OK so you run a business and over the past few years you’ve heard more and more chatter about running a blog for your business, but you have no idea how blogging can specifically help increase your sales, right? This article will help guide you through the core concepts of business blogging and will hopefully give you a clearer idea of what’s involved so you can plan appropriately.
The basics of business blogging
Let’s start off simply. What is a blog? Well, you’re reading one now. A blog is simply a collection of articles – like a journal – usually centred around a specific topic (although “personal blogs” tend to be more generic). If you use a content management system for your business websites then you have a good idea of what blogging software will be like – it’s basically the same thing – just presented slightly differently.
Is blogging easy? Well, after your blog is setup (the initial design and installation), it’s as difficult as writing a document using MS Word or sending an email. Most blog software has a very easy user interface to let you publish your articles. The real hard part is writing blog posts and you’ll know yourself how difficult you find that.
Installing a washing machine is difficult if you don’t know what you are doing – but using it is very easy for most people. Blogging is the same. Handle the installation if you feel you can (don’t worry, it’s way easier than installing a washing machine!) or hire someone to do that part for you. The core of the work involved is down to you and your staff and that’s article writing.
What can you expect to gain from your business blog?
There are a lot of benefits to business blogging. You need to decide which are achievable by you and which of those will have a positive impact on your business. Those are your goals (which we’ll look at later on) and you should stick to them as best you can.
So some of the benefits to business blogging;
- Increased search engine traffic to your site. Blog posts rank in search engines just like normal content pages, so by targeting different keywords (search terms) when writing your posts, you can attract more traffic.
- Social media syndication. Blog software will allow your users to easily submit your blog posts to websites such as Digg or Stumbleupon or “share” / “like” your page on FaceBook. This can have a great viral marketing affect on your business, but doesn’t necessarily translate to increased sales. That said, if you do have a FaceBook fan page for your business, then posting your blog posts to it regularly is a good way to keep people interested in your business.
- Good blog posts can encourage other websites to link to you, which is great for SEO.
- You can include your content in news aggregation websites such as Google News and Google Blog Search. By doing so, your articles will receive more visitors and your business will receive more exposure.
- By blogging for your business, you can help build up a name for both your business and yourself within your industry. While this can be bad as well as good, in many situations it’s better to be known than unknown.
- Over time you will build a lot of regular readers and which means your business blog becomes a much more powerful marketing tool - you can use it to launch new promotions and products.
Keep in mind that these aren’t all 100% guaranteed results from blogging. Many of these take time and effort to establish and can quickly diminish if the standard you set for your business blog drops in any way. That’s why it’s important to have realistic expectations and goals from the outset.
Set goals when starting your business blog
It doesn’t matter who you are – a sole trader running a business on your own or a high level executive running a large department. If you make the decision to begin business blogging, then you should define your goals from day 1. There is no point spending a few months producing a new article each day, only to stop doing so for 6 months or more. Any readers you have built up initially will stop coming back.
Similarly, if you have established the frequency at which you can write articles, you should also consider your subject area. Is it broad enough to allow for you to create new blog posts at the rate that suits you or is it too niche?
Some key points to consider;
- How long will it take you to write an article? I don’t mean an article that you have a good idea for RIGHT NOW. I mean ANY ARTICLE at ANY TIME. Your good idea will be quickly written and that will leave you trying to find new ideas. Some will come easy, some might not but you need to work out an average time it will take you to write a new article so you can plan ahead.
- How broad is the topic of your blog? It should be broad enough to allow you to easily find something to write about, but not so broad that each post you make seems unrelated. For example, a “UK Blog” is a huge subject area – you could write about politics, business, technology or anything – is that going to help your business? Have a think about what your customers want to read about and go from there.
- What kind of articles will you be writing? Short news type articles, or long multi page guides and tutorials? Very important! It’s the difference between publishing new content once a day and once a week or month! You don’t have to decide on either option – you could do both. Perhaps your monthly plan will be something like this; 14 news articles, 2 tutorials, 4 personal opinions, 4 guest articles, 4 weekly summaries of external content.
- How promotional will your business blog be? I know this is going to come as a shock to lots of you in the business world, but regular people really don’t care that much about how awesome your business is! Big companies can get away with a “company news” blog – it’s mainly for PR purposes anyway, but if you are a smaller business then you need to think about producing USEFUL content for your VISITORS.
It doesn’t matter what your plan is – it’s just important that it’s achievable on an ongoing basis.
Research the topics for your business blog
Writer’s block comes to us all, and can be particularly frustrating when you set a blog a year ago with loads of great ideas and you’re now struggling to keep up the momentum you started with. Here are some tips for blog topics;
- Comment on news items. Don’t just regurgitate news articles, but add your own thoughts and opinions to it.
- Discuss other blogs. They may be competing blogs in one sense, but you’re not going to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater by linking to and discussing other blogs. In fact, in a lot of cases, linking out to other blogs can encourage them to link back to you!
