How to Start A Blog for Business
Blogging is a fantastic way to boost your visibility online, but don't just take my word for it, here's some of the research:
- B2B marketers who blog receive 67% more leads than those who avoid this strategy.
- Blogging only costs you one thing: time.
- Companies that blog receive 97% more links which boosts your SEO and visibility in the search engines.
Google is secretive about the number of searches it's users perform (it's commercially sensitive data) but it has been estimated that 90 billion searches are completed every single month. That's 45 times more searchers than there are users on the Facebook platform! Set up your business blog the right way, and these searchers will find their way to you, see what you're offering and become part of your audience. Do it the wrong way and your voice will never be heard, and you'll think blogging success is something that can only be achieved by other people. This post will help you start your successful business blog this year.
Sign up for web hosting
Sure you can have a free blog on LinkedIn, but if you get banned or they go under you lose your content. I've been there, and learned the hard way. Own your content by having your own site. You don't own anything on social media, not You Tube, not Facebook and not Twitter... But you do own your own blog.
The first step when it comes to starting your blog is to choose a hosting company. If your blog is your online home, hosting is the land that it's built upon.
Hosting companies differ in the services that they offer. The host you select now may be different to the website hosting you need in a year or two. It's unlikely you will remain with the same hosting company forever, so do some initial research but don't spend all of your time doing this!
When choosing your hosting company remember you will need to know where the data is stored and processed for GDPR, and what security is in place. Some hosting companies supply a domain name with your account, others may not. If you are not very good at following instructions then choose a host that comes with a domain name. We love and recommend WPX for your web hosting. You can find out more about WPX and what's so great about it in the article below:
Finally, make sure your hosting will help you install an SSL certificate on your site, as the search engines will be looking to send their users (your visitors) to a safe and secure site. An SSL certificate is a sign of this.
Please also note: Your hosting company can help you with many things relating to hosting your website. They will not design it for you, or show you how to design it. They will not complete updates on your blog, or fix rogue code, broken themes or broken plugins. This isn't part of your hosting plan. Tech support will be limited to your hosting issues and not your blog or website issues. Some hosting companies will offer you a paid upgrade for these services.
Selecting a domain name for your blog.
If hosting is the land that your virtual presence is built upon, your domain name is your door number of your house; it's what people type in to find you. Some people use their own name (they're a personal brand) and others use their company name (a business brand). A smaller group of people use a keyword in their domain name which helps boost their findability online.
Should you use your own name as a your domain name?
Yes, if you are a personal brand or people will search your name. No if you plan to sell your business.
Do you need the word "blog" in your domain name?
If you want a phrase that is common, then it can be hard to get the domain name. Adding the word blog, or, online will help.
Can I change my domain name if I don't like it?
Of course. You can have several domain names including the .com and .co.uk of your name or company name.
Complete your hosting registration.
Once you've chosen your domain name the next step is to finalise your hosting. This is the part where you pay. Although there are great deals for paying a year in advance, I recommend you get your hosting for 3 months. This means if you get the wrong package, or want to move hosts (for whatever reason) you can do so at the 3 months point.
When finalising your hosting registration make sure the email address you add is one that you can easily access. Your hosting is a powerful part of managing your business online, and if you don't see invoice reminders, maintenance reminders etc, then your experience won't be the best one.
The most common reason websites "go down" is forgetting to pay the invoice for either the hosting or the domain name.
You've chosen your hosting company and your domain name and now it's the exciting part! You're about to install WordPress on your site. WordPress powers the web. The majority of websites are built on WordPress which means you can easily find a front-end developer or designer, or a back-end developer, or coder. There's also the library of "plugins" which extend the functionality of your website.
In your hosting dashboard you will find a link to cPanel, or an equivalent. Click on this and you will have a new area open up. Here you will see many icons. Find the one that says "Softaculous" and click this. Some hosts may say "install WordPress". With WPX hosting, WordPress is a one-click installation.
Once you've clicked you will be guided through the steps to install WordPress. It's fast and easy. You will be asked to add a username and a password. Choose a unique username and a password with letters, numbers and symbols in it. The easiest way to hack any website is through the passwords, so choose a strong one, and write it down in a safe place if you are likely to forget it.
Some hosts have a wizard that walks you through the process once you've confirmed your registration. There will also be instructions from the host on how to install WordPress.
If you get stuck, a quick search will help you find the instructions that you need.
Create Your Reader Avatar
Once WordPress is installed the next step isn't to make your blog look pretty. The next step is to think about your reader avatar. Who will read your blog? What problems are they looking to solve when they reach your blog? How will they contact you or stay in touch? When you have a business, the reader avatar is the same as your ideal customer.
Do Your Audience Research
Once you have your ideal client / reader avatar established the next phases is audience research. This is the part where you look online where your readers are, and find out a bit more about them.
- Where do they currently get their advice from?
- What blogs/podcasts/video do they follow?
- What content do they share?
- What content do they want but can't find?
