Lee Odden

7 Key Elements to a Successful Business Blog

business bloggingOver the past 7 years of blogging, one could say I’ve become quite familiar. Online Marketing Blog has received a lot of kudos recently but more importantly, our experience with reviewing others’ blogs has been a learning experience to say the least. I’ve looked at over 1,000 blogs to create the BIGLIST and recently reviewed the top UK Online Marketing Blogs as well.

Here are a few key characteristics I’ve found that represent a highly productive blog in terms of branding, community, SEO, PR, recruiting and taking mindshare away from the competition:

1. URL – Pick something short and easy to remember.  blog.domainname.com works great, so does domainname.com/blog or even, companynamblog.com. Try to avoid obscure or long URLs like www.domainname.com/files/about/blog?home or worse, companyname.blogspot.com. If you’re a business, then act professionally and use a domain name you control for your blog URL.

2. Blog name – If your blog has a unique name like “GM Fastlane” then it should be prominent with a logo and that logo should link to the home page of the blog. If your blog is just named “Company Name Blog” that’s fine, but offer a “home” to go to.  Tag lines to go along with the blog name are useful for readers so they understand what your blog is about. Taglines are also useful for SEO.

3. Design – When a blog works as a direct extension of your brand, then the style guide elements of your brand should carry over to the blog design.  However, it shouldn’t be so close as to confuse the reader whether they’re on the company website or the company blog.  If the blog serves another purpose, then it’s fine to have a unique style with subtle brand references.

An entire book could be written about user experience and design of a blog, but here are a few key points:

  • Stand out – there are millions of blogs out there and competing social channels like Twitter and Facebook. You’d better stand out or be forgotten.
  • Add style – make an effort to convey the personality and style of your company
  • Easy to read – headlines should be much larger than the body copy of posts. Blog author, date published and other elements like comment count are useful for readers to connect with post authors and know they’re reading fresh content. We remove the dates after a year or so.
  • Header – most blogs express their creativity with header graphics or images. If you can’t have a unique logo for your blog, then have a unique header

4. Navigation – I can’t say enough about the need to make it easy to find content on a blog. Useful navigation elements include: Categories, Tags or Tag Cloud, Search Box, Popular Posts, Recent Posts, Most Commented Posts. You don’t need all of these, but most of them are quite useful.

5. Content – create an editorial plan for the blog that supports the customer personas you’re trying to engage and that represents the keywords/topics you want to be known for.  After 7 years of blogging, I like to have certain days each week planned out with specific topics and other days as wildcards.  Ex: Social Mondays, Tactical Tips on Tuesdays, Thursday Rants and Friday News Roundup.  Pay attention to web analytics, off-site citations, comments and social chatter to gauge whether your content resonates or not. Paying attention will also uncover new topics to cover that your readers are interested in.  A simple query on your search engine referrer keywords with a filter of “how to” can reveal many topics for tactical posts.

6. Social – we like the blog hub and spoke model that leverages blog content as a destination and off-blog social media participation and other content syndication as the outposts. That means the blog might have a Twitter, Facebook, Slideshare, YouTube, Amplify and similar accounts that are used to extend conversation, re-purpose or mash-up blog content.

As you can see with this blog, we’ve added the Facebook fan box to the sidebar and make it easy to share on Twitter and Facebook with sharing buttons / counters at the top of each post. It’s no wonder that Facebook and Twitter drive a substantial amount of traffic to the blog. That’s not because we offer the sharing buttons as much as the fact that we’re social on Facebook and Twitter.  Flair is no substitute for interaction. So if you add social features to your blog, understand that to make them effective, time should be spent on those off-blog social channels.

7. Who – as in, who is behind the blog. This is far too rare a feature on many blogs. Create a page that describes the purpose of the blog and the people behind it. That kind of content makes it clear what readers can expect and gives them something to identify with when reading posts.

There are many, many other tips for effective blogs. Essentially, make sure your blog conveys the brand and message you’re after with its design and content. Make it easy to read, navigate and share content.  Within a few seconds, readers should be able to tell what the blog topic is and find something interesting. If not, they’ll move on to someone else.

