Close
Close

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.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Check out the incredible features and the selection of designs. It's that simple - start using Genesis now!

Comments

  1. bbrian017 says:

    I know this is mostly for a small business blog but if a blogger was to follow the same tips and build a brand with their name they would probably get similar results for success.

    These are amazing tips for any business when it comes to a blog or website. Nice write up Mark very well done.

  2. I have a Google Profile for myself, but I hadn’t considered creating one for my business. Great idea!

  3. All great advice. I would add a couple more:

    1. Make the blog design compliment your web design.

    2. Tell your existing customers before you launch and when you launch. Perhaps even hold a contest or something for them to celebrate the launch.

    Andrew

  4. i really enjoyed this article. Even though i consider myself more advanced i love to have memory refreshers every once in a while. Thanks.

  5. Rob Cubbon says:

    There’s some great advice here. Particularly, #7 “Draft at least ten posts in advance and have them loaded with preset publish dates” – that’s not bad advice for every blogger, let alone a new one.

    Certainly, market research, keyword research and having contributed to your niche’s forums are important.

    Not so sure about #2 “Determine if you’re going to create a blog within your business website or on its own”. WordPress blogs can be moved from one place to another although it is a hassle and can create confusion.

    There’s a lot of sense in just getting going as once you have you can be sure of one thing: you’ll wonder why you didn’t start earlier!

    Great post, thanks.

  6. Mike Stenger says:

    I think having a clear, recognizable brand is very important. Granted, a few things you shared in the beginning of the post will allow you to better do that.

  7. Josh Garcia says:

    Hey Mark,

    You really delivered in this post. There is so much great information here. It’s like that picture of the rocket…You were shouting for the stars!

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  8. Sid says:

    New bloggers (me too) usually focus on the first 5 points listed above. They really dont have a marketing strategy and its the main reason for their failures. :(

    Thnaks Mark

    i will surely focus on these .

    God hail Problogger .. :)

  9. Puneesh says:

    I will add another one here: Be on a lookout for partners that compliment your business and are relatively better (or much better) placed than you in similar profile. Develop early partnerships and leverage each others strengths to make it a win win alliance for both

  10. Techno-Pulse says:

    I think WordPress is good but Blogger is better :) Why? Cause its free & with little patience it can be optimized better than a WP blog. Approx 6 months back, I started with a custom domain at ‘Blogger’ with a plan, like everyone else, that I would shift to WP. But I’ve changed my mind as my blog is now PR2, with a good Alexa rank & a Google AdSense earning! What else can I ask for from a free service?

  11. Karen Hutton says:

    Great post, Mark, Well Done. Lots of useful AND useable info here.

    Cheers

    Karen

  12. Most of the small businesses these days are willing to have a presence online, and i get around 6 offers every week, whats disappointing is that they don’t know heads and tails about what a blog is. This is a wonderful post Darren.

    http://www.dumblittleblogger.com

  13. In regard to keyword research. This is one is SO important. It took me a long to time wrap my head around it and I made lots of mistakes that cost me hours and hours of wasted time.

    I would make this priority #1. If you don’t understand the concept of keywords, then you won’t do well on the Internet. If you are unclear about how it works, then keep reading and searching for topics until you get it. Believe me you won’t be sorry. Thanks

    -Joe

  14. Mark_Hayward says:

    @bbrian – thank you! Hope you found some value in the post.

    @mike – absolutely. Some small business owners are still struggling with how to develop their brand online. Hopefully this will give them a bit of a start.

  15. You state

    ” sets you apart from the competition and is as short in characters as possible ”

    Do you feel though if you set yourself apart from the competition that the domain name length starts to fade away? I state this just because I have seen some names on technorati.com that one might say is quite long, but they seem to be doing quite well. I feel branding yourself and your website in general over time tends to be quite a great approach as well.

  16. Nunzio Bruno says:

    Wow, I can honestly missed a few steps when I launched my blog. It’s never too late to go back and a few things though. I second what @Josh Garcia said..this one was chuck full o’goodness. I really like the press release portion as well so kudos and thanks.

