Blogging consistently is definitely the most efficient - and probably the most effective - way for small businesses to increase web traffic, online leads and establish themselves as industry leaders.
According to HubSpot, companies that blog 16 or more times per month get almost 350% more website traffic and 450% more leads than companies that publish 4 or fewer blog posts per month. Furthermore, at least 1 in 10 blog posts are compounding, which means organic search increases their traffic over time. There’s even more data but the punchline is this is no longer up for debate. Blogging works and small businesses should take action.
If your immediate response to those statistics is to stop everything and start writing blog posts, that wouldn’t be terrible. It would immediately put you ahead of far too many small businesses today when it comes to blogging. But creating (and following) a thoughtful blog strategy for your business will make all your subsequent blogging efforts exponentially more effective, and you can accomplish this in less than an hour.
Follow these steps to develop your small business blog strategy:
Map your content topics
Research your keywords
Plan your content
Optimize your blog posts
Tie in some content offers
Promote your blog
The first and easiest step of them all. Make a list of all the topics your business could write about. The Gist is a content marketing agency, below is a sample of some of the topics we mapped out when we were developing our own blog strategy.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Marketing
Start by thinking about all the products and services you offer. Each one represents a content topic. But don’t stop there. Think about the problems or solutions or ideas that people consider that could reasonably lead them to your business. For example, a CPA firm might publish content about marketing strategy because even though it’s not about accounting, it’s relevant to their audience (business owners). In fact, they’d be wise to explain some of the financial considerations of developing a marketing strategy or find some way to put their own unique spin on the topic. Get creative, but don’t overthink it. 7 content topics will give you a good starting point for your blog strategy.
Use a keyword research tool like Moz, SEMRush, KeywordTool.io or Google Keyword Planner. If you can afford a paid service, awesome. If not, you can still do some damage with the free tools available to you.
Enter a content topic into the keyword research tool. Notice the search volume, rank difficulty and average CPC (cost-per-click) for each keyword. Not enough search volume means not enough opportunity. Too competitive means it'll be very difficult to make. Strike the balance between a respectable search volume and a moderate (or better) level of rank difficulty.
Within the same tool, look for the long-tail keywords that are suggested. Apply the same exercise (balance between search volume and rank difficulty) for each of these keywords. Make a list of the keywords - both short and long-tail keywords - that represent the most opportunity for your business. Repeat this process for each of your content topics.
Start with one core topic - ideally the one that seems like the most impactful topic after conducting your keyword research. Then write a list of blog posts that could all be categorized under that core topic, but can address sub-topics in greater detail.
For example, here at The Gist, we want to build our authority around the core topic of small business blogging. The list below shows the actual blog posts we included in our content planning phase before any blog writing or publishing was done.
Core topic: Small business blogging
Developing a small business blog strategy
Choosing topics for your business blog
How to conduct keyword research for your blog
SEO best practices for small business bloggers
How to effectively promote your small business blog
How to conduct keyword research for your blog
When you’re actually writing your blog posts, your two goals are to (1) create an original, relevant post that adds real value to readers and (2) is optimized to be discovered by search engines. The former is more of an art form; the latter is more of a science.
Here are a few basic steps to follow to properly optimize your blog posts:
Start with the long-tail keyword you want to rank for
Plan to include that keyword - or at least versions of it - between 3 and 5 times within your post
Write the introduction and conclusion first, then the core content
Break out your blog post by sections
Let the content dictate the length; try to shoot for a minimum of 300 words but don’t write 1,000 words for a simpler post that doesn’t require as much detail or explanation
Link to a few of your other website pages and/or blog posts
Link to a few external web pages; search engines like this
Add a title image and make the alt text your long-tail keywords
Add an additional image or two within the main content of the post
Read, revise and publish a killer blog post
When you package your knowledge or expertise or intellectual property into a tangible “thing” and “gate” it behind a form or a landing page, that’s a content offer. Content offers are technically free, but people “pay” for them with their contact information, an email address at the very minimum.
When a visitor reads your blog posts and finds it useful, they may be interested in engaging with your business even further. An ideal next step would be to offer them a piece of content - like an ebook, whitepaper, resource page, tutorial, etc. - when they provide some content information. Not only are you delivering more value (for free) but you’re turning anonymous visitors into known leads that you can follow-up with and nurture with email to continue to add more value over time.
Veteran business bloggers will actually start their strategy with a content offer, build a core topic around it and then figure out what individual blog posts they’re going to write. Then, every blog post within that content topic is designed to drive traffic and attention to the specific content offer and convert as many leads as possible. But if you’re just getting started, it’s much better to have a baseline of blog content before you start introducing content offers.
You don’t start a business blog for it to go unnoticed. While blogging consistently will definitely get search engines to notice you, thus increasing organic web traffic, you’ll need to build some of the initial momentum yourself.
Here are a few effective ways to promote your blog:
Share every blog post you publish on social media.
Have your sales team leverage your blog posts as alternative ways to engage their prospects and add more value.
Include links to your blog post to your email newsletter. If you don’t currently have an email newsletter, start one. Send one email per month to all of your clients, partners and friends with 3-4 of your own blog articles in it.
Ask your close connections to share your blog posts from their social media accounts.
Run ad campaigns on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Google to pay to promote your blog content (this is a discussion for another time).
“A rising tide raises all ships.” Keep publishing blog posts regularly. Get them in front of people. Over time, the search engines will recognize you as a strong content source and you’ll see the difference in your organic web traffic.