The Cluetrain Manifesto struck a chord with me when I first read it. In the eight years since it was published, I sometimes see signs that companies have paid attention to that message. More often, the same old closed shop business practices are seen.
A friend recently started a new business installing and servicing domestic heating systems. Remembering the lessons of the Manifesto, I urged him to start a blog. I put together the following issues he needs to consider. I think it makes a good case why any business should consider creating a blog. It was written with a domestic heating engineer in mind, but the ideas translate to many other areas.
Benefits of a Blog
- Extra business: by updating your blog regularly (for example daily, weekly or monthly), you will gain an interested audience:
- Clients and friends (and competitors) may subscribe to your blog (or at least look over it every now and then), to see what you’ve been up to. This will keep you fresh in people’s minds.
- Search engines will notice that you update your site often, and start paying more attention to it, and raising it in the search rankings. People will find you this way.
- Public exposure: there are no other heating installers who have any web presence at the moment (I’ve checked). You can be one of the first. Once again, search engines will reward your uniqueness (as long as you have interesting content – more on that later).
- Customer confidence: potential customers can gain insight into the work that you do. Hopefully, they will gain some confidence in your work from reading your blog.
Costs of a Blog
- Time spent maintaining the diary, including writing entries and maintaining comments.
- If you become popular, you will have to get a more robust hosting solution. Although there are free blogging services, but it is much better to get all your content within your domain, as search engines will take note that your domain is updated regularly.
Risks of a Blog
- Privacy concerns: you must be very scrupulous about not putting personal information about clients anywhere on your blog. You must state this clearly somewhere.
- Loss of customer confidence: potential customers can be scared off if they read content that doesn’t sound professional, or if private details of other clients are discussed. You need to be aware of how potential customers will view the information.
As mentioned, keep your content work related, while avoiding any confidential information. Some suggestions:
- Where you were working (to the town/suburb, don’t specify street address). This gives search engines a chance to show your site for relevant searches.
- What you did. Be specific. Give brand names and model numbers. Give out the dirt. What’s crap? what do you avoid? What’s a good brand or model? What’s a good technique? What are the trade-offs when deciding one brand or technique over another? This is a chance to prove your expertise in a public forum. Done well, your blog and associated website can become a web authority on the subject.
- What went wrong, and how you fixed it. Show that you’re proactive and get things done, customer centric, and so on.
- Add a client feature “Ask a Heating Engineer” or something equivalent. People can email you a question, and you can blog an answer.
All these things will help enormously in promoting your site via search engines. People will tend to search for suburbs and specific model numbers. If you can give some useful experience and advice, you’ve effectively struck gold.
Taking a Long View
The above advice must be taken as a long term strategy. It is a combination of white hat seach engine optimisation and hopefully interesting content. This takes a long time to gain appreciable results.
In the case of my friend Stu’s blog, he has been posting entries for a couple of months now. Traffic is still very low, but increasing rapidly each month. I was pleased to see that because of his latest entry, Google is now returning his blog on the first page for searching for magna clean, and it’s the top result (right now) for the search magna clean power flush. This trend will get much better as time goes on.