http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/353004

Op-Ed: Why it’s time for small businesses to start a company blog

Posted Jun 23, 2013 by Anna Johansson
Simply having a website is no longer sufficient for small businesses looking to improve their leads and sales from online sources.
Simply having a website is no longer sufficient for small businesses looking to improve their leads and sales from online sources. This is especially true following the release of Google’s latest algorithm update, Penguin 2.0, which has shaken up the search marketing industry. With the update, Google has made the message clear to small businesses: If you want website traffic from search engines, you’re going to have to work for it.
In today’s search engine marketing environment, businesses must develop social media marketing plans to achieve visibility and website traffic.
Understanding blogging and Web 2.0
Web 2.0, or the social web, includes social networks, file sharing, wikis, blogs, and bookmarking services. Of all these, blogging has become the hub around which all social activity revolves; it’s a cornerstone of a successful social media marketing program.
The word “blog” originated from the term “web log,” which refers to an online journal that’s frequently updated. Blogs keep websites up-to-date with fresh content, while also offering readers and visitors resources, information, and company news. Blogs help increase transparency, and are a great way to improve brand awareness, industry authority, credibility, and search engine visibility.
Search engines like Google list the most up-to-date, high-quality content at the top of their search results in order to give their users the most timely and accurate information possible. Quality, frequently-updated blogs provide this fresh stream of content that Google loves to show at the top of its search results, which brings businesses website traffic, leads, and sales.
Developing and maintaining a blog
There are two options to consider when developing a blog: small businesses can either activate a self-hosted blog by purchasing their own domain and using a web hosting service such as WordPress, or they can sign up for a free blogging service such as Blogger.com, WordPress, or Tumblr.
In addition to maintaining an active blog, website design and page load speed are becoming more important. Small business owners should focus on making their website look professional and unique, while focusing on simplicity for their visitors. Design is the first thing visitors see when they reach a website, and it can quickly turn visitors away if it isn’t visually appealing or if it’s difficult to navigate.
Here are a few tips for success:
1. Research target audience, and develop a list of keywords. Use a keyword research tool to find the best word(s) to use with the least amount of competition. Google and Bing offer free keyword research tools.
2. Use keywords in blog posts to increase search engine visibility.
3. Add keywords to your META titles and description tags.
4. Add photos to blog posts and use alt text and titles that are relevant to the content.
5. Add share options for social media sites, bookmark sites, email, and other blog sites.
6. Post regularly; a dead or infrequently updated blog is a bad reflection on your brand.
7. Frequently incorporate images, Wikis, YouTube Videos, and SlideShare Presentations in posts to make things more interesting, because people will be more likely to share them.
Why a business blog is so important
According to a survey conducted by HubSpot, 60% of businesses that blog acquire more customers.
Google favors fresh content and Bing is likely doing the same. In fact, they recently added an option for their users to search for content that’s new: content that’s been posted in the past 24 hours, over the past week, or during past month.
Potential customers who search for the latest news, products, or information using this feature won’t find websites that aren’t posting new content on a regular basis.
Here are just a few of the ways that running an engaging, effective, and up-to-date blog can pay off for small businesses:
• Allows businesses to receive feedback from customers about the company and its services and/or products
• Establishes trust and rapport with customers
• Keeps communication lines open with customers
• Enables small businesses to share expertise
• Improves search engine visibility and website traffic
• Results in more repeat website visitors
Conclusion
Blogs are the foundation of social media marketing. In today’s ever-changing search engine marketing landscape, small businesses can only get so far without them. It’s time to take blogging seriously or risk losing search engine traffic; Google’s made that clear, and small businesses should heed the warning.