If you're serious about getting found online, you know that a business blog is your most critical asset. And, if you're really serious about getting found online thanks to a business blog, you'll want to evaluate it periodically.
Why should you evaluate your business blog regularly?
Your business blog needs to be top notch. After all, it's helping your business get found online and connect with customers. You need to evaluate it every so often to determine how effective your efforts are and readjust as necessary so you achieve some of these business benefits.
- It enables you to create fresh content for your website and publish it online without having to go through other resources (including IT). This content attracts visitors to your site.
- It's the ideal digital business publishing tool, particularly if you are committed to publishing frequently and consistently on the subjects or topics that you already care intensely and know a great deal about. It enables you to become a thought-leader on those topics.
- When you regularly and consistently publish blog articles, you trigger search engines to index and catalog your content so it can be served up in a relevant search. The better the quality and relevance of each individual blog article, the more likely it is to be indexed as worth reading and appear in search engine results. (Remember that each blog article has its own URL and can stand alone as a result in search.) This means that new prospects can discover your content and your business.
- It helps you promote relevant lead generation offers to prospective customers.
If you embrace a business blog for the right reasons (i.e., not to spam or drone on about stuff no respectable prospect would have any interest in), you'll discover that blog articles allow you to develop a voice for your business and express trustworthiness and authenticity - something increasingly important to businesses. You can demonstrate to prospective customers how well you understand how to help them solve their business problems.
For that matter, having and nurturing a business blog often makes you become a better social participant: you learn how to listen and draw out others - including customers! You connect with others with similar interests, without always pushing a hard sell message. Since you have something to share via your business blog, your involvement in social networks becomes more legitimate, believable and effective.
That said, it's to your and your business' benefit to evaluate how your business blog stacks up. So, let's explore how to evaluate yours and those of others.
Here's how to evaluate a business blog.
When I evaluate business blogs, I consider 5 parameters:
1. The business blog mechanics
2. The business blog content
3. The business blog's sidebar
4. The big picture surrounding the business blog
5. An overall assessment of the business blog.
Part 1 - Business Blog Mechanics
From a mechanics perspective, I look at the business blog's URL. Is it part of business website domain name? Does the blog article title form the article URL and include the central thought (aka keyword or keyword phrase) being developed in your blog article?
Although you can publish your business blog content on a free blogging platform and Content Management System (e.g., Blogger or WordPress) using a generic address (as I did with my first blog http://FlooringTheConsumer.blogspot.com), this isn't ideal for a business blog. Better to publish using your own domain or subdomain so the URL refers to your business web address.
(This blog - http://simplemarketingnow.com/content-talks-business-blog/ - includes Simple Marketing Now's URL and is published on HubSpot's Content Management System which is brilliantly integrated with analytics, SEO, lead generation, lead nurturing tools, and more.)
Your choice of content management system should make publishing digital content (i.e., adding photos, embedding video or slideshare presentations) easy; it should also integrate with your social networks. It should be skinned to look and feel like your company website, including navigation to explore the rest of your site.
I look to see whether the blog includes social sharing for each article.
Is commenting - even moderated - enabled for the blog? Although commenting varies based on industry and how well you've developed a sense of community with your fans/followers, it's important to make it available (and also have posted rules for your blog so everyone understands what expectations are.)
Frequency of publishing - how fresh is the content? How regularly is it updated? At a minimum, new content should appear on a weekly basis. Ideally, two to three times per week. A business blog has a lot in common with a newspaper or magazine: it should be updated at regular and consistent intervals.
Part 2. Business Blog Content
When I examine a business blog's content, I look for relevance. At the same time, I evaluate how well written the blog is in terms of idea development and flow.
What is the tone of the content? Is the 'voice' stiff and distant or is it relaxed? Does humor come through? Does the content read like a marketing brochure or is it conversational and more like a letter from a great friend? The magic of a business blog is that it allows individual personality to come through. This is ideal for a business - made up of many individual experts - to showcase knowledge and personality. A blog's credibility is a function of how authentically engaged those writing it are and how relevant the content is to prospects.
Next, is there constant self-promotion or is this thoughtful observation or analysis? The more self-promotional, the less appealing it is to others. I look to see if the blogposts include references to other resources and perspectives. The more generous the author is in sharing links to other relevant sources, the stronger the signal that this blog welcomes a variety of perspectives. At the same time, if your web content adds substance and information to an article, you should absolutely deep link into your site.
