Blogging for Business 101 - All You Need to Know

Blogging in a fundamental part of many an online business success. Its the crux to many marketing techniques, its fresh content, unique content, its quality content and ultimately it can be evergreen shareable content. The content below is directly from one of our friends, Social Media Makes Sense who offer all kinds of Social Media Training and Management - plus lots more besides. A big thank you to Jo and the team over at SMMS for letting us share this great resource with you our lovely audience. If you love this resource click across to their site and why not also checkout their upcoming workshop on Blogging for Business in early April 2016.

Dipping your toes into blogging for business

Welcome.  Below I have written a detailed breakdown on all things blogging; what is blogging, how to write a blog, what to write about, how long a blog should be, where to post your blog, how to get reads & shares and how to get published on big name sites.  I have written this in-depth piece to help you hit the ground running and truly reap the rewards of blogging for your business.   My main area of expertise is Social Media but having been blogging for over 3 years I have gained a lot of knowledge about the subject which I’m sharing with you today.  Everything I include in here is based on my own personal experiences from writing blogs for the likes of Microsoft, Virgin Media, Sage,Yahoo! Small Business and more.

Firstly, what is a blog?  According to Google a blog is ‘a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.’  In fact, what you are reading right now is a blog.  It’s an online, casually written, page or website that offers information and content.

So how do you start a blog? It’s actually very easy. The first step is to sit down and write something (I cover what to write below) you can do this in any word processing software, for example, Word or Notepad.  Then you need to find a publishing platform (somewhere to upload your content online).  There are lots of great websites and spaces that offer a blogging function – WordPress and Tumblr are great examples of these.

You can easily set up an account in minutes, publish your content and get sharing.  However, the best place to start blogging is within your own website as it will help you gain website traffic and increase your SEO (search engine optimisation). If you don’t already have a blogging element to your website please speak to your Website Developer.

Who Cares What You Are Saying?

The next thing to consider is what do you blog about?  Funnily enough, this is potentially the hardest part.  You’d probably assume that if someone wants to start a blog it’s because they have a particular topic or subject in mind that they’d like to write about.  In reality, most people want to blog because they have heard about the benefits blogging has brought to others and they’d like to try too.

I frequently run blogging workshops and the most common thing I hear is ‘But I’ve got nothing to say’.   Rubbish.  If I were to offer you the opportunity to sit down and talk to three potential clients today you’d have something to say to them.  Your blog is no different.  It’s your opportunity to shine, show your expertise and win business.

Start by writing about a topic you know really well.  Impart your knowledge and educate your audience.  Don’t try and tease your readers, or tell half the story to drive leads, be open, honest and give away your expertise.  As you know, it’ll take more than reading about a subject to become an expert in it so you’re not in danger of losing work or giving your competitors an advantage.  If you establish yourself as an expert you’re proving your credibility and will ultimately drive sales. The more advice I give away, the more people want to hire me.  If you read a driving theory manual, you can’t drive a car, can you?  The same goes for most blog topics.  I can tell you all about Social Media but you’d still probably rather hire me to do it properly and professionally for you because you know I’m the expert from reading my blog.

A client of mine once said ‘But I have nothing original to say, everyone else has already said it’.  I laughed out loud at this and replied ‘You think I have something original to say? I’m flattered’.  The fact is he was right.  Most topics have been covered and not just by one or two people, often hundreds.  But your job when blogging is to share your personal opinions and conclusions in a language and manner that you think will resonate with your audience.  There are plenty of blogs about blogging, yet you have chosen to read mine.  We all had to learn these things at some point and we all had a preferred teacher.  The same goes for blogging.

To make it even easier for you, here’s a good way of creating your blog topics: Replicate, Educate, and Ask.

Replicate: If you read something you like but think it’s missing something or needs more detail, write about that! Never copy, just expand and enhance on existing successful posts.

Educate: Impart your knowledge. Teach your audience something that will enhance their businesses or lives and share your knowledge.

Ask: If you are still stuck, ask your audience what they’d like to know. ‘If you could ask me anything today and get free advice, what would it be?’ compile the questions and create a blog.  Alternatively, interview another expert about their chosen topic; even less work for you!

