The Complete Guide to Blogging for your Business

Introduction

A successful blog will become the heart of a business; the content engine, the customer acquisition system and the platform to develop thought leadership in an industry.

At Skyrocket SEO, we’ve built a business around our blog and many people comment that our website feels more like a blog rather than a corporate website but we are OK with this because since it is the content that drives conversions for us, we wanted to give the content prominence on our website, and it has worked well for us so far.

This guide covers in detail how to grow your business using a blog as a platform, NOT to be confused with those blogging for riches type guides – this is about growing an actual business through intelligent content marketing.

SECTIONS

Why Blog?How to get startedWhat should I write about?How to write blog postsHow to promote your blogBlogging ProductivityExamples of great business blogsFurther reading & resources

Why your business should have a blog?

As you might expect, there are quite a few reasons your business NEEDS a blog.

New business generation

There is no doubt about it, here at Skyrocket SEO the vast majority of our new business comes directly from or at least via our blog. Clients tell us they saw a post, read this guide or that guide that we have written or were interested to learn more about a service which we discussed in a blog post.

The reason your blog (if executed correctly) results in new business is down to one of the following reasons:

  • A blog can solve customer queries
  • A blog can develop thought leadership
  • Help you earn credibility/trust
  • SEO benefits – encourage links to your website with authoritative blog posts, earn greater search visibility through regular fresh content and use your blog as leverage to secure guest posts on other websites to develop additional links.
  • Get more visitors – according to HubSpot, businesses with blogs get 55% more traffic.
  • Fuel your social media efforts
  • Generate new opportunities e.g. speaking gigs, interview requests.

Talent attraction and retention

Another key reason your business should blog is to attract and motivate talented employees. A great blog which is well-respected in a given community is priceless when it comes to securing the best people in the business. Your blog can also act as a training manual of sorts or a public technique refinement process which again can help with staff training and new recruit on-boarding.


How to get started

Getting started with a blog can seem pretty overwhelming but there’s no need to feel daunted, here’s a quick setup guide.

Technical setup

We always recommend WordPress to anyone looking to start a blog, if your website already runs on WordPress then great, otherwise we recommend incorporating into a sub-folder of your main domain e.g. yoursite.com/blog.

We’ve found it is best to avoid subdomaining your blog like blog.yoursite.com and creating a blog on an entirely separate domain to be really bad ideas both from a user experience perspective and from an SEO perspective as search engines treat separate domains as individual entities (usually) and we find they often even treat subdomains differently in terms of trust and authority relative to the main corporate site.

When we say WordPress, we mean the self-hosted version and not the free blogs you can create on WordPress.com. You need the self-hosted version because your building a business so you need to look professional and have full control over your setup.

This is a superb guide to getting started with WordPress – getting started guide.

Launching your blog

1. Figure out your audience

Profile your typical client and identify what groups these individuals or businesses together. We find it more effective to grow what you have than be trying to nurture something completely new (unless you think it is a worthwhile avenue to pursue). Once you have a grasp of your ideal client (and who you want to target) you can begin to craft content and a blog which attracts these kinds of people.

2. Define your content strategy

Knowing who you are targeting gives you the ammunition to craft a content strategy; devise ways of being useful and appealing to your target readers (who should be your target customers also!).

As an SEO business, we try to create useful guides and posts that share and convey our expertise as a business but also provide valuable tips, advice and tutorials that enable people and businesses to do a little of their own link building before coming to us when they are looking to take things to the next level.

Getting your head around providing value for free is a little tricky initially particularly in a service business where we are all used to charging for our time but the benefits of investing time in blogging (provided it is done correctly) are immense. Think of it in the context of a recipe, the greatest chef in the world can give away all his recipes but you can almost guarantee that he or she still produces a better end result than anyone who just picks up the recipe and runs with it because he or she has the experience and is familiar with all the nuances.

3. Hit the ground running

Millions of blogs are started every single day, what makes yours stand out? Once you gain some critical mass, some of the promotion takes care of itself because people actively share your work.

In the early days though, you will definitely need to do a bit of seeding >> Everything from bookmarking on good social bookmark websites, sharing via social networks and encouraging the influencers in your market to take a look at your work.

It can also be good to launch your blog with a spot of guest posting on a closely-related topic to give your new published works maximum exposure.

Don’t forget these 10 things to do on day 1 of your blog (not all applicable to businesses but some useful guidance in here nonetheless).


What should I write about?

