Posted by: Mike Clough

Is Small Business Blogging Really Effective?

small business blog marketingEveryone understands the importance of driving traffic to their website. And, although there are many things you can do that will increase traffic to your website, maintaining a blog is at the top of the list. There are several main reasons for this.

Benefits of Business Blogging
First, if done correctly, a blog will provide more useful generic information than a product/service specific page (an advertisement) on most websites. Today, consumers don’t want to be sold. They prefer to do a little research and chat with their friends before buying. Based on research and recommendations from their friends, they will make their buying decision. Your blog can accomplish this.

Second, a blog allows you to build a community around it. Current and prospective customers who find your articles interesting will follow your blog (RSS and email feeds) and often comment on your articles. This interaction allows you to build relationships and trust which are important factors in purchasing decisions. Most people seldom return to a website unless they are ready to buy. Of course, your blog will contain links to your website so that when readers are ready to buy it will be easy for them to visit your website.

Third, posting articles on your blog positions you as an expert on that subject. Then, when prospects and/or customers need help, they will turn to you.  In this way, blogging helps build trust and credibility for your brand.

Fourth, search engines love blogs. It is often easier to secure top search engine rankings for keywords on blogs than on websites. Of course, this requires frequent posts with popular keywords in the title and throughout each article to secure top rankings. It also requires links to your blog from other sites just as it does with your website. However, people are much more likely to link to a blog full of great information than they are to link to a website.

Fifth, there are many features and plug-ins to help drive traffic to your blog that generally are not available for websites. These include RSS and email feeds, Twitter buttons, sharing and bookmarking buttons, etc.

Objections to Business Blogging
As a small business advisor and self-professed blog-advocate, I frequently hear objections to creating and maintaining a blog. Allow me to share the top three and the solution to each.

The most common objection to blogging is the amount of time it takes to frequently write and post articles. This is a legitimate objection as it is time consuming. However, there ways you can minimize this burden. The first is to use “Guest Bloggers”. If you follow my blog, you will note that I frequently use a guest blogger. The content is written by an expert and it saves me time. There are several places to secure guest bloggers who will write articles for you in exchange for recognition and a link to their blog/website which helps their search engine rankings. If you have a LinkedIn account, you can join “The Guest Blogger” group comprised of bloggers looking for opportunities to write for blogs or seeking guest bloggers for their own blog.

If your business model relies on partnering with other businesses, and those businesses don’t have blogs of their own, you have an excellent opportunity to expand your online presence and lower the cost of producing content while deepening relationships with your partners. Neicole Crepeau has just written about this in her article “Leveraging Your Business Partners for a Better Blog.” She offers many great ideas.

You can also hire freelance content writers to write articles for you. One place to find someone is at oDesk.  There are over 800 writers listed there. Another is Guru which has over 40,000. There are also many other places where you can find writers for hire.

The second most common objection to maintaining a blog is that only the small business owner has enough knowledge about their industry or topic and s/he does not have the time or skill to write the article. If true, this objection can be over come by simply doing a “brain dump” on paper and hiring an editor to clean it up. Many bloggers (myself included) are subject matter experts in one or more areas but may not be skilled writers. An editor can really make you shine. In comparing the benefits of having a blog and the minimal cost of an editor, it is well worth the money.

Also the more you write, the better you will become – “practice makes perfect”. If you have a LinkedIn account, you can join “The Blog Zone” group where you can meet and discuss blogging with thousands of other bloggers.

The third most common objection is that there is only so much that can be written about your widget or service. Although that may be true, I recommend that you broaden the theme of your blog. For example, if you market a specific automobile “part”, you can broaden your theme to automobiles in general and even find others in the automobile industry to write articles for your blog. Or, if you market biodegradable cleaning products, you might expand your blog to all things green. The point is that as long as you are familiar with the topic you are writing about, it doesn’t need to be limited to your product/service. When you broaden the theme of your blog you have so much more about which you can write.

Final Thought
A
fter considering all of the ideas above, if you are still reluctant to create your own company blog, at the least, make a practice of reading other company blogs about your industry and comment frequently using a signature that includes a link back to your website. This will bring traffic to your site, increase your search engine rankings and help you build brand recognition and relationships.

Those who enjoyed this article also enjoyed:
Web 2.0 Blogging for Business
LinkedIn: The New Business Card Exchange?
Should Small Business Give Twitter A Twirl?

If you would like to contact me, you can do so by visiting my LinkedIn page or emailing me at mike.clough@bestbizpractices.org.

LinkedIn: The New Business Card Exchange?
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Responses

Wise words Mike.

The other objection I hear frequently is that spending time on blogging is just giving away your time for free and the benefit is marginal. This is incredibility short sighted.

These are the same people who spend gobs of money on advertising or brochures. Blogging is just another marketing expense that you have to spend to attract customers to your business. It’s just that simple.

Jarie, I have not run into this that often (maybe because I am in the Midwest where it is our nature to help others). But I do agree with you. Sharing information builds relationships and trust – two very important factors in a purchasing decision. I would suspect that those that feel the way you suggest, are also the ones that say that online marketing and social media doesn’t work. :-)

Thanks Jarie, for taking the time to comment.

Great article. I especially liked the part about guest bloggers in linkedIn. I’ve just joined. Thanks.

Mike,
Great article. I especially like your advice about using the “guest bloggers” through LinkedIn.

I often hear from small business owners that they are afraid or reluctant to maintain a blog because they simply don’t know what they should be writing about. Here are some useful ideas from my vlog: http://bit.ly/axJ3le.

