Thursday, 21 March 2013 18:18

Blogging for Fun and Profit

People used to think that blogs were light and breezy, written mostly by soccer moms or retired teachers and featuring their poetry, baby pictures and long-winded opinion pieces. But  over the years blogs have changed in a big way. Nowdays, experts on certain subjects will go to blogs exclusively to see what they can’t find anywhere else on the Internet. Blogs have gone from irrelevant to pertinent within the past five years, and today more companies than ever (including body shops) have one blog and maybe even more.

For those of you who have been inside fixing cars too long and don’t know what a blog is, here is my elevator speech. A blog is the morphing of two words (web–log) and in simple terms, it’s a discussion-based or informational site published on the web and including a series of entries (also known as posts) typically displayed in reverse chronological order.

 

Until 2009, blogs were normally the work of a single individual or a small group, and often covered one particular subject. More recently ‘multi-author blogs’ (MABs) have developed, with posts written by large numbers of authors and professionally edited.

More and more companies, including body shops, are creating blogs for many reasons, according to Angel Iraola, a blog expert and the owner of Net Business Consulting & Services (NBCS) in Santa Rosa, CA. Iraola has been designing websites and blogs for his clients since 2006 and has seen a huge spike in their overall popularity.

“I used to get 1–2 calls every month from people asking about blogs and now I get about 5–6 calls a week. Why are they so in style right now with companies of all sizes? Because for one, they see their competitors doing blogs and they want to keep up. Also, they’re easy and affordable to set up and maintain, moreso than websites. In addition, people read blogs now more than ever and they enjoy interacting with other readers.”

To get top search rankings on sites such as Google and Bing, blogs can play an instrumental role, Iraola said. “By using meta tags and the proper keywords, blogs can help companies to spread the word and enhance their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts. I’ve helped some of my clients to become #1 on Google and their blogs are one of the main reasons for their success online.”

How can body shops use blogs to get more customers? Iraola isn’t giving away his secrets, he said, but he offered some basic advice. “Post at least once every week, otherwise your blog will become stale and people won’t read it. And change up the content, with articles about helpful news and tips about driving and cars and interviews with your employees and funny, entertaining stories including videos, in some cases. Make it interesting and varied and solicit comments by doing polls and promoting discussion with your readers.”

Laurie Kaiser is the marketing director at LaMettry’s Collision, with seven locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Kaiser contracted an outside firm to create LaMettry Collision’s blog in 2011 after it developed the shop’s website, she explained.

“They recommended a blog to enhance our SEO, tell our story and keep engaged with our customers. We also attached the blog to some of our social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. We’ve made the content for our blog a team effort, soliciting feedback and gathering ideas about future blog articles from our employees, customers and even vendors.”

Some of the more popular posts on LaMettry’s blog include: Best and Worst Car Commercials for 2013; Why Your Car Gets Poor Mileage in the Winter; Green Auto Repair: LaMettry’s Commitment to the Environment; and Congratulations to Lakeville High North’s Class of 2012.

Stefanie Almendares is the marketing manager at Eur-Asia Motors in San Francisco, CA. One of the first things she did after getting hired early last year was create a blog and connect it to the shop’s website and its social media.

“We specialize in information and education on our blog, because we want to be an advocate for the industry and a source our readers can trust,” Almendares said. “Sometimes I have to ask our techs about how to fix certain items, so that I can write about them for our blog. For instance, we wrote a post recently about how long it takes to repair a bumper. I didn’t know, so I had to learn how a fender is repaired and how long it takes to complete the job, so that I could pass it on to our readers.”

Does Almendares have any tips on how to make it in the blogsphere?

“I post as often as I can and we always use lots of photos. Our SEO person told us to use plenty of pictures and write alternate text for each photo we post. That way, we get more readership and enhance our searchability.”

Kevin Rains is a second-generation owner of Center City Collision in Cincinnati, OH. He delegates the majority of his shop’s day-to-day tasks to his managers and employees, but handles all of his company’s marketing himself, he explained.

“I really enjoy the marketing aspect of this business, because it’s always changing with the technology. I started blogging way back in 2001 for my church, long before most people even knew what blogs were. Then, three years later I started a blog for our shop. Now I also publish a blog called the Auto Guru Blog, on which I teach readers about the technology involved in car repair, so that they know what to expect.”

How does he know if people read his blog and has he seen any benefits from it?

“There is no doubt about the power of blogging, because I have seen it firsthand. Everything we do online is there for a reason and SEO is of course a big factor.

“We can’t rely 100% on our blog or our website, because marketing is a mix of different things but blogging is a part of that.”

 

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