Read This First: Blogging for beginners
Blogging is typically not what people get in business to do. Maybe you’re thinking, “I run an online retail store, I have no interest in being a blogger.” I feel you. I understand the reluctance. However, the fact you’ve clicked into this blog shows me you considering this option to help grow your business.
Below we’ll delve into why to start a blog and things to think about before launching. This post will not include the technical aspects of creating a domain, installing a template or publishing a completed post, because there are so many fab resources out there on this already. This post talks more about the reason behind blogging, and why I feel we should all embrace the concept of blogs as a content marketing tool. For transparency, I currently use Squarespace to host my website and blog which has a monthly fee, and one of their free templates. Blogging costs no extra on top of my pre-existing website plan.
Why Should I Blog?
Going into 2017, one of the most powerful marketing tools you will have at your disposal is your blog. Blogging is a next-to-free content marketing tool, available to your customer base 24/7 right from their own device. Regular blogging has the power to keep your business in the back of potential customers’ minds and be remembered through the noise of constant advertising day-in and day-out across all mediums.
The idea is to use unique content to generate interest, attract potential customers to your business, build a community and ultimately convert your followers into buyers. Blogging as a form of content marketing brings in readers from both search engines and social media. By utilizing your existing social media accounts, you can place valuable content right in front of the consumers’ eyes, positioning yourself as an authority and a go-to source of information. The goal is to attract the reader to your social media using hashtags and keywords, funnel them to your website, and convert them into a loyal client or customer.
Yet perhaps you’re concerned by the idea of putting figurative pen to paper because you’re worried nobody cares what you have to say. What if you spend your time writing, but nobody reads it? To be honest, nobody probably will at first. My first blog post must have had four readers, including myself, my mother and my boyfriend.
We don’t all start blogging with the celebrity of Oprah or Deepak Chopra, we build ourselves up with consistency. You must start somewhere, and nobody will think less of you from having to build your reputation from nothing.
Who & Why
So now let’s assume you’re ready to go ahead with blogging. What are you going to blog about? That’s easy, you just need to answer:
1. Who are you writing for?, and
2. What do you want to help them with?
Is your reader a certain age, gender or occupation? What is the problem they would come to you with? What knowledge do you have that they need? What are they working on, and what are they interested in? Who do you expect to read your posts, and why?
For most business owners, this answer will come easily. You exist for a reason, right?
For example, my business exists to help value-based businesses connect with customers who share their value sets. It’s my raison d’être! So, who am I writing for? Small business owners with strong ethics. And, what do I want to help them with? Writing web content that helps them connect with their ideal customer.
This understanding of “who and why” drives my content brainstorming and keeps me on topic, leading me to this very blog post you’re reading right now… explaining how you can connect with your customer.
So you’ve decided to write a blog and you’ve put a bit of thought into the kind of content you’re going to write. What you’re aiming for now is to build yourself a community around your blog. You want your reader to get to know you, grow to like you, and ultimately learn to trust you. This is how you build a reputation and a loyal customer-base, and this is how you convert your followers into sales. They don’t have to be your best friends (although that’s nice), but they just have to understand that you’re a genuine person and a true authority at what you do.
Readers need to be able to trust your blog to provide the information they want in a clear and succinct way. They trust you to answer their questions, guide their vision and be a valuable resource. That’s why they’re taking the time out of their day to read your words, whether it’s just once or they’re a daily subscriber.
The way to improve your know-like-trust factor is by writing the right content to attract the ‘who’ we discussed in the point above (know), being authentic and visible (like), and both being consistent and giving away knowledge for free (trust).
And what constitutes the right content...?
There are two things to remember here: Clarity and quality. Again we jump back to the “who” and “why” of this blog. Who are you speaking to, and what do they want to hear from you?
A popular way to brainstorm a set of blog posts is making a list or mind map of questions and turning the answers into blog posts. For example, 'What problems do I face working for myself?' or 'What do I find most difficult about maintaining a blog?' Identifying problems you face and ways you overcome them is a great way to create valuable content that will benefit readers who deal with the same struggles.
Some other questions to take away include:
- What boosts my productivity?
- What do others ask me about my work?
- What can I share about my creative process?
- What do I love about my job?
- Can I expand further on past topics?
What To Include
So before you go, what are the fundamental aspects of a blog you don’t want to overlook?
1. Giving your reader a way to read more or get in contact.
Link to old blog posts, provide a newsletter sign-up form, and include a contact form that gives them the chance to ask you questions. Don't just publish without a way to keep your reader.
2. Include an About page.
People are more willing to buy what you're selling if they understand you’re a real, genuine person. If you’re a sole business owner, an About page will suffice. If you’re a bigger company, you can include a short bio at the end of each blog post. We like to put faces to names.
3. A comment section.
Make sure you have an accessible comment section for your blog posts, and that it’s switched on! It took me months to fix the glitch on my blog that prevented commenters, so avoid my mistake and make sure you haven’t checked the wrong box there.
Blogging is an easy content marketing strategy everyone can start by themselves at any level of expertise. It's cheap, quick and easy to add a blog page to your website and get started. Many people flourish at blogging for themselves and see their community begin to grow immediately. Other others struggle with writing, don't have the time, or they just want to take it to the next level of professionalism. At this point they hire a freelance writer to manage the content creation for them.
Whether you give it a red hot go alone or you hire a professional, the above discussion points help you to define the direction of your blog and the role it will play in your business.