New years come with many new challenges and adventures. Business, just like people, use the new year as a chance to review the successes and failures of the previous one as well as an opportunity to set new goals and objectives. You might have even already outlined some of  your 2012 goals as you get ready to attack the new year.

Here’s one you should add to the list:

In 2012, your business should start a blog.

(And if you already have a blog, then use this year to maximize its reach.)

Why A Blog?

Your goal with a blog is to get found by people you don’t know online. Engaging our clients and fans isn’t easy, but we have access to them. Finding your prospects is a much more challenging task and takes real expertise and hard work.

How do prospects find your business online (mostly)?

SEARCH ENGINES!

The job of a search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) is to scan and scan and scan and scan (you get it, they never stop) web pages for content. These search engines use complex algorithms to determine the value of content and page rankings.  This ongoing process determines where content appears on SERPs (search engine results pages).

Blogs are most ideal web environment for creating and sharing content for several reasons:

  • Search Engine Friendly: Search engines aren’t magical; there’s a precise development discipline guiding the ways they scan and index pages. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) experts are trained to research and implement keywords that give your content the authority to help search engines get comfortable returning content to more of the appropriate prospects. Many years ago SEO was a hidden science that created content visible to search engines but invisible to the web visitor. With the advent of blogs, there are now content management systems that house all the most important elements that search engines scan for an a very usable and organized way.
  • User Friendly: You don’t need a degree from MIT in computer science to understand how to manage a blog. You don’t even  need formal web design training. Most blogging software is designed so that the user experience is intuitive, letting the blogger know where the content goes, how to format it, and where to input the important SEO elements (keywords, tags,categories, etc). You may also add plug-ins that will help you share your content across the web. (For example, WordPress has plug-ins that will tweet your new content for you the second you publish it on your blog). Managing a blog is as simple as managing your e-mail.
  • Great For Customer Support: Blogs have commenting systems that allow the business to interact with its readers and provide top level customer support. Your blogging platform can remind you via e-mail (or even text message in some cases) as to when a prospect or client has left a comment on your content, giving you the opportunity to engage them (prospect) or provide support (client).

Blogging Objectives

I would make zero decisions on the blog (other than deciding to have one for reasons above) before I created and understood a list of its objectives. These objectives will shape the entire scope of the blog and your Internet marketing in general. They will help set guidelines and determine deliverables.

I cannot determine the objectives of your blog as I wouldn’t begin to pretend to understand your business or marketing philosophies, but here are three general objectives I think would apply to most businesses.

  1. Help With Sales
    • Your blog should not only be a source of engaging (and often entertaining) content, but it should provide useful information that help your sales force. The more your prospects and clients know about your industry and your product, the more successful a sales call or visit is likely to go. Creating content to support sales can be done in a variety of ways:
      • Product details and specs
      • FAQs
      • How-To posts and videos
      • Product reviews
      • Photo Galleries
  2. Increasing Social Reach
    • A blog presents a business an excellent opportunity to increase its reach on social networks. Engaging a visitor on your webpage is of the most importance, but many visitors require more than one or two visits before they consider becoming a buyer. Give these prospects the chance to connect with your business on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. They might forget a webpage they visited (people are busy), but chances are they check their social networks daily, and you can grab them again there.
  3. Advertise New Products/Offerings
    • Creating new content to find new prospects is nice and all, but you should give them an opportunity to buy while they are there! While no website or blog should be overly aggressive with advertising, it is important that they understand your service, especially considering all the content that’s being created to get them there. Use space on your blog to host banners or call-to-actions buttons that let visitors know about something you are selling or offering.

There are many other objectives you’ll come up with as you begin. You might be interesting in collecting e-mails for e-mail marketing or gaining YouTube subscribers for your video networks. Whatever your objectives are, list them and make them clear to the people in your business before you begin creating content.

In The Next Installment, ‘Part 2: Getting Started’

  • Defining your blog’s target audience
  • Choosing your bloggers
  • Choosing your blogging software

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