Summary: Self-proclaimed blogging nerd Brandon Cornett explains how to start a business blog from scratch. He also shares some of his hard-earned lessons for blog writing, marketing, SEO and more.
If you’re reading this article, it means you’re ready to start a business blog. But you don’t know how to go about it. First of all, I want to congratulate you on taking the first step of an exciting journey. You’ll have to deal with some boring technical stuff on the front end, just to get your blog started. I won’t lie to you.
But once it’s up and running, you’re going to have fun with it. (If you’re not having fun with your business blog, something is wrong!) More importantly, you can use your blog to achieve some of your marketing and communication goals.
In this article, I’ll explain how to start a business blog from scratch. This is the “beginner” level information. After that, we will move on to the “intermediate” topics of blog promotion, writing, search engine optimization and more.
Before we jump in, I want to discuss some of the benefits of starting a business blog. Why should you start a blog in the first place? What do you get out of it? How does it help you grow your business? Behold, the ten biggest benefits of blogging…
The 10 Biggest Benefits of Business Blogging
There are dozens of reasons to start a business blog. I’ll focus on some of the biggest benefits:
- Business blogs simplify the publishing process. That’s an understatement. They make it as easy as sending an email. Once your blog is up and running, you’ll be able to publish new content in two easy steps. Type it, and then click the “publish” button. The blogging program does the rest. Granted, it takes time to write quality content. But from a technical standpoint, it’s a snap.
- A business blog will encourage you to write new content on a regular basis. This is a natural offshoot of item #1 above. The simplicity of blogging allows you to maintain a frequent publishing schedule. Content volume and “freshness” helps you in several ways, from an Internet marketing standpoint. We will discuss these below.
- Blogging allows you to expand your content base. It does this in a well organized and efficient manner. This is important, because a larger website will pull in more traffic than a smaller site (with all other things being equal). It’s just another good reason to start a business blog today.
- Business blogs have a lot of networking potential. People can leave comments on your blog posts, and you can do the same on theirs. It encourages a dialogue between you and your customers, and also with others in your industry. You can even integrate your blogging efforts with your social networking channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
- Need another reason to start a business blog? Try this one: Blogs are a great way to generate leads and inquiries from new customers. You can do this in several ways. People can leave comments on your blog, which could be the start of a new business relationship. People can contact you directly by using the contact information on your blog. You could install an online chat tool, if you have someone to monitor it (like a customer service person). You could place an “Ask a Question” box at the top of each article. All of these things are easy to install, by the way.
- A business blog can position you as a thought-leader in your industry. It gives you a voice online. It allows you to share your personal thoughts, insights and expertise — something you probably can’t do on the official company website. This encourages trust among your readers, and trust is a critical (but often missing) element of business.
- If you blog openly and honestly, you will add a much-needed human element to your company. Suddenly, it’s no longer a faceless organization. It’s made up of real people — people with unique voices and ideas. Refer back to the trust element mentioned above. This is another good reason to start a business blog.
- Blogging can help you attract links from other websites. This is especially true when you publish great content on a regular basis. Why are links important? Because all of the search engines use “link popularity” as a ranking factor. So by acquiring new links from other sites, you are improving your search engine visibility. This can have a positive snowball effect over time.
- When you start a business blog, you may find that it gives you a creative outlet for your thoughts and ideas. The simple act of writing stimulates creativity. Distilling your ideas into a written format helps you achieve a certain clarity of thought. Don’t be surprises when you come up with new business ideas while you’re in the middle of a blog post.
- Need another reason to start a business blog? It also encourages something I like to call passive PR. This is when you advance your public relations program through the act of blogging, without even trying. Let’s say you publish some original research onto your blog. The editor of a certain industry news publication gets wind of it. “This is some interesting research,” she says. So she does a story about it and links to your blog. You’ve just scored a PR win without even realizing it. This happens a lot with business blogs, especially when you share research, surveys, data, etc.
