Blog ROI: Homemaking10 ways to maximize your blog's ROI: Part 10, giving your online conversations a home base

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House key (red)

Visiting someone else's place is great. You eat their food, drink their imbibables, and meet their guests.

But eventually to host a gathering at your own place takes hold. You want to choose the hors d'oeuvres, cue up the playlist and invite your own friends -- in your own home.

It's no different with blogging. True, your organization can go quite a ways in engaging the online world by commenting on third-party blogs. But if you want to be serious about joining the conversation, you'll want a place of your own: an online home for the conversations you want to have.

And while you have no more control over where those conversations ultimately lead and what other conversations may start than you do when you're hosting a party, you're the one who sets the agenda. And it's your voice that sets the tone and pace for your audience.

The conversations here are branded indelibly as yours - for better or for worse. It means you have to be involved, steering the conversation back on track if it heads off-topic or into anti-social territory. But it also means you become known as a place to go, maybe the place to go, to talk about the values and issues that lie at the heart of your brand's values and your organization's mission. Call it thought leadership, public relations or civic participation - those conversations have real value to your organization.

Your blog houses those conversations. And here's how to make the value of your house (ahem) appreciate:

  • Set the table. When the first visitors arrive at your blog, they should find a healthy supply of blog posts all ready for them. So when you launch, make sure you have at least five posts already published... and make them your best work.
  • Be involved. A good host doesn't just set out the crackers and spray-on cheese and then sit back; they interact with their guests, asking how they're doing, making introductions, freshening drinks. Your job is to keep the conversation well-stocked with compelling blog posts and engaging responses to comments.
  • Keep it lively. Freshen people's virtual drinks with a regular schedule of posting to your blog. There's no law that says exactly how often you need to post... but if you want to be part of the conversation, the more recent your last contribution, the better.
  • Aggregate. If you're commenting on behalf of your organization on other blogs, consider using a tool like Disqus or BackType to list those comments on your own blog as well. Other tools will let you include everything from your latest Twitter contributions and your most recent Flickr photographs to your Facebook status updates, Digg submissions and YouTube videos. Including this content gives users a window on your broader online presence, and increases the impact of your off-site activities.
  • Join conversations on related blogs. A comment on another blog with a link back to your own site drives traffic, but more to the point, it encourages participants to read and engage with your blog. (Of course, your interventions on those other blogs shouldn't be spam-like "come read my blog post!" comments; add real value to the conversation. As a rule, the link to your own site should come in a distant second in prominence to your contribution to that blog's dialogue.)
  • Consider joining a blog aggregator. For pretty much any topic, there's at least one popular site that aggregates related blog posts, offering one-stop reading (and often rating, ranking and featuring) of posts from dozens or even hundreds of blogs. Those sites can give you a big boost in visibility, and bring even more people to your party... as well as exposing you to the writers of other blogs, and vice versa.
  • Make it easy to find your blog. People can't come to your party if they can't find your home. Link prominently to your blog from your organization's primary web presence, if possible in the main navigation, and where appropriate from other web sites (e.g. a Facebook page) as well. Make sure your blog's URL is simple and easy to remember – http://organizationname.org/blog or http://blog.organizationname.org, rather than some alphanumeric soup, like http://organizationname.org/pages/n/public/content.asp?category=300475629&page=461394&type=581&whatthehellwasthedevelopersmoking=420.
  • Promote your blog. What's a party without invitations? Drop bloggers in your field a note to let them know about your blog, and invite them to give their feedback. Talk up your blog at real-world events; add a link in your email subject line. Consider making a modest investment in online ads like Google AdWords and see how that works for you. Do what you can to let potential readers know about your blog, and why they'll find it interesting.

You'll know you're building equity in your online home when:

  • You develop a cadre of regulars: positive contributors who comment regularly on your blog, link to you from theirs, and add to the conversation.
  • You and your colleagues start finding useful information by searching your own blog archives.
  • Your blog becomes a significant source of traffic to your organization's primary web presence, and not just the other way around.
  • Your organization recognizes your blog as an effective way to spark and respond to online conversations about subjects that matter to your organization.

Comments

Sefati says

May 3, 2011 - 12:56pm

Hi
If I were to add a blog to an existing website, doing all the stuff you said above, and have a good editorial programming in place, how much more traffic do you think I could get in 3 months span % wise?

thanks

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