I started blogging in January 2008. All I knew about blogging could have fit on a postage stamp. I had heard it was good for getting people to your website and as my advertising budget was pretty small, I decided to give it a go. My website designer told me a little bit about using tags, I found out about blogrolls and that was the sum of my knowledge. Within two months of starting my blog, my business was featured in a national weekly newspaper because an influential blogger had linked to my blog (in her blogroll), a journalist found me and decided there was a story in what I was doing. My blog was helping me achieve what I had hoped but I was still making lots of mistakes.
1. Calls to Action – I never heard of “calls to action”. I didn’t realise that people wouldn’t be able to find the product I was blogging about. After all, I was blogging from my own website, surely they would click the “wallpaper” page to find it – wouldn’t they?! The penny only dropped when I started receiving telephone calls from people wondering where they could buy particular products. Initially I thought to myself, well, the blog is working, people are phoning me. Then I realised that it was probably only a tiny fraction of my readers were actually picking up the telephone to ring and I needed to show them where the product could be purchased.
Calls to action are commonly thought of as prompting your readers to buy from you, in the sense that they are “salesy”. However, if they are reading your post about a book review or the health benefits of wearing amber, it helps them if they can buy the product with just one click. Don’t frustrate your readers by omitting those call to actions.
2. Links – When I did finally learn about the importance of linking to my products (as a hyperlink in the text and in terms of linking the product images too), I didn’t realise I should have clicked the box ‘open in a new window’ when creating the hyperlink. It would only be a minor irritation but very important if the link was going to another website. It is important that your blog post stays open in one tab while the link to the product page or another website opens in another tab. Otherwise your readers are in a quandary – do they return to your post or do they leave it behind and investigate the link?
3. Consistency – I didn’t realise the importance of consistency. I loved blogging so blogging regularly wasn’t a problem but I would have weeks when I would post four times in a week and then I might ignore it for a fortnight if I was busy elsewhere. You don’t want to be seen as unreliable in your blogging as potential customers might suspect you of being inconsistent in business too. Some recommend blogging four times a week. I think that would be hard for most small business owners to sustain. The emphasis has to be on quality – are you providing your readers with much-needed information, entertainment, answers to problems? As long as you are doing that on a regular basis, be it once a week, once a fortnight, twice a week, that is the most important. Maintain the quality and consistency and your readers will become clients and customers.
4. Make it about the reader – It is very easy to fall into the trap of writing about your product or service and I fell into it. Rather than explaining why a wallpaper design might be particularly good for a room with low ceilings, for example, or how a storage solution would save time and frustration, I sometimes just described the wallpaper or storage without spelling out how they might solve a particular problem. It is not just about describing the features, it is about making the benefits clear to readers too
5. Be open and friendly – blogging gives us the opportunity to show the personality behind your business. In some ways, I did this a little too much as I shared much of what was happening on the farm but when I was getting phone calls looking for pigs rather than fabric, I thought I’d better rein it in. Do share information from behind the scenes but if it is a business blog, ensure it is relevant to your business – so if it is a craft business, share your own crafting adventures. If it is a business blog about growing veg, share photographs from your own vegetable plot, warts and all.
If you haven’t started a blog yet and have been thinking about it for some time, I am teaching an online “Blogging for Beginners” course which starts on Monday at We Teach Social.
Designed for business and personal bloggers, I will show you how to set it up on a free blogging platform (which you can convert later to a paid hosting if you wish), some technical knowledge as well as showing you how to write good content, share your posts and reach your audience. If you have been meaning to set up a blog for some time or perhaps you set one up and abandoned it, this is the course for you. 5 weeks of daily lessons with weekly feedback.