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Are Blogs A Meaningful Tool For Startups and Small Businesses?
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By Carl Weinschenk

Absolutely. Ask yourself what two things you want as a new business: you want people to find you online. And when they do, you want to be memorable. They may not buy the first time but you want them to be intrigued enough that they'll come back. Here's where a blog comes in.
Blogs are a remarkably cost-efficient way to get high search engine rankings-in other words, to get found. Every blog post has its own URL, making it in effect its own unique Web page. Add several new entries to your blog a week and you are creating the fresh content that search engines love. Keep blogging, say interesting, relevant stuff and you'll get found.

Secondly, as a small business owner or entrepreneur you'll probably be writing the blog yourself. Use this as a chance to make yourself stand out. Your blog reveals how you think, what you're an expert in, what kind of person you are. People buy from people. And often from people they like.

Here's a great example: JD Iles is the proprietor of a small sign shop in Lincoln, New Hampshire. He blogs almost every day at Signs Never Sleep. He includes marvelous photos of the signs he makes, along with informal patter about what's going on his shop or the weather or camping trips with his young family. His customers love it. And prospective buyers can easily search through his online archive of signs on the blog.

Oh, one more thing. Yes, there's some work involved. It takes time to write an entertaining or thoughtful blog post. But it may be time well spent if your advertising and marketing budget is small or nonexistent."

--Debbie Weil , The Corporate Blogging Book

OK…You’re reading this on a blog – so you already know what they are and how cool they are to tap into for great content. But what can they do for your business… in other words, must poor overwhelmed you really take on ANOTHER commitment every week?

Yep! If you want to attract media, increase sales and build steam. Here’s why:

1. Blogs are a key media attraction tool. A recent study reported that 73% of major media players now use blogs in their work. Specifically, reporters from big publications like Wired and The Wall Street Journal spend several hours every day reading blogs to find experts, track trends, and get ideas for stories.

2.You can build great customer relationship with blogs. My regular website’s conversion rate hovers around 2-3%. But my blog’s conversion rate shoots up between 5% and 10%. Why? Because I’m talking to these folks all the time – I’ve enrolled consulting clients, and sold very expensive products off of my blog with little or no advertising present. Simply because I’m there, I’m talking, and they’re listening.

3. Blogs give you a chance to stay current with your updates. Keeping people in the loop with frequent posts about your business, what you’re thinking, and where you’re heading creates buzz. It’s that simple.

4. Your readers can answer back … and ask. Here’s a great forum for finding out what they’re thinking – and modify what you’re doing in response. This really is a whole new marketing model that’s forming as we speak … but it works.

5. Google, Yahoo and all those other robots and spiders can find you. Indexing a blog is easier than a flat site. So your chance of getting a boost in your Search Engine rank is very high. It took me one year to get a respectable Google Page Rank (from the Google Toolbar) of 4 on one of my sites; the blog took less than three months to get a 4. That’s powerful!

--Suzanne Falter-Barns , Get Known Now ; BLOG: Painless Self Promotion

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Carl Weinschenk is the Editorial Director of SmartBiz.
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