Posted: Tue 24th Jul 2012
A recent post on the Enterprise Nation forum asked for advice on which blogging platform to use and really sparked a bout of nostalgia for me this morning. Nearly three years ago I set up my online property business on a boot-strap budget, and looking back, the blog has been the core of the entire marketing strategy. Writing the business plan on a kitchen table in Brisbane, Australia, while travelling, how could I have known which marketing channel would really prove effective? I couldn't, so I made assumptions and forecasted growing sales - if only it was so easy in practice!Â But once I started the business, I tried everything. And I measured it. From the start I wanted the business model to prove itself before I started pouring money into marketing, so I was keen to use ultra-low cost or free marketing strategies - which abound online - if you know where to go and what to do. Everyone assumes that online business is some kind of shortcut to business success, and while it does widen access to starting a business and can scale quicker, it still requires the same investment of time and expertise and experience as a bricks and mortar business. And it can still take a couple of years of small failures, frustration and determination as any other enterprise. I started blogging on the Blogger platform as it was free and easy to use. My first posts appealed directly to my (non-existent) audience with blogs like 'my new business coming soon!' - as if people had been waiting all their lives for this news. I logged in daily to view my stats and got excited when three or four people read my blog in a week. Nearly three years on and over 20,000 a month read our UK property blog. It's not Huffington post territory, but the statistics I swoon over now are the engagement indicators - four pages per visit, 90 per cent UK visitors, four minutes per visit, numerous tweets and comments.
So what are my top tips to speed your own curve? 1. Start out with a WordPress blog - free and easy to set up, and progress as quickly as you can to a self-hosted WordPress.org blog. The former will help you get to grips with using this world class blogging and content management system (CMS) which can power your whole website. 2. Join the debate. Read more than you write - work out and map who the other bloggers/ influencers are in your market and what interests them and how they get traction with their readers. When you have something to add - write to them personally and give them something of value - an insight or information maybe. Build relationships. Comment constructively to other people's blogs, do not spam. 3. Be disciplined, create a publishing schedule commit time and do it regularly, and keep doing it. It takes time to get traction and momentum. 4. Make sure your blog looks good. This doesn't mean you have to pay for web design initially, but choose a suitable WordPress theme template that makes your writing look good. 5. Submit your blog's RSS feed to as many directories as you can - set aside a morning/evening for this. 6. Once you get some traction, trade on it. If you have some readers, offer other bloggers guest post opportunities and once you have something to say, look for guest posting opportunities on others' blogs. 7. Be topical. If you haven't got any primary research or insight, comment on what people are talking about today. What's going on in your market? How do other events effect your market - ie, the Olympics, or other events. 8. Use social media. Use Twitter and other social media platforms like Linkedin to build your own social profile, to find and interact with other people in your market, but decide on your main asset (ie, your blog) and use the other platforms to point to it.Â Otherwise you may find yourself juggling too many balls and none will get the traction you need. 9. Join some forums and read what others are saying about blogging. But don't spend too much time on this and take what you read with a pinch of salt until you've tried it - the official WordPress.org support forums are a good place for technical advice. 10. Don't give up.
James Cole is an entrepreneur and a founding director of The Big Property List, an independent property portal and property advice website founded in 2009. The Big Property List Blog was named one of the UK's top influencers in UK property on Twitter by Property Week and the blog has been shortlisted in the Primelocation property blog awards and named a favourite property blog by Channel Four.
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Photo credit: Mike Licht