Not too long ago, everyone was talking about how much your business needs a website. “You don’t have a website?” people (often times potential customers) would exclaim, incredulously. To this, your only response would be to bow your head and shake it apologetically from side to side. After this happened a few times, you likely wised up and had a site made for your business.
But you’re not done! Now, everyone seems to be talking about how it’s not enough to just have a website, you need a blog, too. As a small business owner, this may cause some eye rolling, and perhaps a spike in your blood pressure, as your list of things you need to do to grow your business gets one item longer, a phenomenon that never seems to end.
Before you dismiss this notion, though, and keep on in the same direction, you should stop and consider why it’s so important to have a blog. They actually offer a lot of value to your small business, and because they are run through your website, the extra cost is often minimal (yes, you can feel good about this!).
Let’s take a look at some reasons why your small retail business needs a blog.
Build your SEO punch
One of these is the way Google indexes pages. The more information about your company you can provide the search engine, the better chance you’ll have of showing up in rankings.
This is where a blog comes in huge. You control the content, so you can post as much as you want. Just make sure it’s relevant to your business and your brand. This way, when you start optimizing content for search engines, Google will have a clearer understanding of where it should put you in their rankings.
Of course, it’s not as simple as just writing blog posts and immediately ranking. But it’s a start, and if you don’t have a blog, you’re needlessly denying your company a key way of driving traffic (and sales leads) to your site.
Free (or cheap) advertising
This is of particular interest to small businesses who are trying to keep expenses reasonable. Most website platforms include the opportunity to build a blog in their web hosting, so the only resources you’ll need to dedicate to it are time to create content and post. For some of you, it may make more sense to outsource this content, but even so, getting someone to write blog posts for you isn’t going to be a huge expense.
This works as advertising in a few different ways. The simplest reason is that it gives you the chance to go further into depth about certain products for customers who want it. On your product description pages, you’re trying to get as much information across as concisely as possible, since you only have a short time to convince people to buy.
But to complement this, you can write up a detailed blog post and then link it to these pages so that people who are interested in learning more can do so. This is an area where video and images work great.
SEO also doubles as advertising. By optimizing some pages for keywords you know your target market searches for, you’re giving yourself some extra exposure and also positioning yourself as a known entity within that market. This is huge for bringing in new customers as it helps draw them to you from new angles.
With blog posts, you also open yourself up to the whole blogosphere. You can partner with other bloggers and influencers to either feature your content, promote it, link to it, etc. It really opens up a whole new path for reaching potential customers.
Gives you access to other parts of the sales funnel
One of the things people don’t often consider about a blog is that it helps to establish you as a resource or an authority in a particular niche or area. This helps expose you to a whole new part of your target market: the people who are still seeking information.
If you just have a website, the type of content you have will be largely directed towards people who have already made the decision to buy what you are selling and are now looking for the best option. They’ve come to your site for any number of reasons, and the decision they will make when they get there is whether or not to make a purchase.
However, if you spend some time to build up your blog, then you are opening yourself up to people who aren’t at that point yet but might be someday.
To give you an example, imagine that you run a business that sells climbing equipment. On your site, you have pages dedicated to the products you sell and you offer information about how and where to buy.
Now if you have a blog, and you’ve optimized some of the posts so that they rank well for certain keywords, say, for example, “How to become a mountain climber,” then you’re exposing yourself to people who are interested in the sport, but who aren’t at the point where they want to buy something.
So, if your content is great and these people learn what they want from you, expect that they’ll think of you when they finally do make the decision to get started with mountain climbing and to buy the gear they need to do so. This is multi-level marketing at its finest, and it’s something you won’t be able to do (at least online) unless you have a blog.
Build your brand
Having a strong brand in today’s marketplace is essential. With so much competition out there, it’s nearly impossible to compete solely on price. You need something else that will distinguish you from the crowd and make people want to buy from you as well as return when they want something else. Your brand is the way to do this.
To build a strong brand, you’ll need a multi-faceted approach. Social media is big, but so is your blog. This is your platform, a place where no one can tell you what you can and can’t post, and as such, this is your chance to let people know what you are all about.
To return to the above example about a climbing gear business, let’s say you want to build your brand around staying fit and protecting the environment, something very important to anyone involved in outdoor sports. Well, your blog is your chance to be a resource to people for these very things. You produce content that helps people live this type of lifestyle, and over time, they will begin to associate you with these traits.
This type of recognition is priceless to a company.
Consider bringing in some guest posters and other influencers who are well-known on these topics so that you can continue to bring your readers valuable information.
Again, building a brand isn’t as simple as starting a blog and posting. You need to have a well-thought-out strategy, as well as the dedication to carry it out. But in today’s digital world, it’s going to be pretty hard to do this if you don’t make use of one of your most important resources: your company blog.
Interact and engage with your audience
Engagement is a big buzzword in the marketing world. But what does it really mean? There are varying definitions, but it all comes down to how connected people feel to your company.
Is there any sort of bond between company and customer? Is there a sense of community? Do you regularly have conversations with people who buy your products? Answering these questions will give you an idea as to how engaged your audience is.
But no matter if you’re trying to maintain current levels of engagement or draw people in, your blog is going to be a great way to do this.
Blogs have a great feature in that they allow comments. A great way to test if your audience is engaged is to pose a thoughtful question after a blog post that encourages people to comment. Getting crickets in response is a good way to know people are disconnected.
But if this happens, don’t get discouraged, as this is still valuable feedback. Try your best to find out why this happened, and then adjust your content strategy moving forward. If what you are producing is relevant enough to people, then you should get at least some response.
The other way your blog can help you increase engagement is by helping you grow your email list. If you can get people to sign up for your blog or newsletter, you are gaining valuable access into their lives. You can use this to directly solicit feedback and send out promotions in addition to normal blog posts. Then, you can test how well these emails were received, giving you a good idea as to how well your audience is connected to you.
A blog is a valuable yet inexpensive tool your small retail business could and should be using. The benefits it provides vastly outweigh any negatives, which are basically only that you’ll need to dedicate a few resources to making it run smoothly.
If your small business doesn’t have a blog, consider making some changes right away so that you can take advantage of all the support it can provide to your business.
About the writer: Jock Purtle acquired his first company at age 19, and since then he has acquired several more. One of these, Digital Exits, is an industry leader on valuations of high growth internet companies, website valuations and website brokerage. You can find some of his work featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur and CNBC.
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