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Before we dive in, let me make sure you’re in the right place – what I specialise in is teaching already established businesses how to use business blogging to grow their business. What I don’t teach is how to start a blog and then monetise their blog. There are plenty of great courses and teachers that teach this very well. For many of my clients, starting a business blog is the first step towards launching an online product, course or program.
In this article, we’re going to look at how to start a business blog to support your existing services business, whether you’re a professional services agency, graphic designer, artist, therapist or any number of other types of professional.
Quick reference resources:
How I started blogging for my business
My business began in February 2008, when I offered a full suite of digital marketing services. After several months, I had a handful of retainer clients who I did digital marketing for every month for several years.
I offered a variety of digital marketing help, but mostly this involved researching, writing and publishing articles on clients’ websites (with accompanying images) and then putting together their email newsletters and distributing these on the business’s behalf.
I was a content marketing monkey (except we didn’t call it content marketing back then). Every month followed a similar routine of creating valuable content relevant to the clients and prospects of each business and then distributing this.
In 2009-2010, social media exploded and I created countless Facebook groups, Facebook pages, Twitter channels and LinkedIn profiles. Although I looked after several businesses social media channels, this would became difficult if the client wasn’t producing regular content. Without articles, videos, whitepapers or other pieces of substantial content, and without clear strategy from the client, social media marketing feels like making endless small talk with strangers. Torture (for some).
In January 2010, I decided it was about time I prioritised my own business marketing. I knew that the strength of marketing and branding was consistency and commitment. While the last thing I wanted to do was find time in my busy schedule to write for myself, I knew I needed to commit if I was to bother at all.
So I committed to publishing one original article per month and sending one email newsletter, which consisted of the article (with a greeting at the top and sign off at the bottom). It was pretty simple, but it was all I had the time or inclination for back then. (Digital marketing wasn’t as prevalent then as now, so I looked good too!)
In 2012, two years later, I started running face-to-face courses – first in Sydney, then Melbourne, Brisbane and Byron Bay. Almost every person who came was from my email newsletter list, and many had been receiving my emails from the start – which blew me away then, and still does now.
I know business blogging works – and that it makes email marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimisation, customer service, and sales far easier too. Here’s how to start your business blog.
How to start a blog in 3 easy steps
I started with a Joomla website in 2008. Then I moved to Weebly after getting hacked (a rite of passage of every website owner!). I intended to stay with Weebly for only a few months before upgrading again, but ended up there for 18 months, before finally moving to WordPress in around 2012.
My first WordPress website lasted about two years, and my next (and current one, at BrookMcCarthy.com) has been live since April 2014. I’m due for another upgrade but being knee-deep in clients’ website designs, digital marketing training and business coaching, I’ve got a lot on at the moment!
(Reminds you of the plumber and his leaking toilet?)
How to start your business blog (the nitty gritty)
First, your business blog should not be separate from your business website. There’s no point having awesome, relevant, useful, valuable, focused content on your blog, with lots of activity around it (through sending your email newsletters and promoting your blog posts on social media channels and other sites), if your business website is sitting on its lonesome, with narry a backward glance.
If you don’t yet have a business website, what are you waiting for? My local dog walker has a website. The daggy suburban hairdresser down the road has a website. It’s not a nice-to-have anymore – it’s expected.
There are free platforms such as Weebly, which are perfectly fine (avoid Wix). And there are low-cost, easy-to-start options such as Squarespace. Be careful of getting your site built for a stupidly-low price – if it appears too good to be true, it probably is. Many dodgy website companies sell cheap sites and then make their money back on exorbitant website hosting charges, limited or no customisation (and steep charges for all requests to do so), or through hosting others’ ads on your site.
The best platform, I believe, is WordPress. Since 2012, all website designs my team and I do have been on WordPress. (WordPress.org not WordPress.com).
Starting out, you can buy a WordPress template and install WordPress on your hosting account, with your template. WordPress is the number one content management system worldwide, used by business large and tiny. It’s open-source software, rather than proprietary, which means anyone can download it and install it for their use.
However, don’t mistake free with easy. WordPress is not for the non-techy. And unless you’re planning to become a website designer, there’s little point learning how to create your WordPress website from scratch yourself – this is like learning Greek for your stopover in Athens on your way to England.
Having said that, you absolutely should be able to update your WordPress website yourself (and on any other platform, for that manner). Edits, adding or deleting images, and other small changes should be quick and easy – that’s what being self-employed is all about!
When you outsource too much, you lose the flexibility to be able to make changes quickly and react and respond when things change outside your control (as they do).
1. To get started you need a domain.
This is the URL that you type into your web browser navigation bar when looking for a website (otherwise known as your website address). For example – this website domain name is https://hustleandheart.com.au
I use and recommend Crazy Domains.
