One of the most common questions I get from my web design clients is, “Should I add a blog?” I always worry a little when this comes up because a lot of business owners don’t understand how much work there is to it. On the other hand, blogging is one of the very best ways to get visible, establish authority, drive targeted traffic and get SEO love. So let’s dig in and see whether it’s right for you.
Business owners have big ambitions, it’s in the entrepreneur’s DNA. They know having a blog is a smart thing to have, and assume it’s easily squeezed-inable: “It’s only writing a few paragraphs from time to time, how hard can it be?”
Problem is, just “having a blog” is not enough―that’s easy. Having a blog that helps attract and convert clients requires a level of commitment that often turns out to be way more than they bargained for.
Here’s a typical scenario:
Client: “Can you add a blog to my website?”
Me: “No problem! But first, can you tell me about your plans? Do you have a strategy? Do you need help creating one?”
Client: “Nope, just gonna wing it”
I do my best to educate them on the pros and cons, configure their blog, and wish them luck.
As a matter of course, I check in with these clients from time to time to see how they’re doing. Occasionally, I’m delighted to see what’s happening on their websites―consistent blog posts relevant to their target audience, an email program, and lots of comment and sharing engagement. Yay!
But more commonly, I see, “Hello World! This blog is coming soon…” months and months later, or a smattering of posts that have no strategy behind them―just a collection of random thoughts whenever they had a free moment to sit down and write. No comments, no social shares, no keyword or topic strategy.
Nobody reads blogs like that.
Service-based entrepreneurs are busy billing their time and serving clients, they understandably don’t have a whole lot of bandwidth to commit to blogging in a big way. I’m not trying to dissuade you, but, there are some cons and you should know what they are before you decide.
Blogging is a much bigger commitment than you think it is
This is something people don’t often tell you, but this isn’t 2005―you can’t just put up a blog, share some thoughts, and delight people from all over the world just by showing up. These days, in order for it to actually work, you’ll need exceptional content backed by strategy, great visuals, and a dedication to promoting the content regularly.
The conventional wisdom about blogging used to be all about quantity. It didn’t matter what you posted really, so long as you did it consistently. 500 words and call it good.
These days, consumers of online content and Google are smarter, more particular, more difficult to please. The minimum number of words each blog post should have is 1,000. First page results on Google average 1,800. For lead generation, long-form content is the approach savvy bloggers are taking and that means 4,500-8,000 words. Or more.
To give you a glimpse behind the curtain: beyond just writing the actual post, here are some of the things I do:
- Keyword research
- Create multiple sharing graphics for social media and Pinterest
- Create meta descriptions for SEO
- Research into creating the optimal headline
- Create descriptions for the different social channels
- Create alt descriptions for the images for SEO
- Submit to multiple social accounts
- Create infographics, videos, and content upgrades to go with the post wherever possible
- Monitor analytics to see what content is performing well
- Update older blog post to improve engagement and SEO
- Set up evergreen content in social media schedulers (I use three: Buffer, Tailwind & SmarterQueue)
And then there’s the competition…
You’ll be competing with professional bloggers, writers, and marketers for attention―from both your customers as well as Google
And they’re good. Blogging is a business for them, it’s either all they do or it occupies a large percentage of their time at the desk. They write amazing content, they build gigantic audiences and communities, and they promote the hell out of their content. Everyday. They know the ins-and-outs of SEO, social media, and how to nurture potential customers through expertly-planned sales funnels.
Their sites are well-established: Google sees them as the authority.
How will you demonstrate to Google that your content will give their searchers better answers?
They’re competing for the attention of your customers, and they get it because they’re already trusted.
Who are you again?
Whatever you’re planning to write about, somebody else has already written it.
How is your content going to be different? Are you just going to add more noise?
They’ve been at it awhile, and have big audiences to direct traffic back to their content.
How do you plan to promote your content? How much time can you dedicate to that? How many people are likely to see it? How exactly will you grow your audience so more people will?
If you can’t answer all of those questions well, it’s okay. If you’re beginning to feel intimidated, it’s natural. I’m being a bit brutal about it to make a point:
THIS IS WHAT YOU’RE UP AGAINST.
Please don’t add a blog to your website and expect overnight miracles. If all you have the bandwidth for is to show up on your website every once in awhile, write a post, hit publish, share it on Facebook and call it good―it’s going to do next to nothing for your business. And it’s okay if blogging doesn’t make sense for you, it doesn’t for a lot of small business owners.
