Short on time? Here’s the Bottom Line!
This article breaks down some main points expressed in a recent New York Times article on blog marketing for small business and shares three secrets to free blog marketing that can lead to increased sales for your business.
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Julian E. Gude of Local Na8ion discusses revolutionary small business and local Internet marketing methods involving blog marketing
Here are some important secrets that you’ve got to know about if you’re a business who sells a product or service via the web or to people in your local town or city.
An article in The New York Times small business section titled “Blogging’s a Low-Cost, High Return Marketing Tool” gives me a perfect opportunity to share information with you about our three-phase online marketing method that will rocket your local business to the top of free local search results on leading search engines like Google and Yahoo!.
First, here are some of the top points made in the New York Times Article:
- Blogging is an inexpensive way to promote your business and build sales.
- Only 5% of small businesses have blogs today.
- Blogs may not be for all types of small businesses.
- Blogging is time consuming and requires writing skills.
Let’s take the main points from the Times article that I’ve highlighted above and cover each one quickly and then I’ll explain my top three secrets in more detail.
Blogging is an inexpensive way to promote your business and build sales.
We couldn’t agree more. With today’s FREE state-of-the-art blog publishing platforms like WordPress, which as it happens is the same blog platform that The New York Times uses for their own blogs, ANY BUSINESS can get their blog online in as little as a day. Not only is this online publishing software free, the blog hosting ranges from free (examples include out WordPress.com or Blogger.com) to as low as $5 a month for a custom WordPress installation with your own web site address (URL). That’s powerful.
According to a survey by American Express only 5% of small businesses have blogs today.
Talk about opportunity. With only 5% of small businesses taking advantage of blogs you’re almost certain to get ahead of your competition by starting a blog. As the article mentions there are direct sales benefits from blogging and we’d like to point out that there are others as well. Blogging makes you think about your business, often leading to new ideas and clarity about your own product and service offerings. It connects you directly with your customer, giving both you and your customer an unfettered channel of communication. You can use this knowledge to make more sales. Unlike today’s typical small business web site, blogs are easy to update and don’t require you to know any programming to change them. Due to this and other technical factors blogs are optimized for search engines in ways that typical web sites are NOT, which means a direct and positive increase in people visiting your web site that find you through search engines. And as you already know, search engines are the main way people find anything on the web. It’s even easier if you’re only competing with businesses in direct competition in your local town or city (local search), since the search engines only show results from the zip code, town or city the searcher is looking in (this is because the search has already been refined by geography, filtering out untold results from places your local customer doesn’t care about).
Blogs may not be for all types of small businesses.
The Times article makes a point that I partially disagree with which I’ll get to in a minute. But first let’s cover what I agree with.
“…some companies are suited to blogging. The most obvious candidates, said Aliza Sherman Risdahl, author of “The Everything Blogging Book” (Adams Media 2006), are consultants. “They are experts in their fields and are in the business of telling people what to do.
So far so good.
“For other companies, Ms. Risdahl said, it can be challenging to find a legitimate reason for blogging unless the sector served has a steep learning curve (like wine), a lifestyle associated with certain products or service (like camping gear or pet products) or a social mission (like improving the environment or donating a portion of revenues to charity).” said Aliza Sherman Risdahl, author of “The Everything Blogging Book”
Why? Aren’t people in all walks of business experts in their field? I would argue that they are, and further, that due to that expertise, business people already have relevant content in their heads that is valuable to people looking for a particular kind of product or service. You can’t get stuck on the assumption that the only benefit from blogging is from people reading your blog. For a number of reasons, blogs can dramatically increase search engine rankings due to their built in “SEO goodness”. Even if you never gain a big following of people reading your blog, you can still increase the amount of people that find your web site and buy from you if you update a blog even once or twice a month – something well within the capability of a small business.
Blogging is time consuming and requires writing skills.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that blogging can take a huge amount of time. But it doesn’t have to. Most small to medium sized businesses can blog once or twice a month, investing one to four hours in the process and still see big gains in their search engine rankings – even more so if you’re selling your product or service to a local buyer. The Times also implies that blogs require quality writing skills (“requires writing skills”), but the blogosphere has already proven time and time again that fresh relevant content can beat nicely written prose. A small business person with a high school education (like yours truly) can still be expert in their field and share that relevant information with people that are highly interested in it.