This has to be one of the trickiest aspects of blogging for your business. When your blog is in its infancy, this is generally easier as you have plenty of ideas flowing around your mind and a burning desire to put fingers to keyboard but as time goes by, your pool of blog post ideas can sometimes run a little dry.

First, let’s start with figuring out what you should write about and then we’ll cover how to make sure you’re never short of ideas.

Determining what you should be writing about

For us, when it comes to determining the content strategy for clients, we start with their products and services and compare these with the problems, wants and needs of customers in the marketplace. You would hope that these two things are fairly closely aligned otherwise you or your client have bigger problems than what to write about.

Even in dry (boring!) markets there are usually directly related or closely related topics that you can write about.

Some blog post ideas:

  1. Give away some of your secrets – not trade secrets obviously but give people some insight into your business as prospective customers will likely be fascinated by the inner workings of your company.
  2. Answer common customer questions – after you have been dealing with customers for sometime you tend to notice patterns and common questions which you can probably help solve with a blog post. Our recommendation is to include a brief answer in your FAQ section then flesh this answer out in a blog post – you’ll increase customer satisfaction, reduce strain on your customer service team and you’ll likely generate more business directly from your website
  3. Go looking for common customer questions – forums and other types of online communities really are a goldmine for potential blog topics because you have direct access into what your customers’ problems are, it can be time consuming to locate and scan all of the different communities online so we use Boardreader.com which is a free service that scans all the forums, message boards and micro-communities online to help surface common conversations, questions and issues (offering you valuable blog post material).
  4. Tell a story – everyone loves a story that’s enchanting/emotional/funny/incredible and nearly every business has these kinds of tales to tell, you just need to figure out how to bring these into your conscious mind and develop into a blog post. Content written with real passion or emotion tends to be some of the most viral online.
  5. Company updates – share genuinely useful news about your business, which probably doesn’t include the fact that you have just finished your tax year or that the sales figures for this week were the best ever – people love to “see inside” an organisation and by providing genuinely interesting updates or developments and/or news they can do something with then you’ll be certain to have a winning blog post on your hands.
  6. Comment on industry changes – your current and prospective clients want to be reassured that you are aware of industry changes and are adapting your offering where necessary to reflect this. It is also good to offer opinions, expertise and advice relating to developments in your industry because it solidifies your expert status to your customer base who are turning to you to have your finger on the pulse in the industry so that they don’t have to.
  7. Product/Service Tutorials – if your business is multifaceted then a blog post that goes into more detail about how a customer can achieve ‘X’ or ‘Y’ by using a certain aspect of your product or service can be really helpful and genuinely interesting for readers to hear about.
  8. Create a listpeople love lists and you can create them in nearly every sector with relative ease. They do take quite a bit of time and research but the pay-off can be exceptional.
  9. Discuss common mistakes – as an expert in your market you are going to know the mistakes you see time and time again, create a roundup post which covers these helping your audience to avoid them and portraying you as an industry-leader.
  10. Bust common myths – another great blog post is one which busts a common myth or number of myths because there are countless industries where a certain myth might be widely accepted and passed off as fact, if you can prove otherwise then it makes for compelling (and shareable) reading, not to mention a place in your audience’s mind as an innovator.
  11. Write a response to someone else’s blog post – add your thoughts or views to a current discussion in your industry and you can piggyback off the existing momentum around the topic.
  12. Curate the week/month’s news – these are very easy blog posts to create, are useful if you are suffering from writer’s blog and more importantly they are a powerful way to position yourself as an expert in a specific niche (curating the best bits means you have to know what’s good in the first place!).
  13. Roundup a conference – if you have just attended the latest conference, seminar or expo in your industry then you can connect with fellow attendees and develop a new audience by piggybacking off the usual discussion that surrounds most industry events by writing a post which collates the key takeaways and summarises the talks from the day.
  14. Create case studies – if you connect common customer questions, common customer problems and your products and services then bundle this into a case study format, you have the recipe for a compelling blog post and a powerful new business generation mechanism. Think about it, a reader recognises they have the exact same problem as the example in your case study and then you talk them through how you did X, Y or Z to overcome this problem.
  15. Ask the experts – another great take on the “answer your customers questions” concept is to have a number of industry leaders provide their responses and then create a blog post which rounds up these answers. Having well-respected individuals contribute to your blog will transfer some credibility to you and your website and will likely result in them promoting the blog post (and your website) also… because it features them! See more on egobait below.
  16. Invite interviewees – securing a high-profile individual in your space and asking them deep, meaningful and interesting questions will help you develop a bond with that individual and provide you with a solid blog post that your audience will enjoy. See 10 tips for creating awesome interviews
  17. Produce egobait – Egobait is an asset which is created to attract the attention of a specific person or group of people. It is essentially producing something that strokes the ego of the person/people/company featured. See our guide to producing effective egobait.

