Published by NCR: Small Business Smarts on May 27, 2016: Bethanne Black, Author.
Perhaps blogging is not your first thought when it comes to marketing your business. But starting a blog can help you get where you want to go by increasing your online presence, establishing you as an expert within your industry, boosting consumer engagement with your business and ultimately increasing sales.
Blogging can also help your website rank higher in search, said Kristine B. Snively, founder and CEO of Pristine Public Relations, Inc. Snively creates blogs for a number of clients whose businesses have benefited from them.
Here are five specific ways blogging can help grow your business.
- Increase search engine optimization (SEO). Google and other search engines reward websites for producing unique, quality content. “Blogging on a consistent basis gives search engines new content to index, which will help raise your site’s ranking over time,” said Snively. A higher ranking means more traffic. “So now that you have the traffic, you have the opportunity to convert traffic into leads.”
- Generate leads. Blogs can generate new business when you include a clickable call to action, or CTA, said Snively. CTAs might take the customer to a free webinar to learn more about your business, for example.
- Establish your business as a “go to” resource. No matter your business type or size, you can build trust with customers by providing valuable information in your blog posts. “You can become a ‘go to’ resource for helpful, informative content,” Snively said.
- Build your brand. A blog helps you create a personal brand for your business and shape how customers perceive you, Snively said. “Reading your blog gives them a sense of who you are and what your company stands for.” A blog can also help you reach new customers. “Blogging allows you to show a more personal side of you business, connecting with potential new customers while maintaining existing relationships.”
- Create opportunities to share content. Each time you post a blog, you create an opportunity for readers to share it with others. Make it easy for them by including social media share buttons (icons that link to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest) in the blog. Put them where they’ll be most likely to catch the eye. “Studies show that the top left portion is the most-viewed portion of a Web page,” Snively said.
How to get started…
Whether your goal is to increase traffic to your website or build your social media following, blogging consistently is key.
“Think of blogging as a marathon, not a sprint. Your biggest challenge will be to gain a loyal following. To do this, make the content genuine, useful and interesting for readers. Inject your personality and business philosophies into each post.”
Choose a blogging platform. Snively recommended WordPress, an easy-to-implement platform with different layouts to choose from. “This also gives our clients more control over their blog, allowing them to make changes themselves and content updates as needed without having to know complicated HTML code,” Snively said. If you don’t like the templates WordPress offers, WordPress allows you to use one from another platform, such as Templatemonster.com or Themeforest.net.
Choose a domain name and Web host. The domain name is the URL of your blog site, and the Web host is the company that places your website on the Internet. Everything will be saved in this space, so think of it as your computer’s hard drive on the Internet, Snively said.
Don’t be afraid to go long. Online readers may indeed have short attention spans, but studies show longer blog posts are shared more often on social media and rank higher in search than shorter posts. “If your goal is to get more social media shares,” said Snively, “write a medium length blog post — between 600 and 1,250 words. If you want to rank higher in search engines, the longer the blog, the better, up to 2,500 words.”
Blog consistently. In terms of how often to blog, there is no magic number. But blogging consistently is key. “If you post every day for a week and then do not write a post for another three weeks, you reduce the chance of developing a loyal following. The infrequency affects how your blog is ranked in search engines. Blogging on a consistent basis over time is much more important than the number of posts you create,” Snively said.
Include video content when possible. Video content differentiates you from your competitors and captures a much larger audience than text alone, said Snively. “Be creative with how you present your video content. Combine video with text posts and interesting images, which creates a richer user experience.”
Maximize your blog content. One way to do this, said Snively, is to distribute your most popular posts (use Google Analytics to measure your blog’s traffic) in a monthly email newsletter to your list of contacts. Include only one paragraph of each post to capture readers’ attention, with a link to the rest. This is also an excellent way to increase readership.