When thinking about how to market your business, one of the first pieces of advice people will often give you is to write and feature a blog on your website.
There are plenty of benefits to having a business blog:
- You can give your clients in-depth, high value content on the topics that matter to them, which will create goodwill towards your business
- You can build your reputation as an expert in your field
- You can open a conversation with your customers
- It gives you content to use and share on social media
- It’s an effective way to create fresh content that Google loves, so it should improve your page rankings and domain authority
- Blogs bring in more website traffic
- They also help you to rank for a greater range of keywords
- You can sell advertising space on your blog on the Google Display Network via AdSense
Before you start blogging, however, it’s important to plan your strategy and pinpoint your reasons for having a blog, as well as your goals for its growth.
A first step is to answer the following questions about your business blog:
- Who is my target/ideal client?
If you try to create a blog that appeals to everyone, you run the risk of it appealing to no-one. As with all of your marketing, it’s essential to get clear about who you want to work with. With my Unique Mumpreneur blog, for example, I want to reach out to female entrepreneurs who are working around their family commitments. It helps me to picture people from The Unique Mumpreneur networking groups as I write because they are the people I want to connect with.
- What content would be valuable to my target client?
The next step when creating a business blog is to identify two or three broad subject areas that will be the main focus of your blog. These should be topics that your target customers will find valuable – and relatable – to their own situation.
To use The Unique Mumpreneur blog as an example again, I feel that value can best be provided with blogs about the challenges of being a self-employed or work-from-home mum, practical advice about overcoming these challenges, and insights into some of the issues my clients might face on a daily basis.
The individual blogs themselves are much more specific. I might tackle money mindset, working during the school holidays, pressure on parents to be perfect, or networking, depending on what resonates with my lovely clients at the time.
- How often can I commit to writing a blog (or paying someone to write it for me)?
One of the most powerful things you can do to ensure the success of your blog is to make a commitment to creating new content.
In my experience, you need to be realistic about how often you can write – or pay someone to write – a new article. People will quickly lose interest if you post a flurry of blogs and then go quiet for months on end. It’s better to blog once a month and do it consistently than to be unpredictable. Your clients will appreciate knowing when to expect your next article and will start to look out for it.
It’s also important to plan enough time into your schedule for creating fresh blog articles. For some topics, your fingers might fly across the keyboard but, on other occasions, you may find yourself struggling with writer’s block or spending hours researching the topic you want to write about.
- What do I want my blog to achieve?
I think it’s also essential to have a strategy and goals in place for your business blog. This means thinking about your reasons for blogging. Is it to drive more organic traffic to your website? To grow your presence on social media? To build your professional reputation? To increase your number of enquiries? Do you want to monetise your blog by featuring advertising?
You may well have goals that cover all of the above, but I find it helpful to think about where blogging fits into my overall marketing strategy and how each new article can support my goals.
My advice is to think of your blog as a tool for connecting, sharing and creating fans of your brand – it isn’t a place for relentless sales messages.
- Will you need help with writing or managing your blog?
As I’ve touched on above, blogging can be more time consuming than you might expect, especially if you plan to blog once a week or more frequently. As well as researching and writing the content, you will need to think about potential keywords, images, links to quoted sources and resources, physically adding your blog to your website, adding the meta data, and sharing each new article on social media as just some of the tasks.
If you’re worried about the time commitment, you might want to consider enlisting support from a Virtual Assistant to upload your blog to your site or source Royalty Free stock images that you can use. Alternatively, you could engage a copywriter to write articles for you based on your editorial calendar or hire a photographer to take some photos that will be unique to your brand.
The question is, where is your time best spent? If you could be making money by working elsewhere on your business, it might be more cost effective to outsource your blog.
Create an editorial calendar for your blog
Once you’ve answered the questions above, I would recommend writing down a rough editorial calendar for the year ahead. If a year feels like too much, you could try three months.
At this stage, brainstorm a list of possible blog topics that you would like to write and, most importantly, that you think your clients will love. The number of topics you need will depend on how often you intend to blog. For now, try writing down 12 rough titles for potential blog articles – if you were to blog just once a month, that’s a year’s worth of content loosely mapped out to start with!
I find it helpful to look at the calendar and highlight any public holidays, national days or events that may affect my clients. For example, the school holidays often have a huge impact on self-employed – and employed – parents. Christmas is another time when it can be hard to juggle your personal and professional roles, or it can be a time to think about how you can still have a Christmas party when your office now consists of your dining table and your only colleague is your cat.
These milestones in the calendar often lend themselves to fresh content ideas for all sorts of businesses. A vet’s practice might write about caring for a rabbit at Easter; a dentist might blog about teeth whitening on National Smile Day; a gift company could blog about weird and wonderful Father’s Day gifts in the run up to Father’s Day – the possibilities are endless.
Develop your blog’s brand
Before you write and post your first blog article, you should think about how you want to present your content. Your blog’s brand should complement and fit with your overarching brand but you will need to think about the specific appearance and user experience offered by your blog.
