Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Carolyn Crummey, @VirTasktic. Carolyn Crummey is the owner of VirTasktic – a content marketing agency that specializes in working with small businesses to help increase their online exposure so they can reach more of their audience and grow their business. Learn more at https://www.virtasktic.com/
SmallBizLady: Before we get into the rules, let’s start out with a basic question. Do all small business owners need to blog?
Carolyn Crummey: If a small business wants more visibility, leads, and customers, then yes, they should definitely have a blog on their website. In fact, research shows that business websites that have blogs get 55% more website visitors and have 434% more indexed pages than those that don’t. Every person who comes to your website is a new potential lead or customer. And more indexed pages mean there are more ‘doors’ that lead people straight to your business!
SmallBizLady: Okay, so let’s get to some rules. Are there any old blogging rules that are still relevant today?
Carolyn Crummey: Yes. The #1 fundamental rule of blogging that is still true today is ‘your audience should always come first.’ I cannot stress that enough! Think of your business blog as a way to engage with your audience and build trust. What questions do they have? What topics are they interested in? Choose topics that will solve their problems and position you as the expert. As you are writing, picture your target customer and write as if you were speaking directly to them.
SmallBizLady: But what about search engines? Should small business owners try to please them too?
Carolyn Crummey: Well, yes, but the rules on that are changing too. In the past, website owners would stuff their pages full of keywords in order to appear higher in search rankings. But Google is constantly updating its algorithms, and right now, SEO best practices are all about relevancy. Today you should choose one or two long-tail keywords to focus on (phrases, not single words) then use them naturally without stuffing. Include the keyword in your title, at least one header, URL and meta description, and make sure to add alt text to your images so the Google bots can ‘see’ them. Other than that, don’t fuss over keywords! Write naturally and aim to be as helpful and informative as possible. In the end, Google wants to make sure that everyone who uses the search engine has a positive experience.
SmallBizLady: Are there any other ways you can adapt your blogging strategy to please the search engines?
Carolyn Crummey: Well, another important rule when it comes to search engines AND your audience is to focus on quality, not quantity. Posting a whole bunch of short blog posts frequently just to ‘get on the map’ won’t work. Today, search engines AND search engine users prefer long-form content that digs deep into queries. According to research by Medium, the ideal length of a blog post in 2019 is 1600 words. Similar research by Hubspot found that most of the top-10 Google results are between 2,032 and 2,416 words. So don’t worry about posting every day. Publishing quality, in-depth blog posts weekly or bi-weekly is a much better strategy.
SmallBizLady: Are there any other rules we should know about publishing frequency in this new blogging era?
Carolyn Crummey: Sure, and I like to call this rule “If content is king, consistency is queen.” Before you start a business blog, you should understand how much time the entire process will take: generating ideas, writing, setting it up on your website, publishing, and promoting. Make sure you have enough time in your schedule or find someone to help, and then EXECUTE REGULARLY! Consistency helps your followers anticipate new content and remain engaged. If you fall off your schedule, you are likely to lose their attention (and their business, too). I recommend that small businesses choose a date and a time, then post every week or, at minimum, every other week. Less than that and it’s just a waste of time.
SmallBizLady: Are there any other ways that search engines like Google are changing the rules of blogging?
Carolyn Crummey: Yes, and this isn’t a rule related to the blogging process but rather the musts of setting up your business blog. In 2018, Google began to roll out its mobile-first indexing. What this means is that they prioritize mobile-friendly web pages in search results since the majority of people who use Google Search today do so from a mobile device. There are three ways to configure your website for mobile viewing – responsive web design, dynamic serving, and separate URLs. In Google’s mobile guide, the company says it does not favor any particular configuration. But it is safe to say the new rule is that you MUST have a mobile-friendly blog.
SmallBizLady: Are there any big mistakes you see small business owners make when it comes to blogging?
Carolyn Crummey: There are two big mistakes we see, which go hand in hand. The first is a lack of strategy and planning when it comes to your business blog. If you’ve not done the research to see what your audience wants and developed a plan to deliver that, blogging becomes a lot harder and your efforts are much less effective. The second is ignoring metrics that tell how well your blog is performing…or not. If you aren’t looking at metrics like page views, traffic sources, time spent on site, and social shares, you won’t have any idea what’s working and what’s not. By examining these numbers, you can easily determine what types of content and topics your audience is craving and then adjust your blogging strategy to give them more of what they want!
SmallBizLady: Okay, so let’s talk about blogging itself. What if a small business owner doesn’t enjoy writing?
Carolyn Crummey: Well, there is always the option to hire someone to write for you. However, another new rule of blogging is that blogging doesn’t have to mean writing articles. In fact, in 2019, we are seeing a major increase in conversions and shares for those using video marketing, or vlogs. Video blogs are a great way to share new information about your business or products, interviews, tutorials, product demos, testimonials, and more. In fact, those businesses using video marketing are finding 66% more qualified leads per year. Additionally, video allows people to better connect to you and your brand.
SmallBizLady: How about overcoming the ‘block’ of what to blog about? Any tips for picking topics for your blog?
Carolyn Crummey: Absolutely! This is an area we see many small business owners struggle with. Fortunately, there are a few great ways to come up with new topics for your business. First, look at analytics and see what blog posts your audience is most responding to and then either go deeper into that content or create a new spin on the topic. Another tip is to repurpose your content – or create it in another format. Turn a blog post into a video blog or take a blog full of tips and turn it into an infographic. A final tip would be to take keywords or keyword phrases you focus on and plug them into Google to see what comes up. Not only will you see what’s ranking first, but it can also spur new ideas around those keywords to write or vlog about.
SmallBizLady: Is there anything in particular that a small business owner should do after publishing a blog post?
Carolyn Crummey: Yes, and this is an important rule—it’s not over when you hit publish! In fact, some experts, including our team at VirTasktic, believe that you should spend as much time promoting your blog post as you did to create it. After your blog post goes live, consider sending out an email to your list—give them a tease and a link to drive them to the new blog post! Share the new content across your social media platforms, posting multiple times on each channel the first week with extra promotions later on. You can also republish your blog on LinkedIn Publisher to spread the message to your professional community.
SmallBizLady: Are there any other new blogging rules that you want to stress to our audience?
Carolyn Crummey: In my opinion, the most important rule these days is that you have to follow a content marketing approach; meaning that you have to approach the entire process with a comprehensive strategy in mind. Your blog is just one piece of a content marketing plan. You also need to think about lead generation, social media, email marketing, and web content. Each of these areas needs to work together to be effective in showing the most value and attracting your target audience. If you don’t do this strategically, you’ll probably see less-than-stellar results from your blogging efforts.
SmallBizLady: It sounds like content marketing takes a lot of time and effort. What if you are already too busy in your small business?
Carolyn Crummey: There are a lot of steps involved in developing an effective business blog and content marketing plan. Most small business owners who are seeing results with blogging and content marketing are not doing it alone. They either have a team (big brands, for example) or are outsourcing the process or parts of it, to more qualified professionals who have the skills needed to be effective and deliver a positive ROI. Like most areas of small business, delegation has become the new must-follow rule for all small business. This goes for blogging and content marketing as well.
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