Starting a blog can be exciting! You get a fancy new addition to your site, and an audience for all the things you want to say. It won’t be long, however, until you realize that starting a blog may be a lot more fun than maintaining a blog. Particularly a successful one.
There’s no sugar-coating it, a blog can be hard work. There is more that goes into it than slapping your thoughts onto a web page and watching the visitor count roll in. But it also doesn’t need to be a slow, painful process either. As is the case with most other tasks, approaching it in an organized and realistic way can make things much easier to manage, especially with a schedule that’s already packed.
If you’re a store owner, as so many of our readers are, and you are thinking it’s a good idea to start a blog, read over these tips to make sure it’ll be worth your time.
1. Have something to say
Consider first if you really have something to say. Having a successful blog is a great way to gain followers, earn clicks, and share your expertise. You can build a community, and get some real, useful knowledge out to your followers. It can be a valuable marketing tool, a trust builder, and a creative outlet. Or it can be a waste of time, energy and money.
If you don’t truly feel like you have something to say, don’t. If you are forcing yourself to write content that you don’t particularly care about, your readers will be able to tell. You won’t have a unique voice to add, and your blog will end up costing you more time, money, and stress to maintain than it’s worth. If you’re looking for a way to drive your social reach, invest the time and money into a different avenue. Not everyone needs to have a blog.
2. Be ready to dedicate time (or money) to it
Once you’ve decided that you really do have a unique or knowledgeable perspective to add to the conversation, consider if you have the time to dedicate. Here are some figures to give you an idea of the amount of time (good) blogging may take:
- The average post takes about 4 hrs to create. (source)
- The average post should be at least 1000+ words. (source)
- You should post approximately 3 times a week (the more frequent, the better, as long as you can be consistent). (source)
That’s approximately 12 hours a week you should be able to dedicate to creating high-quality content for your blog. Keep in mind this number doesn’t include finding images and tailoring for SEO purposes. Do you (or an employee) have the time to make a commitment like that?
If you’re creating a blog as an extension of your eCommerce site, consider how your posts might reflect on your products. If the content is poorly written, spammy, or inconsistent, that may reflect negatively on your brand. However, if you offer smart and insightful content to your customers or followers, they will have the faith that you know what you’re talking about, and that you’re passionate about your business. Building rapport with your followers is a great way to promote customer retention and encourage new sales.
Time is not something that most business owners have an abundance of. If you’re sure a blog is the next step in your growth, then consider it (rightfully so) as part of your marketing plan, and hire someone to do the writing for you.
3. Consistency is key
In reality, you don’t need to post as frequently as 3+ times per week. While the studies show that you get better results the more you post, far more important than that is your consistency. I’m referring to both post schedule and quality.
If you can realistically only manage 4 hours (or one blog post) per week, then do it. Spend those 4 hours crafting a truly great piece of content. Make sure you’re adding real value to the community. That will do significantly more for you and your brand than pumping out a post every day for 20 days straight, then burning out and disappearing for months. This is especially true because chances are, those 20 posts will not be good.
The old adage of “Quality over Quantity” couldn’t be more applicable to blog writing. It’s great if the posts you’re churning out are released at 9 am on the dot, three times a week, on a strict and dedicated schedule. But if they’re lousy, your regularity doesn’t mean much.
If you can’t consistently manage to spare the time to get posts out as often as you’d like, then once again, consider outsourcing. There are countless websites that can help you find a freelancer who does the type of work you’re looking for or you can look to established companies that offer copywriting services. Bringing in a third-party writer as a guest blogger is a great way to fill in the gaps of your schedule if you find yourself falling behind.
4. Get comfortable on social media
Sure, you could wait for traffic to find your posts, but using social media to promote and share your blog will get eyes on your content faster. This, however, does not mean you should just click the share button on your post. Use social media as a tool to add a little something extra to your posts, based on where and when you’re sharing it.
