A beginner’s guide to blogging for business
There’s no way around it. Blogging has a well-earned place in digital marketing strategy, whether you’re a startup, an established business or a freelancer. It’s one of the most effective ways to grab the attention of potential customers and to build credibility for your brand. In fact, businesses that blog see 126% more growth per month in terms of leads than those that don’t blog.
But what if you’ve never blogged before? How do you get started? We could easily provide a list of tips, recommendations and helpful resources but those couldn’t really get to the core of what a beginner needs to know when diving into blogging.
So we’ve put together an in-depth step-by-step guide on blogging for business that you can use to get started. If you follow the steps and advice in this guide, not only will you be able to get your blog up and running in minutes but you’ll also learn:
- What a CMS is and which one to use
- How to determine which topics will be of interest to your audience
- How frequently to post content
- How and where to promote your blog to reach more readers
- How to monitor your success
Provided you have something valuable and interesting to say, starting a blog and getting your content out there will no longer a barrier with this guide.
But first, maybe you want to know…
Why blogging is still killing it
Here’s what you need to know about the power of blogging:
It’s the cheapest method to market your business online
Out of all the marketing activities that can help bring visitors to your site, blogging is definitely the most affordable. All you need to do is set up a blog and start writing. Sure, you need to invest some time into researching, writing and promoting your posts but if you’re on a budget, that’s a lot cheaper than paying for an ad campaign on Google or Facebook.
Blogs give sites 424% more indexed pages and 97% more indexed links
If you want to rank for specific keywords or be seen as an authority in your industry, blogging can help you achieve both goals. Publishing quality content means you’re providing content worth linking to and sharing, which signals value to search engines and helps you to rank higher in search engine results. This also makes your content easier to find by interested users.
Blogs on company sites result in 55% more visitors
The first step to building trust with a potential customer is to grab their attention with useful, interesting content. When done right, blogging can help drive heaps of visitors to your site without having to invest lots of money. So if you can create great content that can help solve your prospects’ problems or address certain pains or concerns, you are not only attracting visitors but you’re also one step closer to turning them into paying customers.
Interesting content is the third most important reason why people follow brands on social media
Social media’s potential as a marketing platform is huge as most likely your prospects are using one or several social media channels on a daily basis. Now, the best way to connect with your audience on these networks and to get them to notice you is to provide them with educational and entertaining content that they’ll find interesting. It’s the most effective way to grab their attention and to set yourself apart from the your competition.
For advice on how to get started with social media for business, check out these resources:
- Which social media platform should my business be on?
- How to create a social media action plan
- How to use social media in your marketing mix
Your competitors are already doing it.
Yes, they are and some of them might even get great results. Make sure you monitor your competitors’ marketing activities to see whether they’re blogging, what they’re writing about, what type of content their emails consist of, and more. Seeing what they’re doing online and how they’re marketing their business through their blog, social media or email can help you do what you do better and attract even more customers.
Watch this short Swift 6 video for great advice on how to keep track of your competitors.
What does all this mean for you? If you’re not blogging, then you should start now because it’s a great way to:
- Build brand awareness.
- Build and earn links and improve your site’s visibility in the search engines.
- Educate your target audience and establish trust with them – which helps to build your customer base too.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of it, don’t fret. Read on and see how you can get your blog up and running easily.
So without wasting any more time, let’s get down to it!
Your complete blogging for business guide
Set goals for your blog
“Why do I want to start a blog?” It may sound like an obvious question but blogging means investing time and resources beyond just writing a post, so setting some goals will help focus your efforts when it comes to the results you plan to achieve.
With that in mind, here are a few examples of goals you might set for your blog:
- Bring more visitors to your blog
- Increase traffic to your website
- Increase leads and sales
- Improve brand recognition
- Increase rankings in search engine results for your brand name
- Get more media coverage
- Improve customer satisfaction
When you set your goals, keep the list short, otherwise you might lose focus and accomplish very little.
Decide how to achieve those goals
When you’ve decided on your goals, you need to determine how exactly you’re going to achieve them. The only way to do that is to first do some research on your target audience to find out what they’re interested in and what type of content you should cover to make sure they’re interested in what you have to say.
So do your research and find out more about:
- Who they are: What job they’re in, what industry they work in, how big their company is, what their education is and their hobbies.
- Their demographics: Gender, age range, income.
- Their needs, wants, pains, interests, concerns, challenges so you know what type of information they’ll find useful.
- Which sites they get their information from and where they spend their time online – social media channels, blogs, forums.
- What kind of content they consume and in what format – infographics, blog posts, videos, webinars.
- Which devices they use to get online.
- When they spend more time online.
