Jump on the Blogging Bandwagon [Business Magazine]

This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Business Magazine.

With everything else that a small business owner has on their plate, the last thing you may want to think about is setting up a blog for your business. It seems like yet another thing that “people” say is important, but you just don’t see how. Try this: Blogging and advertising network BlogHer reports that 61% of U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog. Another reason? Digital marketing agency Think Creative says that small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than small businesses that do not blog.

Have I convinced you that blogging is a good idea? Great. Here are some ways to make it efficient:

– Prioritize writing. While it may not seem like a productive way to spend your time at first, companies that blog have 97% more inbound links, according to Hubspot. These inbound links have a significant effect on your search engine rankings by bringing more eyes to your website, which means more visitors to your site and your business. Set aside distraction-free time for writing just as you would set aside time for staff meetings or paying the bills. I like to use a task-clock like 30/30 to set work periods and breaks for myself. Even if I have to go back and rewrite something because it’s not working, it’s a better start than a blank page.

– Make a (realistic) schedule. Start with one to two blog posts a week on topics related to your field. Contrary to what you might want to do, do not try to sell your products or services at the beginning. You want to establish your blog as an interesting read first. Even once established, your blog should have a maximum of 30% “sales” content. When you have a handle on that schedule, start incorporating more posts. Making weekly “column” slots (customer spotlight, product of the month, quote of the week) is a great way to keep readers coming back and to give yourself some structure.

– Plan an editorial calendar. Once you’ve got the hang of this blogging thing, start getting serious about it by planning out an editorial calendar, including a yearly plan. The advantage of this broad view of editorial is that, instead of just creating content when it comes to you, you can tailor the content for what people are looking for at any given time. If one of your customers is a Christmas tree farm, you can make sure their spotlight happens in late November or early December, when people are looking for Christmas trees.

– Repurpose your content. Beyond simply sharing your blog content on Facebook, Twitter, or your other social feeds, make sure to repurpose it in other ways. Include some of those spotlights in your monthly newsletter, turn that list into a great Slideshare presentation or make those statistics into a great infographic with a service like Easel.ly.

– Read as much (or more than) you write. The best way to become a better writer is by becoming a better reader. Plus, knowing the topics being discussed in your field gives you an opportunity to share your knowledge or provide a countering viewpoint.

By going into blogging with a plan, you can set up your business as a thought leader and generate both web and foot traffic at the same time.