biz ladies by 52

biz ladies: using a blog to grow your business

rosie_the_riveter1
today’s biz ladies post comes from social media writer, editor and blogger rebecca levie osberg. rebecca offers her social media savvy and blog writing skills to her clients on a daily basis, and today, she shares with us some helpful tips for using a blog attached to your website to cultivate your business. thank you rebecca for sharing your social media expertise with us!–stephanie

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Being a small business owner can leave you feeling like there is a perpetual to-do list living in your brain, rapping at your temple just when you think you’re about to relax.  The to-do list whispers, “remember you were going to start that blog?”  While a nuisance, the list has a point.  Blogs offer so much to a small business.  They are interactive, conversational, interesting, and if updated frequently enough, and with quality content, they can position you as a leader in your field.

First though, let’s start at the very beginning.  Why do you need a blog?  Is it really worth the hassle?  Short answer, yes.  Long answer, keep reading. 

A blog will help increase your company’s web presence and deliver better SEO. The more pages you have on your website, the better your chance of being found by search engines, which means more hits on your website!  But don’t just take my word for it, look at this article where HubSpot proves that companies who blogged had 55% more visitors, 97% more inbound links, and 434% more indexed pages.  To better understand blogging and SEO, read this fantastic Modish Biz Tips article.

A blog provides an easy way to relay details about your business.  A blog is a way to announce a sale or share a new delivery right when it happens.  If what you sell is visual, it’s also a great way to constantly be uploading pictures to share with your customers.  For example, if you’re a clothing store and you get a new shipment every Tuesday, have your staff model for you and take pictures and post them to your blog.  Your customers will eventually know to go to your blog every Tuesday to see your new inventory.  It’s a powerful tool.  And eventually people will start commenting on your posts, and you can respond, fostering another form of dialogue.  The ways to use a blog to communicate with customers are really endless.  Additionally, make sure customers can subscribe to your blog via rss feed so they will be up to date on the comings and goings of your business.

Gain credibility in your field.  You are an expert at what you do, flaunt your knowledge!  Use your new blog to post about your professional insights, or to muse about what is happening in your industry.  If you dye your own fabrics and sell them, blog about your method, take pictures, document the process, and your customers will know for sure that you are a fabric dying expert.  Not only do you gain credibility, but people are always more willing to buy from people they trust and have confidence in.  You’re not only selling your products, you’re selling yourself.  Another tip is to make sure you connect to other bloggers in the blogging community.  See how they position themselves as experts, or even shoot them an email to introduce yourself and ask for advice. 

Humanize your business.  Blogs are a great way to show a bit of your personality.  You’re not just products and marketing, you are a person behind your brand, and by posting something you found humorous, or a quick tip for a customer, you’re making yourself real.  For example, if you’re a fabric store, why not post a sewing tutorial?  You may feel like you’re giving away information for free, but karma will come back at you, in the form of more hits on your site, and hopefully, more sales.

Now that I’ve given you four indisputable reasons why you should have a blog, and you’ve seen the light, there is a logistical question to get out of the way: what blogging platform to use.  I recommend either WordPress or Typepad.  The difference is with WordPress you have more control, but some find it a bit more difficult to use.  Typepad is easier to use, but you don’t have as much control.  A wonderful article, which lays out all the differences, uses the analogy that the distinction is basically the difference between owning your own house and renting.  You can read more about it here.  I personally use WordPress and have no complaints. 

So now that you have made the decision to include a blog on your website, you’re probably wondering what the rules are.  I know the usual questions.  How often should I post?  What should I post?  How do I come up with ideas?  Guess what?  There are no rules!   But there are a few guidelines to follow.

I suggest that you post once a week, at least in the beginning.  It’s easy to install a blog and post a few times and then suddenly realize it’s New Years Eve and your last post was in July.  Therefore I always recommend taking the first couple of months to post at least once a week in order to get a routine in your blood.  After 3-4 months, see how you’re feeling about the blog.  Make sure to install Google Analytics (it’s free and easy) when you start your blog so you can keep track of your traffic and visitor loyalty.  Check its pulse and decide how you want to continue.  If it’s getting a great response, you may want to keep doing what you’re doing, or even upping your posting frequency. 

The next question is what most people find to be the most difficult.  How do I know what to post?  Where do I get my ideas?  There are several ways to go about this.  I’m of the mindset that being as observant in the world as possible is a wonderful form of inspiration.  I often wait for inspiration to hit me in the form of a commercial, a song, another blog post I read, or simply talking with customers and listening to their questions.  I’ve written many a blog post based off a client question.  However, I know there are many who are uncomfortable leaving the post topic to chance, and in that case, I recommend an editorial calendar.