Coming up with content ideas

We produced a guide which collated the best tools and resources to help you come up with content ideas and this should be a good starting point for you, but there are plenty of other things you can do to ensure you’re not short of blog posts.

  • Step away from your usual work area – rarely do you have good ideas at your desk and that’s because there are so many distractions. In the same way that you’ll often be struck by the right decision or that million pound business idea whilst you’re in the shower or cooking dinner, you’ll often have the best blog post ideas when you least expect them. Keep a notepad and pen handy wherever you are.
  • Do some exercise – most find sports to be excellent ways to relieve stress and help eradicate the creativity roadblock you’ve stumbled across. It channels your energy for a while leaving you with a clear mind to imagine new ideas for content.
  • Open your eyes – our first two nuggets of advice involved stepping away from your working environment but in reality there are also plenty of “potential blog posts” in every single one of your days; things happen, questions crop up, one event sparks a train of thought in your mind, be sure to open your eyes to all these things to ensure you aren’t short of great blog post ideas.
  • Disconnect for a while – there is no getting away from the fact that blogging on a sustained basis is tough, so it can be good to disconnect from everything for a while and just relax, there will always be tomorrow to start that blog post.

Managing your content

Blog planning and the strategic, co-ordinated publishing of blog posts is a really powerful way to squeeze maximum value out of your blogging efforts as it helps to build momentum and push the reputation flywheel of your business.

Take a look at this great plugin for WordPress which makes creating an editorial calendar really simple.


How to write blog posts

Sounds simple enough, fire up your WordPress dashboard and start punching away. There’s a bit more to it than that…

Headline

Crafting a powerful headline can be the difference between success and failure for a blog post. Luckily you can apply a relatively straightforward formula to creating great headlines:

Action + Description + Benefit = strong headline

For example: How to | be more productive | and double your income

Of course, you don’t need to and shouldn’t always use this formula as there are various other headline formulas that work really well, we could produce an entire book probably just about headlines. Here are a few:

  • Reason why headlines e.g. 10 reasons you should hire Skyrocket SEO to do your guest posting
  • Question headlines e.g. Do you lose sleep over your rankings?
  • How to headlines e.g. How to earn links from media websites

These all have a few things in common though…

  1. They’re specific
  2. They focus on the reader
  3. They’re keyword-optimised

Hands down, the best resource for writing magentic headlines can be found on Copyblogger – Writing Headlines that Work

Opening paragraph

If you’re headline was the bait then your opening paragraph needs to reel them in.

Your opener needs to start strong and finish leaving the reader wanting more.

  • Be direct – everyone is busy these days and they haven’t got time for your artsy intro, they need to know what you’re on about and they want to know now.
  • Be empathetic – make it clear from the outset that you understand your readers problem.
  • Be specific – lay out in plain-English the reason why they need to read the rest of your blog post.
  • Be intriguing – nothing shifts books like a cliffhanger and the same principle applies when it comes to hooking readers into your blog posts.

The body

Obviously the body of your blog post is going to be the substance behind all of this style. What you include in this section is going to vary wildly depending on the topic and the type of post you are creating.

There are a couple of steadfast principles though:

  • Logical structure – without fail, your blog post needs to have a clear logical structure which flows and makes the topic easy for your reader to understand.
  • Short sentences – writing for the web often means compacting your thoughts and expertise into bitesize, scannable chunks of greatness. Short sentences allow even the most hyper-active reader to reap the benefits of your wisdom and appreciate your work.
  • Tell stories – storytelling truly is one of the best ways to capture the attention of your readers whether they’re 18 or 81.
  • Use examples – help your readers to grasp concepts by offering clear and obvious examples that underpin what you are talking about.

Images

We could have used a cliched quote about pictures being worth loads of words but it is really so true – if you want to evoke an emotion or make clear your point, a crisp, well conceived image is the way to do it. We recommend having a variety of images within your posts to help break up the blocks of text and to illustrate specific points – the most common format would be one featured image and then a series of screenshots or graphics to represent your sections.

We always recommend the use of Compfight.com, a Flickr search tool that allows you to find creative commons licensed images.

