How to write a blog that drives results for your small business: 10 tips for success
Blogging has become ubiquitous in a very short space of time. Everyone’s doing it. So much so that a blog is now widely acknowledged as being an essential part of content marketing strategy for small business as well as large.
There are quite a few really good reasons for this. It’s relatively easy and cheap; anyone can do it; it’s a quick way to add valuable SEO content to your website and sustenance for your social media feeds.
Perhaps most importantly though, it helps drive business results – website traffic, sales leads, credibility, conversions. Lots of boxes ticked for small business owners.
For the first CJ Copywriting blog, I’ve gathered together several key insights from my and others’ experience of business blogging. It’s not an exhaustive list, but there are hopefully at least one or two practical actions you can implement straight away to help you start or improve your small business blog.
Reading time: 8 mins
First blog anxiety. That blank, white page. It’s pretty intimidating. And it’s exactly where I started with this one.
Then the rational mind kicks in. Stop being so ridiculous. This is what you do. You’ve done it for others for years. It just rolls off the keyboard – doesn’t it?
In an idea world yes, of course. However no matter what the new venture may be, the greatest challenge is often taking the first step. Once taken, it’s hard to remember just how daunting that felt. But in the moment of taking it, it can seem like the most insurmountable task.
The danger is, the fear overcomes and the procrastination sets in. Suddenly the least appealing jobs become the most urgent and fascinating. Cleaning the kitchen sink with forensic care becomes mission-critical.
And so it is with many small businesses when it comes to content marketing generally, and blogging more specifically. You’ve probably heard someone at a networking event – or a business seminar or in a LinkedIn post – wax lyrical about the benefits of both. Agreed, these are many. But actually doing it? Where do you even start?
1 – How to decide what your small business should blog about
If you’re a small business deciding what to blog about, a great place to start is to think about your conversations with your prospects and customers. What questions do they ask? Are there common problems that they face? What do they most love about what you do? The answers can all be the green shoots of highly valuable blog content.
If you’re a small business owner there are probably common topics that immediately spring to mind.
Another aspect to consider is where the customer is in their ‘journey’. For example, are they researching a problem, trying to find a solution or weighing up the different products/solutions available? This will probably influence what content they’re looking for and will therefore most readily engage with.
2 – Understand what your audience is looking for
Relevance is key. Make sure you’re targeting the right keywords/phrases and make them as specific as possible to your niche.
Ultimately, you’re better off getting 10 high quality in-depth readers from your target customer profile than 1,000 vaguely disinterested browsers. The reality is that you’re more likely to achieve this by avoiding very broad, general topics in favour of very specific ones targeting a longer key phrase. For example, rather than ‘industrial widgets’, try ‘industrial large scale widgets for car makers’.
This post from ahrefs.com goes into some useful detail about how to decide topics and carry out keyword research for your blog.
3 – You are the expert so don’t be shy about sharing
Regardless of what you do – from window cleaning to international finance – if you know your stuff, you can be the expert. The thing is, you probably don’t even realise how much you know. It’s often not until you have to explain it to a lay person that you can appreciate the depth of your own knowledge. A simple question or two and some interested coaxing and it tends to gush forth.
All those little tips, shortcuts, mental checklists – stuff you do without really thinking – all has the potential to be a revelation for your prospective customers.
The trick is to package this knowledge into a digestible form that’s aimed squarely at the people you want to attract.
TOP TIP: A great tip I’ve learned and used successfully with blog content is the Skyscraper technique. In a nutshell, it involves researching popular content that ranks well in your niche and producing something better of your own based on the same subject/keywords. This article from Hubspot explains the Skyscraper technique – and how to implement it – in more detail.
4 – Be respectful of your readers’ time
Make it easy for them to glance through and get the gist without having to put in too much time and effort. If you’ve done your job properly, once this initial scan is complete they will want to dive in and have a more thorough read.
If you can make the salient points in fewer words, do it. But don’t skimp on crucial detail. If something needs a lot of words to fully satisfy your audience, use them.
In addition, unless you’re writing about something highly technical for an audience entirely in tune with the lingo, avoid jargon and overly complex words/sentences. Yes, there are definitely circumstances where it’s required, but it shouldn’t be the norm. And no, you shouldn’t see it as ‘dumbing down’ your content – it’s about explaining things clearly and succinctly.
