Blogging For Businesses Part II: Best Practices To Employ and Tips To Stand Out
Updated: Aug 20, 2020
In a previous post you can find here, I covered why it is a good idea for small and mid-size businesses to blog, as well as some things to look out for when starting. After reading that post, hopefully your business has decided it is worth taking the plunge and starting a blog to share what your brand is about, build an identity and get people viewing your material and website.
But what is the best way to go about writing your posts? What kinds of things should you do, what should you look out for, and how often should you write? How long should the posts be, and about what topics? These can be tricky questions to answer, particularly for a business that is just getting started with their blog.
In this post, I attempt to answer some of these common questions, as well as provide a framework for what makes a ‘successful’ blog. To get started, I recommend the following:
*Make Sure Your Website Is Set Up To Capture Value
Blogs are a great way to get traffic to your website and eyeballs on your content. But what happens when customers get to your website? Is it set up in a user friendly way? Can people who want to find more information do so easily and quickly? Does relevant information about your brand or products stick out? Do you give customers a way to interact with you, such as by providing an email address, should they choose?
These are all things to take stock of before publishing a blog. If you write a great blog, but your website is not set up properly, the impact of your blog will be quite limited if you are using it for a business purpose. Worse, if potential customers get to your website from your blog but cannot find what they need when they get there, your bounce rate will increase, which is never a good sign. Doing a website audit is a must for businesses interested in starting a blog.
Along with this, make sure that your website has a way to collect data such as pageviews, engagement, source and conversion metrics. This data will illuminate several things for your business, such as optimal time to post and what blogs posts work (or do not work). To me, Google Analytics is the standard here, but there are other resources you can consider as well.
*Understand Your Audience or Potential Audience
In order for your blogs to truly be impactful for your business, you need to have an understanding of who your audience is - or could be. This means that you should try to write blogs that are going to resonate with your audience, because it will include your ideal prospective customers. And your ideal audience may even help bring you other readers and customers via positive word of mouth.
Take our Oak Moon blog for example. Our ideal customer is a small to midsize business that either desires to, or is approaching, being funded. So when we write blogs, it is with that audience in mind. Our goal is to put out content that the audience might find useful and informative, which leads them to reach out and engage with us further. We would not want to write blogs that highlighted products for example - while it would be good content that some would find useful, people who may be our customers may not be motivated to act and engage with us.
I also recommend not trying to actively sell people anything when writing blogs. According to HubSpot, people read blogs for a variety of reasons - and being sold something is not one of them. HubSpot found that among people who regularly read blog posts, their top reasons for reading them were:
Try to be informative, try to show off what you know about your industry, but do not try to actively sell anything or your blog will fall flat.
*Be Realistic About How Frequently You Can Post
Depending on how big or small your business is, this can vary. Simply put, small businesses that have 1-2 people working do not have time to churn out the content that, say, a 10-20 person business might. The 1-2 person shop has too much going on that relates to the actual function of the business, whereas the 50 person shop might be able to devote a full time employee or two to blogging, social media and other forms of marketing.
That does not mean however that blogging is an impossibility for smaller businesses. For businesses in this boat, I would recommend setting a goal of one blog a week. While estimates of how long it takes to write a blog post vary by source and by length of blog, the general consensus is it takes something in the 3-4 hour range to write a quality blog post of meaningful length, from start to finish. HubSpot recommends that ideally, blogs should be in the 2,100 to 2,400 word range for them to be impactful from an SEO perspective. They do note however that there are blogs of small length (approximately 1,500 words) that registered the most readers in a study they conducted.
If your business has more headcount, I recommend trying for 2-3 posts per week. These are the businesses that can devote resources towards this effort without totally shifting them away from activities that are designed to keep the light on. No matter how frequently your business posts though, always remember to….
*Be Authentic In Your Posts
Authenticity is the key to any successful blog. Potential customers are very adept at picking up when a brand writes a blog that goes against that brand’s values or image. Any deviation from that is going to be picked up by the audience, which not only hurts brands but turns off readers from continuing to read your blog or visit your website. Your blog has to stay true to who you are and what your brand represents.
Take for example my personal blogging style. I try to write my blogs to be helpful and informative. I typically use statistics and infographics in my blog posts to support my analysis and provide additional sources of information for my readers. I want to demonstrate that I am thoughtful, intelligent, and know my stuff. If I were to write a loose, make you laugh blog with a few GIF’s sprinkled in, it would not be consistent with my writing style, come off as inauthentic and confuse the reader about what my personal brand is. That is not to say one approach is right and the other is wrong, they are just different styles. As a brand, figure out what style works for you, what resonates with your ideal customers and go with it.
*Determine When You Will Publish Your Blog
When you publish your blog does matter, as you will want to publish it to get maximum exposure (and shares if you share it across social channels). You do not want to publish your blog and share it at midnight EST if you want to optimize the reach it has - a very large portion of your audience will be sleeping!
But is there a ‘right’ time to publish a blog? Turns out there is. According to Neil Patel, himself an influential blogger in the marketing world, the best time to publish if your goal is to maximize traffic is Monday mornings at 11 AM. If your goal is comments from readers on your blog, Neil recommends publishing on Saturday mornings. If your goal is backlinks, publishing early in the morning on Mondays and Thursdays is optimal. This data comes with a caveat however: different markets will have different optimal times. The times listed, while useful, are general. This is where knowing your audience is important - once you do you can look at the data to see what times are optimal for your business.
I would also recommend staying as consistent as you can with what day you publish. As you build momentum with your blogs and gain a following, you can condition readers to be on the lookout on a certain day and time for your content - say noon EST on a Tuesday for example. Content is king of course, but publishing blogs inconsistently can lead to less eyeballs on your blog, so I recommend setting a day, time and sticking to it. As an added bonus, this can be a way to hold yourself accountable to make sure you devote time to turning out content.
Above all though, I recommend if you want to pursue a blog, just get started writing some content! This is my first time blogging, and I can honestly say just churning out the first few pieces of content has been tough. I want everything to be perfect (never is), and get the best possible results every time. But as I have continued to do this, I am starting to feel more and more comfortable in what I put out, and I will be able to collect and analyze data as I go to refine my process and content. As always, it is a work in progress, but breaking that initial barrier and getting content out there was a challenge I am glad I overcame.
Good luck, and happy writing!
Oak Moon is a consulting agency based out of Columbus, OH that helps companies market their brands, define value propositions and uncover customer insights, among other services. If you are interested in hearing more or have questions or comments about this blog, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.