The Simple Truth About Blogging to Grow Your Business Online

blogging-for-business

Let me guess..

You’re completely confused.

Flummoxed.

You’ve read the hype about online marketing, especially social media marketing.

Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube.

The whole world and his mother has heard about “having a conversation with a brand”.

You’re probably frustrated too.

Because it seems you can’t get any traction.

Social media is noisy, and your voice is drowned out and ignored.

Does it ever feel that you have walked into a big rowdy party, stone cold sober, and know nobody?

Imagine having a plan to grow your business online, a systematic plan that you know works. With simple, easy to do steps, which only requires some smart focus and consistent effort.

By the time you get to the end of this piece, that’s exactly what you’ll have.

The problem with relying solely on social media marketing

The big problem with social media marketing is the sheer volume of noise. Just take a look at your Twitter stream and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s practically impossible to get noticed.

And there’s another big problem.

Social media properties are not your properties-you’re a cybersquatter.

Staking a claim on somebody else’s property. If you’re Irish, you will know all about being a tenant.

And you are completely at the mercy of the whims of Facebook, Twitter, and the other powerhouses of social media who, understandably, have to satisfy their shareholders on Wall Street.

What happens is that the rules change, completely out of the blue most times, and there’s not a single thing you can do about it.

Just take a look at Facebook now and you’ll see that since they changed the rules about who sees what you share in January, 2015 about 10% of your fans see your stuff.

If you want the other 90% to see, you have to pay.

Imagine spending all that time building up fans on Facebook, year after year, and now you can only reach between 10-15% of them, unless you break out the credit card.

Twitter is heading the same way, and if you think about it, it makes sense. These platforms are not charities, and they have to make a profit.

Why blogging works

Blogging works because to grow your business online, you need to become an authority in your field. A blog with good content allows you to demonstrate that authority.

To sell online, you also need to build a “know, like, and trust factor” with your potential clients/customers.

And to do that you need to start a conversation with them.

Makes sense, right?

A blog is a great conversation starter and allows you to develop a relationship with your readers.

And this relationship can be further developed through email marketing.

Building your list, a list of subscribers to your blog, is probably the best reason of all for starting and running your own web property.

Your blog, of course, can, and should, be your own property too-you decide on the content you create and you make the rules.

No more worrying about Facebook changing the rules again.

What you can learn from the world’s leading social media gurus about blogging

The leading social media experts in the world-Chris Brogan, Mari Smith, Michael Hyatt, Michael Stelzner, Ann Handley, Peg Fitzpatrick, Jay Baer, Laura Fitton- are all agreed on one thing.

The best asset you can build online is an email list-a list of subscribers.

And the best way to build this list is on your own blog.

So, these social media “gurus” have, as their primary goal, getting you onto their email list.

Ignore the irony here for a minute.

They know this gives them the opportunity to build a real relationship with you, and not have to worry about trying to communicate with you in a noisy environment like a Twitter stream of Facebook feed.

This is the power of email marketing-your subscriber has opted in to receiving your messages into their email inbox. Then you don’t have to compete with all the other distractions in people’s Twitter or Facebook feeds.

How to get started

You can actually start a blog for free. WordPress.com, Typepad.com, and Blogger.com all offer free blogging platforms.

But they are probably not the best option for you, because you may still have the problem of building your web property on someone else’s platform.

The sharecropper syndrome.

The best option is to get your own hosting account and set up your own blog on this account. LetsHost.ie is who I use and can recommend them highly. A hosting plan starts at 7.95 euros per months so there is no excuse for not taking and maintaining control of your own web property-your blog.

What to write about

What questions are your potential clients asking? How can you serve your market? How can you provide value and demonstrate your expertise and authority?

What frequently asked questions arise repeatedly in your market?

What can you or your business do to make life easier for your potential clients?

What have you done in the past for your clients?

Have you case studies you can share?

What new developments have occurred in your market in the last 12 months? What’s expected to occur in the future?

There are 3 types of posts which people love and which are incredibly, consistently popular:

  • short list type posts
  • long list type posts
  • how to type posts.

