More companies are rushing to expand their cloud offerings than ever before. Just take a look at the last few months alone: Cisco recently announced that it is spending $1 billion over the next two years to help grow the Cisco InterCloud, it’s new cloud offering. Google has slashed its prices drastically in order to effectively compete with the Amazon Web Services, arguably the dominant player in the cloud. Not one to be left out in the cold, Microsoft has caught up by slashing its own prices in what has now been termed the “cloud wars”. And just recently announced was that Ingram Micro is now a Cloud vendor offering hosted Exchange, VPS and web hosting.
In an increasingly competitive and crowded marketplace, the question of how to go about differentiating oneself becomes more important than ever before.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one of the most crucial things you can do to set yourself apart from the competition is to answer your prospects’ questions, educate your clients on the changing hosting marketplace, and inspire them to innovate. How do you do that without spending a ton of money or shifting resources from where you may need them the most? You blog.
Blogging is the (not so) secret weapon for every hosting company.
That’s right. Your blog is the one place where you can put your thoughts, ideas, analysis, and reflections together for the world to read. Of course, getting the kind of exposure you are craving may be easier said than done, but if you make your blog a place that offers hosting executives, analysts, investors, and the media with a timely reflection on what is happening in the market, then you can almost be guaranteed a loyal following.
And if you are already blogging, great! Keep at it, and hopefully as you read this piece, you’ll pick up a few tips and tricks to make your blogging activities even more efficient and stand out.
Blogging: The Why
Visibility is king: If there is one key reason for why you should begin blogging, it’s this: visibility. Visibility is king in a highly dynamic hosting marketplace. The more you put out original and compelling content, the greater your chances at creating exposure for your company’s hosting specialties – and the stronger the levels of engagement and dialogue you have with your target audience.
Reduce costs & drive revenue: Here’s the great thing about blogging – it’s affordable to implement, provides far greater exposure than any traditional marketing method, and is well-suited for all companies regardless of size. It is also fairly easy to measure what’s working and what isn’t very quickly, allowing you to tweak your strategy to meet your goals. Don’t forget, blogging also allows you to monitor the type of feedback you get through the comment section of each blog post. How’s that for getting hold of some key insight on what your readers – and customers – like and don’t like.
In my previous blog post, I quoted a study that says that blogging can help decrease costs per lead by between 40% and 62% when compared to traditional marketing. Regardless of which number you pick, the reality is simple – blogging is the most cost-effective ways to get your original content out there to the world.
Build relationships…: Regardless of the size or nature of your hosting company, the reality is simple: In the day and age of the Internet, customers do not appreciate receiving intrusive phone calls, sales mailshots or popup boxes about issues they are not interested in. Being able to opt in and out of communications is especially important online. When you focus your energies on building long-term relationships through the sharing of valuable and important information, you will gain followers and expand your network – and that’s pretty amazing
…and build trust: The more you empower users with the answers they are seeking, the greater the likelihood that they will give you the ultimate brand endorsement – their trust. Regardless of whether your target audience evolves over time – and they will – by constantly monitoring, analyzing, and evaluating what your target audience wants in terms of content and information, you will earn their trust. And when that happens, your company will have the competitive advantage it needs in a constantly evolving hosting marketplace.
The power of Google
Google has made it easier for Internet users to browse the web, scouring for information that answers their questions. Google has also made changes to make sure that websites that provide in-depth articles, filled with valuable information that has been optimized for ultimate online exposure. Connect your blogger profile to Google+ and maximize automatic sharing of content, build your profile in the Google+ blogging community, and broaden your audience.
Another great way to make Google work for you is to score the coveted author photo in Google search. According to Cyrus Shepard of moz.com, a good author photo has three key elements: it uses a real face – not a company logo, cartoon or icon; it has high contrast colors to compensate for the small photo size, and it is audience targeted – i.e. your photo is suited to give off the impression that you hope to send based on your target audience. Implement that photo and you may find yourself in the 20% of search results that include author photos.
Results will always vary as Google takes into account such factors previous search history, your profile, your geography and other factors. But if you leverage Google + and Google Authorship, you’ll soon find yourself on Page 1 of Google, like this:
Blogging: The Basics
Here are 7 golden rules when it comes to blogging (and I’ve highlighted the ones that I think are the top 2)
- Know your target audience and look to educate.
- Write strong headlines (grab your reader’s attention!)
- Include a summary sentence to help your readers along
- Format your posts for easy reading – remember, your readers have a lot of elements that are competing for their attention. Keep it simple. Keep it clean.
- Add images, graphics and visuals to make the experience fun and pleasurable. Nobody likes reams and reams of text.
- Include calls to action that are relevant to your post. What do you suggest your readers do once they have read what you have to say?
- Include social share buttons to make it easier for your readers to share what you have to say.
Always keep things fresh
Here’s another thing you need to know about Google – if your blog stops earning new links, it will often lose ground in search results; and if you fail to live up to that promise of being an active blogger, you could entirely fall out of Google’s search favour.
Google scores “freshness” in many ways. Inception date, how varied your content is, how often you update your blog, how many new pages you create over time, and whether important content is updated, such as homepage text.
Blogging: The When
While there is no hard and science for when you should blog, research shows that Monday is the best day to post your blog if your goal is to get more views. Post your blog on Saturday for more comments.
Oh, and here’s another tidbit you may be interested in: I’ve already addressed that it’s important to blog often. According to V2 Marketing Communications, 78% of businesses that blog on a daily basis have acquired a customer as a result.
Got any great tips I may have missed? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you agree that blogging is the (not so) secret weapon for every hosting company.