A blog is still the most important social medium for small businesses. It is here that you prove yourself and your company as a thought-leader, gain trust and relate to your visitors on a deeper level than promotional text on a website ever could. I have compiled a few frequently asked questions that small businesses ask about blogging. And if I missed your question(s), please comment. I would love to add them in!
1. What platform should I use?
WordPress is my recommendation. It is a little more complex and takes more to integrate, but with this, it allows for more customization and great plugins to integrate diverse functionality and features. There are two paths to take with this: At WordPress.com, you are presented a platform, URL (www.yourname.wordpress.com) and hosting for free, while WordPress.org supplies the platform for free, but you need to find and pay for your own hosting and domain name. GoDaddy is a great place to purchase a domain.
2. What are plugins?
A plugin extends WordPress’ capabilities, creating extra functionality and ease of integration. You can search and download plugins for your blog from your admin dashboard, on the “Plugins” tab in the left-hand column.
3. Which plugins should I use?
All-In-One SEO Pack – SEO is important on any site, increasing your ranking on search engines and allowing viewers to find your content more easily. This plugin makes it easy for you to edit the title, meta description and meta tags for each article. Title should tell the reader will he/she will be learning — be sure that the main keywords are mentioned. Meta description is a blurb about what the post is about, and meta tags are the keywords that your target reader would search for in order to find your post.
Akismet Spam Catcher – Have you ever seen comments on blogs offering male enhancements or selling shoes that have nothing to do with your post? Akismet collects comments for you approval and “learns” the type of post that you often declare spam, filtering them for you.
Google Analytics – Google analytics (or similar analytics software) is hopefully already running on your website. This allows you to see how many visitors you have, what posts are performing well, popular keywords, average time on site, etc. This is a great tool to measure progress and learn what is working and what is not, and it’s important to integrate into your blog.
While I would suggest that every blog utilize the above-mentions plugins, there are so many more to choose from. Browse the plugin directory to find more that are specific to your unique needs.
4. What about design?
It is very important to have a visually appealing blog, as this will decrease bounce rate (people leaving your site right away) and will appear more professional. If you can’t get the blog professionally designed or branded, don’t worry. There are plenty of easy, free ways to do it yourself.
To change your theme, sign into the administration dashboard of your WordPress page, click on “appearance” and “add new theme” in the left-hand column. Here, you can either search for a theme or upload one you have already found. To find a theme, you can check out the WordPress Theme Directory or search Google for blog posts listing good ones. When you find the one you like, download it to a folder you will remember and upload it using the method mentioned above.
Here are a few good, free themes:
5. What do I blog about?
Blog about what you know! The blog is a great place to share new announcements about your company, staff, etc. However, it’s also important to make sure that your blog helps your readers and provides value. Write about what is going on in your industry — give your opinion and unique points of view on a hot topic.
Give advice. Provide value by giving your readers some free knowledge about what you are an expert on. Address a few frequently asked questions that you consistently hear. If you help a potential customer out with an issue (for free via your blog), there is a good chance they will come back when they need help on a larger scale, possible seeking your business out for (paid) assistance.
And finally, encourage interaction. Ask for opinions of your readers, and let them join in the conversation.
6. Who should be blogging?
Everyone! Encourage everyone on your team to contribute, as everyone has different expertise and opinions. Download a plugin like Author Exposed to allow viewers to learn who the authors are and their role in the company.
7. How often should I blog?
As often as possible. This becomes easier as you incorporate more of your team into the process. Aim for twice a week. Be consistent though — the more often you post, the more often your readers will check for updates, add your site to their blog reader and recommend it to others. Also, the more you update a site, the better it looks in the eyes of the search engines!
Now you’re ready to get started blogging! What other questions do you have?
*Photo by Annie Mole. Used under Creative Commons.