Having a business blog is probably the best way to create a successful business website in today’s competitive environment. Just about all the goals of a business website can be achieved through investing in a blog, yet a huge number of business owners are ignoring the opportunity or are not putting in the required time and effort and so are leaving value on the table. The aim of this post is to open your eyes to the potential benefits of a high quality business blog and how you can go about creating one.
A word of warning: A business blog is not for the feint of heart, but it is the best way to improve your company website.
Benefits of a company blog
If you are reading this blog, I take it you are actively looking for ways to improve your company website. Speaking generally, here are some common goals of business owners and their company websites:
- Increase traffic
- Increase incoming links (for SEO purposes)
- Increase new business / lead generation
- Convert traffic into customers
- Brand recognition
Most business owners will only have a simple brochure type website, usually consisting of around 1 - 20 pages, with information about their business, products or services. Whilst this is all well and good, this type of website will NEVER achieve any of the goals above. In Debunking 4 myths of small business digital marketing I talked more extensively about these problems, but generally, people don’t care about your company, your products or your website. No one will link to your product pages and people won’t come back to your website or share it with people they know if it is just a collection of static pages of content informing people of your company or your products or services.
However even the smallest business website can turn this around with a business blog. A blog will give people a reason to link to your website, share your content and regularly visit your website. If you write good content you will pick up good quality qualified links and you will create a following of people who are interested in what you post and might one day become a new customer.
A business blog is the path you must follow if you really want to get the most out of your company website. The path is long and it’s a tough journey, but I assure you it’s worth it in the end.
But fear not, here is the ultimate guide to getting the most out of your business blog…
Regular posting and taking responsibility
The biggest mistake of business blogs I see is not posting regular updates, or posting for a while then neglecting it. If you aren’t going to post regular high quality posts, you may as well give up now. I know it is tough to keep up regular blogging, I went through that phase too, but it is essential if you want to create an audience and build value. Also you shouldn’t be giving this task to an employee as the voice of your blog should be from you as the business owner. Of course it is really good if you can also get enthusiastic employees to contribute posts, but for the most part the responsibility should fall on you as the business owner.
The reason for this is, you are the voice behind your company. It is you who formed the company to achieve a vision, and it is you who created the company’s culture. You should also be an expert in your domain and you should be the most knowledgeable and therefore someone who could teach and spread a lot of value to an audience.
Again, if you as the business owner, don’t want to take responsibility for your company blog and creating content, you may as well give up now. At first it is a big responsibility, but over time it does get easier. Also, if it is within your resources, employ a member of staff to be responsible for your website and to edit and control your content. By having someone to proof-read your writing, you will be able to write good quality blogs posts a lot quicker.
Write a variety of posts
Another big mistake I see on company blogs is that all posts are usually very similar. It’s easy to fall into the trap of writing similar content because it becomes easy to think of variations of a theme. However, this is a big mistake because your blog will become boring and you will not develop a strong audience.
Try to mix up your posts with a variety of different posts, for example you could write about:
- Company news
- Industry news
- Share knowledge on a topic
- Tutorials and How To guides
- Expert advice
- Industry commentary
This way your posts won’t become boring or too similar and you will maintain the engagement of your audience.
I was recently asked, “What kind of blog posts should my company write?”. For the most part, I would recommend centering your writing on creating value for your audience. This can be done through tutorials, How To guides, expert advice or anyway a reader who is interested in your industry can use your writing to create value for themselves for free and without interacting with your business at all. This might seem crazy as really the reason you are blogging in the first place is to find new clients, but trust me, if you can provide value before asking for it, you are far more likely to gain new customers from your blog audience.
Become a knowledge leader
Over the years, you will have built up a wide in-depth knowledge of your industry and what it takes to become successful. Whilst this knowledge is now second nature to you, it could be exactly the thing a potential customer is interested in learning. By sharing your expert knowledge, you naturally answer people’s burning questions and display your expertise in your domain. Writing about your industry and sharing your expert knowledge can be a gold mine of content, but you need to frame it in the right way. Remember to write content to create value for your audience. Aim to answer specific questions or queries or shed light on areas that have not been well covered else where online.
If you can position yourself as an expert in your field, people will seek out your blog, share it online and refer friends to it. Also, if you write a particular helpful post about a specific topic, you are guaranteed to start picking up high quality contextual incoming links for free!