Believe it or not, this list is only scratching the surface. There are more benefits to starting a blog. But I want to move away from the “why” of blogging and talk about the “how.” How do you start a business blog from scratch? Here are the seven steps I recommend.
Step 1 – Choose a Blogging Program
Before you can start a business blog, you need to choose a blogging program. You have several options here. The three most popular blog programs are WordPress, Blogger and TypePad. Blogger is owned by Google, by the way.
I’m not going to get into the pros and cons of the different programs. Instead, I’m going to recommend what I feel is the best blogging tool. In my experience, WordPress is the clear winner. If you want to spend hours researching the ins and outs of each blogging program, you’re certainly entitled. But I can save you time by telling you that WordPress is superior to the others.
Whenever I have a client who wants to start a business blog, I always recommend that they use WordPress. You can actually run an entire website using this program, because it functions like a full-featured content management system (CMS). But let’s just stick with the blogging aspect of it for now.
One of the appealing things about WordPress are the different themes and plug-ins you can use. A theme is a collection of files and graphics used to create the design for your blog. Plug-ins are additional features that you can easily install onto the blog. A photo gallery is a good example of a popular plug-in. These things can be easily managed through the admin area of the WordPress program. They can be installed, uninstalled and modified with very little effort. This is one of many reasons I recommend using it to start a business blog. It’s also very easy to use, even for a beginner. Not to mention the fact that it’s free.
Step 2 – Choose a Destination for Your Blog
In order to start a business blog, you need to have some place to put it. How will people find your blog? Where will it be hosted online? You basically have two choices. You can make the blog an extension of your company’s existing website, or you can give it a domain of its own. If you put it on your company’s website, the web address for the blog would be something like www.yourcompany.com/blog. If you give your business blog its own domain name, it could reside under any web address you choose.
There are pros and cons to both options. If you start a business blog under its own domain, you can be creative with the name. In fact, you can give it any domain name that is not currently registered. The downside of this strategy is that you are starting a website from scratch.
It will probably take you longer to build an audience when you put the blog under a brand-new domain. If you make your business blog an extension of your company’s existing website, you can build your audience quicker. You’ll enjoy better search engine visibility as well, since the blog will be part of an established domain.
My advice is to forget about the technical and search engine optimization (SEO) aspects of it, and focus on the strategic and branding aspects. Do you want the blog to be a separate website for some reason? Or do you want it to be closely associated with your company? I recommend that you start your business blog under your company’s existing website. This is the best way to handle it, in most cases. I would only recommend starting the blog under a new domain if there’s a specific reason for it (such as creating a new brand).
Step 3 – Install The WordPress Blogging Program
This next section assumes that you have chosen to start your business blog with the WordPress blogging program. Again, can use whatever program you want. But I strongly recommend that you consider using WordPress.
This program is fairly easy to install. Some web-hosting companies actually have a “one-click” installation process for WordPress. You fill in some basic information such as the name of the blog, and the hosting company does the rest. You will probably have to talk to your IT folks about all of this. Just know that you can have a WordPress blog up and running in ten minutes or less (if you know what you’re doing). If you need help with any of this, we are available. We offer consultation calls for blog development and training.
You’ll find some detailed instructions on how to install WordPress on this page. Again, the process will vary depending on your web-hosting situation.
Step 4 – Customize Your Blog Theme
You don’t want to start a business blog and have it look like other blogs. You want to have a unique design that incorporates your company’s existing brand. In most cases, it makes sense to use your company logo and colors for the blog. Of course, you can give the blog a “look and feel” of its own, if you want. The most important thing is to make it unique from a design aspect.
This is another benefit of using WordPress. You can install a pre-designed WordPress theme and customize it to your liking. If you recall from earlier, a “theme” is a collection of graphics and files used to control the design of a blog. You can install a new theme through the admin area of your WordPress blog in a matter of seconds — literally. And there are thousands of themes available, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding something you like.
