I talk about blogging every month with clients. In my website audits, starting a blog is often a recommendation I make, especially for people who want to improve their website’s search engine optimization.
It’s easy for me to suggest — I’ve had a personal blog since the earliest days of blogging (remember Tumblr? How about Xanga or Blogspot?) and I love writing blog posts. But almost every client I mention it to cringes, shrinks away, and says uh yeah… let’s talk about that later.
I think we have some cringey feelings abouti bloggers thanks to so many over-commercialized and poorly-written blog posts that don’t provide value but just sell things or were written for Google bots to scrape, so I get it. But many of my clients cringe with the public nature of it too — if they start a blog, what if no one reads it? Do they have to (god forbid) tell people about it?! That’s okay, and no! But you can make blog posts part of your overall content strategy and they can make your marketing tasks a little easier — more on that later.
Starting a blog takes time, and sometimes money, but having a blog on your website can be a powerful tool to improve your online presence, enhance your reputation, and help your SEO.
What kind of businesses should have a blog?
I could make an argument for almost any small business to have a blog. I work with a local insurance agent who has built up his blog over the years. I didn’t have to sell realtor Paul Oster on a blog as he’s had a successful, highly-read blog for years. I recommend blogging to therapists, coaches, real estate agents, creatives like photographers/copywriters/designers, travel agents, personal trainers, marinas, mountain guides, hotels, and non-profits.
I don’t often recommend blogging to professional services companies who have more business than they can handle, especially if they work locally and already have great local SEO. Think electricians, contractors, or companies like my client Triad/Holmes Associates. And if you don’t have a potential readership base — whether anyone actually reads your posts or not — it may not be worth starting a blog. The SEO benefit alone often isn’t worth it.
The SEO benefits of blogging
It often improves your search engine visibility.
Search engines love seeing you publish new, relevant content. Regularly updating your website with valuable blog posts will make search engines see you more favorably.
You can focus on niche or long-tail keyword opportunities.
Blog posts provide a great opportunity to target more specific, niche, or long-tail keywords/key phrases in your industry. Rather than optimizing a page on your website for “elopement wedding photographer,” you can create blog posts that target FAQs people might be searching for… think things like “how much does an elopement photographer cost” or “how to choose an elopement photographer” or “best national parks for an elopement.”
By helping people find valuable info, you’ll be seen by Google (and searchers) as more reputable, thus likely helping your SEO.
It provides better backlinking opportunities.
Really well-written, informative, unique blog posts have a better chance to attract backlinks from other websites. A good backlink plan can be helpful for SEO, but it can be hard to get someone to link to your website’s Home or About page – there has to be a good reason to link from one website out to a totally different one. If you create a blog post on a unique topic, or a topic that’s already covered but with your unique spin on it for your audience, that’s a great piece of content to send out when asking for backlinks. Make their job easier.
Backlinks are important for SEO since they signal to search engines that your content is so trustworthy and authoritative that other reputable websites link out to it.
Non-SEO benefits of blogging
It lets you showcase your expertise.
Well-written, informative blog posts are a great way to show what you know and give people a feel for who you are beyond just your skills and knowledge within your industry.
Answering FAQs is a great way to show how holistic and comprehensive you/your business are, especially if these are questions that your website user hasn’t even thought to ask yet.
There’s tons of value in guest posting or writing articles for other websites/publications, but even blogging on your own website can help establish you as a thought leader and an expert within your industry, especially to people who are considering hiring/working with you.
It can increase engagement on your website.
Blog posts take a while to read through. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but in general, Google likes to see people stay on your site and enjoy what you’re offering them. So this can help with SEO, but it also helps with general user experience. If someone really enjoyed a blog post you wrote, they may read another one. They may subscribe to your email newsletter. Or they may read through a post and immediately think okay, this is my person! and get in touch with you.
If you’re blogging regularly and have an engaged audience, you can also turn on comments. I don’t see many industry-specific blog posts get comments these days, but you never know! Blog posts are also a great way to get more social media engagement — I often see blog posts shared on social media getting comments on the social media post and creating engagement/interaction with users there.
A regularly-updated, interesting, compelling blog can also encourage users to come back to your site again to check for new blog posts, or subscribe to an email newsletter where you’ll share new blog posts as they’re published.
How to start a blog
If you’re convinced… how do you go about starting a blog?! It’s super easy on WordPress and Squarespace, and clients hire me often to set up their blog. Whatever platform your site is built on, you may need to do some page styling for each post and for the overall blog page. Here are basic instructions for Squarespace and WordPress. Get in touch if you need some help starting your blog.
