“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” ~Mark Twain
A business blog is essential in today’s online marketing climate. Customers are looking for reliable information to support their purchase decisions and you need to be there answering questions (just as you would via phone, email or in person). Even with all the talk and expert advice given that blogs are highly beneficial, many businesses still haven’t taken action. One obstacle is that many don’t know how to start a business blog.
I’ve been spending the last few months creating and facilitating some national training for car dealers on social media and online reputation management. In each training session, I ask attendees to raise their hands if they have a blog on their website. Not one has raised their hand so far.
Part of me is shocked…and part of me isn’t.
If you’ve thought about a blog for your business but haven’t taken the leap, maybe it’s because you haven’t seen the right kind of evidence. Here are 4 very important benefits that will hopefully sway you:
- A blog positions your brand as an authority to your target audience
- A blog creates and conveys a human element to your brand; you are “The Likable Expert”
- A blog is integral to your SEO strategy; a blog boosts search ranking and drives traffic to your site
- A blog increases engagement with buyers and fosters brand loyalty
With evidence like this, you’d be crazy NOT to consider a blog for your business. However, the act of considering and taking real action are not the same thing.
As part of your consideration process, you must factor in time, effort, skill and the expense (monetary or otherwise) of implementing a blog. It has to make sense for you but know this: in today’s “fact” based world of non-facts, providing reliable, trustworthy information is the difference between closing the sale or losing it to your competitor.
How to Start a Business Blog
These 8 steps are a roadmap to strengthen your footing with your new blog:
1. Begin with a Solid Content Action Plan
Before anything else, you must figure out what differentiates you from your competitors. It’s not that you sell for the lowest price or because you’re “Number One” in your market. Anyone and everyone claims that and people don’t believe you. The closer you can get to telling your brand’s authentic story, the better. Dissect the story of how you started and why you’re still here serving customers.
You must also figure out what your customers want to know, what they’re searching for, that will help them decide. Start with their most frequently asked questions. What are their concerns, questions, interests and frustrations?
Also, you’ll need to research the keywords and phrases you want to be found for with search engines. Your content plan should include keywords to make it easy for search engines to understand and rank your business.
Once you identify which keyword phrases that best represent the content you’ll be publishing, use them to name your content categories. Each time you make a blog post, that entry will be associated with one or more categories, creating a very search engine friendly repository of content.
2. Get Yourself a Fool-Proof Publishing Platform
WordPress is the best platform to use because of its versatility and ease of customization. You’ll want to choose the self-hosted version (not wordpress.com). We use WPEngine to host Kruse Control because they’ve shown superior leadership and customer support.
Be sure to install Google Analytics on your site to track all traffic and stats.
You’ll also need to customize your site with Plugins, which are simple pieces of code that support your publishing goals. There are thousands of plugins and the most beneficial ones to start with are:
- WordPress SEO by Yoast. Helps you optimize each post for search engines.
- Akismet. Filters out spam in comments and replies.
- Disqus. Makes commenting on your blog easy.
For automotive retail, there’s a very cool and valuable option called CarDealerPress. It’s a WordPress site already built for you with a low monthly subscription fee.
3. Customize Your Site
Choose a WordPress theme that fits your brand’s personality and marketing goals. If you’re new and have no experience with WordPress, I’d suggest hiring a developer to help. You’re creating an image in your prospects’ mind and your digital storefront should convey the best parts of your business.
4. Develop How You’ll Keep your Content Pipeline Full
Here’s where the hard work on your content action plan pays off. Write down all of your customers’ most frequently asked questions. Write down the questions they haven’t asked yet but need to. Answer each one with a blog post.
Take advantage of a content calendar. Start with the next 90-days in mind and plot out how often you’ll post and what subject matter you’ll concentrate on. Content calendars are a small extra step but the result is more well-informed content creators and customers.
And speaking of content creators, leverage your experts. Employees are on the front lines of your business. Their expertise, knowledge and experience come in handy when brainstorming ideas and carrying them out.
5. Publish (Remember: Perfect is the Enemy of Done)
You and your content creators speak for your brand and it’s easy to get caught up in the seriousness of it all. Fear will set in at some point (don’t think it won’t). Fear is a blog killer. It robs you of your confidence and positive energy.
Don’t bother with perfection – it’s an illusion. Create something everyday, no matter whether it’s “good” or “not-so-good.” Write what you’re passionate about and edit it later.
6. Syndicate Your Posts to Social Media
I share my blog posts often after they’re published. It’s okay to repeat share as long as what you’re writing is high quality. Not everyone sees your posts every time you share them so be bold. As time goes on, you’ll get a good feel for what your audience wants.
7. Make it Easy to Share
Always include a relevant image in your blog posts. When they’re shared on social media, the image appears as a thumbnail and enhances the chance of readership.
Install a social-sharing plugin so that users can share right from your post. We use Flare, an eye-catching social sharing bar. You can customize where the buttons land on your page, depending on how your WordPress theme is laid out, and it displays your share counts.
8. Track Your Results
It’s important to set goals for your business blog, a plan to execute tactics and most of all, measure progress. Google Analytics will meet the majority of your needs.
In addition, you’ll need to monitor social media. Social monitoring tools help you understand what your customers are saying about you. Your online reputation and customer reviews come into play here, too. Social Mention and Trackur are two great options.
If a customer complains about your company, monitoring tools alert you and allow you to address it quickly before others jump on the bandwagon.
These 8 important elements on how to start a business blog will get you traction. Keep in mind they’re nowhere near a comprehensive guide to a business blog. Even though there are free publishing tools and advice online, many companies would benefit greatly from professional guidance with their business blog.
If you’re anything like the training session attendees I mentioned earlier, I hope you’re closer to taking action. Your future business may just depend on it.