So, let’s assume you are an accountant or tax advisor. You could write

  • 3 Costly Mistakes All Small Businesses Make in their Tax Returns
  • 21 Critical Considerations When Choosing an Accountant
  • How to Register a New Employee With the Revenue Commissioners

The art of blogging

I’ve written before about how blogging has been a monumental part of my growing my solicitor’s practice.

Quite frankly, it couldn’t have happened without blogging. And, funnily enough, it all started by accident.

I actually only started my first blog to have an easy to reference place to store my Law Society lecture notes, and as a study aid.

But the traffic that naturally began to come to the blog soon startled me awake to the potential if I really dug into it, studied what other leading bloggers were doing, and leveraged it.

You can too.

It’s not too late.

Not by a long shot.

Arguably, as social media channels become busier, more crowded, and noisy as a Moroccan street market, there is an even stronger argument for using blogging at the centre of your online activity.

So, what’s holding you back?

Write your first blog.

And most of all? Have fun.

 

I’d love to hear why you haven’t started, or if you have, what problems you’re having.

The Zen of Blogging for Business

business-blogging

Do you have a blog for your business?

Have you wondered about the most effective way of generating new clients?

Are you confused about the best platform for you and your business?

Nowadays there are many different places you could build a platform online, especially on a social media site. But, almost certainly, the best way-by a country mile- is by blogging.

That’s been my experience. Let me explain…

Digital sharecropping

Building your platform on someone else’s website-be it Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Pinterest-carries enormous risks-risks of these big companies changing their rules, their terms and conditions, and wiping out your hard work spent building an audience.

Starting a blog on your own self-hosted web hosting account is your insurance against this. All your hard work benefits you.

A blog allows you to position you and your business as an authority in your area of expertise.

Ultimately it will allow you to build a relationship with your readers, one which will ensure that they come to know, like, and trust you.

The biggest barrier to selling anything online is trust, or the absence of it. And the reality is that almost nobody will buy from you or your business the first time they encounter you online.

No, that will take multiple interactions over a period of time which allows you to demonstrate your authority and build the necessary trust.

That’s why blogging, combined with email marketing, is a lethally effective online marketing strategy.

 Content marketing

Don’t confuse “blogging”, though, with the early days of blogging when bloggers tended to use the “web blog” as a personal journal. Many people continue to do this and this personal blogging is not unlike keeping a diary, except it’s online.

Business blogging is slightly different and could also be described as “content marketing”.

This involves publishing good quality, informative, unique content on your blog which educates, informs, and helps your target market. The goal, and outcome if done correctly, is that you will position yourself as an authority and thought leader in your particular industry.

The cumulative effect over time is that people will come to know, like, and trust you-and most importantly recognise that you are actually an authority in your field of endeavour.

Content marketing is not restricted to writing text on a blog; you could also produce great, helpful, unique content with video, audio, powerpoint, interviewing leaders in your industry, podcasting, etc.

 Conversation starter

So, if you accept that your visitor will not buy from you on their first encounter with you what should be your strategy for your blog?

Your blog is a conversation starter. You provide a unique voice, one which resonates with your potential new clients, and which demonstrates that you know your stuff and are a worthy mentor to help them solve their problem.

Your client then becomes the hero of their own story, with you acting as trusted mentor.

Starting your blog-2 routes

Once you decide to start a blog you are faced with where to locate your blog:

  1. On your own hosting account or
  2. On one of the big blogging platforms such as Typepad.com, Wordprss.com, Blogger.com, Tumblr.com.

Hosting your blog on your own hosting account is almost certainly the best route to go, but these other blogging platforms offer some great benefits too. These include the simplicity of setting up your blog and the security you will enjoy against viruses, bugs, malware, and so on, thanks to the resources of the owners of these blogging platforms.

The blogging platform is not critical

The blogging platform you choose is not critical.

You can use any of the options referred to above.

What is vitally important is that your “blogs” or “posts” are ultra useful for your target market.

That you are genuinely helpful, informative, and sometimes even inspirational. And that you write in a way that is easily understood by the greatest number of people who might become a client of yours.

