Common Blogging Mistakes That Can Sink a Small Business Blog: Part 1

Sinking ship - Don't sink your blog by making these mistakesWe’ve been doing some blogging about blogging lately. We hope our recent Blogging Tips for Small Business Owners and Blogging for Small Business: How to Generate Ideas have gotten some of you started blogging and others at least excited about starting a blog.

Today, we’re going to start a three-part series entitled Blogging Mistakes That Can Sink a Small Business Blog. The hope, of course, is that we can help you avoid making these common mistakes and give your blog the best chance for success.

Part 1: Blog Set-Up Mistakes

 1.     Not choosing the right platform

You want to choose a blog platform that’s easy to use, offers a wide variety of templates, offers powerful plug-in options, and has a large user base that can offer guidance and support.

In other words, you probably want to go with WordPress. Most top blogs run on WordPress. EarthLink web hosting and ecommerce hosting customers: remember you have access to a free WordPress installer in your Web Hosting Control Center.

Other popular blogging platforms include Google’s Blogger and TypePad.

 2.     Not hosting the blog on your own domain

You can get a free blog hosted on the wordpress.com domain, but don’t do it if you want your blog for business. It’s the equivalent of opening a store inside someone else’s store. You want your blog at a domain you control.

And you shouldn’t publish your blog on a separate domain either, even if you own and control it. If you do, you won’t get all the SEO, branding, and traffic benefits for your main business website.

There are, of course, great stand-alone blogs, but if you want your blog to promote your business, publish it on your business website. The most common places are on a sub-domain (blog.yourdomain.com) or folder (www.yourdomain.com/blog/).

 3.     Not linking prominently to your main site

No matter where you end up publishing your blog, make sure it is prominently linked back to your main business website.

You want to make it as easy as possible for customers or potential customers to go from your blog to the areas of your website that pay the bills.

So your logo and/or Home link should link back to your business homepage, not the homepage of your blog. And you should look for other places where you can seamlessly add links back to your product pages. Just make sure you don’t go overboard and make your blog a billboard.

 4.     Not setting up analytics to monitor your blog’s success

Business blogging is typically hard work. So you should make sure you have the analytics in place to measure its success. Sure, there are other ways you can get a sense of your blog’s success, such as lots of enthusiastic comments after your posts, or Tweets and Likes in social media. But you’ll want to know more than that: how much traffic is your blog getting, how much traffic is your blog sending your main site, what the most popular exit pages are, which blog topics are most popular, conversion rates for blog referrals, and other insights only website analytics such as Google Analytics http://www.google.com/analytics/ will tell you. EarthLink Web Hosting customers can easily access built-in analytics from the Manage tab in your Control Center.

 

5.     Not creating an effective team to do all the work

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can do it all yourself – even if you’re an amazing multitasker. That can lead to burnout. Rope in others in your business to offload some work and leverage their expertise. If you don’t have any co-workers, consider outsourcing some of the work to freelancers (or at least getting some advice from friends). You want to make sure you have the resources to blog frequently enough, keep your quality high, and keep the blog going long enough to evaluate its success. So, get some help if you can.

 

6.     Not planning for the long term

Blogs are rarely successful overnight. Many top bloggers report that they were writing for years before things really took off. But you should expect to wait at least a few months to start getting traction with your blog and then at least several more months to evaluate how you are doing. Try to stick it out for a year before you decide to pull the plug.

Some blogging benefits, such as search engine optimization, accrue only over time as you generate a greater depth and breadth of content that establishes your site as an authoritative destination for more search keywords.

We hope you’ll come back for part two, which will focus on blog writing mistakes, and part three, which will cover blog promotion and optimization mistakes.

Blogging for Small Business: How to Generate Ideas for Your Blog

Last week we published a post with some tips for starting a blog on a small business website.

We’re following up this week with 5 more tips that should help you generate ideas for your blog and ultimately make your small business website more successful.

1. Bring Yourself & Your Business to Life

How to generate good ideas for your small business blog

Especially in the early days of your website’s blog, establishing your personal presence can bring you and your business significant benefits. On your blog, you have the opportunity to personify your brand. Open up about yourself and create a bond between yourself and your readers/customers that can translate into Liking (on Facebook and other social media), blog engagement and return traffic, and increased likelihood to purchase from you.  You are one of your business’s most unique competitive advantages…but only if you take advantage of your uniqueness.

