When blogging first hit the internet, many thought it would be a fad. Bloggers were often ridiculed, but they got the last laugh. Years later, blogging has proven that it has staying power, and few have benefitted from blogs more than small businesses and independent professionals.
A professional blog offers several benefits: first and foremost, it’s a way to consistently produce content that builds connections with clients and customers while simultaneously drawing search-engine traffic (search engines give preference to websites that are regularly updated). It also gives you a space where you can share details about your expertise or your products and services. And content created for your blog can be repurposed into content for other marketing endeavors, such as social media.
Whether you update your blog once a month, once a day, or whenever your business has something to say to the public, you can leverage the functionality of a blog to promote and grow your business online.
How to Get Started
These days, you can get a blog going with a few clicks. But if you want your blog to contribute to the success of your business, start with a plan and put some thought into how you’ll run your blog. Here are some steps to get you started:
- If you don’t already have a website, get a domain name and hosting provider. Almost all the best names are taken, and because a name is integral to your brand, it’s worthwhile to spend some time on this step. If you already have a business name and a website, you’ll need to decide how to incorporate your blog. Does your website management software already have blog functionality? Will you add a subdomain for your blog? Will you redesign your website for the blog?
- Decide on your vision for your blog. Some blogs only publish news and announcements. Others regularly share tips and advice. Some focus on promoting products and services. Most business blogs are a mix of all these things. Set your main objective. Then figure out how you can use your blog to achieve that objective.
- Plan some content for your blog and decide how often you will add content to it. Ideally, you’ll blog on a regular schedule, but don’t overextend yourself! It’s better to publish one good article a week than five shoddy ones. Brainstorm enough article titles to carry you through the first year. Then brainstorm your blog categories. Do some SEO research to choose the best words to use for your categories and in your post titles. Once you have a plan, set it aside and revisit it occasionally to refine it.
- Plan your design. Look at some blogs and websites to find out what kind of layouts and features you like and what would be best to represent your business. Get in touch with some web designers to get their rates for your project.
- Create some content. You can hire a content developer who will provide custom written content and images for your blog, or you can produce your own content. If your expertise is not in writing or graphic art, you might want to work with a pro.
- Build your blog — or hire a web designer to build it for you. A pro will be able to build your blog a lot faster, and hiring one will allow you to focus on your business. If you want a simple blog, you can probably get it done yourself. In any case, consider how much time versus money you’re willing to invest and what your budget will allow, and then get it built.
- Make final preparations. Once the blog has been built and you’ve got a few weeks’ worth of content prepared, get ready for your blog’s launch. Make sure you plan blogging into your schedule (it requires an investment of your time and energy, even if you’re working with a web designer and content developer). Polish your content. Double check everything. And then publish it.
- Finally, share your blog with the world by following a well-laid marketing plan.
When I help clients launch blogs, it’s not unusual for us to spend several months in research and development leading up to the launch. A quick list of basic steps makes it all look easy, but each of these steps is fairly involved. You might spend a month on brainstorming content, and that work will overlap with planning your design. Some steps have to be revisited; for example, you might tweak your vision or reset your objectives as you learn more about blogging.
Most importantly, remember that setting up a blog is only the beginning. Unless you already have a website with high traffic, you’ll need to market your blog to the public. But that’s another article for another day.
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.