With part one of our series on business blogging, we shared five reasons why your should start a business blog and how it can be a valuable marketing tool in your toolkit.
In the second part of our complete guide to business blogging, we're going to look at the 'how' of starting a business blog, from the ground up. It might be that you've covered some of this ground already, but hopefully we can catch you at some point in your journey and help you get unstuck, whether that's by giving you a little boost, or spurring you on to kick-start the process again.
So, let's look at the best steps to take on how to start a blog for your business.
It's all about the master plan
There are a lot of factors that put people off when it comes to writing a regular blog article, and some people are confused about the entire process.
Whilst it can seem quite daunting to think about and make the leap into regular content writing, the fact of the matter is that the main body of work when writing any content is split into in three areas:
- Pre-production planning - this is deciding what you're actually going to write about, involving keyword research and any resources you need to produce the content;
- Content creation - physically researching, writing, editing, formatting, and publishing the content
- Post-publish promotion - now that your article is out there in the eyes of the public, it's time to tell people about it and start cranking up those visitor numbers
It all starts with a solid content schedule. This is where you will decide, ahead of time, what you'll write about and then build out a calendar of topics and article ideas to turn into the finished content pieces.
1. Pre-production - planning your content
As with most things in life, by putting in the effort beforehand the dividends out the other end are much greater. So it is with content. By following the advice below, you'll become a blogging superstar in no time.
Find out what people want to know
Start with your current customers or by asking people to complete surveys on the topics they would like to read about that relate to your business. By uncovering their pain points and aspirations, you'll be able to gain a better understanding of how you can write articles that address their problems or support their goals, but that also introduce your company as part of the solution.
So, you might find out that 'keeping a positive cash flow' is a particular struggle and you, as a financial planning agency can write articles around 'common cash flow problems and their fixes'.
After discovering some initial topics from your customers and other sources, keyword research is the first port of call for any would-be business blogger. It's an important first step because we want to decide a) how much interest there is in what we're planning to write about, and b) how possible is it that we can rank highly in search engines for our various topics?
Using our previous example, if you wanted to write about 'cash flow' as a keyword you might find that it has 18,000 searches a month, but is really difficult to rank highly for.
A longer, more niche keyword (often called a long-tail keyword), such as 'cash flow solutions for builders' may only have 500 searches a month, but is really easy to appear top of page one on Google for. In this instance, it would be much better to target the more niche keyword and generate more traffic from the lower search volume to your blog and website.
Also, it's worth noting that a shorter, head keyword, such as 'cash flow' is also quite vague as it doen't show any intention. What is the searcher looking for in the end? Information about fixing a cash flow? Producing a cash flow forecast? You can't hope to address their needs if you don't have a strong idea of what they are to begin with.
Once you have a good list of 20-30 keywords and phrases to write around, you'll want to enter these into a keyword planning tool and see how they measure up.
There are a number of great tools and articles out there to help with this task and here are a select few to get you started:
- Popular WordPress plugin developer and SEO expert, Yoast, on keyword research tools
- Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool
- Keyword Tool
With any keyword tool, you're looking for the balance between a good search volume, but a low competition to rank for.
Planning your articles
Once you've got a handful of really good keywords that are searched for regularly, but for which you can rank highly for (i.e. get found), you're ready to come up with some final topics to turn into fully-fledged articles.
List-based and how-to blog posts perform really well, especially if they're snappy and feature good examples and links to what you're talking about so people can explore further.
For instance our blog article, 10 ways to win more proposals, is one of our most popular. It features a nice ten point list of simple, actionable ways that will actually improve a businesses proposal process.
If you're stuck for ideas on how to turn your keywords into articles then check out the HubSpot blog topic generator for a virtually endless supply of ideas using your carefully researched keywords.
As you can see from the image above, we've followed on with our 'cash flow' example and generated some great article ideas like 10 quick tips about cash flow and how to solve biggest problems with cash flow. There's two articles we can flesh out, straight off the bat!
NOTE: don't forget that you don't have to plan and foresee everything. By keeping your ear to the ground and responding to changes in the marketplace, big news in your industry, etc. you'll be able to come up with some spontaneous content too that will hopefully be caught up in the sudden interest.