Blog ideas in this category to write about:

  • Your personal background/story
  • How you developed your passion for your business
  • How you started your business
  • How did you choose your business name, location or domain
  • Biggest challenges you’ve had in business
  • Your most important influence and why
  • Other businesses or business leaders you admire and why
  • What a typical business day is like for you
  • Any stories of unique days or time periods (if your business is seasonal, cyclical, or has built-in days of interest, like Mother’s Day for a florist)

2. Pull the Thorn Out of Your Customers’ Paw

Remember the Aesop’s Fable about Androcles and the Lion. Androcles pulls a thorn out of an injured lion’s paw and the lion is eternally grateful to him, eventually saving his life.  It’s the same in business. At a company I previously worked for, it was well documented that customers who had had a problem that was successfully fixed by our support staff had higher satisfaction and loyalty rates than even customers who never had a single problem. Look for those metaphoric thorns that your customers and potential customers are experiencing around your product area. Use your blog to write tutorials that can remove customer pain points and make them eternally grateful to you.

Blog tutorial ideas to write about:

  • Most common customer problems and how to avoid them (before they happen)
  • Most common customer problems and how to solve them (after they happen)
  • How to save money in your product area
  • How to choose between different purchase options
  • How to fix product x, y, or z
  • How to use product better
  • How to make product last longer
  • Do-it-yourself tips to help avoid repair or support charges

3. Turn the Spotlight on Your Customers

 One good turn deserves another, right? So build up some good will (and wait for your good turn back) by using your blog to show some love to your customers (partners too). The social psychology (and marketing) principle of reciprocity means they will be more inclined to do something positive for you, such as purchase your product, Like your business, or make a recommendation to a friend. All good things. Plus, your customers can provide you with a pretty easy source of ongoing blog posts.

Blog ideas in this category to write about:

  • A case study of how a customer uses your product
  • A testimonial post praising how easy a partner/customer is to work with
  • A testimonial post about why you are a customer of one of  your customers
  • A customer-of-the-week (or month) spotlight on a customer (may want to start with the most loyal/high-value customers)
  • A customer-of-the-week (or month) contest where customers are randomly selected to win something or get an extra discount

4. Turn the Spotlight on Your Products

 You need to approach this category with caution or you’ll turn off your readers. You’ve got the rest of your website for sales copy; your blog needs to be different, with goals of education, engagement, branding, etc. Done well, you will also encourage sales, but make that your secondary goal. Work to find ways to focus on your products with a primary customer focus. How can you help them and provide value to them while examining your products or services.

Blog ideas in this category to write about:

  • Chose two products and provide a comprehensive product comparison, educating customers on the features, benefits, and reasons some may choose one or the other
  • Highlight your top selling products and offer insights into why they sell most
  • Discuss a product or product category offering tips to save customer frustration: common complaints or issues with product and how to avoid them
  • How certain products are best for certain specific uses, niches, or customer types
  • How to take care of a certain product to make it last longer or perform better
  • Create a post highlighting customer feedback about a product

5. Write About the Top Ranking Keywords

One of the benefits to having a blog on your website is SEO, or search engine optimization. If you want your site to come up when people type keywords into search engines like Google and Bing, you need to have good content that’s relevant to those keywords. And that’s where your blog comes in. Don’t know what keywords to focus on? The Google Keyword Tool can help. Enter some words or phrases related to your business (as many as you can think of), or enter the URL of your business website (you can also choose a Category if you see one that works for you) and click the Search button to get a list of the top keywords people are searching for. You can then use this keyword list as your guide to writing blog content that people are actually searching for. You can pick and choose keyword topics as they appeal to you, but you’ll get the most return for your effort if you focus on the keywords with the highest search volume, as long as they are relevant to your business. Keep in mind, the Keyword Tool doesn’t know your business as well as you so not all suggestions will be on the mark.

If you’re an EarthLink Web Hosting customer, you may also want to look back at our earlier posts about how to publish a blog on your website and how to publish your first blog post using WordPress. All EarthLink Web Hosting plans — both our build your own website plan and professional web design hosting plans — come with a WordPress installer to make getting started with a WordPress blog simple.