Beyond literally creating your blog, here’s what else you need to know/do.
Publish at least 3 posts before you share your blog.
Before adding your blog to your site’s main menu or sharing it publicly, I recommend having three published blog posts. Ideally you’d have 5-10, but I know that’s a lot for many small businesses. Three posts give enough content for visitors to read through on a first visit, and hopefully these three posts create desire for people to read more from you.
Make sure you have a way for people to get updates.
Ideally someone LOVES your blog… great! Make sure you give them an easy, clear way to keep in touch — like a form or link to sign up for your email newsletter.
Consistency is best, but don’t let that deter you.
I aim to publish a blog post every month, but I don’t always make that happen. And it’s fine! I recommend most clients aim for one post a month, obviously more often if they can. One post each quarter or every 6 months is still better than none!
Don’t keep it too short, but don’t worry about it being super long.
There’s no strict rule for how long your blog posts should be. Search engines tend to like posts that are longer (1500+ words), but in my opinion, if you’re making a post longer just for search engines, it’s going to detract from the experience real people have on your blog. People won’t read through the whole thing. Keep it as succinct as feels natural, don’t just add fluff, but do aim for at least 5-10 paragraphs, or 400+ words.
Break up the post with images, headings, quotes, etc.
Especially if you’re writing a long post, add a few relevant images in, break up your content logically using H2s and H3s (if needed), and consider using block quotes or pull quotes in the midst of long sections. When using images, be sure you’re setting alt text for each image.
Use AI as a tool, but not as your blog writer.
I love ChatGPT — in fact I asked ChatGPT for some ideas to get my wheels turning for this post. But Google sees AI-generated content as spam, and if/when they can distinguish this, Google is likely to penalize your website for publishing AI blog posts. Plus people can tell — especially savvy, thoughtful people, who you probably want reading your blog.
What I recommend is to a) give ChatGPT a really thorough prompt – be really thoughtful about what you ask it to provide, maybe just have it give you an outline; and b) take what it gives you and deeply edit it – provide your own unique spin, put things in your own words, and make sure your blog post is ACTUALLY helpful, informative, and interesting, not just fluff. Better yet, write the blog post yourself.
Often I find using ChatGPT just slows me down, but it’s a helpful tool on days where I can’t get my brain moving on something. Best yet, work with a copywriter. I write blog posts for clients, as do some of the copywriters listed on my Recommended Partners page.
How to use/promote your blog posts
You’ve done all this work on creating blog posts for your website. Yes, they’ll probably help with SEO… but what else can you or should you do with them?!
Share them on social media.
Blog posts make great social media content. Encourage your followers to read by sharing an enticing excerpt from the post. If the blog post is really good, helpful, or interesting, people might even share the post on their own social media platforms or by word of mouth.
Link to them from email newsletters.
If you send an email newsletter, having a regularly updated blog will make this much easier. You have built in content to share, and it’s even better than sharing links to other news or other folks’ blog posts because it’s driving people to your website.
Ask other website owners for backlinks.
If you see a related post or page on someone else’s website and you think that website’s users would benefit from reading your blog post too, reach out to that website owner and ask if they’d consider linking to your blog post from their post/page. This needs to be done thoughtfully, and I only recommend asking for backlinks if your post would truly add value beyond that website’s existing blog post/page.
Consider guest blogging.
If you have a really good blog on your website, that gives you some credibility and may help you find guest blogging/posting opportunities. You can reach out to other websites in your industry/niche and offer to write a guest post, and you can point to your blog (or specific posts) as examples of what you can create. Guest posting can help you tap into new audiences, and the backlink back to your website can help with SEO.
Send posts to prospects and clients who are asking you these questions.
Often a personally crafted response to a client or lead is best, but if someone wants to dive deep into a topic you’ve written a blog post about, it’s nice to be able to send them a link that has everything they need to know about a certain topic. And the fact that you’ve published this on your site makes the info seem even more legitimate and reputable than just saying it on a call or an email.
To blog or not to blog?
Starting a blog can seem like a big undertaking, but even having a few posts up can make a difference for your business, especially if your website is pretty sparse in terms of content. Setting up a blog is totally doable yourself, but if you have the budget, hiring someone to set it up or write regular posts for you can be a great investment.
The SEO and reputation/trust benefits are cumulative — unlike social media ads that run and then disappear, the work you do improving your website and expanding your content will benefit your business for months and years to come.