Whether your small business is manufacturing tight tolerance sanitary pumps or offering bookkeeping services to fellow small businesses, improved search engine performance requires getting good content on your website. Regularly.
For years, most businesses labored under the misconception when it came to search performance that great content didn’t matter as much as some secret lines of programming. Search engine optimization (SEO) was this secret wizardry that was only shared with a select few at an astronomical price. Nothing is further from the truth.
The truth about your small business website and search engines comes down to a simple word—Answers. Today, most web users are not placing terms or keywords into search engines. Web users are asking questions. Search engines want to find the best answers and deliver them as quickly as possible. In order to include your small business website into those search results, you must answer those questions on your website.
The easiest way to answer the questions people are asking through search engines is to ask and answer the question in a blog post.
What makes a great small business blog post? Several things must be right:
- Asking the right questions
- Giving the right answer
- Delivering answers at the right time
In discussing what’s “right” for a small business blog, we’re making a couple of assumptions. Your small business:
- Has a website that will support a blog.
Many current websites are built with a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, Concrete5, Expression Engine, or something similar. If you don’t, we can help you build a website.
- Has a team member who can write.
The web has become completely content driven. A good writer will make your efforts a lot easier, but many small businesses don’t have a writer on the team. That’s okay! Great copywriters are not as cost prohibitive as you might think. Don’t worry, we can help you write, too.
- Can keep to a schedule.
A single blog post will not change your business website performance. Regularly posting new blog posts will make a big difference. How often will you post a new blog? That will be up to you (and we talk about that in The Right Time). Are you looking for someone to help build and maintain a blog schedule? Yup, we can work with you on that, too.
We’ve got some big topics, but we’ve got some helpful tips at the end.
The Right Question: How To Find An Awesome Blog Topic
What should a small business blog write about? That is the most prevailing question being asked. Most businesses answer, “We don’t have anything worthy to write about.” That is where you’re beautifully incorrect. Almost every small business has unique, specialized knowledge about their industry. Knowledge that can work to your benefit by putting it online.
Gather Frequently Asked Questions From Your Team
Those questions. Every industry, every business, has them. The questions new customers ask your sales or customer service team. While your team sees it as monotonous, they’re perfect for your blog. If that many possible customers are asking your team the same question, how many more are searching for the answer on the web?
Gather a list of these questions and craft a detailed answer. How detailed? See the next section about how long a blog post should be.
Ask Google What’s Popular. Seriously.
Despite what a lot of people think, Google really does help the little businesses too. Google’s set of FREE tools can give you incredible insight into what people are searching for on the web. Tools ranging from keyword suggestions to geographically specific search traffic projections can play a major factor in what you write about.
To access these tools, one only need setup a Google AdWords account. No spending needed. By exploring the “Tools” section, you’ll discover the Keyword Planner. By learning to use the suite of tools including key phrase searches, estimated search volume, and keyword suggestions, you can pre-flight the quality of your blog topics.
For example, you’re an environmental services company and wondering how many people are asking Google about asbestos removal. By defining some criteria, you can assess the quality of the topic.
As much as we love data, don’t be afraid to listen to your people and listen to your industry. What might not be too important to Google as a whole may be wildly important to your industry and community.
Industry Hot Topics
There is a term in blogging called newsjacking. In short, it is the process of using a breaking news story to apply to an element of your business or marketing efforts. It sounds shady and kind of an unethical way of driving traffic to your blog (in my opinion). However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t news and happenings in your industry that are worth weighing in on.
A great example is robotics in farming. From small family farms to massive operations, robotics is playing a massive role in the future of farming. Whether your business is in the sale or maintenance of the robotics or in the sale of gloves for the herdsmen—both sides have relevant opinions. Those opinions can be highly beneficial to potential customers and showcase your team’s depth of knowledge.
Use the hot topics of your industry to show your expertise and depth of knowledge.
The Right Answer: How Long Should A Business Blog Post Be?
In this instance, there are two answers: “Just long enough” and “1,000 to 2,500 words.” Why two answers? Primarily there are two very important schools of thought and both can apply.
A Blog Post Should Be “Just Long Enough”
While it sounds frustrating and vague, some questions are answered quickly while others require a longer reply. We’ve seen some blog posts be wildly successful and come in at only 300 words. Other rock-star blog posts might be a meaty read at 2,000 or 3,000 words. Blog posts should be long enough to answer the question posed by the site visitor. That answer should also contain information to satisfy an industry vet as well as educate a new hire.
Crafting a blog post that has enough jargon to prove yourself to an industry vet and be plain enough to help an industry noob isn’t easy. The most important consideration should be quality. Does the post demonstrate your expertise? Would you trust it?
A close second in consideration is your community. Do your site visitors take the time to “deep dive” into a blog post? Medium, a collective of thought-leader bloggers, put the research together and discovered most readers spend seven minutes with a blog entry. In all likelihood, these are not readers of specific business blogs.
Readers of a business’s blog will likely be skimming and not “diving deep” into a specific subject. So, how long should your business post be?
A Blog Post Should Be “1,000 to 2,500 Words”
Wow. 1,000 to 2,500 words is pretty specific versus “just long enough.” Yes. Yes, it is. And here’s why…
Google. The more a search engine can dig into, the better. Multiple investigations by many different data houses have found that longer form content performs better with search engines (and audiences). Chief amongst these is Buzzsumo’s detailed findings that also cites seven other reports—content over 1,200 words delivers the best results.