The world of blogging brought with the mass acceptance of allowing visitors to add their comments at the bottom of a post. Whilst blog post commenting has been targeted by spam bots, having a lively discussion on your blog will add a huge amount of value. How often do you search for a very specific thing on Google and end up finding the answer in someone’s comment on a related blog post? By allowing people to comment on your blog posts you are allowing other people to add value and potential create keyword rich comments that pick up the long tail of search.
There is a couple of problems with open blog comments however, namely spam or unsavory comments that you wouldn’t want on your business website. However, I strongly believe that commenting systems should always be left open to allow people to post comments un-moderated. If you use WordPress, the plugin Akismet is perfect for blocking spam comments. And if you should get a comment that you would rather not have on your website, you are free to moderate or delete that comment at any time. I think the show of trust of having open comments is the best way to build an audience and have them engage with your content. If I posted a comment on a blog, but saw that it needed to be moderated before it went live, I wouldn’t be posting again. Also, if someone has posted a rude or abusive comment on one of your posts, it doesn’t detract from your business, and it won’t reflect badly on you if your audience sees it before you get time to moderate it. In fact, you might find that your audience will come to your defence or give you the other side of the argument even before you’ve taken action.
Personally I find the Disqus commenting system fantastic. Disqus is a global commenting system that allows your audience to post comments from their various social media accounts. Disqus also has a number of features in the pipeline to really create a sense of community on your website. It is this community that will create much of the value of your blog, so you must nurture it during the early stages.
Methods to subscribe
Now that you are regularly updating your website with really good quality content, you will want to make it as easy as possible for people to keep up to date with your new posts. The Internet is a big place, and not many people will regularly check back on your website in the hope of new posts. However there are three really easy ways to allow people to subscribe to your website and to be notified when you post new updates.
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is an open technology that allows a user to subscribe to a blog and to be notified on updates through an RSS Reader (like Google Reader) or through an email application like Microsoft Outlook. Nearly all content driven websites come with RSS by default, and so it is a really easy way to allow your audience to subscribe to your content as it takes no additional effort on your part. To build an audience of RSS subscribes, promote your RSS feed with a prominent link and the well recognised orange RSS logo.
Not everyone uses RSS to subscribe to websites, but just about everyone uses email. For those members of your audience who wish to receive updates via email, you should create a mailing list to automatically email updates to those subscribers. Fortunately this too also requires no additional effort on your part as you can use a service like MailChimp’s RSS to Email to have your RSS feed automatically create the emails and send them to your audience whenever your site is updated.
And finally, create profiles on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus and post links to your new content as they go live. Some people won’t want to use RSS or clog up their email accounts with your updates, but might want to follow your social media profile for updates. Again much of this can be automated through a service called Dlver It which will take your RSS feed and automatically publish it to your social media profiles.
Email sign up
Now that you are starting to create an audience, it’s time to take your engagement with them to the next level. Email is one of the best ways of engaging with your audience as it allows you to send them specific campaigns, have them take an action, and then create a feedback loop based on concrete data and analytics. By building a good quality opt-in email list, you will have a much better chance of turning those passive audience members into new customers.
A good way of building an email list is to allow your visitors to subscribe to your content via email, or to offer additional content or incentives to be delivered by email exclusively. This way you are providing value to them in exchange for the agreed right to send them information. Once your email list begins to build in numbers, you can utilise it to send exclusive offers or incentives to purchase from your company. However a strong word of caution, don’t over do it with sales types emails. Remember, your audience subscribed for value, not to be sold to. If you abuse this trust you will lose your audience and the opportunity to turn them into paying customers.
Building a high quality business blog is a lot of hard work and determination. In the beginning, you won’t be getting much traffic or new business so it will feel like a waste of time. But there is a huge amount of future value to gain from a really good quality company blog. You will build an audience, credibility and industry respect, and you will improve your website exponentially! Persevere with the investment with the knowledge that 99% of your competition won’t put in the same amount of effort as you and one day down the road you will have an incredibly more valuable online presence than they do.
If you are looking into Search Engine Optimisation or really increasing the new business potential of your website, the best thing you can do is to start a blog. You will organically gain new traffic, incomming links and potential customers who will be far more likely to find your website. All of the value of SEO can be created for only an investment of time in your company blog. Instead of aimlessly chasing business on Twitter or Facebook, use that time to build a credible blog and build an audience based on value and not social media hype.