Think about the last time you wanted to find more information on a type of business, product or service. Chances are you Googled it. Now think about your business. How can you make your business pop up higher when potential customers use search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo and MSN?
One way is through blogs, says Rhoda Israelov, a career mentor and executive-in-residence in Butler University's College of Business. "A savvy business marketing plan involving the strategic use of a blog can move your business up in search engine listings, and is an inexpensive way of extending a personal invitation to online searchers," she says.
As a business owner you may be wondering why you need a blog, especially if your organization already has an extensive email database of customers. Israelov offers the following reasons:
* You should consider blogging because of the potential customers who have never heard of you. Search engines rank listings based on link popularity and easy-to-index regular content. Every time you blog about your business, you are increasing the information about it on the Web and therefore increasing your odds of having your listing popping up higher in a search. Blogging is the perfect complement to e-mail as a marketing tool for the beginning of the customer relationship.
* Business owners should think about a blog as a sort of online trade-show booth. Customers are looking for information or, perhaps, for a provider of a service or product. They arrive at your "booth" and, when they read something that draws their interest, they come inside the booth — meaning they "click through" to your website. At that point you'll get the chance to find out more about them and help them find out more about you. Maybe some of them will decide to stick around and do business with your company.
* The cost of generating traffic from search-engine marketing is much lower than traditional media and has the highest return on investment. According to a study by U.S. Bancorp, the cost per lead was 29 cents for search-engine marketing, 50 cents for e-mail, $1.18 for phone book advertising, $2 for banner ads, and $9.94 for direct mail. In terms of banner ads specifically, a study by Marketing Sherpa found that as many 99 percent of clicks on a search engine were for "organic results" (which includes blogging) rather than pay-per-click advertising.
* Blogging is an easier, cheaper way to have a web presence than paying a web designer to make changes, or doing the coding and uploading yourself. Blog software through companies such as WordPress, TypePad or Blogger.com is easy to use.
When you're ready to begin blogging for your business, Israelov suggests you practice these three points.
* Provide fresh, relevant information in your blog posts. You must provide the person searching with useful, up-to-date information. By sharing your knowledge and expertise, you are establishing yourself as an expert in your field -- someone customers can trust to give them what they need.
* Imagine you're a business manager at work or someone navigating the Web on a laptop in a coffee shop, searching for information about the kind of products, services or information you offer. Now imagine they've never heard your business name. Sit down at your computer and use the search terms you believe your potential customers would likely use to see: Does your business show up? This will show you why blogging on a regular basis will help push your business higher in search-engine listings.
* If you had only eight to ten words to describe why you're passionate about what you sell, what you know or what you do, what would those words be? Write them down. This message should come across loud and clear in every blog post.
"Blogs will change business!" Business Week predicted back in May 2005. The question is: Will it change yours?
Rhoda Israelov is a career mentor and executive-in-residence in Butler University's College of Business. Her professional background includes 27 years as the first vice president of investments for Citigroup Global Markets. Her writing experience spans 30 years including 19 years as a weekly columnist for the Indianapolis Business Journal, four years as a weekly columnist for The Indianapolis Star, and regular columnist for Columbian and Radius magazines. She founded online marketing company Say It For You in 2007 to produce content for websites, newsletters and blogs. Clients are business owners, professional practitioners and organizations in Indiana and other states.
To find other Butler University experts, visit http://www.butler.edu/experts/.