For years now, when clients have asked me how they can improve their website or increase traffic to their website or improve their search engine ranking, I’ve often told them they should consider adding a blog to their website. And yet, until now, I haven’t incorporated a blog on my own website – at least not this website. Until now. So what better way to kick off this blog than to talk about blogging.

Why blog? The answer depends on who you are and what your goals for your website are. For me, it represents a nice venue to discuss trends that I see happening on the Internet – things that might benefit clients or might be good resources to refer people to.

For other small businesses, blogging is a great way to add some content to your website. A lot of small businesses have a website built and then it remains static – maybe just a few product pages and a contact page. It’s often not updated very often and is essentially a digital brochure. But as a small business owner, surely there is more going on with your business that your customers and potential customers might find interesting. And if you open up and share what’s going on with your business and products with your customers, you’ll develop a more loyal customer base.

Not convinced that blogging is worth it? Maybe some facts will help convince you. According to the Universal McCann Comparative Study on Social Media Trends April 2008,

Blogging shows no signs of slowing its growing prominence in popular culture and society and is becoming increasingly participatory. As a collective, the blogosphere rivals any mass media in terms of reach, time spent and wider cultural, social and political impact. Blogging today must be embraced whether you are a marketeer, advertising professional or content producer. All companies and brands should consider employing them to create open and honest dialogue. Any blog that spins the truth will be found out. In a world of social media, honesty is the only policy.

Some statistics from the survey:

  • 73% of active online users have read a blog.
  • 45% have started a blog.
  • 36% think more positively of companies that have blogs.

I think people are often stumped about what they might write about in a blog. Here’s a few ideas for some hypothetical small businesses.

A small family business that makes gourmet food products like dressings and sauces
Write about how you’ve developed the recipes for your products. Write about using your products in other recipes. Maybe you use locally grown organic products. Write about the farms where you get those ingredients. Write about the gourmet food industry in general. What trends do you see. What about the health benefits of your products? Open up the blog to comments from readers about product ideas or recipe ideas.

A small LLC that makes consumer products
Write about the benefits of using your products. Recruit satisfied customers to share their experiences with your product. Write about the product development process. What was your inspiration for developing the products? How are you trying to improve them? Talk about your great customer service department or the methods you’ve incorporated to improve quality control. Talk about the industry in general. What trends are shaping the industry?

A local non-profit or charity
Write what the mission and goals of your organization. Spotlight the members and volunteers that make your organization tick. Got a fundraiser or some other event coming up? Talk about it. What’s it about, who’s involved, what’s needed? Then take photos or video at the event. Post those on your blog when its over.

An artist or craftsman
Show off your work of course. But also, talk about what influences your art. What inspires you? Where do you go for inspiration. What are you working on now? What other artists work do you admire? Open up a discussion about art theory or history. Talk about the media that you work in.

Your business may not fall neatly into one of those above, but hopefully these examples give you some ideas of some possibilities. Don’t worry about coming up with enough blog ideas to blog every day. If you can, that’s great. But if you can come up with enough ideas to blog once a week or even a couple of times a month, that’s a great start.

I can almost hear a lot of small businesses out there expressing concern about the cost of setting up a blog. If you’re concerned that a blog will cost you a lot of money then I have some good news for you. Most blogging applications are free or have free versions. Optimally, if you have a website, your blog should be incorporated into your website. WordPress is a free blogging application that is highly customizable so you can probably tweak one of its templates to match the look and feel of your website (this blog is done in WordPress). Yes, this might mean hiring your web developer to do that, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. If you’ve got a tight budget, select a template that comes reasonably close to your website and then just have your web developer add the blog as a menu item on your website. Other blogging tools such as Blogger (owned by Google) are free and easy to set up. Most people who are reasonably comfortable working on their computer can set up a Blogger or WordPress blog on their own without a web developer. So, you don’t have to outlay a bunch of money to incorporate a blog.

The second concern I often hear about incorporating a blog is the time commitment involved. Well, this one is true. Blogging will mean making a time commitment to write on a regular basis and respond to comments. My response to that is, if you want to grow traffic to your website or increase customer loyalty or increase your search engine ranking, you’re going to have to invest some effort. Popular websites, great sales numbers and loyal customers don’t happen by magic. In my book, blogging is one of the simplest, cheapest, easiest ways to improve your online marketing.

Hopefully, I’ve piqued your interest about blogging at least a little. One of the guys who has influenced my ideas on blogging and social media in general is marketer an blogger extraordinaire, David Armano. I’ll encourage anyone who’s interested in improving their blogging or online marketing skills to check out his blog. For starters, check out his recent article about blogging.