  17. The “YouTube” keyword tool is something I’ve never seen before!. I’ll be using that!…

    Thanks

    :]

  18. Moon Hussain says:

    I made it through the video! Wheee! It’s nice to hear it coming from someone who knows what seo and optimization is all about.

  19. Courtney says:

    Excellent tips, also one thing to consider before finalizing your business name is the order of these steps. It is a good idea for people to consider checking out the availability of the proposed business name on social media sites prior to locking up your URL & filing your business name to make sure you can deliver a cohesive brand across the different platforms.

  20. Meredith says:

    Thanks – this is very helpful… I’m gearing up to launch a blog related to my business, but not associated with my company’s webpage.

    I can see that I’ve got homework now – I like the press release idea – I’ll be researching that a bit. And I need to figure out where my target audience hangs out on the google-tubes… any suggestions on how to do this?

    Thanks
    Meredith

  21. Allan says:

    Nice!!

  22. Mark,

    Since I operate a small business blog, I appreciate today’s post. As with any business, defining who your customer is, will be the critical step between making it and not.

    When you don’t really know who your customer is, you can end up targeting someone that is not really listening and in the end, a business without a sale is not really a business at all.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  23. Eddy says:

    What would you suggest for a blog dedicated to a novel?

  24. Hey Darren.

    The URL in the Last segment (About the author) is wrong!!!!
    Try clicking the same. It has an extra h in the http

  25. Chris says:

    Starting a blog for a small business is very important, but i think it’s becoming less and less relevant. By that, i mean there are so many new and exciting ways to promote that having a blog is still necessary, but shouldn’t be your main promotion vehicle. For example, I use press releases as well as promoting on 2.0 sites like HubPages, Squidoo, Facebook, and Twitter. I think Web 2.0 is the future of promoting.

  26. David says:

    This completely makes, and I’m going through this right now.

    The hardest part for me was deciding what to write about, but now that I’ve a written a few postings, it’s becoming easier.

    Getting people to read the blog is now the next big challenge.

  27. Tai Tran says:

    Hi Darren,

    I am a regular visitor of ProBlogger and have tried a few of the ideas from here.

    I run a WordPress Blog that has both paid and complimentary content. I find WP to be powerful and easy to customize with lots of Free and Paid Plugins and well supported by the community. I not try the other platforms.

    Last week, I went to the Melbourne Internet show http://www.internetshow.com.au/ to see if I could pick up a few gems and network with people from my industry. Fantastic energy and enthusiasm there, friendly people willing to share and talk about their projects. Over the two days there were in excess of 2,000 visitors to the show.

    I found most of the info fairly basic as I have heard most of it before, but ideal for newbies.

    There is a gem I got from the show that I would like to share, it’s fairly obvious and may have be repeated else where.

    The 6 C’s of Internet
    ————————–

    1) Who Cares – find out who would be interested in your blog.

    2) Compelling – make the Blog or Offer tempting and arouse interest and curiosity.

    3) Is it Clear – Keep it simple.

    4) Concise – Keep it short.

    5) Complete – make sure it’s accurate and complete.

    6) Conversion – Monitor your progress and place best performing content out and remove or modify poor performing contents.

    Cheers and happy Blogging.

    Tai

    “Be The Light You Want To See In The World Today.”

  28. Nick Smith says:

    How cool that you posted this on the very day our company is rolling out our new corporate blogs! I was nervous to read what you had to say, but pleasantly surprised to see that we’ve already done most of what you recommend. We’ll definitely be taking the rest of your advice to heart in the next few days and weeks!

    Thanks for what you do!

  29. Blitz Surfer says:

    Great post Darren – especially number 7 – having some pre written content not only lets you launch on a high note, but also gives you a feel on what you’re going to be writing about and if its the right thing for you.

  30. It makes all sense now why many people are slowly making their plans of acquiring their dream business. I guess the economic collapse has finally significantly found its way out. Not that everything is ok, though. But the fact that such small business, as your guide shows, can now fairly easily be had, means we’re really getting there.