The key here is to choose a theme that works from a layout perspective. Choose a theme based on the location of the menu, the number of columns, etc. These are the most important aspects of the design, because everything else can be changed quite easily. You can change the colors and the fonts until you are satisfied with them. So when choosing a theme, you want to focus on the layout. Everything else can be tweaked and customized after the theme is installed.
This is another area where we can help you. We offer a variety of WordPress customization services. If you start your business blog and run into some design problems later on, just know that we are available. We can help you incorporate the look and feel of your company’s existing website. We can help you adjust the menu and other elements of your business blog. We can even create custom graphics to capture the vision you have in your head.
Step 5 – Develop a Content Plan
When you start a new business blog, it can be tempting to jump right in with the content creation. It’s only natural. You’re excited about having a blog up and running, and you’re eager to start writing your first blog post. But before you start, you might want to develop a content plan to support your blogging efforts. This is something that can evolve over time, though it’s helpful to have something on paper at the beginning.
The content plan should support your communication goals. What are you trying to accomplish with your blogging efforts? Who is your audience? How are you going to make your blog unique from others that may exist within your industry or niche? These are some of the preliminary questions you need to answer before you start blogging. This is the first step of developing a content plan for your business blog.
You should also establish a publishing schedule at this point. The whole point of using a blog is to simplify the publishing process. We discussed this earlier, when listing the benefits of starting a business blog. I recommend that you publish new content at least two or three times a week. If you can do more, great. But start with a minimum of two entries per week. You want people to find fresh information when they visit for the first time.
Publishing on a regular basis helps you in many ways. It helps you grow your website with specific content that will attract your ideal readers. It also helps with search engine visibility, because it is well known the search engines prefer fresh content. In fact, Google recently made changes to their ranking algorithm that gives preference to fresh content.
Step 6 – Start Blogging, And Learn As You Go
Up to this point, we’ve been talking about the technical details of how to start a business blog. Now it’s time to start blogging! My advice is to go easy on yourself and learn as you go. You shouldn’t expect to be an expert writer the first time you publish a blog post. You’ll learn a lot as you go along. And you will get better at blogging the more often you do it.
Just use your natural voice and remember who your audience is. Pretend you are speaking to one person in a room. Visualize this person. Who are they, and what do they need from you? Are you explaining a product or service? If so, do it like you would over the phone or in person. You will find that the writing process becomes a lot easier when you use your natural voice.
I also recommend that you create quality content that is full of in-depth analysis, research and insight. This is the kind of blog content that will serve you well in the long run. I refer to this as self-promoting content. You want to publish information that is so engaging and useful that other publishers want to share it with their audience. This will bring more links to your site, more traffic, and better search engine visibility.
Over time, this can have a snowball effect. But it all starts with the quality of the content you publish. It’s not enough just to start a business blog. It’s just an empty shell, until you fill it with useful content.
Step 7 – Promote Your New Business Blog
When your blog is up and running, and you have a decent volume of posts, you should actively promote it. You can do this in many ways. Are you currently using a social-networking service? You can promote your blog through there. For example, you can post a link to your blog on your LinkedIn profile. You could mention it on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media site that you use.
Have you published some information that is useful to others in your industry? Perhaps some original research? If so, I’d be willing to bet there are other bloggers or journalists who would want to share it with their readers. Are there any professional journals that cover your industry? Any organizations that you’re a member of? Promote your blog to these people as well. Just send them an email and tell them about the useful information you are publishing on your blog.
You can even send out a press release to announce your blog. To get the most out of this strategy, you should focus on a key piece of research or information. For example, publish the results of a survey on your business blog, and then conduct a PR campaign to announce the survey. By doing this, you are gaining new links, citations and readers. You are also positioning yourself as a thought-leader in your industry.
You can now see why it’s worth your time to start a business blog. If you have any questions about how to get a blog up and running, I am available for consultations. We can also help you with some of the technical details, or with the content development side of things. Just send us an email and let us know what you need, and we will find a way to help you. Happy blogging!