Based on these profiles and specific information on what each consumer profile wants/needs, you can create buyer personas and then provide the right content, at the right time, in the right format and on the right device to each category.
To find out all this information you can ask them directly by using surveys or simply take a closer look at your Google Analytics data to see what it can tell you about your audience. Watch this webinar for more information on how to do your audience research.
You can also look at other blogs in your sector and see what they’re doing, what type of content they’re publishing, in which format and how often. A competitor analysis lets you see what works well that you could also do on your own blog.
Use tools like Buzzsumo to find out what content works best for your niche topics. For example, here’s what shows up as top content for the topic “wedding planning”:
To view your main competitors or authority bloggers and journalists in your niche, simply click on the Influencers tab, type in your keyword and click “Search”:
Since Buzzsumo only allows for a few free searches a day before you have to upgrade to a paid version, you can also try other similar tools like Topsy, socialmention, Feedly and many more that are free.
Setting up your blog
Now that you know more about your audience and what to focus on to achieve your goals, let’s get started setting up your blog.
There are two steps:
Step 1: Third-party hosted or self-hosted?
Sure, you can create a free blog on a third-party site like blogger.com or tumblr.com, but they’re not really free because:
- It’s not on your own domain. You’re actually getting a subdomain like yourcompanyblog.blogger.com. Doesn’t look very professional, does it?
- You have zero control over your blog. Because it’s not hosted on your site, but a third-party site so, again, it’s not your property. This means that you are limited by their terms and conditions so if they decide that your blog doesn’t fit with their policies, they can actually delete your blog without any notice. All your hard work will vanish within seconds. The same will happen if the blogging platform shuts down.
How about social platforms like LinkedIn? You can now blog on LinkedIn so why bother creating a blog on your domain?
Well, think about it. When you lease your content presence instead of owning it, you rest your business’ security on the whims of third-parties. What if Twitter crashed and never came back? What if Google bought LinkedIn and then people stopped using it because, let’s face it, no social network developed by Google has been successful for long. If Twitter or LinkedIn were the only places your content lived, you’d be in trouble.
The cost is pretty nominal – the price for a domain name (if you don’t already have one) and a few pounds a month for a great UK web hosting plan. You can get everything you need to start your blog from 123-reg.
Step 2: Choose your preferred blogging platform
Gone are the days when you had to manually code your site. Now you have a plethora of content management systems (CMSs) to choose from that make the process of getting a blog up and running a piece of cake. You have WordPress, b2evolution, Drupal and Joomla.
However, if you’re a complete beginner, we recommend WordPress. Why? Because it’s massive. It’s the biggest and most popular blogging platform in the world, with countless plugins, add-ons, themes and templates. Plus, it’s super easy to use even if you have no technical skills.
So, if you’re a beginner and not very technical, we recommend using WordPress as a CMS as it’s the most popular and easiest to use platform to manage blog content. Plus, you’ll have access to a huge collection of free and paid plugins that can help enhance your visitors’ experience on your blog and turn your site into a social butterfly.
With WordPress hosting from 123-reg you can get blogging in a matter of seconds. Everything’s pre-coded and ready to go so you don’t have to worry about a complex installation process or touching any lines of code.
What topics should I cover?
If you want to achieve your goals, the ones you’ve set at the beginning, here’s the most important thing you need to remember: your blog is not about you. It’s not about how smart or how good of a writer you are. It’s about your audience, about addressing their needs, answering their questions, easing their concerns. It’s about winning their trust and supporting their goals.
If you want to succeed in blogging, you need to become obsessed with your audience and support them in achieving their goals. So think like your users when trying to come up with topics to write about. What kind of information would they like to read? What would help them better understand your products? What information would make their life easier? What would entertain them? When you align your blog content strategy around that, you will find a loyal readership, which can later on turn into paying customers.
Here’s what can help you decide which topics to cover:
- Use your Google Analytics to find out what your audience is interested in.
- Do keyword research to discover the words and phrases your audience uses when looking for a business like yours.
- Discover popular hashtags and trends on social media using tools like TweetDeck and find out what people are talking about that’s related to your industry.
- Perform a competitive analysis to see what your competition is writing about and how their audience is reacting to their content.
- Look at your customer support queries or any other feedback channels you might have.
- Draw inspiration from popular blogs and publications.
Create a content calendar
Keep in mind that blogging doesn’t mean publishing once a month about your business and your achievements. Real value comes from a consistent publishing schedule that covers topics of interest to your potential customers, offers insights and education, and keeps people engaged with your brand.
When you constantly provide fresh and relevant content, your readers will have a reason to come back, to trust your business and to want to learn more about your values and what your business is about. Great content also lays the groundwork for future purchase decisions.
