7 small business tips for really successful blogging

small business blogging

We know just how important content is to online success therefore creating engaging, fresh and relevant content on your small business website is a must. So where does blogging fit in and just how useful a tool is it for ecommerce?

Blogging is one of the best ways to support content on your site. If you’ve not yet started a blog or dipped a toe in but never really got going, then take a moment to read our helpful tips below.

As more and more consumers are reading blog posts, blogging has become increasingly prevalent. Indeed there are more than 33 million new posts on WordPress alone each month. According to industry reports, marketers view blogging as an integral element of content marketing with over half selecting blogging as their most important type of content.

What can blogging offer your small online business?

If you are considering whether blogging is worthwhile and wondering if the benefits will outweigh the cost of committing your precious time and resources, here are a few statistics highlighting the potential advantages blogging can bring to your ecommerce business.

+ Traffic: Blogging creates 55% more traffic

+ Leads: Small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than small businesses that do not blog.

+ Customers: 78% of companies that update their blogs daily have acquired a customer from their blog.

+ Links: Companies who blog receive 97% more links to their website.

+ Trust: Blogs have been rated as the 5th most trusted source for accurate online information.

+ ROI: Marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI.

Our 7  top tips for successful small business blogging

1. Don’t blindly leap in

Before you start posting blogs left right and centre, put aside some time to plan. Have a purpose and desired outcome – what is it you are hoping to achieve from your blog? For example is it to increase traffic, build customer relationships or establish credibility? Think about your audience. Who is it you are writing for? What are their interests? What information would they find helpful, entertaining or engaging?

On a practical level think about what is involved in blogging. Is it going to be just you writing articles? If so what time you can realistically afford to commit. The better your planning and more certain you are of your purpose, the better you will be able to focus your valuable time and efforts.

2. Own your blog

Blogging is a great way to bring some personality to your brand and give a human face to your business. So when you’re writing, write as you – don’t try to take on another persona. A good tip is to write as your would speak, follow this and you’ll soon find a blogging style that you feel comfortable with. The great thing about blogging is that it can be informal (by this I don’t mean sloppy – more on this later), it is a chance for you to express your views and opinions in your own way.

3. Follow a formula

Use a formula for blogging

Of course we’re not all natural writers. The majority of us have to spend time carefully crafting blogs. A helpful tip is to follow a simple formula. For example whenever I write a blog I pretty much follow the same steps every time:

  1. Research and gather relevant information
  2. Create a detailed outline plan of what content will go where and in what order (beginning, middle, end)
  3. Write without interruption (leave worrying about correct grammar and spelling until it’s time to proof)
  4. Proof read, edit and proof again.

Another excellent formula that will help you manage your time better – especially if you’re finding it is taking you all day to write 800 words, is Blogger Sidekick’s ‘Shake and Bake’. Take a moment to check it out.

4. Looks do matter

“In 2016 this trend will see graphical content (including high-resolution images, infographics, design elements and icon sets, and images designed for sharing on social networks) come to the fore…. images will become a more central feature of the blog post.” DOZ Trends in blogging 2016 

You may have written the best article ever, but quite frankly if it looks un-inviting to read then nobody will bother with it. How you present your post is really important.

Layout: Reams of uninterrupted text is enough to put anyone off. So use subheadings, bullet points, quotations and italics to break your text into easily manageable chunks for your reader to digest.

Visuals: Visual content is becoming increasingly important so think about what images or graphics you can use to help support your text and engage your audience. Use infographics and video as well to vary your posts – they are almost guaranteed to pull in readers.

Quality: We mentioned earlier about how you can be informal when writing a blog post – however this doesn’t extend to not bothering to check for poor spelling or grammar. Typos and poor grammar doesn’t mean informal it just looks unprofessional. So always proof read before you hit the publish your post button!

5. Combat writers block

writers block

It is really frustrating to be sitting at your desk ready to write an article only to find you have absolutely no idea about what to write about. Here are some tips I use when I need a bit of inspiration.

Check out your competitors. What are your competitors posting?  Can you approach the same topic from a different angle?

