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5.3 Using Blogs and Forums

In a similar vein to writing articles, you can also create blogs or forum posts that will help build your reputation and can guide readers back to your website. “Blog” comes from the term “web log” and was once a type of online diary for individuals. But now, businesses use them to create an interactive environment with their readers, and to add an additional location in cyberspace where they can demonstrate expertise to readers who might want to know more about you, your company, or your products and services. You may also have a blog on your own site where you spend the majority of your time interacting with customers - but this strategy requires that you create additional blogs out on different sites.

“Blog” comes from “web log” and was once mainly a type of online diary for individuals.

But now, businesses use them to create an interactive environment with their clients and customers.

Blogs can develop quite a following over time. Particularly if the information that is provided is topical and relevant to the type of person who would be reading your blog. For example, if you were a clothing designer, one blog post might cover the latest fashion trends seen on TV. You would then provide a link to similar products on your website at the end of the blog. Or, you could write about how the fashion industry has cut prices in response to the recession, and add a link to your sales page on your site.

Just like article directories, there are multiple popular blog sites where you can create your own blog page. Some of the most popular include:

• WordPress

• Tumblr

• Live Journal

• Blogger

• TypePad

Again, unique content is important on these sites; search engines are too smart to be fooled by cut and pasted content that you plug into multiple blog sites. The key to getting your best return on your time investment with blogs is to make sure you vary the content on a regular basis, and that you build a following of people who will believe you when you tell them that you have the best product or service in the category they are looking for.

One other way you can use blogs to your benefit is to offer to be a “guest blogger” on someone else’s website. Particularly if they already have a heavy following, offering to write a blog post could strengthen your own site’s search rankings. You would only do this, of course, if the site is willing to include a link back to your own site. You can even offer to have the owner of the blog come and do a guest posting on your website, where you will allow them to post a link back to their own site as well. This is one form of what is called “link swapping,” where you each help the other person by providing backlinks to each others’ sites.

Offer to be a “guest blogger” on someone else’s site. Particularly if they have a strong following, you can get a great boost in the search rankings from a backlink on another blog. You can offer to allow that blogger to be a guest poster on your site as well; this is

one version of a practice known as “link swapping.”

When you create a blog, you will have the option to allow readers of the blog to post comments on what you have written. There are benefits and drawbacks to doing so. It can be an excellent way to engage your customers and potential customers. If you monitor the blog comments carefully, you can delete any negative comments or comments from anyone who seems to be just advertising on your blog.

However, if you allow anyone to say what they want, you can develop a reputation for having an honest, unbiased blog

- something that could help you in the long run. It depends on what you are comfortable with and how much time you can dedicate to monitoring the activity on your blogs.

Forums are like digital question and answer boards. Someone posts a question or a comment and others respond. If you ran a clothing website, you might find forums on fashion and post comments for other readers, then include a link back to your site if they are interested in learning more.

Forums are like digital question and answer boards. In some cases you can actually

“sign” your post with what amounts to a mini-advertisement for your site.

In some cases, you can actually post what amounts to a mini-advertisement at the bottom of your forum posting so that you don’t even have to be commenting on a related topic, but your link is still posted. You will need to be sure that you understand the rules of a forum before you begin posting. Otherwise you could end up being blocked from participating in the forum again.

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