Consistent image styles in your blog posts can help develop the notoriety of your brand for example if you’ve ever read SEOgadget’s blog then you’ll be familiar with their big images that start each post (images and obviously the great content help them to stand out from the other SEO blogs out there).

Formatting

Much more than making your blog post look pretty, this stage is about making sure it is readable…

  • Include Sub-headings to help break the post down
  • Break large blocks of text with images
  • Be consistent with font choice and text size
  • If the post is really long, use page anchors to facilitate section skipping

Editing

“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

-Blaise Pascal

If ever we get asked how long a blog post should be; our response is, as long as it needs to be. In truth, some posts deserve to be short, others (like this one for example) need to be long in order to deliver on their promises and truly cover a topic in enough depth.

Always edit your work, this means the obvious basics like spelling, grammar and structure but it also means removing sentences, rearranging paragraphs, removing sections entirely, adding new sections, expanding explanations and a multitude of other things.

Optimise

This is the last step in the blog writing process because if you work the other way, your posts might just feel like you’ve created them for the benefit of the search engines rather than your audience. We’re not about preaching the virtues of writing for humans because you are all intelligent people so by optimising your blog post after you’ve written it, you will taking a great piece of content and just tweaking it to ensure the most amount of people are going to get the chance to read it.

  • Do your keyword research – using one of the many keyword research tools out there, find out the words and phrases that your readers are using and tailor your content to reflect this so as to ensure maximum search engine visibility.
  • Optimise your URL – make sure your post URL is short, shareable and where applicable keyword-optimised.
  • Tweak your headline – now you know the keywords your users are searching for,  you might want to consider adapting your headline.
  • Include sub-headings – they make your post more readable but they can also improve search engine visibility as you can weave keywords into them particularly long-tail keywords like “Why your business should have a blog”.
  • Optimise your images – correctly titling your images and including alt attributes can help improve the visibility of your content online.
  • Get your linking right -  be sure to link internally to other relevant blog posts on your own website and other sources of authoritative content, both will be beneficial from an SEO perspective.

In many situations, we recommend “writing” the blog post before even sitting down at your computer. This might sound crazy but in actual fact you can have nearly any blog post entirely mapped out on paper into sections, ideas, concepts and key statements. This greatly reduces frustration and lost time sat at your computer trying to figure out how to flesh out an idea into a blog post.


How to promote your blog posts

The final and essential step in developing a successful blog for your business is ensuring people actually get to see the content you are creating.

Social media

We’re all aware of the larger social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and now Google+ and these are all of course powerful methods of promotion to broadcast your content out to.

You should also consider some of the smaller more niche social media websites that help to seed your content within the community for example Inbound.org and WPVote.com that help to socially surface the best content from the online marketing and WordPress communities respectively.

For many businesses, blog posts fuel their social media channels acting as the “reason to engage” so social media and blogging certainly go hand in hand.

Forums

Forums are a useful source of content ideas and they can also help seed your blog post to a highly targeted audience (possibly even the individuals who gave you the idea for the post in the first place).

Participation in forums in a non-sleazy way still remains a superb way to promote blog posts. Many argue that forums are dead but you just have to know which ones drive the traffic, we’ve seen literally thousands of visitors within a matter of hours to client blog posts as a result of careful seeding on targeted forums and message boards.

Guest Posting

We are firm believers in the power of guest posting to build both authoritative links and to develop brand visibility online. Guest posting is also a really powerful blog post promotion technique.

It is certainly more involved than some of the other passive post promotion techniques discussed in this section but with some careful thought and co-ordination you can write a number of guest posts on tightly related topics and publish these across the web for maximum effect.

You’ll promote your original post, you’ll be earning new links, you’ll be reaching new audiences and you’ll be building momentum for your content marketing efforts as (even for just just a short while) you will be “everywhere”.

Outreach

Telling people about your work is a very powerful and often under-utilised way to promote your blog posts.

We aren’t talking about pestering the players in your market every time you hit the publish button but rather selectively reaching out to individuals who may be interested in this particular post. They’re interested because you A) Have a good relationship with them and they may be happy to help you out or B) You know they have an interest in X, Y or Z so are likely to not be offended by your personalised contact to let them know about the post.

See how to write high-conversion outreach emails

Newsletter/email marketing

Email still rules as our primary method of communication online and it is this centralness of our inboxes to everything we do online (communication, identity etc) that makes it the perfect place to broadcast blog content into. Why make them come to your website?