Of course, it might be that you want to write something in a related area to your expertise, but that is a little outside of your comfort zone or specific area of knowledge. In this case it's useful to turn to a contact that might know more about it, or that specialises in that particular field.
By spending 15-20 minutes asking them for their advice in easy to digest pieces, you will have some great fodder for a range of articles you want to write in the future.
The key point to remember here is that since you're relying on a third party, it's best to plan your article way in advance of when you want to publish it . This way, you'll be sure that you can fit in with your expert's schedule and you won't be rushed into production before you're ready.
Put it all into a content schedule
By researching what you're going to write and planning out your blog topics, you've really conquered the difficult part. Seriously, the most common problem people face with blogging is generating ideas for articles. Once you know you're going to talk about 'common fixes for double glazing problems' you can visualise and map out the article's content much more clearly and easily.
Decide on how often you want to publish your content - once a week, once a month, three times a week, etc. - and then generate enough articles to cover that time period.
You can see that by using the HubSpot blog topic generator above, we've already come up with 5 months of content if you were to publish a single article each month!
It might take you a couple of weeks or longer if you've got a hectic schedule, but at least you'll know what's coming up and can allot time for it, rather than scrabbling for ideas at the last minute and hastily writing something of less quality.
2. Content creation
Starting to write
Writing comes more easily to some than others and that's OK. The trick is recognising how you write best. It might be that you just start writing and whittle and refine along the way, or once it's complete. Maybe you work better by plotting out a rough set of points and fleshing them out as you go.
There is no better or worse way to produce content, but some will work out more efficient for you than others. By working on your technique and preferred method of writing, you'll soon see what you prefer and what works best for you.
Of course it might be that you just would prefer to outsource the work altogether, which is also a great option and very cost effective if you consider the time you can save by not physically carrying out the writing part. If you have an agency like us managing your blogging and HubSpot services we would include this as part of our work, but you also have ad-hoc options such as sending the information to a copywriter and having them edit and format the article to suit.
The inverse pyramid technique
One good way to edit your articles is to employ the traditional PR technique of the inverse pyramid. Take a look at the following image:
This is a simplified version, but essentially you start your articles with the most important points towards the top (usually the who, what, why, where, how, and when), followed by the less important details, and finally the general background information.
This is more commonly found in a press release as they tend to be shorter pieces, but it can be applied - where appropriate - in your articles too. You can convey the important points early on in the article for people who like to skim, whilst providing supporting / further information later on for those who want to dig in deeper.
A word on images
Images are great. They re-enforce points, provide some spacing and relief in blocks of content and just give your content a lift.
But beware of using too many as they can distract from the main content you're trying to get across. Additionally, images aren't indexed well by search engines. More accurately, images are indexed just fine, but what's on the images is not so much.
So, if you've got an image with lots of writing on, be sure to back it up with copy in your article, or in the alt tag on the image.
Finally, when using images, try to keep them as small a size as possible - without obscuring their detail - thus reducing loading times for your visitors. Both your guests and search engine like fast-loading websites and blogs.
Optimising for search engines
Once you've written the article and you're happy with it, it's time to go back through and optimise aspects of it for search engines. At this point, we're looking to make smaller changes that will help you get the best start when your articles hit the search engines.
Points to look for include:
- Using your keywords a handful of times, especially in titles, URLs, meta information, image descriptions, and within the first 100 words of the article;
- Adding some links to other content (both internal and external), which is just as good for your visitors as it is the search engines;
- Adding a call to action where possible. By driving people to perform some sort of action (calling you, downloading a brochure, etc.), your blog will start working for you and hitting your marketing goals
You can also check out our articles on search engine optimisation for beginners and 3 pro tips on search engine optimisation that will definitely help you out in this area whether you're a pro or just starting to optimise your content for search engines.
3. Post-publish promotion
The work doesn't stop once you've published your article, oh no, the fun is just beginning! You've done your research and have produced a great article, but now you need to tell people about it.
The various methods to promote and drive traffic to your blog are really an article in themselves. In fact they're going to get their very own article as part of this series.
