As we saw in my recent tutorial, “What
Is Content Marketing?”, content marketing can be a great way to attract
more potential customers for your business. And a key element of content
marketing is having a popular company blog.
So in this tutorial, I’ll show you exactly how to create a blog that will raise your profile, enhance your credibility, and attract new customers to help your business grow.
We’ll start by covering the nuts and bolts of starting up a blog: which platform to use, how to set the blog up, and how to make it look professional.
Then I’ll show you some examples of company blogs that work well, so that you can learn from them as you create your own blog. After that, I’ll walk you through how to choose an angle for your blog and come up with a content strategy.
By the end of the tutorial, you’ll be ready to create a business blog that educates and entertains your readers, brings waves of traffic to your site, and helps you reach more customers.
1. How to Start a Blog
When it comes to setting up a blog, you have lots of options.
On Your Site vs. External
One option is to blog exclusively on a third-party platform, such as Medium.com, LinkedIn, or even your Facebook page.
The advantages of doing it this way are that it’s easy and usually free to set up, and that those sites already have lots of visitors, so you may be able to get some of that traffic if your articles catch people’s attention.
But the downsides are that you’re subject to the limitations of those sites (where the rules can change at any time), and also it’s harder to convert those readers into customers, which is, after all, the ultimate goal of this exercise. You have to rely on them clicking through to your website to find out more about you.
If you set up the blog on your own website, on the other hand, everything’s under your control. You can set it up as you like, and any traffic you receive is boosting the profile of your site, not someone else’s. Also, you can more easily convert your visitors into customers, since they are already on your site.
So I’d recommend setting up the blog on your own site, and using social media for promotion (more on that below).
WordPress is the most popular blogging platform, powering one in four websites, but it’s not the only option. There are others, such as Blogger, Tumblr, Ghost, and more. Some of them provide hosting as part of the package, while others provide only the software, and you have to host the blog yourself.
If you already have a website set up, you may already be using one of these platforms, in which case it makes sense to use the same one for blogging. If you had someone else set up your website, check with them to see how it was set up and how you can include a blog within your website.
Make It Look Professional
This blog is representing your business to potential new customers, so you want it to look just as professional as your business cards, brochures or signage.
While most platforms have quite serviceable free themes (e.g. in the WordPress Theme Directory), you can often get more features and better designs by choosing a premium theme. You can find premium themes for WordPress, Ghost, Tumblr, and other blogging platforms on Envato Market.
2. Read Company Blogs That Work
Before you dash ahead and write your first post, it’s worth taking the time to think about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you can do it better.
A good first step is to read other company blogs. By all means check out other firms in your own industry, but also look farther afield to get more general ideas. Here are a few interesting ones:
Hotel chain Marriott offers something different from most corporate blogs: a very personal, diary-style blog written by its 84-year-old chairman Bill Marriott himself. He penned a popular Mother’s Day post last year, for example, Remembering My Mom on Mother’s Day.
What You Can Learn: Company blogs are often impersonal, but readers respond well to personal stories, told in a friendly voice.
A general rule with company blogs is not to write too much about your own products. But this is a rule the Google blog breaks, with lots of new announcements about, for example, a new photo album feature for Google Photos, or a virtual reality painting app. But it makes them enticing, and includes other types of post too.
What You Can Learn: New product announcements can be popular, if the products are interesting enough, and if the announcements are broken up with more personal, behind-the-scenes stories. Also, a minimalist aesthetic works just fine.
A chemical company is not a great candidate for interesting blogging, but Celanese has its employees write interesting posts about subjects with broad appeal, from homelessness to workplace diversity.
What You Can Learn: Even if you don’t think you’re in an inherently “cool” or interesting industry, you can create a blog that people want to read.
Real-estate information company Zillow provides some useful “how-to” material on its blog, but also throws in posts about the houses being sold by celebrities like Uma Thurman, Wes Craven, and Britney Spears. Those are some very click-friendly headlines.
What You Can Learn: If you can find an angle for your business that touches on very popular subjects like celebrities, TV or sports, don’t be afraid to mine it.
People go to Home Depot to buy products for home renovation projects, so a natural subject for the blog is to give people useful information on how to complete those projects.
What You Can Learn: This is a good example of a classic content marketing approach: teaching people to use the products you sell.
3. Choose Your Angle
As you can see from these examples, each blog has a particular angle. It might mix different types of content, but it has a general approach and sticks to it.
So as you’re planning out your blog, think about the approach you plan to take. Will you be teaching people how to use the products you sell? Telling personal stories about your experiences as a business owner? Inviting your employees or even customers to tell their own stories? Covering news or trends in your industry?
Also think about a name for your blog. Some companies just go for “The [Company Name] Blog”, which is fine, but a separate name like Zillow Porchlight or Marriott on the Move gives it a stronger identity.
What are your goals for this blog? Are you trying to increase traffic to your website, get people signed up to your mailing list, get people to become customers, or simply increase your overall profile and credibility?