Audience research is an ongoing activity when it comes to blogging for business. Set up a folder in Dropbox and add in your audience research. This can be screenshots, it can be interviews, it can be memes that are shared. The more you know and understand about your audience the better your business blog will be.
The best business blogs are continually keeping their finger on the pulse of their audience.
Writing your Home Page
Once you've completed your reader avatar and audience research it's time to write your home page. When you installed WordPress the default theme was installed. This is a plain theme and probably won't fit your brand perfectly, we will look at changing your theme after you've written your home page.
What Content Goes on Your Home Page?
- Main headline - what your website has to offer. Keep it short. Keep it simple.
- Sub-headline: This where you talk about your audience's biggest pain point and how you help your ideal readers. This page is not about you, but them. No one likes to go on a date where the other person only talks about themselves. No one likes it online. Don't be that person. Focus on your reader.
- Add a call to action above the fold (the part of your website your reader sees without having to scroll)
- Add a visual or a video welcoming the reader. Some times an explainer style video is used. Use what you are most comfortable with. you can always change it later.
- Share the benefits of working with you and why they would want to work with you rather than someone else.
- Share your testimonials & social proof - your audience need to feel safe, reassured and confident in your expertise.
- Make sure your navigation is clear so your reader knows where to go next -they will want to look around if they like what they see.
- Your reader has only just found you, they may not be ready to buy, so guide them to your subscribe page and your blog.
Write this in a Word document so you can catch the typos, and have it ready to add to your business blog's home page.
Selecting & Changing Your Theme
Login to your WordPress website. When you are logged in you will see the backend or dashboard area of WordPress. On the left hand side you will see a menu. Scroll down until you see appearance. Click "appearance" and you will be taken to the theme section of your website. Here you can see the designs that come with WordPress, and you have the opportunity to add your own.
Here are some of the themes that we use on a regular basis.
Divi is a framework create by elegant themes, and it comes with many child themes that slot into the parent framework. Divi is a popular choice for website themes and if you need help, you will be able to find someone who can customise Divi pretty easily.
Thrive Themes have a great theme builder. This site is built upon their Kwik theme, and every part of it is customisable. It's faster than Divi to set up, and comes with a wizard that walks you through the steps. You can choose your design, add your brand colours, select your fonts, and be ready to go in 20 minutes.
I love the templates that come with this theme - it makes your life easier by having ready made layouts. If you have Thrive Architect as well, then, you can access hundreds of templates so you can easily create your perfect website
Each year WordPress release a theme. This can be customised and is free to use.
If you are starting out, and you business isn't fully established then using a free theme is a great place to start.
You can change your theme at any time. If you change from Divi, you will need to remove the short codes on the pages and blog posts when you active the new theme. You will have this with most page builders (tools to help you create your pages faster). The exception to this rule is Thrive Architect (there's a light version in Thrive Theme's Theme Builder). Here you will have the text revert back to the usual WordPress editor.
Writing Your First Blog Post
My first blog post was 50 words and it took 2.5 hours (yes, you read that right!) to write. Your first blog post will come easier when you follow these tips:
- Research your blog post. Look at your ideal client / reader avatar and make a note of their biggest issue that you can help with
- Write an opening paragraph about their situation. Why is their problem a problem? What happens if they leave it? What happens when they resolve it?
- What are some of the things they can do to give them peace of mind? How can you reassure your reader? How does your content add value to their lives?
- What happens if they work with you? How can they take the next step?
- How can they get in touch with you?
- Write your headline for the post
- Add an image
- Sleep on it!
- Add in your optimisation (things that help you get found)
- Proof read and publish your blog post.
Create Your Contact Page
As you're using your blog for business you need a way for your prospects to get in touch with you.
A contact page is a great starting point for that.
Add a new page to your site, and call it Contact.
- Write about your business location, add directions and embed a Google map.
- Add your phone number
- Add your social media follow links
- Add a contact form
- Let people know when to ring, when to stop by (opening hours or hours of business) and when to fill in the contact form.
Publish Your Privacy Page
Data privacy is a big thing, and your audience will want to know about how you take care of their privacy. WordPress creates a starter privacy page for you when you set up your blog. Without a privacy page you will have a hard time getting other sites and businesses to take your site seriously.
- Write about how you use data in your business
- Add any data company registrations (like ICO in the UK)
- Note down how someone can contact you / Add a contact form
- Be honest with how you use data. Don't pretend you don't do something when you do. I say in mine that I have the Facebook tracking pixel installed, which in theory allows me to show ads to the visitors of this site. I also say that I don't actually do that because I don't have the time for FB ads along with everything else.
Optional - Create a Subscribe Page
A key to creating a successful and growing blog is to regularly publish new content. But what would it be for, if there are no people to read it?
Nowadays, having a separate page for subscription is a must. It's up to you how to design it and what to include, but we can still give you some advice:
- Don't overload it with information. That's what the other sections of your website and blog are for. Include a short overview, maybe showcase some feedback or a list of articles that people enjoyed the most, and keep it clean and clear!
- Give your visitors a reason to subscribe. Let them know what they can expect from you and what kind of content you're planning to post.
