Over the last decade blogging has become increasingly popular, with Quantcast reporting that as of June 2010 WordPress.com had 11.4 million blogs hosted by the site and blogpulse reporting that there are currently over 160 billion identified blogs live on the Internet at the moment!
In simple terms, a ‘blog’, (derived from the phrase ‘web log’), is a web site, where you write content on a regular and ongoing basis, much like a diary. Entries are written in chronological order and new content shows up at the top of the page, so your visitors can read what's new. They can then comment on it, or link to it, or email you, (if the content is interesting enough and relevant). A typical blog will contain text, images and links to other websites, blogs or related media. Just like on the blog site that you’re now visiting and reading this entry on!
A blog is whatever you want it to be – but most are personal to the author, containing a mixture of a diary of events, opinion posts and research links.
In recent years there has been an expansion in the prevalence of so-called “Business Blogs” - a corporate tool for communicating with customers or employees to share knowledge and expertise.
What are the benefits of setting up a Blog for your business?
- Blogging is a low-cost alternative to having a web presence via a bespoke company website. It offers a quick and inexpensive method of getting your company's name on the Internet.
- Blogs can help to position you and/or your company as experts and leaders in your industry.
- Blog software, provided by a number of companies, is usually easy to use. You simply type in your thoughts/opinions/observations, link to relevant resources, and at the push of a few buttons publish to your blog online.
- Blogs are interactive in nature, making them very popular. At the end of each entry you will usually find a link that allows anyone to add their own comments to the blog. This allows your existing customers and potential new ones to make comments about your products, (if say you have an online shop) or services or ask you questions to help them in their buying process.
- Blog updates are indexed and listed very quickly (sometimes within 24 hours) by search engines and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) news feeds.
- People are often more generous with adding links to your blog (rather than your main website), if the content is good, especially within their own blogs. More links means more traffic and better search engine rankings.
- Blogs are a powerful tool for marketing and promotion. They are often full of links and are more keyword heavy than standard articles, so are often highly ranked by search engines. Plus, the entries are short, this makes them easy for your customers to read (and you to write), so they are more likely to come back daily to see what you might have to say on that day.
- Blogs don’t have to be just written words and can incorporate ‘podcasts’ (audio files) for auditory learners as well as pictures and video for people who prefer to consume content in other formats.
How to set up a Blog for your business
First, you need to think of a theme for your blog. In other words, your blog could be about your personal experiences in the aesthetic industry. It could be about your company's products or new services, or your thoughts and opinions about issues related to this industry. It could also be a place where you regularly find and list new resources to help others in your field. Whatever, your chosen theme is, you want to offer something of value to your website visitors, so be sure to stick to a theme and be original.
Then you need to get your hands on some blogging software.
You can choose to create a blog that is housed on another site such as www.blogger.com (which is owned by Google™ and provides a simple blog developing and hosting service), or you can host it on your own web server.
If you already own a website, we would recommend the latter since the links that are created by others pointing to your blog won't be counted in your website search engine rankings if the blog is hosted on a third party site. This is because the links are attributed to domains, so a link to http://mynewblog.blogger.com gives a link credit to blogger.com and not to your domain or company website. If you don’t already own a website then using a blog hosting service is ideal.
You can find a useful list of various blog software and hosting services at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog_hosting_service
Next you'll need a database to link your blog up to. The database will store the blog entries, amongst other things, and will be on or connected to your web server. If you are unsure as to whether you have a database as part of your current web solution, or you don’t know how to link a blog to it, you should be able to contact your web design and hosting service for help.
Once you have a blog set up on your domain (for example www.MyClinic.com/blog) and you've linked it up to a live database, you can start blogging. Generally speaking, in the manor of a diary, each entry is also a day. So you can write a new entry every day if you wish, or simply whenever you find that you have something you want to include. The new entry will show up on the blog at the top, moving older entries below it.
In the same way that you publicise your website URL on everything that you do, you can similarly publicise your blog address.
Submitting your blogs to blog directories is another way to get traffic – certain sites can help you submit your blog to multiple directories, including blogging and RSS feed directories.
Although it is a good idea to invite anyone to comment on your entries – you should ensure that they are moderated to avoid any defamatory remarks. This means that you have to approve any comments to your blog before the post goes live or soon after. You'll save yourself a great many headaches and time by choosing to monitor the comments in this way.
Ensure that whether you use a blogging service provider, or you decide to host your blog on your own web server, that you use a statistics package to track traffic to your site so that you can measure its effectiveness.
Blogs are a great way to author content and share your knowledge and insights with other people.
If you have never visited a blog before, other than ours, we would recommend that you read lots of different types of blogs to learn more about them.
Go to your favourite search engine and type in the word 'blog' and the subject you're interested in, for example, 'Botox blog', or 'blog breast implants', or 'cosmetic surgery blog'. You'll find lots of examples of blogs that way.
In addition, we would recommend that you visit two examples of well established blogs related to the aesthetic industry: www.plasticsurgery101.blogspot.com, and www.thebeautybrains.com.
If you do decide to launch a blog, it is worth noting the points below that have been proposed in a new Blogger’s Code of Conduct; published on www.wikipedia.org (type in ‘blogger’s code of conduct’ in the site search).
- Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.
- Label your tolerance level for abusive comments.
- Consider eliminating anonymous comments.
- Ignore the trolls, (people who deliberately try to provoke arguments with others by the comments that they write).
- Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so.
- If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.
- Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person
While it was felt a few years ago that blogs were not yet that important to many niche industries, there was an argument being made by web marketing specialists that they could be a vital differentiating tool for driving website traffic to businesses in the future, and that’s just what has happened with more and more businesses, including UK medical aesthetic clinics and practitioners joining the ranks of the worldwide bloggers.
If you don’t already have a blog, we would encourage all businesses to keep a track on the evolution of business blogging within the aesthetic market place over the next few years and decide whether you want to take the plunge as we have!