A few years ago, I read an article in which the writer questioned the staying power of blogs. At the time, I questioned this “trend” as well. Not anymore. And I’m not alone.
According to Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere: 2008, “All studies agree, however, that blogs are a global phenomenon that has hit the mainstream.” According to the same report, over one million blog posts are created every day, and over 1.2 million bloggers have registered with Technorati.
To Blog or Not To Blog. Is That Really a Question?
Bloggers are a powerful group: they shape public opinion (consider the bloggers involved in the recent presidential election), provide current and relevant information (like this blog), and can effect change (think of the mommy bloggers who got Motrin to change their recent ad campaign; it was a combo of bloggers and Twitterers).
Blogs are–or should be–a key component of your eCommerce company’s social media marketing plan. Why? Simple. Content is still king, and its reign won’t be ending any time soon. As the search engines mimic human behavior more and more, it’s going to come down to the content that’s on the site and the number of other sites (including blogs) that are pointing to it. The better the content and the more inbound links you have, the more relevant your site will be in the search engine’s eyes. This is good news: good, relevant content can’t be faked. While the inbound link angle might smell of a popularity contest, it isn’t. For once, the “pretty” kid (e.g. website) isn’t getting the vote; it’s the kid (website) with the most substance.
The fastest and easiest way to get new, interesting, and relevant content in readers’ hands is through blogs. Note: you MUST integrate your blog with your eCommerce site in order for your site to benefit from the inbound links.
No doubt, you know most of this already. What you may be wondering is this: “What sort of blog can I possibly have about the product I sell online?”
Your blog isn’t about the product you sell per se, because, let’s face it: that would probably be pretty limiting. But no doubt there’s a whole industry your product is related to…that’s the niche you need to focus on.
Let’s say you sell herbal supplements online. A blog on natural healthcare alternatives would make sense. Blogs are not merely promotional vehicles for your products. Blogs should provide useful information for readers. Someone interested in herbal supplements is likely interested in natural healthcare or complementary medicine. In other words, they’re likely to care about the articles a natural healthcare blog would post.
Here are a few more examples. Maybe you sell apparel and items with beer and spirit logos. A blog on alcohol would work well (this is a real-life example of BoozinGear.com’s blog. BoozinGear is one of Blue Acorn’s clients). Maybe you sell specialty beds for dogs and cats. A blog about “best care” for dogs and cats would attract a lot of interest.
Think about what you sell, and then think of everything related to it. The key is to recognize the larger umbrella category that your particular product falls under.
Real-Life Blog Brainstorm
I’m working with a client who sells western shirts and other western-style apparel online. We’ve been talking about launching a blog. The blog isn’t going to focus on clothes; rather it’s going to focus on everything associated with the Old West, since many–if not most of her clientele–has an affinity for cowboys, cowgirls, and the rich history of the Old West. She asked me what sort of topics we’d blog about. I brainstormed the following ideas for her:
- Interesting facts on famous cowboys and Native Americans. For example, on May 27, feature a blog post on Wild Bill Hickock (May 27 was his birthday). Other people to feature: Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, etc
- Interesting legends of the Old West
- Recipes that have old time western flavor
- Reviews of westerns (movies), from classics–like John Wayne flicks–to more contemporary films, like City Slickers)
- Reviews of books (both new and classics that feature the Old West). What’s great about this, is that you don’t have to necessarily write the posts—you could have a guest “blogger”…book authors are always looking for places to talk about/promote their books (both fiction and nonfiction)
- Reviews or highlights of dude ranch vacations and other travels destinations with an Old West theme
- Reviews and highlights of museums that promote and feature the Old West, such as The Buffalo Bill Museum
- Gravestones of famous cowboys
- Features on related, interesting organizations, such as the Single Action Shooting Society.
Blog Maintenance and Blog Managers
Blogs require a time investment. The thing you need to determine is whether you–or someone in your company–can handle all the blog responsibilities or whether you should contract a blog manager.
Here are the responsibilities:
- Creating a monthly or quarterly editorial calendar. It helps to know what you’re going to write about so that you have time to research, if necessary. While “breaking news” in your industry will trump anything that’s scheduled on your editorial calendar, it’s still best to have the calendar as a foundation.
- Writing at least 3 to 4 blog posts per week.
- Following and commenting on other relevant and related blogs so that you build a “presence” in those blog communities.
- Monitoring and responding to blog comments.
- Soliciting and scheduling appropriate guest bloggers (authors etc) and uploading and formatting their posts.
- Reaching out to other bloggers and providing them with content for their blogs (related to your eCommerce site) and/or asking them to link to your blog or perhaps even be a guest blogger.
- Coming up with ideas for promoting the blog—and executing these ideas (your blog should have an RSS feed and way for people to subscribe via email).
If you have the budget, it makes sense to outsource at least some, if not all, of this. There are many website copywriters and freelance writers who would welcome the regular gig–and the freedom that comes with blogging (along with the satisfaction of seeing their pieces in print).
I recommend transparency. If you can’t write the posts yourself, don’t have someone ghostwrite them for you (unless you carefully proof it and can stand by everything that’s said). But it’s certainly okay to have several people from your company contribute and publish under their own names. In fact, that’s a good way of spreading around the writing responsibilities. The Blue Acorn blog is a good example; there are at least three of us blogging, and we blog under our real names.
What Blogs Can–and Cannot–Do
When you think blogging, thinking branding. You’re not necessarily going to increase sales through your blog (you might, indirectly, through links and improving the ranking of pages on your eCommerce site in the search engines). But you will brand yourself and your company as an “expert” or “go-to” resource on the industry your products are related to.
Blog success won’t happen overnight. It takes time–and dedication (regular, consistent blogging)–to attract an audience.
Also, it’s called social media for a reason. You or your blog manager needs to “socialize” on other blogs. This does NOT involve hawking your wares; it means taking part in the conversation in a genuine, relevant way.
Do you have a successful eCommerce blog? We’d love to see it. Leave the address in the comments section. Do you have other tips for creating a kick-butt blog? Leave those in the comments thread as well.