Ideas notebook. Chances are your best ideas won’t come to you whilst you are sitting at your desk ready to write. More often than not they’ll happen at random moments such as on the bus, in the bath or washing up. When they do occur don’t waste them, jot them down and put them into an ideas notebook. This way when you’re short of inspiration you can refer to your notebook.

Google search. Simple but helpful. Type a general topic into the search box, scroll down to the bottom of the page and check out the list of alternative searches Google comes up with. Here’s a screen grab of one I did for ‘blogging tips’.

google search for bloggng ideas

Content generator tools. There are some excellent free tools available to help you generate some blog topics ideas. Checkout the links below:

Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator

Portent Content Idea Generator

Build your own blog: ideas generator

6. Optimise your posts

After you’ve put in all that time and effort to write a great post, it is important to optimise your article to ensure it gets the attention it deserves.

Be search engine friendly. Use relevant keywords and key phrases in the title and body of your post to make it easier for search engines to find and rank you.

Craft a great headline. Often it’s the headline that decides whether a person goes on to read the full article. Spend time crafting a good headline using your keywords and with the aim of capturing the interest of your target audience. If your stuck try this simple headline formula from Koozia:

Numbers + Adjective + Target Keyword + Rational + Promise

Make it easy for readers to share. A great post deserves sharing, so make it easy for your readers to share your post with others. A simple way to do this is to add in  social network share icons.

Promote. Tell people about your great new post. Bring your article to the attention of your customers by sharing it across your small business’ social media networks, send out an email alert and add it on to your email newsletters.

7. How to deal with time constraints

 

how to deal with time constraints

OK, as a small business owner you are always going to be under time pressures, but the long-term benefits blogging brings means it really is well worth the time you put in. Every article you post will continue to pull in traffic for many months and even years to come. We’ve got a few tips to help you combat time constraints.

Build up a bank of articles. During quieter times try to get a ahead with writing articles so you have a bank of posts you can use when times are really busy. This will mean you will be able to continue to publish regular content.

Guest blogs. These can be a great way to get some additional content for your blog especially when you are pressed for time. Ask other industry experts, staff members, suppliers, affiliates, even customers with great stories about using your product or service to write a post. Just ensure you put clear guidelines in place and have final sign-off.

Curated content: A round-up of useful articles relevant to your industry can be a great way to create an article when you haven’t the time or resources to write your own. Add your own commentary and opinion and you’ll have a great post. Just ensure you don’t plagiarise or credit yourself with other people’s work.

Hopefully we’ve shown you just how beneficial blogging can be to your business and given you some helpful tips to make writing a blog less daunting, more successful and not quite so time-consuming. Happy blogging!

 

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences on blogging, so please do leave a comment. 

 

 

 

 

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Sharing Your Business Story: Why and How To Do It

Sharing Your Business Story Why and How To Do It

Who doesn’t like a good the-underdog-wins story where everything works out for the best in the end? However, the old adage ‘it’s easier said than done’ applies everywhere, especially if you’ve experienced this kind of a situation firsthand.

Typically, humans tend to downplay their struggles, failures and inhibitions, and hide their fears to the greatest extent possible. We prefer to project ourselves as successful, inspirational and happy-go-lucky individuals, who have everything going for them. In a scenario where everyone pretends that all is hunky-dory, the true story of your trials and tribulations is sure come as breath of fresh air, especially to those looking for inspiration.

A story with a universal appeal is bound to be valuable. Through your story you get the opportunity to tell your audience that the road to success is rocky and uncertain, rather than straight and levelled.

The Importance of Brand Stories

It’s no secret that the customer is the king. After all, he is the one with purchasing power. Customers are constantly on the lookout for credible content that helps them make buying decisions.

Did you know that 70% of consumers look to blog posts to make such decisions rather than ads?

They read the content provided on your company’s website, refer product reviews on third-party sites, and any other source they can find online before buying from you. This is done to know more about the product, its value proposition and reliability.

Your story can become incredibly powerful when you explain your journey to your customers as it will connect you to them on an emotional level.

Businesses and Stories

Your customers may not care much about your marketing goals, but they will appreciate a great story from you. Any business that can give them this stands to benefit greatly.