One of the leading search engine websites, serpIQ.com, compiled even more data mapping Google performance standards based on length of page content. “For most SERPs [Search Engine Results Page] it looks like at least 1500 words is a good target. This isn’t a steadfast rule – you’ll need to adjust this target to fit the niche that you’re in.” (source)
This short phrase is the most important, “adjust this target to fit…”
For most branded business blogs, going beyond seven minutes of reading is a pretty heady expectation. While experts will agree that longer is better, you need to think of your audience. Will they spend five to ten minutes of their time reading your blog entry? Actually, yes. As long as the topic grabs them.
The Right Time: How Often Should A Business Blog?
Let’s deal in reality. Few small businesses have the personnel or the time to have a daily blog. Not even a weekly one. While statistics universally point to a significant increase in website traffic for websites that post once a week or more, small businesses typically do not have the resources to generate weekly articles. I stand by the quality over quantity argument. Many of our customers see success with a monthly blog schedule.
Why Monthly Blog Articles?
One blog article per month. Twelve per year. While it doesn’t sound like a lot, for most small businesses, it is a serious commitment. What are the benefits of posting a monthly blog post?
- Easy to assign
Dividing up writing assignments to different personnel can spread the workload. Don’t be afraid to let the readers know different people in the business are writing. Show your business has a deep bench and a lot of smarts.
- Can coordinate with other outlets
There are a lot of places blog posts can be shared and distributed. Imagine a monthly email blast to current and prospective customers with fresh insights into relevant questions or news topics. Add links for employees to share on LinkedIn. Sprinkle in a great article amongst the office outing pictures on Facebook. Even consider sharing blog posts with traditional media outlets like trade magazines, local media, or industry organizations.
- Make content calendars easy
By making a calendar of your blog topics early in the year, you can take advantage of the seasonal discussion points. By preparing the calendar, relevant content hits your website when searchers are asking the questions.
Making The Case For Weekly
I know I just spent the time making the case for monthly blog posts. However, if your industry is B2B or even product driven, the true metrics of success for your blog will come down to a single word — leads. How many leads did this effort deliver? For those businesses looking to go “all in” on new lead generation, putting more into blogging may yield some spectacular results.
Hubspot, one of the leading inbound marketing agencies, contests that pushing your blog to three articles per week really pushes the lead-generation needle further.
For example, you’ll notice traffic was only slightly higher for B2B companies publishing 6 – 10 monthly posts versus 0 – 1 monthly posts. But when we look at the 11+ frequency, the results increase quickly: B2B companies that blogged 11+ times per month had almost 3X more traffic than those blogging 0 – 1 times per month. (source)
If your business has the resources, investing in an intensive blog campaign will deliver an increase in leads. However, don’t expect to see this overnight. Make sure your team is out there sharing these posts on LinkedIn. The company’s Facebook page can get beefed up with insightful links. Even those tough trade magazines may come knocking to use some of that content.
WAIT! What If No One Can Write?
Wait, I know what you’re thinking. “No one in our office can write!” That’s okay. Hiring a copywriter to help with your blog is very common. A good writer will collaborate with internal personnel to get the best blog article possible. But what about the added cost of contracting a freelance writer?
Let’s talk about hiring a writer from a cost analysis or cost-benefit standpoint. Imagine the hourly rate of a member of your team, or worse — a small business owner. How many hours would be spent writing, editing, or becoming frustrated? Would the writing be good? Who would edit it? The monthly cost of that writer will be far less than the compiled internal costs of trying to wrestle it in-house.
Can A Small Business Have A Great Blog?
It sounds like a lot of work. Well, it is. However, it is completely manageable even by the smallest of businesses. Here’s how any small business can get started:
- Ask a lot of questions about questions
What question is your sales team asked the most? Who’s asking them? When are potential customers asking? How are customers asking? Make it a mission to discover what potential customers don’t know or why they’re asking.
- Print out a blank calendar and fill it in
Every industry has seasonal cycles. What are yours? What are the hot topics at different times of the year? Do leads come from fiscal calendars? Do tradeshows matter? When is your slow time? Plan what you want to say and when.
- Static cling. Friction. Contact.
A great friend of mine commented about customers, “the more you rub against them, the closer they stick to you.” Friction = retention. The more you find ways to connect with customers and potential customers, the better they stick around. Do you have an email newsletter? Connections on LinkedIn? Find ways to rub against your customers.
- Be Winston Churchill: When you’re going through Hell—keep going
Once you start it will be fun for the first few posts. Everyone on your team will be enthusiastic and engaged. A few months in, it becomes work. It’s the workplace version of a homework assignment. Power through this. On the other side of this initial rough patch come the real rewards.
- Don’t be afraid to call in professionals
Whether it is a copywriter to help with the blog posts or a marketing team to coordinate your website, email newsletter, and social media, do the math of employee time versus the cost of bringing in help. The cost benefit and stress relief are needed once the leads start rolling in.
Starting your small business blog is tough. Getting the pieces in place and the personnel onboard means being a cheerleader as much as a leader. Don’t feel you have to go it alone. Signalfire has a lot of experience helping businesses get started. Whether you want to get all the pieces in place and run it internally or your business needs a resource to simply handle it all for you — our team is here to help.