Blogging offers many business benefits, from branding to SEO. But you if you are going to leverage blogging as a business tool, you have to approach it in a measured and strategic way — just as you would any other business project.
In this post, I’ll explore five of the most fundamental steps in building a business blog — from technology to strategy to implementation. Each of these basics can (and should) apply regardless of the industry you’re trying to blog in.
1. Choose a Reliable Blog Host
Now if you’re going to blog for your business, a “hosted” solution such as Blogger or WordPress.com just isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to need a more professional platform — one that you’re in complete control of. After all, imagine your Blogger or WordPress.com account being hacked or suspended: your business would lose its platform and content.
This means that you’ll have to go shopping around for some blog hosting. Now, hosting for a blog doesn’t have to cost a lot. There are plenty of reliable and affordable hosting companies out there.
What you want to look for, however, is one that can offer you two things.
- First, you want a hosting company that specializes in blog hosting (or at least has a package that does). With such companies, you’ll get things like one-click WordPress installation and user-friendly admin dashboards that help you manage the tech side of things. This way, you can focus more on your business, and less on IT headaches.
- Secondly, you want a hosting company that can guarantee 99.99% uptime. This is important because (1) if your blog is down you’re losing visitors, and (2) downtime can adversely affect your SEO.
But don’t just take their website’s word for it (because they all promise 99.99% uptime). Rather, Google around for reviews and see what other people have had to say about their service and performance.
(Read more about: Hostgator Review)
2. Install WordPress and Some Core Plugins
Okay, now that you have chosen your host, you’re going to need to install WordPress and a handful of certain plugins. Now, when it comes to starting a blog with WordPress (what is wordpress?), there are a lot of different things you can do (and you can read about them by clicking that link), but we’ll keep to the core basics.
First, if you’ve chosen a good blog hosting provider, they probably offer one-click WordPress installation. So installing your business’s publishing platform should’ve gone smoothly.
But now you’re going to need some plugins to take WordPress to the next level. WordPress is great out of the box, but there are plenty of free, trusted plugins you can install to pimp your blog and its performance.
WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast – There are plenty of SEO plugins out there, but this one takes the cake. Even if you’re using a WordPress theme that has a lot of built-in SEO features, it probably doesn’t offer everything this plugin does. This plugin allows you to really optimize your blog at every level, and even features great documentation so that you understand the significance of all its different SEO options. The main features that you should pay attention to, though, are:
- Custom Page Titles & Meta Desciptions for posts
- Custom Page Titles & Meta Desciptions for Category Pages
- Duplicate Content features — i.e. “no indexing” your Tag, Date, and Author arhives
AddThis plugin – This plugin allows you to easily add all your favourite social sharing buttons to any post or page on your blog. This way, you can encourage users to share your content, and attract more attention to your business.
Custom Contact Forms plugin – Just like SEO plugins, there are plenty of contact form plugins, but this one offers the flexibility and customization that a business needs. You can build different contact forms for different pages/sections of the blog to better track lead submission, export form submissions in CSV files (great for email list compiling or lead gen), and do so much more.
3. Build a Category Taxonomy
Now, I know it seems like a no-brainer that your blog should have categories, but this is something that you really have to think out in advance. There are two reasons for this.
First, your core category structure shouldn’t really change. Once it’s set, it’s going to dictate the kind of topics you cover. To that extent, it’s going to keep you focused. If you’re just going to add whatever categories you want as you go, then you’re going to lose focus and your readers won’t know what to expect.
Second, your categories are going to support your SEO. After all, if your categories dictate what you’re blogging about, then they dictate what kind of keyword variations appear over and over on your blog, day after day, week after week. So consider the products/services you’re trying to sell and rank for, and use those to inform how you structure your categories.
For example, if you sell fashion accessories, then your blog categories might reflect your different kinds of products. So you’ll have categories for:
From there, you’ll be able to discuss everything from your different lines of accessories to tips on how your customers can better accessorize. That kind of content will not only keep them engaged and coming back, but it’ll help you attract new sources of search traffic as users search for accessorizing tips.
4. Develop an Editorial Calendar
There is nothing worse on a blog than when you click on a category and there’s only one or two posts in it, or it hasn’t been updated in ages. It makes you wonder why the category is there at all.
Once you have your categories set-out, you have to make sure they are updated with content on a consistent basis. This is where your editorial calendar comes in.
You know how often you can blog and what kind of resources you have. So your job with the editorial calendar is to allot those resources in a way that each category is updated in turn.
Failure to do this doesn’t only mean making a bad impression on users. It also means failing to produce keyword rich content that’s going to help your business rank for its different products/services.
5. Get Social & Syndicate
Just because you blog it, that doesn’t mean that they’ll come (and read it). You have to get it out there to the communities that it’s relevant to. This mean leveraging Facebook and Twitter to attract a new audience.
Twitter: On the Twitter side of things you should probably have a profile for your business (or blog) through which you can Tweet your latest content. And when you do so, make sure to hashtag your Tweet with relevant keyword targeted hashtags so that people find it (e.g. #travel, #fashion, etc.). But you can’t stop there. You actually have to get social, too. Go out and follow people who are interested in your industry. Engage them with @replies and by Retweeting their content. This will help you build trust and relationships, which will translate into readers who will also share/Tweet your content in turn.
Facebook: Your business/blog is also going to need a Facebook page where its content can be syndicated. And just like Twitter, you don’t want to just post links to your content. You also want to share third party content that your users will be interested in. This will demonstrate that you actually care about their interests beyond how it affects your bottom line. For some great insight on how to do this effectively, check out 3 Surefire Ways to Become the Coolest Community Manager on the Block.
Content is King, Queen, and Church
The value of blogging goes beyond talking about your products/services. It’s a core component of SEO and, if done right, helps you build a community up around your brand.
These two value propositions are important because they mean (1) new users/customers acquired through search, (2) loyal users/customers through meaningful community interactions, and (3) more new users/customers through word-of-mouth from your loyal customer-base. It’s for these reasons you need a publishing platform (WordPress) that’s stable (hosting), has the right bells and whistles (plugins), and is leveraged in a consistent and focused way (editorial calendar) that lends value to the marketplace (social communities)