Obviously you’ll need their permission to do this and once you have this you need to make sure you don’t abuse this permission – careful, well-executed communications are vital if you want to successfully promote your blog posts and maintain a healthy, happy email list.

How do you earn their permission? Quite simply through developing trust and enough notoriety for them to want to subscribe.

Blog networks (no…not that kind of blog network)

There are an abundance of genuine networks of likeminded bloggers out there who all help to promote eachother’s content. Websites like Yakezie and BlogHer. Joining these can be instrumental in growing the audience of your blog and ensuring widespread distribution of your posts.

Paid media

Many leading social news and social media websites have paid promotional options which are often demonised in a world where we’ve somehow equated paid advertising as only being necessary in situations where a web page isn’t worthy of earning its own attention. However, in reality, paid media on these kinds of sites can help accelerate the spread of your blog post, particularly when advertising on social platforms like StumbleUpon which will often encourage other forms of social interaction as a result of the initial “paid stumble”.

Here are just a few of the websites we have used to help seed the content of our clients:


How to write a blog post in 60 minutes

My blogging productivity scheduleby James Agate

A common question I get asked is how I find the time to write so much content; guest posts, blog posts, responses to questions and still find the time to do ‘real’ work. Here’s how I manage to write so much and still have the time to run a growing business, get involved with client work, look after a team of people and spend time with my friends and family…

Write it before you even sit down at your computer

This might sound a bit of an oxymoron but every single blog post I produce has been “written” in my head beforehand. I can then sit down at my computer with concepts and a rough idea of the flow of the piece, put the headings and sub-headings in place and then all I have to do is flesh out the article.

Obviously you’ll probably find yourself moving sections of the post around once you’ve fleshed it out but there’s nothing more frustrating than sitting down at your desk with the intention of blogging and then finding yourself crippled by writer’s block. The best ideas rarely happen at your desk

Turn your day into a blog post

Rework tells you to “sell your by-products” which makes a lot of sense.When you apply that mindset to your business blogging you can quickly generate loads of content ideas for your blog and for your guest blogging campaigns.

  • Problems you deal with everyday – your readers might be facing everyday
  • Knowledge you have and apply to problems everyday – might be knowledge your readers wish they had
  • Questions one client has – another client is likely to have also

I gather so much inspiration for blog posts in my day to day work. By and large if you read something I have written, it will have happened in the preceding few days or weeks. I personally feel like this helps me to produce content which is more authentic and practical rather than merely theoretical and lacking in credibility.

I try to find a balance between blogging regularly and doing real work…being on the front line of things. I don’t just do this to “improve my blogging” but mainly because client work is something I love to be involved with.

There is often a disconnect between what people say they do and what they actually do, so as worthwhile a time investment as blogging for your business can be it is really important to do the work you talk about. Readers often have more respect for content which reads like a field guide rather than a textbook.

1,000 word a day diet

Since the start of this year, I committed to writing 1,000 words every single day, not including weekends.

I’ve missed 11 days so far in 2012 – not too bad but could certainly do better!

This isn’t writing emails or proposals; but blog content, email newsletters, guest posts, guides and so on. What have I noticed? I can now write over 1,000 words in 60 minutes, granted I couldn’t write 24,000 words by writing for one solid day but my point is that I have got a heck of a lot faster. 1,000 words comes a lot easier than it did when I started this “diet”.

Some of the stuff I’ve written this year is complete junk which has not and probably will never see the light of day, some is sitting in the draft queue here on the Skyrocket SEO blog ready for ‘someday’ and then there’s the stuff that made the cut.

The key is to keep writing and doing it regularly. Fall out of practice and it gets harder to jump back into it. Once you get out of the habit, it becomes easy to neglect your blog.

I work really hard to find the time every single day to crank out 1,000 words because I think it is a worthwhile use of my time since some of the blog posts and guest posts I produce help people within the community and sometimes go on to generate new business for the company, not to mention the fact that I enjoy doing it. I also find writing about something helps me to codify concepts in my head (“No better way to learn something than to teach it to someone else.”) so I benefit from all that writing as well.

Write in short bursts

One key way I have increased my blogging productivity is by using a simplified version of the Pomodoro Technique. If you are unfamiliar with this take a look at the website, in very simple terms though it encourages you to perform an activity for 25 minutes and then regardless of whether you are finished, take a 5 minute break and then spend 25 minutes doing something else, before returning to the original activity, after 4 Pomodoros you take an extended break.