Here’s an example. If I’m looking for a local contractor to renovate my house in my town I’m typically concerned about a few main things. Reputation, quality of work, and if the contractor will finish on time and on budget. We’ve all heard the stories haven’t we! So how am I likely to react when I find a local contractor who writes tips on their local blog about how to avoid construction scams, or how to avoid cost and time over runs? Even if the blog is written in a choppy style it’s still going to sit better with an average buyer than a Yellow Pages ad or a static web site with a list of standard services and a smiling mug shot of Bob the Builder.
With these points in mind from the Times article here are the top three secrets I promised you.
One of the biggest benefits to small businesses from blogs has nothing to do with blogging.
I know, it sounds strange but bare with me. Blogs are actually part of a newer sophisticated set of online publishing tools called content management systems (also known by the three letter acronym CMS). Content management systems came along in the second generation of the web and replaced the method of manually creating web content and pages that required knowledge of web programming languages (like HTML). Content management systems freed web site publishers and web masters from tiresome coding and loads of redundant work.
Instead you work with a simple web-based WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor like those found in online email tools to write and publish your content. Anyone can use these tools – no coding or programming experience is needed. All your content is stored in a nice easy-to-search database. Because it’s easier to change your blog, you end up making more frequent changes and search engines LOVE fresh content. Today’s blog content management systems also use state-of-the-art distribution methods like RSS, which utilizes XML to categorize and publish content. You don’t even need to know what RSS and XML are, you just need to know that most regular web sites don’t have them and search engines love them. Here’s the best part of this secret. Blog platforms like WordPress, which are free to use, and can cost as little as $5 a month to host, can be used to power your regular small business web site. You don’t even need to use them as a blog. Instead you take advantage of the fact that they’re free, cheap to host, easy to update, and have built in “SEO goodness” that will increase your search engine rankings. Plus, if you decide you want to have a blog, it will already be hard wired to use for that purpose when you’re ready. Worried that using a blog platform for your main web site will mean that your web site looks like a blog? It need not. Local Na8ion’s main home page and sections like our about page or services page all have the look of a modern business web site, only the blog section really looks like a blog. Local Na8ion’s site design comes from a whopping $50 investment I made by finding a designer named Brian Gardner whom I like that makes great WordPress themes like this one. You can do the same by firing up your search engine of choice.
When I say this is a secret, I really mean it – there are very few people in the world right now who know or think to do this. When only 5% of small businesses even have a blog, how many do you think have put it together that they can use a blog platform as a regular web site?
Blogging DOES NOT require a high level of writing skill.
What blogs do require is you to create and publish relevant content like articles, company news, happenings, how-to articles, tips, video, pictures, or audio podcasts. Yes, some of these (like creating video content) are more involved than others. But the basics, which include writing and adding photos, are both well within reach of the typically resourceful small business. So are the tools needed to create them: The noggin riding on your shoulders, the computer and Internet connection you’re reading this article on, and a digital camera that you or a friend or family member already has. The key here is a theme that came up earlier – relevant content. Great marketing has always been about relevant content and in today’s time-starved world that’s even more true. Relevant content is QUALITY content that both people and search engines value. Most small to medium sized businesses can blog once or twice a month, investing one to four hours in the process and still see big gains in their search engine rankings – even more so if you’re selling your product or service to a local buyer.
Blogs are good for ANY KIND OF BUSINESS.
As long as you want more buyers coming to your web site or store you should employ a blog platform for your main web site and a blog to help you publish fresh content. You can replace expensive and ineffective methods of advertising, fire your web site programmer, and ditch the middle men that stand between you and the people you’d like to call clients by speaking directly with them through your web site and blog. When people walk into your store, call you, or email you they’ll already be acquainted with you and how you can really help them. Just from reading your blog they’ll feel like they know you and that’s a real advantage when it comes to closing the sale.
Some parting tips:
Did you notice at the end of The Times article that two free resources for optimizing search engine traffic and rankings were mentioned? They are Google Analytics and Site Meter – don’t be afraid, be excited that there’s more free stuff to increase your sales.
Go to the blog of one of the featured businesses in The Times article, Crowdvine. The post has some good points that I think you’ll find valuable. Also, be sure to read the web site footer and notice which free, state-of-the-art blog content management system Crowdvine uses to publish their blog. Yes, the very same WordPress that we recommend business owners use to publish their web site and their blog on – the same system The New York Times uses for their own blogs.