Traditional marketing methods, especially in the past, emphasize pushing your product under prospective buyers’ noses with one message: sell, sell, sell. In contrast, content marketing focuses on providing something of value to your current and potential customers, with the understanding that when they are ready to make a purchase, there is a good chance that they will do so from you. Why? Because you made a favorable impression, gave them something (information, e-books, resources, a laugh) for free, and established yourself as an expert in your industry.

Illustration of typewriter

Writing a blog on your business website is one of the best ways to provide content for your target demographic, whether that be specific clients or an industry. Every time you write and share a blog post, you are planting a seed in the minds of everyone who reads it about your brand—who you are and what you have to offer them.

We’ve compiled several tips for you in this beginner’s guide to blogging for small businesses: what to write about, the basics of SEO, and where to publish your blog posts.

We’re going to assume that you have, at the very least, already created a physical blog on your website, whether it’s with WordPress, Blogger, Squarespace or any other blogging platform. If not, here’s a quick read onchoosing a blogging platform.

What To Write About and Where To Get Ideas

The first thing you’ll need to figure out is what to blog about. The most obvious answer, of course, is news about your company, product or service. But to avoid coming across as myopic and self-absorbed, branch out and also write about other things. Remember the three rules of blogging: entertain, inspire, and inform. Each post should do at least one of these.

Here’s what to write about and where to get ideas from:

  • Trending topics in your industry. Give your readers a reason to bookmark your blog as the go-to site for industry information, resources or a daily chuckle. Get inspiration for your blog content by discovering what people are talking about at Twitter’s Trending Topics (the column of hashtags on the left side of your Twitter page), BuzzFeed’s Trend SectionGoogle’s Top Trends by topic, or Small Business Trends. And don’t forget trade magazines or the local paper.
  • Start with a catchy, keyword-rich title. Often times starting with a catchy title will inspire content for a full article, so brainstorm with your team for headlines or subjects. Get help from The Daily Egg’s headline formulas that convert, Hubspot’s kick-ass title formulas, and GoinsWriter’s tricks to writecatchy headlines. In addition, check out fun content ideators such asContent ForestTweak Your Biz, and Portent.
  • Be personal. Fans who are interested in your business generally tend to be interested in the people who run it. Write about the behind-the-scenes goings on in your office, exciting news about your company such as industry awards won or a company retreat (and be sure to include photos!), testimonials from your customers, and humorous posts. Spotlight a different product, customer question, or “how-to” each week. Share the experience, obstacles, and solutions that you have faced in your business.

Looks Do Matter

Hollywood is not the only place where looks matter. In a world of high expectations and short attention spans, getting your entire blog post read is no simple feat. Make it easy and pleasurable for readers by using effective and pleasing-to-the-eye formatting.

  • Headers. When you click on an article only to be hit with a massive wall of densely-packed black lettering that covers every inch of your computer screen, it’s a little overwhelming. Break up the text into digestible paragraphs and start each section off with a header in bold typeface to make it stand out. That way, people can scroll through the article and immediately get a sense of what the full content is.
  • Bullet points. Using bullet points and numbered lists is another way to make your blog post easier on the eye. In fact, the list post (also known as a “listicle”) is one of the most popular types of posts and are very effective for driving traffic. These are great for compiled statistics, tips, or ideas and usually include the number in the title. For example: 7 Tips For Taking the Leap To Full-Time Freelancing
  • Proofread. If you think that grammar and spelling are not important, you wouldn’t be the only one—but that’s no excuse to be sloppy. If your business is blogging, it behooves you to be the epitome of professional—and that means immaculate spelling and grammar. People notice mistakes and awkwardly-phrased sentences, and they judge a business for making them. If you can’t even hire a good writer or editor, they assume (rightly or wrongly) that this will also be reflected in the craftsmanship of your product or service.
  • Images. The Internet is more visual than ever, as evidenced by the popularity of Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr, because a good picture can communicate an idea instantly. Considering that 44 percent of people are more likely to engage with brands when they post images, try adding one or two high-quality photos or graphs in your posts. If your budget doesn’t have a lot of leeway, use one of the many royalty-free photo websites out there, such as PixabayUnsplashPhotosByPeople, or Compfight. Just make sure to always use quality images, not those that look like they were taken in the dark on a cheap smartphone.

The Basics of SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) makes it easier for people to find your website. Using the same keywords on your website that people would type into Google when looking for your product or service helps the search engines discern what your site is about and point people to it if appropriate.

Here are several ways you can help the search engines—and thus people—find your blog:

  • Update your favicon. This is that little 16×16-pixel image associated with the brand that appears on a web browser tab next to the website’s name. For example, Facebook’s favicon is the blue square with the white “f”, Twitter’s favicon is the light blue bird. Without your brand’s favicon, you’ll stand out as an online newbie. Here’s a 2-minute video that shows you how to add a favicon to your WordPress blog.
  • Customize permalinks. A permalink is the permanent URL to each blog post (or any specific web page) that you publish. As soon as you create a new post, it generates a permalink and if you don’t change it, it will look like this:



    https://www.hiveage.com/blog/?p=100



    If you customize it, it will look like this: 



    https://www.hiveage.com/blog/2015-irs-mileage-rates-guide/



    Not only does customizing it look better, but it improves search engine optimization. Be sure to include your target keywords (those words and phrases that a person might type into a Google search) and if possible insert them at the beginning of the title and permalink. Change your permalinks in WordPress in the dashboard under Settings > Permalinks.
  • Meta description. This is the 156-character snippet or preview of the website that displays on the list of page results when someone does a Google search. Besides making it simple for searchers to see what the website is about without having to click on each link, it increases your chance of appearing on the first page of results. Find this box just below the window in WordPress where you write your blog post.
  • Body content. This is the text of your blog post. Place your keywords or key phrase within the first paragraph. It’s no longer necessary to scatter your keyword throughout the content ten times; using it once early on is all that search engines require in order to figure out what your page is about.
  • Blog post length. To further help optimize your blog, most posts should be at least 1500 words. Obviously quality is just as important as quantity when it comes to word count, so shorter, excellently-written posts are fine, too. But if you want to rank better in the search engines, try for longer, well-sourced articles.

Where To Publish Your Blog Posts

So now that you have come up with some fantastic ideas with catchy titles that are well-written in an easy-to-read format, what do you do with them after you’ve posted them to your blog? According to online entrepreneur Pat Flynn, 50 percent of a blog’s success happens after it is published.

  • Share to your social media platforms. The first thing you ought to do is share your blog post from your website straight to Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter (which means you’ll have to embed social media icons on your site). After sharing it to your business’ social platforms, share to your personal profiles as well. Don’t be shy about asking your friends, fans, and followers to re-share if they like what they’ve read.
  • Engage, respond, and thank. Make sure to turn on the alerts in all your social media to notify you via email as soon as someone comments on or shares one of your posts. To let them know that you are not an indifferent company, reply to all comments, answer all questions as soon as possible, thank everyone who shared your post or favorited your tweet, and otherwise engage with people. This goes a long way towards the success of not only your blog posts, but your overall brand.
  • Post to other sites. To further get your blog read, consider posting it to such article publishing platforms as MediumEzine, and Examiner. There are numerous general and industry-specific platforms to repurpose your content, so pick a handful that work best for you and get your blog posts out there.

When it comes to successful blogging, there is a lot to learn. But if you start with basics in this beginner’s guide to blogging for small businesses, you’ll have a leg up on the other newbie bloggers out there!