In this day and age, particularly if you’re an eCommerce site, you should already have a social media presence in a couple of places (depending on your target audience). Use your blog posts to supplement and complement each other. Posting about a sale you’re having on lip balms? Include a link to your article on the ‘7 Best Ingredients for Your Lips’ that you just put out. Timing your blog and social media posts to correspond is a great way to reinforce the content in a way that is applicable to the viewer.
Once again, quality over quantity is pertinent here. If you can’t manage 8 different social media accounts properly, don’t. Pick 2 or 3 that have the most appropriate user base for your goals and focus on them. That way, each post on each platform can be unique and well crafted, instead of having to regurgitate the same post across every platform there is.
5. Keep imagery in mind
Adding visual imagery to your writing can be like a pinch of salt on a bowl of hot buttered popcorn. Sure, it was good before, but this really pushes it over the edge. It also helps avoid the disastrous “Wall of Text” syndrome which plagues so many blogs. I’m sure you’ve experienced it. You type a search query into Google and it looks like one of the first links has the information you need. But when you click on it, you’re assaulted with what seems to be a dissertation instead of an informative and easy-to-read article.
Breaking up your text can help with readability. That will encourage people to share and actually read the content you’re posting. There are many ways to add some visual interest to your blog posts:
- Embedded social posts
- Formatting (headers, lists, colors)
Whichever you choose to include, be sure it makes sense. It needs to apply to your topic, as well as fit the voice of your brand. Imagine your customer base is largely women, aged 60+ interested in DIY and decor. You may not be well served to include a Snoop Dogg music video, despite his close relationship with Martha Stewart. Also, be sure you have the right to post the image (i.e. you’ve taken the photo yourself, hired an artist to create the illustration, credited your source properly, etc.).
6. Stay SEO-conscious
SEO (or search engine optimization) is a huge topic. Luckily, you don’t need to have an encyclopedic knowledge of how optimization works in order to utilize it on your blog. There are tools like Yoast, Google’s Keyword Planner, and SEMrush that can help you make sure you’re hitting the right audience with the right keywords. But be careful, keyword “stuffing” is no longer a beneficial or accepted practice.
You can also link to other sites in an appropriate way. Internal links (within your own website) and external links (other outside sources) help to show that your information is credible. They also enrich the reading experience for your visitors, and potentially even earn you some backlinks.
Remember all those images and visual resources you included in your post? Adding keywords in the filename and providing a rich description for the alternate text will help too. When it comes to SEO, “out of sight, out of mind” does not apply. The text you don’t see can be just as important as the text you do. Plus, this will help the visually impaired know what imagery you’ve included with your post.
7. Have a clear intention
Having an intention, directive, or mission for your blog is extremely helpful. It allows you to keep your content on track with your ultimate goals. If your reason for starting a blog is to increase brand awareness and interaction, then posts that just sell products to the readers will not help you toward your goal. Instead, offer creative list posts that are shorter and easier to read, thus more likely to be shared.
If your mission is to educate your readers about the type of product you sell, or the community surrounding it (for example, if you sell climbing gear and want to educate readers about mountain climbing), then long-form, educational posts will be a hit! Serious enthusiasts and those wanting to learn will be happy to have the content.
With your intention in mind, you can craft your topics and your articles to appeal specifically to your target audience. It also helps you know which metrics to watch when checking on the performance of a post. If you were hoping for increased sales, but find that the majority of your visitors came and left without clicking through to your eCommerce site, then you know something about your post didn’t work, and you can start tinkering with the formula.
Bonus: Just do it!
This one isn’t really a tip. It’s more of a shove in the right direction. Taking all the above tips into account is great, but you have to actually start. If you’ve decided that a blog is the right direction for you, then sit down, put away your phone, and start typing. See what comes out. Likely, your posts will not be great, to start. Like everything else in life, practice makes perfect. But the longer you work on it, the more successful you’ll be.
If you’re in the other camp and think that while blogging sounds great, you don’t know if you have the time or energy to put into it, consider hiring from outside your company. Glendale Designs, for example, offers copywriting services like blog posts. Using a third party like Glendale to supplement articles you’re putting out yourself can help relieve some of the stress. If you’re interested in exploring the option, reach out to us and we can help you find a solution.