Erm, what actually is a blog?

A client asked me that question yesterday, after I had rambled on about digital marketing strategy for ages.

Blogs have become such a common part of marketing today that I had forgotten some people still don’t know what they are. So here’s a beginner’s guide.

The (ugly) word ‘blog’ is a contraction of the words web and log. That is, a log that is kept on the web.

A log is a diary or journal in reverse chronological order so the newest information is at the top and the oldest at the bottom. You might recognise the word from Star Trek e.g. ‘Captain’s log, star date 160116’.

Each entry in your blog is called a ‘blog post’, or simply ‘post’. As soon as you start ‘blogging’, you are a ‘blogger’.

So what are the advantages of having a blog?

In, many cases, blogs are overtaking static webpages in terms of effectiveness.

A blog that is kept up-to-date provides fresh content – which is one of the main things that search engines are looking for. It also adds value and demonstrates your expertise to human site visitors (like Amanda’s does). What’s more, your blog posts are more likely to be shared across social media networks than any of your selling pages.

The other benefit is that you can enable comments on your blog if you want, which allows your audience to engage with you. When you get lots of activity on your blog, this can also boost your search engine ranking.

You will need to moderate the comments, but there are tools you can use to filter spam. Akismet for WordPress costs just $5 per month – about £3.25 and is worth every penny.

But what should I write in my blog?

Don’t use your blog to share company news or media updates (you can have separate pages for those). You will have heard the expression that ‘content is king’, so it’s best to use your blog for hints, tips and how-to’s.

Research shows that people search online for information or entertainment (not for adverts or selling messages) – so that’s what you need to provide.

I suggest you plan your topics in advance, listing ideas for each month, such as Valentine’s Day or Christmas. Add in anything that is relevant to your industry or business. Be ready to hijack breaking news where possible, for example, lots of people write a blog post based on last night’s Apprentice episode, or the death of a celebrity.

As a copywriter, I never run out of ideas for what to write, whether for myself or my clients. You can also curate content written for you by guest bloggers in return for promoting themselves to your audience and/or a link back to their website.

If you are stuck for inspiration, visit the online version of whatever newspaper or magazine your target audience is likely to read. Copy and paste the top 10 headlines of the day, and replace the nouns with your own topic. Then write an article to match the headline.

Alternatively, try using headline-generator sites (they’re free):

Categories and tags

Put each blog post into a relevant category and add tags. Separate tag phrases with commas so they are not seen as separate words by search engines. For example:

  • Category: Food
    • Tags: Shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, cake
  • Category: Drink
    • Tags: Gin and tonic, beer, wine

As categories and tags are clickable links, they are one of the many things that tell search engines what your site is about. They also help human beings navigate their way around your blog to find the information they need. Think of it like indexing a reference book.

Call to action

Once you have given massive value in your blog content, it’s OK to end with a signature or call to action. That’s where you put your selling message and URL (web address). It’s a soft-selling approach, but if people have enjoyed reading what you wrote, they might just get in touch.

Good luck with your new blog – and do contact me if you need any further help.

I wrote this article for the Corporate Escape Club.

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