I’ve been blogging since 2001, primarily on my own personal website just as a hobby and creative outlet. When I started an engineering consulting business, I didn’t initially include a professional blog on this website. I had just a few static pages. After I converted my static website to WordPress and had a chance to see the effect that just having a few articles can make, I truly believe that most businesses can benefit by having blogs associated with their websites.
Blogging can be used in place of a company newsletter which, in many cases, is just a thinly-veiled form of advertising. In exchange for informing or educating the reader, a newsletter gets something that is very valuable — the reader’s attention. And by providing his attention, the reader subtly gives the company a place in his subconscious mind. The next time he needs a product or service that the company offers, it is a short trip to the subconscious to retrieve the name of that company. But this process wears off eventually, sort of like bathing, and that’s why it needs to be repeated on a regular basis.
The problem with company sponsored newsletters is that many of them lack an authentic voice. If it isn’t on someone’s list of objectives to produce a newsletter, it often fades away after a few issues. And if a newsletter is created by a reluctant author, the results usually speak for themselves. The newsletter can degenerate into a clipping service for stale or unoriginal articles. Margaret McDonald, a communications expert, recently made the observation in her twitter feed that if you send an e-mail newsletter with “Newsletter” in the subject header, you’re saying “This is entirely unnecessary; skip it.”
We are overwhelmed with information today. In addition to conventional sources like newspapers, TV, and radio, the Internet delivers copious amounts of information by email and social networking services like Twitter and Facebook are also competing for our attention. There’s so much information arriving that we sometimes just want to turn it off. However, when we actually want to find some specific information, we want it immediately. This is usually done with a keyword search in one of the popular search engines like Google.
Search engines seem to love blog articles. They give high rankings to fresh content that can’t be found anywhere else. That’s one of the reasons why this website, which is really just a ‘shingle’ on the Internet for my engineering consulting business, has this blog. I can write about topics that are at least tangentially related to engineering consulting and product design and it improves my website’s chances of appearing in search results. If I fail to blog for a month or so, my search engine traffic declines. Hopefully, some of the articles will find an audience and someone in that audience may be looking for an engineering consultant.
To get found on search engines, your website has to have some content for them to index. And if you allow the website’s content to get stale, it will negatively affect your position in the search results.
Unlike high traffic blogs that are written for the sole purpose of delivering eyeballs to advertisers, a consultant may only need a few hundred potential clients to visit a website each month to attract sufficient consulting business. You don’t need to have thousands of visitors per day, but you do need some visitors to attract potential clients. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t have a website in the first place.
Writing a blog also allows a potential client to ‘get inside your head’ to see if you’re someone who sounds trustworthy and knowledgeable. If you can string a few words into a sentence, and string a few sentences into a coherent paragraph, and then spin a few paragraphs to tell a story, you can stand out from the crowd. It also helps if you can avoid misspellings and grammatical errors, of course, or you may otherwise undermine your credibility and chances of success in attracting clients.
I’m not suggesting that there is no downside to having a business blog. If you come across as being clueless or, worse yet, an egotistical know-it-all, it can work against you. But if you can manage to be genuinely helpful and show mastery of your profession, then adding a blog to your website is a great way to help potential clients to find you. And the best thing about clients finding you through a search is that they may actually have a need for your product or services, or else they would not have been searching for relevant keywords in the first place.