9 Clouds Automotive Marketing Blog
Where automotive meets digital marketing.
Blogging for business: if you’re not doing it, you may as well just give up and go home.
Just kidding…sort of. While business blogs may not be a make-or-break deal for your business, they are essential for a successful digital marketing strategy. And since a successful digital marketing strategy is essential for a successful marketing strategy in general, it follows that business blogs translate to increased brand exposure, increased leads, and increased revenue.
It’s like math or something.
Maybe you’re not convinced about the importance of starting a business blog. Or maybe you’re convinced, but you have no idea where to begin.
That’s where we come in.
In this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about blogging for business–starting with a simple definition.
What Is a Business Blog?
Before we can dive into the logistics of creating and managing a business blog, we need to explain exactly what a blog is.
Bear with us, seasoned bloggers–we’re starting small here.
The fun word “blog” comes from the original term, “weblog,” which is really just the words “web” and “log” squished together. So a blog is basically a log of posts written on the Web, usually displayed in reverse chronological order.
It’s not rocket science.
Blogs entered the digital scene in the late ’90s. Originally nothing more than people’s personal online diaries, blogs have transformed from static, self-focused sites to interactive forums, where readers can respond to entries by liking them, commenting on them, or sharing them on social media.
Today, there are more than 100 million blogs in existence. And as they gain popularity among both individuals and businesses alike, that number continues to skyrocket.
What's the Difference Between a Business Blog and a Personal Blog?
Blogs are no longer just a repository of people’s blabbering journal entries. Businesses have begun to capitalize on the many benefits of blogging for their digital marketing efforts.
But how can you distinguish a personal blog from a business one?
Well, for one thing, personal blogs are typically written from only one person’s perspective. They are almost always written in the first person, and they tend to be written about events and issues unique to that person (or their demographic). For examples of well-made personal blogs, check out Chris Guillebeau, Fifty Coffees, and The Art of Manliness.
Personal blogs can be created for love, profit, or just pure narcissism. And sometimes, if someone’s blog blows up in popularity, what started as a personal blog can evolve into a lucrative business opportunity.
However you cut it, a personal blog is self-promotional. A business blog, on the other hand, is company-promotional.
Let us rephrase that. A typical business blog is company-promotional–highlighting the latest products and services available from that company. A remarkable business blog is industry-promotional–highlighting the latest news and concepts related to the company’s field.
We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of what makes a business blog remarkable later on. For now, just know that when we talk about a business blog, we mean a blog that is hosted on a company’s website, for the ultimate purpose of generating profit for that company. To get an idea of what a good business blog looks like, check out Business Insider, Fast Company, and The Huffington Post.
Why Do I Need to Host My Business Blog on My Company's Website?
If you’re serious about starting your own business blog, you need to make sure it is your own business blog.
What do we mean by that?
Wrong. These sites are nothing more than sneaky little leeches that want to suck the blood–and the SEO and monetizing benefits–from your blog.*
Okay, that might be a little strong. There’s nothing inherently wrong with using a free blog-hosting service. But if you want to reap all the advantages that business blogging has to offer, you must make sure it is linked to your company’s general Web domain.
Here are three reasons why you should not use a free blog-hosting website:
- Free hosting services steal your SEO benefits. SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” and it refers to the way search engines like Google crawl your website to determine how high you rank on a search results page. So if you’re hosting through an external website, search engines will rank that site rather than yours. Make sense?
- Free hosting services steal your monetizing opportunities. When you use a free service, you surrender your right to reimbursement for any advertising (like Google AdSense) that’s done on your blog. At 9 Clouds, we recommend not using advertising services like these anyway, as they direct traffic away from your own content. But if you’re interested in monetizing your blog, know that you won’t be able to do so with a free hosting service. Depending on the service, you also might not be able to add any sort of e-commerce or shopping cart functionality to your blog, which can be a problem if you ever want to sell products directly from your blog.
