There are plenty of ways for small-business owners to put information in front of an online audience. Social media is always the “hot” option, but there’s no consensus network or platform to use, and the landscape is in constant flux. Video, audio, short-form, long-form – there’s a lot to consider.
Among this ever-shifting content environment, there is one stalwart: blogging. Blogs are a resilient remnant from Web 1.0, the slower-moving place where people shared their thoughts with the world via the likes of Xanga in the late ‘90s and early ’00s.
When you’re looking for ways to promote your small business in 2020 and beyond, a blog may not be your instinctive choice. Between claiming your Google site and setting up your Instagram account, however, you should carve out some time to learn about business blogging and consider how this promotional channel can work for you.
Blogging has endured through waves of business trends because it’s a versatile and compelling way to get a message across.
What roles do blogs fulfill?
Content marketing via blog posts is a way for business owners to put more significant information into the world, in terms of both length and depth of content. Some of the recent developments in digital media favor quick and ephemeral bursts of content – Facebook and Instagram are leaning into the use of “stories,” which disappear from view after a day, and constant churn is a feature of Twitter.
While these speedy hits of information have value, you should also have a more solid base your customers can look to. Your blog can be that place.
More specifically, your blog can be …
1. A place to direct curious readers
Blog posts don’t have character limits. You can use them as a place to get your brand’s ideas across in depth, expressing the company’s unique identity and showing off subject-matter expertise. When your social media captions give a teaser like “Learn about what we stand for, link in bio,” you need a good, informative piece of content for people to check out, something for the link in the bio to lead to – that can be a blog post.
2. A boost for your SEO
Your blog can show off your expertise to two key audiences – readers and Google search crawlers. In recent years, Google has tweaked its all-important search algorithm to favor long-form writing from people who know what they’re talking about. While in the past, SEO sometimes felt like a conflict between including search-friendly features and writing the content itself, those two inbound marketing objectives are merging.
The highly significant late-2019 update to the Google algorithm, referred to as BERT, uses natural language processing to help people find in-depth answers to their questions. Those answers generally take the form of comprehensive and well-written articles. Rather than using quick-fix optimization methods to draw people to your site, you just have to write knowledgeably, which is what good blogging is all about.
3. A window into your business
A blog is also a good place to show that your brand is made up of people with interests, values and lives of their own. Giving a glimpse into a vibrant workplace may make potential customers feel confident about working with your organization, and might also draw in high-quality candidates for your most important job openings.
Company culture may be a deciding factor in whether or not you win certain new business, and your blog is where that culture can shine through. Methods such as running profiles of employees and having workers guest-write features on their topics of interest can turn your blog into an important resource for potential clients and new hires who want to see the faces behind the scenes.
4. A launchpad for multimedia content
While blogs are mainly associated with the written word, one of the most exciting aspects of setting one up is your ability to promote the audio and visual content your team has spent time and effort creating. Embedding a YouTube video player or a link to the latest episode of your podcast, for instance, can be an excellent way to get more mileage out of your multimedia content while adding richness and context to a blog post.
When you use popular blogging platforms such as WordPress, you gain access to useful plugins, so you can create elegant integration between outside content and the blog posts themselves. For instance, the Instagram Feed WordPress add-on lets you embed custom Instagram galleries in your blog. An updated feed of the latest posts from your brand’s Instagram account can add visual appeal, timeliness and adash of social connectivity to your written content.
5. A starting point for collaboration and publication
Your opinions and expertise can go beyond your own blog, with industry-wide publications looking for content to publish. Posts from your blog, written to reflect your stakeholders’ expertise, can find a new audience if a widely-read site picks them up for republication.
At the conclusion of the reposted expert article, there will be a link back to your company blog. What will people find when they click that link? Ideally, they’ll find a selection of informative and authoritative posts like the one they’ve just read. Readers who discover a valuable new resource this way may come to regard your company as a leading player in its industry, and turn to you when they need to gather more facts or make a new purchase.
6. A flexible resource for your audience
In the end, your company’s blog is whatever you need it to be. This is one of the greatest strengths of the blogging medium. Short posts, long posts, embedded media, text only, personal dispatches, authoritative articles – there’s room for everything on a successful business blog. No matter your industry, and whether you’re in a business-to-business or business-to-consumer space, blogging is a valid way to get information across.
A blog can also change stylistically over time. Modeling future posts on your audience’s existing favorites is a reliable way to plan new content.
A flexible place to put the content you want to produce: This is your blog’s true role.
What business blogs should you be reading?