Social media can be tremendously helpful in achieving this. Customers are already present on social media and are comfortable engaging with companies, who are equally active in putting up their content on such networks. As the majority of companies publish their content, only those who are able to craft compelling stories, instead of just dishing out a mountain of facts and figures, have a better chance at succeeding.

Mentioned ahead are a few undeniable reasons you should share your business story with the world:

1. Establishing Brand Identity

With the help of stories, you will be able to transform the ostensibly vague core values of your organization (for example, hard work and ethics) into tangible and measurable attributes.

Almost all organizations have a bigger organizational narrative with small stories to sustain, restate, and personalize it. These smaller stories are consistently shared to create, strengthen and explore your brand. It is your organization’s values, mission and activities that form the central theme of its narrative.

2. Establishing Your Authority

Good stories that reinforce that your brand is, in fact, the solution to your customers’ problem can help you influence them positively, thereby establishing your authority in the market.

Craft your content in a manner that positions your brand as the preferred one. Highlight the strengths of your offerings in a way that lets your brand stand out from among the competition. And win!

3. Engaging Audiences

You want your audience to feel an emotional connect with your brand, which is why it is important to tell them stories about the people who make your organization the success that it is. This includes your employees, clients, investors, partners, and so on.

People like to engage with humans and not with undefined entities. When you share your story, you enable your audience to hear, understand and remember your organization better. Further, because stories are more comprehendible than random information and numbers, it becomes easier to share them.

Bear in mind, however, that one story can give rise to new stories i.e. your customers will probably draw out another story from the one you tell them. This is where the importance of having multiple channels of communication (for proper flow) comes into the picture. Once you have them in place, you can ponder over other questions related to the emerging themes and the kind of stories enabling real engagement.

4. Sharing Knowledge

As a brand, you’re bound to have tremendous knowledge and learning, which can be presented in a practical and sustainable structure. Doing so can also help you connect information, which can otherwise seem incoherent. Stories can elucidate numerical data, yield insights, and draw out lessons more easily.

5. Becoming the Guiding Light

Sharing true stories will enable you to build credibility which, in turn, will deepen the trust your internal and external stakeholders have in you. Stories make for fantastic mediums to foster communication through which people get heard. It also helps smart entrepreneurs decipher the meaning of projects and offerings.

Leaders/mentors in organizations that share their story are often adept at relating their projects and challenges to the narrative of the organization.

In fact, stories are more important to leadership than we know. Of course, there needs to be one strong narrative that weaves the various abstract and patchy bits together. This will help you communicate your company’s visions, ease out the complexities, and inspire change.

Leaders keep changing and one leader’s hindsight can be another’s foresight. By sharing the story of your struggles, you can greatly help up-and-coming entrepreneurs realize that their struggles are a normal part of the grind that everyone goes through, and there is a way out of it. More often than not, this is all the inspiration they need to weather the storms.

If your stories can provide them with actionable ideas and solutions through which they can solve their problems, they would be even more helpful.

6. Conquering Your Fears

As already mentioned, not everyone is comfortable with talking about their hardships, struggles, weaknesses, and failures. Some, however, find it to be cathartic and extremely gratifying. Getting over the fear of publicly acknowledging to such experiences requires courage. It can earn your tremendous admiration and respect. You never know, being earnest and forthcoming with your audiences about your strengths and weaknesses may just work in your favor!

Conquering Your Fears

Sold on the idea of telling your story but wondering how to begin and take it forward? We’ll tell you all about it.

  • Start by Talking about Your Purpose

In order to tell your story convincingly, you need to know why you are in business and explain this to your audience eloquently. The two questions to answer here are: what is the purpose of your business and what differentiates it from your competitors?

Answering these questions will help you figure out what makes your business powerful and interesting to others. You will be able to set a path for future successes only if you have a clear idea of where you’re coming from. You may not realize this, but customers want to know who they’re buying from. This includes their history, i.e. questions related to the origins of the company.

Smart entrepreneurs understand the importance of establishing a strong and realistic company mission. Businesses also need to have a clear corporate positioning that is in keeping with who they are. It should emerge from a clear comprehension of why they are in business and who they want to cater to.

The mission and vision of a company are a big part of the brand story as they help formulate a practical business strategy. These factors essentially help set the foundation for success.