- Don't clutter your subscription form with unnecessary fields.
- If you decide to give your readers a choice of different subscription options, analyze those options beforehand. Make sure that subscribing to several of them at once won't end up in your notifications flooding their inbox.
Create Your About Page
When people visit your website for the first time, they have to know what makes your business stand out and what you're offering to them. This is what "About Us" can do for you!
There are many things you can include, but the best approach would be:
- Tell the story behind your business. Why did you start it? What motivated you? When did you do it?
- Describe how your offer is unique. Let your customers know why they should be interested in your products or services and not go to your competitors instead.
- The "About Us" page is a good way to include information that you wanted to include into the homepage, but felt like you were cluttering it.
- Another interesting information to include would be a small description of your company morals or business model. Introduce people to your high standards!
- If you're going for a clean homepage, try integrating press mentions, reviews and testimonials into your About Page! That's the best place for people to find them.
Basically, this page of the site is an introduction. A chance to tell your story and convey your mindset. Use it to the fullest!
Protecting your blog
I hear lots of stories about WordPress website security. So, lets put a few of these myths to bed.
WordPress Myth: WordPress sites are easy to hack
WordPress is a robust piece of software. It has lots of built in security aspects and you can add in extras if you want to. It doesn't matter how great WordPress is if you use an easy to guess password and fail to update your themes and plugins.
WordPress Myth: WordPress always needs updating
Just like a car needs a service, your business blog will also need to be updated and maintained. This takes approximately 30-60 minutes a week and is easily outsourced.
WordPress Isn't Secure
WordPress is part of an eco-system. As well as the WordPress element, there's themes, plugins and hosting to factor in as well. If something goes wrong it's easy to blame WordPress as it's the biggest component of your website. 33% of the World's websites are on WordPress, and they wouldn't be using it if it wasn't secure.
Hosting will clean up after hack
You are responsible when something happens to your business blog or website. Your hosting company will not clean up your site if you're hacked. You will have to do it yourself or hire a company to do it for you. Having a back-up of your site is very important. You can't rely on hosting back-ups as they may be contaminated as well.
There's a wealth of security plugins to protect your blog. Here are some of the ones I like to use on the sites I build:
- Wordfence - this is a freemium plugin and the one most people use to protect their WordPress website
- UpdraftPlus - this is a back up, freemium plugin, and will take a back up of your new blog. Many hosts back up your website, but you also need your own back up. Trust me, you will thank yourself for acting on this piece of advice.
- Bullet Proof Security - Another freemium plugin that includes Malware scanner, Firewall, Login Security, DB Backup, Anti-Spam and other things you don't know you need until you need them.
Publishing Content Regularly on Your Blog
It's no secret that to keep your audience invested, you got to constantly supply them with new and relevant content.
For a start, decide how often you want to make updates. Posting too frequently is almost as bad as not posting anything at all: it can push people away instead of attracting them. Caveat - it's depends on your niche. For example, if you are publishing several times a day on a fashion site, or a gossip site, or an industry news site then you're posting about the right amount. If you're a tradesperson, then you can publish weekly and it be just the right amount. Most business owners find 2 or 3 times a week is about right for them. You might find that your audience is seasonal and you slow down posting in the summer months and more in December.
You get to choose your frequency when posting. Set up a posting schedule for yourself and adjust as you need too.
After you've decided on the posting schedule, create a content plan. Having a structure definitely helps. Select topics you want to write about, put them in order, come up with a way of linking them together to give your readers a chance to learn more.
Making your posts regular allows people to know when they can expect new content to come out. They can look forward to an upcoming update and be more invested into what you're doing.
Images for your Business Blog
Google Images isn't a free library where you can just take an image and add it to your website. Images will probably be your biggest blogging expense for your business blog. We recommend creating branded images for your site, and using images that reflect your audience.
WP Plugins to Grow Your Audience
WP has several plugins that can help you increase your reach. From the ones that can help you analyze your SEO data to the ones that encourage social media sharing, the list goes on and on.
For example, some of those useful plugins are:
- GDPR Framework plugin will help you meet some of your responsibilities around GDPR including cookie consent.
- Convertbox captures the emails of your visitors and reminds them about your website. It can create a personalized offer for each customer, based on their activity on your website, while sending them reminders in the right moments.
- Inline Related Posts for internal linking that detects headlines and paragraph breaks. If you can't remember to link your content this will help.
- Monarch is one of the best plugins when it comes to encouraging the social media sharing. It has a broad choice of social networks to choose from, as well as great customization and design options. This is included in your Elegant Themes membership.
There are plenty more plugins and features to choose from. Just keep in mind that while it can be great to implement several of them at once, using too many could ruin the overall experience for everyone.
Analyze what exactly would your visitors like to see and give them just that.
Don't Want to Do it Yourself?
We'd love to help put your business blog together. We have two options - branded (as in you have no brand and we help you create it) or un-branded (as in you already have branding for your business and want to add this to your blog). Let's have a chat!