I know we have a lot of experienced business bloggers reading, what are some of your best tips for a successful business blog? Are there features you’d like us to add to Online Marketing Blog?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.

Comments

  1. Great article. What’s the pros and cons of using blog.domain.com over domain.com/blog?

    Does link juice into the sub-domain benefit the domain as a whole?

    • Good question Stevie, Links to the subdomain do not automatically flow to the the whole domain unless there are links between the two. This is not unlike links between two different domain names.

      If a blog is to really be a stand out content destination, I tend to go with a sub domain. Either works fine.

  2. Great post. My favorite would have to be ease of navigation. Besides quality content this would probably be my top choice. If the blog isn’t clear and easily accessible, it becomes less appealing for visitors. Thanks! –Mike

  3. Myseopandit says:

    Informative article by you.Great tips regarding key elements to successful business blog.As i always pick up content regarding blog,this has been very much useful to me in knowing about it.

  4. Been working on a few of the things you pointed out in your blog. More over to social aspect of it and trying to find content are my primary concerns right now that I am working on. Easy flowing navigation is important and one of the things I love seeing on other blogs is the featured article at the top.

  5. David White says:

    Definitely agree with your last point, trying to be anonymous online is dead.

  6. Patricia Knight says:

    Thank you for this article. I am new to blogging and personal branding. This was very helpful and insightful in making my new journey.

    Patricia Knight
    http://patriciaknight.wordpress.com/

  7. Agreed! A good solid “About” page goes a long way and then I’d also add a “Best Of” page. Here’s a great one from Jonathan Fields: http://www.jonathanfields.com/blog/best-of

  8. Great tips. Many of our clients here at Dyadcomp are often standoffish when we try to emphasis the value of a blog for their company. This is a great resource to share with them to help them set up a effective blog for their ecommerce businesses.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Molly Griffin
    Dydacomp
    http://www.dydacomp.com

  9. This is a great post! These tips are easy to follow and have the potential to add significant value!

    I will definitely implement these tips on my blogs and keep them in mind going forward!

    Thank you for your great content!
    Cheers,
    @TyrellMara

  10. Drakelisam says:

    Thanks for writing this post. Great, easy to implement tips in setting up a good business blog. Lisa Drake

  11. Bad design and navigation, a misleading URL can turn away readers yet I think the Content (and SEO), Social and Who are most important. Making the blog interesting and relevant to readers, easy to find and simple to share will go a long way. ITA with making sure everything – design, content, social – all work together, integrate message and brand. FWIW.

  12. Matthew Ulinski says:

    Some may say its a little hokey but pictures should mentioned. Unfortuanitly we humans tend to judge books by their cover and a good visual may be just the to hook a potential reader.

    • Good point Matthew. It’s something we try to do with every post – include a photo. It adds a lot to the story and makes your blog stand out.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this informative post. It is easy to follow those tips in putting up a good business blog. 🙂

  14. Thank you for the all the great tips, good blogs that encompass all of these key elements are a rare find. I especially agree with #4, navigation is extremely important and the lack of navigation can often be irritating for readers. It is all too common for blogs to ignore the importance of good navigation. I personally like search boxes as well as recent post sections that allow me to go and quickly find the information that I am looking for. I also agree that pictures as well a good article title should be included. Thanks again for the great information, very informative and valuable!-Dustin InternetBeacon

  15. Warren Wooden says:

    In regards to number 7 and “Who” the about us page is usually my second stop after reading the content that landed me on the blog in the first place. A killer “About” page can be the difference between me bookmarking the site so I can return often, and simply going about my day.

  16. I would like to start a blog in the marketing niche and I want its name to be short and catchy but every idea I come up with is always taken because I want it to be a .com.
    Do you know about a tool that helps with generating ideas?

  17. Adrian Grossett says:

    Great info – very useful tip 5 – I do struggle at times to decide what to cover at a given time – I look after 3 mini sites covering different aspects of 2 x SEO & Mobile App Development – creating a time timetable is the solution! 
     

  18. Adrian Grossett says:

    Great info – very useful tip 5 – I do struggle at times to decide what to cover at a given time – I look after 3 mini sites covering different aspects of 2 x SEO & Mobile App Development – creating a time timetable is the solution!