Do you have a small business? Are you thinking about adding a blog to your website? Perhaps you’ve heard that a blog can help your business attract new customers while building loyalty among existing customers. And it’s true: business blogging is a great way to grow your business online.
But blogging is a world unto itself. Think of your blog as a house on the web. Other blogs dealing with topics that are similar or relevant to yours make up your neighborhood. Like all houses, your blog needs to be carefully planned, built, and maintained. And if you want to be a successful member of your community, you’ll have to connect with your neighbors.
Like a home, a blog is an investment. You can invest dollars by hiring a professional blogger or website administrator to manage and maintain your blog, or you can invest your own time and learn how to do it yourself.
The Beginner’s Guide to Business Blogging
This quick guide is for small business owners who want to explore business blogging as a way to grow their online presence. The list below includes basic elements to help you get started blogging. It’s by no means an exhaustive list. There is an endless array of blogging activities that you can do to build and grow your blog. But this list does include the bare essentials.
Check Out the Neighborhood
Start by subscribing to blogs in your niche. Find businesses like yours (some of these will be your competitors) and find businesses that complement yours. If you’re an architect, find blogs about construction. If you’re a hairstylist, find blogs about makeup application. Use an RSS reader or subscribe by email. Then incorporate blog reading into your daily schedule. This is the single best way to get familiar with business blogging: watch and learn.
Draw a Blueprint for Your House
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with blogs in your niche, start putting together a plan for your blog. What topics or issues will you address? Make a list of possible post titles. Write down the categories that you’ll use to organize your posts. Be sure to think about features you want for your blog, enhancements that will make your blog more attractive to readers, make your blog easier to find on the web, or make it easy for people to share your content via social media. Learn how to use these features to your advantage.
Identify Your Audience and Your Goals
Will you use your blog to reach out to customers? Other professionals in your industry? Are you establishing your expertise and credibility, or are you sharing news and information about your product or service offerings?
Your audience will probably be your target customer demographic. It’s absolutely essential that you write in a voice that speaks to your customers, using language they know and understand. The number one mistake that small business bloggers make is writing for their peers instead of their customers. Your blog posts should cover topics that interest your customers, not industry-centric issues.
Put Your House on the Map
Once you launch your blog, focus on creating excellent content. You’ve identified your audience; now write content that appeals to them. What questions do they have? What kind of help or tips do they need? Answer their questions and fulfill their needs. I recommend that new bloggers start with a simple posting schedule of one update per week. That leaves plenty of time for other blog-related activities.
Hit the Road
Now that you know your way around your neighborhood and have your house fitted with great content, start connecting with other bloggers. Visit those blogs you’ve been reading and make it a point to leave comments. When folks comment on your blog, be sure to reply and then head over to their place to reciprocate. Set up social media accounts, share your blog posts there, and interact with others. Find blogs with audiences you want to reach and offer to guest post for them. Add a link to your blog in your email signature. Tell your friends and colleagues about your blog, and be clear about how they can benefit from reading it.
Build Your Community
You’ll start building your community when you’re out on the road promoting your blog. Return to home base every once in a while (be sure to keep those posts coming regularly!) to make sure your visitors are comfortable. Use questions to encourage readers to comment and participate in discussion. Throw a little contest, host a giveaway, and make your home the hottest spot on the block.
Bring it Home
Throughout the business blogging process, you’ll pick up a lot of blogging techniques and strategies simply by observing other bloggers. Notice how they format their posts. Do they include images or videos? How does the layout affect you as a reader? What do they blog about? Ask yourself what other business bloggers are doing to be successful and then bring it home so you can succeed too.
Melissa Donovan is a website consultant and copywriter. She is also the founder and editor of Writing Forward and the author of over seven books.