4 Steps To Business Blogs That Work

I asked a number of people across the region to write a tweet with our top tips for businesses to maximise social media.

For those new to Twitter, a tweet is a message of up to 140 characters sent out to everyone who follows your account. So you don’t get a lot of room for your advice!

My advice for businesses was “Block 3 hrs out of diary to research customers, competitors and journos using social media that you can engage with”

Here are my tips for creating a blog that will be useful to your customers and gives you quality materials to start ‘conversations’ with potential customers. When you meet someone new and they say ‘I’m struggling to understand what this new legislation is going to mean for our business’, a blog gives you a reason to follow up by email with a link to your site, ‘hope this blog gives you some ideas, John’.

If you have useful, new content packed with original thoughts and information, you could also be spotted and contacted by journalists.

1. What Should I Write About on my B2B Blog?

This is a whole topic on its own. As a starting point, follow the advice above. Block out a morning, afternoon or evening in your diary. Turn off your phone and immerse yourself in business blogs.

Look at what your competitors are doing and jot down good ideas. Look at your customers’ websites – and also look at your general market from their perspective. Imagine yourself searching for advice or help on a topical issue – who is out there filling this space well, where are the gaps that you could fill?

If you don’t ‘get’ blogs, try this. Imagine you run a wine shop in the Yorkshire Dales. Why would anyone follow you? Most wine buyers make trips abroad. Imagine they are driving through France visiting vineyards. They could blog about:

  • The weather this year, how it is affecting grapes – which wines will be great, what the supply and prices are likely to be
  • New suppliers they have found, why they are buying, what was special – and an insight into the people running the vineyard and their philosophy

As I write this, I’m rather keen to follow our imaginary blogger! And can’t you see a loyal following building of wine buffs, wine writers and others? And journalists might well ask them for comment in an article they are doing on that region.

Of course, wine is perhaps sexier than most of the topics in a B2B business – but we all of us have insights that we can share with our clients.

2. What Keywords are Your Clients Searching For?

Using blogs for SEO. How does this work? You have probably had conversations with your web designers, PR consultants or digital marketing team about the keywords for your business – when a potential customer does a Google search, how your business is going to be the one they find. Your blog should be using some of these key phrases and words – in a natural way.

If you are new to this, go on to Google Adwords and click on ‘keyword ideas’. You want to look for words and phrases that people are searching for – but probably not the most competitive. You want to find the words that really fit your business and where you have a good chance of coming high on searches.

But read some tips shared by B2B SEO about what to watch out for when you are doing this.

3. What are the top 10 best business blogs?

This one is hard. The more you research this, the more you realise the US is far ahead of the UK and our country is just waking up to business blogging. I don’t think there are many really good, well written and useful blogs around. But watch this space. Over the last two months, professionals and corporates are suddenly clicking into blogging. It takes time to set this up so I’m expecting a lot more UK business blogs to be appearing in the coming months.

I just did some searches for good business blogs and found a Times list of top 50 blogs. It took me a minute to realise this list was compiled in 2007 but still features high on a Google search! Think we should compile our own top list for 2010.

One of the top blogs mentioned in 2007 is still reckoned to be one of the best ‘ordinary business’ blogs – the Tin Basher blog – by Butler Sheetmetal UK Ltd (‘a small fabrication shop in the darkest recesses of North West England’). This is really quirky, has a huge personality and a fair bit of content, stuck in between some down to earth humour!

A lot of business blogs are written by newspaper and trade press journalists (see Accountancy Age and Wall Street Journal) – but are these really ‘business blogs’? To me, they are just an extension of their own media, not particularly new insights.

4. How do I search a B2B market?

I do this for my clients when preparing a social media strategy for them or delivering workshops for their employees. A quick way to start is to put in the Google search words that you think your customers would use. Then go into Google Blogs search (got to the tabs where you would click for Images or Maps and use the drop down box – you’ll spot Blogs in there).

I recently researched the insolvency market for a client and found these blogs as an example. Here are my comments on them:

Mercer and Hole we thought this was one of the better ones of a not particularly outstanding market. There are fairly regular posts (though as I write the last one was 12 September, a month ago). And I wonder who will follow this? There is comment on topical issues but, assuming their key clients are banks, lawyers, generalist smaller accountancy firms and directors of businesses, what are they getting out of this? Where is the added value?

Midlands Business Recovery this is an interesting blog. They’ve called it ‘UK Insolvency Blog’ – well, they got there first so why not?! They are licensed insolvency professionals in the Midlands – and have clearly got very good SEO advice on their whole website and blog. The blog itself is a mix of quite academic content, advice for business people and news about their own firm in the community – not a clear theme for followers and I question whether this will build a following. They have also only written four blogs since April – the last is on 8 June. So any following they did build will almost certainly have dissipated by now and Google search engines will not be marking this as a content rich website any more

Insolvency News - Now I like this blog – but, it’s a magazine journal ie an online magazine with professionals contributing blogs. An example of a good blog is that by Elliott Green of Oury Clark (Slough and London) who has covered a pretty technical issue in pretty reasonable language. I can see a business director who is worried about their finances searching on Google for things like ‘Wrongful trading’ – which is where a director is personally liable if they trade when they know they are insolvent. And I can see them liking Elliott’s style and picking up the phone to ask for help. Which eventually is what this is all about

Findlaw UK this is another website designed for SEO! It’s a site with more than 5,000 solicitors registered on it – so you search by postcode and area of law to find a solicitor. Robert Clarkson seems to be their blogger and he covers topical legal issues – two or three blogs a day, most recently on the Liverpool FC case, Sean Connery’s corruption charges and a Welsh oboist’s case for wrongful dismissal. It’s more of an easily digested legal news site – can see it being followed but for me it lacks any personality, viewpoint or added value to what will be reported widely in the news. There is also an issue over how frequently you want to get blogs. Two or three a day is more like a newstream. I used to subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog – he’s generally regarded as one of the world ‘guru’ bloggers – but he posts once or twice a day. When I’d been out of the office trying to catch up with emails, I began to find this overwhelming so stopped. I guess I didn’t find enough value-added in the blogs to have the constant stream.

I am on the lookout for really good business blogs – can you recommend any (don’t be shy to suggest your own!) and I will share my list back with you.

Victoria Tomlinson is founder and owner of Harrogate-based PR consultancy, Northern Lights. A former director of Ernst & Young, she started her career as a graduate trainee for Plessey and later with Bradbury Wilkinson, the banknote printers, travelling around the world to sell banknotes to foreign governments. She joined Arthur Young as part of their start-up marketing team and was made a director of client services on the management committee and managing a 100-strong division. Victoria sits on the boards of Bradford University School of Management, Northern Ballet Theatre and Common Purpose North Yorkshire. She is a Prince’s Trust mentor.

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