As a small business owner you may think to yourself, “Who has the time to blog – and what the heck would I blog about anyway?” Those are two great questions with simple answers. Blogging doesn’t have to be time consuming, and you have more to blog about than you can imagine– you own and run a business, and there’s a ton of awesome information you have right at your fingertips. Blogging is big business for small businesses so let’s dive in and see how it can help yours.

Be Authentic and Your Fans Will Follow

Janine Popick, CEO of VerticalResponse, shares her experience about how she started blogging, “ I started the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog back in 2005 after I attended a Blogging for Business conference and got inspired. I was a little nervous because I really wanted to ‘write like I speak.’ I thought I had to be super professional in how I wrote. One of my first posts was titled How Often Should You Email? I wrote it the way I would give advice to a friend with a small business and it just clicked!” Popick goes on to say, “It actually felt liberating to be myself and not try to be some stodgy, tech-speak, brochure-like writer. After that, all of our marketing materials started to relax a bit, from our website to the datasheets we produce and everything in between.”

When you embrace who you are and provide a unique point of view in an authentic way, you can set yourself apart from the masses and begin to develop a loyal fan base.

Add Value/Provide Utility

When we attended New Media Expo this year, we had the opportunity to hear Jay Baer, a social media strategist, author, speaker and President of Convince and Convert. Baer presented Youtility: How Smart Companies Are Helping, Not Selling.

Baer explained that “Youtility” is the concept of providing valuable content for your readers and customers, to the point where your company becomes valued, trusted and synonymous with being useful. So when the time comes to make a purchase, your company is the obvious choice.

You can discover your customers’ needs in a number of ways, one of which includes discovering what your current or potential customers may be searching for online. Use a keyword search tool, such as Google Keyword Tool, and uncover terms or words that people most commonly search for that are related to your business. This will help you determine what people need, what challenges they may be facing, or what they’re looking for specifically.

Also, observe conversations happening on social media, like Twitter, Facebook and Quora. Follow hashtags related to your business or industry on Twitter and see what sort of questions people are asking. What kind of content gets shared, commented on and retweeted? Quora is also super-useful since it’s a question-and-answer social media site and community, entirely made up of questions people have on a variety of topics. Search and follow topics that relate to your business, and discover what people are asking so you can create content around those topics on your blog.

Your blog can become the go-to resource for your industry, the products you sell, or even your community if your business is more service-based. Providing tips, how-tos and practical advice has never been easier or more useful.

Drive Traffic

Businesses of any size need to drive traffic to their website and can use a variety of tactics, but one of the best and least expensive ways is using killer content like blog posts. Popick shares, “Content is a huge driver for acquiring and keeping customers these days, especially in the B2B world. The ability to be a thought leader, to write or shoot a video and get it out to the shareable world is all businesses are thinking about. The more content you publish, the more you help your customers, the more the search engines will pick you up and, in the end, hopefully the more business you’ll get.”

When you create valuable content on your blog, it’s more likely to be shared by your readers with their social networks, opening the door to lots of new prospects and customers.

You can monitor visits to your site and where they are coming from by using a free tool like Google Analytics, which provides a wealth of information and can help you figure out what content resonates most with your visitors.

Get Found By People and Search Engines

You don’t set out to create content for search engines, of course. You create content that helps, answers questions and provides utility as we’ve said. Remember though, you can create all the amazing content you want, but if people and search engines can’t find it, you may have a ghost town on your blog.

Use relevant keywords within your blog posts, but keep your focus on the message, because the more people find the message useful, the more people will visit the page and that’s golden to the search engines.

There you have four ways that blogging can help your business. Ready to take the plunge?

Kim Stiglitz is the Content Marketing Director at VerticalResponse. VerticalResponse provides a full suite of self-service marketing solutions for small businesses including email marketing, social media, online event marketing, postcard marketing and online surveys.

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