It’s no surprise that small businesses don’t generally have much money to invest in their marketing.
In fact the average annual marketing budget for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is only £24,000.
Coming up with cost-effective ways to promote your business that provide a good return on investment is key especially when budgets are so tight.
While it’s still possible to grow an organic audience on social media they are fast becoming ‘pay-to-play’ platforms. That means small businesses need to find another way to get in front of their audience.
That’s where blogging comes in.
What is a blog?
This article you’re reading is a blog post. It’s a written piece of content that sits on your website ‘blog’ page. The important thing about blogging for your business is that the articles you write must be relevant and useful to your target audience.
If you run a cycle repair shop then you may write posts about ways to maintain your bike or the best local cycle routes. These types of articles would be interesting for your audience and relevant to your business.
Your business blog is a marketing channel (rather like your social media, email marketing etc.) and it will help to increase the traffic to your website and in turn more leads.
Does blogging really make a difference to small businesses?
The first thing to point out is that blogging will not make an instant difference to your business, it is a long-term strategy. According to a recent study it usually takes over 9 months to start seeing results.
That means you have to stick with it and post articles regularly. It can help to have a clear plan for what content you are going to produce in advance so that you aren’t always wondering what to write about next.
Spending the time to create regular blog posts that are relevant and engage with your audience will make a difference to your business. In fact, small businesses that blog, generate 126% more leads than those that don’t.
While you may see some amazing content being created regularly from large brands, blogging doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. As long as you’ve got a business website then adding a blog is no more difficult than creating a new page.
It’s something you can do yourself by setting aside a small amount of time each week or month.
Writing blogs can seem to take a long time to do especially when you’re trying to run the rest of your business. As a result blogging is something that small business owners often put off or do for a while and then stop.
Bear in mind that 70% of consumers learn about a company through their blog rather than any advertisements so it is something that your customers will be looking for.
If you don’t have the time or aren’t sure what to write about you can always outsource your blog writing, either to someone else in the business or by paying someone else to do it for you. There are even firms that will let you record your blogs audibly and transcribe them for you as well as optimise them for the right keywords.
Hopefully this has convinced you that creating a business blog is worth the effort. Here are 4 reasons why you should have a small business blog.
Establish your business as an industry or local expert
Whatever industry you are in, I expect you can name at least one company or person that stands out above the others as a trusted resource for information.
Even if you can’t think of anything for your industry perhaps you have other hobbies or interests that you regularly participate in. Whether it’s a favourite writer, vlogger or podcast there’s likely to be someone’s content that you enjoy reading, watching or listening to.
These brands or people have gone to great lengths to produce high quality content that is very useful to their audience. The content they create is of great value and provided for free.
By doing so they have become an industry expert and an authority that people turn to for information or inspiration.
You can also become an authority in your industry by following these same methods. Writing valuable content that is specifically targeted to your audience will make you a respected resource as well as building trust with your readers.
The more people that return to your website for the information you provide the more likely they will be to buy from you or become a client when the time comes as you will be fresh in their mind.
Having created this level of trust and engagement, you will find that nurtured customers make 47% larger purchases.
Being authentic and listening to your customers is important. Communication should be a two-way street. Always respond to any comments you get on your blog and use any questions you get to create new blog articles answering them.
The more you listen to your customers and write original, authentic content that is valuable, the more trust you will generate for your business.
Raise your search engine visibility
It can be daunting after building a website for your business to look at your search engine rankings and be disheartened. That’s especially true if you look at larger competitors and wonder how you’re ever going to compete with them on the likes of Google.
Firstly, let’s take a step back and look at how Google works. On a continual basis Google is trawling the internet and compiling everything into a giant database. When you type in a search query, Google almost immediately presents what it thinks are the most relevant pages to your search based on its own set of algorithms.
These algorithms are constantly evolving as Google gets better at working out what content we want to see based on our searches. While there are about 200 factors that Google takes into account when ranking pages some are more important than others.
In 2016, Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google named two of the most important ranking factors as links and content.
That means that creating content is hugely important in order to rank well in search results.
A report produced by leading inbound marketing platform Hubspot analysed the blogging data for over 13,500 of their customers. The table below shows their findings that companies who post over 16 blogs per month see over 3.5 times as much web traffic as those who produced between 0 to 4 a month.
They also looked at the ideal number of blog post per month by company size.
Companies with 1 – 10 employees: The small companies that publish 11 or more blog posts per month drive much higher traffic than companies of the same size that publish fewer than 11 blog posts. Those that published 11+ posts per month had almost 3X more traffic than companies publishing 0 – 1 monthly posts, and about 2X as much traffic as those publishing 2 – 5 monthly posts.
So, we know that quantity is important but it’s not just the quantity of content but also the quality of the content that effects your ranking.
How do we know what quality content is supposed to look like?
Fortunately, Google has produced some quality guidelines to make it clear what they are looking for.
Write for your audience
When producing a blog article for your website, think about how you can benefit the reader not how you can rank better on Google. If you are trying to cram in keywords in an effort to improve your rankings you will likely have the opposite effect.
Make sure your blog post is written in a clear, concise manner that speaks to the reader not to a search engine.
Try to make your articles stand out from anything that’s gone before. Think about what makes your perspective and company unique to stand out from your competition.
As well as writing for your audience you should also consider the overall length of the blog posts you write.
So how long should your blog posts be?
Coschedule analysed all of their blog posts to see if length made a difference to search rankings. They also compared their data with that from previous studies to see if there were any similarities.
They found that blog posts with around 2,500 words rank the best. That compares closely to Hubspot who found that between 2,250 and 2,500 words produced the highest rankings.
