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8/9/07

Make Money With Your Blog

5 Ways For Your Blogging Business

The Web has a way of changing things as we know them. Now, a diary of thoughts, observations and insight — posted on the Internet — may be a way to boost your business.

Web logs, or "blogs," are more than a passing Internet fancy, and they're not confined to the worlds of politics and high-tech. They also have become a way to engage readers and potential customers of businesses big and small.

"Blog" is simply an abbreviated way to say "Web log." It's a journal posted on a Web site, updated on a regular basis and containing news, opinions, ideas and brainstorms, plus links to other sources of information, other Web sites and other blogs.

Many blogs cut both ways, inviting readers to post feedback on what they see. While that can apply to everything from sports and entertainment to rants about high school math, it can also generate interest — and, ultimately, income — for your business.

No, blogs aren't for everyone. But see how they can accomplish these five basic business objectives.

1. Expose a new or little-known product or idea.

For Grant Smith, blogging makes a world of sense on a number of levels. Smith operates FirstStream, a Santa Cruz, Calif., provider of streaming video e-mail and related video communications products. Since many prospective clients might know precious little about video e-mail, Smith says his blog is a natural way to lay out specifics.

"I began blogging to get established in the technology," Smith says. "It can have a positive impact for business. Readers are always looking for more ways to find out information about companies and for ways to interact."

That, in turn, can lead to a more informed customer and a more time-effective sales process. Rather than your taking the time to pitch your product or service to a client who may not need it, a blog supplants you as an information source. If a prospect contacts you with an urge to do business, great. If not, you've wasted no time in explaining something that generates nothing in return.

2. Improve your search engine rankings.

Blogging also puts you in touch with prospects in other ways. As any company with a position on the Internet realizes, hits via Google, MSN and other search engines can provide a groundswell of leads. Blogs can add further leverage to the frequency with which search vehicles identify you and your company, particularly if your blog allows readers to post a response.

"Blogs, if done properly, have a tremendous benefit vis-à-vis search engines," says Brad Fallon, president of SEO Research, a search engine marketing firm in Atlanta. "Search engines tend to prefer bigger Web sites, for several reasons beyond the scope. With blogs that allow comments, every new post and every new comment becomes an additional Web page filled with additional keywords to be picked up by the search engine spiders."

3. Position yourself as an expert in an industry or field.

Blogging also can also prove an implicitly effective marketing tool to establish yourself as an authority in your field. Not only can that generate leads, it also sends a positive buzz about your credentials through the marketplace.

"My blog has generated massive traffic and lead flow," says David L. Carpe of Clew, a Lexington, Mass., consulting concern. "But it also serves as a stamp, furthering my credibility as a real research wonk. It also generates many leads and inquiries, some of which are actionable proposals, others pure networking contacts."

Blogging also addresses other needs, some of which supersede simple profit motive. For instance, doctors and other health-care providers are reportedly using blogs to vent their frustration about everything from malpractice suits to public misconceptions about health care. That sort of emotional catharsis carries over into other areas. In September 2004, blogs were filled with remembrances about where people were and what they were doing when the first airliner struck the World Trade Center towers on 9/11.

4. Influence public opinion.

Blogging also allows users to bypass traditional journalistic venues and, in effect, become a publisher of their own thoughts and viewpoints. For Steve Rubel, vice president of client services at CooperKatz & Co., a New York public relations firm, they're also fast becoming a powerful influence on public opinion.

"Blogs have evolved into legitimate alternative sources of news on niche and micro-niche topics," Rubel says. "Anyone with a passion and dedication could become an amateur journalist. I feel some of these sites — in aggregate — are having just as much sway on public opinion as larger, more established media brands."

5. Engage in a forum openly with your customers.

Just as important, blogs that solicit reader comments can provide a sense of immediacy with your customers. In one respect, that's a ready source of feedback on what you're doing right and what you need to polish. Even better, it can also prove an ample supply of marketing muscle.

"My blog provides a forum for customers to give feedback after plunking their money down," says Fallon. "The result? While the normal market is lucky to have one-half of 1% of customers send an unsolicited testimonial, I have already collected glowing testimonials from over 15% of my customers."

Lastly, blogs offer a means to access one of the most human of needs — the desire to communicate. And, whether that's on a personal or professional level, that can prove every bit as enjoyable as it is profitable. As Fallon puts it: "I like to hear myself talk as much as anyone."










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