Blogs are very popular these days, everyone and their dog seems to have one. In reality, very few businesses actually consider blogging to be of any importance, let alone an ongoing part of their marketing strategy. So why is business blogging important, and why should you start a business blog?
Well, as an agency that's a regular contributor to the world of content via this blog you're reading right now, we thought it would be helpful to write a number of related articles around creating, writing, and publishing content to a regular blog for your business, starting with why blogging is a good idea in the first place.
Blogging - isn't it all just about telling people what you're up to?
Back in the early days of web-logging (where we get the term 'blog' from), blogs were largely based around individuals keeping account of their personal lives and daily journeys.
Fast forward to the present and while there are a great number of personal blogs around, the whole art of blogging has transformed completely, from the motivations behind starting one, to how they're produced and promoted.
Today, there are lot of diverse reasons for wanting to start a blog:
- keep a public / highly visible journal of daily life, travels and adventures, or other path of discovery;
- have a dedicated area for important news, PR, and upcoming events;
- produce helpful content to engage with your potential and existing audience;
- explore thoughts, experiments and ideas in an online forum of thoughts - a bit like an online think-tank
- bolster your SEO efforts by writing high-ranking content in a niche genre.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that writing a regular set of articles can prove invaluable to any business' marketing efforts, we encounter a lot of businesses who are still either not convinced by blogging, or have heard some confusing advice about what to create, and how to leverage the process to benefit their business.
The devil is always in the details and there needs to be a fair bit of planning involved before starting a business blog, but once you have solid plan in place, and you're being S.M.A.R.T about your objectives and goals, then you'll find the extra work is quite manageable and you'll be well on your way to business content greatness.
Our helpful series of articles around starting and running a business blog will of course help you with all of this. So sit back, get your notepads handy and let's start by exploring some great reasons why a business blog is good move for your company.
Reason 1 - reach potential clients earlier in their buying journey
You may have heard the terms 'buyer's journey', or 'purchase decision process', or maybe you know it by another name. Whatever the label, there is a definite three-stage path that all buyers take, starting with them becoming aware of a problem they have, considering their options for solving the problem, and finally, deciding on which solution is for them.
This is a very simplistic overview and the whole idea gets more complex depending on various factors: if the customer is B2C or B2B, or how big the spend or investment is, for example. Of course, that's without the added complications of people missing out a stage or two, depending on their experience...
The important thing to know though is that, generally speaking, a marketing tool such as a business website is more likely to reach potential customers later in their purchasing journey. This is much too late!
You may be lucky and pick up some customers this way if you're particularly well respected in your industry and give off the right signals once a prospect is on your website, but usually, when the buyer is at the end game stage and looking to make a decision, you're in competition with a number of other options the buyer has - only without the benefit of having any prior interaction with them.
This is where a medium such as blogging is fantastic.
Producing relevant, helpful content regularly as part of a blog, as well as forming the core of any inbound marketing campaign, can put you further in the forefront of your buyer's minds earlier in their purchasing journey, and will reinforce your business' expertise in its field.
For example, if you have a potential client that is looking for information on how to have a will written. By writing an article on 'how to choose a will writing firm' and being helpful, informative, objective, and not sales-oriented, you can engage with your prospect before they start deciding between a number of wills and probate firms. Not only that, but you'll gain an edge by offering helpful advice and positioning yourself as a potential service provider without hassling them along the way!
This is much easier if you're starting with a solid knowledge of who your ideal customers are, and how they like to research information. Fortunately we have a few good starting points that can help you in defining your customer profiles:
- Creating a customer profile in 3 easy steps
- How to use your buyer personas effectively
- A worksheet on building an effective buyer persona (including examples!)
Reason 2 - showcase your expertise
Following on from reason 1, blogging allows you to explore specific topics and genres in detail, even if that involves breaking a topic up into several posts (much like this current blog series).
By writing in depth on particular areas of your company's knowledge and expertise, yes you'll be able to address your prospects' needs and problems, but you'll also gain the benefit of highlighting that you really know your onions, even if this is sometimes in a more subtle way.
This is something that is very hard to do using only your business website and other marketing material as they either talk to prospects in different - usually later - parts of the buyer's journey or just aren't made for this.