- Free hosting services allow for limited customization. Usually, these sites force you to choose between a select number of themes, widgets, and other options–meaning that you won’t be able to tailor your blog to look exactly how you’d like. You’ll probably also have to use the site’s built-in analytics tools, which may not be as sophisticated as you’d prefer if you’re really into analyzing your traffic data (as you should be!).
*Side note: We know we called out WordPress above, but you don’t have to avoid it altogether. You can opt to pay to self-host your blog through WordPress, and all SEO and advertising benefits will be passed on to you–just as though you were hosting it on your own website. In fact, that’s what we do here at 9 Clouds, so you know it can’t be all bad!
Whether you self-host through WordPress or not, be sure that when you create your business blog, you integrate it into your current Web domain instead of making an entirely new website. It might not seem like a big deal to have two separate domains–after all, they’re both yours, so why would it matter, right? But it does matter. Because by adding another domain to the World Wide Web, you’ve just created a new competitor: yourself.
It’s like Frankenstein all over again.
Search engines recognize each domain as a separate entity, so if you have a separate blog domain, those site visits and visitors will be tracked separately. Keep them together so you’ll rank higher in search engine results.
Self-hosting your business blog has other benefits too. Most people expect companies to have a blog on their website–and if they learn they have to go somewhere else to find it, they’ll probably get annoyed.
Hosting your business blog on your own website helps create an effortless browsing experience for your potential customers. Do it and watch your site visits–and your SEO rank–skyrocket.
Why Blog for Business?
Now that you know what a business blog is (and what it is not), let’s dive into the debate: is blogging really that important for your company?
In a word: yes.
There are so many benefits of blogging for business that it’s hard to know where to begin. To make things more manageable, let’s divide the advantages into two main categories: marketing purposes and sales purposes.
How Can Blogging Help My Marketing Team?
Since blogging is widely considered a key ingredient to any digital marketing recipe, it follows that there are many benefits for your marketing team in general. Here are a few:
- Blogging drives traffic to your website. This is the benefit from which all other marketing benefits of blogging stem. If you learn one thing about blogging for business from this post, remember this: the primary purpose of your blog is to attract more visitors to your website. Why do you want more site visitors? Well, you want more leads, right? Obviously, the more people who come to your website and learn about your product or service, the more potential customers you’ve gained. Also, the more site visitors you have, the more SEO points you’ve scored. Search engines use stats like the number of site visitors, the number of page views, and quality of content to determine how high you rank on a given search results page. Writing consistent, remarkable content with relevant keywords helps you climb the ladder on those search results pages.
- Blogging helps you convert visitors into leads. It’s not enough to get people to simply drop by your website. If you want to generate quality leads who are truly interested in your product or service, you need to offer them something they truly want to see. News flash: a bright-red “BUY NOW!” button on the homepage isn’t going to convert leads on its own. Before your customers are ready to buy, they need to be led gently along the buyer’s journey. The first step in that sales process is to provide them with content that interests them: perhaps a definition of an ambiguous term or a helpful how-to demonstration they can’t find anywhere else. Your blog is the perfect place to put content like this. By offering your site visitors blog posts of all kinds, you’ll be able to catch them at whatever stage they’re at in the buyer’s journey–and when they’re done reading, you’ll be able to offer them something else that will prod them further along that path.
- Blogging helps you establish expertise in your field. We don’t have to convince you that branding is important for your business. Blogging helps you solidify your brand by giving you a platform to announce who you are and what you’re about. Since blog posts usually serve to inform the reader, it follows that the more posts you write, the more informative and trustworthy your business will appear. If you can establish yourself as an expert in your field, you will soon become the number-one source for the product or service you offer.
- Blogging allows you to share content easily. Businesses often struggle to get the word out about their latest events or offerings. Press releases are becoming obsolete, and word-of-mouth is practically impossible to orchestrate. One of the best alternatives is writing a blog post on the topic and then distributing it across relevant networks. You’re probably aware of the importance of social media for business; it has become one of the primary places people look for information about your business. If you’re searching for great content to share on social, start with blog posts. They’re short, they’re useful, and they’re super easy for others to share in turn. (And as you know, social shares are extremely valuable currency in the marketing world.)