There are loads of variations of a website address such as: .com, .com.au, .net, .info, .online, etc. Is one better than the other? Depends who you ask. As a general rule of thumb, .com is the best (and rarest) while .net is a poor cousin that was never quite accepted into the pack.
2. You need to pick a platform (like WordPress.org)
So what’s it going to be? Something free, like Weebly? Or will you bite the bullet and commission a website designer (like me?) to create you a WordPress site? Or are you already on WordPress and simply need your blogging functionality turned on?
3. You need to purchase hosting
Think of your URL or domain as your street address on the internet. Your hosting is your digital real estate that hosts your website files (literally – your web pages are sitting on a computer somewhere in the world).
Typically, you don’t worry about hosting until your website is ready to launch as it’s much more expensive than domain registration and isn’t necessary until your new site/blog is about to go live. We host new website designs-in-progress on a staging server so that clients can review them there before we go live at their website domain.
I recommend Bluehost because I used them myself for a number of years, with no issues, and they are great value for money. Their customer service is also pretty good considering the price.
Having said that, I upgraded my hosting to VentraIP as Bluehost I needed more sophisticated capabilities than Bluehost could handle and I was a ‘troublesome’ client who was always fiddling with my site and wanted phone support – which VentraIP provides.
I tested this on Christmas Eve last year as a client’s website went live, and I called support, answered by a helpful Australian tech support dude. Merry Christmas to me (and my client).
4. Your blog must be mobile-responsive and should probably have SSL
Since 2014, all website designs done by my team have been mobile responsive as standard. Your website needs to be responsive for mobile viewing (more sites are accessed on mobiles than on desktops or laptops these days). This means it looks great and is easy to navigate whatever device people are viewing it on.
And it should probably have an SSL certificate installed, which makes it more credible and trustworthy among your visitors (and is essential if you’re selling anything through your site).
5. You need to security and backups
Think about websites getting hacked similar to graffiti – it’s random, mostly pointless, and happens everywhere. You need to lock down your security – I highly recommend Sucuri, which runs continuous scans on your site, and have used them since the beginning of (internet) time. Your web designer should set this up for you.
You also need automated website backups. We use and recommend Updraft though Backup Buddy is also good. These backups should ideally get saved remotely (not with your website host). My site is set up to backup regularly and the files are saved to my Dropbox automatically. Again, your website designer should set this up for you.
6. Choose your blog categories
In my Blogging for Business course, the first exercise we do together is choosing 5-7 blog categories to help hone our business blogging focus. These blog categories, or topics should be broad enough to be easily understood but not so broad that they are irrelevant to your business and impossible to rank for.
They need to satisfy “searcher intent” – indicating that your blog reader is not just browsing for general information, but actively seeking information with the view to ultimately purchase – hopefully from you!
7. Pick a minimum routine and commit
Most business owners make the mistake of setting their hopes on “best practice” or “optimal routines”. I’ve been to business seminars where the techniques (or “hacks”) shared may well be effective but are totally unrealistic for the busy business owner to implement while getting work done.
Don’t make the mistake of aiming so high that failure is inevitable. Far better to pick a minimum marketing routine, commit to it (that part is important) and then layer on complexity and frequency as you get more competent, comfortable and faster.
So what’s a minimum routine? One blog post published per fortnight; half a day per month dedicated to topic brainstorming, blog writing and editing so that you’re building a stockpile of half-finished and good-to-go blog posts to draw from.
8. Email marketing is key
Want people to come back to your site? And not be one-flirt wonders? Then you need to actively solicit visitors for their email addresses. And then? Give good email.
A web visitor may be interested in your blog. They may read a few of your business blogs and consider your business to be trustworthy and probably good to purchase from. But there are very very few such people who are ready, willing and able to buy, credit card in hand.
Asking my website visitors for their emails is extremely important to my business and marketing strategy, and I like to think I give great email, in just the right quantities.
I create an ‘opt in’ which is smart, specific, and personally useful, valuable and relevant to my ideal client. The web visitors opts in to receive my free gift and I receive their email address, to hopefully continue to cultivate rapport and build a relationship.
The email marketing program I use, recommend and lease to my clients is Reach Mail. It’s simple and intuitive to use, plus has heaps of nifty features like automated email funnels, customisation (hello <firstname>!), social media sharing and
A lot of people start with MailChimp, because it’s free if you have less than 2000 email addresses. It’s good (and you can’t compete with free) but not as intuitive to use as Reach Mail.
That’s it! Too easy. Blogging for business is one of the easiest, most accessible, low-cost ways to build your professional reputation, become an authority on your subject and outrank your competitors on Google. But only, like most things in life, if you stick with it.
Any questions about any of the above? Let me know in the comments below.