How blogging could deliver amazing results for your small or freelance business
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Once you've built your website, you'll need to turn your attention to attracting visitors. Unfortunately, this is the point where many people choose to do nothing (bad idea).
A better option is to run Pay per click (PPC) ads through a system like Google AdWords. However, you'll have to pay for each individual visitor to your website (not so good).
These days you can end up paying well over a dollar per click for the most popular keywords. This can quickly add up, and often proves unprofitable.
Fortunately, there's an even better way to attract a steady stream of visitors to your website over the long term. And you may be surprised to find it satisfying: all you have to do is write regular articles on what makes your job exciting and interesting. Then publish it on your blog.
What exactly is a blog and why is it so powerful?
You're reading a blog right now, so take a moment to look around (just make sure you come back). A blog is a website with chronologically-ordered articles or posts, which means the most recent post is always at the top of the page. Visitors can subscribe to your blog's RSS feed using a feed reader such as Google Reader. Most importantly, it's easy for visitors to leave comments.
And it's commenting that makes blogs so powerful, because no lie or boring article escapes unscathed. As a result, blogs have evolved into an entirely new but well-respected way of communicating. Of course, you don't just gain this respect the minute you start blogging, but you can earn it by writing good posts.
6 key advantages of blogs
- Regular, up-to-date news: Your website becomes dynamic. Your visitors will like this, but so will the search engines. It's even been said that “blog” really stands for Better Listing On Google... :)
- Rich source of keyword-relevant text for your business: This is the most valuable benefit of all, and you don't have to pay a cent for the search-engine traffic your blog generates.
- Stand out from the competition: Google rewards the first website to successfully cover a topic, especially if it's in a niche. And when customers understand what your work really entails, they're more likely to be prepared to pay higher prices. (More about this in the blue box below).
- Engage your customers in conversation through your blog's comments: This is an opportunity for you to show the world just how competent and customer-friendly your business can be. Comments also give you an insight into the opinions and mindset of your customers. This makes it easier to see the world through their eyes, instead of through the eyes of your business.
- Customers build a relationship with your brand: Visitors may have no interest in buying the first time they land on your blog, but you want them to remember your company when they come across your website in the future.
- Share your story with your customers: Do you own a clothing store? Then write about what interests you about the world of fashion. Who designs the clothes, and how does the design process work? Use your blog to show your authentic and personal side.
Case Study: How one company used blogging to significantly reduce its marketing budget.
River Pools and Spas sells swimming pools. Now, if you're wondering who would read a blog about swimming pools, well, the answer is prospective pool owners. Especially when that blog provides answers to questions such as:
- How much does it cost to relocate electricity cables for a pool?
- What kind of problems might I encounter with a chlorine generator system?
- What do I need to know about falls and slips?
Prospective pool buyers are searching Google for the answers to these kinds of questions every day. And they're directed to the website for River Pools and Spas rather than to their competitors, many of whom don't even have a blog. Here's a detailed case study on how this company developed its blog.
When should you not blog?
Blogging might not be for you if:
- You really don't like writing. But you don't have to be a professional writer to blog (unless you're a copywriter). What's important is that you write in a way that is authentic and interesting.
- You don't have the time or the energy to write regularly. But regularly doesn't mean every day. Even writing every two weeks can make a difference.
- Your product does not deliver as promised. Bear in mind that comments leave you open to criticism. If your product isn't up to scratch, improve it first - then blog about how you did it.
Remember that when you first start blogging, you'll probably have a small audience. But before long, you'll start to see the first visitors trickling through from the search engines!
How to set up a blog
It's not hard to get started with a blog. If you have a website already, there may be an integrated blog feature in your content management system. Jimdo, Weebly and Webnode all offer this functionality, although Jimdo and Weebly offer the better blogging platforms of these three.
The advantage of going down the website-builder route is that you can do much more than just manage your blog. You can also build the rest of your website around it: a portfolio, online store, contact forms, photo galleries, and much, much more.
Then there are systems like Wordpress, which many blogging pros swear by. The open-source version offers a wide range of features, but you'll have to install and host it yourself.
If you think your business could benefit from a blog, then well done: you're probably a pioneer in your field. Many small businesses and freelancers are still unaware of the potential. To start with, we recommend you keep an eye on one or two blogs you like. You can learn a lot this way - there's no need to reinvent the wheel, after all.
Pull together a few topics suitable for publication. For example, review some typical customer queries. But don't launch your blog until you have a couple of articles ready to go. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day life of your business and run out of blogging steam.
So what are you waiting for?! Leave us a comment and let us know how your blog is going.
Icon: Smashing Magazine
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