Guest post by DEREK MILLER
For a business to thrive in today’s economy, a digital presence is a necessity. From developing a mobile-friendly website to optimizing social media channels to drive inbound traffic, there are several online tactics that can help companies excel online.
One of the most popular strategies for businesses to build their online presence is to start a blog. It’s estimated that companies who blog generate 67 percent more leads each month compared to companies that are not blogging. If you are thinking about starting a business blog for your company, here is everything you need to know.
WHAT IS A BUSINESS BLOG?
A business blog is a content publishing channel that is affiliated with a company. The blog itself can live on the same domain as the company’s website, on a subdomain, or on an entirely separate website altogether.
The term blogging is often thought of as personal diary or platform for individuals to share their opinions and ideas with the world. Blogging, however, has evolved well beyond this simplistic concept and is now one of the most powerful tools for brands to grow their online presence.
Blogging offers businesses a new channel to communicate with their target audience. Unlike social media, email, print, television or radio, a blog is an owned medium with which your brand has full control. This control allows your brand to dictate the context of what and how you communicate, the structure and format, as well as the surrounding environment. In other words, a business blog is a marketing channel that is completely controlled by the company.
BENEFITS OF STARTING A BUSINESS BLOG
As mentioned above, one of the main benefits to starting a business blog is the control you have. This doesn’t just refer to the message, a business blog also gives you control of the environment within which the message is delivered.
To illustrate this benefit, think about the limitations of other platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Twitter limits the length of your message to 140 characters. Facebook and Twitter both have templated pages that limit how your business pages are structured. On your blog, you can design the theme to match your style and you can write as long of an article as your heart desires. These freedoms help companies control the user experience better on a blog than on other marketing channels.
Control is just one of the benefits to starting a business blog. Another benefit is that blogs help businesses position themselves as thought leaders in their industry. By publishing informative and entertaining content on your business blog, visitors will start associating your brand as an influencer in the space. This helps build credibility and brand equity, while also driving leads and increasing sales.
HOW TO START A BUSINESS BLOG
If you’re ready to jumpstart your business’s digital marketing with a blog there are a few things you need to figure out.
Where is the blog going to live?
Does your current website have a content management system (CMS) that will allow you to easily publish blog posts? More than likely, if your site is built and hosted on WordPress, you probably have a way to create blog posts directly within your active theme.
If you want to build a completely new theme for your blog, however, you may want to put it on a sub-domain, sub-folder, or completely different domain. There are pros and cons to each tactic, but typically speaking, it is better to host the blog on your same domain either through the main theme, a sub-domain or sub-folder.
Who is your audience?
Before you ever start a business blog, you need to know exactly who you are speaking to. Too many businesses create content for their blog without ever considering the audience they are hoping to attract.
Take time to look at your current client base and see if you can find any common themes or trends. Maybe your clients are predominately male. Maybe your clients operate in a specific business sector. Whatever trends you notice should be noted so that when you start to create content ideas you are focusing on issues and topics that your audience cares for.
If you can’t find any trends in your client base, look at your main competitors or industry leaders’ blog and see the content they are producing. Think about the audience that would care about those ideas and topics and extrapolate an audience persona using their content.
What action do you want them to take?
Your blog should have a very direct and obvious purpose. Content without a strategy is pointless. On every page of your blog, there should be a few different actions you want the user to take once landing on the page.
Obviously, you want the visitor to read the content. But, think more creatively about what conversions you are hoping to make from your blog. Do you want to build an email list? If so, create opt-in forms in the sidebar, after the content, or even lock a piece of content in exchange for an email.
Maybe you just want the user to engage with your brand. If so, make sure you have social buttons on the page, add a comment section, or highlight other content or a menu that encourages them to explore your site.
Whatever actions you want a user to take, make sure they are obvious. A visitor should always be guided toward some conversion.
How are you going to keep them coming back?
A great business blog is one that keeps visitors wanting to come back. Creating this level of interest in your audience is not easy. You need to be creating high-quality content, publishing consistently, and adding value to visitors across different levels of the sales cycle.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is creating too much company-centric content. Many businesses use their blog as a digital sales pitch. Much of the content is created just to highlight features of the company or showcase a new product. While this content is fine in moderation, don’t overdo it. Publishing too frequently about your product or brand will not provide value to the majority of people that visit your blog.
Rather, think about creating content that your competitors would share. Design engaging and insightful infographics, create long-form articles that provide unique insight, launch a webinar or podcast that covers issues relevant to your customers. Regardless of the format or context, just make sure you are providing value.
You may also want to publish content covering peripheral topics. For instance, if you run a CPA Firm, you should publish topics relevant to running a business and not just accounting or finance content. This will help you drive visitors to your site that may not immediately be interested in accounting, but once they land on your site and are given valuable information, they will likely remember your name when accounting needs come up.
Starting a business blog is a step in the right direction, but the work isn’t over once your blog is up and running. To maximize the value of your blog, take a strategic approach and be willing to invest in your content marketing.