Suffice to say for now that you can make use of marketing channels like these to promote your blog:
- Social media - shout about your recent articles on your social accounts, use hashtags and tweet at popular industry figures too
- Email campaigns - if you have a regular email marketing campaign then add your recent articles in there
- Tell your existing customers - your existing customers will love to read what you're up to and receive your helpful articles; it's also a good way to keep in touch with them without being 'salesy'...
What about blogging platforms?
You might well be wondering why we haven't really discussed the physical how of publishing our blog to the masses. Sure, we've talked a lot about planning and organising and looking at our goals, we've got a content schedule in place, and some base material ready to go, but how do we get it out there, how do we build it for them to come?!
Well this is a bit like the subject of promotion in that it is a topic in itself and we'll be looking at some different blogging platforms in an upcoming part of this series.
For now though, just keep focussed on your content planning and production. The important thing is always the content.
Great content on an average platform will always do better than mediocre content on the best platform!
Dealing with common objections
We encounter a lot of businesses of various shapes and sizes. Yet, no matter what their stage of business, size or experience, the three most common objections to starting a blog for their business are invariably:
- How will writing a blog help my business?
- Even if I did start one, what would I write about?
- I want to, but I don't have the time to do it.
Now, part one of this series explores some great reasons to start a business blog and does a nice job of addressing objection numero uno. In fact it gives you five good reasons, just in case a couple weren't enough!
We'll address the remaining two objections - what to write about, and not having enough time - so that you shouldn't have any barriers left that are stopping you from starting your business blog.
Discovering the inner author - what should I write about?
It's understandable that you'd be naturally hesitant about jumping into writing a blog for your business, especially if you don't consider creative writing part of your skillset, or you're just not used to it. Also, many people's experience of business blogs are largely promotional in nature - e.g. 'look at product X we've just launched'.
However, there are two great ways to decide on what you can write about:
- Write about what you know;
- Write what your customers want to read.
Writing what you know
Think about it: you likely started your business because you're an expert in your field, or have a collection of skills that make you a great fit for the business you're in. Everyone is good at something and business owners and entrepreneurs capitalise on this to run successful businesses - so write about that.
As a real-world example, we've recently been talking to a company that manufacture custom car parts. Part of their business is using their core skills to modify 4x4 vehicles with high-spec custom parts. We don't have the first clue about the best way to modify 4x4 vehicles, nor how to go about producing the parts. So whilst we could help with the editing and polishing of the article, the core details would be provided by the other company, as they're the experts and have the detailed, technical know-how.
If people didn't want to know about what you know about, you wouldn't have a business!
Writing what people want to read
OK, it might sound easier said than done, but ultimately you're producing your blog to engage with your target audience, your ideal clients and customers. So think about that they want to know about: what will help them solve their problems? What will help them achieve their goals?
This way of thinking forms a large part of the planning stages above, but by combining your expert knowledge of your business and area of industry with addressing your customers' goals, plans, and challenges, you'll be onto a winning formula that will see your visitors grow over time and potential leads increase.
Magic up some more time - how do busy people blog?
The second point of resistance is that there aren't enough hours in the day to write a blog. Fortunately, we all get the same amount of time so you shouldn't be at a natural disadvantage, but it's more than likely you could do with freeing up some extra time to work on your blog.
We have some great articles to help with your productivity and hopefully give you back some extra time:
- 8 of the best productivity tools
- Get back time in your day by ditching your emails
- How presidents manage their time to get more done
Remember too that you don't have to be producing a blog article every day, or even every week. Blogging can be a great marketing tool for your business, there's no doubt about that, but it doesn't have to be all consuming. The more frequently you blog, the faster results will come, but we always advise companies that they are better off sticking to a regular schedule of quality content publishing, even if it's less frequent.
So, if you can only write one article a month that's great! It will be much better to have one remarkable piece per month than three one month and then nothing for six months...
Start planning your blog
We've explored the why and now the how so set some time aside to work on your content schedule, plan your keywords, set some goals and get everything read to start a blog that'll attract your best customers and show off your expertise.
Other articles in the series
This is article 2 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