So, my small business needs a blog, does it? Why?
Surely this is just time away from my business, and it takes ages before you start seeing the benefits.
Well, no, you don’t need a blog. It’s just one of many marketing tools available to you. But, should you have a blog? I would argue yes and below, I hope I can show you just how important they are to a small business and its online presence.
WHAT IS A SMALL BUSINESS BLOG?
A blog is basically a regularly updated page on your website:
Blogging allows you to add new content - written, visual, multimedia - which can be assigned to categories.
Each new piece of content is a post. Posts are displayed with the newest one at the top of the page.
Visitors can read blog posts directly on your site or subscribe to be notified when a new post is published.
Many moons ago, blogs started life as online journals. They were written by people for no other reason that to share their stories and link up with like-minded individuals.
It wasn’t long before audiences grew and some bloggers started using adverts. This was the dawn of the professional blogger, people who used blogs for income generation.
Blogs were built on an incredibly simple and effective content management system. The ease of updating webpages with this system was soon spotted and embraced by the business world.
Nowadays, businesses use blogs as a way to add regular new content to their websites. A cost-effective and increasingly important marketing tool in their toolbox.
REASONS YOUR SMALL BUSINESS CAN BENEFIT FROM A BLOG
So, why is having a regularly updated page, a blog, important for your small business?
#1 PEOPLE ARE LOOKING FOR ANSWERS
When people go to the Internet, they are looking for entertainment or answers. They need a fix for a problem, sometimes referred to as their pain point.
Having a blog means you have a vehicle to address those pain points. A vehicle that can be searched and indexed by Google, more and more the first point of call for initial consumer research.
"48% of mobile research by consumers starts with a search engine." Smart Insights
Your content should be created to answer people’s questions. What questions are they asking when they carry out their initial research? What stops people purchasing your product or service? Answers to these questions will form the basis of your blog content.
Make sure you are one of the businesses found when people start searching.
Give it a try: I’m sure you get asked the same questions over and over again. How can you answer these in a helpful blog post?
#2 ENCOURAGES PEOPLE TO RETURN TO YOUR WEBSITE
If you have a simple business website, you can get a local listing on Google or in a business directory. You can supply key information your customers need, for example, where you are, what you do, when you are open and how to contact you.
If this describes your own website, then it’s referred to as static. It’s useful information, yes, but it doesn’t change. Once I have the information I need, I don’t really have any need to come back.
If you add a blog to your static website, I suddenly have a reason to come back. I know that there is a chance new articles and information will be added on a regular basis.
If visitors know you will be adding new information, they can then choose to follow you on social media, sign up for a newsletter, or automatically received new posts (via a feed reader).
A blog gives your visitors a reason to come back.
Give it a try: Make sure you have a way for people to keep in touch with you. Ideally, this should be in the form of a mailing list. You can then share new articles with your mailing list and encourage them back to your site.
#3 BRINGS TRAFFIC TO YOUR WEBSITE OVER & OVER AGAIN
You keep adding pages to your website in the form of blog posts. This means you have more pages for search engines to index. More pages equals more traffic potential.
Companies that blog have 434% more indexed page. Hubspot
Unlike social media posts that are there one day and gone the next, these additional pages continue to draw traffic to your site long after you’ve written them.
If you consistently add new articles, your blog, like a decent wine, will just get better and better with age.
Give it a try: Commit to a regular blogging schedule, whatever that means for you. Even if you only post once a month or every other week, start building that bank of blog posts that will pay you back for years to come.
#4 SEARCH ENGINES LIKE REGULAR NEW MATERIAL
Google notices when you put something new on your website.
"60% of marketers are prioritising blog posts this year." Hubspot Inbound - Content Priorities
Blogs make it easy to add new information. The more you post, the more SEO juice you add to your website. The more juice, the more likely you are to be found.
Give it a try: Grab Google’s attention with some regular content. Not sure where to start? Look at those questions or reservations your customers come up with over and over. Be the one to answer their question when they start doing their online research.
#5 YOU CAN SEE WHAT YOUR CUSTOMERS READ AND SHARE
Blogs give you stats and these stats can give you valuable information you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
We know what we think our customers want to know.
Seeing the real figures in the form of blog stats means, we actually know what our customers are reading and sharing. They are telling you want they want.
When you know what they are interested in, you can create more of the same content.
Give it a try: Check you have Google Analytics linked to your blog. Although Google Analytics looks a little confusing at the start, it can give you some simple metrics you can monitor on a monthly basis and will highlight your popular posts.
#6 OPPORTUNITY TO SHOWCASE YOUR EXPERTISE
If you have a customer in front of you, it’s easy for you to show them how much you know about your industry. Unfortunately, we don't always get to meet customers face to face, especially with the surge in online research and shopping.
