Recently, small businesses got an important reminder about the value a blog can bring to their business.
If you haven’t heard, a new algorithm from Google called AuthorRank gives a real advantage to small businesses that continuously create fresh, high quality content online.
For those businesses already using a blog for their business, this is a huge opportunity and could go a long way in helping your business get discovered online. For those businesses that have been on the fence about starting a blog, there’s never been a better time than now.
This week, I sat down with Dave Charest, Content Manager at Constant Contact to answer a few questions about blogging. Watch this week’s Ask an Expert to see if any of these questions are relevant to your business! (Also, make sure to share any other questions you might have in the comments below.)
(Here is the transcript, if you’d prefer to read…)
1. Why is now a good time for small businesses to consider (or reconsider) starting a blog?
Right now is really a perfect time to get started.
People have been talking about blogging and creating content for quite some time now, but more recently—the development of AuthorRank from Google has started that conversation again.
If you haven’t heard, what Google is doing is putting more focus on the people creating content when generating search rankings. What that will mean is businesses that are creating more content and are continuously creating valuable content that’s getting social engagement from fans and followers are going to have an advantage when it comes to getting discovered online.
In addition to that, just having a blog is a great opportunity to create content that can be shared in your other marketing efforts. You can share blog posts in your email newsletter or post them on social media. And what ends up happening is you’ll have a central place to create your content.
With that content, you’ll have an opportunity to really humanize your business because you’ll be a real person writing to a real audience and will look at you as an individual, rather than just as a brand.
Just to add to that—one of the great things about AuthorRank is that is really levels the playing field for small businesses, in the sense that now it’s not as much about gaming the system by just generating links to your website. Instead, it’s now really about putting a face behind who’s creating that content and that will help bring your business up in the search rankings.
And that means it’s really about the quality of your content and the stuff that you’re creating and less about just the links. Inbound links are still going to play into it but it also helps break away from those content farms that are just trying to churn stuff up and build links.
2. What does “blogging for your business” really mean?
When you look at a personal blog, typically what you’re seeing is people sharing ideas, thoughts, or maybe just some personal stories.
But when you really get into thinking about blogging for your business, you really want to think about what are the types of things your customers are coming to you for. You want to make sure you’re blogging about topics that are important to your industry and also make sure you’re talking about the things around your business that you can be educating people on.
And it’s not that you necessarily want to be writing for SEO, you want to be writing for people—but you do want to make the small adjustments to get picked up by search engines.
The big thing really is that if you’re writing about the topics that matter within your industry and answering the relevant questions your customers have. This will help you to get people to know, like, and trust you before they’ve even made a phone call or clicked a button to buy something.
As we know, people buy from people they know, like, and trust. And in addition to helping people get to know you, having a blog lets you show your expertise and your thought leadership, and gives people another way to really understand who you are before making a purchase decision.
And if you think of the ways that AuthorRank is going to affect these rankings—you see how important it is to be talking about topics related to your industry.
The more you’re talking about these things, the more opportunity you’ll have to build yourself as a go-to place in your community—if you’re being consistent with the things you’re talking about.
It’s about understanding the goals you’re trying to achieve and delivering content that addresses those goals and that speaks to your audience. As a result, people will start to look to your blog as a go-to place for information.
I think most people who read blogs know that everyone has certain people they turn to when looking for information about a specific topic. And over time you’ll be able to build a community of people who will help your search rankings as well.
3. If someone is thinking about getting started, what are a few things they’ll want to keep in mind?
Ryan: For so many businesses, getting started is really the hardest part. Getting on Facebook or creating an email is something that typically feels somewhat familiar to people. But blogging often seems like this distant thing that requires you to be tech-savvy to do.
But it really isn’t the truth. There are a lot of free platforms to help you get started. Do some research and find out what each of these platforms offer and which ones will work for your business.
But also start thinking about the things you may want to be talking about and who that audience will be. That’s going to guide a lot of your decisions going forward.
Once you understand who you’re speaking to—then you can develop content that speaks to them.
It’s also important to keep in mind that you don’t have to be the only person doing this. You don’t have to be a single person sitting in a room in front of a computer feeling like all the responsibility falls on you.
You probably have people you’re working with already that would be happy to contribute to your blog. Also, there are great sources of content all around you—so look to people and see if employees want to be involved. Varying that voice on your blog is important and it’s going to make it a lot easier for you as well.
4. What are some of the most common challenges businesses tend to face when starting a blog?
A lot of people are nervous about whether or not they can create great content. But I think what it really boils down to is setting realistic goals for yourself and figuring out what that cornerstone content is really going to be for your business.
That’s going to come from the questions you hear from your customers. So, maybe create a list of the ten questions you’re most commonly asked, and let those posts be the foundation for what your blog is.
From there you may decide that maybe you can only do a blog post once a week or maybe you can only handle every other week. I think the big trap people fall into it feeling like, “Alright I really need to create a lot of content…” and then try to do something that they really can’t manage. When you do that you’re really setting yourself up for failure.
So, it’s really about setting realistic goals for yourself and deciding what type of content you can create on a regular frequency. Stick to that and then you can look at maybe increasing your frequency. The reality is that—depending on your industry—you really don’t need to go crazy with it but it is something you seriously need to consider.
So, I think that’s really the biggest challenge—what are you going to blog about and the frequency you’re going to do it. And again, it’s really as simple as figuring out what those questions are, answering those questions, and staying conversational.
A lot of people get nervous about the idea of having to sit down and write but you spend so much time talking to customers and that’s really all it is. It’s about having that conversation, but instead of one-on-one, you’re having it one-to-many and that’s where the huge benefit comes in.
Like Dave was saying, that fear of writing is understandable but you’re really doing a lot of this stuff already. You just need to get this conversation down on paper.
But think of all the other type of content you’re probably already creating—things like photos or videos.
This interview that’s being watched is going to be turned into a post. So just interview someone. Even if you don’t use the video and post it to your blog, you can transcribe it and get it down. You don’t have to feel like you need to be in this room alone coming up with all these great ideas by yourself.
I think Ryan brings up a great point. It’s really about finding the form that you’re most comfortable with. If you feel like writing, then write. If you’re more comfortable just talking and doing a video like this, then do that. Maybe it’s something as simple as recording some audio.
Find what you’re most comfortable with.
Ready to get started? Check out our new guide: “A Beginner’s Guide to Small Business Blogging” to learn how to overcome your blogging challenges and create content your readers will love.