In my other life running a Social Media agency, one of the first things we did was set up our blog, that was 18 months ago, and without it our business wouldn’t be what it is today.
It takes us a massive amount of time on top of our regular working day to write and promote it. We spend well over 15 hours per week improving the blog in various ways and if anything we would love to spend more. It’s offered us a platform all around the world to speak about our company. We use the blog for everything from recruitment of new staff to generating new business and engaging with potential customers. This little graphic shows off some of the places we have been covered and a rough estimation on the amount of business we have brought in to the company as a result of the blog…
From my 18 months of experience, this is what I consider to be the top tips for setting up your own business blog. Nothing ground breaking but if you focus on these, I assure you you’ll be moving in the right direction.
Let’s get started:
1. Have A Clear Business Goal
There is no point writing a blog just for the sake of writing it, you need to have a clear business goal for doing so. Our business goal is simple…we want to raise our profile as an agency internationally while bringing in business leads. Everything we do from design to the content we write is all tied back in to those two goals. Set your own clear goals and stick to them no matter how many other distractions might pop up form day to day.
2. Write Content That People Will Reference
People are very selfish in their reasons for visiting blogs. They will only come to your blog if there is something there for them. Good content, something they can learn from, the latest news or content that they can’t find elsewhere. What you need to try and do is create content that people will reference and pass on to others.
3. Give Away Lots Of “Secrets” For Free
The best thing you can do on a blog is give away as much information as you possibly can. If you are writing a business blog there is a good chance that people are reading it or have arrived there via a search engine looking for information. Don’t be scared to give away some of your trade secrets or some advice that you would normally charge for. It might not seem natural to be giving your experience away free online but I’ve found that the more you give away for free the more business you will actually get in return. Strange but true.
4. Show Your Personality
The old saying in social media is that nobody wants to be friends with a logo and the same has to be said of blogs…nobody really wants to read what a logo has to say. Adding personality and showing the human side of your company online is not always easy and most companies are terrified of letting their staff have a voice but people love to hear what other people have to say and having a human touch and some nice personal photos on your blog goes a long way.
5. You Don’t Have To Do What People Expect
We are an agency. By right we shouldn’t be giving away free advice. We shouldn’t be helping people with an Ebook. We shouldn’t be posting about controversial content or having a polarizing opinion online. As an agency you are meant to tow the line and post non controversial content a couple of times a week. The point here is that if you try and be like every other blog and outdo the current market leaders by copying them you will never get anywhere. Don’t be scared of standing out from the crowd and creating something that nobody else would have expected.
6. Weave Social Media In To Your Blog
Pretty obvious one really these days but social media can help in adding a human side to your blog as well as building community around your business. I would always say to pick 3 social platforms that are relevant to you rather than trying to do them all and spread yourself too thin. Facebook, Twitter and Youtube perhaps? Think of the various social media profiles as the different touch points for your blog and the different paths that people can find you from. Make sure your content is shareable and that you are not always pushing the content out to the same group of people who are subscribed to you via multiple channels.
7. Get Some Basic SEO Work Before You Start
All the talk at the moment is about social media and that is great because there is a lot you can do with it but at the end of the day we are a big social media blog with a strong presence across various social channels yet over 70% of our traffic still comes via Google. That is the same for most of the big sites in the world and search engines can’t be ignored. I wouldn’t do SEO from day to day but we had some basic work done at the start by a professional which has done us proud over the last 18 months. Don’t fuss about it every day and certainly don’t write for search engines but do take a little time to get your SEO in order at the start.
8. Focus On Content And Not Design
It’s tempting to spend all your time on design and fiddling about with everything from widgets to the various plugins that you can add to your blog. The best piece of advice I can give you form this whole list is to forget about all that stuff and just focus on content. You’ll want to make sure that your design is slick at the start but people visit blogs to read content and not to look at your lovely shiny widgets in the side bar.
9. Make It Easy For People To Contact You
Sounds like a very easy tip but you would be amazed at just how many people make it hard to be contacted on their blog. I can understand it in some cases where you actually don’t want to be contacted and are just blogging for fun but if you are blogging for a business reason then having several simple ways for people to get in touch is essential.
