Blogs have been around for quite some time now and are used in many different ways by different types of people. They're not just for teenage girls to write about what boys they like at school. Many companies have blogs these days, including Fortune 500 companies. Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Sun Microsystems, was the first Fortune 500 blogger. Even the new White House website has blogs.
Blogging is a very effective way to strengthen and grow your business. If you don't currently have a blog for your small business, you should seriously consider it.
In this post, I'll discuss everything you need to know about why and how to start a small business blog as well as plenty of examples of topics you should consider for your small business blog posts.
Brochure Site Drawbacks
Many small businesses have what are termed, Brochure Sites. These are mostly static websites that provide information about the company, the products and/or services they offer, contact information, etc. There is nothing wrong with these sites and if you have a small business, this is the type of site that will suit you best.
There are however some disadvantages to them, more precisely, there are some advantages that blogs have that brochure sites don't, such as:
Each has their strengths and weaknesses. I don't recommend you choose one over the other. Especially don't use a blog instead of a brochure or e-commerce type site. It's just a horrible way to go. Use both.
Why Your Small Business Should Blog
Blogging Personalizes Your Business
As most of you, I've had many experiences as a consumer of business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) solutions from various companies. The ones that have stood out to me are the ones that have been more personal. They've also been the ones I've referred the most business to.
You know the type I'm talking about. You walk in the front door, the owner or manager smiles when he sees you come in,greets you by name with a firm handshake. Before you get down to business, or while another employee is handling your order, you chat.
You know that they'll take good care of your business and if there's a problem, they're going to take care of it. You may pay a little more but you know things are going to be done right and that saves you money in the long run. This is especially important in the B2B world where your business depends on their business.
For one of my earlier side businesses, I used to drive 30 minutes past dozens of other vendors just to get to one that I had this type of relationship with. The price was good, but I could have found cheaper. What I couldn't find was the same level of service and quality. His good business made my business look better too. I even shared my experiences with people who were essentially competing with me. Which also turned out to be a good idea.
It's easier for small businesses to provide this level of service than it is for large corporations. The Internet removed this personal interaction but now blogging is one way you can bring it back.
While people are less weary of conducting business, or purchasing products and services online, they still have reservations about websites they are not familiar with. They want to know there are real human beings behind the website; that it's not just a form they type their credit card number into and who knows what happens next.
Blogging allows you to put a face to your website; both literally and figuratively. It's the communication you have with your customer when you're not standing face to face.
Blogging Provides Better 2-way Communication
Let's continue the example of the type of businesses that provides personal service that I mentioned in the last section. Think of what it is you talk about while you wait. Sometimes its sports, news, politics, the weather, personal matters, and most importantly, your business/industry. Just imagine, you're standing in the reception area of this business chatting with the owner. You're talking about your businesses and each of you is getting a better perspective on what the other does and how that can improve things for both of you. Or you may be talking about a recent industry trend and how you can take advantage of it. In the end, you both wind up with more information to improve your own businesses.
Now lets take that a step further. While you're talking about the recent trend, someone else waiting overhears you and jumps into the conversation with a different perspective. Then another, and yet another. That's what blogs can be like.
Your customers not only communicate with you, but with other customers as well. You help steer the conversation with each blog post.
Each Blog Post is a Landing Page
Landing Pages (aka Doorway Pages) are pages that could be the first page on your site a visitor comes to. They are sometimes used with the site a visitor lands on after clicking on an advertisement but they can also refer to the page a visitor may land on after clicking on a result in a web search.
Some spammers use these very effectively but creating hundreds of landing pages hoping to get some search engine traffic and then directing them to other parts of the site. You can use the same principle with your blog, without the spam.
Every page on your site that gets indexed by a search engine is an avenue to find a potential customer. Let's assume you own a local flower shop. One day you decide to blog about a technique you use that makes your cut flowers stay fresh longer. Then you start getting traffic to that blog post from people looking to make their flowers live longer. Most will probably be from other areas around the country/world but every once in a while you might have someone visit the page, then realize they drive near you on the way home from work and decide to stop in. For a few minutes work you picked up a new client. At the very least, you've increased the public awareness of your business.
Blogs are also a great way to publish announcements. These could be new products, sales, special events, trade show schedules, and more.
You may already have a newsletter for your site that you use to distribute information. Switching to a blog gives you the benefit of making it easier for your customers to view the announcement in a variety of ways including online, on their phone/mobile devices and through email. Use a service like FeedBurner to allow people to subscribe to your blog by email.
The benefit you'll get over using a newsletter is that now more people will be able to find the information contained in your newsletter through Internet search engines. It also gives your customers, and potential customers a way to leave feedback.
Which Employees Should Write On Your Small Business Blog
This is going to vary from company to company. The higher level your bloggers are the better perception you will have. The president/owner should blog. Running a company takes a lot of time and effort and you may not have time to properly maintain a blog on your own. In those cases, feel free to share the blogging responsibilities with other employees.
Different people may have different perspectives and will be able to provide different types of information on your small business blog. Let's use a small computer services company as an example. The president can post a couple of times a week to give some good insight into trends in the industry. A sales executive can post more frequently on how their existing customers are leveraging your products and services to improve their business. A customer service representative may post to discuss issues others are having and how to work through them.
What A Small Business Blog Should Look Like
Your small business blog should have a similar look and feel to your main site. Your main navigation should be copied over so that you provide links from your blog to your most important sections on your site.
You should avoid adding widgets/gadgets or other nonsense that isn't beneficial to your customers. You may think a widget on your blog that shows the local time and weather is neat, but in most cases it just takes up space and slows down your site. In some cases it might be beneficial, for example if you're a local landscape contractor, a 5 day forecast widget might be good to have. These decisions should be made on an individual basis.
Hosting your Small Business Blog
You can choose to download blogging software to install on your servers or shared hosting account, along with your current website. Many web hosting providers make it easy to do this. Talk to whoever created your website and see what they can do for you.
Blogger.com is a free service that allows you to blog for free. You can even create a team blog with multiple authors. Designing blogger.com templates is a little different than creating regular websites so you might want to find a web designer that knows how to work with blogger.com. Blogger.com also allows you to set up a custom domain for your blog, so your visitors will see blog.yoursite.com instead of yoursite.blogspot.com in the address bar of their browser.
You don't want to use a standard blogging template that everyone else is using, or one that doesn't match your site. You want your visitors to be able to relate your site to
If you're interested, use the Contact link on the top of this page and provide the URL of your website and I can quote you a price to develop a template that matches your site's design.
Putting Advertising on a Small Business Site
This is probably the worst mistake I think people make. Your website and your small business blog are YOUR advertising. You shouldn't be concerned about making money off the traffic on your blog through advertising. You should only be concerned about making money off your blog by making your customers happy and publicizing your own business. If you're having a hard time making money off your business, you may want to re-think your business. If you need to put AdSense on a business website to make money, your visitors are going to question your ability to make money in your chosen line of work, which will make them question if you're any good at it.