This is somewhat akin to what Design*Sponge does.  We know every Monday is Sneak Peeks, every Tuesday is Biz Ladies, Wednesdays are DIY etc.  Your editorial calendar doesn’t need to be as tight since you aren’t posting 40 articles a week, but having a sense of what your topic is going to be can be very comforting. 

As an example, back to the fabric store.  Make a schedule so you know the first week of the month is all about the new fabrics you get in.  The second week is your DIY sewing lesson, the third is photos from customers who have bought your fabric and turned it into something beautiful, and the fourth is what you yourself have made during the month. Just knowing what is coming up can be very stress-relieving.  I really think you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to come up with interesting posts that you will enjoy writing and your customers will enjoy reading.

The next part of the equation is promoting your blog, I am going to go through four ways.

1)Twitter

Twitter is a wonderful platform because it fosters conversation.  It can take awhile to build up followers, but here is a great tutorial  on how to accomplish this feat. The key to Twitter is to use it to promote others in addition to yourself.  If someone you follow posts an article that you really enjoyed reading, you can re-tweet it so the article goes to all your followers too.  I read somewhere that in this day and age, re-tweeting is the sincerest form of flattery, and I completely agree.  A great goal to have with every blog post is to hope someone will like it enough to re-tweet it. 

2) Facebook

Facebook is a completely different beast.  Facebook is less interactive and more about getting fans to “like” what you have shared.  With Facebook, you need to have a fan page as opposed to a personal profile.  Instead of having people be “friends” with you, they “like” your company.  The more “likes” you have, the more people your blog post will go to when you post it to Facebook.  For a more in-depth tutorial on how to use Facebook to market your business, read this

3) Guest Blogging

Another idea is to guest blog.  Find someone in your industry that also has a blog and write for each other’s blogs one week a month.  You’ll find a lot of traffic will come from this opportunity.  This goes back to becoming part of the blogging community.  If you comment on other blogs, some of those bloggers will start commenting on yours, and you’ll foster a relationship.  This can make approaching the idea of guest posting easier.  Another tip is to add blogs you like to your blog roll and ask them to add your blog to theirs. 

4) Email Lists

And finally, you can use your email list to do an email blast whenever you write a new post, or a monthly newsletter encompassing all the posts for that month.  If you’re a small business owner, you’re definitely in the mode of promoting your business, so just apply that knowledge of promotion and networking to your blog as well.

If after reading the above, you’re still on the fence, I leave you with this thought: Blogging is fun. I find that most people who start a blog, end up loving it.  It’s such an amazing way to connect with readers and receive instantaneous feedback on your ideas, your product, and your business.  It’s hard to top that feeling when you see a comment from someone who loves what you have to say. 

I hope this post was of some help in both convincing you that you need a blog and helping you figure out what to do once you have it.  Small businesses really can’t go wrong by making a blog part of their overall marketing plan.

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52 Comments

Michelle

What a great article. What are the ‘legalities’ when blogging about other people’s work? Must you contact an artist/designer/company before publishing any of their work? I assume so, but find it hard to believe that all bloggers do this? Thanks!

grace

michelle

the general blogging rule of thumb is that if you’re promoting someone in the form of writing about their work, you aren’t required to get permission to write about them. but it’s definitely polite to give people a heads up to let them know or email them after the fact to share the link.

that said, there are exceptions:

1. never take images or text from a newspaper or magazine without permission. most newspapers will find you and send you a nasty red-letter email about taking things down immediately. magazines haven’t started doing this yet, but i’ve spoken with editors who know that they’re going to start doing it if the photographers and magazine are credited clearly. this tends to be more of an issue of photo copyrights, so i’d avoid that area in general.

2. if someone’s art/shop site is private or you’re taking images that seem like they weren’t intended for publication, ask first.

3. always credit and link to the source clearly and, if a photographer is listed, credit them as well.

g

destiny ray

thank you for posting this article. I am trying to expand my business and i found this article to be very useful. Thanks.

Ang

Question- is there a way to make your blog or Facebook come up more easily when someone searches certain applicable keywords?

Casey

Thanks for the encouragement! Lately I’ve really been finding myself in situations where I think, “If I had a blog, I would totally put this on there!” Maybe it’s a sign. :)
I was *this* close to starting up a blogspot last night. I’d also like to know what the differences are between it and the two you referenced.

Jacquelyn

Great post – and thanks for the FB info link. The username/vanity URL issue is still a mystery to me. The how-to mentioned in the David Carr article (via Rebecca’s linked article) gives a link which re-directs from “/username” to “/upgradeaccount,” and then gives a warning saying I can’t use that feature without signing up for a personal profile.