For most small businesses, a primary aim for a blog is to build and educate their potential client base. In this context, alienating them with complex language can be self-defeating.
5 – Pay attention to the format and layout of your blog
This is really an extension to the previous point.
It makes sense to help your readers navigate your copy as quickly and easily as possible. So make it visually attractive and readily digestible.
Most of us struggle to swallow large, intimidating blocks of text, so:
- break them down into shorter paragraphs
- use bullets and numbered lists
- create a logical flow with sub-headings
- further break up the copy and enhance the visual appeal with relevant images and videos
There are also certain types of blog format that will help boost performance.
There’s a good reason that you’ve probably seen a high proportion of blogs based on lists (Top 10 tips…, 7 cheapest hacks…, 9 of the best…) ‘Listicles’ are a tried and tested format that make easily consumed, highly effective blog posts.
From experience, ‘How To’ guides providing practical, actionable advice also tend to generate greater interest.
This helpful article highlights more popular blog formats to try out.
6 – However mundane your business, there are always ways to make it fascinating
The trick is to avoid banging on about your boring product or service. Instead, talk about how it solves your customers’ very real and interesting (to them) problems.
Let’s be honest, we’re all a bit selfish. We spend an awful lot of time thinking about our own problems. Your customers are no different. As a result, if you’re offering an enticing solution to a vexing issue they will most likely be fascinated.
For example, rather than ‘Why our widget is the market leader’, how about ‘7 demoralising productivity issues that can be solved with our market-leading widget’.
7 – Even though your business is small, a blog can help you punch way above your weight
You don’t need to be a multi-national corp with a crack team of professional writers to get your blog ranking on Google and other search engines.
If you’re creating good enough content with laser focus there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t get to the top of the tree in your niche.
Just be sure that you know what success looks like before you invest the time and effort. There’s no point being on page 1 of Google for a search term that’s irrelevant to your business and is therefore unlikely to contribute to your bottom line.
8 – Be patient and don’t expect instant results
Like any relationship, it’s unlikely for trust to be established on first meeting.
As Google becomes more sophisticated in the way that it assesses, categorises and serves up content it’s becoming more human-like. It aims to please by offering content that users want to consume, in the way they want to consume it, in as frictionless a way as possible. (There’s a lot of furious paddling going on below that familiar minimal surface.)
It would take a certain degree of trust for you to personally recommend a third party product or service. Similarly, Google needs to trust that your content is worth recommending to its customers by pushing it further up the search results.
You might be lucky and strike gold with your first post, but it’s unlikely. You’ll probably make mistakes, so be prepared for the reality that some posts will inevitably bomb. Use these to learn more about your audience and their preferences.
For more in-depth insights into how Google works and techniques to achieve better search engine positioning for your blog, I’d recommend this blog from UK SEO expert Shaun Anderson.
9 – Don’t be precious about revisiting and revising your blog content
The beauty of digitisation of content is that it’s easy to change things when they become old, obsolete or outdated. (Or if you dropped a howler and they’re just plain wrong.)
In fact, your readers will reward you for this. They’re far more likely to appreciate a useful, interesting, fresh and relevant piece of content than bemoan the fact that they read the original two years ago.
As a result, you don’t have to feel too precious about old content. No matter how many hours you slaved away on it two years ago you can be ruthlessly critical.
- Is it still relevant and factually correct?
- Is the tone in keeping with the direction your business has taken since it was first written?
- Are the stats up to date?
- Do the links still work and do they still hold up as the best supporting evidence for your points?
A rewritten blog is equal in value to a spanking new one and will generally require a lot less effort.
Furthermore, from an SEO perspective it makes more sense to have one outstanding article on a particular subject than a string of old, outdated ones that are probably just re-treading similar ground.
Quality trumps quantity every time.
10 – It’s worth some investment to get your blog right, even for a small business
Yes, all of this takes time and effort. But get it right and it’s definitely worth it.
If you don’t have the time, or the skill, or simply the inclination, there are plenty of talented blog writers out there that can help.
Be confident that you have knowledge your customers and prospects will be happy to invest their time in consuming and go for it!
Looking for help with your small business blog?
Get in touch today to discuss your requirements with an experienced small business blogger.