Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nine Easy Business Blogging Guidelines

In my last post I explained why blogging should be part of your marketing plan. As a follow-up, here are my nine proven tips for developing a successful business blogging strategy. Consider sharing these guidelines with your team to get them excited about blogging and to alleviate any potential nervousness about writing their own posts.
  1. Find a topic: Write about a topic that you know well or on an area that interests you. Still stumped? Once you have a topic, search for the term and "blog ideas" to find suggestions from others to help you figure out new blog post ideas.
  2. Develop a style: Be casual. Be yourself. Show your unique personality while upholding professionalism and the reputation of your company.
  3. Think carefully about titles: Your blog post title should contain one keyword or keyword phrase to show-up in search results, but don't compromise creativity for search engine optimization. Don't forget to also write your title in a way that entices visitors to click through and read your blog post
  4. Write to engage readers to leave comments: Select a blog post topic that others will want to discuss more. Keep in mind what will potentially elicit interaction from visitors.
    • Moderate all comments. Publish those comments that add value or interesting opinions on the topic. Respond as necessary.
  5. Set a standard length: Blog posts do not have to be long, as long as they are relevant. Three to four paragraphs with a call to action linking back into the site is a standard blog post length. By keeping to approximately 300-400 words as a standard length (minimum of 250 words), your posts will be focused. In some cases longer posts work, especially for complex topics. Just be sure to break-up longer blog posts into manageable sections.
  6. Incorporate helpful links: Add links to third parties, related resources, and back into the main website in each post.
    • Outbound links must be valid and reputable.
    • Outbound links should open in new windows.
  7. Add subheadings to make posts easy to scan: Sections of your post should utilize subheadings or subtitles consistently. This helps break up the information and easily make your point, especially in longer posts.
  8. End with a call to action: Each blog post should contain a call to action at the end that mentions your company and links to a related service or page within your website.
    • Place at the end of the post.
    • Develop a consistent style and general tone for all ending call to actions within your posts.
  9. Integrate relevant keywords: Each post should focus around a keyword, phrase, or topic. The selected keyword should be used once for every four-six sentences (approximately four times per post).
    1. If appropriate, emphasize keywords using bold or italics.
    2. If you can naturally repeat your keyword/phrase in the first sentence, that is good for search engine optimization.
    3. Provide samples of relevant keywords for your business or organization for team members to draw from. 
      • For example, for TBH Creative, these keywords include but are not limited to: web design Indianapolis, Indianapolis web design, website design Indianapolis, search engine optimization, web professional, web strategy.
Business blogging is a great marketing tactic for increasing your search engine optimization, showing your expertise, and more. We have found that blogging also keeps our staff learning more about the industry and website design and development trends.

Learn more about strategic blogging for business:


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Four Reasons Why Blogging Should Be Part of Your Marketing Plan

Is blogging the right marketing tactic for your business? Chances are, the answer is yes.

Blogging is a very beneficial tactic for marketing for a few reasons. As an example, for TBH Creative, the purpose of blogging is multi-faceted. Blogging helps to:
  1. Increase search engine rank for important, industry-specific keywords.
  2. Build community authority and activity in social media.
  3. Show personal side of staff and demonstrate expertise in casual setting.
  4. Reference posted information with clients or share information between team members.

Increase search engine rank for important, industry-specific keywords

Adding relevant material to your web pages keeps search engine spiders coming back to gather and index the new content in search results. In general, the more often Google comes to your site, the better it is for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes. Google watches all of this activity and includes this data in their algorithm for search engine rankings. Furthermore, the better the quality of your blog post content, the more people and sites will link to it—highly relevant backlinks drive search engine rankings more than anything else.

We have gained several clients who found us via our blog posts. One of our favorite clients, Northpoint Pediatrics, originally found TBH Creative via a blog post review we did on Expression Engine. Expression Engine is not our preferred CMS; however, we conducted a CMS review blog series in 2010, and our post resulted in search engines when they were searching for a qualified vendor.



As we review website statistics for clients, we often see blog posts listed in their top referral sites and top landing pages.

Build community authority and activity in social media

Interesting content goes viral. If through your specialized expertise you have something informative to share, create a blog post and share this information on Facebook. Your followers may "like" or "share" the blog post, further spreading your information. Sharing builds your reputation as an expert on the topic. It also enforces your brand recognition through repetitive exposure in social media.

Show personal side of your staff and demonstrate expertise in casual setting

Blog posts are casual and great opportunity for your team to express themselves and show personality. A few ways to show your personal side that can be effective include:
  • Using humor to make a point. The best part of a funny blog posts is that people are happy to link to them, so you are likely to receive a lot of “natural” backlinks.
  • Telling a story and drawing from relevant personal experiences.
  • Intertwining post topics with your others interests such as history or pop culture.
Note: Creativity and different approaches to writing about popular topics are interesting, but we still recommend that you proofread for errors and avoid taking a tone that's too extreme.

