Creating a Blog That No One Will Read
A couple of years ago, the CEO of a $100-million company was presiding over a conference call with about 16 senior members of several divisions of the company. The CEO mentioned something that he had written on his blog in order to start a discussion of the topic. What he initiated, instead, was silence. Stunned, he asked, “Is anyone reading my blog?” No one replied. Prior to writing this column, I took an informal poll of 12 computer-savvy people, ranging in age from 18 to 63. The poll had two questions: How many blogs do you read? What would/does it take for you to read a blog regularly? Based on the CEO’s experience, it may not surprise you that not one person in that poll is reading a blog. Some of the answers to the second question were, “the threat of death,” “something really, really interesting,” and, “information that can help me.” The chances are good that, like the people in this poll, you are not reading a single blog regularly. Just like them, you would require information that served you, so that the blog moved from being an ego-driven rant to a useful tool in your personal or professional life. When I probed further, 10 of the 12 respondents told me that they simply did not have enough time to read someone’s blog, but here is the interesting part: four of them publish blogs. This questionable anecdotal evidence notwithstanding, I am going to recommend to you that your business begin a blog—even though you are probably not involved in the blog world, and even though Frank Barnako, vice president of MarketWatch, Inc (a subsidiary of Dow Jones & Co), wrote about blogs, “Almost no one reads them.” Regardless of your business, your Web site needs a blog. In fact, your Web site could do with a few blogs, one from senior management, one from middle management, and one from the rank and file. Blogs, you see, serve a strategic purpose beyond the self-indulgent rants they are sometimes perceived to be. That purpose is to increase your search-engine optimization (SEO), one of the two essential components of increasing traffic to your Web site. One of the best online articles1 on the connection between a blog, improved SEO, and a return on investment was written last November by Steven York. Yes, I read it on his blog—the first blog I have read this year. York’s story is succinct because, perhaps as a professional blogger, he understands the need for brevity in order to capture and keep the reader’s attention, but that’s good advice for every part of your Web site. There are five points that York recommends as the keys to blog success. First, he says, publish regular, high-quality content that experts use as a resource. Whatever you're selling, whether it's a service or a product, your company blog should offer insight into the business. This is really important because it helps to establish your brand as excelling in the field you're in, which helps generate natural sales (which are entirely free). Second, focus on professionalism and strong branding. It would be complete folly to have a formal brand with an informal blog; you need to remain consistent. If you go back against your branding or professional image, then your blog is likely to have the opposite effect from what you intended. Third, someone must take charge. You do need someone to be the top-level boss of the blog, but you also need people who can dedicate time and ideas to the project; otherwise, you'll have poor content, and no one will be interested. Fourth, you cannot stop blogging. Once you've started a blog, you cannot leave it for long periods without an update. Customers will think you've disappeared, and they will assume that your service/support is likely to be just as timely. If you only update the blog rarely, it's worth making that very clear at every level or avoiding placing any dates on the content. Fifth, you need people to commit to providing content. You need people who are good writers and experts at their field to commit content to the cause, which is more easily said than done. Reading this summary of York’s points, it is easy to see that creating and maintaining a blog is no different from creating and maintaining any other new initiative in your organization. Time and resources have to be committed to the project, it has to represent your brand, and someone has to take ownership of its progress. The return on investment of your blog depends on the content. Here are three easy ways to increase continued interest in your blog. Keep your content short, at about 300 to 600 words. Most computers using Mircosoft Word have a word counter at the bottom of the page. If yours does not, estimate one single-spaced page at 600 words in a 12-point font. Sprinkle your blog content with references to your company name, products, and services. This is not permission to use your blog to promote your business, but merely to inject relevant terms that may show up when someone is searching online. Use lists and/or bullet points. These give the reader the impression that the most important information is easy to find, and easy is the key word here. Remember, your reader is in a hurry. Keep your expectations low. When you publish your first blog, don’t expect a surge in traffic or inquiries. It will build up over time if you have done a good job of providing fresh, relevant content. For the time and investment, your blog can be expected to provide a healthy return. Just don’t expect anyone to read it.