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"Blogging should be part of any online retailer's SEO arsenal," says Stephan Spencer, blogging expert and founder of e-marketer Netconcepts (www.netconcepts.com).
Participating in the blogosphere opens doors to links that would otherwise be inaccessible to online merchants: "hat tips" from bloggers crediting you for breaking a news story or making an insightful comment, listings in blog directories and search engines, and greater willingness of bloggers to cover your PR initiatives, Spencer says.
Spencer offers results from a Netconcepts client, science toy cataloger Steve Spangler Science (www.stevespangler.com), which attributes 13 percent of its online sales to its blog.
Pinny Gniwisch, executive vice president of marketing at jewelry merchant Ice.com, agrees blogs can be powerful SEO tools.
"We started blogging for search engine benefits. Today we have four blogs. We post three times a week, paying outside writers for enticing content."
According to Gniwisch, the most popular Ice.com blog is Sparkle Like The Stars (www.sparklelikethestars.com), which tracks jewelry worn by celebrities. The site links back to the Ice.com retail site and has large, regular readership.
"During the holiday, our blogs drove over $200,000 in sales," Gniwisch reports.
Takeaway Tip: Link your blog to your commerce site. Make your blogs search engine friendly, using appropriate tags and markup. (For more blog SEO tips, see Spencer's blog at www.stephanspencer.com.)
Blogs aren't going away. And because blogs fundamentally are a "pull" marketing channel, blogs will suffer fewer of the spam problems of "push" channels like e-mail, making it a powerful tool to drive customer response.
While your blog likely won't make it into the top 100 or even top 1,000 list, a blog can help connect with the most important niche of individuals on the Web: your current and prospective customers.
Alan Rimm-Kaufman leads the Rimm-Kaufman Group, an online marketing firm specializing in paid search marketing and Web usability consulting. A recent blog convert, Rimm-Kaufman writes online at www.rimmkaufman.com/rkgblog. He can be reached via his Web site: www.rimmkaufman.com.