Reference posted information with clients or to share information between team members

We create posts full of information that we often refer to clients. With the collection of posts, we can reference clients to read our article via quick link. New staff members can review posts for information as well.

Over time, your blog will serve as a history and strong collection of information. For example, we often refer clients to our posts about photo resources, JQuery examples, and design trends.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Web Design Case Study: Laurel Hall

Services Provided Include:
A new website for Laurel Hall launched in June 2012, and it can be viewed at http://www.laurel-hall.org/.

TBH Creative was hired to create a design appropriate for their audience which is mostly females searching for a wedding venue—brides-to-be and mothers-of-the-bride—but also includes corporate managers and other special occasion planners.

Laurel Hall is elegant and historical combined with modern conveniences. The venue is ideal for weddings, corporate retreats, and other events.

Laurel Hall's homepage was designed for impact with a showcase of event photos eliciting elegance, charm, and happiness.
We used a full screen JQuery rotator for compelling photos to fill the width of your browser.

Before The Redesign

Laurel Hall's website before the redesign. It was described by their marketing manager as 'too masculine' and difficult to navigate.
Our goal in redesign was to add softness through subtle graphic techniques and effectively use the photography.
In the navigation, we organized the main choices as the main events, and created simple dropdown menus for one-click choices.
TBH Creative delivered a new design with templates for primary pages. We build and tested the HTML/CSS/JQuery markup for primary pages. We also edited the content, condensing the information into managable and easy to read pages.

We delivered these files to their IT department for implementation into Site Finity CMS. The website pages were populated internally, and the website is managed by their marketing manager today.

About Laurel Hall

A part of Indiana's historical landscape since 1916, Laurel Hall was built as the home to one of Indiana's wealthiest families. Over time it has played host to an all-girls school, a high-end housing development and a non-partisan governmental think tank.

Laurel Hall is a perfect place for weddings with 200 or fewer guests. The historic venue offers a variety of meeting spaces to meet your needs and can accommodate most audio and visual needs. Laurel Hall is designed for people with high standards and discerning taste who are looking to customize their event to fit their individual style. The building's impressive features include a stunning walnut foyer as well as cathedral ceilings and exotic hardwood floors throughout.

Nestled among six acres of woods and gardens, Laurel Hall welcomes your guests to an unforgettable event. Whether an anniversary party, an engagement dinner, a holiday reception, bridal shower or any other celebration of life’s milestones, Laurel Hall is the perfect fit for groups of 10 to 200.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Content strategy best practices

So many people building websites have big problems with their content. It's a nearly universal problem, and it's enormously complicated. Content is hard. Content piles up. Content is messy. People are still learning about it and figuring out what fixes the content problem.

If you're just beginning to learn about content strategy, the best place to start is with the woman leading the charge to make web content better, and Kristina Halvorson is that content cheerleader. She is the industry's top voice for content strategy, and last Tuesday evening Halvorson met with Chicago-area professionals for a fun and informal conversation about content strategy at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. 

She shared ideas on how key business messages inform content strategy and how they impact development and design. Here are some simplified takeaways from her talk:


Remember: People are not coming to your website for your code. They're coming for your content. People visit an organization or company's website to help them solve a problem or fill a need. Content is the building block of everything we do, ever. It can't just be a by-product of the web development process.

Content is alive, and content is affected by so many sources.

Instead of flowing lorem ipsum into designs, use real copy. 

Wave the content flag as soon as the project starts. Don't wait to think about content. Content deserves to be considered strategically. When developing content, ask: Who is your audience? What are you trying to do with the website? What gets the click? What helps make the sale? Take the time to identify which metrics matter when you're trying to figure out what content works. 

Organizational design, as well as roles and responsibilities, has a lot to do with the slow growth of content strategy as a priority in web development, but things are getting better. More people are able to talk about content-related problems. In your organization or company, establish who owns what and figure out that and put an audit system in place. This will help to establish ownership and accountability for content. Continually audit and monitor initiatives to figure out the impact of changes to the content ecosystem.

There is a difference between copywriting and getting content into a life cycle. "It's only one page." "Just get it up." "I know it's not hard to put up one page." Have a strategy for dealing with this kind of request about adding content. Understand your content ecosystem and figure out what its limitations mean for your ability to organize and create content. If you're facing restrictions, consider the strategy of putting as little content out there as possible.

Content management systems do not solve content problems. Even if you have a CMS you still need a content strategy with a plan for workflow and governance.


 

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