For many small businesses, simply getting a website up and running can seem like an enormous task in and of itself. And it's perfectly tempting to build a decent site layout (one that will work with both desktop and mobile, of course) and then let it sit. But for businesses that want to truly stand out among the plethora of industry sites, building a good-looking website is just the tip of the iceberg. Because once a layout is in place, it's time to start providing audiences with quality content. And that means creating a blog.
Of course, the first thoughts that come to many small business owners' minds are more than likely along the lines of, "Why should I blog? I barely have time for everything else I need to do right now as it is!"
While time constraints may seem overwhelming, there's no denying that building a blog with quality content can have a major impact on the success of any new business. As Forbes notes, digital audiences have a strong desire to gain information from experts on a wide range of topics-and small business owners tend to be experts on their product or service and its associated industry.
Combining one's industry knowledge with the ability to market oneself as an authoritative source on a particular subject gives small business owners a distinct advantage when they blog, especially since blogs are one of the most trusted sources of information on the Web today. Regularly updated blogs also help shape the voice of the company, giving it personality that audiences can more easily connect with.
Just like any other aspect of a small business, a blog won't be worth doing unless it brings some sort of tangible benefit to the company. Thankfully, there's plenty to indicate that creating an engaging blog can provide a significant return on investment for small businesses that take the time to regularly provide quality posts for their digital audience.
First and foremost, quality posts encourage sharing through social media and generate new inbound links as other websites use your blog as a source of credible information. The generation of inbound links is vital for any SEO efforts that hope to move a site to the top of Google's search rankings, and writing a high-quality, authoritative blog creates more opportunities for those links to be generated organically.
Of course, what ultimately matters for young companies (or any business, for that matter) are the sales. And blogs are no slackers in this department, either. Research on the subject has found that business-to-business companies that use blogs receive 67 percent more leads than their competitors, while small businesses that use a blog experience up to 126 percent higher lead growth than non-bloggers. So while building a quality blog may require a fair amount of time, it can be well worth the effort.
Building a Successful Blog
By now you've probably gotten enough information to convince you that taking the extra time to create a blog for your website is a worthwhile idea. But how do you go about building quality content that will generate that boost in SEO and sale leads? It's not as intense a process as you might think.
The first step is to make sure any and all content that is pushed through a blog helps establish your position as an "industry thought leader." While it's perfectly acceptable (and even recommended) to let your personality shine through in blog content, it is absolutely necessary to stick to your area of expertise for blog posts. Don't blog about what the office's favorite lunch is-unless you can find a creative, relevant and insightful way to link it to your industry.
Choosing topics may not always be an easy task, but researching what topics are trending in your industry of expertise-be it through following industry leaders on social media, reading other industry blogs or following the latest news stories-can provide ample inspiration for topics where you can offer your own unique insights and expertise. Filtering these resources through the lens of what your audience would actually find interesting and beneficial will ensure that content builds your brand.
Popular types of blog posts include how-to articles, lists, product reviews, opinion pieces and infographics. These posts offer readers useful and insightful information that they crave. And when readers recognize that your posts are consistently helpful and informative, they'll keep coming back for more-which will help improve Google rankings, social media reach and sales leads.
Of course, a business could have an extremely well-written blog, but never gain much traction if certain steps are not taken to improve its reach and visibility. Content Marketing Institute recommends linking to other authoritative, quality sources of information that are likely to share your content after you let them know that you included a link to their post. Reaching out to other influencers for quotes on a topic can also generate new traffic as they then link to the blog post featuring their insight.
Any company or industry blog ultimately falls under the umbrella of content marketing, and should be treated as such. In addition to reaching out to other reputable sources for quotes and links, blog posts need to be pushed through owned social media channels (preferably with hashtags that will boost their reach) and incorporate relevant keywords for SEO purposes to help ensure that potential customers can find your latest useful post.
The most important step is to write well and write often. While this may seem like an impossibly difficult task, it's more than doable. For many industry leaders, a little practice is all that is needed to get their writing quality up to snuff. And even if your writing skills are completely hopeless (which is unlikely), chances are there is someone within your business who can turn your industry expertise into well-crafted content that will engage digital audiences. More than anything else, this is what will build your audience, keep them coming back for more and help mark your place on the digital landscape.