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August 10, 2007

Corporate Blogging: Don’t Be an Island

So you set up a corporate blog. You have put your shiniest suits forward and have in-house editors serving up professional content. And it’s being updated regularly, in fact it’s running smoothly. In fact, you’ve created a blogger’s dream come true.

Sit back, relax. Pat yourself on the back, even. After all, you’ve done the right thing. Well, haven’t you?

I browse the blogosphere a lot and I am particularly interested in business blogs because, in the end, this is what I sell: online public relations for corporate clients. Blogging, as a publishing tool, is a very important facet of my business. I always recommend to website owners to add a blog to their sites because blogs bring many advantages including traffic, links, credibility, not to mention the possibility of publishing your own corporate news in real time and have them indexed almost instantly.

But many new online business owners don’t really understand what blogging is all about. They think that by daily contributions they’ll get higher rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Well, this method used to hold true for Google rankings, but that was back in the good old days, before blogging became a mania.

So what real chances do corporate blogs have and how can they grab the attention of their market? The reality is corporate blogs have nothing if they don’t have community.

The first rule in corporate blogging (and the first rule in blogging as a discipline) is: don’t be an island. If you choose to be an island, then do us all a favor and post a big ALOHA sign in your harbor now. Being an island is like one hand clapping. You know you’re doing it, but no one else does.

So how do you make the transition from island to continent?

A blog is the ideal platform to publish news fast and to control the message you want to send out. A blog is also the ideal platform to communicate with your future clients and business partners. Used wisely, it will help establish a trusted brand and leverage profits for your business.

To help bring trust to your blog, you’ll need to turn on your comments. Let people tell you how they feel about what you have to say. Accept their advice, accept their criticisms.

Learn, improve and move on. In the process, you might discover that elusive “je ne sais quoi” that was missing from your product or service and by listening to the feedback from your readers, you just might change the face of your business.

Don’t forget to respond to these comments. It’s not just a courtesy: when you do answer, you show your readers that their questions and ideas actually matter. Engage your readers in a meaningful conversation, give them valuable, competent answers.

The blogosphere revolves at a fast pace. Try to be as fast as this revolution.

Next, get involved in the online community. Ask your employees to read related blogs and take some time to add comments where they can. Their comments should be meaningful because this is the surest way to get the recognition you deserve and encourage people to visit your website or blog. Their comments should never mention your company or your products. They should be related to the host blog’s entry and they should add something new to the conversation. Never comment “just to comment.” And never use comments like “visit our site, we are the best in…” Self promotion is not welcomed anywhere. Respect the owners of the blog where you post your comments, respect their readers. You’ll also need to educate your employees about how to recognize authority blogs and understand how networking works.

Encourage social networking in your company. Ask each employee to post at least 4-5 comments each day on different blogs. And get them to do this with a link to your corporate blog in their signature. Refrain from using keywords in the comments signature — so no niche-related key phrases that could be perceived as spamming. And be real: ask your employees to use their own names. This is how you give a human face to your business. It’s that personal touch that will gain credibility and goodwill for your company. As a bonus, when they learn how to interact with other people online, the members of your staff will understand why communication is important within a team too. From reading different blogs they will learn how related businesses manage their online strategies and they will be able to bring good feedback and lessons to your company too.

Another very important reason why you should comment on other blogs has a lot to do with SEM and SEO, basically with what online marketing experts call “linking strategies.” Many bloggers have joined a “you comment I follow” movement to motivate their visitors to comment. Basically they remove the “nofollow” attributes from the signature link of the commentators. That’s good news, because those links will count in Google and Technorati. But you should also comment even when some blogs use “nofollow” for the signature links. There are search engines (like Yahoo and that completely ignore the “nofollow” attributes. Besides, the readers — and they are your real target — will follow. They click on the names of those who manage to get their attention through witty comments and professional advice. You should understand that the real purpose of the signature links is to drive traffic to your website or blog. That’s it! No matter what else you’ve heard, they do not have important SEO weight to make them count for your rankings in the SERPs.

So don’t blog to get more links, blog to gain goodwill for your business. Use your blog as a PR tool. Think of the savings and the amazing power you hold in your hands. Hire a blogger to do the networking if you don’t have time to do it yourself, but don’t be afraid to explore this world. Professional online PR consultants already agree that a site without a blog is a dead site in this profound Web 2.0 world. And guess what? We are heading towards Web 3.0!

Author:  Mihaela Lica is online marketing specialist for the Luxembourg based web development company Red Dog Communications.