So to ensure that you’re creating content that sticks for all your different audiences you need to create a content calendar. This also helps keep your content consistent and relevant, and it also keeps your marketing team on the same page.
You editorial calendar should include things like:
- The date the content will be published
- The author who will be in charge of writing the post
- The topic or the title
- Format (video, infographic, podcast, case study)
- The specific buyer category you’re targeting
Your calendar should also include key dates such as events, holidays or other things that may impact which content you want to share and when.
Depending on your goals and the volume of content you will be creating, you may also want to track the following elements:
- The channels where your content will be published:Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and also other blogs if the content is for guest blogging purposes.
- Topic categories: This helps you see which topics you have already created a lot of content and which you haven’t covered often enough.
- Calls to action:This helps you ensure that every blog post you create is in line with your marketing goals.
To create and manage your calendar you can use a simple spreadsheet in Google Drive or collaboration tool like Trello. This allows you to keep everything organised.
Want to dig deeper? Here are some other great suggestions on how to build a content calendar that maps to your sales cycle.
How often should I post?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. You should blog often enough that your readers and the search engines come looking for it, but not so often that you’re regurgitating content and wasting your readers’ time.
It really depends on your audience and their expectations, on your industry and what you’re looking to accomplish. Start by setting up a content schedule and see what’s working and what isn’t for your specific audience.
There’s no magical number of posts you should be publishing per week or month to make your blog successful. Instead, look at your data in Google Analytics to see how people react to your content and create your own rules.
Who should write for my blog?
You. You know your audience and your business better than anyone else, so set some time aside every week to publish some great, insightful content. If you have a team, then ask them to join in and share their knowledge. This way you can alternate and ensure you always have something interesting to write about.
There is also the option to allow guest bloggers to write for your blog. Don’t say no. If the guest blogger is knowledgeable and willing to write for your blog, accept the offer. It’s a great way to get fresh and interesting content on your blog, especially when you find yourself too busy to write or lacking ideas on what to write about. So if you plan on accepting guest posts on your blog, make sure to follow these seven rules to vet guest bloggers.
Promoting your blog
There is no such thing as a Content Faerie. For your content to be found and consumed, you need to promote it. There are so many ways to get your content in front of the right audience, from sharing it on your social media channels and promoting it in a newsletter to turning it into an infographic or webinar to increase its reach.
Here are a few useful resources with effective methods to promote your blog posts:
- Six killer methods to promote a new post and attract scores of new visitors
- 36 tried-and-true ways to promote your blog posts
- How to create and promote ‘hero’ content
Monitoring its success
Your work doesn’t stop here. After you’re published and promoted your content, now you need to monitor its impact and see what’s working and what isn’t.
The best and easiest way to do this is with Google Analytics. We have created an in-depth guide on Google Analytics that explains exactly where to find vital information on your visitors’ behaviour on your blog and which content they enjoy the most.
Here are a few things you can look at in your Google Analytics account:
- In the report for Site Content/All Pages you can determine the value of a blog post and see whether it’s had any impact on your readers.
- Time on Page is also an important metric to monitor as this tells you if people are actually interested in the post.
- Number of unique visitors – This tells you how many people have actually found your content interesting enough to go to the blog and read it.
- New vs. returning – This tells you the percentage of loyal readers who keep coming back to your blog for more content.
- Bounce rate – This lets you know if the content was relevant and useful for those who read it. If the bounce rate is high, it may mean that users didn’t find what they were looking for. Learn more about bounce rate and how to get your readers to spend more time on your blog.
- Average time spent on site – Did they read the entire post? The more time spent on site, the better.
- Pages per visit – Did they love the post and go on to check out other blog posts? That’s a good sign. If they didn’t, why not? This can also reveal that you should do some internal linking to get your visitors to read other posts related to what they’re reading.
- Traffic sources – How did they end up on your blog? Did they come from social media channels, forums, search engine results? This can tell you more about where your audience is spending time online and help you find new channels where you can promote your content and interact with your audience.
Another useful tool is 123 Reg’s free Website Checker. This will also you to see which websites are linking to your blog posts, and how many shares your posts are getting on social media.
Ready, set, blog!
Blogging is a fantastic tool that allows you to create useful, rich content designed to serve a need and attract the right visitors to your blog. But the best thing about blogging is that it makes you less of a stranger to your audience. They get to know you through your content, they start to understand your values and what you’re about, and you become familiar faces. That’s the best way to build trust and to turn blog readers into paying customers.
With so many available channels and so much content fragmentation, having a blog that you own and control is more important for businesses than ever. If you’re ready to start blogging, follow the steps in this guide and you’ll be starting out in great shape.