Tip: write a list of blog topics at once, you’ll have several ideas come to you at once, you should eventually write about them all.  Keep them on the back burner and schedule your time to allow you to produce them all.  Blogging is about quality of information but it also relies on frequency – commit to producing a blog at least once a month (if you can) or better still, one a week!

Does Size Really Matter?

The next thing I get asked is ‘How long should a blog be?’  The advice and suggested lengths of blogs vary massively from expert to expert.  My main advice is write to a length you are comfortable with. A length you feel will retain your audience’s attention but try not to waffle.  You should write blogs for the sole purpose of being read by your target audience.  Write in a language and manner they will relate to and to a length that will continue to engage them.  Having said that, I typically write short 500-600 word blogs for LinkedIn and longer blogs for educational platforms.  The reason being, on LinkedIn, my audience are at work, they want short, quick & easy to digest information so I typically write blogs with titles similar to ‘5 Easy Steps To Creating A Social Media Strategy’.

This allows my readers to gauge how much time and investment reading my blog will take but also the key information they will receive having read it. For platforms like the Sage Blog that I produce content for, I want to write educational pieces that give as much detail as needed. Therefore I typically write over 1000 word blogs. The readers on this platform have come to invest time in reading content that will educate them and help their businesses, so you can’t cut short.  If a blog gets beyond 2000 words, I’d suggest posting it as a two-parter, just to make it digestible.

Also, your own confidence, time and stamina will play a part deciding between little and often or longer pieces.

Make Waves

Now that you’ve produced this fantastic piece of content, how do you get it out there?  How to get reads, shares and business from it?  Start with the title.  Have you given your blog a compelling title? Does it explain enough to tempt someone to read it but doesn’t give away the key components?

I like to use numbers; this is a little old school but I think it’s helpful to your reader. For example ‘Getting Started With Social Media – 9 Detailed FAQs’ – you know the blog will be longer than usual as it says ‘detailed’ but you also know that means quality content.  Use questions in your title: ‘Want to know how to blog?  Here’s everything you need to know…’.   Entice your audience by asking relatable questions.  You can also try using celebrity names: ‘6 Tweets Batman Would Post If He Used Twitter’ – fun content is just as good for gaining reads as educational.

Next up, I always start with my personal network.  Ask your friends and family to read and share your work; they will also let you know if there’s any mistakes or if it’s any good –  let them be your proofreaders and test audience.  Once you get your feedback, share amongst your professional networks.  Post on your Twitter, Business Facebook page, LinkedIn and ask your network to share your work! ‘I have written this blog about blogging, I’d really appreciate your feedback and if you could share amongst your networks please’.

The internet can be a friendly place if you ask it to be. This is how I started my blogging journey and its lead me to writing for some of the most prestigious blogs in the UK (even the world).  Once you’ve done this, share in your newsletter too; keep getting it out there!  And finally, ask influencers (people on social media with a large following, specifically people related to your industry or who share your target audience) and other sites to link back to your post.  This can be more difficult but if your blog has lots of reads and likes, it’s more likely to be taken seriously.  Start by asking influencers on Social Media to simple share or retweet your post about your blog; I once asked James Caan to share one of my posts and to my surprise he did and then followed me! Then approach sites that are linking back to other blogs on similar topics to share yours; if it’s good, it usually gets on.

Shoot for the Stars

Finally, how do you approach big name sites to blog for?  To be honest, in my experience they have all approached me first. This is because I shared my blog across all my networks and got influencers to talk about my content too.  Big sites notice these things and will get in touch.  However, if they don’t contact you soon enough, simply ask them if you can write for them.  Send examples of your work, explain you are trying to establish yourself as an expert in your field and explain why you think your blogs would benefit their site/readers.  Big sites are looking for quality content, if you can offer it to them, why wouldn’t they say yes?

I hope you have found this post helpful, please leave comments or questions below and good luck on your blogging mission!

Here are some other articles I think you will find useful as you develop your blogging presence: http://www.criminallyprolific.com/2015/03/link-building-study-how-i-ranked-3-for-my-term-on-google-in-14-days/

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-12-dos-and-donts-of-writing-a-blog

http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2015/02/09/how-to-write-a-blog-post

Blogging for Business 101, written by Social Media Trainer in Manchester, Jo Booth.