I like to see at least one visual element per blogpost. Something that relates or adds an additional dimension to content. The visual element draws the reader in.
White space matters, too, in drawing in a reader. Break up the copy into small chunks, use bullets, add other visual elements, and don't forget to use category titles to help with organization, flow, and easy scanning.
Comments. Comments are wonderful, but judging a blog's worth based on the number of comments doesn't always lead to the right conclusion. I've noticed a big difference in comments depending on the subject and audience a blog addresses, and how comfortable that audience is with online interaction.
Length matters. Short posts (i.e., 100 to 200 words) tend to lack substance. A good business blog article develops a thought while adding a valuable perspective using a minimum of 600 words. (BTW, same rule applies for your web content. If you have an important web page without some content on it, it won't appear in search results.)
You'll enjoy these two articles on the subject: Blog Post Length: Does Size Really Matter? and WordStream Mailbag: How Much Web Content Do I Need to Rank High in Google?
Don't forget to include CTAs or Calls to Action at the end of each article, including invitations to download relevant offers.
Some Advice about content on business blogs
Before writing, know what you intend to write about. Pick a title which refers to your topic (see How Do I Write Strong Blog Titles?). In your first sentence explain the point of your article, then develop it in the article. End with a recap and a call to action.
Which parallels an important reality: it doesn't take much time to start blogging. What takes time - and this is where and why many blogs fail - is determining purpose and strategy for the blog and its content: planning for it, organizing it, researching it and writing it in a compelling manner.
And, as with any book or magazine or newspaper that a printing press generates, if the content isn't compelling or relevant, no one will read what you have to say. But, if it is, then people you have never met before will find your content and start to engage with it and you.
Part 3 - The Business Blog Sidebar
Often overlooked in a business blog, the sidebar can be a goldmine for generating business, for demonstrating trustworthiness, and for showing your softer, passionate side.
The sidebar in a business blog is the column alongside the main body of text. It can be on the left or right.
I look for a photo of the author[s]. If it isn't in the sidebar, than introduce them in a post and/or be sure to highlight that person in a robust About Us page. A business blog without a person associated with the writing lacks credibility. Ideally, this person will interact with readers in the comments.
Be sure to include your company information on your business blog sidebar. This is particularly relevant if your blog isn't hosted on your company website URL.
I expect to see an email subscription form - otherwise, how can readers engage further with your content? Email subscription makes it easy. Every time you update your business blog, your subscribers will be notified. (BTW too many business blogs forget to include this.)
In the blog sidebar, I look for archives, category topics and links - to additional resources, books, information relevant to what this blog and author address. The archives give me a sense for how actively managed or nurtured the blog is. The categories tell me about the blog's themes and subthemes. All of this help readers spend more time with your content. The more time they spend, the more likely they are to engage further with your business.
Definitely include offers/CTAs to your most valuable and relevant offers. For someone reading your business blog content, this represents a golden opportunity to connect further.
Don't forget to offer visitors to your business blog opportunities to follow you on social networks (and make sure your social profiles are active if you do so).
Part 4 - The Big Picture Surrounding the Business Blog
An effective business blog doesn't operate in a vacuum. The more your business blog participates in the digital world surrounding your world, the more visible it will be to potential customers as well as search engines.
Be aware of others blogging in your business space. Evaluate those blogs, read their articles, consider commenting and referring to them in social networks. Pick and choose which networks to participate in, and become involved in building a community relevant to your business just as you would in real life.
Part 5 - Your Overall Impression or Assessment of the Business Blog
There's an element of subjectivity to this part of the business blog evaluation. At the same time, what makes a business blog effective is being able to communicate as a normal, apporoachable person and connecting on that basis rather than as person to business.
As you go through these elements above, how would you rate your business blog? Are the mechanics working well and helping your blog content get found online? Is your content generating conversation and conversions? Can you rethink what you've included in your blog sidebar? What about the big picture surround your business blog? Are you involved in conversations outside your blog and company?
What would you add to this list? What else do you look for when you evaluate a business blog?
Image Credit: Wordle How Do I" by C.B. Whittemore