​Why blog for business

Now that you've got your website up and running (see my previous blog on when to DIY your website, and when to call for backup), you need to augment it on a regular basis by writing and promoting blogs.  Here's the lowdown on why, how, when and how much.

scrabble tiles spell blog to demonstrate this is an article on advantages of blogging for small businesses

6 reasons why you should blog

Marketing Statistics from Hubspot show that content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising.

1. Writing interesting blogs creates a reason for new and old customers to visit your website regularly.

2. When people want to buy a new product or service, they Google it to research it. Starting up a blog means you can provide helpful and authoritative content on the subject.   You can establish yourself as an expert in the area, which can persuade people to buy from you.

3. You create a rapport with your customers. It lets them know more about your story, your personality, and values.  If there are other companies doing what you do, starting your own blog is a way of differentiating yourself from the competition.  If customers feel they know, like and respect you, they will trust you and buy from you.

4. A blog paints you in a favourable light.  You are providing solutions to customer problems, answers to questions, and help and advice, rather than pushing a hard sell on people.

5. SEO blog posts help you search engine rankings by providing fresh content and additional keywords and phrases to help your site get found.

6. They are a fantastic marketing tool, and better value for money than advertising.  Your content can be promoted indefinitely on social media, meaning these little beauties are winning customers for you 24/7. Automate your social media posting with free tools, and you don't even have to lift a finger to send them out into the world on a regular basis. Keep them updated, and they can work hard for you for years.

How to have a successful blog

trophy that demonstrates how to create a winning blog

The key purpose of a blog is for people to read and understand it, so write in a natural way and aim at your human audience, rather than the search engines.  Google is now better able to understand the overall relevancy and quality of your page, and will rank good content more highly than blogs stuffed full of keywords.  (Google seeks to understand a searcher's intent and supplies results based on concept matches, natural language and synonyms  rather than matching search terms with keywords.)

So make sure the subject is interesting and it's well written and concise.  Inject some personality, and, if you can crack a joke; a little humour goes a long way.

More website traffic is good for any kind of business, as long as those visitors are likely to purchase your product or service. Be sure to create content that speaks to your target audience’s pain points, and make sure the headlines accurately describe the content that follows to reduce your bounce rate (when users leave the site too quickly – which affects your Google rankings).

Make sure every blog post inspires action of some kind or another. Depending on your business, you might want people to read another piece of content, fill out a form to get a quote, or call you to set up a consultation.

Make sure it includes all variations of your key phrase and synonyms of your keyword. You can get clues as to these variations from Google itself by running a search on the keyword or phrase you had in mind.  Look at alternative words in bold in the descriptions which Google recognises as strongly related to your search term.  Look at the "People also ask" section.  And scroll to the bottom of the results to see related searches. Ensure you include these in your blog in a natural-sounding and reading way.

Invoke positive emotions – laughter/amusement/joy and awe lead to the most shares. We like to show others we have good taste and a good sense of humour and content like that is easy for everyone to relate to.

Include a byline (the author's name) or a biography.  This increases the appearance of trust and it is more likely to be shared on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Average shares for blogs with and without images
Graphic courtesy of OkDork.com

Include at least one image.  Buzzsumo found content with an image once every 75-100 words got twice as many shares as articles with fewer images, and at least 30 more shares than articles with more.

Ensure the image appears on your social media shares of your blog post too. Buzzsumo found Facebook and Twitter posts had at least twice as many shares and likes as posts which didn't have a preview image.

If you can get someone influential to share your blog, that will help it spread.

As I mentioned earlier, use social media tools to repost your content regularly.

I will be blogging on social media tactics in follow-up posts.

The highest content shares occur on Tuesdays, followed by Thursdays and Mondays, so take care when you publish and promote your content.  These are also the days when most conversions to sales occur.

At this point you may be wondering:

What should I blog about?

monkey thinking as a demonstration of finding inspiration for blog posts

The best blogs cover problems or pain points people experience, and your suggested solutions.  You may already be aware of some of these - that could by why you started your business in the first place.

If you need additional inspiration, look at Q and A sites such as AnswerThePublic.com which supposedly provides search queries from Google and Bing (no sign up required) or Quora.com to find popular questions that you can elaborate on with expert commentary in your blog.

You can also set up Google Alerts, and monitor social media for topics relevant to your business area, such as fashion or industry trends, celebrity scandals.

If you can incorporate a quiz, those are highly shared on social media. We like to show off the ones we do well in, but we also feel they tell our contacts more about us as individuals.

Controversial blog posts can, obviously, be divisive, but it can also invoke stronger sentiment and gain you more shares from people who agree with your point of view than neutral blog posts.

Optimal blogging frequency

Marketing Statistics on Hubspot show that companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5 times more traffic and 4.5 times more leads than companies that published 0-4 monthly posts.

Hubspot found that the more total blog posts companies had published on their website, the more leads they generated. Companies that had published 401+ total blog posts got over 3 times more leads than companies that had published between 0-100 total blog posts.

Optimal blog length

how long should my blog be? optimal blog length graph which shows best length for blogs
Graphic courtesy of OKDork.com

An OK Dork/Buzzsumo study found that longer posts ranked higher in Google searches. The average word count of content on first page Google results was just under 2k words.

This is likely to be because the longer the post, the more thoroughly it covers the topic, thus answering the search query and meeting Google's quality criteria.

Buzzsumo found that the longer the blog post, the more shared it was – 3-10k word posts were shared twice as much as sub-1k posts. Buzzsumo recommends aiming for 2k words or more.

Despite everyone reading on their mobiles these days, it's counter-productive to write short blogs for short attention spans. The competition in the bite-size market is already high. There are still people who like to learn, think, challenge, and debate, but there are fewer people writing content which satisfies that need. The key is to write indepth content in an easily digestible format. Make it long, but concise – every word should pull its weight.

You also need to structure your long content so it flows well and has accurate headings to facilitate skim reading.

Infographics illustrate what you're saying and allow users to skim read and still get your key takeaways. Along with lists, posts with infographics are the most shared content types.

Having more social shares could also increase rankings.

The optimal quantity of items on a list is 10. Try not to round up though, it's really obvious to the reader that you've split categories that should be together. The next most popular quantities are 23, 16 and 24.

Both the length and popularity of your blog tell Google that you have a satisfactory amount of main content.  A lengthy blog also gives you that opportunity to demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.

SEO

Keep your URL short.  Google pretty much ignores anything that comes after the fifth word. Make sure your keyword is in your URL as well.

screenshot of this blog's seo title, blog url and blog description or metadescription or metadata

 

A long URL can also mean a long breadcrumb trail.  That means your page is many clicks away from your homepage so carries less authority in Google's eyes.

For the SEO title, start with your keyword.  Include words like the current year, checklist, guide, tips etc to help you rank for longer search terms.

Place your keyword in the opening paragraph (and keep your opening short and to the point).

Include links to related pages to help Google understand what your blog is about and that it is high quality.  And include links to your own related pages.  This encourages visitors to spend longer on your site, and marks the content as yours in case of screenscraping theives.

There are also general SEO practices which you need to implement of course, such as:

  • backlinks to your content from several different, authoritative, websites;

  • goode use of image file names and alt tags;
  • fast-loading pages.

Happy blogging!  And if you need a hand, my prices start at just £50.

Please leave a comment if you've any hints or tips you'd like to share, or questions.

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