Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, small business advocate and mother of four. As CEO of CorpNet.com, a legal document filing service, Nellie helps entrepreneurs start a business, incorporate, form an LLC or set up sole proprietorships (DBAs) for a new or existing business.
These days it seems like every business — from dentistry to software — has a blog. However, just because everyone has a blog doesn’t mean everyone is doing it right. Whether you’re just launching a blog for your business, or you’ve been blogging for awhile, it’s easy to fall into some blogging bad habits.
As a small business owner, I try to truly embrace the unique opportunity that social media offers. I’ve been experimenting with our company blog for years; here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way, including the mistakes.
1. Mistaking your blog for a promotional platform.
Many small business owners rush to blogging, and to social media in general — they see it as free advertising. However, when your blog posts focus too much on your company, products and services, your blog is no longer useful or credible. Few readers will return to read about why you’re so awesome week after week.
If the bulk of your posts are company or product-centric, you’ll need to change the way you think about your blog. Focus your content so it offers information that’s useful and relevant to whatever your particular community cares about. For example, my company helps small businesses incorporate, file for trademarks and launch their business from a legal perspective. Therefore, we try to cater our topics toward whatever would help small business owners run their companies, from leadership and employee management tips to small business marketing and taxes.
Some experts advise on keeping a 90:10 or 75:25 ratio when it comes to educational vs. promotional content. You don’t necessarily have to stick to some magic equation, as long as you keep your audience’s needs and interests at the forefront of your blog strategy.
2. Not posting consistently.
It’s easy to start a blog, but not so easy to keep it going. A small business blog usually fails due to lack of commitment or resources. A HubSpot report found that companies who blog frequently and consistently benefit the most from their blogging efforts.
Before launching your blog, determine the ideal posting frequency to keep your blog fresh, for example, once or twice per week. If you need to, scout out your competitor’s blogs to gauge the average number of posts per week. In an ideal world, you should create a quarterly editorial plan for your upcoming post topics. And during downtimes, create a handful of general (non time-sensitive) topics that can be fed into the blog whenever the schedule gets tight.
3. Not engaging with your readers.
A blog isn’t a press release or static web page where information simply flows from you to the reader. Social media uniquely provides a direct link to interact with your customers and community; it would be shame not to take advantage of the opportunity. If you’re fortunate enough to have engaged readers who comment on your blog posts, be sure to acknowledge them – whether by thanking them for some kind words, answering a question, providing further details, or inserting yourself in a conversation.
While everyone will differ on the level of community moderation and control, the following is true: If you want to encourage engagement, you need to make it easy for your readers to leave comments. Log-in systems and captcha forms help limit spam or trolls, but they also make it difficult for the casual reader to leave a comment.
4. Being too SEO-focused.
Blogging can have an amazing impact on your keyword rankings and organic search traffic. I encourage businesses to develop an SEO strategy for their blogs. Identify the top keywords for your business and optimize your posts with those keywords. Tools like Scribe or Yoast can help you with search engine optimization.
However, the most successful business blogs write for humans, not machines. Don’t hire a poor quality SEO company that churns out posts filled with specific keywords and phrases, without even thinking whether the content is useful or easy to read. That strategy might drive visitors to your blog, but those visitors will never stay, read, engage with or share your content if it’s poor. Keywords don’t create credibility. Write posts that are interesting, sprinkle in keywords now and then, and your efforts will be rewarded.
5. Not using images the right way.
While many new bloggers focus on the words, images are the best way to grab people’s attention quickly. In addition, breaking up longer posts with images that illustrate what you’re talking about will help keep readers interested and combat our limited attention spans.
For many small business blogs, the problem with images boils down to resource allocation. You may expect it to take you one hour to write a post, but only a few minutes to find an image. However, finding the right image is rarely that easy.
Before you begin searching, take a few minutes to think about the main concept, feeling or idea your post is trying to convey. You should always use images that are visually engaging, aesthetically pleasing and relevant to your post. Your image needs to express a concept and not just look like you picked the first stock image that came your way.
In addition, many small businesses run afoul of copyright law and fair use practices by thinking they have the right to use any photo found on the Internet. The best way to steer clear of trouble when selecting images for your blog is to use ones with Creative Commons licensing. You can search for Creative Commons-licensed images on Flickr, on the Creative Commons website or via CC search engines like Compfight or Photo Pin.
6. Not listening to your readers.
Not sure what kind of content appeals to your audience the most? It’s not a mystery: Your blog analytics can provide valuable insight into what types of posts are resonating with readers.
By failing to pay attention to analytics, you’re ignoring valuable information that can take your blog to the next level. Continually track the responses to each blog post. Tinker with different topics, titles and types of posts. Which posts generate the most activity (comments, shares, likes)? Increase the frequency of the most popular.
What are some of the top lessons you have learned with your business blog?