For example, here are some common digital marketing channels and activities and their primary purpose:
- Search engine optimisation - helps you appear earlier in search engine results pages for given phrases;
- Search engine marketing (i.e. PPC) - designed to shortcut ongoing SEO efforts and get you seen by targeted customers in search listings;
- Social media - best used to show off your brand, its personality, and promote aspects of your business;
- Print / digital adverts - whether it's flyers and leaflet drops, adverts in magazines, or on affiliate websites, short, sharp adverts of this nature play more of a numbers game in hoping that you'll catch the right person with the right combination of emotive words to set them into action;
- Websites - often have a more heavy focus on what you do or sell, and how you do it. Essentially they're all about you, which is great, but that doesn't help your prospects identify and solve their problems;
- Email marketing - often only addresses the extremes - outbound sales prospecting (can be spammy), or remarketing to existing customers (essential, but doesn't really help win new business).
Of course, the more you create and publish, the more relevance and respect you'll gain, ultimately leading to you and your company being considered thought leaders, or the go-to team for xyz product or service.
Reason 3 - improve your search engine rankings
Blogging is GREAT for search engine optimisation. That's right, it's GREAT. In capital letters and everything!
One of the reasons that blogging is a massive help is a good side-effect of reason 2 - showing off your expertise. Exploring niche topics in detail allows you to divide and conquer your SEO efforts because each piece of content will be optimised for one keyword or phrase and explored much more deeply than your website.
Detailed, keyword-focussed topics
You see, your average business website is an exercise in balancing three facets of information:
- Explaining what your company offers to a visitor;
- Adding enough SEO-optimised content that helps you rank well, but is snappy enough to address point 1;
- Wrapping up the first two in a visually appealing manner.
The problem with this is that you often don't have enough time to explore anything in depth, or with enough supporting content to make any search engine ranking strides. And remember, since most website visitors will likely be in stage three of their buyer's journey (i.e. making a purchase decision), they're not going to stick around long enough for you to explore a topic in depth at any rate.
With blogging, you can improve your SEO efforts with a strategy focussing on the 'pillar / cluster' technique. This is a content and SEO strategy first introduced to us via Matthew Barby, an award winning blogging legend who works as head of growth and SEO at HubSpot.
It centres around the idea of creating a strong, detailed piece of pillar content and then supporting this via several cluster items, all linking together.
We use this in our own blog. For example, we recently produced our Ultimate Guide to Redesigning your Business Website ebook. This is our pillar content. Next, we have a schedule of individual articles, or clusters, that, once published, link back to our pillar content. An example cluster article is this one on 8 reasons to start a business website redesign.
These pillar and cluster items group together in a cumulative effect to highlight your authority in these related keyword topics and niches that really boost your overall SEO efforts.
Backlink building on autopilot
An added bonus of creating highly valuable, highly ranking and discoverable content is that it's likely to be discovered and shared by more people, whether that's through their own blogs, their social media channels, or otherwise.
Naturally, the more people that share and link to your content, the more backlinks to your blog or website you will receive, helping you to climb the rankings as a nice side-effect.
Speaking of super backlinks, if you're writing really great, highly prized content then you can also start to guest blog for other websites which will help boost your traffic and provide you with more quality backlinks.
This does follow on from the backlinks section above, but activity on social media is becoming an increasing factor in search engine ranking these days. Referred to as 'social signals', the activity on social media that is related to you and your content being shared and discussed helps search engines decide how relevant you and your content are, thus how highly they should rank you against your competition.
It's not an exact science, nor is it the be all and end all, but it's important to understand that the more popular you and your content are across social media, the more visits you will enjoy to your site, and potentially the higher up the search engine rankings you could appear.
Reason 4 - cost-effective marketing with measurable ROI!
There's an art to writing blog articles and keeping a blog well curated and maintained that some businesses invest heavily in, despite at it's heart being a free practice. You can start collecting a list of topics at any time and start fleshing our blog articles on your commute, over your lunch break, etc., and build up a bank of content as you go.
There are also a lot of platforms, such as WordPress, that allow you to publish your articles online for virtually zero cost. We'll be covering these in one of the next parts to this series.
However, there are quite a number of skills that come along with blogging that need to be learnt, worked on, outsourced, or allocated time to keeping on top of.