How Can Blogging Help My Sales Team?
So it’s pretty clear how blogging supports your marketing team. But what about your sales team?
Blog posts can assist your sales staff in a few key ways:
- Blogging allows you to answer common questions quickly. Your sales team probably complains pretty regularly about having to answer the same questions over and over again, right? Give them a break–and give them a few more minutes in their day–by encouraging them to use blog posts to answer frequently asked questions. They can either keep the posts on hand for personal reference or pass them along to people who ask–either way, informative blog posts can help your sales staff save a lot of time (and exasperation!).
- Blogging gives you a great source of reference. Blog posts can also give your salespeople an extra edge by providing them with additional information about a product or service. Comparison blog posts are a great way to put your competitors’ information right next to your own so that your customers–and your sales staff–can see at a glance whose product or service is better (yours, duh).
- Blogging helps you qualify leads better. Blogging isn’t just about generating leads. It’s about generating quality leads. How do you do that? By writing quality content. As we alluded to earlier, a truly great business blog doesn’t just spit out post after post, simply for the sake of posting. A truly great business blog writes focused, in-depth articles targeted toward a specific audience (a.k.a. the quality leads you want to attract). Because once you’ve caught the attention of those leads, you’ll be able to direct them to other useful content and eventually steer them toward a sale.
How to Blog for Business
All right, no more theorizing. Here comes the fun part: actually creating your blog!
Well, let’s back up a little. Before you whip out your pen and paper–er, laptop and mouse–you have to decide how you’d like your blog to be set up.
What's the Best Way to Set Up My Business Blog?
There are three main ways you can set up your business blog: by contacting your Web administrator, by hiring a digital marketing service, or by simply doing it yourself.
Here’s what each of those approaches would look like in action:
- Contact your Web administrator. If you have faith in the developer who built your website, reach out to see if he or she is interested in (and capable of) building a blog on your website. Since your blog should be hosted on your current Web domain, it makes sense to have the same developer work on your blog. Having a professional handle the logistics also frees you from the time and training it would take to figure out the setup yourself.
- Hire a digital marketing service. Your second option is to hire a digital marketing service like 9 Clouds to take care of your blog for you. While these agencies don’t always do the legwork of creating your blog, they often have partners who will. If you can afford one, a digital marketing firm will arguably be your best bet for long-term results. Since digital marketing agencies specialize in blogging for business, they will know how to handle every step of the process: creating content that wows, optimizing your blog for search engines, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and adjusting your strategy from there.
- Do it yourself. Your last option is to set up and manage your blog on your own. Usually, this involves signing up for a (paid!) service with WordPress or a similar site. Fair warning, folks: this is the path of most resistance. We’re not going to lie to you, it’s a helluva lot of work to maintain your blog yourself. Depending on the size of your company, blogging could be someone’s (or several someones’) job. However, if you’ve got the time, the gumption, and the know-how to do it, go for it! Need help with the know-how part? Keep reading.
How Do I Actually Go About Blogging for Business?
If you’re ready to embark on the long, meandering road of business blogging, consider this next section your walking stick of sorts. We'll be your trail guide as you begin. So let’s get going!
- Establish your blog’s overall purpose. Before you begin creating content, you must know exactly what you want your blog to achieve–or, perhaps more accurately, know exactly who you want your blog to reach. Do you want to target mostly top-funnel readers who know little about your product or service? Or do you want to provide more in-depth information for leads who are closer to purchasing? You can do both, but if your company is large, with many different departments or offerings, you don’t want to confuse readers with a blog that’s all over the map. Having a clearly defined purpose will help you narrow your focus when you begin writing later.
- Generate ideas for blog posts. When you know your overall goal, you can start jotting down ideas for content. Start by creating blog categories, which will help you organize your posts down the road. Create three to five categories on topics that are both relevant to your business and that make sense to your customers– don’t be too broad or too specific. Next, come up with ideas for individual posts underneath those categories. It’s generally best to stick to one concept per blog post. Try to brainstorm as many blog post ideas as possible so you’re not scrambling for content later.
