5 Reasons Blogging for Your Business is Worth It

business bloggingThere was a time when much of the population could hear the word “blog” and shrug it off as a silly word tied to an activity primarily practiced by a subculture of writers, hobbyists, and narcissists. Blogging for business is a fairly recent development in the short history of blogging.

Blogging didn’t start as an activity tied to professional advancement, it was a way for individuals to express themselves in a public forum, in the hopes that like minds would find their words and choose to engage. Now blogging has evolved into something hard to categorize. It plays an influential role in politics, news reporting, and marketing.

Blogging can be an intimidating practice for a small business to embrace. It’s not something you can put some work into now and finish – it requires regular maintenance.

The continuous production of fresh, quality content means either a serious time commitment, or the monetary investment of working with a freelance writer. Any business on a budget is likely to wonder: is it really worth it?

Though doubts are understandable, the benefits of blogging for your business are considerable. Five especially notable reasons blogging for your business is worth it:

1) It’s important for SEO.

Google values quality content. A website that produces a steady stream of content lets the search engines know that it’s active. Good content can encourage links back to your site, and a blog gives you the opportunity to develop a content strategy around relevant keywords for greater SEO benefit.

2) It helps build brand recognition.

A blog enables you to grow your online presence. It helps people find you more easily and often, and provides valuable information that they will come to associate with your brand.

3) It lets you show your expertise.

You know more about what you do and the industry you’re in than most people. A blog allows you to demonstrate that. By sharing what you know, you show people that you’re qualified and they can trust you and your business to know what you’re doing.

4) It can inspire customer loyalty.

A business that offers up something of value for free demonstrates a desire to help out customers that’s not all about profit. Giving people an answer to a question they have, or information they didn’t know they needed yet is a good way to build up the kind of good will that inspires long-term customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.

5) It’s an important component in a good social media strategy.

Social media’s another trend that’s evolved to become an important component of business. It offers you a way to engage with customers and potential customers, and gives you an avenue to distribute the content you produce. There’s little point in putting time into developing a social media presence, unless you can figure out a way to add something of value to the ongoing conversation. Blog posts are one way to do that.

Content Marketing in 2013

That content marketing is a growing force is no surprise to anyone who follows trends in marketing. Blog posts and articles citing the benefits quality content has on branding, SEO and customer loyalty abound.

Nonetheless, it’s nice to be able to match some numbers to all the talk. Business Bolts performed a survey of 265 individuals, a mix of small business owners and marketing professionals, in order to gain a sense of how businesses are approaching content marketing in 2013.

You can find the full report on their findings here.

Most of the results aren’t especially surprising, but serve to back up arguments copywriters, marketers and SEO professionals have been making for some time:
content marketing trends

  • Content marketing is good for SEO

77% of respondents said content marketing helped increase web traffic, and 71% said it helped them achieve higher rankings

  • Content marketing is good for ROI

Although there are challenges in many cases to tracking the relationship between content marketing and sales, 59% said they believed that content marketing helped them up their sales numbers.

  • Content marketing strengthens brand awareness

70% reported this benefit, another that’s hard to track, but crucial for small business success.

The good news for freelance writers and content developers: many respondents expressed a desire to find good content producers.

The bad news: few have made content production a high budget item. Most (61%) reported still doing the majority of their content development in house, but of those that worked with freelancers the amount they’re paying is piddling. 14% spend less than $15 for 1,000 words, and 17% spend between $16 and $25.

It’s clear that businesses have a growing awareness of the benefit good content provides. Hopefully, their willingness to value those helping them reap that benefit will increase in time as well.

PPC (Pay Per Click) Basics

There are two main types of search engine marketing: PPC (pay per click) and SEO (search engine optimization). I’ve already covered some of the best introductory tips and resources for SEO, but PPC marketing is another one of the best sources of ROI in marketing available, especially in the period in between implementing SEO techniques on a website and beginning to see the results.

What is PPC?

To understand PPC, you first need to understand how organic search results and paid ads differ:

Organic search results – the websites that show up in the main listing of results when you perform a search in a search engine

Paid search results – the ads you see, normally located above the organic search results and to the right of them

SEO aims to get a website listed at the top of the organic results. It’s a slower and more difficult process than getting a website noticed through paid PPC ads, but it can yield huge results in the number of relevant visitors to your site.

PPC ads are much easier method to get on the first page for a search term faster, but they have a clearer immediate cost than SEO, where most of the cost comes through the time spent optimizing a webpage and linkbuilding.

Why PPC?

