[Estimated reading time: 10 Minutes]
Have you been meaning to start a blog for your business but not gotten around to it? It’s difficult to take the plunge but it doesn’t need to be as hard as you think. I’m hoping this post will give you the spark you need to finally put your fingers to the keyboard.
I’m not sure what the tipping point was for me. All I know is that one day I sat down and started a blog, my first business blog and I never looked back.
Listen to my 7 steps for creating a blog for your business:
Taking the plunge
If you’ve been procrastinating about blogging for a while let it stop here. Don’t wait and decide on a platform, on hosting, on getting the perfect design, just sit down and write something.
Sit down, set a timer to keep you on your toes and write. If you are stuck for inspiration try some of these ideas. Once you have written your first post, be it 100 words or 1000 you will have the motivation to get it online. You’ll be excited and nervous and ready to share with the world.
I remember how I felt when I wrote my first post, it may have been short but I was delighted and shaking with excitement when I hit the publish button.
Of course, you may have written some content but you haven’t started your business blog yet. Grab that excitement you feel, it will keep you moving onwards.
Now it’s time to get thinking about the nitty gritty. There are seven things you need to consider before you create your business blog.
1. What platform should you use?
I’m going to suggest something that you might think is a bit odd. I’m not going to recommend setting up a blog straight away. Instead, I suggest you publish your post to LinkedIn or in Facebook notes. Whichever you have the strongest presence on.
Publishing on LinkedIn is simple. Go to your homepage and click the ‘Write an article’ button. This will bring you into a blogging interface. It works just like a real blog, you can add text, images links and embed rich content. Your master image appears on the masthead of the page.
There are advantages of publishing on LinkedIn:
- Everyone you are connected to will get a notification that you have published a post and the title of the post. it’s a great way to get eyes on your content.
- Your 3 most recent posts will sit just underneath your photo on your LinkedIn profile, it will show visitors you know what you are talking about.
To publish Facebook notes to a business page you may need to add the ‘Notes’ app.
You can add links, text styling, and images to your note. Your key image, similar to LinkedIn, forms the masthead on your post.
LinkedIn Publishing or Facebook Notes are a good place to start and test your own commitment to blogging but once you are comfortable with creating regular content you should move over to your own platform.
Your own blogging platform, which should you choose?
Your own website
Ideally, your blog should be part of your existing website. This isn’t always possible, your existing CMS (content management system) may not allow blogging.
Each blog post needs to act as an individual page on your site. Many websites try to fudge this by either having a very long page that they update each time they want to blog or they do something like upload PDF’s each time they have a new post. Neither of these workarounds constitutes a blog.
Here’s why. Each post needs its own URL (link):
- So readers can find and share it. If you have one long page they will be unable to find the post they want to read. If it’s a PDF they are limited to where they can read it and often leave rather than click.
- So that search engines can optimise the page, understand what it’s about and index it correctly.
- So that you can analyse the results of your blogging efforts and understand exactly what is working for you and what isn’t
If you existing site doesn’t allow blogging set up a blog in the same hosting space as your existing site. It’s not the perfect solution. You’ll be running two websites and it will be harder for readers to transition between the two. But it’s a good quick fix until you have the time and budget to upgrade your whole site.
When I teach blogging workshops I put a big smiley face next to WordPress.org on my slides. I’m a big fan. WordPress.org is self-hosted so you will need to buy hosting space and a domain name (I’ll talk about this shortly) but it will give you far more control. You can customise, add little applications (plugins) and make it do exactly what you want. Once it’s installed it’s really simple to use. There are other self-hosted alternatives, Joomla and Drupal are just two. I haven’t used either but I’ve heard good things.
If you have an existing hosting space you will need to check that it’s capable of running WordPress. Contact your host for more info.
Having your own site in your own hosting space is the ideal but if you aren’t ready for that, perhaps you don’t have the budget to upgrade your site and hosting, perhaps you need tech help, there are some alternatives.
Blogger is a blogging platform from Google, it’s pretty basic and is really designed for personal blogging. On the plus side, it’s very easy to use and set up (you basically sign up with your Gmail account). There are some really successful bloggers using Blogger, take a look at Cherry Sue Doin’ The Do for a good example.
Medium is the cool kid on the block at the moment. Visually it’s very similar to LinkedIn posts or Facebook Notes with its clean design. Medium is a community as well as a blogging platform so has the added benefit of reach beyond your regular social channels and search engines. I like the simplicity of this platform. As a primary blog for your business, it lacks features that will turn readers into customers.
Tumblr is a mini-blogging platform. It’s for sharing snippets of info, photos and videos. It’s often used to curate content. Like Medium it’s a social network as well as a blogging platform so it can be a good place to connect with people. Some large organisations have embraced Tumblr. General Electric have a fun one 6 Second Science Fair, where they curate user-generated vine videos of science experiments for kids..
For me, this isn’t a good place to create your core company blog but it might be a good second blogging platform for content you want to curate.
WordPress.com. Although I’m a big WordPress.org fan I’m not a big advocate of WordPress.com. It may share the name and be owned by the same company but it’s very different. You don’t need to invest in hosting space or a domain to get started on WordPress but if you want business features like Google Analytics or your own web address you will need to pay.