There’s more to the technique than that (in fact there’s a whole book on the process) but I find this simplified version works best for me. I write a blog post in 60 minutes by not doing it all in one go.

Combine the Pomodoro technique with “writing the blog post in your head” (see above) and you’ll notice you can quickly produce content much more rapidly because your mind has time to relax rather than being forced to write the next sentence and slog away for 60 minutes straight.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Pomodoro technique takes a bit of time to get used to (and to get the most out of it) but it is worthwhile persevering with when it comes to writing and your work day in general for that matter. To be completely honest, not all of my blog posts are written in short bursts of 25 minutes, sometimes if I am really getting into the writing I will just go with it. I subscribe to listening to what your mind/body tells you but Pomodoro is a useful tactic nonetheless.

Don’t worry if it takes longer

Some guest posts and extended guides (like this one) take longer than this, although not as long as you might think.

As you’ll have noted from my earlier point, I’m an advocate of using your day to day work to fuel your blogging activities (since this is probably going to be the most efficient way of producing authentic content), though I will from time to time research completely new areas and write up content on them i.e. distill a concept which was previously unfamiliar to me, add some of my own thoughts and then share with readers.

This takes longer to do but it serves two purposes because you learn something new and your audience will appreciate it – making that extra effort worthwhile.

Finally, I manage to produce so much content because I put in the hours. The only reason you can’t find the time to do X,Y or Z is because you don’t want to. Prioritise your day, spend less time on Twitter or cut down on tasks which accomplish very little. We’ve all got time in our day, it is just a case of finding it…


17 of the best blogs by businesses

#1 – Hubspot

The Hubspot writers are some of the most prolific content creators out there in the online marketing space. Hubspot offer so much value through their blog on topics including SEO, blogging, web analytics and more. They’ve been handsomely rewarded for their efforts with over 47,000 subscribers. Hubspot anticipate the changing needs of their audience and create content that engages with readers who might potentially be customers – they are also a leader when it comes to encouraging casual blog readers into the conversion funnel. Visit now

#2 – KISSmetrics Marketing Blog

I’ve been a fan of the KISSmetrics blog for a while now because it is one of those websites you look at and think “Wow! This looks awesome.” Then you start reading it and exploring the archives and you realise there’s also substance behind the looks. There’s an important lesson in there, that beauty gets you attention but if you want your blog to succeed and do its job long term then you need to be consistently producing superb content.

The KISSmetrics blog is also a good example of understanding your audience and delivering content that draws them in rather than pigeonholing yourself as a blog about just one topic. Visit now

#3 – Signal vs Noise

Signal vs. Noise is testament to the fact that there’s nothing wrong with simple. It doesn’t look like the blog has changed much (design wise) since it was first launched with a very basic design but that being said; 132,000 subscribers must be hanging about for something – even if you can’t afford some fancy design or complex setup, you can still give your business a voice. One thing I think that SVN can teach us all is that you don’t have to really push your own products and services, mention them where applicable but by and large let curiosity do its thing. I came across the SVN blog before I heard about the 37signals products and I was intrigued enough to browse their collection of apps. Visit now

#4 – WooThemes

WooThemes are pioneers in transparency – they use their blog to communicate the authenticity of their company which is a very smart thing to do in a world where people are increasingly looking to work and partner with ‘human’ businesses. WooThemes is a regular read of mine because I like their writing style and voice which they’ve matched to the brand of their company (another important pillar of blogging for your business). They make company announcements exciting, focusing on why ‘this news’ from WooHQ actually matters to you! Visit now

#5 – I love split testing

In my opinion, Visual Website Optimizer have yet to fully capitalise on the opportunity a blog can offer but it makes it to this list because they consistently content that is actually compelling and engaging to read but at the same time reinforces the features and benefits of their product. This is an important lesson because obviously many of us are blogging to acquire new customers so it makes sense to never lose sight of the end goal otherwise we end up writing for free! Visit now

#6 – Think Vitamin

A fantastic example of providing free education as a means to create an audience and then sell them premium education (in the form of conferences, events and online training). Carsonified curate the Think Vitamin website and deliver a great deal of value but they are always careful to keep the really tip-top stuff for their paying customers. This reminds us again of the importance of focusing on the underlying business and marketing rationale of having a blog rather than just blogging for the sake of it. Visit now

#7 – Raven Tools

Raven Blog is a solid example of a company that is trying to create a happy community of users, in my mind, their blog is focused on customer retention as it offers quite a bit of insight and loads of tutorials on how to do certain things using the Raven Tool Suite. I use Raven Tools on a daily basis and whilst the monthly subscription doesn’t break the bank, it is still nice to be able to get the most out of the software and their blog helps me to do that which keeps me happy and paying my subscription each month.

