There are many reasons why your business needs a blog. In fact, it’s such an important topic that I’m planning for this to be the first in a series of articles about business blogging.
In this first article, we’re going to look at the many benefits of blogging, both from a marketing and SEO standpoint, and explore how you can get started.
What is a blog?
A blog is essentially an online journal or diary that is located on a website (the name is a shortened version of ‘weblog’). In the earlier days of the internet, blogs often reflected the personal musings of an individual or group of writers.
Over time, businesses have adopted the use of blogs too, writing informational articles and opinion pieces aimed at their audiences.
Typically, the articles published on a blog will appear in reverse chronological order. They may also be sorted by categories.
What are the benefits of blogging?
If you don’t currently have a blog, what’s holding you back?
Maybe you’re worried that you don’t have the time to maintain a blog. Maybe you’re not sure how to get started. Maybe it seems like a big financial commitment (it doesn’t have to be) or maybe you just can’t see how it could help your business right now.
Here are some quick stats that might swing you towards the benefits of blogging:
- 70% of consumers would rather learn about a company from a blog than from an advert
- 77% of internet users read blogs regularly – it’s almost expected that a business will have a blog
- 55% of marketers say that blogging is their top inbound marketing priority
- 72% of online marketers say content creation is their most effective SEO tactic
- B2B marketers that blog get 67% more leads than those who don’t
Some of these stats are pretty powerful but if you’re still not convinced, let’s look at some of the benefits in more detail.
Builds your reputation and showcases your expertise
The main pages on your website, such as the Home, About and Service pages, necessarily provide potential customers with an overview of what your business offers.
Your blog, however, gives you the opportunity to delve deeper into the topics and issues that matter to your audience.
You can talk about individual aspects of the big subjects that concern your customers, helping people to increase their knowledge and insights, with you taking the role of teacher or mentor.
This is a powerful way to showcase your expertise and grow your reputation within your industry.
Over time, people will start to see you as an expert source. This should attract more links and mentions (more about this below), which should increase the domain authority (DA) assigned to your website.
In turn, Google is keen to return high domain sites in searches, so you should see your page rankings increase.
Improves the user experience (DA)
Through your blog, you can provide visitors to your site with content of true value. You can answer their questions, help them solve a pressing problem, inspire them to do something they enjoy – the outcomes will depend on your business.
The common thread is that blogging enriches the user experience. You can help to give your customers a feel for what it’s like to work with you and let your personality shine out from the pages.
Also, through your blogs, you can tie related content together with internal links. This will make your site easier to navigate to a deeper level and help Google understand more about what you offer.
Boosts your SEO
Recent blogging stats show that companies that blog attract 97% more links to their website from third party sites.
In Google’s eyes, each one of these links represents a vote of confidence from the external site. They’re essentially saying, “This content is so good and/or relevant to my audience that I’m prepared to link to it”.
Also, each time you create a new blog post, it’s a new page for Google to crawl, index and return in search results. Websites with a blog are estimated to have 434% more indexed pages than those without a blog.
Essentially, each new article represents another opportunity for new customers to find your business.
Blogs can help your SEO efforts in other ways too.
A long-form article like this one keeps people on your website for longer, thereby increasing the average ‘dwell’ time (i.e. how long people stay per session).
In addition, by linking related content together, you can encourage people to visit multiple pages in a single visit, which brings down the bounce rate associated with your site (i.e. the percentage of people who leave after only looking at one page).
Both metrics are key signals to Google that you’re providing high quality, engaging content that is highly relevant to particular search queries.
More organic traffic
With more pages of your website for Google to index or for your audience to share on social media, as well as higher dwell times, lower bounce rates and great DA, you should start to notice more organic traffic coming to your site.
This is traffic that hasn’t been brought in through pay per click (PPC) advertising.
Stats shows that companies that blog receive 55% more visitors to their website than companies that don’t blog.
Amplifies your reach on social media
Blogging is a fantastic way to amplify your reach on social media. Each time someone shares one of your articles with their network, it’s an opportunity for your business to be discovered by more people. This is ideal for building brand awareness.
Helps you capitalise on long-tail keyword searches
As you may know, long-tail keyword searches are longer, more specific searches that people make online.
For example, instead of searching something fairly generic like ‘wedding dress’, a long-tail keyword search might be ‘1920s vintage wedding dresses near me’ or ‘art deco wedding dress for sale’.
As we can see, this gives a much clearer view of what content the searcher would like to find. Long-tail keywords tend to be less competitive than shorter keywords and phrases but they can also be higher converting because the searcher has been more precise about what they’re looking for.