Who is the target audience? This is likely to be similar to your existing target market for your business as a whole, but it could be different—if, for example, you’re trying to expand your customer base by attracting younger customers, or wealthier customers, or more women in a traditionally male-dominated market, etc. All of these things affect the type of content you’ll create.
As you’re coming up with your angle, remember the following key points:
- Define your target audience clearly, picturing your ideal customer as a single person with his or her own personality, hopes, dreams and frustrations, and write as if you’re talking directly to that person.
- Provide information that your target customer will find useful and/or entertaining.
- Don’t be too salesy or self-promotional—nobody’s going to like, share or comment on something that sounds like a press release.
- Your niche needs to be small enough that the blog has a clear focus, but large enough to allow you to come up with new posts on a regular basis for the next few years.
- Stories work well in blogs, but only if they’re interesting and have some relevance to a wider audience (and if they don’t sound like effusive customer testimonials for your company).
- Consider different types of content beyond written posts—videos, audio podcasts, images and infographics are all good strategies, either for the whole blog or as extra content to mix in with the text.
4. Create a Content Strategy
Now that you’ve set up your blog, got a sense of what works, and decided on your own angle, it’s time to create a content strategy for your blog.
What does that mean? Think of it as a vision and plan for your blog. It starts with the picture of your ideal customer that you defined in the last step. Give that person a name and a face, and describe him or her in as much detail as you can. Think about what that person wants to know about, what problems he or she wants to overcome, and how you can be of service.
Then create a list of keywords that this person might search for online, and use these keywords to inform the posts you write. The aim is not to cram keywords into posts purely for SEO purposes, but to write content on subjects that your target customer will search for, discover, enjoy, and share.
The plan you create for your blog should fit in with your overall marketing strategy. For more, see the following posts:
- Content MarketingWhat Is Content Marketing?Andrew Blackman
- MarketingHow to Write a Lean Marketing PlanCeline Roque
- BrandingHow to Define Your Core Brand Values (And Why You Should)Julia Melymbrose
- BlogBuild an Authority Blog That Will Engage With Your Target AudienceTom Ewer
- BlogCreating a Successful Authority Blog: A Complete Guide to BrandingTom Ewer
Now think about the frequency of the posts.
Of course it’s good to write frequently, but blogging can be time-consuming,
and it’s better to write a great post once a month than to throw filler content
up there every day. Be realistic, and create a schedule that you can stick to.
Of course, you don’t have to write all the posts yourself. You could assign a staff member to be responsible for the blog, or have several employees contribute their own posts. You might even invite contributions from outside the company. If you plan to collate posts from multiple authors, see the following tutorial for the process to follow:
Another option is to outsource the content
creation to a freelancer, but be careful who you choose. Remember that your
reputation is on the line here, and you need to hire someone you trust. A good
place to find reliable, experienced freelancers is in the Content & Writing
section on Envato Studio.
Once you’ve got the topics and the authors sorted out, it’s time to create an editorial calendar. If you’re using WordPress, the free Editorial Calendar plugin is useful. Otherwise, a simple spreadsheet or whatever app you’re comfortable with is fine.
Try to plan out content several months in advance. That sounds like a lot, but it pays to get ahead—the last thing you want to do when blogging is to go for a while without posting and be casting around desperately for ideas. The long-range plan can have plenty of room for adjustments to account for current events—it’s good for a blog to be up-to-date, but it’s also good to have some evergreen content planned out. Also look out for seasonal events or commemorative days that could give you a good angle for a post.
Think of some regular features that will help to give your content structure. For example, if you blog once a week, maybe one of the four monthly slots could be an interview with an industry leader, the second could be a topical, news-driven post, the third could be a video giving an inside look at some aspect of your firm, and the fourth could be an advice or “how-to” article.
That’s just an example, of course—your own content strategy could be very different. The point is to plan out your content well in advance, so that you have a clear direction and the material is well thought out, based on the personality and interests of your ideal customer.
So that’s how to start a business blog. You’ve seen how to get set up, how to do some research and choose an angle that will interest people, and how to create a content strategy and editorial calendar.
The next step, of course, is to start creating that content. Stick to your plan, and try to schedule posts in advance so that you don’t have any gaps. Remember also to leave time for engaging with readers and responding to any comments you receive. One of the benefits of a company blog is in making your business seem approachable, and you lose that benefit if you ignore comments that come your way.
It’s also important to promote the posts as much as you can on social media, as part of your overall content marketing plan. Having engaging imagery or videos and a good headline will help a lot with this. It’s also good if you can learn to pick out elements of the post that will attract attention or spark conversations on social media. Try asking a question.
For more tips on starting a company blog, check out some of the other tutorials in our blogging category on Envato Tuts+, such as:
- HeadlinesThe Sexy Art of Writing Headlines that KillLeo Babauta
- Marketing5 Easy Tips for Getting 100,000 Visitors to Your Blog PostsCarol Tice
- BlogHow Even Mediocre Writers Can Create a Marketable Freelance Business BlogTara Hornor
- BlogHow to Create Unique Content for Your Authority BlogTom Ewer