Buffer had a slightly lower average of around 1,600 words but they also show that up to a point, the longer the article the better it is likely to rank.
That doesn’t mean that every article you write needs to be that length as some topics won’t require as much of a discussion. You shouldn’t fill out an article just to hit a particular word count but always keep in mind what is best for the reader.
Don’t try and game the system
Back before search engine algorithms were as complex as they are today it was possible to try all manner of techniques to improve your search ranking using underhand tactics.
Keyword cloaking, such as writing lots of content in white text on a white background to fool search engines but not appear visible to visitors was a widely used practice many years ago.
Search engines have become far more sophisticated at detecting this type of manipulative behaviour and if you try these techniques now you will be heavily penalised.
Google is clear on the type of techniques to avoid:
- Automatically generated content
- Link schemes
- Creating pages with little or no original content
- Sneaky redirects
- Hidden text or links
- Scraped content
- Loading pages with irrelevant keywords
As long as you avoid the techniques above and make your content about the reader then you shouldn’t have any worries about being penalised by Google.
You should also avoid duplicate content on your site as Google will penalise you for this. If you are writing a blog post that is similar to another then make sure you aren’t copying and pasting from one to the other.
Increase your leads with blogging
Using your blog to generate more visitors and increase your search rankings is great but as a result of all that extra traffic you should also see a rise in the number of leads.
The more blog posts that you write, the more pages search engines will be able to index and rank you for. More visitors means more opportunities to convert them to leads. This is also why creating blog content is a long-term strategy. Being a small business there’s only so much content you can produce on your own or in a small team.
What is clear from the research from Hubspot is that over time, creating additional pages will have a positive impact on the number or leads you will generate.
When you are writing content for your site you need to take the buying cycle into consideration. It’s important to produce articles for different stages of buyer’s journey.
Somebody at the awareness state is looking for information, not a sales pitch. Make sure you provide content that’s going to answer their questions and take them closer to making a decision.
A good way to start thinking about what to write is to look at common questions you get from customers or difficulties that they are having. You can then use these questions to form the bases of your initial articles.
The awareness stage is where you want to concentrate the majority of your content as most of your visitors will be at this stage.
From there you can try to capture and convert those visitors through lead magnets such as free downloads and guides. Treat these lead magnets the same way as writing blog posts. You should always be focussed on delivering valuable resources that are relevant to your customers.
Online food publication, The Food Rush wanted to increase their lead generation by creating a downloadable guide called ‘Tips and Recipes to Help You Eat Well and Waste Less’.
They knew their audience well and crafted this useful e-book full of tips and recipes to eat better while wasting less.
By creating this relevant and high quality resource they were able to use that to generate leads. As a result of producing this lead magnet they were able to generate nearly 5 times the number of leads than they were getting before.
You can use a similar method for your business by creating a relevant lead for your target audience to increase your leads. It’s a great way of generating leads without being promotional, while providing a great resource for your customers.
It doesn’t have to be an e-book either. It could be a video, a cheat sheet or even a discount code. Think about what your customers would find valuable and create something useful for them.
Provide content for social sharing and email
Social media isn’t just about promoting your business. This is where the 80/20 rule (Pareto principle) comes into use. Only about 20% of the content you put out on social media should be promotional. The other 80% should be providing valuable, relevant content and engaging with your followers.
If you’re struggling with finding new content to post on your social media platforms then your own blog articles should be at the top of your list.
You will be sharing content written specifically for your customers that is non-promotional but directs them back to your website and provides great value.
The great thing about this content is that you don’t have to share your posts just the once. In fact you should be sharing them multiples times across your social media channels.
Research by Coschedule showed that sharing the same social post multiple times drove 192% more click-throughs.
That doesn’t mean that you should keep sharing the same thing over and over again. Reuse the content in different ways such as selecting quotes from the article to highlight. No-one likes a spammer so think about what you would find acceptable.
Articles on topics that stay relevant for long periods of time can be repeatedly re-used for as long as they are useful. If it’s a more topical piece then perhaps you need to update it regularly or be aware that it has a shorter lifespan.
While there are no hard and fast rules on now often you can post on different social media platforms, there are some general differences on acceptable posting frequency.
Kissmetrics have provided a useful timeline to give you an idea of what levels of posting frequency are acceptable on a number of major platforms.
You can clearly see that Twitter is a more immediate medium and you can share far more frequently without irritating your followers. Posting with the same regularity on Facebook, however, is likely to lose you followers quickly.
As well as social media you should also be sharing your blog articles to your email subscribers. We’ve already looked at using lead magnets to increase your email subscribers so make sure that you share your latest posts with them.
That doesn’t mean that you only share your blog posts with your subscribers but they should be part of your email communications. Keep providing relevant and useful resources for your subscribers and there’s no reason for them to unsubscribe from your list.
They’ll also more likely to be responsive when you do throw in a promotional email as they already know how valuable and trustworthy your information is.
There are so many positive reasons to start producing a blog for your small business that if you aren’t already embracing it then you should be.
A common complaint of small business owners is a lack of customers and also a lack of financial resources to dedicate to the business. The beauty of blogging is that over time you will generate more leads and more customers without spending much money.
What is required is a good understanding of your customers in order to focus your writing and create high quality, relevant articles that benefits them. In doing so you’ll not only get more customers but create a greater level of trust which inspires recommendation and repeat business.
Your blog articles will continue to deliver web traffic and leads over the long-term while paid advertising only works as long as you are spending money. While it does take time, consistency and commitment, by creating better, more relevant content you will be able to compete with the larger brands.
Do you have a blog for your business yet and if so what have your results been so far?
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