- Weekly / Monthly roundup of other blog posts. Why can’t you be the place people visit to get a summary of what’s going on in the industry? Surely there must be some benefit to that…
- Use keyword research tools. A quick and easy way to find out what people are searching for. Don’t have an article target those terms? Write one! Google’s Adwords tool is a decent starting point.
- Press releases and promotions. Perfectly acceptable from time to time. People may not want to go out their way to hear about what you are doing, but it will still be of some interest to your regular readers.
- Industry changes or developments. Hot topics for blog posts and if you are actively using social media and news aggregation services these can be great traffic driving topics.
- If you’re an active discussion forum user, have a think about the kind of topics you discuss online. I bet most of these would make great blog posts!
Don’t blog yourself out of business!
Blogging, done well, can be great for your business and there are very few ways it can actually hurt it, but it’s worth looking at them.
- Don’t compete with your key sales pages. In terms of SEO if you are targeting a specific search term with your sales pages (for example, “Accountancy Services”), don’t start producing blog content targeting the same term thinking that more is better. It isn’t and there’s a good chance your blog page will outrank your sales page and do you really want that? Pick your battles – leave your core sales content alone and let your blog content supplement it.
- Don’t blog yourself to exhaustion! There’s something insidious about blogging. It’s actually quite a lot of fun. And working with real time statistics, traffic figures and social media can make it a lot more fun to play around with than other forms of marketing. But your time as a business owner is limited – manage it appropriately and don’t think blogging is an amazing thing that will revolutionise your business. It won’t – it’s just another channel of communication and should be managed accordingly. Keep to your plan and don’t spend more time than you can afford blogging.
- Don’t be the guy that annoys everyone else! It’s tempting to start having a go at another blogger, particularly when they criticise your work or when you’re blogging from home and it’s easy to respond quickly. Remember the lessons you learned about sending emails when angry or text messages when drunk? Same rule applies!
Over time you’ll get into the habit of blogging and it will become second nature and has the potential to be a very important part of your business – largely because it’s entirely within your control and that makes it very easy to make your mark on it.
But when you’ve got the traffic coming into your site, what next?
Converting your traffic into sales
Getting those conversions up where they should be is essential for any web based business, regardless of your revenue stream (Ads, affiliates, product sales, services, etc). Why should you be expending resources trying to get more traffic to your site when you could be making more money from the traffic you already have? Maximise your current and future efforts by optimising your sales conversions! Here are a few key points to remember;
- Design is everything and something a lot of web based businesses fail on. There is no substitute for a good looking website that is easy to read and use. That’s what keeps people reading your pages and coming back again and again to read more (OK, assuming your content is good as well!). As a SEO consultant I’ve seen loads of businesses spending £thousands on SEO for an ugly site, when they could have spent a few £hundred getting a graphic designer to create some great logos and templates.
- You wouldn’t spend loads of money getting people into your shop, just for it to be an old, dusty shack that puts them off the second they walk through the door.
- Think about the kind of sites that you would feel comfortable buying products from. Is your site up to scratch?
- Call to action statements or buttons are important, as is their location on the page. For blogs, having your key action areas (ads, call to action buttons, etc) after the content is a good choice. However, keep in mind that ads above the fold are effective as well – not everyone who arrives on your page will bother reading all the way down. Think carefully about how your visitors breakdown and place your ads in locations you feel would be the logical “next step” for their actions.
- I’ve discussed this above, but don’t go overboard with promotional talk in your main content – people generally will be put off by this.
- What’s your hook? A lot of the time, simply “buy now” isn’t enough. What about an offer for your blog readers?
- KISS! Keep it simple, stupid – don’t overload your pages with marketing messages and useless content.
ADDED – I’ve put together a more comprehensive article on the subject of converting traffic into sales. Check it out!
There are loads of great articles out there to help you with business blogging. Here is my selection of some of the best;
General business blogging articles:
- 9 hidden benefits of blogging
- Benefits of a business blog (UK Gov website)
- The 10 business benefits of blogging
Copywriting for blogs
- 20 copywriting hints
- 5 expert copywriting tips
- 6 copywriting tips for customer conversion
- 7 copywriting tips for a well staffed business website
- Some sales copywriting sins
Researching blog topics
- Blog topic research resources
- How to research a profitable blog topic
- Researching business blog topics using Google Alerts
Converting your traffic into sales:
- 5 tips for converting web traffic into sales
- How to convert traffic into sales?
- How to convert traffic into a sale
- How to get your blog traffic to convert in 5 easy steps
SEO for blogs
- Blog marketing tips – what’s worked for you?
- Blogging your way to the top of search engines
- SEO benefits from blogs
- The blogger’s guide to SEO
Best of luck with your blogging endeavours and please feel free to leave a comment sharing your own business blogging stories or ideas for future posts if there’s something you’d like me to write about.Tweet