According to Neil Patel, long-tail keywords make up 70% of all searches and they are a hugely important source of organic traffic.
Your blog is the perfect place on your website to target some of the long-tail keywords that your visitors use. It’s worth having a look in Google Search Console for long-tail phrases people have used to find you.
Also, a top tip is to check out the ‘People also ask’ and ‘Searches related to…’ sections on a search results page as this will flag up common search queries related to the topic you entered.
For example, if I type in something as broad as ‘SEO’ in Google (a keyword that’s very competitive), I can see that:
And that related searches include:
This instantly gives me four or five different potential topics/titles for a blog aimed at capturing traffic for those long-tail searches.
Fresh, high-quality content
Of course, all of the benefits outlined above depend on you providing fresh, high-quality content that’s unique to your business.
Spammy, keyword-heavy and poorly thought-out blogs can harm your SEO, whereas useful, engaging content helps your SEO efforts and gives potential customers a reason to keep coming back to your site.
Many of today’s bloggers have abandoned multiple short posts a week in favour of one or two in-depth posts like this one per month. This is because of the value that in-depth, well-researched content can give to visitors.
Your blogging strategy
Back in 2019, I was delighted to feature a guest blog from Marie Belsten about 10 steps to a successful blogging strategy. It’s well worth a read.
The key points are listed below:
- Define your blog’s purpose
Before you start blogging, it’s important to define exactly what you want your blog to help you achieve.
Do you want to increase brand awareness? Do you want to be known as an expert in a particular field/subject?
Or do you want your blog to help you grow your mailing list, attract new customers, persuade investors or build loyalty among your existing customers?
Having a clear understanding of your goals will help you to create content that supports these aims.
- Know your audience
It’s essential to know who you are writing your blog for; this will help you to come up with topics that resonate with your audience.
You’ll need to think about the group of readers that your blog could help the most. These are people who will love and value your knowledge and want to hear more from you.
With my own blog, I always write with the small business owner in mind; someone who may currently tackle their own SEO or be thinking about outsourcing. I think about practical advice and steps they can take that will make a difference, such as advice about on- and off-page SEO or why content marketing is so important.
- Set your budget
You will need to decide how much time and budget you can allocate to blogging. Are you going to write and promote yourself/in-house or outsource it?
Figures show that the average blog takes three and a half hours to write but longer articles and guides can demand nearer eight hours of research and writing time.
Once a blog is published, you will need to promote it on social media and in your e-newsletter, as just a couple of examples. This takes time too.
Currently, 64% of companies/marketers outsource their blog writing to experienced copywriters.
Whether you decide to do this or write yourself depends on where you feel your energies are best spent within your business.
If you love blogging and have the time, then you may benefit from being completely hands-on. However, if a blank page fills you with dread or you’re already pressed for time, it might make sense to delegate your blog to someone else. We now have a Monthly Blog Package, which will give you all the benefits of blogging without the extra workload and pressure.
- Audit your competitors’ blogs
Although I think it’s important that you don’t get too bogged down by what your competitors are doing, it pays to keep an eye on their blogs and wider conversations happening in your industry.
The chances are that your potential customers may be reading these too.
Auditing your competitors’ blogs is a great way to spot gaps in the information available to your audience or to pinpoint how you could put a fresh spin on a familiar topic. You can add deeper insights or talk from the unique perspective your knowledge and experience has given you.
- Begin to define what sort of content you will create
Below, we’ll be looking at what to blog about in much more detail. This will need to be part of your overall blogging strategy but it’s so important that it’s worthy of its own section.
This is where the purpose of your blog and the needs of your audience come together.
Imagine, for example, that you run a business as an organic baby food supplier. Customers can order complete meals from you for next day delivery. You want your blog to show the benefits of healthy, organic meals for babies and encourage people to trust the high standards and nutritional value of the foods you offer.
Your audience want to know things like ‘is organic baby food safe, ‘what are the best foods for baby weaning’ or ‘what is the best brand of organic baby food’ and so on.
As well as written articles, your audience might want to see feeding charts, weaning guides, videos, or recipes on your blog.
This overview means that you can start to map out the core topics covered by your blog and then the kind of content that would fit the needs of your audience.
- How you’re going to promote your blog
It isn’t enough to write a blog, hit publish and wait for the audience to roll in. You will need to let people know that it’s there.
There are many ways to achieve this.
A good start is to share your blog on your social media platforms. You can also turn quotes and highlights from an article into posts and statuses.
Be sure to add social media sharing buttons to each blog article (there are some fantastic plugins for this if you have a WordPress site – I love Social Warfare) as this allows people who like your content to quickly share it with their social networks.