Navah, thanks for your comment. You offer some good suggestions in your video. I advise my clients that they should expand their blog theme to be less about their company and more about their industry as this can brand them as an authority, enhance their image and credibility and garner many more backlinks than promoting their company. What are your thoughts on this?

Thank you Mike for pointing this out. This feedback is very relevant for my business as a consultant and I will think about how I can focus more about the industry.

In general, my thoughts on this are that the content of the blog should be in line with the business objectives and development phase of the company. So the blog theme will change during various periods

A few examples:
(1) A new company or an existing business that is undergoing change would probably want to get more visibility and would talk more about what’s going on their business, talk more about the people behind the scenes etc..

(2) When a company wants to build their reputation, they would want to let people know that they are an authority and as you suggested talk about what’s going on in the industry , thus demonstrating their own knowledge and credibility

(3) When a company is undergoing change or offering new products/services, they would want to use the blog as a trigger to create a dialogue so that they can understand from their customers in which direction they should expand . The content of the blog should then be more about how the customers use the services/products that are offered and invite the customers to share their thoughts.

Looking at these 3 examples: would you still focus on the industry as a blog theme and if so, how?

Navah, I agree that things of which you speak are important. In my humble opinion, it is more how you go about delivering the message. I believe that for a blog to be successful, the blogger must determine what type of information people are seeking and that is what they should write about. I feel that most people will not read or follow a blog that is all about the company as that is sort of an advertisement. I would use my website for that. But when you talk about things that people want to know about (like you and I are doing here), people will read and follow.

Having said this and realizing the importance of the points you bring up, I would probably try to find ways to “mention” these things (with a link to my website) as a way to prove a point. For example, “Realizing the importance of this point we are making several changes in our company (link to website)”. Or “Due to this trend we have added a product line to fill this demand (link to website).” You can get away with a “mention”, but I believe a post that “features” these sorts of things turns the target market off. This is why fewer people are watching TV, reading newspapers, etc. These mediums are one way broadcasts rather than multi-directional conversations. This is why I recommend focusing on the industry and use your website for advertising as it is expected there. A mention, if done correctly, will cause people to click the link to check it out and you have not lost your integrity as an industry authority. Does this make sense?

Just one man’s opinion, but one I respect. :-)

Mike, thank you for this explanation as it has been very helpful. It clearly demonstrates the true essence of what blogging is all about

Navah, it is just my opinion from what I have seen work. Other readers may be able to add more useful tips. Thanks for reading and commenting. Your the best!

Very interesting.

In an independent, anonymous blog experiment, we were able to drive our test blog traffic to 10,000 individual views per post over 18 months before shutting the experiment down and moving key posts to a different venue.

There remains little doubt in our mind, the power of this new medium to both inform as well as simply drive traffic.

Mark
TOGO Media

Mike,

I attended a webinar by Mike Volpe, VP Marketing at HubSpot this afternoon. In his presentation, Mike V. noted that 49% of companies who blog have profited from their blog. He encouraged businesses to blog as a way of creating relevant and current content that will increase their rankings by the search engines.

Mike also noted that what you get out of a blog is directly proportional to the amount of time you are willing to put into blogging and the frequency of your blog posts. His webinar has some fascinating data on changes to SEO and how producing current, relevant, frequent content may soon be as important — if not more important –than keyword usage.

The webinar link is http://bit.ly/ba3Mqy and should be available for archive viewing. Otherwise check out http://www.hubspot.com/marketing-webinars and look for the “How to Use SEO and Social Search for Lead Generation” webinar. It’s well worth the hour to listen and learn — about blogging and SEO in general.

Karen

Thanks Karen! There is nothing you said that would cause me to disagree with Mike Volpe. Thanks for sharing!

Unfortunately not everyone understands the importance of driving traffic to their website! Most businesses don’t even bother to accurately track their website’s true visit-to-lead conversion rate which means they have no concept of what they can afford to pay for a click/visit/etc.!

Blogging is almost a no-brainer for nearly any type of business that gets leads from the web. At a minimum, it’s a strategy worth testing – but you can’t run a good test unless you have accurate analytics systems in place!

No excuses – play like a champion! …applies to business too ;)

I own a court reporting firm and have been blogging weekly for the past 2 years. I enjoy sharing knowledge about my profession. My goal when I first started to blog was to work on SEO. I never believed I would get a “community” to follow. I have always been authentic and sincere in what I write. I do have a following of court reporters now, and my SEO has dramatically been effected. As a small businessperson, I wholly believe blogging is a tremendous tool.

My expertise is in the career and transitional life coaching realm, so I tend to blog a lot about job search strategy topics, as well as personal branding. I try to post a new blog weekly, and THEN I promote the new posting via my email newsletter and my related LinkedIn groups. The LinkedIn groups bring me most of my traffic on those days because of the immediate visibility. And by using those groups to get my message out, on the days when I do post new blog articles, my website traffic increases anywhere between 10-20 times the normal rate. So I can attest to the importance of positioning yourself, not only as the expert, but as someone who has a relevant message to the audience you’re targeting. Good luck!

Great article here, followed ur link from twitter. I find using blogs, to be fun and interactive and loads of fun too. Yeah sure u may not see immediate returns, however connecting with your audience will deliver long term benefits. Just observe google.

In my humble opinion a small business doesnt even need to hire an outsider, its cost effective to develop someone in the company who knows the brand to promote it

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