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 want 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.
Step One: Check Out the Neighborhood
Start by subscribing to blogs in your niche. Find businesses like yours (some of these will be your competitors), but also look for blogs 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.
Step Two: Identify Your Audience
Your audience will probably be your target customers. How big is your target audience? Where do they hang out on the web?
Tip: The number one mistake that small business bloggers make is writing for their peers instead of their customers. It’s absolutely essential that you write in a voice that speaks to your customers, using language they know and understand. Your blog posts should cover topics that interest your customers, not industry-centric issues.
Step Three: State Your Goals
Some blogs only publish news and announcements. Others regularly share tips and advice. Some focus on promoting products and services. You might want to use your blog to establish your expertise and credibility or to share information about your product or service offerings. Are you using your blog to generate content that you can optimize for search engines or share on social media?
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.
Step Four: Draw up a Blueprint
Now you’re ready to create a plan for your blog. You’ve identified your audience and goals; now plan 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.
Make a list of possible post titles and decide how often you will publish new content to your blog. Ideally, you’ll blog on a regular schedule, but don’t overextend yourself! It’s better to publish one good article a month 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.
Make sure your blueprint includes a plan to promote your blog. People will visit your blog, but only if you tell them about it!
Step Five: Decide on a 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. Be sure to include 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.
Step Six: 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. Consider hiring a proofreader!
Content creation is at the heart of blogging. Remember, blogging is just another form of communication. Try to communicate to your audience clearly and in a way that is compelling.
Outlining is a great tool for planning what you want to say in a blog post. Be sure to review the content a few times to check for mistakes and typos!
Step Seven: Build the Blog
You can start the build while you’re creating content.
Get in touch with some web designers to get their rates for your project and then hire one of them to make your plan a reality.
Step Eight: Make Final Preparations and Launch!
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 time and energy, even if you’re working with a web designer and content developer). Polish your content. Double check everything. And then launch it.
Step Nine: Hit the Road
Share your blog with the world by following a well-laid marketing plan.
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. Use subscription forms and buttons to encourage readers to subscribe and keep them coming back for more.
Step Ten: 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 the founder of Buzz Pro Studio, providing website services to small businesses and independent professionals.