This focus on existing customers is a great idea and we’d all do well to create content and deliver value that engages not only with new customers but also existing ones. It helps to forge stronger relationships and makes your customer base much more stable – allowing for growth rather than scrambling for new sales to plug gaps left by deserters.Visit now

#8 – Get Elastic

Get Elastic is essential reading if your work touches eCommerce – I would categorise this in the intermediate to advanced level of reading but eCommerce is a complex business and it makes a change to read something that helps develop knowledge rather than bore you with the same re-hashed tutorials or advice that we’ve seen on hundreds of other sites.

The lesson to be taken from Get Elastic is that you shouldn’t be afraid of being different – understand your audience and stick to your instincts. Elasticpath saw a need for a dedicated eCommerce blog and they consistently deliver expert articles and tutorials that surpass anything else out there – commit to delivering brilliant stuff. Visit now

#9 – Redfin blog

A departure from the other blogs on the list but I think one worth applauding as it is an example that blogs can work in nearly every industry even if your competitors aren’t doing it. They’ve also created a culture of blogging by encouraging regional agents to publish their own local-focused blogs – any nationwide company with multiple offices would do well to follow Redfin’s lead. Visit now

#10 – Flowtown

Flowtown is an all round excellent read. They consistently deliver fantastic social media marketing content – they fuse creativity with social media know-how to offer a brilliant reader experience. Think of ways you can give more than any other blog in your industry. Sometimes its good to give even if you aren’t getting something immediately in return. Visit now

#11 – 3dcart

The second eCommerce blog to make our list, 3dcart is a superb example of a company that recognises its target audience and then tailors the content on their blog specifically so that it resonates with their target customer. 3dcart is a great bif of eCommerce software that is really very appealing to the small and medium sized online retail business so the content on their blog appeals to these kinds of businesses. Rather than being just another eCommerce blog, they’ve committed to creating a blog that offers solid beginner to intermediate advice. Think about where your blog is positioned. Visit now

#12 – Distilled

Distilled are doing great things in terms of cleaning up the reputation of the SEO industry and are nurturing an effortlessly cool startup culture within a successful (and presumably profitable) real service business. Their blog highlights the best way to fuse personality with value – Distilled balance expertise and valuable SEO advice with fun stuff that helps you realise that Distilled as a company isn’t all work and no play – nurturing again the perception of a human company.

Their blog also highlights another key lesson that companies should give a voice to more than just the boss. If your employees or colleagues want to contribute something then they should be given the chance as it adds a different dimension to the content. Visit now

#13 – SEOmoz

Invest in world-class content, SEOmoz’s blog is so much more than a voice for a software company, they are famed for innovative experiments, proprietary research, annual surveys and industry news. Find ways you can emulate SEOmoz in your market and your blog will become not just the voice of your business but the mouthpiece for your entire industry which makes your brand almost bulletproof. Visit now

#14 – Portent Interactive

What I like about the Portent Interactive blog is that it does a brilliant job of conveying the culture of the business – you can’t introduce that kind of culture with an advert and well, blogging is free. The Portent blog actually blends personality with resources so people can do a bit of DIY internet marketing if they fancy it or otherwise just find out a little bit more about the im-Portent people. (Oh dear!)

Anyway, Portent’s blog highlights that blogging can be about demonstrating your prowess in a given market but still remaining approachable and friendly – an important lesson for us all to learn. Visit now

#15 – Conversion Rate Experts

The Conversion Rate Experts show us that blogging doesn’t have to be daily or even weekly – as long as it is consistently awesome, people will keep coming back for more. In fact, the awesomeness of the content combined with the scarcity of it are a recipe for one hooked audience.

CRE readily admit that they release content once in a blue moon so readers have come to expect not to hear from CRE for a while but when they do see an update, it’s bound to get read. Absense makes the bond grow stronger just make sure you’re not ‘around’ for the right reasons.Visit now

#16 – Unbounce

The Unbounce blog makes landing pages and conversion rate optimization exciting. Oli Gardner, the main author on the blog, manages to sex up the topics with humour, choice of language, cool graphics and mixing up the format the content is delivered in. These are principles that anyone can apply in any industry to get people talking about topics that might otherwise be a bit tedious.