If you have an e-newsletter, you can also share your new blogs in this.
Note: I’m planning to write a separate article in this series about promoting your blog, so keep an eye out for that soon!
- Create a schedule
As much as possible, it’s a good idea to follow a publishing schedule for your blog. Whether you decide to publish new content once a month or multiple times a week, your audience will appreciate being able to anticipate when they’ll hear from you.
If you disappear for an extended period of time, you run the risk of losing the audience you’ve built up, so try to commit to a schedule that feels maintainable and realistic.
Your schedule will need to include time for tasks such as:
- Keyword research
- Writing the first draft
- Finding images to use with your article
- Uploading the blog to your website
- Adding meta data, images, etc.
- Sharing your blog on social media
- Sending out your e-newsletter
- Tracking the blog’s performance
As we’ve already seen above, you may decide to outsource some of these tasks. If you do, you will need to identify who is doing what and when it needs to be done by to keep your schedule on track.
- Track your blog’s performance
You will want to keep an eye on how the articles on your blog are performing. You can use various metrics to help you understand this, including data from Google Analytics, Google Search Console, your email marketing software and whichever social media platforms you use.
Over time, tracking how each article performs can help you answer questions such as:
- Which topics attract the most engagement from my customers?
- What do people want to know more about?
- What type of content do my customers want?
- Which topics get very little engagement?
- What days/times are best for posting?
- What length of blogs do my audience like the most?
The more you know about your audience’s interests and behaviour around your blogs, the more you can refine your content so that it meets their needs.
You can find more advice about your blogging strategy in my blogging tips for beginners.
What to blog about
As we mentioned above, you will need to decide what you want to blog about and how best to structure your blog.
Your articles will probably fall under a handful of overarching topics or categories.
For example, the SEO+ blog generally covers content about SEO, social media, content marketing, and analytics.
What would those broad topics be for you?
Under each of those broad topics though, you will find yourself writing articles covering all sorts of sub-topics (and sub-topics within those).
With the SEO category on my own blog, for example, there are blogs about on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO. Then there are also more focused topics within that, such as articles about attracting backlinks, guest blogging, Schema, product descriptions and more.
The aim is to give your audience a general expectation of what your content will offer and then dive deeper into different aspects.
The ‘hub and spoke’ model
I personally like the ‘hub and spoke’ model for structuring a blog.
Using this approach, you identify a handful of main content categories or topics that your blog will cover. These are your ‘hubs’.
You will then need to create a piece of in-depth, cornerstone content for each hub. On my SEO+ blog, some examples of my hub articles are:
Where the ‘hub and spoke’ model of blogging stands out is in how related content is linked together.
Essentially, each hub has multiple ‘spokes’ coming off of it. These are articles about sub-topics that fit in the overarching hub.
Using my On-page SEO complete guide as an example, this features links to the following spoke articles:
- Keyword research guide
- Google EAT algorithm guide
- Google’s Featured Snippets
- Optimising the non-text elements of a web page
- Schema made easy – beginner’s guide
- Internal linking cheat sheet
- Improving your website’s quality score
- Free SEO checklist
The idea with this approach is to ensure that the hub article includes links to all of the spoke articles and that each spoke article includes a link back to the hub.
By linking all of the related content together, the intention is for link juice to flow freely to and from the hub and spokes. If, for example, Google starts to rank a hub article more highly, the spoke articles should see an increase in rankings too, by association.
Equally, if a spoke article achieves better rankings, this can feed through to the hub and other connected spokes.
The ’hub and spoke’ model offers a great UX too because it ties all related content together, enabling people to read to a depth that suits their needs.
In my experience, the best approach is to create a category for each hub, then within this category write a piece of cornerstone content. Once this is in place, you can start to produce the spoke articles, which share the same category but then have different, more article-specific tags applied to help people find relevant content.
I would suggest that you have a maximum of eight to ten categories and corresponding hub articles on your website. The rest of your blog content should be sub-topic – i.e. spoke – articles.
Potential platforms for your blog
Now you know more about the benefits of blogging and how you might want to structure your content, the next big decision is what platform to use to publish your blog.
Broadly speaking, you can choose whether to publish a blog on your own website (if you have one) or whether you want your blog to be a separate entity published elsewhere on the web.
This decision may come down to whether you already have a website or are planning to create one.
When blogs first rose to popularity, the latter approach was common, with people using blogging platforms such as Tumblr to share their thoughts with the world. In fact, of the 600 million blogs estimated to be on the web, 488.1 million of them are on Tumblr (actually Tumblr itself puts the figure closer to 502 million!)
