A Closer Look at How Blogging Can Help Your Business
Have you been told you need to create a blog for your business?
Have I told you that you need to create a blog for your business? Chances are if you’ve come to one of my Spring Fair seminars I have. Totally guilty there.
3 out of 4 of my Spring Fair seminars have been about how blogging can help card and gift businesses grow. And while the content has changed over the years the reason why I encourage people to blog has not.
Blogs, quite simply, give you another avenue to reach and help your customers. This is turn can help you make more sales and grow your business.
Not bad eh?
Let’s break this down.
What is Blogging?
Blogs are websites, or parts of websites, that are regularly updated. Periodically (daily, weekly, monthly) new blog posts are added which build up into an archive with the most recent posts showing first.
Traditionally blogs are written in a more informal tone than general website copy; giving a more personal feel.
The content of the posts can be about anything you can think of, and with millions of blogs in existence, it’s fair to assume that these days you can probably find a blog on most topics.
It’s this flexibility that makes blogging a marketing channel for any type of business.
Whatever you do, you can build a blog that provides value to your customers.
Let’s think of this in terms of a gift shop
Imagine you run a gift shop selling bathing gifts.
You have a large collection of handmade bath products; bath salts, bath bombs, bubble baths and soaps in a variety of different shapes, sizes and fragrances.
Your website might have these products categorised by type or fragrance but blogs give you extra options.
In a blog article, you may choose half a dozen products across your entire range that are suitable for kids, or grandmothers. You may choose to highlight bath products that men would like or items suitable for sensitive skin.
Rather than trying to please everyone, you can have several blog posts that speak to individual needs. Instead of lumping all bath bomb seekers into one category, you’re getting more specific and thinking about why they want bath bombs.
As we discussed in our introduction to email marketing you have the chance to segment your website visitors and provide a better solution.
Due to the informal nature of blogs, you can also present this solution in a conversational tone, just as a bricks and mortar shop owner may help a customer in a shop.
& this is the beauty of blogs for eCommerce, they give you the opportunity to “soft sell” your products.
Why is Blogging Important?
So this is why blogging is important for a card and gift business (any business really), it gives you another way to sell to your customers.
Instead of being obviously salesy as as a product description or sales page may be, you can instead take the customer service role, guiding potential customers to products that will suit their needs.
Blogging also has a few other superpowers that can boost other areas of your marketing strategy.
As we discuss in our introduction to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), blogging can also play a vital role in a businesses SEO strategy. For every blog post you create you have the chance to target a new keyword phrase, expanding your ability to reach more people online.
The new content created with each new blog posts also signals to search engines like Google and Bing that your website is updated, relevant and worth sending traffic.
Alongside the SEO goodness blogs deliver, they also offer amazing potential for recycling your marketing efforts.
Every greetings card and giftware business I ever met has a never ending list of jobs they need to do or products they want to create, which makes any opportunity to save a little time and effort a godsend.
With every blog post a business creates they have materials that can be recycled into updates and images for social media, content for email broadcasts, a potential landing page for advertisements and a writing sample for journalists.
Types of Blogs
There’s a lot of blogs online, it’s hard to know exactly how many but most estimates put the figure north of 150 million.
& these blogs come in many shapes and sizes:
Blog posts can be written articles, this is traditionally how blogs first started as a type of online diary.
With the growth of Podcasts, blog posts can now be a series of audio posts.
More commonly known as vlogs, blogs with primarily video content are on the rise as video sharing platforms like YouTube become more popular and videos become easier to produce.
Blogs can be a stream, gallery or slideshow of images. This is particularly good for design-led businesses like those in the greetings card and giftware industry where the look of an item is a major factor.
Blog posts can also be a curation of links to other blogs or websites.
People consume content in a variety of different ways and so blogs can be any one or a combination of many type of media.
For bloggers it’s all about finding what works best for you and your customers.
What Does Blogging Need?
The requirements of blogging are pretty straightforward, you really only need a blogging platform; this is a content management system (CMS) that will manage and host your blog content.
There are lots and lots of blogging platforms out there but they generally fall into 2 categories:
A hosted blog platform is something like Blogger, Medium or Tumblr. The website platform is created, owned and managed by a third party. You create an account and login to add blog posts.
A self hosted blog is one that you manage yourself. It will usually be built into or added onto your website.
Card & Gift Network’s blog is self hosted using a CMS called WordPress.
The first decision you have to make when you start blogging is whether you will go hosted or self-hosted. When I first started in 2009 I started on a hosted platform, Blogger, as I had no blogging experience at all and it seemed like the best choice. As I learned more, I moved to a self-hosted WordPress set up in 2014.
If I was starting today I would always choose a self-hosted set up and this is what I recommend for most businesses.
Self hosted sites are a a bit more work and do have expenses (especially if you don’t have any website at all) but you control and own everything you create; your never at the whims of an outside company that could change things, not maintain their platform or even shut down without much consideration to how it effects you.
If there contained within your website a self-hosted blog will also boost how search engines review your website. Instead of sending traffic to a third party website you will be keeping your blog readers within your own website.
Blogging and the Card and Gift Industry
In my research into how the card and gift industry promotes online, I found that 243 of 642 businesses reviewed had a blog showing on their website.
This isn’t a high figure at all and when attempting to understand why I can think of 2 possible explanations:
- Businesses don’t see what value a blog would bring and don’t think it’s worth their time.
- The companies reviewed know blogging is valuable but they lack the time, knowledge or resources to get started.
Without further research I can’t yet tell which scenario is most accurate. I’ve been blogging since 2009 so I’m incredibly biased, but I’m inclined to sway towards the second option.
My own experience has seen this blogging on this website generate tonnes of traffic, thousands of social media followers, requests to speak at top industry events and write articles for industry magazines.
Taking all that into account I think blogging can provide tremendous value when done right, which I will be sharing in future articles and training.
My Experience Blogging
As I’ve mentioned, I first started blogging in 2009 and I knew nothing at all when I started. Since then I’ve read countless articles, undertook training and learned lots through experience and making tonnes of mistakes.
I believe that blogging offers huge potential to build businesses but there’s a lot of intricacies to blogging and it’s not all positive. Blogging takes time, knowledge and occasionally requires money to be spent.
As with all marketing practices there has to be business goals linked to your blogging and you have to review and measure how your blog performs.
Who is Blogging For?
Taking into account the pros and cons, blogging isn’t for everyone. Blogging like much of online marketing requires consistency, so it’s only really for people who are going to put time aside every week to do it well.
If you can’t commit a reasonable amount of effort to blogging it’s likely that it won’t pay off for you, or it will take years to bear fruit. In those circumstances you may find your effort is better placed elsewhere.
Blogging How it Works
As with our other introduction articles, I’m going to leave the mechanics of blogging to future articles and training. If however, you want a vague (very vague) idea of what’s involved here’s how blogging roughly works.
- Install/set up the blog on your website or 3rd party site:
- Set up theme/design of the blog
- Create a plan for the content you will create
- Write content
- Optimise content
- Publish content
- Share content
- Review and refine the content creation process
If you were unsure whether blogging was any use to your business, I hope this introduction has given you a firmer idea of what’s involved.