In the early days of blogging, it was mostly a platform for individuals to get their thoughts out onto the internet. It was just for them – a sacred place where their opinion mattered.
Now, it seems that everyone has a blog, and businesses, if they’re smart, have jumped on the bandwagon. But, why? Why make the jump into content, when you are trying to make sales?
But always remember that before you jump into blogging, you are blogging with a purpose. Your blog should be an extension of your company and should reflect your company’s goals. Make clear to your team, and yourself, what the objective of the blog will be. It should always further your company’s goals, whatever those may be.
Content is King
First of all, yes, content is king on the Internet. A business without content on their site is dead to Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc., and that will hurt your sales.
That’s exactly what a blog gives you – a consistent stream of new content.
But the most important part of a business’s blog is to create authority, and set your company up as a trusted resource in whatever field you are asserting your authority in. Ex: If you are selling gardening supplies, you’ll probably want to be an authority, and display yourself, as an authority on gardening and gardening supplies. The key to this is to write informative, useful articles for your readers and customers.
Many view the blog as a way to increase sales. Yes, that is absolutely true. If your blog is successful (and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be), your sales will increase.
But, rather than setting up your blog as an overt sales tool, something that is just an extension of your sales team, you need to always think of being an authority, as mentioned above. Rather than selling your products through your blog, you should be teaching and giving people insight on how to use the products or services you render without actually mentioning them. Ex: If you’re trying to sell plants for a garden, don’t write about the plants you are selling, write about how to arrange a garden to get the best yields. Provide pictures. Be an authority. Be a teacher.
To this same end, you can blog about your products or services, but take out all the promotion.
Save the promotions for the non-blog sections of your website. That’s what it is there for.
ROI (return on investment) is the Holy Grail for businesses. Luckily for you, the internet is open 24/7/365, and the lights never go out (unless, of course, your server crashes…). This is especially true for small businesses. Without the capital that large corporations have, everything must be carefully calculated and measured down to the last cent.
First of all, blogging is cheap (there are exceptions, but we’ll assume you are using free software, etc., for right now) and can be a great way to create a web presence if your business does not yet have a fully functioning website (though, it’s always best to have a website if you are trying to make e-commerce sales). With a fully functioning website, adding a blog gives you traction where you may not have had it before.
We won’t get into SEO, which will help more people find your blog, or any of that. There are plenty of great articles on SEO on geekbusiness.
By “blogging” about relevant topics and creating a platform where your expertise and knowledge shine, people will be more likely to trust your company. Trust is gold because it is not easily found on the Internet.
Now, blogging is not always free. It can take a lot to keep it updated, which is time out of your day. Or maybe a few hours out of your week to set up that great blog post. Time is money, right? If you use free blog accounts, you can avoid many of the costs in the article at the beginning of this paragraph, but it gives you a pretty good idea of what it can cost to really go all out. This is where you discretion comes into play.
Consistency is Key
A blog can be difficult to keep up with. I can attest to that. I’ve started several blogs and quickly let them die after I lost interest. But, as I’ve noted, for businesses, a blog can be one of the most integral parts of your online presence.
Setting up your blog can be as easy as grabbing a WordPress or Blogger account and choosing a template, etc. I’ll say this: WordPress provides a little more professional look and feel for businesses, plus there are many customizations that can be found to make your blog stand out.
But it is keeping up with the blog that can be tricky. You’re busy. You’re running your business. You’ve got many different hats on. Don’t feel like you need to blog every day. Quality still trumps quantity in many cases, even on the Internet. If you put out one high quality post per week, you’re doing a good job.
Creating a great blog
So how do you create a great blog, one that will drive traffic to your site and convert readers into customers?
When you write, you should write in your own voice. This makes you more accessible to the reader. But also keep in mind the readers that you are trying to reach. If you’re always writing sarcastically, but your audience is stiff and serious, you’re going to be less likely to make those all-important sales.
If your field is technical in nature, try to simplify things so anyone can understand it. If you’re a tech website, try to put things in layperson terms. Your readers and potential customers will thank you later (probably not to your face, but they might through e-mail).
Finally, don’t pretend that you are the only authority on the Internet in your particular field (maybe you are, but probably not). It is incredibly important to set up your content with high-quality reference links that can expand on the topic you’re talking about. Doing this shows that you know what you’re talking about. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it actually helps readers. They’ll thank you for it. So don’t feel like you need to do all the teaching.
After the blog is set up
After you’ve got your blog up and running, and people are turning to you as the authority on all things gardening, try guest posting.
Other companies have blogs. Other people have blogs that are related to your industry. Seek them out and create relationships with them. Offer to provide your expert advice or opinion in exchange for a link in your author bio. This will help drive traffic to your website, bringing new users and new potential customers to your little corner of the internet. The better the site, the more potential customers that are reading your article with your link in it.
Also, stay active on other people’s blogs, especially the ones that you respect. Doing so will create a natural bond between you and the blogger, which can open doors to many different avenues.
Once your blog is a hub of information and looked at as a trusted resource, try setting up events or announcing appearances in the community through the blog (we’ll make another assumption that the community you are a part of has been notified of your blog and is active on it).
Ex: Your company has decided to host an event that will include booths, sponsorships, entertainment, and other various event-type activities. Send out all the info via your blog (and other resources if you have the money for it), then go set up and be where your customers will be. Set up your booth, bring your products, and bring the tools for credit card processing (This is an essential part of growing your business and expanding outside the walls of your store. Just like the blog, having some type of mobile payment software is essential to the growth of your business. Don’t discount it.), and be prepared to make sales. But also make sure to have your blog name and URL plastered all over the booth, on business cards, and on the card you hand out with the products.
What you’ve just done is brought your business to where the people are that are, using your blog. This can be done with any type of event. Why? Because your readers trust that you will provide a high quality product – just like the information you provide on the blog. Practically speaking, it’s free marketing.
The final step of creating a successful blog is to make sure you have a social presence with which to expand your blog. The more people you reach, the more likely you are to expand, which is key to business growth. Ex: You’ve just written a great article on gardening. You feel so strongly about it that you want it to reach more people. But how does that happen? By sending your post out through avenues like Twitter and Facebook, you’ll reach more people. Twitter is great for this because tweets get re-tweeted all the time. Every time it does get re-tweeted, it reaches new people, and new people means new potential clients.
A blog is a great way to increase the visibility of your website, as well as setting your company up as a valued resource in your field. If you take the time to set up a great blog with great content, the dividends will show, not only for your business, but for your respect in the business community.
Genevieve Coates is a freelance technology writer/staff writer for Speedy. She lives in Tampa, Florida, where she enjoys tending to her massive “app garden”.