  • Introduce the Main Characters

It is impossible to have a relatable story without having exemplary main characters, who shape it going forward. Make sure to create inspirational main characters as they will form the heart of your story and encourage your audience to take the desired action. You can do so by identifying real people or make up fictional characters that make your business flourish and use them as your main cast.

  • What Are You Out to Achieve?

The answer to this question will reveal the real reason for the existence of your business. It will also help your audience figure out what issues you’re looking to resolve through your offerings. Show them the bigger picture and let them know that there is a higher cause to achieve.

Are you in the business to inspire people? Do you want to revolutionalize the way your customers live through your products and services? Do you want to make the world a healthier place to live in? Such questions will help you get the perspective you need to grow your story.

  • Bring Up the Roadblocks

Success stories are incomplete if there is no mention of the failures encountered in the journey. Failures are stepping stones to success. Showing people how you failed before hitting the big time and embracing those trials will humanize you and your business and help your customers strike an emotional chord with your business, thereby making your story more impactful.

  • Give Them a Triumphant Conclusion

Leave them with a feel-good factor at the end of it all, where your product or service solves the customers’ problems. The idea is to position your offering as the medicine that cures all their ailments and gives them exactly what they’ve been looking for.

For your story to have the maximum impact, you need to know about the right techniques of storytelling. Here’s more on that:

  • Blogs

Almost all company websites have blogs and yours should too. They make for effective business storytelling vessels. You can get the maximum advantage by telling the story of either your own industry or other associated industries.

Do not forget to create a professional bio for yourself when you start to blog. In fact, your bio should do more than just announce your accomplishments. It should tell your audience who you are as a person.

The rule of thumb to remember here is that instead of talking on and on about what you do, make your blog posts action-oriented so that you can show your audience what you’re all about.

  • Case Studies

Case studies are the classic marketing vehicles for storytelling in business. After all, they do convey a brand’s story. You can make them more creative by adding humorous elements, building tension, and adding various dimensions and points of view to them, rather than keeping them dull.

  • Product Tutorials

Your customers will probably be looking for instructional material to understand exactly how they can make the most of your offerings. You can provide them with an instructional video that does more than just that. Craft an interesting story by making them the hero and the problem at hand the villain, and then position your product as the solution that can help solve the problem. Focus on providing them with material that answers the customers’ “hows” to make effective videos that arouse curiosity about your offerings.

Conclusion

In order to tell your story to the world, you need to know it well enough. Only then will you be able to do a brilliant job of explaining it to others. Ensure that you have your brand’s core value proposition in place, and that everyone associated with you has the same story to tell to the audience. Consistency is key to be able to share your story in an honest and engaging manner.

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9 ways small online businesses can generate website traffic without breaking the bank

 

Drive traffic to your website

We all know how tough it can be launching a small business online. More often than not we are constrained by a tight budget and lack of resources. Driving traffic to your website is essential in order to attract potential customers.

In this post we take a look at how to get visitors to your website when faced with a limited budget and when the only marketing resource is yourself.

9 straightforward and cost-effective ways to drive traffic to your website

We’ve outlined nine key actions to help you generate more traffic to your online business and grow your potential customer base. It will mean time and effort on your part but all the actions are straightforward to implement, will help in the long-term success of your business and won’t break the bank.

1. Content

We’ll kick off with content. Content is the linchpin to everything that you do and if you only take one thing away from this post then it should be the importance and value of having high quality content on your website. Your content should be;

Relevant: Your content should reflect the needs and interests of your audience.

Engaging: Does it read well? Is it interesting? Will it catch your reader’s eye with an easy to follow layout, supported by interesting images (try Pixabay for sourcing great images that are free for you to use).

Shareable: Your content should inspire people to share it with others. 94% of people who share posts do so because they think it might be helpful to others.  

Try enhancing the content of your site with visual content. Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images. Think about implementing:

  • Images and photos to support text
  • Videos
  • Infographics

2. Blogging

Following on from content, blogging is one of the best ways to ensure your website is being regularly updated with fresh, relevant content. This is key to driving traffic to your website. Every time you publish a post it provides additional opportunities for your business to appear in search engines results pages. As nicely put by Hubspot – “The only thing blogging costs you: your time.”

