We're going to look at 2 things you must consider when starting a business blog:
- Knowing if and when to create a business blog
- Alternatives to starting a business blog
Blogging for business as a silver bullet
People see blogging as a secret weapon that succeeds in and of itself. Even marketing people and digital strategists often sing the praises of starting a business blog and if you buy a website off the shelf, chances are that it will already have a blog enabled, waiting and ready to show off your musings to the world. None of this is willful deception - often the people who maintain that you should definitely blog for business are simply misinformed.
And you might believe them, especially when you see the blogging "super statistics" - and they’re easy to find. But these super-stats are best-case scenario - not average and definitely not standard!
- Marketers who prioritize blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI
- Companies who blog receive 97% more links to their website
- 45% of marketers say blogging is their #1 most important content strategy
(data from Moz and Buzzsumo)
If you dig into any blog, in fact, you should be able to pull out one or more metrics that look great on paper. The problem is that these metrics aren't the metrics that determine whether a blog is working as a business tool (people love to quote things like page views, bounce rate, and even engagement). All interesting stats, sure, but, depending on your aims, often completely immaterial!
Reasons you should create a blog
By and large, the consensus is that blogs should do one (or more of the following):
That said, they’re also pretty abstract and hard to relate to the average business blog. Perhaps a more useful way of looking at it is to say that a business blog should solve your customers’ problems, resolve their pain points, or just straight-up scratch an itch.
The importance of goals when starting a business blog
Once you’ve accepted that blogging should only be an option if you can indeed solve your customers’ problems with your content, the next step on the path to a business blog should be your ability to set some goals. If you’re unwilling or unable to set goals, apart from getting a serious raised eyebrow from me, you’re not ready to blog for business.
Specific goals are essential. Without goals, your blog has no foundation, no purpose and no way to measure and improve. If you can’t improve, you may as well not blog at all. SMART goals are great for a blog, and bear in mind not all goals are created equal - some are harder than others, and if you aim too high, you’ll overreach and, more than likely, burn out before you’ve even started.
I go into blogging goals in more detail here.
Reasons you shouldn't create a blog
So, you’ve got customer problems to solve and a solid goal backing everything up. So why might starting a business blog still prove to be a no-go for some businesses?
Yep, blogging takes a lot of time. There’s a completely unfounded belief in some circles that a “blog post” is a 250-word frippery you can bang out in 30 minutes. I would beg to differ. To give you an idea, it took me 2 hours to write this post, and I had extensive notes from a presentation to guide me. And then there’s promotion (not to mention maintenance, research, images, formatting, and repurposing). You've heard of the 20/80 rule in content marketing, right?
20% of time, effort, money in production
80% of time, effort, money in promotion
Just in case your brain doesn’t want to go there, this would mean that since I spent around 2 hours writing and formatting this blog post, I can expect to spend 8 hours promoting it. It's a rule of thumb, but I find it quite accurate. Intimidating stuff, eh?
A pop quiz!
Bang out all the ideas you have for blog posts where you’re genuinely solving a customer pain point. I’ll wait (if you go ahead and start a blog, this will be a good resource in the future!)
How many did you have? I hope there were at least 12 because that’s a measly 1 post per month. 2 posts and suddenly you need 24. And some of those ideas won’t work as blog posts or there will be other reasons you can’t use them…
Can you come up with new ideas? Of course! But it won’t always be easy and it will always take time!
Skill is a tricky one. Do you have to be a skilled and experienced writer to write blog posts? No (and I admit that only grudgingly). That said, your blog will be a reflection of your brand values and reputation, and you don’t want to put that at risk with sub-par writing.
A second consideration is that writing can actually be hard and tiring, even for good writers. If accurate and stylish writing doesn’t come naturally, aiming high can be exhausting. Aiming high week after week, meanwhile, can be downright stressful (same for coming up with new ideas), and it’s very easy, unfortunately, to get to a place where you really resent the whole (goddamn) blog.
I have never, ever heard of an inconsistent but successful blog. Time, ideas, skill are all needed on a regular, reliable basis, for both your readers and Google. More than likely, you won’t even start to see results from your blog for much longer than you might expect.
I spoke to María Ortega García. She has been blogging about Spanish language learning since 2011 with excellent results - around a thousand visits a day and, crucially, around 4 - 5 requests for trial classes a month. That’s the goal, remember - tangible results (in this case, leads or trials) from your blog.
I asked María where she saw others having problems with their business blogs, and she had this to say:
"I believe (the biggest problem) is a lack of perseverance and effort. It is a lot of time invested before one starts seeing results and I see how people who start now expect to have results in months. It took me at least one year!"
With a 75% conversion rate, María is someone who knows what she's talking about. You might well find yourself blogging for quite a while with nothing exciting to shout about. Keep the head down and the consistency high if you want to see business blogging results - but as always, that's easier said than done!
I go into more detail about getting results (conversions) from business blogs here.
So, should you create a blog?
Do you have:
- Problems you can solve for your clients or customers?
- SMART Goals?
- A skilled, enthusiastic writer?
- Lots and lots of time?
- Oodles of ideas about how to solve your customers’ problems?
Yes? Great! Go forth and blog!
If what lacks are ideas or goals there’s very little that can help you and starting a business blog would most certainly NOT be a good idea.
If you’re low on time or writing skills, it might be a good opportunity to outsource the writing, as long as you're sure, of course (or will be sure after a trial period) that the cost is supported by the results of your blog.
Business blogging alternatives
There is no rule that you need to blog. In fact, there are plenty of alternatives that can actually be pretty effective. To decide best, you still need to set goals and a time frame, and then try out alternatives until you see what works best.
For example, let’s imagine that you thought a blog might be a good way of raising your profile in your local business community, but as it turns out, you don’t really have the time or the dedication. You could try…
- Guest blogging on other local blogs
- Active social networking
- In-person networking by giving presentations or workshops
If you wanted to blog to create leads, you could try…
- Email marketing (use the newsletter as a mini-blog)
- Resource creation (content marketing, in other words. Instead of a weekly blog, a monthly video, or periodic guide or ebook)
So, that's it. Are you any clearer about whether or not a business blog will be a good option for your particular circumstances? Blogs are powerful marketing tools, but only when they're done right.
Blog magnificently, or not at all!
This post was originally published on Niamhly.com on 17/02/17 and moved to Clockwork Blog on 09/11/17. Some changes were made to improve readability, and the title was changed slightly. The content of the article is the same.