When you’re looking for business insights and actionable advice or inspiration for your own blog, you can always turn to the top influential voices across the tech and business spaces, as well as in your own field. From gleaning more about the state of marketing today to learning from example how a great blog post comes together, these sites can fuel your own blogging efforts.
Follow these 7 business blogs for tips and ideas for your own site:
This industry news portal is the first stop when it comes to digital marketing best practices. From insights on the newest Google search changes to deep dives into the nitty-gritty aspects of content creation, you’ll always find food for thought here. The site brings in voices from across the marketing space and uses videos and downloadable resources along with its written posts to spread information.
If you like your business advice insights in audio form, Duct Tape Marketing is a top destination. In addition to the company’s own Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, there are also numerous posts about podcast guest appearances by John Jantsch, author of the original book “Duct Tape Marketing” and an in-demand industry speaker. The blog is also long-running and comprehensive, with 435 pages of entries to scroll back through.
Marketing expert Neil Patel offers lots of content on his blog for curious B2B readers, with a host of quick-hit videos and podcast episodes to get his points across in multimedia formats. His marketing blog isn’t just a wellspring of tips on common SEO tactics – such as reoptimizing old posts to make them relevant again. He practices what he preaches. The posts on Patel’s site are valuable examples of attention-grabbing blog content, and the expert digital marketer has the first-page Google results to prove it.
If you want a quick and comprehensive overview of news in the technology space, just look at TechCrunch. This industry publication uses a simple, elegant site design and a constant stream of relevant posts to stay in readers’ news feeds. You can also take note of TechCrunch’s adept use of newsletters, and the way it cross-promotes its in-person events online.
Gizmodo is on the forefront of investigative journalism in the tech space, combining insights with an occasionally irreverent tone to keep people riveted. The site has been experiencing friction with the owners of its parent company, G/O Media, but this may have actually sharpened its investigative aims.
The Social Media Examiner, put together by the team behind the Social Media Marketing World Conference, is a comprehensive blog full of valuable tips for industry stakeholders, with plenty of information-rich downloadable assets on offer. The site uses video captured at the in-person conference as part of its informative online package to enrich the website while also promoting the event.
7. Top business blogs in your industry
When searching for relevant information about your particular field, from breaking news to blog post style inspiration, your competitors are your friends. Studying the leading voices in your industry is a good way to see what your followers are looking for in terms of posting frequency and depth of content. By scoping out which kinds of multimedia content appeal to decision-makers in your vertical, you can grasp the do’s and don’ts and set your priorities for content creation.
The one thing you should not borrow from your competitors is tone and brand voice. Studying how rival companies weave their own opinions and values into blog posts is prudent, but the voice you use for your own posts must come from your organization. When blogging for business, a carbon copy of another company’s style won’t ring true with your audience.
How do you apply those blogs’ lessons?
It’s one thing to glean information from the top marketing blogs in your industry and beyond and another to put it into practice. One thing you’ll notice about all the top sites is that they are committed to posting content, in high volume and on a regular schedule. Long spells without new information can cause your own blog to lose some of its appeal. You should:
- Pick a posting schedule you can meet and stick to it. Rather than setting unachievable goals and falling behind them, you should select an updating cadence that fits your ability to turn out new content. Be sure to factor in extra time for multimedia creation, such as recording and producing podcast episodes.
- Define your target audience and suit that group’s interests: If your target customers are business buyers, what level of seniority do they have and what are their responsibilities? If you’re in a B2C space, what are the values and preferences of your ideal buyer? These early determinations can fuel your content creation to ensure every piece has appeal.
- Study the analytics and respond accordingly: It’s one thing to think your blog is on the right track – and another to have the numbers to back it up. You can use analytics tools, some available as WordPress plugins, to determine whether your content is doing its job as a new business attractor, an informational resource or an SEO tool. If not, it’s time for measured, top-down changes to the marketing strategy – nothing too drastic or panicky.
Are you ready to grow your business with blogging?
From small business owners seeking to establish their expertise while starting a business, to large company leaders hoping to spotlight their employees on corporate blogs – and every size of organization in between – there are numerous valuable use cases for blogs. If you’re ready to set aside the time for consistent content creation and live up to the high standards established by other bloggers in your vertical, you can join the ranks of leading online publishers.
The blog is one of the oldest forms of online marketing collateral that is still used today, but its advanced age hasn’t rendered it toothless. You can find a variety of uses for a company blog, with plenty of examples to learn from.
It’s time to get started on growing your business.