Any business can benefit from running a blog as part of their online marketing strategy. The problem is that most businesses fail miserably at it.
If you're a business owner, you may have heard that blogging is a fantastic and cheap way to drive customers to your website, to turn yourself into a thought leader in your industry and to actively engage with your customers. All of this is true, if you do it right.
The problem is that most people take a scattered approach to blogging. No plan, no goals and no method to their madness. If you are a blogger, you know how difficult it can be in the beginning, trying to stay motivated when it appears you're getting zero results. It can take several months of little return for your efforts before you even see an inkling of reward, but once it happens, the curtains are pulled up and you're exposed to a totally new way of marketing. Too bad most people give up way before the curtains are pulled up.
What to do if you know you want to blog but you're not sure how?
The first thing you should do is to start immersing yourself into the world of blogging. Learn best practices, follow great bloggers and learn how to turn your blog into a lead generating machine.
Some of the resources I recommend to someone who would like to start blogging, especially if you're a business owner:
Copyblogger – Great website to learn about blogging and copywriting. Sign up for their free 20 part e-course, you'll elarn a lot.
Hubspot – On the Hubspot blog, you will learn how to turn your blog into a lead generating machine. Hundreds of great articles on inbound marketing, lead generation and thought leadership. Here you will learn how to turn your blog into a business generating machine.
Pro Blogger – A great site to learn general tips and ideas for running an effective blog.
Conversion XL – Once you've figured out blogging and how to get visitors to your website, this fantastic blog will teach you how to convert them into customers.
- Use a proper blogging platform like WordPress (my preference), Blogger or Tumblr to easily create content and manage your blog. If you don't make it easy to create and share content, it's unlikely you'll be able to sustain a blog over the long-term.
- Host the blog on your own website (yourwebsite.com/blog) and not as a sub-domain on a hosted blog (myblog.blogger.com). All of the blogging options above let you use your own domain or sub-domain to host your blog. I prefer the self-hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.org, not.com) as you can easily install WordPress on your own domain. It doesn't matter if your main website is not a WordPress site, you can install WordPress on a sub-folder on your site and use it separate from your main site, though visitors will see it as a single website. Sound confusing? Check out this article from WordPress on the subject.
- Be consistent with your blogging. Especially if it's a business blog, stay on theme with your content or you'll lose people who are looking for your expertise but are finding random articles about your trips to the supermarket. When it comes to how often to post content, it really comes down to what you think you can realistically do. It's better to say you'll write an article a week and actually do it, then say you'll write an article a day and consistently fall behind.
- Being patient is the most important thing when first starting out. You may see little to no progress for the first few months, building a successful blog takes time and dedication. It pays off for those that keep moving forward.
When it comes to running a great blog, there are a few things you need to know:
Topics and Keywords – The advice I always give business owners just starting out with a blog is to think of all the questions your customers have asked you and write a blog post answering each one. If you can't think of a good title, just use the question itself as the title. This is the basis of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), providing answers to people's questions. Here's a beginners guide to keyword research from Moz.
Structure – Many businesses fail at blogging because they don't understand how to properly optimize an article for both readers and the search engines. They think a 150 word article is enough to give a full explanation to a more complex question, or they create paragraphs so long that that they give the reader a headache.
Then you also have the backend Meta Data that needs to be completed if you want to have a chance to rank in the search engines. Here's an article from Search Engine Land explaining Meta Tags.
Visuals also play a big part in a great blog article. Make it a habit of adding great images to your blog. You can embed photos directly from Pinterest, or even better, create your own funny memes to add to each article.
If you want a nice visual guide on how to optimize a bog post, check out this graphic from Moz.com
Marketing – You can create the best blog article in the world, but if nobody reads it, it was a wasted effort on your part. Many of the top bloggers will tell you they spend more time promoting their blog posts than actually writing them. Using social media, email lists and general word of mouth can help you spread the word on the great content you are producing. You can see what I do to promote my blog articles here, you can also find out more great ideas here.
Time to get started
As you can see, there's a lot of information and a bit of a learning curve involved if you want to start a blog that can generate leads for your business. The good news is that most business owners will never take the time to do this stuff, they'd rather just buy another newspaper ad and hope for the best. Lazy marketing like that is an advantage for you, if you're willing to make it one. Good luck on your blogging adventures and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.