Would love to get a short vanity URL, but FB does not make this easy. In fact, they almost seemingly encourage FB business pages to convert their page to a business profile. Is anyone else having this issue? Perhaps I’m misunderstanding it – but why does FB have a “create your profile” button on the top right of their page (next to “settings” and “logout”? It’s like pandora’s box.

kate hart

thank you so much for sharing your wisdom on blogging! i recently started a blog to complement my etsy shop, and this is definitely an affirmation.
do you see any issues with posting more than once a week at the beginning? Wouldn’t want to give the impression that I have nothing else to do, ha.

-kate

grace

kate

i definitely don’t think more than once a week is a problem- i think it’s actually a good thing :)

grace

Rebecca Osberg

Hi Jen O,

The reason I didn’t suggest Blogspot aka Blogger.com is because you can not host your domain name, although you can have a customized one. However, your domain name (aka, the name of your URL) is hosted by Google. So if you ever change hosts, you will have to change your domain name. It’s not a huge deal, but something to keep in mind.

-Rebecca

Rebecca Osberg

Hi Jacquelyn,

FB really does make it seemingly impossible to get a vanity URL. You can get a vanity URL as a personal page, but if you are using FB for your business, you really are better off with a business page.

The trick is you can attach a business page to your personal profile. So when you go to the Facebook page without logging in, click create a business page on the bottom right-hand corner, and after one step it will prompt you to ask if you already have a Facebook profile. At this point you can attach the business page to your personal FB page. From then when logging in to your personal page, you go to Account (upper right hand corner) – Manage Pages, and you can click to see your Business Page.

It’s easier that way than having two log-ins.

Remember, you need 25 “likes” before you can get a vanity URL for a business page.

Hope this helps.

-Rebecca

Rebecca Osberg

Hi Kate,

I totally agree with Grace that more than once a week is fantastic. The more content on your site, the better. I just didn’t want to scare anyone before they’d even started :) I say post away!

-Rebecca

Ellen McHale

Thanks for all the info. I just created my blog and found it was pretty easy. Once I got started – it was actually fun. You actually took the pressure off me by saying we should start out by blogging once a week. Totally doable and I like the idea of creating a weekly schedule. ~ Ellen

Mandeep Khunkhuna

Getting used to blogging often isn’t easy, but it really does help your website grow. As the article indicates, search engines will recognise that your website is being updated on a regular basis, and therefore be much better for you SEO.

Marina

Thank you so much!!! Great information and encouragemente. I started my blog recently -I´m from Argentina- and your tips are great-.

dawn Gepfert

As a designer, I have a lot of visual and was wondering if anyone has a suggestion about a small, simple inexpensive digital camera that takes great pics for the use on a blog. I also have noticed some very successful blogs use magazine photos ALOT. Are they asking permission every time? If you are referring or complimenting someone’s work and giving credit to the publication, designer and photographer, must you still get permission? Thanks!

grace

dawn

i used a sony cybershot for years and loved it. i think it was under $200 at best buy. i have a sony with a leica lens now and it was like $300 and was well worth the extra $100- it takes great pictures and is super small and portable :)

as for magazine images, no, most people aren’t asking for permission. should they? probably. i know more than a few magazine photographers that unhappy their photos are being reprinted without credit or permission, but i think it’s part of the wild west state of blogging right now. there are no hard and fast rules or governing bodies for blogs. i think most magazines let it slide because it’s press for the magazine, but i’m curious to see if those scanned magazine pages are actually driving subscriptions to the magazines or not. the few years i worked for design magazines made me feel very protective of the work that was produced there, so i’m definitely more sensitive to that issue than others.

newspapers (especially the ny times) are far more rigorous about those image rights, so be careful there…

grace

Michelle Gorenstein

I’m glad you brought up the point about an editorial calender, that really helps break it down into smaller pieces that I actually feel like I could do!

One question though, do you post the same things on your blog as your facebook? Should I come up with different content for each outlet?

Moira (The ReVamper)

This is the most imformative site I have ever came across!!! You have answered so many questions and inspired me to keep going. Your knowledge is extremely helpful and it’s great to know that you are so accessible.
Cheers!!

Rita Shehan

Thank you so much for you article. The tips you give are good common sense advice. I will certainly be putting this information to use!!!

Christine Schwalm Design

I use a website called Weebly for both my site and my blog. I bought my domain name from godaddy.com for $11ish for the year and then just linked it to Weebly which hosts for free (very easy to do, instructions on Weebly site are step by step) with just a very small link in the bottom left corner to the Weebly page. That allows me to keep everything under one umbrella, which makes it easier for customers to go from the blog to services, portfolio, contact, etc.

That said, I’d totally be game for a guest writer on my site and I’d be really excited to do a guest entry for someone else.

Elle Thornton

Another fab Biz Ladies post, thanks Grace!