You don’t need to show how clever you are, or how deep your vocabulary is. You need to show you care and can help, and you have genuine expertise.

Showing passion and commitment can work spectacularly well too.

So, why not start now? Start simply by mapping out the most pressing questions and problems your target market face on a daily basis.

Continue by thinking about the external and internal pressures they face, and picturing in your mind your typical client.

Write for him or her.

You’ve got to get started first, though.

Get blogging, be consistent, and you will find that your blog will become one of the best, if not the best, marketing tools in your business.

6 Common Reasons Why Many Small Business Blogs and Websites Fail to Deliver Results

business-blog-mistakes

Is your business blog or website failing to deliver any concrete results?

Do you struggle to attract visitors and traffic?

Are your conversion rates poor?

There are a multitude of reasons why many websites and blogs of small businesses fail to deliver any effective results.

Here are 6 common ones that I encounter regularly:

1.     Poor or inadequate content

There are two aspects to this cause of poor blog performance-one is insufficient content or information on the site. You simply cannot rank well for search phrases or topics that do not appear in your website’s content.

And if you don’t rank well you won’t attract visitors because searchers generally only visit the results on the 1st page of Google; they are very unlikely to go deeper into the results and are more likely to carry out another search rather than visit page 2 or 3.

So you need to rank well for a wide variety of search phrases that your ideal reader is using to find information and a solution for her problem.

The second element is a failure to optimise what content is there for the search engines to ensure the best chance of ranking well.

This is called “on page search engine optimisation” and is a fancy way of describing some basic rules for presenting your content well for the search engines to help your blogs rank well in search engine results.

 2. Poor or nonexistent call to action

Lots of sites make it hard for visitors to make contact or make an enquiry-the contact details are only available on one page and you have to search around to find them.

Make it incredibly easy for your visitors to contract you, and give them a range of options such as phone, email, contact form, Skype, Google Hangouts, or walk into your office.

Some people are happier emailing for more information, some like to pick up the telephone, some may even want to text you to make initial contact; regardless, you need to make it incredibly easy for your visitors to contact you in whatever form they like and respond promptly to their query.

3. Failure to promote your site effectively

Unfortunately the notion of “build it and they will come” will not work-you do need to promote your content and your site.

And promoting it does not amount to asking people to “check out my latest blog”-you need a little more imagination than that. You also need a systematic approach to using social media to get your message and content out there.

Which platforms are best for your business will depend very much on your ideal reader and client-for example, professional service providers such as accountants, consultants, and solicitors may find an interested audience on LinkedIn while a hair and beauty therapist may find a more receptive audience on Facebook or Twitter.

You need to give people a reason to read what you have written and answer the question of “what’s in it for me”, which the reader is asking.

There are far too many competing distractions on the internet for a boring, bland request to “check out my latest blog” to have any real effectiveness.

4. Cluttered and busy site design

Many sites are simply too crowded and cluttered to ensure effective outcomes from visitors-you should have one or two preferred actions that you want your website traffic to take.

And you then need to make it incredibly simple and glaringly obvious to the visitor as to what they need to do next.

Leonardo Da Vinci said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

5. Content-failing to cater for what people are actually searching for

Yes, back to content again-because website content is the single biggest problem for most small business blogs and websites.

This aspect of the problem is the failure to target the specific words and phrases that people in your market are actually searching for, and failing to understand what motivates your ideal reader, what worries her at night, what common problems he faces on a daily/weekly basis.

This failure is a serious one because if you do not know what worries your ideal reader and what motivates her, you are unlikely to provide content that interests and inspires her; and your visitors are unlikely to view you as the person who can help them.

If you are not addressing your readers’ worries and concerns, if you cannot demonstrate that you are a person they can trust and who knows their stuff, and if you cannot persuade them you are a person or business they can feel comfortable working with,  you can be sure that your competitors are working hard on this.

Catering for your ideal reader is something that I have written about before: How to Generate an Endless Supply of Business Blogs that Will Grow Your Client List and Your Readers Will Love and addresses the critical importance of writing to help your reader.