Another thing I think it’s important to mention is that Oli Gardner has also written some amazing guest posts for different websites – he isn’t afraid to give value to another website to build his own audience and win more customers. Visit now

#17 – Google Analytics Blog + Google Webmaster Central

I’m well aware that Google’s advice can be a little vague at times but these are still two blogs from Google which I think are worthy of being highlighted because they both consistently deliver tutorials and advice that anyone can follow – is it always the right advice? No. But my point is that if you can think of ways you can regularly help your prospective and future customers to better use your products and services (by offering good advice), you’ll keep them coming back for more. Visit now


Further resources

16 Comments

  1. avatar
    Matt April 16, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    James, are you a blog writing machine? I’m amazed you find the time to write such comprehensive posts like this. Keep up the good work :) Post bookmarked and tweeted.

    • avatar
      James Agate April 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

      Cheers Matt – it is the fruit of a weekend’s work :-) And I have a great team in place who take care of business!

      Thanks for the comment

  2. avatar
    Wendi April 16, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    James,

    As always, stellar, thoughtful and informative post. Thanks for sharing all these gems – you’re making us all better!

    • avatar
      James Agate April 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

      Ha! :-) Too Kind Wendi

  3. avatar
    Gaz Copeland April 16, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    I’ve got nothing really to add but wanted to say what a fantastic resource this post is. Another wonderful addition to the blog James.

    • avatar
      James Agate April 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

      Thanks Gaz much appreciated

  4. avatar
    Jeremy McDonald April 17, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    A blog post about blog posting, clever! Great work though. Thoroughly enjoyable read!

  5. avatar
    Adam Veitch June 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    Nice post James,

    I manage the social media profiles of numerous clients as well as our own channels and content creation for numerous clients as well as our own blogs. My biggest problem comes in trying to disconnect from the social networks and knuckle down creating content. It’s especially difficult when you’re nurturing leads/tactically re-Tweeting and generally buttering up potential guest blogs via social media because you’re back and forth and switching your tasks all the time.

    As it happens, I tried the Pomodoro Technique before but struggled to get into the rhythm. I put 100% into whatever I’m doing so struggle to take my mind off something and get into something else 100%. I find that switching between things produces lots of ‘idle’ time for me – but each to their own I guess.

    I prefer to carry on with things once I’m in the swing of it but I struggle whilst managing these social profiles at the same time.

    Maybe we need someone else in to help with the social media and SEO so I can concentrate on my 1000 word diet. ;) Liam?? Haha.

    Great post as usual.

    • avatar
      James Agate June 13, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

      Cheers Adam!

      I can completely understand the difficulties of disconnecting or at least balancing your day as it is something I struggle with sometimes. I’m not perfect obviously but I keep plugging away with my ‘system’ and for me it seems to work pretty well.

      I know what you mean about Pomodoro but I felt that way until I really got into it

      J

  6. avatar
    Steve Webb June 13, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    James,

    Just like everyone else, I’ve always been extremely impressed by how much high-quality content you produce week after week.

    And I love your 1,000 words/day diet. My adviser in grad school used to advocate a very similar philosophy, and it’s amazing how much easier writing becomes when you’re doing it on a consistent basis. I definitely need to get back into the habit of consistency :-)

    Keep up the great work!

    -Steve (@webbstuff)

    • avatar
      James Agate June 13, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

      Consistency is key Steve and wow I must be doing something right if your professor recommends the same thing. :-)

      Good job with your SEO audit post on moz the other day – seemed to go down really well!

      • avatar
        Steve Webb June 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

        Thanks James… just trying to keep up with the gold you keep dropping at SEOmoz and elsewhere :-)

  7. avatar
    Hugo June 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    Thanks for mention, James, and nice job putting together this solid resource!

  8. avatar
    Scott Yates June 15, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    This is an amazing resource, but the reality is that most small businesses just don’t have the time to blog themselves. Fear not! Now there’s Blogmutt! “We work like a dog to fill up your blog!”

  9. avatar
    khalid irfan July 27, 2012 at 5:11 am #

    great post James, you have covered almost all of the elements of the business blogs..

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  1. Learn SEO Like Rand Fishkin Would | Web Gnomes - June 27, 2012

    [...] The Complete Guide to Blogging for your Business – In this guide, James Agate teaches you how to build your business through blogging. A few of the topics he covers include why you should blog, what you should write about, and how you should promote what you’ve written. [...]

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