8 Blogging Tips for Small Business Owners

Start a blog for your business - EarthLink Web Hosting customers get WordPress blogging software.If you have your own business, you’ve undoubtedly heard that you need to have a blog. Not all business do, but if your business has a website, a blog can be a valuable content marketing tool to help you succeed online.

Once you’ve decided that you do want a blog, here are some tips that we hope will help you get started with blogging for your business.

If you’re an EarthLink Web Hosting customer, you may also want to look back at our earlier posts about how to publish a blog on your website and how to publish your first blog post using WordPress.

  1. Just Start Your Blog: Waiting for the perfect moment to start your blog may mean you never start it. Don’t think you need everything planned or that you need to make everything perfect. Don’t worry that you’re not a writer. Don’t think your business may not be interesting enough. Just (can’t remember where I heard this advice) do it. You can always refine and change as you go along.
  2. Make a Blog Plan: Yes, this really does make more sense as #1, but sometimes the need for a plan gets in the way of starting. If you know you can plan first without delaying too long, make the plan first. Your plan doesn’t need to be overly detailed. Decide how often you think you’ll be able to write. Give some thoughts to the types of posts you want to do. Map out some topics to cover. Think about your audience: what different types of customers (or site visitors) do you have and what sorts of things would they find helpful or interesting?
  3. Decide on Goals for Your Blog: This is an important enough part of your planning that I wanted to call it out separately. For your blog to be a success, you have to know what success will look like to you. You need to decide what your goals are. You may want to start blogging to build your company’s brand, to position yourself as an expert, to build customer loyalty, to solve customer issues and divert support calls, to increase site traffic, to build your social media presence, to increase sales or repeat sales. If you’re very good and very lucky, you may end up doing it all, but you should start with a few goals to focus on. And make sure the goals of your blog align with the goals of your business.
  4. Make an Editorial Calendar: Don’t let this scare you if it sounds too much like you need to be a publisher. You just need to map out a few things. Decide how often you think you’re going to write. Most successful blogs post at least 2 -3 times per week, and the more you post the faster you may reach your goals, but don’t worry if you have to start small with once-a-week posts. Decide about the different content categories relating to your business that you want to post about. Consider the different kinds of posts you could do. Will you be interviewing experts? Will you be doing product reviews or writing tutorials? Will you be answering customer questions? Are you going to have guest bloggers, a staff of other bloggers, or tackle it all yourself? You can always grow and change your editorial calendar, but try to develop one early.
  5. Be Yourself & Write with Passion: So you’re not a writer. But you are someone who’s passionate about your business. You are someone with a point of view and a voice. Let all those things shine through. Yes blogging is writing, but don’t think about the writing part too much. It’ll slow you down and lead to writer’s block. Write like you’d talk to a friend if you were trying to solve his problem. Yes, blogging should position you as an expert, but don’t worry about sounding like some abstract idea of an expert. Write like you talk to your friends who you share your interests. If possible, let your authentic voice and point of view shine through without editing it out because you think your blog should sound like something else.
  6. Don’t Only Focus on Your Business: A blog is not a place to write more and more sales copy. Nor is it a place for you to talk about how great your business is. Again and again. Sure, share what’s new and cool in your business. Don’t be afraid of promoting products when they fit into a post on a larger topic. But make sure you broaden your blog’s focus to help position either you or your company as an expert in your field. Tackle what’s new or noteworthy in your industry. Comment on larger trends. Provide unique insights and offer tips. This is one of the ways you bring value to your readers and grow your readership.
  7. Focus on Your Customers (and Potential Customers): This is the flip side to the last point. Don’t focus your blog only in; turn your focus out. Provide value by knowing who your customers (or audience) are and what they are interested in. Even better, know what their problems are and solve them. Help people make smarter decisions, save time, save money, etc. If your blog can do that regularly, you may strike gold.
  8. Don’t Expect Too Much: Yes, I just said “you may strike gold,” but don’t expect to. At least not in the short term. A blog is a medium-to-long-term investment that you need to be patient with. Unrealistic expectations are what’s most likely to make you quit blogging prematurely. First, you need to be patient with yourself. You will make mistakes. You will change your mind. You will miss deadlines. You will have to feel your way through the early going. And you also need to be patient on the audience/reader side. Even if you are on your A-game from Day 1, no one may read your blog on Day 1…or 2 or… Keep in mind that some of what you do early on will be of value to your business later even if nobody reads it when it’s written. It will have some SEO value when the pages are indexed. It will help build your brand when people do get around to reading early posts. And you can always update early posts later to give you more fresh content. So don’t worry…start writing.

