People often think of a blog as an online journal - and it can be, but it is also a great business tool. Many companies use blogging as a way to communicate and engage with their clients and potential clients.
But it can be difficult to know where to start or indeed blog consistently. So here we discuss how blogging can be beneficial for business, how to start a blog, and how to use style and formatting to aid reach and readability.
- Blogging allows you to demonstrate your expertise, knowledge and experience. This helps position your company as a thought leader, allowing you to become the ‘go to’ company in your industry.
- The content that you produce can be shared by others, increasing your content’s reach and audience.
- If you research your topics correctly, you can create content that allows you to address your potential customers' interests, concerns or questions.
- By sharing your blog content on social, you can create different access points to your website and drive website visitors.
- Blogging can be used as a great PR tool - sharing customer case studies and testimonials through a blog is one of the best methods to convert customers.
- ‘Telling and selling’ no longer works for today’s customers, they prefer building relationships before considering a purchase.
- Each time you create a blog post you are effectively creating a new page on your website. This is great for SEO as search engines will see that you are constantly creating new content and increase your visibility.
- Blogs can be used to share company news and updates, allowing your website visitors to keep up-to-date with your business.
Starting a blog
Hosted or Self-hosted
Hosted blogs are easy to set up for starters as no coding experience is necessary. The blog appears on a shared server, for example WordPress, Blogger, Squarespace and Tumblr.
The hosted blog user can choose between themes but cannot upload a web template that has been designed specifically for their business. This makes it difficult for the blog to appear integrated with a business’s branding.
Self-hosted blogs require someone with some server/coding experience, but you can determine exactly how you want the blog to look. Self-hosted blogs include Weebly, Drupal, and confusingly, WordPress. (WordPress is more than just a blog, it is a content management system that can be used to build a website).
If you don’t have a website, you can post extended articles through your social media profiles to Linkedin Articles and Facebook Notes.
Integrated or Standalone
When starting a blog you can choose between a standalone blog, a standalone blog that is linked to your website and an integrated blog.
A standalone blog is not directly associated with another website - so the purpose of this website is solely to blog. Because of this, a standalone blog is not often used by businesses. It is instead used by individuals to demonstrate their expertise or passion for a particular subject.
When a website (e.g. a company website) is linked to a standalone blog, this is a standalone but linked blog. These are easier to set up then integrated blogs as they don't require expert coding to make them a part of your website. However, as the linked blog is another website or is hosted by another website, it does not always reflect the company’s branding.
An integrated blog is typically the best for businesses - it looks like (and is!) part of the corporate website and fits best with the brand’s identity. It often appears as a separate tab in the website menu bar and links to a page that is still part of the original website. However, some coding experience is needed to set up this type of blog.
Before you start blogging it is a good idea to set goals and define how you will measure these.
If your goal is to increase your website traffic and search engine visibility, you will need to measure your website visits and % of new visits. If your goal is to generate sales, you will need to measure the increase in conversions and the number of page views per visit.
A good tool to use to find out this information is Google Analytics. However, it is important to remember that successes in other digital outlets can affect these goals too, so you will need to drill down to find out how these visitors have been acquired and whether it was through your blog.
Style and formatting
One element to consider when writing a blog is the formatting and layout. An easy to read layout consisting of short sentences and paragraphs encourages readers to read on. Paragraphs that are four lines long or less are a lot easier to read on mobile.
Depending on your industry and branding, your blog’s tone of voice will differ. A less corporate, more conversational style is often a good idea as ‘people like to deal with people’ - but if this does not adhere to your branding then a more professional tone of voice may be more appropriate.
Formatting for SEO
Using bullet points, numbering, quotes and other formatting options allow your text to be displayed in Google’s ‘answer box’ more easily, which often appears when someone searches for a question.
For example, when we Googled ‘how to brand effectively’, Google displayed 8 simple tips in its answer box. This is because the writer formatted their text as a list so that Google could find the answer to the searched question more easily.
However, Google only shows the first 8 steps of an answer, so including more than 8 steps or sections in your blog will encourage readers to click on the link and read more.
To help your content appear in this answer box at the top of Google's search results, it is also good practice to provide the answer to your question or the conclusion of your blog’s discussion early on in the text.
For example, you should write “the best social media channel to use for your business is twitter, here's why…” rather than leaving this statement for your conclusion. Again this helps Google find the answer to someone's question a lot easier.
Hyperlinks are another useful tool. These allow you to link the source of any statistics you have included in your blog post, but can also be used to direct readers to other pages on your website. For example, we have included a hyperlink to our ‘Google analytics terms explained’ blog post in the paragraph below.
Similarly, when you mention a product or service in your blog, it is a good idea to link this text to the relevant product or service page on your website. This helps you to explain yourself in more detail and keeps visitors on your website for longer, in turn reducing your bounce rate.
However, it is important to make hyperlinked pages open in a new window. This avoids your visitors being taken away from your blog post before they have finished reading it.
Headings, Subheadings and Images
Finally, and most obviously, it is important to include a title as well as images and subheadings. Subheadings help to break up the text into smaller, more manageable chunks and images help to engage the reader.
Headings are defined with H1 to H6 tags. The H1 tag defines the most important heading on the page (usually the largest or boldest) whereas H6 indicates the lowest-level heading.
The headline of your blog should be in heading tag 1 (H1) and subsequent subheadings should be in heading tags 2-6 (H2-H6). This helps Google identify the headings in your blog post so that it may find the most relevant content for a certain search query.