Get Started: Blogging for Small Businesses
Blogging can be a very effective method of increasing awareness and credibility for your business. And it can involve everything you create, from social media posts to video, to the all-important written blog content.
Research has found that companies with blogs receive 55% more website visits than those without, and generate 67% more customer leads too.
This may be because consumers today are growing increasingly resistant to traditional sales approaches and are demanding knowledge and extended value instead. You can satisfy this demand by providing valuable, relevant content, and working towards converting those consumers into customers.
Creating unique content will also increase your chances of being found through search engines, and shared via social media and word of mouth, simply because you have something worth sharing! – and this is just as true for small businesses as it is for large corporations.
Before you begin creating and sharing your blog content, it is important to know who your audience are and what they want. Consider not only what information would be useful to them, but how they would choose to receive it – would they want to read a long piece of in-depth text, or would they prefer a short checklist of tips with lots of images? These details are important for maximising the performance of your content.
To help you think about the types of customers you’re going to target, it may be helpful to create customer profiles made up of estimated factors such as gender, marital status, age, location, education, hobbies and goals.
Acknowledging these profiles will also help you to shape the tone of voice you use in your blog content, ensuring you address your audience and represent your business in the most effective way possible. For instance, you may choose to implement a friendly conversational tone in your content to appear approachable; or you may choose to establish yourself as highly respectable and trustworthy by using formal language and industry related terms.
Looking at how your competitors are using content can also help you position your strategy. Take note of the mediums they use, whether they focus on written blog content or experiment with images or video as well; try to spot gaps in their performance that you could fill with your own content marketing.
As with all new business campaigns, setting goals will ensure you keep your efforts focused in the areas that will reap the most results. For example, your goals for creating digital content may be to increase overall brand awareness and gain more customers for your business, or it may be to maintain the interests of your existing customers.
You should also decide how much time and money you are going to invest in your content creation but remember:cheap content is never good, and good content is never cheap; appreciate that this process is an investment for your business.
Now that you’ve got your plan together you’ve got to decide where you’re going to put it all, and there are a lot of options, spanning different price points but all geared towards hosting blog content. Most of these will just act as an online database to hold all your text and images, but some platforms will also let you organise your content further with tags and categories.
With its drag-and-drop functionality, this platform is very easy to use and comes with a wide range of beautifully designed templates that allow you to design and organise your content. However, it is one of the costlier options, running on a subscription fee starting from $18 a month for a business website.
Although the most powerful blogging platform, WordPress can run up a lot of extra costs for hosting, support, storage, etc. It does come with a lot of technical support however and, unlike many other blog hosts, all the content you upload still belongs to you. Not to mention, it’s the world’s most popular blogging tool, supporting over 60 million different websites!
Both of these sites are entirely free blog hosting platforms – unless you want to attach separate web addresses to them that don’t include the Blogger or Tumblr tags, in which case you will have to pay for the cost of domain registration. These two both offer a lot of room for customisation, and don’t demand too much coding experience either. However, it can be difficult to install membership or e-commerce functionalities.
Take time to consider which platform would work best for your content strategy and your small business, and make use of online guides.
If you’ve already used one of the examples above to create your business’ website, it’s likely that you’ll already have their blogging platform integrated into your site and won’t have to create a separate blog with a separate domain either.
Topics and Themes
Remember to write for your consumer and not just for you, and follow your passion and expertise when deciding what topics to address as it will only help your campaign. You are providing knowledge, so aim to provide valuable content and to tell your readers something they want or need to know - something that will help them out that you can take the credit for!
For instance, if you run a garage you could write a step-by-step guide to changing a tire; or as a deli owner you could share recipes based around the products you sell. You could offer downloadable versions of these articles too. These subjects will not only offer value to your consumers, but help to build brand authority for your business and work towards gaining more sales.
If you’re still stuck for ideas, there are a wide range of online platforms you can use to help you generate appropriate and in-demand content topics. Some paid for tools such as Buzzsumo, tailor results specifically to your business; but others are free and can act as more of a source of inspiration or subject guide, such as Pinterest or Google Trends.
Keep things interesting by playing with the dynamics of your blog content. It doesn’t have to all be long form text – in fact, ongoing research into blogger trends by Orbit Media has found that almost half of bloggers are adding some form of list to their posts, and the majority are including more than one image too. Just make sure to proofread all your content before its published, and too keep things focused on your business with a ‘call to action’ that directs the reader to engage further.
It’s important to recognise quality over quantity when striving to provide real value through your content; so, despite the most common blogger frequency of 2016 being weekly, you shouldn’t feel pressured to stick to this! Strive to find a balance between making conversation with your customers, and keeping that conversation valuable and relevant.
Make the most of your relationships with other businesses and create complementary content together! This collaboration trend has been steadily on the rise in the past few years, with more and more content creators seeking to share the audience of other influencers.
Just remember to aim for collaborators, not competitors. For example, if you run a wedding dress store you could put together a post on tips for wedding planning with a local florist, that would appeal to the consumers of both businesses.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help with content creation either; not from just friends, family, or members of your team, but paid copywriters too if you feel you need the extra boost. Only you know what your customers really value, so see yourself as the editor who is still able to manage the topics covered on your blog, and review posts before they’re published.
As the most approachable method of accessing communities, it is hardly surprising that 95% of content creators are using social media to promote their blog posts and build traffic towards their sites.
Determine which social media channels will be most effective for your business by identifying where your consumers are spending their time – you buyer customer profiles will come in handy here! And of course, consider the nature of your content too. If the tone of your blog is targeting professional readers, your blog posts may perform better on LinkedIn or Twitter. But if it tends to be more visual, with videos and images, focusing on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram might fit better.
Orbit Medias research into content creation has found that the number of bloggers using email to promote their content has also increased by 60% over the last two years, proving bloggers still have faith in email marketing too.
And rightly so, as this method allows you to distribute content directly to people who have already shown an interest in your business. You can accompany your blog posts with offers, announcements, and other business news to create your very own newsletter too.
Check out our guide and recent survey results on Crafting Your Small Business’ Online Presence for more; and get in touch to find out about our upcoming small business workshops.