6. Font size too small

Many websites use a font size that is too small and virtually unreadable for older readers. They forget that when you use a 12 point font in a letter the recipient can hold it up as close to their eyes as they wish; they can’t do this with a computer screen.

Here’s an example of an excellent piece of content with a pathetically small font. Compare the size of the font on that page with this page or this one or this one.

Most people, when faced with such a tiny font size, will simply click away back to the search results. (I myself actually copy and paste it into a Word document and set the font size to 16 or higher, but most people won’t do this).

The good news?

The good news is that all of these mistakes are easily avoidable and can be prevented with

  1. Simple, uncluttered design
  2. Content that speaks to your ideal reader
  3. Smart, cost effective promotion of your blog content on the social media channels that are right for your business.

How to Generate an Endless Supply of Business Blogs that Will Grow Your Client List and Your Readers Will Love

blogging-for-business

It happens the best of us, you know.

You’ve no idea what to write about on your blog.

You’ve completely run out of ideas for your blog posts.

Has your well of inspiration run completely dry?

This has happened the very best of writers too, from time to time.

It’s happened me too but what worked for me will almost certainly work for you too; the good news is that by the end of this post you will never run out of ideas again.

Business blogging

The starting point for your blogging with the purpose of generating new business and growing your client base should be your ideal reader. She, after all, should be your sole concern when you are blogging because ultimately you blog to help her and be seen as a genuine, trusted authority.

The best way to do this is by becoming a mentor for her.

Your business blog is not a journal or diary. Your reader doesn’t really care about you or your business-she has enough worries of her own.

Therefore, new members or staff or company news or takeovers you are planning are not what you should blog about.

Start with your ideal reader, who will, hopefully, become your ideal client.

What keeps him awake at night?

What are her worries and concerns?

What mistakes is he making that you can help him with?

What questions has she?

What internal pressures has he?

What external pressures and circumstances can you help him alleviate or eradicate entirely?

What really bothers him?

What you need to do is to educate, teach, and inspire your reader.

Once you become a trusted mentor selling is easy, and natural.

Types of blog posts

There are two types of blog posts that will provide you with an endless stream of content; it’s arguable that you could rely completely on these two types for your entire blogging career.

And in doing so, provided your content was good, you would not be short changing your reader in the least.

1.      “How to” type posts

How to posts are simply helpful posts which tell your ideal reader how to solve a particular problem. These types of posts never go out of fashion-they are evergreen.

Let’s face it: if you have a problem that really bothers you and is, perhaps, costing you money or preventing you from reaching your goal, and some blogger shows you clearly and concisely how to solve that problem, you are going to be delighted.

You are going to look more closely at what that blogger is offering and you will be more than willing to sign up for his free offering to get on his email subscriber list.

2.      “List” type posts

List type posts are immensely popular the world over. People like lists as they seem to promise a discrete, efficient way of communicating important information about a particular topic.

Here are 3 examples from this blog:

Analogies, similes, and metaphors

Analogies, similes, and metaphors allow you to approach a subject matter which you may have covered extensively in the past in a new, fresh way. It can be fun for you and your reader.

A simile is a figure of speech which compares two things using words such as like and as e.g. blogging can generate new business for you as fast as lightning or a good business blog is like a good salesperson for your business.

Metaphors are similar but don’t use the words which compare two things; a metaphor actually states that one thing is another, unrelated thing e.g. All the world’s a stage (As You Like It, W. Shakespeare).

An analogy is a comparison made to show a similarity e.g. Life’s like a box of chocolates. (Note that this analogy is also a simile, which is a common occurrence).

Examples, case studies, and images

Case studies, images, and examples of other people, similar to your ideal reader, finding solutions to their problems implementing the types of solutions you offer also give concrete evidence to support what you blog about and teach.

What now?

Start with your ideal reader, study closely what problems they face, offer them solutions and examples of your solution in action, and demonstrate why you are a natural choice as mentor and trusted advisor.

Don’t talk down to them, share your story-warts, failures and all-be authentic, and watch your readership and client list grow.