Now that I’ve properly warned you, let’s talk about why you should be blogging.
If you want to get traction in Google search, you need content on your site that’ll answer searchers’ questions (this is all Google cares about – delivering the best answers). A blog is a fantastic way to do that. In fact, without a blog you’re going to find it difficult to create enough content in order for Google to index you for niche and long-tail keyword phrases, which is how most small businesses are able to get visible in search. (Forget about competing for big, competitive keywords, it’s not likely you’ll have a shot.)
If you don’t want to start a podcast or a YouTube channel, if you’re not ready to write a best selling book, if giving Ted talks is not your thing―you’ll need some other way to demonstrate your expertise and establish trust and credibility if you want to attract the right clients to you. A blog is a great way to do that.
Reduce administrative overhead
This is something that a lot of people overlook, but it’s a great reason to go ahead and launch that blog even if you’re pressed for time and don’t plan to become a pro blogger.
If you’re providing any sort of creative or consulting services to clients, you’re answering lots of questions―some of them come up time and time again. Use your blog to answer those questions! Rather than re-creating the wheel every time you explain something, use your blog to answer it instead. Then, invite your customers to read the article you wrote about it. Potential customers will have the same sorts of questions, so you’ll attract people who need this help too.
An added benefit to addressing FAQ questions is that when things come up in live client conversations―having already composed and written a thoughtful response―you’ll be able to address topics with even more clarity. It’ll up your communication game like whoa.
Become a better writer
Learning to become a better writer is one of the best things you can do for your business. Before I started blogging, I thought I was a pretty good writer, but as it turns out, there was room for improvement. I’ve been blogging consistently for about 8 months at the time of this writing and I can honestly say―when I look back at my early blog posts, I cringe. Good writers write, and blogging is a great way to create a writing habit.
Drive Traffic from Social Media & Pinterest
Getting visible with potential customers online means having some sort of presence on social media, you know you need that. To make the best use of your time building a following and engaging with people online, it’s important to get your promotional message out there at least a % of the time and that means getting them to your website.
If you’re just “networking”―whether on Twitter or in Facebook or LinkedIn groups―that’s awesome, but it’s not the same thing as getting people into your marketing funnel, which is where you’ll nurture client leads that’ll help you keep your pipeline full. Here’s how blogging helps you do that:
The first ask is small: “Visit my blog post.” Then, if you provide enough value and make a good first impression, the next ask can be bigger:
“Get on my email list,”
“Check out my services,”
“Schedule a free consultation.”
And into the funnel they go.
If you decide to go for it, a few things to keep in mind:
Every blog post you write should be tied to a specific call to action that can benefit your business
I know some people disagree―they prefer to wax philosophical and believe their insights into random things is some kind of magical persuasion; that sales is an icky gross thing eww.
But are you doing this to help your business? Or to just to put “whatever” into the universe and hope for some kind of a return? Unless you’re a celebrity, nobody’s going to care about random thoughts, and they’re not going to take an action that will benefit your business unless you specifically direct them to.
You can be philosophical, you can be funny, you can tell stories―my goodness please do, the business world needs way more of that. But if you want conversions, if you want sales, you must always ask.
If you’re providing value, you have every right to ask for something in return, and that means knowing “what will the call to action be at the end?” before even starting to write your post.
Blog post promotion will take more time and effort than the writing
From the moment you decide to write a blog post, there will be a myriad of behind-the-scenes tasks you’ll need to do to make it visible. That means doing research before you write the post to make sure it’s content your target audience wants and needs, and to promote it with regularity and frequency and for as long as it’s still relevant to your audience―which is hopefully always.
You’ll feel like a cheesy gross spammer who’s pushing content in front of people and screaming for attention… but in reality, people are barely noticing you. You can’t just put it out there once, you have to put it out billions of times. (Maybe not billions, but way more than once.)
You’ll Need Really Good Content
Thanks to mobile phones and social media re-wiring how our brains work … people have the attention span of goldfish. Actually, less than goldfish. This means you’ll need to hook them with great writing that’s pleasurable and easy, and make sure they enjoy reading until the very end. And that takes more than just stuffing some keywords into a quick-and-dirty blog post like it used to be in the old days.
It’s still about consistency, so… how many times per month can you write an epic, high-quality blog post? Eight times? Four times? Two times? Realistically, if you’re running a business the answer is probably not very many. But that’s okay… if you consistently blog twice a month, in a year you’ll have 24 epic blog posts to promote.
