of things that a blog can do for your business. Blogs can help you -
- Increase your visibility and search engine rankings
- Brand yourself, your products, your services, your company
- Build a community and network with people who have similar interests
- Expand your reach to those outside your current sphere of influence
- Establish your credibility as an expert or thought-leader in your field
- Put a human face on your business
- Reach out to potential customers and stakeholders
Deciding exactly what you want to achieve with your blog can help you get focused, so that you can spend your time and effort in activities that help, not hinder your business objectives.
4. How much time can you spend on your blog?
Serious business bloggers not only spend time writing their own blogs, but also spend a great deal of time reading up on current events and browsing other blogs in their field for information.
If you are prepared to put in the time and effort required to do that sort of research, your blog will serve as a good branding tool for your business.
If not, you should either hire someone to do the research or seriously rethink your decision to start a blog.
5. What blogging platform will serve your needs best?
Deciding your blogging platform is an important step that you should take only after becoming familiar with the features and benefits of each option.
The reason it is so crucial is because it can be extremely difficult to migrate an established blog to a new platform once you have started it. Moving your blog can result in you losing your data, search engine listings and readers, so don't take this decision lightly.
Decide which platform will best meet your marketing objectives, time constraints and personal preferences before you make your first post.
According to T.L. Pakii Pierce who writes at "How to Blog for Fun & Profits!" http://blogforfunandprofit.blogware.com, if you are short of time, and want to spend more time writing, then a hosted solution like Blogger, Blogware, Squarespace or Typepad might serve your purpose better.
This might also prove a better option if you want to get started as soon as possible, are new to the internet, or are unfamiliar with scripts or code.
If, on the other hand, you're a control freak (like me) and don't mind spending some time and effort to customize your blog, then a server-installed software, like Wordpress, b2Evolution or Movable Type might be just right for you.
If you don't want to install the scripts yourself, choose a hosting solution with Fantastico, which comes with a one-click install of a number of blogging software.
6. How do you plan to promote your blog?
Why is it good to know this before you start your blog? Because it will help you decide where best to invest your time and effort when you need to build traffic to your blog.
You'll learn more about the methods to promote your blog when you subscribe to the email course below. Some of these tasks can be outsourced, while others you would have to do yourself.
Decide what you want to take on and look out for service providers to handle the other functions so you can start building traffic to your blog as soon as possible.
7. How will you assess the success of your blog?
To determine how successful your blog is in boosting your profile or profits you will have to measure your blog traffic and track sales or leads that have come through it.
Planning this in advance will help you take more informed decisions about your blogging metrics, choice of blogging platform and degree of customization you require on your blog.
Understand that blogging is not for everyone. It's just another form of communication.
Don't get so hung up on the technology that you end up ignoring more appropriate ways of communicating your message.
Some things may be easier to communicate face to face, in a conference room, or even through the good old telephone.
But if you asked yourself all the questions above and decided that blogging meets all your objectives, then a blog may be just what the doctor ordered for your business.
Copyright © 2005 Priya Shah
Priya Shah is a former journalist who writes on business blogging
and publishes an internet marketing newsletter. Subscribe to her
on Blogging for Marketers