If you already have a blog up and running, let us know how it’s going. Tell us what has worked or not worked for your blog.

We’ll be publishing more blog tips in the future. Good luck with your blog.

Publish Your First Blog Post Using WordPress

In our last blog post about building a website with EarthLink Web Hosting, we showed you how easy it was to install WordPress blogging software on your domain website. WordPress blogging software makes it easy to publish your first blog post

Today we’ll walk you through the WordPress interface, to get you familiar with some basic features you’ll need to know about to publish your first blog post.

Logging in to Your WordPress Admin Dashboard

Whenever you publish or edit your blog with WordPress, you need to log in.

One way is to go the EarthLink Control Center and click on the same WordPress Installer icon you used to install WordPress. Then click the link that says Go to WordPress.

To go directly to your WordPress login screen, just enter /wp-admin after the folder you used to install WordPress. If you installed WordPress directly in your root directory, the login URL will look like this: www.YourWebSite.com/wp-admin. If it is installed in a /blog/ directory, go to www.YourWebSite.com/blog/wp-admin.

Either way, log in with the username and password you chose when you installed WordPress (there’s a link if you forgot your password).

After you log in, you’ll be in the main administration area of WordPress called the Dashboard. This is where you’ll work most of the time.

So, where to start…?

Looking at Your Default Blog

Even though you may think you haven’t published your blog yet, there is something there you should probably look at before you do anything else. Click the link at the top of the page that says Site Title (if you did not yet name your site) or the name of your website (if you did name it).

This will take you to the default of your blog, which is based on the default WordPress theme. Themes are the overall look and structure of a blog. You’ll also see some default copy (one short Hello World post), and layout (main page, one Sample Page link, side links). This is the homepage for your blog and your most recent blog posts will appear hear, newest first. Click any blog post title to see that post on its own page.

Click your browser’s back button (or the Site Admin link in the Meta section of links) to return to your Dashboard.

Changing Your Blog Theme & Appearance

Now that you’ve seen what your default blog theme looks like, you may want to change it. If so, click the arrow to the right of the Appearance tab on the left and click the Themes link.

This takes you to the Manage Themes page, which shows you your current theme and lets you manage others if you have them. To find a new theme, click the large Install Themes tab at the top of the page. There are over 1,000 free WordPress blog themes to choose from.

Use the search box at the top if you happened to know a theme you’re looking for. You can also use the checkboxes below to search for blog themes by various categories. But to start browsing top-rated blog themes, I recommend you to click the Featured link at the top. The Newest and Recently Updated categories are also worth exploring.

Each theme is described and shown in thumbnail. Click Preview to get a better look. Details will show you a star rating for the theme. When you find one you want, click the Install link. You’ll need to enter your FTP credentials to complete the installation. Then, back on the Theme page, click Activate under your new theme to activate it. Click back on the Site Title (or your site name) link at the top of the dashboard to see what your new theme looks like.

Your First Blog Post
Make a blog on your website - Create a new blog post with WordPress.
When you are ready to write your first blog post, click the arrow next to Posts at the top of the left-side navigation. Then click on Add New.

From the Add New Posts page, your job is mostly to fill in the blanks. Enter your blog post title on top, then paste your blog copy in if you’ve written it in another program, or start typing. When the Visual tab is active in the right-side of the content box, you’ll see the post as it will appear online. Click the HTML tab to see the code or to add HTML elements like links to your post. Just above the left side of the main content area there are icons you can click to add photos, video, audio or other media.

Here is an overview of the buttons available to you in the HTML mode of the new post window:

b – Inserts HTML tags around selected text to make it bold.
i – Inserts HTML tags to italicize selected text.
b-quote – Formats selected text as block quotes; this indents and separates cited text.
del – Labels selected text as deleted, displayed as strike-through.
link – Inserts a link tag around selected text. You add a URL to specify where the link goes.
ins – Label selected text as inserted into a post; usually this is underlined text.
ul – Creates an unordered list; typically a bulleted list, like the one you are reading right now.
ol – Creates an ordered, or numbered list.
li – Makes selected text a list item; used with the ul or ol tags.
code – Sets selected text in a monospaced font like Courier.
more – Use the Continue reading