If you have not started a blog for your company (and those who already have can still be considered early adopters), here is some food for thought.
A business blog can be a distinct website or a feature on an existing company website. It takes discipline, time and thought. If the blog is part of your website (as opposed to using a separate domain for it or using a hosted server), visitors don't have to leave your company website to view it and vice versa. Furthermore, it is a quick way to freshen up your website, especially if the rest of it is more or less static. Adding new blogs frequently not only encourages frequent visits, but also keeps you higher up in SEO. Some companies take the time to blog every weekday, others once or twice a week.
Business blogging can accomplish several goals:
• Help position yourself/business as an expert in your field and enhance your company reputation.
• Enable a company to interact (talk) with customers and learn more about customers and what they want and need that you can provide.
• Communicate marketing messages and promotions.
• Educate customers and other consumers.
• Improve your position in the search engines.
Content is king
Blog topics should be relevant to your business and your expertise. It is best to post content that is original and geared to being helpful to people looking for smart and thoughtful answers or suggestions on HVAC and plumbing issues. To that end, don't use for-fee content providers that turn out material that seems as if it has come out of a blog mill or written by an assembly line of keyboarders. You want your blog followers to look forward to your next post.
Some company blogs offer to answer technical questions by email or phone. Your informed responses could lead to new business (while also impressing potential customers with your knowledge and expertise). A couple of contractors we spoke to offer an "ask the expert" link in the blogs. Both noted that they get enough calls from within their service areas that lead to jobs when the questioner cannot resolve the problem himself to make it a winning blog feature.
While you may not get direct comments on your blogs (with or without an "ask us" link) you may have a noticeable increase in calls and email contact coming from your website. It is good policy to always follow up a direct communication from a visitor with a reply. Even a simple "thank you for your comments" will help.
Keep your writing style straightforward and use proper grammar and spelling, anything less is distracting. Keep blogs fairly short, to about 300 words or less.
In your blogs use long-tail keyword phrases related to the services or products you offer. Long-tail keywords are a string of three or more words that make up a phrase specific to what you are selling (services or products). Research has shown that when a customer uses a long-tail phrase, they are more likely to be actually looking to contract for specific services or buy specific products than a customer who uses short-tail one or two keyword search terms. That customer is more likely still in the preliminary or research stage.
An easy way to set up a blog is to use a blog publishing application, such as WordPress, TypePad or Blogger, which includes design tools such as templates, spell-check functions, text editor, HTML editor, preview before posting, remote posting, and audio and video capabilities; generous tracking/publishing tools; and tech help, including tutorials and forums.
WordPress is available to bloggers as a free application two ways, as WordPress.org, which requires some degree of technical skills, and as WordPress.com, which does not require much in the way of technical skills beyond knowing how to use a word-processing application and navigate the Internet (it uses WYSIWYG). WordPress.org is an open source application that you host on your own website and which you can modify to meet your needs.
WordPress.com is hosted by WordPress (on that site) and requires that you use Wordpress.com as the domain extension unless you pay a fee to use your own domain, purchased separately. If you have your own website, then WordPress.org is generally the way to go.
TypePad, www.typepad.com, is a hosted WYSIWYG option that offers hundreds of designs and also allows extensive customizing, and has built in SEO and sharing to Twitter, which with its 140-character limit pretty much prohibits any kind of real information transfer, and Facebook, which can be ideal for sharing fresh information and photos on current projects of wide or specific interest. TypePad carries a basic monthly fee that escalates for added functionalities, which can include your own domain name.
Another, extremely popular, application is Google's Blogger, www.blogger.com, which is free, very easy to use (it uses WYSIWYG), offers enough customization for small and medium-sized companies, and can be utilized on a company's own website or on the Blogger server.
Bill and Patti Feldman write articles and web content for trade magazines and manufacturers of building products. They can be reached at [email protected].