PPC ads are valuable in that they appear to people who are already looking for what your company has to offer (assuming you do a good job in targeting the right keywords) and you don’t have to pay every time someone sees the ad, just each time someone clicks on it. Chances are, a person who chooses to click on a PPC ad is someone coming to your site already equipped with an interest in buying the kind of product you offer, or at least doing some preliminary research into the options available with the intention of buying later.

Therefore, in comparison to other forms of advertising, the clicks you’re paying for will in most cases be fairly solid leads.

Even better, if you find that any of the ads you’re using or keywords you’re targeting tend not to produce solid leads, you have easy access to data that helps you shift your tactics and money towards the ads and keywords that provide the best results. In other words, the longer you use PPC as a form of marketing, the better your results are likely to be.

How to Get Started with PPC Marketing?

As the most commonly used search engine, Google’s the best place to start. Create a Google Adwords account and a Google Analytics account. Google provides ample information to anyone getting started with Adwords. The Google Keyword tool is an especially valuable resource for determining the best keywords to target in your ads.

Google’s not the only search engine to consider, Yahoo and Bing also offer paid search programs that can be well worth the investment.


Helpful Resources:

I’ve collected a few links for further reading that do a good job of providing useful introductory information.

Introduction to PPC

17 Most Common PPC Mistakes

7 Steps to a Perfect Pay Per Click Campaign

If you want more information, browse this page, or do some further exploration on the websites linked to above. You’ll quickly find a surplus of information to get started with a PPC campaign.

6 Awesome Free Tools for Freelancers and Small Businesses

The old aphorism that “you get what you pay for” may serve well in some situations, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by just how many incredibly useful free tools I’ve encountered that have become invaluable to me in working as a freelancer.

Many of these will be very familiar to most freelancers and small businesses, but others are a little less known and might help you accomplish some of your business needs more easily and affordably.

1. Skype

Skype is probably one of the most commonly used and valuable resources available to web-based contractors and small businesses. The free account offers:
1) A real time chat function that allows for easy drag and drop file transfers between users
2) Both one on one and multi-person online phone calls
3) One on one video calls
4) Easy screen sharing between users

You may have to buy a microphone or webcamera to use the phone and video call features, if your computer doesn’t come already equipped with them (Macs usually do). For a relatively minimal costs, you can also choose to establish a skype phone number, enable calls to phone numbers (domestic and international) and upgrade to group video calls.

For small businesses with remote employees, skype is an extremely effective tool for helping bridge some of the difficulties that come with not being in a shared office environment. It makes communication between workers, customers, consultants and anyone else a company needs to be in touch with simple, without increasing costs.

For a freelancer, it allows you to work from anywhere with internet without losing the ability to be in touch with clients and partners.

2. WordPress

I’ve already written a bit about how valuable blogging can be to a small business, and the same applies to any freelancer. WordPress is one of the most user friendly platforms for beginning a blog. Starting an account is simple and getting a blog into place requires no prior knowledge of html or web design. There are a wide variety of templates and different applications available to help make your blog look how you’d like it to and include the features you’re interested in. WordPress also has a powerful statistics module that helps track the number of visits made to your blog and where they come from in an intuitive fashion

3. Freshbooks

Accounting is one of the more intimidating and painful aspects of running a business. Freshbooks is a free software that allows for the creation of customized invoices and easier tracking of business payments and expenses. It also offers a useful feature for tracking your hours by project and task.

4. LazyMeter

Lazymeter is a simple tool for creating and tracking your to do list. You can add items to be completed right away or on future dates and check them off as they’re done. It’s a good way of tracking your progress and productivity and keeping items from falling off your radar during busier times.

5. Google Analytics

Every business with a website should have a Google Analytics account. As with everything else on this list, it’s free and fairly simple to use. You can keep up with the number of visits to your website, what search terms and engines people are using to get to it, and what other sites and social media sources are referring hits to you. The data collected can then be used to improve your website copy and SEO strategy to help ensure you’re attracting the right audience for your products and services.

6. Wave Accounting

There’s a bit of overlap in the features offered by Wave Accounting and Freshbooks, Wave also allows you to create invoices and track business expenses and payments made. In my experience, they’re a bit more feature rich and useful for the latter tasks. You can easily track payments received from sources other than the invoices issued through Wave Accounting (not an option I’ve seen in Freshbooks) and the dashboard provides a handy visual representation of your account’s financial snapshot. Sure, you could use Excel to keep track of your income and expenses, but keeping up with spreadsheets can be a pain and Wave Accounting is much more visually intuitive. It also allows for integration with Freshbooks, so you can set it up to keep track of the invoices you create and send through Freshbooks without extra effort.