If you're a business owner, there's little doubt that you've thought about starting a blog. Blogs can help you attract website traffic, convert visitors into leads and build your reputation as an expert in your field. What's not to like?
Yet blogging requires a significant investment, and if you don't have your house in order it can be a magnificent waste of time.
Get your blog off to a good start by asking yourself these three questions before you write a single word.
1. Does Your Website Clearly State the Purpose of Your Business?
Now, please don't roll your eyes and dismiss this question. Take a moment to be objective and look at your website from the perspective of a first time visitor. What will they see when they click around?
If the purpose of your business isn't obvious, don't bother blogging until it is.
Your website should immediately communicate the following:
- Why you exist - Every business has a story, a reason for being. You offer a product or service because you think it will enhance the lives of those who use it. Your home page, services or products page and your about page must convey why you exist in the most clear and concise way possible.
- What you offer - Have you ever arrived at a website and struggled to determine what they sell? Avoid this at all costs. If your visitors can't figure it out in seconds, they'll lose interest. You address a specific need, desire or problem - spell it out using the simplest words possible. Leave nothing to the imagination.
- Who you serve - Many businesses are reluctant to "limit" themselves, but you can't be everything to everyone. Defining your target audience will help you craft your messaging to attract the right customers, and avoid wasting time on the wrong ones.
Determine who your target audience is and design your website to appeal to them. Use language and examples that will be meaningful to your ideal customer, and images that'll strike an emotional chord. When you attract the right visitor, you want them to feel like you "get" them. This will help you build trust and credibility that they'll remember.
For example, check out the home page for CoSchedule.
CoSchedule knows that marketers use calendars to manage their content and projects, and they offer a solution that brings all these calendars into one place so marketers can stay organized. They make this crystal clear with the primary statement on their home page - "#1 Marketing Calendar for Everything You Need Organized." Then they take it a step further by pointing to the types of calendars marketers use in the boxes below.
CoSchedule communicates why they exist, what they offer and who they serve right from their home page - before visitors make a single click.
If you can't articulate the purpose of your business, stop everything and figure it out. Blogging will not solve your problems. It might be a welcome distraction, but in the end your problems will still be there and you may only make them worse.
Work to gain internal alignment on your messaging and make sure it's clear on your website before moving on to your blog.
2. Are Your Communication Channels Set Up to Support Your Blog?
How will your target audience consume and interact with your blog posts? Will they read from their desktop or a mobile device? If inspired, how and where will they share your articles?
Before you hit publish, review your website, blog page and social channels to make sure you've taken care of every detail.
Here are a few things to check for:
- A mobile and desktop-friendly website to accommodate 'on-the-go' readers
- A blog page that encourages engagement and sharing
- Blog posts with SEO-friendly elements
- Active and complete social media profiles
- A properly configured website analytics tool
Writing an insightful, quality blog post is only the first step. Publishing it an environment that supports your readers and using every tool at your disposal to promote it is how you make it shine.
3. Do You Have A Designated Blog Owner?
If you're just starting a blog it's likely that you're relying on contributors who don't consider blogging their priority. This isn't unusual, and is a perfectly reasonable way to start. But without an owner, your blog will fail.
Someone needs to be responsible for the following tasks:
- Establishing an editorial calendar and holding contributors accountable
- Providing editorial support. Everyone needs a second set of eyes to review their writing - everyone
- Formatting, loading and publishing each post on time
- Promoting each blog post
- Checking all communication channels for issues and responding to any interactions
- Tracking and reporting results
If you only publish once or twice a month, there might be someone on your team who's willing to assume these tasks. If you want to publish more frequently, or are ready to be more strategic with your blogging, consider hiring someone with the necessary skills.
Business blogging is rewarding and it can be beneficial for your company, but starting a blog on a whim is not likely to deliver the best results. You might attract some attention, but if your business isn't ready, it could end up hurting your reputation in the long run.
Take the time to think through these questions first so you can make the most of this important investment.