How to set up a business blog and how to write blogging content that helps market your start up.
A blog is a great marketing tool for start up businesses. It lets you publish updates, news, thoughts, tips, help and advice that customers can read and share with others. It shows customers that your business is active and knows its market. By letting readers comment, it shows you’re willing to listen to them – useful for building a dialogue with customers.
A blog is a good way to attract online visitors and potential customers to your website as well. By keeping your website updated with relevant content, it’s likely to rank higher on search engines, and thus helping to drive more traffic to your website.
What is a blog?
A blog is a website or webpage that has entries – known as ‘posts’ – appearing in reverse chronological order with the most recent entry appearing first. Blog topics cover all manner of things – from personal commentary on a trip or new diet progress, to political or celebrity news. People who write a blog are known as bloggers, while the act of writing a blog is called blogging.
Start ups generally create one of two types of blog:
- Company blog – Many start ups create a company blog, using it to share news with customers. Company blogs are simple and cheap or free to set up – most website building tools used to create small business websites include blogging tools.
- Commercial blog – This is a blog set up to make money and some businesses generate revenue purely from blogging. Successful blogs – from cookery and beauty blogs to those offering travel advice or technology reviews – have flourished over the past five years. The best ones attract millions of readers and make money from advertising and carrying affiliate links.
Some UK blogs have become successful businesses, including Pixiwoo, which was set up by sisters who had worked in the make-up industry to review beauty products. Some commercial blogs are more personal, such as Slummy Single Mummy, which gained nearly 200,000 unique users in six months in 2016.
Why should I set up a company blog?
For small businesses, the opportunities presented by blogging aren’t immediately apparent. Small company blogs don’t generate revenue, and writing one takes time and effort. However, managed properly, a blog is a cost-effective way to promote your company, boost your online presence, increase traffic and can even position your company as an industry authority or innovator.
SEO impact is greater with a blog. Most small businesses have websites with just a few pages, such as company details and product information. This makes it challenging to be ranked highly by search engines. A blog can help by providing additional, fresh content that search engines look for when ranking websites.
Blog content ideas
The first challenge many businesses face is what to write about in their blog. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Write about your trade, industry or profession – Show off your expertise or provide insights and advice on developments about your industry, such as writing about developments or technology that could save your customers money.
- Be helpful – Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What help and advice could you give them? Are there problems related to your industry or products that need to be solved? Sharing your expertise with helpful guides or tips is the best way to get started with a small business blog, whatever your business. For example, a hairdressing salon blog may have posts about hair care, tips for creating different hair styles and comments on celebrity hairstyles, while a lighting store may post tips on reducing energy bills, how best to light a room, and how-to articles about repairing broken lamps.
- Add video to your blog – Video tutorials work well for many small business blogs and these can be easily shared on YouTube to increase traffic to your website.
- Be comprehensive – Creating problem-solving evergreen content is the key to attracting blog subscribers. This type of content keeps readers coming to your blog in the long-term – it is content that stays relevant rather than being date/time specific hence the ‘evergreen’ description – because it provides comprehensive answers to common customer problems.
- Entertain readers – Use your blog to share entertaining facts or heart-warming stories.
- Avoid the hard sell – Don’t use your blog as a platform for sales pitches or product promotion.
How often should I update a company blog?
Try to post on your company blog as often as you can: once a week is better than once a month, though daily is optimum if you have the time. Find the balance that works best for you – time is precious and start up business owners need to focus on the day-to-day running of their company. Once established be consistent with your posting schedule so that your readers will begin to anticipate updates and visit your blog to see new posts.
Don’t have long periods of inactivity between posting or you’ll risk losing traffic. If you’re facing a busy period at work or have an upcoming holiday, write an extra blog entry or two and using your blogging software to schedule it to publish during that time.
How long should a blog post be?
Blog posts can be any length you want, though you’ll need them to be long enough to engage and entertain readers. Aim for at least 500 words, although to get the best from SEO aim for at least 1,000 words.
Studies show that blog posts of more than 2,000 words rank the highest in Google for competitive search terms. However, padding out a blog post is counter-productive as it won’t encourage readers to share and comment on posts.
Watch this: Serial entrepreneur Beate Chetlette shares her top five blogging tips every business can benefit from in this video:
Remember that your customers are busy people so you’ll need to structure your blog entry to provide bite-sized chunks of information.
- Content navigation – Create content that’s easy to scan so readers can quickly find what they’re looking. Use headers and bold text to help readers identify sections.
- Avoid large blocks of text – Use short paragraphs and sentences. Bullet points, lists, quotes and images can break up text, making it more readable.
- Keep it casual – Even though you’re writing a company blog, avoid a formal tone. Instead keep your style of writing casual and chatty – as if you were talking face-to-face to a customer or friend.
- Keep it professional – Spellcheck and edit your blog entry before posting. Error-ridden or rambling blog posts are off-putting and many readers won’t return to give you a second chance.
How to build an audience for your blog
Even if your business blog has amazing content, building an audience can be a challenge. Spending time on a blog that no-one sees can be disheartening and won’t help further your marketing goals. Here are some ways to grow your audience:
- Share your blog on social media – Once you publish a blog post, share it across all your social media accounts. Promote it further by pinning your post to the top of your Twitter profile and Facebook page so it is the first post people see on your social accounts.
- Comment on other blogs – Become an active contributor to other, popular blogs, and include relevant links back to content on your own blog.
- Provide content – If you’ve an interesting story or helpful advice, offer it to other blogs and websites. In return, you can ask for links to be included back to your blog.
- Respond to readers’ comments – Many bloggers turn off comments to avoid spam but interacting with your readers is essential to growing a strong community of followers as well establishing a good business reputation. Be graceful when handling different opinions.
Use your blog to increase SEO performance
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important for any blog. To achieve your marketing aims, you need to make your blog and website more visible to people who are looking for keywords associated with your company, products or services via search engines like Google. SEO techniques are useful for helping to grow and maintain an audience for your blog.
- Optimise with keywords – Keywords are search phrases that search engines look for in online content. This doesn’t mean stuffing your blog with keywords, as this can have the opposite effect and makes for a poor reader experience. Aim for one or two long-tail keywords (two- or three-word phrases) per blog post. This includes the blog body text, headline, headers, URL and meta description.
- Put keywords in ‘alt’ tags – Make sure you add keywords to the alt tags of any images you use in your blog. Alt tags simply tell your web browser what images are about – essential for people using screen readers – but as search engines scan these along with the rest of a web page, they’ll help boost search rankings.
- Add links – Put links in your blog posts to other relevant content on your website and other, related websites as this shows that your website is a useful resource.
- Optimise for mobile – Many people use their smartphones to access online content so your blog must be optimised for mobile usage. Makes sure the size of blog text, headlines and section headers adjust dynamically when read on a mobile device. Optimise images to download fast and display correctly on mobile devices.
Looking for more advice on SEO to help get your website noticed? Download our free SEO Toolkit for Start Up Businesses.
Keep at it
Creating and maintaining a small business blog is like any aspect of running a business. Don’t expect instant success – think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. Blogging will get easier and more productive over time, gathering momentum the more you interact with other bloggers, websites, social media users and customers.
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