“Every business should have a blog!” Lots of marketing people, business consultants, SEO experts, and more have said this—maybe even to you. Heck, I might have said it, although probably not in so stark a way for reasons you’ll see in a minute. It’s a common belief, even among people who don’t have one, that a blog is necessary for business. And it is…and it isn’t. That’s why I wrote this article: to explain the common question, “what is a blog for?” After all, you don’t want to start a business blog unless you know why you’re doing it, and what it’s supposed to do for your business.
First, What Is Blogging?
A brief introduction for those who have heard the term but are a little fuzzy on what it means: a blog (short for “web log”) is like a journal, only public. It can be like a personal journal where you write your thoughts and experiences. It can also be like a professional journal where articles on a particular theme or subject are published. There is software that can be installed on your own server, or you can use software that’s installed on someone else’s. But in either case, you would use this software like a word processor to write your articles and then “publish” them—put them on the Internet for visitors to see.
From a business perspective, this gives you another online “place” for people to see your business, and for your expertise to shine or your marketing message to be shared. To “do” blogging, you just need to write things, create imagery, or both. When you have created that content and published it on your blog, you are blogging!
Crucial: Goals for a Business Blog
The answer to “what is a blog for” really has to do with your goals. Don’t create a blog until you figure out what you want it to do for your business because making the right choices about how you set it up and what you publish will depend on the goal. As Lewis Carroll put it in Alice in Wonderland:
“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.
‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.
‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”
All of the following can be valid goals for a blog. There may be more, but if any of these align with what you’re looking for, great. You can just pick from the list. Here’s a caution, though: Don’t Pick More Than 3. The fewer goals you have, the more focused you can be. The more focused you are, the fewer things you need to do to be successful. From a strategic point of view, then, you’re better off not saying, “They all look great! Those are all my goals!” Rather, you should be thinking, “My blog exists to do X, so I will stop worrying about doing anything that won’t get me closer to that end.”
List Building: Perhaps you’ve decided that a key to your success is having a large database of potential customers. You want to use your blog to draw in new people and encourage them to subscribe to your newsletter or create a free account. (Having a big list of potential customers is generally a good thing for all businesses, but is increasing the size of your list your primary focus?)
Establishing Credibility: Are you new to the industry? In a new business? Publishing things that show off that you know what you’re talking about can improve your perceived expertise or credibility. If you want your potential clients, or even the media, to feel comfortable contacting you as an authority in your subject, this could be a good goal.
Search Engine Optimization: There are quite a few ways that a blog can help you show up higher on the search engine results pages, from (because really, how often do you even see page 2?) But worrying about SEO isn’t a very good choice if most of your clients find you through word of mouth. That’s an entirely different type of marketing and spending your time on SEO would be a waste of effort. And if a web search is where your likely clients find your business, it might be effort well spent.
Advertising: If you’re selling ads on your site (or using a service like AdSense to do the selling for you), you’re interested not in subscriptions or credibility but raw traffic so that there are more people looking at your ads. There are quite a few people whose entire business is this one goal–post blogs that attract traffic and earn money when some of them click on the associated ads. That could be your business model, or maybe you just want to supplement your income from something else your business does.
Education: Are there things you need people to know? A goal could be to educate your audience—about your product, an issue, a topic, or whatever. Perhaps you post educational videos, or how-to articles because your business runs smoother (or you reduce the cost/effort of customer service complaints) if your clients know this information before they start working with you or after they’ve made a sale.
Direct Sales: Each post can be an attempt to sell something. Developers have created ecommerce plugins for many blogging platforms to make this easy. There are certainly challenges to this approach because it can come across as high-pressure sales and turn people off, but with the right offerings and the right target audience, it can work. (I’m thinking of the start of www.woot.com which had only one product—a different one each day—at a great price. It had its fans coming back every day to see what today’s product was.)
Assisting Your Sales Process: Even if you don’t want the blog to sell directly, it can be used to move people along your sales funnel. This could be done using many of the other goals as needed; for example, a sales person might send a potential customer a link to a blog article that addresses one of their concerns. That’s assisting sales, but could also be education or establishing credibility, depending on the concern in question. The focus, though, is slightly different. You would be paying relatively more internal attention to what would be helpful for your various sales stages rather than the external “what do people on the Internet want?”
Building Relationships: A large number of businesses are recognizing the importance of building relationships with past, current, and future customers. A blog can act as a kind of forum for building a community. That community and relationship building can happen through conversation in the comments on a post, or across blogs and other online media (a reader of your blog could link to your article from a post on their own blog, for example, or the post could spark social media conversation).
There we go! I hope that gives you some ideas about what a blog can be used for in your business. Once you have that in place, you have a guide to narrowing your options and eliminating a good deal of information overload about your online marketing. “Does it help me do X? No? Then I’ll ignore it because it’s the wrong path.” A good strategic choice.
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fylkesarkiv/8423399078/