Creating and maintaining a blog for your business is a great way to gain exposure, find potential clients and interact with your current customers. Starting a blog is relatively easy. Building a successful blog requires a little more work.
Over at The Global Small Business Blog (full disclosure: I created the blog in 2004 and still manage it: http://www.globalsmallbusinessblog.com), we receive between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors a month from all over the world. In the next couple of weeks we will approach more than half a million page views. Our email inbox is flooded with messages from folks asking to write a guest post, to sell something, to inquire about advertising or to pitch their client’s latest launch. Our goal is to deliver engaging and relevant information to entrepreneurs and small businesses interested in going global. Considering our market is quite niche-oriented, you might be asking, what’s the secret to your success? It boils down to ten simple rules. They may not be all that new or different, but they have worked for us. We hope they will for you too as you use your blog to grow your import/export business.
1. We know our audience. It seems simple, and obvious, but if you want your blog to be a go-to source for useful information, you need to understand your audience. Since inception, our audience has been, and continues to be, entrepreneurs and small business owners who are interested in going global. That can be anything from taking a business global, to understanding globalization, to employing people who want to start a global career. “Global,” “entrepreneurs” and “small businesses” are the three key words and phrases that drive our posts. It’s the main stage and we never lose sight of that nor do we vary from it.
2. We love what we do and it shows. If you’re not excited about your content, no one else will be either. At the Global Small Business Blog we love to share our knowledge and help others grow their businesses. Our core theme is to deliver engaging and relevant information to entrepreneurs and small businesses interested in going global. We never let up and continue to provide fresh, engaging and informative content for our readers. We’re dedicated to our readers and understand that in order to gain their loyalty, we’ve got to continually provide relevant content to them, which leads to point No. 3.
3. We are consistent about blogging. If you don’t provide new content on a regular basis, you’re readers will stop visiting your site. Come rain, shine, earthquake or snowstorm, we blog every day except for Sunday. Our readers have come to expect that schedule and we will not let them down. We typically publish our posts before 9 a.m. Central Daylight Time (our time). Content is rarely published later than that unless it’s breaking news. If that occurs, we post twice in one day.
4. We provide content that is useful to our audience. Readers are busy and have short attention spans when it comes to the World Wide Web. If you don’t provide content that is relevant and beneficial, readers will stop visiting your blog. Posting new content every day is great, but providing an actionable takeaway is what will keep people coming back day after day. One day we may post a YouTube video, the next, our own how-to content that relates to our core theme of entrepreneurs and small businesses interested in going global.
5. We use different methods to tell our story. Shake things up to keep your blog interesting for your readers. Not every day is a good day for posting on a blog. Ideas may be plentiful, but our time might be scarce. On some days we report everything a reader wants to know about a particular topic. Other days we do a short lead and go right to an outside link. The way we vary our posts is in line with how our readers process information. Sometimes they are in a hurry, other times they slow down and want to read every last word. Once in a while they ask for our opinion in a comment. We vary the nature and scope of information we provide and adjust it according to the times and what’s relevant to our reader’s.
6. We comment when readers comment but not always. A blog’s commenting function is a great way to engage with your readers. You don’t, however, need to reply to every single comment. We do our best to comment when readers comment but if it’s not required, we won’t. We don’t want our readers to think we just parachute in and say whatever they want to hear. We strive to be thoughtful with our responses, lifting the subject matter to a higher level so we all learn more in the process.
7. We link whenever we can inform our readers better. You don’t have to create all the content for your blog on your own. Use the web to find valuable content from outside sources. We link to other resources constantly. For example, say we post an article about “global sourcing” but perhaps our reader doesn’t know what “global sourcing” means. We link to a definition of global sourcing to ensure our readers are kept informed and constantly learning.
8. We feature cool graphics, illustrations and photos. A blog with lots of words and no art isn’t an inviting page for visitors. Whether it’s our own photography or in the public domain, graphics power our posts. In fact, we never post without an accompanying graphic. Sometimes, a strong graphic can tell the story without any content (e.g., video or a photo of an American flag on the Fourth of July). Since we can’t imagine reading and enjoying content on the Web without an accompanying picture or chart, we make it a point to do the same on our blog.
9. We attach labels to our blog posts to help identify our content to search engines. Just because you create a blog with relevant content doesn’t mean it will be easy for readers to find it. Search engines like Google have an algorithm that decide which websites are listed first in a search result. In order to be listed first in a Google search, you need to have the key words in your site so Google’s algorithm can find them. For example, if we are writing about Steve Jobs and how he helped change our world as we know it with the invention of the iPhone, we are sure to identify the post with tag words of: Steve Jobs, Apple, change the world and iPhone. When people search “Steve Jobs, change the world,” for example, that greatly increases the chances of our post being listed first in a Google search for those terms.
10. We toot our global marketing horn, loud and clear. We do not believe in the theory of “if you build it, they will come.” Rather, we believe in hard work (adhering to all the points mentioned above) along with marketing our blog everywhere we go. That means if we write a guest post column for a major newspaper, our signature or byline includes a link to our blog. If we write an article for a hot online property, a link to our blog is included. If we conduct a webinar, we mention our blog at the beginning of our talk and at the end. Then, we take those outlets and market them through our social media and networking platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest. If we have 5,000 followers on one platform and 2,000 on another and all of those followers pass along our work to their constituency base and they in turn, pass it along to theirs, we have the potential to reach more than a million people in a very short period of time. Now that’s a tip worth sharing with the world!