A blog is an economical and easy way to bring your website alive. A lively website is a magnet for visitors and search engines alike – and that is good for business.
If I mention the word blog to a customer, their eyes instantly say ‘no’ and I know why. To many people a blog is a place where opinionated people sprout their opinions; it’s rough and ready, and usually amateur.
But blogs have changed. So much so that it is better to call it a content management system (CMS) to avoid confusion – and instant rejection.
This website – conduitcomms.com – is a blog in its entirety. The portfolio, the slider, the pages, and the sidebars all powerful tools that are available as part of your blog.
Nearly 40% of US companies use blogs for marketing purposes, rising from 25% in 2008.
Why we recommend a blog content management system to our customers.
A website is the window to your company’s soul and a great company website should should:
- entertain and enchant visitors
- provide visitors with the information they seek
- educate them about services and products they didn’t know you had
- build trust and respect for your company
- allow people to interact and share information through social media
- allow and encourage visitors to register with you; perhaps to sign up for a newsletter, perhaps to download a useful data sheet
- get your visitors to buy from you because you are clearly the best in the business.
Such websites that contain regularly updated stories, case studies, FAQ, tips, etc, are lead magnets, attracting attention from search engines, other websites and incoming links from social media tools. And this is good for business.
By regularly adding more content/pages, you:
- can use more targeted keywords to increase your chances of being found through online search
- increase your chances of appealing to more people, and ticking off the benefits listed above
- have more interesting information for visitors to share on social media
Unfortunately, too often the company website is a soulless, lifeless, brochure-type mask. And it’s usually out of date. Most websites are created by web designers using Dreamweaver, and cannot be changed or updated without paying a heap of money to your designer to get the changes done. Paying money to your designer is not unreasonable but being so restricted is.
Some of our customers do have a proprietary CMS system, but too many of them are designed like a straitjacket. There is often no easy indexing mechanism and adding functional tools, such as ‘widgets’ to encourage social media interaction, requires a trip back to the designer, who may or may not be able to help depending on the CMS. But you can be sure, because it is difficult to do, it will cost money.
It’s because of these lifeless websites that people turn to Facebook Pages. Here they can quickly and efficiently post entertaining and informative updates for the company’s fans. Problem solved they think.
Using Facebook does not solve the problem of a website with no soul
No. Facebook owns your fans. According to recent figures, on average only 16% of your posts will reach your fans. You can advertise to increase your reach. You can post really cool stuff to increase the reach to perhaps 40% on a good day, but in the end Facebook controls the relationship.
The solution is to get your fans to visit your website and encourage them to sign up for your newsletter, or RSS feed and then the fan and the company are in charge of the relationship.
Q: How do you get visitors to your website?
A: By having a website with a soul.
Giving your website a soul using WordPress
The easiest way to bring your website to life is to use a blog; we recommend WordPress. In some cases, your whole website can be developed using blog software, in other cases you may be able to get the blog installed in a directory of your company website.
- Quick definition: First released in 2003, WordPress is a free and open-source platform. Key features include its plugins (eg shopping carts, members’ areas, social media tools), and its template system. Because it is open source, thousands of developers have created templates and plugins for use with WordPress, some are free, some are paid, but most are very economical.
- Numbers: As of August 2011 WordPress manages 22% of all new websites and as of October 2012, there are 57 million WordPress users in the world.
- Ease of use 1: Setting up a website using WordPress is relatively easy and unless you want to do some fancy customisation, it is possible without knowing HTML.
It can be compared to putting together a piece of Ikea furniture; you must focus and you must follow the instructions. However, unlike your Ikea experience, there is plenty of help online for WordPress. You can do it yourself, but sometimes it is easier to get a professional to do it. Either way, because WordPress and most (but not all) templates are well designed, you can have a powerful working website, far faster and more economically than if a designer was using original code.
Ease of use 2: . If you can use Word, you will find adding stories, tips, updates, FAQ, case studies, videos, to your website easy to do. You can easily create new categories, and organize your content so that it is easily found.
- Design templates: Choose from one of the thousands of theme templates available. Themes can be customised to some degree or used straight ‘out of the box’, and are either free or available at low cost (eg US$40). Note that some themes are easier to use than others. We like ThemeForest as a resource.
- Added functionality: Thousands of plugins – from SEO helpers to shopping carts and private member areas – are available online. In most cases they truly are plug and play, and if there is a charge it is minimal. The most common plugins used are those that allow visitors to share your content on their Facebook and other social media site. Yes! That is the way social media should work for you.
- SEO juice: This cannot be emphasised enough. Adding more pages of quality content increases your company’s visibility in the ‘eyes’ of search engines, gives people a reason to link to your site (good for SEO) and gives people a reason to share your content.
Back to the question: What is a blog – and why is it so good for business? A blog brings your website to life and by using your Facebook and other social media tools, email newsletters and inbound links from other websites (eg Linkedin or through Chamber memberships), you will drive visitors to your website where you and your visitors control the relationship, and that is good for business.
If you would like to learn more about setting up a vibrant website with WordPress, talk to us. We can help set up your site, and help you create content – even when you think you have nothing to say!
You may enjoy reading: Story ideas for your email newsletter – or for your blog.