I have now been blogging for several years. So, has it all been worth it?
My blog is one of my most important marketing tools and, as such, well worth my time and effort. I can point to many clients and say that our working relationship began because of my blog. And that is an exciting and hugely motivating thought for me.
That is not to say that my blogging journey has been all smooth sailing. However, I am a great believer that you learn more from your mistakes than from your successes.
As a result, (and because I love to share) here are ten lessons that I have learned from my small business blog.
1. Quality matters
When I first started to blog, I felt that I should post each day—or at least three times a week. I believed that I had to pepper the web with content in the hope that something would stick.
This belief was wrong—oh how it was wrong.
The thing is, it just wasn’t realistic. While running a small business, I didn’t have the time to blog that much. Not while maintaining the high quality and consistency that I cared about.
Since then, I have discovered that, not only is it okay to choose a more realistic blogging schedule, it is positively encouraged. According to expert blogger John Morrow:
“One well-written, well-thought-out blog post can get you more links and traffic than hundreds of hurried ones… Cut back on the quantity, and focus on the quality.”
Once I realized this, I felt free. I decided to write one truly valuable post a week and then spend time on promotion.
And there’s more… deciding on my best blogging frequency enabled me to own my blog. I no longer had to slavishly follow what other bloggers were doing. In turn, that gave me the confidence to be ‘me’ in my writing. To tell my stories, share my expertise and to use my own voice. I am not a huge corporate entity. I am a human who just wants to help other humans.
In this way, your blog will allow your readers to get to know the real you and from there decide if they would like to work with you in the future.
2. Don’t be shy: promote your blog!
Blogging can feel like a thankless task at times.
With the mountain of content out there vying for attention, you can be forgiven for feeling that no one is ever going to read the words you have put your heart and soul into creating.
I have, in the past, been so excited about a post that I have been sure it will generate lots of feedback. Then… well it’s been crickets (love that phrase btw).
My mistake was that I only promoted each blog once and expected everyone to see it. Things just don’t work that way. If you have a post to be proud of, promote it!
Share your post on your social media networks and include it in your newsletters and magazines. Tell your contacts and colleagues about your blog and send a link to your email list. Repurpose your content by creating a SlideShare presentation or video based on your blog.
Don’t be shy. Share and share again—particularly for your more evergreen content.
You don’t have to promote your blog content manually. You can use social media automation tools such as Edgar, Hootsuite and Buffer (which I use) to schedule your posts. Win-win!
3. Create an editorial schedule
Editorial schedules rock—seriously.
When I started, I didn’t have one and would sit down to write my blog and hope for inspiration. Now that I have a schedule, I feel much more confident and in control.
Having an editorial schedule allows me to ponder each forthcoming topic, consider all the interesting angles and keep an eye out for what others are saying about the subject.
To start, I brainstorm blog ideas. What is my audience interested in? How can I help them? You need to create content that is of significant value to your audience.
You can then plot these article topics on a calendar. Add ideas based on events or conferences in your industry, anniversaries, product launches (reviews make great blog posts), and you can even use the seasons to help inspire content.
I use a number of different tools to help me create my editorial calendar. To start, I use project management tool Trello to collate and manage my ideas. I then move on to a (so old school) paper wall calendar so that I can visualize the entire year and plot my posts.
From there, I enter my blog topics into my Google Calendar. Finally, every month, I create a Trello board for each of my forthcoming blogs so that I have an online, accessible space to collect key information and ideas.
4. Take the time to create an awesome headline
Of all the content that you create, you should spend the most time crafting your headline. For me, the best results come when I push myself. So, I will create a headline that I like and then keep going until it is a headline that I love.
I often create 15-20 headlines before I am satisfied. I have recently discovered a great tool that helps me in this process. CoSchedule’s Blog Post Headline Analyzer is a great way to road-test the effectiveness of your headline. It gives each headline a percentage rating and suggests ways that you can improve it.
5. Get started and get structured
Once I have aced my headline, I start to write. Now, I have learned over many years that you don’t go for perfect in your first draft. Just get it down.