It’s a great platform for personal blogging but I’d rather spend money on hosting and domain than have to pay for business functionality on WordPress.com. It’s not all bad, some excellent business blogs are hosted on WordPress including believe it or not the Facebook newsroom.
If a website is your house, hosting is the land that it is built on and your domain name is your address.
If you have an existing website for your business you probably have website hosting already, in many cases you will be able to add a blog to your existing site but if not you should be able to upload your WordPress (or other blog site) to the same space.
There are some requirements for your hosting to allow WordPress or other blogging platforms to run. Check with the company you host with to find out which packages they have that support them.
3. Domain name
Your domain name is your web address. It’s the link that you give people so they can find your site. If you have your own website already you will have a domain. It will be www.nameofyourwebsite.com.
In most cases your blog will reside in the same domain: www.nameofyoursite.com/blog. If you host your blog in a different space to your main website you’ll need to create a subdomain for example blog.nameofyoursite.com.
The first option is preferable. It’s thought that subdomains restrict your search engine rankings. SEO is one of the major benefits of blogging so you don’t want that.
If you don’t have a website yet it’s time to get creative choosing a website name. You have lots of options for your top level domain these days. In the past you were limited to .com or country specific domains like .ie or .co.uk. Now you have hundreds of choices.
I’m a bit old school so I like to go with a .com. I’m sure those new top-level domains will grow in popularity but I have the feeling that people still tend to type .com at the end of a business name when they are looking for their site.
If you are worried about others stealing variations of your domain you can purchase as many as you like. If you are in Ireland you might want to get .ie as well as .com you may even consider buying .porn and .xxx so they can’t be used to troll your business, this can prove pricy though.
You only need one website, if you want to use more than one domain you can point them at the same site. I know Lorna Sixsmith does this. Her irishfarmerette.com domain points at her lornasixsmith.com site.
Design is a big consideration when you create your business blog but don’t let it tie you down. Your blog design will probably evolve over time, I know mine has.
I recommend putting a style guide together for your business before choosing a design. Find out more about visual style guides here.
Review some other blogs for inspiration. Try out the navigation, is it easy to find what you want? Can you contact the company? find their products and services? Make notes about what you like and don’t like.
Try to avoid the temptation of doing exactly what everyone else is doing. Just like clothing web design has fashions and trends. For example, never-ending scroll websites are popular at the moment. If you choose this style your site is likely to blend in with everyone else’s, you want to stand out.
If you find a WordPress site you really like you can use What WordPress Theme Is This to find out what theme (if any) they are using.
Here are some basic blog design elements you need to consider:
1. Do you want a sidebar?
2. Do you want your homepage to be your blog or a stand alone page?
3. What items is important to have in your main navigation bar?
4. What do you want readers to do when they land on your site?
The more specific you are about what you want the easier the relationship you will have with your web developer.
5. Define your audience
Blogging has the tendency to be self-indulgent. Take a step back and think about your ideal reader, will your content attact them? When you know who you are writing for you’ll always get better results.
You are likely to have more than one kind of reader. Segment your customers into groups and create a customer persona for each type. Find out more on how to do that here.
I try to have at least two months of content planned in advance. This makes it easier to be consistent, I also find that the quality of my posts is better when I’m not writing off the cuff.
How often will you blog?
The bare minimum is once a month, this shows visitors that your site is active. I recommend updating your blog more frequently. It’s easier to stay motivated when blogging is a common task. I’ve always struggled with my monthly newsletter precisely because it seems more like a chore when I have to write it once a month.
Although I encourage frequent blogging, be careful of over-stretching yourself. Starting a blog is a bit like the honeymoon period in a relationship, at the beginning it’s wonderful and you can’t get enough but you soon find yourself slipping into something more comfortable.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the most of the inspiration whilst you have it. Write as many posts as you can and schedule them out one week at a time. This gives you some breathing space and gives you the chance to re-read and improve those posts before they go live.
- The spreadsheet helps me plan the next few months and tie the content to my social posts.
- Co-schedule helps me plan content and social sharing of that content for the week ahead.
- Evernote is where I keep ideas when they fly into my head.
If you are stuck for content ideas have a listen back to episode 31, write a list of blog topic ideas and start to slot them into your schedule.
7. Measurement plan
Measurement is what keeps me blogging. If I can see my statistics going in the right direction I know that the work is paying off. Without some sort of measurement you’ll find your motivation waning. If possible install Google analytics and keep tabs on some key statistics.
If you are new to blogging you might want to keep it simple at first and focus on website visitors. As you become more accomplished you will want to add things like time on site and goals completed (sales). I’m not going to go into analytics in detail today but it’s something I’m going to cover coming months.
This week’s challenge is for you blogging newbies. I’m not going to make you take the plunge, I’m just asking for you to paddle in the shallows today:
Write a post now, today and publish it either on LinkedIn or Facebook notes.
Let me know in the comments if you publish, I’d love to see your work.
If you’ve been following my challenges or if you have done something on your blog that has worked well I’d love to hear about it. You can leave me a comment below, tweet me @spiderworking or snap me @spiderworking.
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