  31. Jhon David says:

    Conversion – Monitor your progress and place best performing content out and remove or modify poor performing contents.

  32. Rather than throw my blog into a blog directory, I have often set up sites for clients that use WordPress for the entire site, creating a static home page and other static pages and then throwing the blog aggregate page to the “back” of the site.

    Easy to keep a consistent look that way and makes the URLS shorter since they don’t have to travel down through the folder every time.

    Great stuff, Mark!

  33. Nabeel says:

    Damn! I loved the presentation by matt! watched all of it :D

    (oh btw the post is nice too :P )

  34. Mark,
    Great post. You actually reminded me that there are such simple techniques to get traffic to your blog as participating in forums and writing press releases. Thank you!

  35. Sachin says:

    this is so helpful and timely as i am in the process of launching a new blog

  36. Michael Pace says:

    Thank you Mark! Your ability to provide high level strategy down to tactical steps in such a short post was remarkable. I always love reading high quality back to basics blogs and articles, great for re-grounding. I really appreciate your work and continue to post your insights on Twitter.

    Mike

  37. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    Couple questions about Keyword Research:

    1. Is it best to just “add” a couple keyword matches? All?
    2. I have read you want to find a balance between a lot of competition-no competition because that tells you if there is a market, ideas?
    3. I ended up on adword? Do I need to purchase that? (downloaded their free book)
    4. I need another arrow to show me where to push–after I “add” the keyword matches.

    Sorry this is so elementary. My eyes cross when I look at all this. Thanks.

  38. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    Sorry, probably more dumb questions:

    Is there a place to find the broad categories of blogs? ie. I know there are “Mommy bloggers,” “money saving bloggers” “entertainment” “sports” “writers” but where do you find your niche? I keep thinking of the general headings in a library, is there something like that, some organizational system?

    ie. I’m looking for “inclusive community” and the keyword search says “not enough data.” I don’t know how to find my niche, “special education”? “autism”?

    Feel like I’m drowning in too much and not enough. Thanks for any help/advice.

  39. Thanks for summing up all these things for us.

    Just one thing, Link for Mark Hayward is not correct I think extra H attached to the URL.

  40. Make money says:

    I think the keyword rich domain is a great start to any campaign.I’ve found that it is much easier to rank for a keyword that is in your domain.

  41. Julius says:

    The points that are new to me are Measuring ROI, listening, and the blog’s feed. I’ll try to learn more about these things soon. Thanks for this detailed introduction.

  42. MArko Zain says:

    Oh thanks a lot it is so important

    Specially

    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.

    Thank you so much

  43. Great article and I really like tip # 7. Even the best time management plans get derailed and having a stash of content done in advance is helpful

  44. irfan says:

    I have a new post that includes my ideas about important consideration before launching a new blog, please inform me with your ideas there.

  45. Hi, you really nailed it with these tasks, I wish I read this long time ago so I could start on number 8 because it really is hard to build that trsut and it takes time and time is money baby.

  46. Tool Maker says:

    “”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!”"

    Strongly agreed, I run a blog just less than a month, I know how tough it can be…

  47. Porter Warne says:

    The great thing about WordPress is that each of their themes is simple yet efficient. None of the themes go overboard, but all will leave a lasting impression on those who see it. Of coursework, it is how you run the blog & what content you place on it that matters most. But simultaneously, you need a visual that is appealing & not distracting.

  48. Tony says:

    The points that are new to me are Measuring ROI, listening, and the blog’s feed. I’ll try to learn more about these things soon. Thanks for this detailed introduction.

  49. Great post, Darren. I think I’d also add – Make a commitment to blog on a regular basis and stay active with other blogs, bloggers and social communities in your niche.

  50. Mark: as always I think you’ve laid out some excellent advice here! I like the bit about identifying your ideal customer first. If you don’t start there, you’ll end up writing and writing and never really attracting the kind of customer you were looking for.