The thing is, you can (and will) come back later to edit your content and focus on your blog’s structure. So don’t put yourself under pressure at the start. It is so much easier to knock a blog into shape once you have some words on the page.
When completed, I look at the blog’s structure. I ask myself: is my first paragraph compelling? Have I made good use of bolding, brackets, italics and white space? Are my paragraphs short and pithy?
Remember content isn’t everything—you have to consider the whole experience of reading your blog.
6. Use visuals
We process images 60,000 faster than text. I find that statistic fascinating, which is perhaps why images play such a vital role in my blog.
When I write, I look out for key points or phrases that would work well visually. I typically pick between two to four such phrases and place them at regular intervals throughout my blog.
I then consider what image types I could use. For example, do I want to create an infographic? Or do I want to emphasise a key point by placing that text on a stunning (and visually relevant) image?
I search for these images via online stock photo libraries. Libraries such as iStockPhoto and Shutterstock offer lots of high quality images relatively cheaply. However, if you, like me, want to use lots of images on a regular basis, I would suggest you try royalty free sites such as Pixabay. Pixabay allows you to use and amend its images free of charge.
Wait… you're not a graphic designer?
Well, neither am I! Thankfully, there are lots of online tools to help you make truly stunning images.
For example, I use Canva, Picmonkey and (for mobile image creation) an app called WordSwag. Check them out and have a play—but watch out, they are super addictive!
7. Remember SEO when writing
Google loves fresh content—one of the reasons why blogging regularly is so valuable. Therefore, it is important to remember your SEO when writing.
As with my web page content, I always consider my keywords. I don’t stuff my blog full of them, but I do make sure to optimize my posts with my keywords and phrases.
In addition, I always optimise my images. I don’t know how many images I’ve saved called "Pic Presents Image XX" before I realized the SEO impact of a filename. Now, I ensure all my images are named using relevant keywords.
Also, don’t forget that Google cannot read visuals. You need to use the image’s Alt Tag box to add a keyword rich description.
8. Take time to edit
It is so important to give yourself time to proofread and edit your blog. I always take a break between writing and proofing because, otherwise, I see what I want to see rather than what is actually there.
I edit and proofread several times before I publish a blog. I find this prevents (hopefully) any silly mistakes from making it through.
9. Don’t forget your call-to-action
There are many reasons for running a blog. You want to help, inspire and entertain your audience. However, you also want your blog to benefit your business.
What would you like your audience to do after reading your blog? Would you like them to join your email list? Would you like them to take a look at a new product or service that you offer?
Whatever the case, make sure that your CTA (Call To Action) is simple and obvious for your reader.
On my site, I use a variety of Calls To Action. For example, if I have a special deal, I will create a button and a pop-up to market that deal. At other times, I focus on building my email list or boosting my blog subscription numbers.
I use a tool from WisePops to create my pop up CTA. I then create a CTA button image and link it to a hidden page on my website where there is a sign-up form.
I use ColourLovers to pick out colors for my CTA buttons. I want my CTA to stand out from my color scheme and grab my reader’s attention. I then create my button using Canva or PicMonkey.
While it is important to include a CTA in your blog or on your website, it is equally important not to overwhelm your reader with too many options. Keep things clean and simple and test to see what works best for your business.
10. Keep going—don’t give up!
Blogging can be a lonely business. It can be tempting to give it up. Believe me, I know.
Just keep going.
You need to give yourself time to build your audience—consistency is crucial. If you keep producing targeted, valuable content and, if you promote that content effectively, you will get there.
I have to admit, I found it hard when I first started my blog. I was dedicating hours to creating valuable posts and I did find myself wondering if it was all worth my time.
Then things started to happen.
Small things at first, such as social media shares and likes. Then I noticed that my blog was driving more traffic to my website. After that came some engagement, inquiries and (cue a happy dance) appreciation.
For me, the opportunity to help and become part of a community was all the motivation I needed to keep going.
But then my blog did something amazing…
...it started to convert readers into clients. And I have not questioned the value of business blogging since.