Here is the fourth in a four-part series of interviews I gave to Alan Coote of local digital radio station 5 Digital for his weekly business programme Let’s Talk Business (@ltbshow)
Alan: We’re all told that we need to blog. It apparently helps build you business reputation online. There are millions of bloggers around the world and all of the top corporations are using them to communicate with their customers. But does your business actually need to blog? Isn’t it old hat? Social media guru Katherine Hanson is in the studio with me. Just before we get to the merits of blogging, Katherine, we’d best find out exactly what it is.
Katherine: Blogging is short for weblog which historically was literally an online diary, so people keeping a log online either of something going on in their lives or in their business. And it’s evolved from there really, so it’s all about putting something together based on opinion and research and hopefully getting people to comment on and share it.
Alan: It’s obviously been around a little while now and fairly sophisticated blogging is going on. Should everybody be blogging who is in business?
Katherine: I don’t think so, no. I think like with anything you have to a strategy in mind before you write. Whilst I would say content is king and what you write is crucial, there are some guidelines as with any writing, anything you would submit to a magazine or a newspaper for example. It’s not just about putting something down on paper and putting it out there.
Alan: It’s not like writing a newspaper snippet or a press release or something like that, clearly. When I say a level of sophistication there are people who are very expert at doing blogs out there and there are certain techniques to getting it right.
Alan: Right. So we’re going to blog, because? Why would we bother blogging? It’s just another extra thing to do during the day.
Katherine: It is, but it can be extremely powerful. If you can get something out there online which people resonate with, share or tell other people about, then the same as a high search ranking it’s going to get your business out there, it’s going to provide word of mouth for your business, it’s going to drive traffic back to your website. It’s going to show people that you mean business and that you know what you’re talking about. The more often you do it the more you will be seen as an authority in your industry.
Alan: Some cynics might say this is just about tricking the search engines, particularly Google to look at your website and think this person knows what they’re talking about because they have it in their blog and Google spend millions of dollars just making sure that they can look through the content and make sure that they can make sense of the content. Is there any aspect of blogging that has a benefit outside of just tricking the search engines?
Katherine: Well it’s interesting that you talk about tricking the search engines because now they actually rate you higher if you write genuine, quality content. Some people may have heard of Google’s Pandas and Penguins, but they clamped down on people who were using manipulative means.
Alan: I’ve never heard of that, go on explain it!
Katherine: Pandas and Penguins are Google algorithms, self-penned techniques that people use to try and manipulate themselves into having a higher search ranking and Google have clamped down on it and they deliberately seek out content which is quality. What they deem to be quality is how much it is resonating with other people so how much people are commenting on or sharing that content. If they’re sharing it, they deem that to be social proof that that person or business has kudos and industry authority.
Alan: So it comes down to the human?
Katherine: Yes. It’s a very uncomplicated metric, I guess.
Alan: And the proof of your influence outside of the search engines, then; there’s a point of blogging to get your own profile within the human community, is there?
Katherine: Yes, absolutely. These days, rightly or wrongly, if a person wants to know something about a business or person they will go online and other than looking at a website, most people will type into Google or another search engine to find out more about that person. Comments on Social Media will help that social media profile to rank higher in a search of that person. Blogs or any other way that you comment will also appear under a search and deem that person to be quite prolific online. Not so long ago, a search would often only bring up either your website address or maybe a mention in a press release.
Alan: So it’s actually building that profile up. What’s the format for a great blog then? Is there one?
Katherine: I think whilst you’re posting to a different forum, i.e. online rather than printed form, the same principles apply in that it’s got to have an argument, it’s got to have an opening and it’s got to have a conclusion. Whilst it may only be your opinion, a reader of your blog has got to derive some merit from what you’ve written and feel that what you’ve said is useful or relevant to them. I think it’s also useful to link back to other things as much as possible. So it may be that you ‘re covering a particular topic and you reference back to something similar that you’ve written or you cite another blogger of influence that you know of and that creates links back and forth which is what the internet is all about. You get a thread and then you perhaps go off on a tangent but it’s all relevant or should be and enrich or back up what you’re reading.
Alan: Should we spend a certain amount of time thinking about what we’re going to blog about? How much effort is really needed to blog successfully?
Katherine: It’s about being organised. It can be time-consuming but you need to kind of treat yourself as your most important client. Set some time aside a week or a fortnight – however realistically you think you can blog. Put an editorial calendar into place, perhaps over a three or six month period and mark out the dates that a blog is going to go out and ahead of each date spend time on it. And then you’ll find that subconsciously you’ll be thinking about it, things will occur to you or you made read something that influences you and then either inspires you to write your opinion on it or write something similar.
21 October 2013