Maybe it’s your resolution for 2017, or you’ve simply decided it’s time.
You’ve looked at all the myriad benefits and finally see the ROI through the effort.
I’m talking about starting a blog, of course. Publishing a blog is an incredibly effective way to attract more attention to your business, establish your expertise, and boost your SEO.
You’re already convinced, so let’s dive into the ‘how.’ It’s one thing to see that ROI among the trees, but you’ll need a clear and capable strategy to hack yourself a path through the weeds. We’ll cover off:
Choosing a blog platform, domain name, and hosting,
Designing your new blog,
Planning content for your audience, and
Finding skilled writers to bring your plans to life.
Let’s get to it.
Platforms, Domain Names, and Hosting
Once you commit to starting a new blog, your first decision is which blogging platform you’ll use to create the blog and publish new posts. The options are limitless, but three of the best are Wordpress, Blogger, and Tumblr.
Wordpress is the most popular platform for blogging and for good reason. It’s easy and free to get set-up, has thousands of free themes to choose from and tons of other apps integrate with it.
Blogger makes it super easy to design and run your blog, too, and it also includes a simpler solution for advertising to earn money with your blog.
Tumblr is two parts blog, one part social network. It’s free and easy to connect with your audience, but much less customizable than other blogging platforms.
Now that you’ve found a home for your blog, you’ll choose an address for that home. Choosing a domain name isn’t complicated — the best option is to use your business name (e.g. YourBusinessName.com). If the .com isn’t available, consider other suffixes like .co, .us, or .biz.
You can purchase your chosen domain through GoDaddy, Google Domains, or most blogging platforms and hosting services.
Blogging platforms like Wordpress and Blogger offer free blog hosting on their website, but we don’t recommend it. While you will have to pay to host your own blog, the cost is negligible ($5-10 per month) and allows you to use your own domain name and truly own your site.
For hosting needs, you can turn to services like iPage, Bluehost (Wordpress’s recommend option), or HostGator. All have an easy, one-click integration with Wordpress.
Designing Your Blog
When you’re ready to design your blog, keep two things in mind:
The elements you want to include, and
Standard best practices for design on the web.
On your chosen blogging platform, scan through the free themes and layouts available and choose your favorite. A ready-made template does a lot of the work for you, often including optimizing for mobile with responsive design.
For some, choosing a theme may be all the designing you need to do. If you’re customizing beyond that template, keep these design principles in mind:
Keep it simple — limiting elements, fonts, and colors on the page to just a few
Embrace white space
Use large, sans serif fonts to keep it readable
Choose a one-column theme to make it mobile-friendly
Enlarge links and buttons to be easily ‘tapped’
In addition to following web design best practices, keep branding in mind. If you already have a website for your small business, your blog should share similar design — make it clear that your website and blog are representing the same business.
Targeting Your Audience & Planning Content
The audience your blog should seek is your customers and people like them. Since you own a functioning small business, you should have a lot of information about your target audience already.
You want to know demographic information about your audience and where on the web they hang out (Is it Facebook? Reddit? Snapchat?). This background info determines the format your blog will take (video, long-form articles, infographics, etc.) and the channels in which you’ll promote it.
If you’re marketing your business effectively, you also understand their pain points. That’s where you’ll draw content ideas from. What challenges face your audience? How can you help them overcome those challenges? What aspects of your expertise can make their lives easier? This is the information you’ll share.
To get more content ideas, check out what similar blogs are talking about, dig into search trends around your niche, and ask for feedback from your existing audience.
Once you have the topics brainstormed, create a simple calendar of when you’ll post about what — this makes it easier to stay on track and publish new content consistently.
You’re a busy entrepreneur, so you’re probably wondering:
How you’ll ever find the time to write posts, and/or
Who would ever read your horrible writing.
The good news? Outsourcing the actual writing to a freelancer kills both those birds with minimal effort from you. Once you find a great writer to pen your blog’s content, you can sit back and feel confident that your blog will have high quality posts that are compelling, well-researched, and optimizing for search.
To get started, find a bunch of freelancer options. Do a little headhunting on sites like Contently and Upwork — check out the writers behind your favorite blogs, too. Once you have a running list, take a look at their previous work, seek out references from their other clients, and set up a quick meeting or phone call. You want a great writer, but you also want someone who’s reliable and pleasant to work with, too.
One quick note: Be willing to pay up for great talent. When it comes to freelance writing, you very often get what you pay for, and an investment up-front will lead more directly to those big returns you’re looking for.
If your 2017 resolution is to start a blog for your small business, you have all you need to make this a resolution you actually keep. Creating a new blog takes a little elbow grease up front, but once it’s up and running, you’ll see big gains for your small biz. Don’t take my word for it — go find those returns for yourself!