Ang mentioned SEO in the comments above – there are loads of great resources online about how to improve the visibility of your site but here are a few key things I’ve learned:

– Google likes blogs – the content is updated frequently which adds points to your site as far as SEO is concerned – so if you do have a blog, post the link on your facebook page, your online store (if you have one), your twitter site, and in your email signature

– getting others to link to your blog/website is another way – not reciprocal links (I’ll link to you if you link to me) as Google can spot those and ignores them but if you write good content people will link to you because they want to share your fab posts with their readers

– using lots of keywords within your copy (use words that your audience uses in relation to your product/ specialist area) – make it natural though, not just jampacked with random keywords!

You probably know a lot of these anyway but I’m always so chuffed with any little tips I find that I thought I’d share.

Am off to see if there is already a Biz ladies post on SEO – if not, I’d love to read one (nudge nudge Grace!)

Thanks again for a good post and useful comments, Elle x

Tiina

Thanks Grace,
What a great post! Very helpful, can’t wait to put your tips to good use.

I just started reading Bizladies recently, and really appreciate your insight, keep up the great work!

Tiina

Brice

I was on the fence about Twitter and you helped me make up my mind.
I’m going for it right now ;o)
Thank you so much for this post.

Brice.

Kellie

I LOVE your Biz Ladies postings – you seem to be tackling every topic I wish to learn more about!

Thanks for the insight into blogging. I have just started my own blog on my website and will be putting some of your tips into practice.

Looking forward to the next Biz Ladies posting…

Kellie

Susan Brinson

This is a great post especially since we just put our blog up last week. (Very excited!) I love the idea of an editorial calendar. I think we will come up with a list of topics and try to post those on the same day, or maybe a two week rotation.

Here is my big question: how to you get people to READ your blog? We are both on twitter, but that is really it. Is there a secret I am missing?

Yamayka

Great article. This is very encouraging. Sometimes I get confused with all that information, but this article has made me more focused. Thanks.

Traci

Biz-ladies is my go-to source when I get stumped! Thanks so much!

I do have a question regarding someone else blogging about you. I typically just get, ‘I would like to post about your company…can you send hi res images’. Should I ask more specifics about the post to ensure it a true reflection of my product? I would hate to inadvertently give the ok and it ends up being a bad review or includes inaccurate information.

Any list of questions/stipulations I should ask/state before giving the go-ahead by forwarding images?

grace

traci

i’ll cut to the chase and say: no. you’re perfectly welcome to ask questions about what the write-up might be in terms of post type, but a list of stipulations or musts will come across as out of line. you can’t control the way press works from their end- and i think 9 times out of 10 someone asking for images isn’t asking to so they can insult your work.

that said, consider this rule of thumb: don’t send any images or text or information you don’t want used. because once it’s in their hands it’s fair game. and if you have a website with product images on it they can take them there without permission so i think it’s best to just proceed with the good faith that the person looking to write about you will be professional about it. so make sure they have the images and info YOU want them to have and leave it at that :)

the only stipulations it’s normal to request are things like photo credits and credits to your website.

grace

Victoire

Helpful as always! And thanks to this post I’ve just changed our facebook url to a vanity one (didn’t even know that’s what they were called!)

Andrea

When I started on Etsy I used one name, but then wanted to change my user name to something more mature and marketable. I already had the blog under my original name and didn’t want to have to move everything and get re-established, so I bought a url and just pointed it to the blog.

Marsha Martin Goetz

I am in the process of developing my biz plan to market my artsy home deco accessory line. After reading all of these wonderful comments, I’m confused about what to set up first, sort of like the chick and the egg thingy. I plan to go through Etsy, do I set up this first, or establish a blog site, or refurbish existing FB and Twitter accounts. Any suggestions? Thanks to all of you.

Shirley Zuanich

thank you for the generous sharing of your hard earned insights! i truly feel like i have just arrived through ‘ellis island,’ to a new land i have little grasp of. offerings such as yours are insightful and encouraging that i too can join this new world that moves at light speed….

Catherine Crowe

I don’t agree with some of what you have said about Facebook. I have only a personal page, not a business page, and it is the best tool I have to promote my work. As an artist the work has a lot of the personal in it – and after years of being on the road doing shows I have been able to easily draw a line between the personal and the private. My customers watch me interacting with other artists and musicians that I know and it makes them want a piece of the action. I can post process shots of pieces as they unfold which also draws people in. It is much more personal and interactive for me than twitter. I find Twitter frustrating because I am always seeing bits of conversation rather than the whole thing. I get threads on Facebook going on for 15/20 parts of conversation – and they are all there in one place! I do Tweet of course – but I don’t feel that it is as important a part of my web strategy as Facebook (which links to my Blog and my Etsy store and my Flickr account)

sueb@srberger.co.uk

I have just launched an interior design product. I am keen to write a blog on the website but want to include my other passions, garden design and allotment. Would that work or is it silly to combine the three things?

Coco

There’s a ton of fabulous info in here! Great inspiration for that blog I’ve been meaning to start…..

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