When your website means business.

«Return to Blog List Business Blogging, Part 1: How to Set Up a Blog

There’s no shortage of advice about how to approach business blogs, and there’s a lot of variation in the advice you can find. Much of the advice is contradictory, and finding articles here and there can leave you more confused than enlightened. So I’ve decided that what’s missing is my own take on business blogs. ;-)

Why should a business blog?

Though not really the topic of this post, I feel the need to briefly address it. If you have customers or potential customers who research products or services online, you want them to find you when they do their research. Blogs take advantage of increasing local searches and increased search rankings for often-updated sites. They are a way for you to gather your audience and engage them in conversation, building trust and long-term relationships. If you have expertise you could share with your customers, and you’re not blogging about it, you’re sending business that should be yours somewhere else. I have never talked to a business person who is actively blogging who has not said they wish they had started a year earlier.

How do you set up a blog for business purposes?

The first thing you need to do is select a platform that lets you own your data and have complete control over it. That means no free blog platforms that give you URLs such as businessname.blogspot.com or businessname.typepad.com. If you already have a business website, you should attach your blog to it, with a URL such as blog.businessname.com or businessname.com/blog.

WordPress is a good solution for this approach. WordPress can be installed free of charge on your existing webhost, either by your web developer, or via a program called Fantastico from your control panel (with click-and-install ease). Either way, part of installing WordPress involves creating a database to hold your posts. You will need to determine if your existing webhost allows database installation (if they offer Fantastico, then they do). If not, get yourself a better webhost; shouldn’t cost you more than $10-15/month.

If you don’t already have a website, your blog can be installed in your webhosting root directory, so that it is accessed by your customers by a URL such as businessname.com. More and more companies are building their entire websites on blog platforms. It doesn’t make sense for all companies, but it’s often a good choice for small to medium-size companies that don’t need their website to host online business applications.

Theme hacking and plugins

Once WordPress is installed, you will want to install a theme that can be hacked or tweaked to carry your branding. This part can be the most daunting for business people, and it’s usually well worth it to pay someone who can do it quickly and easily (but as a web developer, you’d expect me to say that, wouldn’t you?). I think there are some things it makes sense to do yourself, and other things that have too steep a learning curve for the do-it-yourself approach to pay off. And like brake jobs and home wiring, hacking blog themes is one of those things. Additionally, web developers can bring lessons learned on previous projects, which can benefit your blog tremendously.

While hacking the blog theme, you’ll want to install plugins that extend the functionality of your blog in various ways. Just like themes, plugins are developed by developers around the world who are part of the WordPress "community" and made available free (there are "premium" themes, but it rarely makes sense to pay for them). There are plugins to do almost anything you have a need for. Want a gallery? There are a bunch of plugins for that. Want an event calendar? There are plugins for that. Want to ping Google every time you write a post? Now you’re talking about my favorite plugin.

In Business Blogging, Part 2, we’ll look at how you should approach your blog content.

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