- Come up with a content calendar. Once you’ve got your list of topics and posts, organize them into a content calendar. The first thing you need to decide is how often you want to post. The old rule of thumb was to post as often as possible, but if you don’t have that much to say, you really shouldn’t be posting that much. Not only do your potential customers not want to read filler posts, but search engines also do not want to rank filler posts. With Google’s increasingly intelligent algorithms, low-quality content will simply fall flat on search results pages. That said, you still want to be consistent in your posting frequency. Once or twice a week is a good number to shoot for, especially if you’re just starting out. When creating your content calendar, schedule your posts for one to two months out. That way, your team will have ample time to prepare, and you won’t fall behind.
- Actually create your content. Finally, you’re ready to write! Here’s where you sit down in front of your computer with a cup of coffee and start hammering out your blog posts. Conduct the interviews, do the research, write the words, find the photos, and enlist an editor or two–you should never publish a post without getting an extra set of eyes to take a look. And as soon as the first post is written, start again: you’ll want to write five to ten posts before you ever publish the first one.
- Optimize your content for SEO. As you write and edit your posts, think about optimizing them for search engines. Keywords are huge: without them, Google won’t know what topics to rank you for. Long-tail (a.k.a. specific) keywords are best, especially for beginning bloggers, as they have less competition and are therefore easier to rank for. But beware of trying to cover too much ground. If you’re reaching for a different keyword on each blog post, you won’t be able to build upon your previous efforts–one keyword-packed post isn’t enough to boost your search engine rank (at least, not by much). You might want to create a list of focus keywords that you can return to again and again, adding to and refining it as you reach your SEO goals. (That’s what we do at 9 Clouds.) For best results, use keywords throughout your posts: page title, post headings, body copy, meta description, image alt tags, and URL. But beware of keyword stuffing–Google watches out for posts that use too many keywords and will dock your rank for employing that strategy. Our full course on SEO will help you develop a comprehensive SEO strategy.
- Post and distribute your content. Now it’s finally time to hit the publish button! Isn’t that a great feeling? But don’t relax just yet–you’re not quite finished. The second you publish your post, you need to promote it across the necessary distribution channels. The first thing you need to do is share your post on social media, particularly Google+, as doing so will help improve your SEO. Facebook and Twitter should follow close behind, along with any other social channels you’re a part of. At 9 Clouds, we follow the 2/2/2 rule: post twice on the day of publishing, twice throughout the following week, and twice throughout the following month. Of course, you’ll know best how often you need to share your posts–if the content is time-sensitive, hit it hard right off the bat, or if your audience isn’t highly engaged on social media, don’t post quite as often. But you should know that organic social traffic, particularly for Facebook, is hard to come by. In fact, most of your followers will never even see your organic posts. That’s why you need to boost them with paid ads, which will broadcast your posts to a much wider audience. You should also utilize other content distribution methods, such as Google AdWords, Outbrain, or Medium. To learn more about how to promote blog content, check out our complete guide to blog content distribution.
- Monitor your results. Once you’ve scheduled your posts for social promotion, you can finally sit back and relax–at least for a little while. About a week or two after the publish date, dive into the analytics of your post to see what sort of traffic it got. Look at volume (how many views did the post generate?), time (when was traffic the highest?), and referral (what sites have visitors been coming from?). By analyzing all the data available to you, you can learn what sort of content you should post, when you should publish it, and where you should distribute it. And then you can go from there.
We know, we know–that’s a lot to comprehend, let alone attempt. Hey, we warned you that blogging for business would be hard!
If it sounds like too much to take on, contact us at 9 Clouds. We’re a digital marketing agency that specializes in blogging for business, so we know what we’re doing. If you can give us directions, we can follow them–and help you come up with other ideas to make your digital marketing strategy even better.
To learn more about how we can help your business generate more traffic, more leads, and more revenue with a remarkable business blog, fill out our Internet Marketing Assessment. We’ll help you discover what digital marketing services suit your business best.