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9 Critical Tasks Before Launching Your Small Business Blog

launch-thumb.jpgIn this post Mark Hayward shares some ‘must do’ tips for small business owners who are getting ready to launch a blog.

Are you getting ready to launch your baby? You know, your small business blog.

Blogging for small business is certainly not revolutionary anymore, and it has been well documented that it can improve your search engine rankings, increase your brand awareness, and ultimately bring you more customers.

However, after reading this CNN article, it occurred to me that many small business owners are still struggling with the basics. (Note: If you’re an expert or ProBlogger this post might be a little too introductory for your skill level. However, please feel free to add additional critical tasks in the comments.)

When it comes to blogging, sometimes getting your small business blog up and running can seem more of an actual pain than drafting the content itself. But, if you are at the pre-launch or just launched stage, doing things correctly now can save you from lost blog traffic, a decrease return on investment, and a world of other potential problems that might arise later.

1. Define your customer. Yes, before doing anything technical at all, make sure you know exactly who your ideal customer is:

  • Where do your customers come from?
  • What type of content should you create that helps them?
  • Where do your customers hang out online?

2. Determine if you’re going to create a blog within your business website or on its own. This is a serious decision and you need to give quite a bit of thought to determining if you want to setup your small business blog as mysmallbusinesswebsite.com/blog or if you want to keep it separate with something like mysmallbusinessblog.com.

When I started my small business three years ago, I made the conscious decision to keep my small business blog separate from my business website. I did this primarily because I was going to eventually turn the blog into a second business where I could sell advertising space to other local businesses.

With respect to your small business, you need to ask yourself some key questions.

  • What are the benefits to you if you create a small business blog that’s integrated into your website?
  • Could you get a blog that’s separate from your website to rank quicker in search engines?
  • Do you plan to launch a secondary business off of your blog?

3. Keyword research for domain name. If you are going to setup your small business blog separate from your business website then by all means you should do some keyword research.

As a simple example, if I owned a bike shop in Chicago I might check with Google Keywords for the generic term ‘bikes.’ Just to get an idea of what people are searching for.

broadsearch-thumb.jpg

And if I wanted to run a more targeted search that includes the additional keyword ‘Chicago’ I can run a phrase based query with ‘bikes Chicago.’

targetedsearch-thumb.jpg

Obviously, the search volume is less, but you can get an idea of what words you should include in your domain name. Keep in mind, if you are going to be using a lot of video, or incorporating a video channel, you might also want to use a resource like the YouTube Keyword Tool.

Above all, remember that you want to secure a domain name:

  • that is brandable and has easy recognition with respect to your small business
  • has the potential to rank well in various search engines
  • sets you apart from the competition and is as short in characters as possible

(Note: as an added bonus, your keyword research can also help you to come up with a list of blog post ideas.)

4. Choose a blogging platform and select a design or theme. Everyone has their favorite blogging platform. I myself am a fan of WordPress for both my small business website and my blog, but you might also want to look at some of the other options that are out there such as Blogger, Movable Type, and Joomla.

According to Matt Cutts (of Google), in his presentation ‘Straight from Google: What You Need to Know,’ WordPress has done a great majority of the SEO work for you (see video below), but have a look around at the other options and make a choice based on your preferences.

Once you’ve chosen a platform, the topics of design and SEO are way beyond the scope of this post, but for further reading see some terrific ProBlogger resources here, here, and here.

5. Register your social media accounts. If you haven’t done this already, before you have launched your small business blog is the time to get this task done. Places you might want to start are:

6. Measuring ROI, listening, and your blog’s feed. Many would be small business bloggers are extremely concerned about the time they will have to dedicate to producing content while still gaining a valuable return on their investment. After I launched my small business blog, one of the best ways I discovered to discern how my customers were finding me was to just ask them how they heard about my venture.

Free online tools like Google Analytics and Google Alerts provide you with additional knowledge that you can use to learn and track how your customers are finding you online.

Additionally, your small business blog’s RSS feed provides a convenient way for your customers to receive updates when you post new content. And if you offer an email feed option you can start the beginnings of a nice email list.

7. Draft at least ten posts in advance and have them loaded with preset publish dates. Whether you intend to post once a month, once a week, or once a day, having a little bit of a cushion built up before you launch can make your introduction to blogging much easier. As we all know, emergencies pop up all the time as a small business owner and having a stable of posts ready to go can ease the pressure a bit. If you’re struggling with what you’ll write about, here are 31 blog post ideas to help you.

8. Spend some time in forums. Online niche forums are like any real world social situation. You can’t just show up on the day you launch your small business blog with a huge announcement and expect to be taken seriously.

Building trust within forum communities is time consuming and is typically determined by how long you’ve been a member and the value you’ve provided. Spend at least a couple of weeks (or better a couple of months!) helping, engaging, and supporting fellow members.

9. Reach out to key influencers. All small business niches have industry leaders who are online and could potentially assist you with getting the word out regarding your blog. However, if you are going to seek the help of influencers, getting to know them has to be done well before launch day. I learned this lesson the hard way, so please learn from my mistakes.

10. Draft a web optimized press release. When you are ready to launch, you might want to draft a web optimized press release and let the world know your small business is now online. You can use a service like Pitch Engine to submit your release to and you might even get lucky enough to time your launch with some free publicity opportunities that you find through Help a Reporter Out. In order to help you with this final task, here is a great presentation by Brian Solis.

How to Write Social Media Press Releases – By Brian Solis

As a final thought, I always like to tell people that the first week of blogging is euphoric and the third month brings frustration, so remember to be consistent in your efforts. Now go launch your small business blog with a bang!

Want more ‘must do’ small business social media tasks from Mark Hayward? Then subscribe to his RSS or email feed and follow him on Twitter @mark_hayward.

image source: p_c_w

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. This post is very interesting, I never thought of this before building a website and launch it. Many people like me who are stuck in a post that is less enthused.

  2. Some awesome ideas mark,

    Im heading out to implement some right now! Thanks for the advice

  3. Ady says:

    My daughter wanted to start a blog and was asking for advice. Working as a researcher for a company, I gave her the pitch on how complex a starting a blog can be. She then said “I thought blogs were easy to start and set-up? With all the rules, wouldn’t the fun be taken out of blogging for beginners?” She believed the value of it after seeing this post.

  4. suvie says:

    Great post, I often feel like many of the tasks
    I do online are like grunt work, and like you I agree
    it was not the way I wanted to run an online business,
    I wanted everything more easy and automated.
    The 2 out 3 rule sounds good to me, I will be implementing that now,
    I was never sure what ratio to use for mailings.
    I have tried, failed and gave up, but now I am back to try again,
    with a new passion so hopefully I can find the way that works for me this time,
    thanks for this post, it really helped me