It’s all about trust.
"We purchase based on trust, and blogs drive highest percentage conversion from trust to action." Blog Her, Women & Social Media in 2012
Blogs give small businesses a platform to demonstrate their expertise and showcase their knowledge, while consumers are still in their ‘research’ phase. Being online means you can do this in a multi-media format, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You are always online and accessible even when your business is closed.
Give it a try: When planning your content, consider what articles you could write that would showcase your industry knowledge. Show me you are someone I can trust.
#7 EXPLAIN THE STORY BEHIND YOUR BUSINESS
People love stories. Stories attract, engage, convert and sell.
A blog is the perfect place to tell people why you do what you do, the way you do it.
"84% say brand awareness is most important content marketing goal." CMI B2B Content Marketing 2015: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends
Show people what goes on behind the scenes. Who is working for you? What’s your process? What’s your vision? What’s different/relevant/special about the way you do it?
Use your blog to reveal the personality and voice hiding behind your brand. In the online world, authentic is most definitely the new black!
Give it a try: Starts capturing photos and videos of your business in action. These can be used for blog posts but are also popular on social media.
#8 BUILD AN EMAIL LIST
It's the much lauded asset for any business. Direct email contact with current or prospective customers. People who've already expressed an interest in what you do.
There are many places you can capture email addresses and a blog is one of those.
Signups should be prominent:
As people arrive on your blog.
Scattered throughout your blog posts.
On your sidebar.
On non-annoying pop-ups (yes, there is such a thing).
Give it a try: Create something as an optin (a gift for signing up) that would be of real value to your customers. A checklist, worksheet, top tips, etc. It’s a tried-and-tested way to increase signups and an opportunity to show people you know your business.
#9 GIVES YOU SOMETHING TO SHARE
Social media is information hungry. If you’ve been neglecting yours because you never know what to share, you’ll know what I mean.
A blog post gives you something you can repurpose and reuse on all of your social media accounts. Creating blog posts, in any format, is time consuming. Make sure that blog posts gets chopped up and shared all over the place.
Give it a try: Take a look at a popular blog post you’ve written. Look for quotes you can pull from the content and turn these into text and images for sharing on social media.
#10 GIVES OTHERS THE ABILITY TO SHARE YOUR BRAND
And, by the same token, it gives other people something they can share of yours.
I share a lot of the articles I find on the web on social media. This gives me a wealth of useful and relevant information I can share with my audience. This information doesn’t compete with mine, rather it complements what I do.
Having blog content means you have something people can share with their audiences, widening your marketing reach beyond the confines of your own following.
Give it a try: Make it easy for people to share your content. Look for a plugin that puts share buttons on all your blog posts. I use SumoMe for the grey share buttons you can see on the left of the screen.
#11 ANOTHER WAY TO CONNECT WITH YOUR AUDIENCE
You want to make it as easy as possible for people to find and contact you.
A blog is another channel and another way to connect. What’s so nice about it is, you can connect in a helpful way. Rather than a hard sell, you can be helping someone address a pain point or be entertaining them.
“Best way to sell something: don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect, and trust of those who might buy.” Rand Fishkin
A small-business blog is a great tool for showing your business in a positive light.
Give it a try: When you write a blog post, make sure you include a Call to Action at the end. This means you simply ask people to do something. It might be signup for your newsletter, asking them to comment on the article, encouraging them to follow you on social media, etc. Start a conversation.
#12 GIVES YOU A HOME BASE ONLINE
No matter what social media tools come and go, or how much they change their algorithms (rules of operating), your blog becomes a home base online. It’s yours, you own it and control the content. You can group and present the content in ways that best suit your audience.
Over time, it builds into to a bank of knowledge and expertise, accessible and shareable, and a resource that will keep working for you 24 hours a day for years to come.
Give it a try: Look at your online presence beyond your website and/or blog. Does it all point back to your home base? Make sure your social media and directory profiles all point back to your website.
Writing any old thing, as and when you have the time, won’t do anything for your small business. In fact, you will resent the time you spend on it as you'll see little return and feel you should be doing other things.
Embraced as an affordable and effective marketing tool, however, it puts a whole new light on the time you invest in it. It will be working just as hard for you in two years time as it is now. There aren’t many marketing tools you can say that for. An advert has an immediate but temporary impact. Social media, as we all know, is a constant stream of water-cooler moments.
A blog, however, is a member of your team. Something open all day every day, showing your company in its best light, and engaging with potential customers you haven’t even met yet.
Are you sure you don’t need a blog?