From a business perspective, I would always recommend hosting your blog on your own website. Many of the benefits we discussed at the start of this article are based on your blog being an integral part of your site.
So, which platforms are available?
According to Creative Bloq, the best free or inexpensive blogging platforms right now are:
WordPress is the world’s fastest-growing blogging platform; approximately, 78 million posts are published on it every month.
In fact, a quick visit to wordpress.com tells us that 37% of the web is now built on WordPress. It’s the platform I use for my own website and blog.
The success of WordPress comes down to its great mix of power, customisation and usability. As well as a staggering amount of themes and templates, there are also countless plugins to help you tailor your website and blog to meet your needs.
Wix is a drag-and-drop website builder that offers over 500 designer-made templates. You can create a basic website and blog with a free account or upgrade to one of the paid plans for more functionality.
We briefly touched on Tumblr above. It’s a mix between a blogging platform and a social media newsfeed where you can share your own content as well as content you enjoy from other users.
Blogger has been a popular blogging site since 1999. Simply give your blog a title and pick a theme and you can start creating and publishing content to your Blogger domain.
Medium is a rapidly growing publishing platform where you can create and publish fresh content or syndicate your existing content from your website-based blog. You can publish for free, grow your audience, and even be paid for your content based on its popularity.
Joomla is an open source software content management system that can be used to create a website and/or blog of any kind. Like WordPress, it’s self-hosted, which means you will need a domain name and website hosting.
Yola offers a fast and easy way to build a simple website that works well on all devices. The free plan limits you to two websites with two pages but for less than a fiver a month, you can build up to five sites, each with 1,000 pages.
HubPages is a network of sites that lets you share your writing with a large online community. You can publish original articles directly on to HubPages to build your audience or syndicate (republish) your existing content from your blog.
Contentful represents a different approach to blogging. It provides a single content management system where you can create, store, edit and manage your content but then publish it on multiple different platforms in different formats now and in the future.
If you’re a fan of writing in Evernote rather than using Microsoft Word, for example, then you might find Postach.io helpful. Using this platform, you can connect a notebook from Evernote and tag a note as ‘published’ to make it public. You can then customise the appearance.
Although not mentioned on Creative Bloq’s list of blogging platforms, Squarespace is worth a mention. You can use this platform to create a website and/or blog from beautiful professional designs.
Setting up a blog
The actual mechanics of setting up a blog will depend on your chosen platform. Each one will walk you through the process. For example, here’s a blog start-up guide from WordPress: https://www.wpbeginner.com/start-a-wordpress-blog/
Regardless of platform, it’s important to think about some of the following issues before you get started:
- Your blog’s name
If your blog is on your business website, you may not need to give it a name. However, if you do need a name for your blog, it’s best to pick something descriptive that will resonate with your target audience and give some insight into what the content will be about.
- Registration and hosting
Again, this will depend on the platform you choose but, if you want your blog to be on your business website, you may need to find and register a suitable domain name and set up hosting (if you don’t already have an existing site).
- What your blog will look like
Your blog should feel as though it’s part of your business. This means reflecting the brand look, feel and tone in your articles, from the colours you use to the pictures you choose.
- Blog comments
Have a think about whether you want to offer the option for people to comment on your blogs. Comments from your audience can be a fantastic way to start a conversation and build an engaged community if you take the time to respond.
However, the comments section of a blog can often get spammed with people trying to post backlinks to their own sites, so it’s crucial that you manage the comments and filter out any spam.
If you choose a platform like WordPress, there are some helpful spam filter plugins.
Over to you
Hopefully, I’ve managed to persuade you that blogging makes great business sense.
While it can be hard – although not impossible – to directly monetise your blog with methods such as advertising revenue and affiliate marketing, it’s a fantastic way to connect with your potential customers and build your authority and reputation.
If you’re struggling to find the time to write your blog posts, we can help you; we now have a Monthly Blog Package, which will give you all the benefits of blogging without the extra workload and pressure. Our team of professional copywriters here at SEO+ can take care of everything you need to have a thriving business blog that will engage your customers and accelerate your business growth.
In my next blog, I’ll be walking you through the anatomy of a great blog post so you know how to make sure as many people read your content as possible. I’ll be tackling issues such as headings, word count, meta data, images and more, so do make sure that you check back regularly.
In the meantime, why not ask me your blogging questions in the comments below or join the SEO Value Facebook group where the topic of blogging comes up a lot?
If you found this article helpful, I’d love it if you could share it – thank you.