Did you know that: small businesses with blogs get 126% more leads? 70% of consumers find out about a company by an article rather than an ad? 77% of Internet users read blog tips? For a small business, blogs are the most effective and least expensive marketing tool that they have at their disposal – but only when done right.
What would your clients think if they visited your office and found it hard to locate and had to navigate a dark, dingy hallway, strewn with boxes and other obstructions to get to see you? Most likely they’d get the impression that you didn’t care about them, be irritated with the entire experience, and leave without a word.
It’s the same with your blog. No amount of good writing will overcome a poorly designed website or blog. Visitors to your website might never read your blog posts if they can’t find your blog in the navigation menu. If they do find your blog, what will they see? Is your font too small, your line space too tight, does your site have a dark, dingy background that is a strain on their eyes? All of this will leave your visitors with the impression that you don’t care about them and will have them bounce off to find a site they can trust.
So here’s the thing, if you want people to read and share your content, make it easy on them. Don’t hide your blog in a sub-menu or call it some other word that people won’t know to click. I recommend calling your blog, Blog and adding the word right up in the top level of your main navigation menu. Be proud. If you bury your blog in a sub-menu or saddle it with a euphemism, you may as well not bother to have one at all. These days people visit blogs to get valuable industry tips from experts they trust. Make it easy on them.
Once you have a nicely designed website, with a blog that’s easy to find, make sure you format your blog archive and single post pages in a way that is inviting to your readers. And, just as you wouldn’t expect people to wander by your office and drop in, you mustn’t assume people will stumble upon your posts and read them.
Instead, every time you publish a new post, send an email with an excerpt of the post to your subscribers, informing them that you have some new content. They’ll start reading and click back to your website to finish up.
As you build your email list and send out your post updates on a regular schedule, you’ll see an ever-growing increase in the numbers of visitors to your site. This validation will motivate you to continue writing which will result in the ultimate reward – more leads to your business.
Now with that said, here are 15 tips for small businesses who want to join the ranks of businesses who get leads from blogging.
15 Tips for a Small Business Blog to Bring in Leads
1. Write posts that are interesting and informative to your target clients. Don’t use your platform to tell visitors how great you are. Instead, provide them with the information you know they’ll find of interest.
2. Write conversationally. If you want to connect with your audience, you’ll have to find your voice as a writer. It’s hard for those of us who are over-educated and schooled in the use of writing jargon and using the passive voice. Finding your voice is also hard for people who worry that they are under-educated and over-compensate for it, either way, formal, stilted prose will not create a following. Instead, reclaiming your authentic voice by writing posts using the same language you’d use with a good friend. And, read it aloud before posting it.
3. Develop a list of post topics. For example, you might find inspiration from the questions clients ask you, pet peeves in your industry, awkward situations your clients get into, lessons you’ve learned the hard way, and better ways to accomplish various tasks, your take on the latest industry trends.
4. If the content box of your blog is over 700 pixels wide, use a left-aligned image. The first paragraph of the post will be to the right of the picture, about 250 to 300 pixels wide. Our eyes can focus more easily on this shorter line of text. By the point where the words wrap under the image and span the whole column, the reader will be engaged to finish reading the post.
5. Post images are a great way to break up walls of text, and you can use them as the focal point of your social media shares. If the design of your blog uses a narrower content box then you can use an image that spans the column, positioned above each post.
6. You may want to eliminate the sidebar with all of its distractions so visitors can focus on reading your blog posts. If you don’t use a sidebar, be sure you provide links to other posts under the blog content or in the footer. If you use a sidebar, show a list of your blog categories with links so people can find information on your other topics. Be judicious and assign each post to a single category so that they don’t show up in multiple places, effectively making your taxonomy useless.
7. Use the “read more” tag in your posts so that the articles on the front page of your blog are not too long. You want people to be able to scan a number of titles and thumbnails of your posts. If each post goes on too long, they won’t keep scrolling and see the others you’ve written.
8. Provide social media icons links at the end of each post to make it easy for people to share your content. The ending of the post is also an excellent place to invite readers to signup to get your posts emailed to them.
9. My favorite online tool for editing is Grammarly, but you can still expect to make some errors, so remember that production is better than perfection.
10. Don’t ever copy another person’s post to your blog, even if you provide a link to their site. Instead, write a review of their article with a short excerpt, backlinked to it. Copying the whole post is a copyright violation.
11. Use headings, sub-headings, and lists to organize your content. Your readers and search engines will thank you.
12. Set your body text at 16 – 18 pixels for easier reading. Break your posts into short paragraphs, with no more than a few lines. And, don’t expect people to read light paragraph text on a dark background.
13. These days, posts of 2,000 -2,600 words, rank highest in Google Searches. Don’t go by a fixed number of words. Instead, write an article detailed enough to fully answer the questions your readers have about the specific topic you’re writing about that’s of interest to them. The number of words that takes is the right length for the post. If a keyword phrase or topic of a post you’re writing doesn’t need a lengthy, detailed explanation, don’t pad it to gain more words. And remember the number of words of a blog may change as the percentage of mobile readers increases. Longer may not always be better.
14. Provide internal links to your other post or page content when mentioning something you have already written. It helps visitors find additional information and search engines like internal linking which shows your expertise. Google also likes you to link to external sites when mentioning content that your readers may want to explore further.
15. Consider adding a “must read” or “latest posts” widget on your sidebar or your site’s footer.
These tips all work together to give your blog the very best chance of attracting your visitors and converting them into clients. But if I had to pick one thing that is the cornerstone of the effectiveness of your blog and without which it would fail, it would be tip number 1. You absolutely need to put your readers front and center, and connect with them by providing content that they love. Do that and I promise you’ll have a growing number of loyal readers, clients and referrals.