10. Be Consistent
There is nothing worse than going to a blog only to see that it hasn’t been updated in a couple of weeks. You don’t need to post every single day like we do here but you do need to set your reader’s expectations. If you only have time to blog once a week then keep it consistent and stick to that.
11. Don’t Just Write About You
As much as you might think it’s exciting for people to read about the awards you win and all the work projects you do don’t just write about you and your work. There is no harm dropping in the odd post or sharing things like new offices or staff arrivals but if you only write about your own company nobody is going to be interested in reading about that day in day out.
12. Stop Watching TV Or Going To The Pub
It takes an awful lot of time to write a good blog. Sometimes it takes us as up to 2 hours per post per day. I’m not saying that you should take that much time to write your blog but it will take time if you want to make a serious effort at it. You’ll have to stop going for that extra pint during the week, stop watching the football or watching your favorite soap operas and just blog instead. There is no short cut and it will take a lot of work but hopefully the results will be well worth it.
13. Stay Within Your Niche
It’s tempting to write about things that you are passionate about on your blog. I’d love to write about football or sports but I can’t and don’t because this is a social media blog. I’ll often find ways to work it in to the odd blog post but people read your blog because they want to hear the latest news or insight from that industry. Writing off topic will lose you readers and mean you can’t grow as big of an audience.
14. Make Your Blog International
This might not apply to everybody but we try and make our blog international and not Ireland specific. It’s not that we don’t want to focus on the Irish market but by writing about local stories only you essentially pigeon hole yourself as a local blog and limit the size of your potential audience. Think big.
15. Do Some Fun Projects
We always try and do some little fun projects here on the blog like the internet subway map or the video of UK stats and it’s important that you do the same and something that people can share with their networks. They take a lot of research and some extra work in the evenings but they are well worth doing because they get you thinking about your industry in a very different way.
16. Praise The Work Of Others Within Your Industry
Don’t think of other people within your industry as competitors. Instead think of them as people with like minded interests who will probably be interested in your content. The world is plenty big to have competitors and still survive so if you see some great work within your industry make sure to highlight it and praise others because the same thing might happen to you one day.
17. Mix With The Offline World
Networking online is great but the power of networking in the real world can not be underestimated. Be it speaking at events, attending industry events or just going for a pint with bloggers within your industry it really is a powerful way of highlighting your blog. Don’t be scared to add your blog URL to business cards and other printed material.
18. Focus On Subscribers
Subscribers should be the holy grail. What are subscribers? RSS, Email, people who follow your blog on Twitter, Facebook likes or even Youtube subscribers. The important thing about subscribers is that they are people who are saying “yes I like this content and I would love to be alerted as soon as you have some more”. They are not passers by but people who will see your content as soon as you publish it and they are the life blood of your blog. They are the hard core readers!
19. Promote Your Blog
This might seem like a very obvious thing to say but it’s amazing how many people build blogs and then just expect people to magically appear there to read it. There are something like 200 million blogs in the world and nobody is going to notice yours unless you promote it a little! Reach out to bigger publications with your best content and don’t be afraid to shout about your blog.
20. Guest Blog
This is one that takes a lot of time and effort but is probably the quickest way of growing the audience on your own blog. The important thing to remember is that you should not just post any old content on other blogs but should always aim to have the best content on to other sites. Pick sites that have large established audiences within the same niche as yourself and offer to write content for them. It’s a way of raising your profile as a blogger and the other blogs will be only to happy to get great free content from you.
21. Engage Away From Your Own Blog
Comment. Comment. Comment. It’s one of the most important things that you can do and is all about building relationships with other people within your niche and the best way to do that is through comments. Be thoughtful and actually engage with their content rather than just coming along and saying “great post”. Add to the discussion and show your knowledge and other people will see your passion and knowledge and discover your own blog. It’s also important to realize that people within your own niche will be more likely to read your blog as well given your similar passions and interests.