That may not seem like a whole lot, but it actually is if you think about each and every blog post as an evergreen content asset for your business. Consider every post like a project: with a specific business goal, something you’ll be able to promote over and over again for years to come, and something Google will love forever and ever. You’ll see, pretty soon you’ll have a big bank of content and the gears will really start to turn.
The writing needs to be good. If that’s not your thing, or if you tend to write in “business speak” and you’re not used to writing in a more conversational and engaging way, if you’re not sure how to tell stories or develop a writing style… it behooves you to spend time time learning how to write better for the web. Get a book, take a course, and practice, practice, practice.
You’ll need to find your own voice and be brave enough to put it out there
If you can’t write about it without doing research or looking on someone else’s paper to see how they’ve written about the same subject―you probably shouldn’t be blogging about it. Nobody’s gonna get excited about “me too” content.
Sure, we’re all pretty much saying the same things―there are no new ideas under the sun. But there’s a difference between recycling ideas, re-working other people’s content, even “borrowing” other people’s writing styles―and putting your own perspective, in your own voice, into the world.
And that takes courage, but it’s the only way your content will stand out. It’s a glimpse inside the person and personality your customers are signing up for, and you’ll draw the right people who need to hear your message in a way only you can say it.
You’ll Need A Great Social Sharing Tool
This is just a technical matter, but save yourself a whole lot of trouble and use a great social sharing tool like Social Warfare. Have you ever tried to share a post on social media and it looked completely janky? That’s because each social network has its own way of “scraping” the information from your website to display on their platform. What looks great on LinkedIn is going to look like garbage on Pinterest…
You want to have full control over which images show up and how the description text and titles read.
Social Warfare makes this all soooo much easier, and you can customize the look and placement of the sharing buttons too so your social sharing buttons are on-brand. (You’ll see that mine are pink, cute right?)
See the image below to get a sense of how it works in practice. Being able to change the descriptions for the different platforms is crucial. For example, we know that using one hashtag on Twitter means better engagement, Facebook should have no hashtags, and Pinterest is more like Instagram–the more the merrier (you can’t see it in the example below, but I’ve got 6 hashtags for Pinterest loaded into that description form).
If you’re going to all the trouble to write the blog post but skipping over the important details like this, your hard work could be for nothing. Optimized images and descriptions are key for “clickability.”
Social Warfare takes the headaches out of these details and makes setting your post up for social sharing success must easier and faster. I’m a cheapskate, but the $29/yr price tag is SO WORTH IT.
You’ll Need A Post Scheduling Tool
Unless you have tons of extra time on your hands, you’ll want to use a scheduler like SmarterQue.
I use SmarterQue (which is the less-expensive version of MeetEdgar) to schedule my original content, and I use the free version of Buffer to schedule content I’ve curated. (Most social sharing tools include Buffer as an option, so when I’m reading a blog post and want to share it, it’s just quicker to click on the “Buffer” icon.)
By using SmarterQue I’ve freed up TONS of time promoting my posts―I just set my schedule, add my content, and then they handle posting and re-posting my content like, forever. Set it up once and then “Look ma, no hands!” It’s brilliant.
But don’t just automate and broadcast your content, this is still social media and you gotta show up. Use schedulers to help you be more efficient and “batch” your tasks, but don’t forget to be a human and engage with people. (End of the day, people do business with other people.)
Use A Good Email Service
Finally, I just want to touch on email marketing, because it’s the natural best friend to blogging.
If your blog readers opt-in to your email list, they’re giving you permission to market your business to them; take them up on it.
To get started, you’ll need to sign up for an email service and then integrate the sign-up form into your website. For clients just starting out, I recommend MailerLite, it has great automation features and it’s really intuitive to use, and, it’s free for lists up to 1,000. (MailChimp is the main competitor but it’s never been my cup of tea― that’s pure personal preference. You might sign up for both and see which one makes more sense for you.)
ConvertKit is the next step up and even easier to use; there’s only reason why it’s not my first recommendation―there’s a no free version available when you’re just starting out and you may only get a few people trickling into your list at first. But it’s a real game changer if you’re planning to go for it.
So, to blog or not to blog?
Are you going to go all in? Or has this totally overwhelmed you before you even get started? (I hope the only reason you might feel dissuaded is that it truly isn’t right for your business. If it’s a matter of “figuring out where to start,” you can totally do it.)
My best advice: just get started. Believe me, you’ll learn as you go.