- doing the research on what to write from an SEO point of view to get your articles ranking nice and high;
- editing and formatting article content if you don't come from a particularly creative background, or writing just isn't your thing;
- and linking the content to calls to action and planning how to generate business leads from your efforts...
Blogging is a really cost effective marketing activity that, done well, can drive highly qualified, quality traffic and leads to your business.
More importantly it offers an absolutely measurable return on investment. By using tools such as HubSpot to track your traffic sources and actions, you can see where your most profitable traffic comes from, what your visitors like to read most, and what content turns visitors into customers thus affecting your bottom line in the best way possible!
Reason 5 - increases to website traffic
There is a statistic that HubSpot quote when referring to inbound marketing that states that 'a website can see a massive 55% more traffic with a blog than without'!
Now that's a statistic worth sitting up and paying attention to.
It's not difficult to see why, when you consider the preceding reasons and how they increase your website traffic:
- SEO - if you appear higher up in the search rankings it follows that you will receive more traffic than your lower-placed competitors;
- Social media engagement - if your awesome, interesting content is being shared more and more across various social media platforms, then more people will come visit your site in order to read it;
- Exploring in-depth topics - now that you're attracting buyers across all the stages of their buyer's journey, your traffic will naturally increase.
Strong contenders to the list
There are a number of other benefits to starting a business blog, but they don't inherently make quite as compelling reasons as our top 5 - they're more...added bonuses. Either way, we thought they deserved an honourable mention!
Keep people engaged with your company
With the best will in the world, most websites, especially business ones, provide a set of content that doesn't change very often and is more presentational in nature. Sure, you might have a set of case studies or a portfolio section, but these probably don't change very often and offer very little reason to revisit your website frequently.
A blog, however, provides an endless stream of valuable content that will keep people returning to the site (and by association, your main website) to consume your helpful, remarkable content. They're more likely to share this content on social media and direct their friends or business associates to your information.
Consider this difference: knowing that your company offers 'fully installed swimming pools', as explained by your main website, isn't particularly helpful and doesn't provide much incentive for people to engage with your company or share this information; by comparison, a blog that helps people 'understand the different chemicals used in pool cleaning and which is best', gives people a handy piece of valuable content that helps them with a problem (i.e. 'what pool cleaner is best for an indoor pool?').
That's not to say it's all play and no work: you can happily promote your latest news and offers and achievements in your blog too, as people will be interested to see what you've been up to, and it doesn't hurt to let your interested blog readers know more about your company whilst helping solve their problems.
It's generally considered a good idea to keep the information ratio somewhere around 20% business to 80% non-business.
Blogging is relatively straightforward to start and it works for every business
Again, there is a certain level of skill involved in starting a business blog, keeping to a content schedule, and identifying good topics to write articles about. This is where the help of a professional is invaluable as they will take the headache out of keyword research, design and formatting, linking up your related digital marketing activities to measure your ROI, and other activities that could otherwise eat up your valuable time that I'm sure you'd much rather spend on your core business activities.
However, as a business owner, you know a lot about the industry you're in and will have some good ideas about what you can write to help people and have them engaged with you and your company. And really, that's the fundamental concept in business blogging: to address your prospective clients' goals, plans, and challenges through solutions you know will work well for them.
We also get asked frequently, 'will blogging work for my business?'. The answer is always, 'yes'! There are some businesses and industries that blogging works better in than others, but the fundamental practices of supplying answers to questions, solutions to problems, advice and helpful content to visitors is universal across all business areas and industries.
Make blogging part of your marketing strategy
Business blogging has many benefits, some obvious, some less so. Done well, with some thought behind the content you produce will see you climbing those search engine rankings, becoming known as an expert in your field, getting in front of customers earlier in their purchase cycle and ultimately, positively impact your bottom line.
Look out for our upcoming parts to this series on blogging for business, including how to start a business blog, what tools to use, and how to measure ROI from your blogging efforts.
Other articles in the series
This is article 1 in a multi-part series of guides on business blogging. You can find the others in the series here:
- Part 1 - 5 reasons you should start a business blog
- Part 2 - How to start a blog in 3 easy steps
- Part 3 - 4 of the best blogging platforms for business
- Part 4 - Promote and grow your blog audience
- Part 5 - Making a profit from your business blog