Guide to Blogging for Small Businesses
Clients often ask me whether they should be blogging if they are a start-up business with a low budget. My answer is always “Yes. But…” because we have to take into account the outcome and the input. Is it really worth your time? Yes, it often is, but only if done right.
Before even thinking about blogging, remember this key rule: Don’t make it about you; make it about your customers’ wants, needs and interests.
Pretty simple, I know, but it is surprising how many small businesses talk about themselves to an extent that they almost seem to forget about what they do and who they do it for. This happens both through blogging and social media and although I’m talking about blogging in this article, the same rule can be applied to social.
Yes, it can be beneficial to show yourself as a human, rather than a big corporation, but really keep in mind what your audience is interested. If you’re selling mobile apps, it’s unlikely (not impossible) that a large percentage of your audience will be interested in seeing videos of you playing with your kids in the park. Keep it relevant.
Many businesses share internal company news, for example: new recruits, new offices, new websites etc. This can be fine, but remember to look for the part of the story that affects your audience. Why should they care that you have a new receptionist? It could be that there have been plenty of complaints about slow customer service response times, and this is going to speed things up. But if there is nothing in the news that would interest your readers, then maybe it isn’t worth your time.
Choosing Blog Subjects
I’ve talked about what you shouldn’t do, but you probably know very well that it’s tricky to decide what to actually write about, so I’ll run through some simple techniques for coming up with blog ideas. Some may be relevant, so it’s worth doing as many techniques as you can.
Personally, I like to create a document with a list of possible blog post titles, then go through them over time and create the full articles. If you have a team of people, you may want to have a shared document on Google Docs so everyone can contribute.
When researching which keywords to target a website towards, it’s common to use a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner. This lets you know how many people search for that term each month. You can then search for that term on Google to see what sort of competition there is on there. This technique can also work for creating blog post titles.
Using Google’s suggested search (type into the search box of Google and see the suggestions pop up below), finding related phrases around keywords that are already driving traffic to your site (see this list on Google’s Search Console) and related phrases around keywords that you are already targeting as part of your SEO strategy, can be a good way to start.
If you are targeting Car Tyres, for example, there may be people searching for “What Tyres Do I Need for A VW Golf?” or “Best Tyres for Winter Road Trips.” Run the potential titles through Google Keyword Planner and you’ll be able to see if there’s an audience out there.
Whoever deals with your customer service is likely to know what your customers are asking. Those questions could go on your FAQ page, but alternatively, if there is a lot of material to write about, then you could expand it into a full blog post.
You can also keep track of Facebook, Twitter and any other social media channels you use for comments and questions directed at you, or not directed at you.
Added Value and Stories
Before thinking about offering added value and stories, you really have to know why your customers choose to use your business. You can go through the old-fashioned route of asking them. Once you know what they like about you, you can offer more of it.
For example, I have worked with organic food producers and their customers often like the provenance. They like to know where their food came from. So in these cases, blog posts about the stories from the farm can work well here. If customers are interested in the healthy aspects, then healthy recipes, tips and advice can work well. And if customers like a business because of their expertise, then it would be beneficial to show off the expertise.
A number of businesses partake in ‘news jacking’ where they jump on news articles, as soon as they become available, then re-word and post. This can sometimes get people clicking on your site, but you may find in the analytics that they simply click, then leave.
Instead of rushing to be the first to report the news, how about being the one that answers any questions about it, directly related to your customers. What does the news mean to them?
For example, if you are a letting agency and your customers are landlords, maybe explain what Brexit means to them and how it will impact their work and lives. This can be a great way to be seen as an expert.
What do you want from your blog?
There are many benefits of blogging. You can:
- Improve your SEO rankings through content marketing: Create content that others choose to link to.
- Increase your SEO reach by targeting long tail keywords
- Increase your reach through viral content that is shared socially
- Engage with your current customers and create discussion
- Improve your image and be seen as an expert
These benefits span across acquisition and retention of customers and fit nicely into a well rounded marketing strategy.
Measuring Success and Learning
Whatever you do in digital marketing must be measured. When you look at the analytics for your blog, you’ll be able to make decisions like whether to expand on a blog post or discontinue that subject. You’ll be able to see whether your effort is worth the reward.
Metrics like views, bounce rates, sales, email list signups, shares, likes and comments can give you an idea of effectiveness and engagement. The sales process from a blog post can often be slow, so the better you track mailing list sign ups, the more likely you are able to see the full impact of each blog on sales.
For many users, the blog is going to be the first thing they see from your business, and as you know first impressions are important. Therefore, if you are a terrible writer, consider employing someone or outsourcing your blogging.
Finally, if something doesn’t work, learn from it, work out why it didn’t work and change your approach. Time is valuable, and there’s not much point in writing a blog post that nobody reads. That being said, please share the love and Tweet or post this article if you know anyone who may find it useful!
If you would like to discuss your content marketing strategy or blog post writing with me, please get in contact.