Given the wealth of blog tools and advice swimming around the internet today, you have very little excuse not to be able start your own blog. After all, at this point, a highly qualified chimp could boot up a site and start blogging, right?
This critical marketing tactic is expected of any company that hopes to maintain a sterling reputation and bring in new customers. If you don’t yet have a blog – or worse, have a neglected and antiquated weblog circa 2007 – it’s time to fix that.
So, now the question becomes why and how to start a blog. Let’s take a look at that, as well as a few other details to keep top of mind. Whip out your legal pad and get ready to dive in.
Why Should You Start a Blog?
A whole host of reasons exist to start a blog...educating your prospects and clients, enhancing your perceived expertise, building an email list and legitimizing your business from your customers’ perspective.
Probably the main reason, however, is...To Get Found.
Consistent blog posts increase your web presence significantly, giving Google and other search engines something to pull up when prospects are hunting for your products or services. This directly relates to how a blog builds your business.
1 in 10 blog posts are compounding, meaning organic search increases their traffic over time. (HubSpot, 2016)
Compounding blog posts make up 10% of all blog posts and generate 38% of overall traffic. (HubSpot, 2016)
How Blogs Impact Your Business
Once on your site, blogs perform a number of services:
- They give customers information about how to use your products or services
- They make you look like you know what the hell you’re talking about (which you do, right? RIGHT?!)
- They encourage people to sign up for your mailing list, which gives you access to the holy grail of their inbox
Before you can do any of that, though, you have to get them there – and that’s where SEO comes in. Search engine optimization (SEO) means creating quality content, containing words sand phrases that pertain to your business. The more blog posts you can put up that relate to your business concept, the more people will arrive at your front doorstep – digitally or in the flesh.
Wondering How to Start a Blog? The Step by Step Guide
- Decide what you will blog about. This is the most important question in how to start a blog, and will determine the direction of your blog over the length of its life. While you can switch direction later, that might alienate your audience, so it’s best not to. Instead, choose a very narrow niche in which you specialize: small dog agility training, say, or cupcake decoration. Resist the urge to branch out until you’ve built up a dedicated audience.
- Choose a domain name. Once you have your blog direction, it’s time to choose a name. If you have a business, this should be tied to it where possible. Most of the obvious choices will be taken, so be forewarned: You’ll need to get creative. You have two approaches. You can either make a generic URL more specific based on location or your name (e.g. virginiadogagility.com or gregsdogagility.com), or you can go a branded route (marathonpups.com) that doesn’t necessarily mimic your business name directly, but is still on point.
- Choose a blog platform. WordPress is the gold standard of blogging platforms, beloved for its incredible flexibility and constantly evolving open-source tools. Similar sites, such as Blogger and Tumblr, are almost as malleable. The right one for you will depend on your needs; a marketing expert can help you make the best choice.
- Decide where to host your blog. Your hosting platform is a slightly more complex choice than your blogging platform. Most blogging sites, including the three mentioned above, do offer free hosting, but their functionality is quite limited. Typically you want to host your site on a third-party platform such as Bluehost, the Walmart of hosting, or Siteground, an up-and-coming company with excellent service.
- Design your blog. When it comes to design, you have a huge number of options. You can use a free theme offered by a blogging platform, buy a premier theme with more perks, or hire a professional designer to customize a site that fits your exact specifications. Typically your design should employ the branding of your business.
- Gather your other tools. You’ll need more than hosting and design to run an effective blog. You’ll also need a source of images such as Unsplash or Pixabay, or a subscription service. Most blogs also leverage the power of plugins, pieces of software that offer additional functionality (site security, contact forms or social media, for example).
SEO: The Why and the How
Remember SEO, discussed above? It is admittedly an immensely complicated issue, but it does have a few basic tenets. Top among these is choosing a keyword for each article. Make sure this word or phrase is unique from other keywords in other posts, then add it to the post content, title, metadata and more.
It’s also good policy to link to a few other posts on your site, as well as insert a backlink or two to another site.
It’s not enough to write a post and slap it up. Countless bloggers slog away year after year, faithfully creating content that never gets seen because their owners don’t promote them at all. If you don’t want to get lost in the shuffle, it pays to take a few steps after each post goes live.
How to Make Your Blog Pay
The next step, beyond running a blog that generates real visibility, is to make it pay. You can do this in numerous ways, from adding advertising content to selling a product directly from your blog, to using affiliate marketing tactics that make you a commission each time you link to someone else’s shop, resulting in a sale for them.
At the end of the day, there are more ways to run a blog and make it profitable than there are stars in the galaxy. (Probably not, but it sounds good.) All you need to do is find the way that works for your business and get started today.
Samantha, an Inbound and HubSpot Certified Marketer is the Social Media Director for InTouch Marketing.