 

blogging

Blogging also has the added advantage of offering long-term benefits. Each post you publish will  continue to pull in traffic for months to come. Indeed, Hubspot notes that 70% of the traffic it receives each month to its blog comes from posts that weren’t published in the current month.

3. Referrals

The great thing about referral marketing for small businesses is it inexpensive  and effective. Essentially you are getting current customers to help drive traffic to your business by using word of mouth to promote your products and services to friends and acquaintances.

The key things when it comes to successful referrals is:

  1. Ask your customers. Interestingly, the majority of customers who have had a positive customer experience would be happy to refer a friend and yet only a small proportion do. So you need to actively encourage your customers to recommend your business to friends and family.
  2. Make it easy. You don’t want make your customer jump through hoops to make a referral, so make it as straightforward as possible for customers to refer a friends. Try introducing a refer a friend scheme that incentivises both the customer that provides the referral and the friend they refer.

4. Search Engine optimisation

44% of online shoppers begin by using a search engine. 

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) essentially involves making your website search engine friendly and people friendly. It involves researching the right keywords and phrases to generate traffic and improving your site structure to make it easy for search engines to find their way around. Much of it links right back to ensuring your content is relevant, engaging and shareable to your customers.

To find out more about getting starting with Search Engine Optimisation then checkout these two comprehensive guides to getting started with SEO.

  1. MOZ: SEO: The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization 
  2. Google: Search Engine Optimization Guide

5. Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)

OK, PPC such as Google Adwords will involve you parting with some money however, with pay-per-click advertising you can set your budget to what you can afford to spend and you only pay when someone actually clicks via the advertisement to your website. The key to successful PPC advertising is spending time researching the best keywords for your business – they need to be specific and relevant. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great free tool to start with (you just need to create a Google Adwords Account). It will help you identify keywords and phrases and let you know approximate cost-per-click.

With a bit of playing around and practice Google AdWords is pretty easy to use. Checkout Google Adwords Support will help guide you through the basics of getting started.

 

6. Social Media

80% marketers felt social media increased website traffic 

social networks

 

Social media plays an integral, supporting role in driving traffic. It is a great way for you to promote your content with customers and in turn, makes it very easy for customers to go on and share that content on with their social media contacts.

It is a good idea to start out establishing your business profile on the main networks such as Facebook then concentrate your efforts on the key social networks used by your target audience. For example if you business is jewellery you may find your focus on more visual networks such as Pinterest or Instagram, whereas if you are professional services you may find more of your target audience using LinkedIn or Twitter.

Remember to add social media buttons to your website, blog posts and email communications. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to share your content with their friends.

7. Email

Email is one of your most cost-effective tools with a healthy ROI. Use email to stay and front of your customers and drive traffic to your site. Share content such as promoting your product and services, blog posts, news articles, infographics and events – all linking back to your website. Focus on building up a quality email list of relevant and permission based contacts as ithe quality of your data will reflect the effectiveness of your traffic :

  • Create a newsletter sign-up form on your website (think about incentivising sign-up to boost response).
  • Gather names through events you attend, run quizzes and contests offer promotions.

8. Mobile responsive

Ensuring your website is multi-device compatible is essential for getting more visitors to your website. Your website should display equally well whether it is being viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile.

responsive design

More and more people are using mobile devices to search the web. Indeed research shows that 60% of web searches in 2015 were conducted from a mobile phone or tablet. Put simply if your website doesn’t view well on a mobile device, people simply won’t take the time to engage with your website. Added to this, if your website is not responsive then it will effect your search engine ranking on mobile searches.

9. Share your URL

Finally make sure you share your website URL at every opportunity. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it is overlooked. Display your website address wherever you can – no matter how insignificant it may first appear: For example;

  • Advertisements
  • Brochures
  • Flyers
  • Letterheads
  • business cards
  • Email signatures
  • Invoice and order acknowledgements
  • Promotional material
  • Packaging.

Of course everything we’ve mentioned in this post will entail time and ongoing effort on your part, however they are all effective and inexpensive ways to drive traffic to your website – with long-term, sustainable results.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience of driving traffic to your website, so please do leave a comment.