“The first thing you need to decide when you build your blog is what you want to accomplish with it, and what it can do if successful.” – Ron Dawson, writer and educator
I was recently meeting with our client BLUE INK, a Seattle print and design agency, when I finally realized how difficult blogging can be for small business owners. I suggested that they begin blogging about their work and was met with silence and blank stares. That’s when I decided writing a guide on our own blog could be a helpful tool for business owners everywhere!
Starting a blog without a developing a thorough strategy is a bit like driving with your eyes closed: dangerous and destined for failure. It’s common for business owners to be told they need to start a blog, but how often are you told to create a blogging strategy? Well we’re here to tell you that developing goals for your blog, along with a schedule and purpose, is just as important as the act of blogging itself.
Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to walk you through creating a successful strategy for your small business blog (or any type of blog, really). Take 30 minutes to write down your strategy as you read along, and you’ll find yourself blogging with purpose in no time.
STEP 1: Determine your qualitative goals
Why are you interested in starting a blog? If it’s just because someone told you to, it’s time to take a step back. Does your company provide a unique service that may require some additional information in the form of informative articles? If you’re asked a lot of general questions by your customers, this may be true. Or do you sell a unique or complicated product? Then you definitely want to provide some customers with supplemental information about its usage. But more likely than the above situations, you just want to drive traffic. You want more people visiting your site, calling your business, or even walking in your door. While your blog might not convert a potential customer by itself, it can drive traffic to your website and build your brand authority in a valuable way.
STEP 2: Define your quantitative goals
Specific and measurable goals will allow you to track your growth and measure return on your (time) investment. Are you mostly interested in increasing traffic to your site? Do you want to build an engaged and loyal following online? Or is your goal to increase conversions? Here are some example objectives to consider:
Whatever your objectives, write them down and hold yourself accountable. With every blog post, ask yourself: “will this contribute to achieving my business goals?” If not, take a step back and reconsider your approach.
STEP 3: Examine competitors’ blogs and blogs you admire
Why does this blog speak to you? What value does it provide to you? How does it keep you coming back? Determining what works on other relevant blogs can help you build your own effective strategy. You’re not looking for a blog to copy, you’re looking for inspiration that you can repackage and personalize for your own business.
STEP 4: Develop your tone or voice
Depending on your industry, and even your personality, the tone of your blog can vary greatly. If you’re an attorney with a firm focusing on discrimination law, you’d most likely want to write in a straightforward and professional manner. But if you own a children’s boutique, your voice could be more informal and friendly because you want to connect with your customers on a personal level. Are you trying to educate your customers to build credibility? Or are you trying to get your customers to engage with your content? Your goals will majorly determine the feel of your blog. Sometimes humor and distinct personality can shine through in business blogs in a really positive way, but sometimes it’s best to keep things professional. You’ll probably know what’s best after examining your competitors and writing your first few posts.
STEP 5: Set a schedule
This is one of the most important components of developing your strategy, and probably the most overlooked. Blogging needs to be consistent. You don’t want to just dump 10 informational articles on your website in one day and call it good. Space out your posts in a way that keeps people returning to your site for fresh content. If your posts are dense, in-depth guides to a particular subject, posting once a month might be all you can manage. But a good, achievable goal to strive for is posting once a week. Pick a day to publish each week and stick to it! You’ll eventually get used to the routine and your loyal followers and customers will appreciate the consistency.
STEP 6: Determine your sharing and distribution
Once you start developing your content, you need to decide how you want to share it. Maybe you just want to send your content in the form of a newsletter to your email subscribers. But I also recommend that you cCreate a social media strategy for sharing your articles. You want to maximize your reach without overwhelming yourself. Ask yourself: “where are my customers online, and how can I get them to see this?” If you’re B2B and most of customers are on LinkedIn, focus on sharing your articles there. Get your customers to engage by responding to comments, tagging associates who might enjoy your post, and asking people what they think of your content. This article by Search Engine Journal has some great ideas on where to share besides Facebook and Twitter. But the most critical part of getting your sharing right is by listening to your customers and finding them where they already live online.
STEP 7: Create your content!
In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing additional articles about helpful blogging tools as well as guides for writing great, attention-grabbing headlines and developing valuable content. Stay tuned and you’ll be ready to launch (or revamp) your blog in no time!
PS – for a great example of a small business that kills it at blogging, check out this Seattle Professional Organizer blog by Simplify Experts.