What colours do you want to use? What size and style of images? What page layout? Do you plan to include links to extra resources, either on your site or on other websites that you admire?
You might also be wondering what length a blog article should be. Honestly, there is no magic word count; longer blogs tend to increase the length of time people will stay on your site – a positive signal to Google – but I just think you should make an article as long as it needs to be to provide value.
Write your blog
The time has come to write your first blog article. A helpful approach is to have a topic and a rough working title planned out.
Personally, I like to start by doing my research and making notes about what I want to say. I tend to think about how the article will flow and type a list of potential sub-headings that will signpost the gist of the article itself to anyone skim reading the page – it’s like creating a skeleton that’s just waiting to be fleshed out.
I note down a list of bullet points that I want to cover in each section and might swap and changes things around to make sure that the points flow from one another in a logical order. This gives me a clear outline about what the article needs to say from beginning to end.
With this in place, I can start writing, knowing that the planning has already been done. This helps me to stay focused and on topic.
A great tip is to picture someone who represents your ideal client sitting across the desk from you. What would you tell them if they were there with you? If you find it hard to write down your thoughts, you could even try talking into the voice recorder of your phone as though you were sharing your knowledge on a topic with your ideal customer. When you play the recording back, it should help you hear how you talk and copy this when writing your blog.
At this stage, I always aim to get my thoughts down without worrying too much about how polished they sound. Editing comes later.
If you have time, I would always recommend putting a blog article to one side for 24 hours and reading it back with fresh eyes the next day. It’s amazing what you can miss when you’re in writing mode!
One helpful tip is to read the article out loud as it can help you to hear how it flows – you may pick up tricky phrases that you hadn’t spotted at the time of writing.
This is the time to tidy up your article. Are you using 20 words where 10 will do? Would someone who is new to your business understand the content? Are there any typos or grammatical problems that need to be corrected?
Add a call to action
Although you don’t want your blog article itself to be packed full of hard core sales messages, it’s perfectly fine and recommended to add a call to action to the end of your blog telling the reader what you would like them to do next.
This might just be asking people for their thoughts about the topic or telling them where to find you on Facebook. If, though, you have any products or services that tie into what the blog is about, the sign off at the end of the blog is a great place to feature a link to the item you want to promote.
Optimise your blog article for Google
Before you publish your blog, you will need to do a bit of search engine optimisation. Each new blog article should have:
- A focus keyword (this is the term that people would be most likely to use to find the article)
- A unique meta title tag that includes the focus keyword
- A unique and enticing meta description that includes the focus keyword
- Alt tags for any images used in the blog
- An H1 tag for the main heading
- H2, H3 or H4 tags for any subheadings
To understand more about meta data, heading tags, anchor text and more, you might find the following resources helpful:
- SEO Guide: Have you got the basics of your on-page SEO covered?
- A Visual Guide to Keyword Targeting and On-Page SEO
If you have a WordPress website, the Yoast SEO plugin is a must as its traffic light system and helpful tips will give you pointers on not only your SEO efforts on each page, but the actual content of your blogs too.
Upload your blog
Once you’re happy with your blog, the next step is to upload it to your website. Before you hit the publish button, just give your article one last read through.
You should also try to add at least one image to each article to create visual interest on screen and break up the text. There are some fantastic Royalty Free stock sites where the photographers have agreed to share their images without credit via the Creative Commons licence. I’ve found some real gems the following sites:
Promote your blog
Well done for getting to this point. Of course, writing is just the beginning of running a successful blog. Your next task is to let people know that it exists and to keep reminding them.
I would advise having a checklist in place to follow each time you publish a new article. Typical activities to generate traffic to your blog include:
- Sharing the link to your social media pages (you may need to share it several times to make sure it’s seen by the biggest possible audience) – aim for posts with pictures and hashtags
- Using quotes and snippets from your article as tweets and Facebook statuses throughout the week
- Posting your article to LinkedIn
- Including a link to your article and possibly the introductory paragraphs of the article in your e-newsletter
- Telling people about your articles in appropriate groups and forums
- Adding social sharing buttons to your website so that readers can share an article with their networks
- Including a link to your latest article in your email signature
- Emailing people you’ve quoted in your blog
- Posting older, evergreen blog articles to attract new traffic to them
I hope I’ve been able to give you plenty of ideas and reassurance about starting your own business blog. Like everything else, it’s a learning process. My big tip would be to keep an eye on Google Analytics and the metrics on your social media pages to see how your blog articles are performing. This will help you to build up a picture about the topics your audience loves and what they might want to hear from you next.
Most of all, have fun and enjoy writing about the things that light you up inside. Remember your audience – concentrate on adding value and your blog will go from strength to strength.
Need more help to get to grips with business blogging? This is just one thing that we can tackle in a one-to-one mentoring session, so why not drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.