How to Start a Small Business Blog
With startups becoming a way of life and seemingly everyone building a side-project or startup, it’s getting harder to attract users and find customers. Often the costly route of paid marketing isn’t an option for bootstrapped companies or indie side-projects. Content marketing is usually the only viable marketing path for drawing attention to your project or startup. A small business blog can help you to find customers, make more sales and of course raise awareness for your expertise in your space.
A blog is usually the first step into content marketing. Here we explore options and tools to get your small business blog up and running without breaking the bank or requiring deep technical knowledge. The priority here is solving your issue instead of complicating things unnecessarily.
Why blogging for my business and not podcasts or videos?
Blogging is much easier than any other form of publication. It doesn’t require much more than a bit of research and basic writing skills. For a blog article, post production is minor: generating a few graphics and proof-reading. Done. Podcasts and videos require much more planning before production and post-production. Depending on the quality level you aim for, post-production for videos, for example, can easily exceed ten times the length of the video.
Same goes for updates: If you need to tweak your blog article to include some new piece of information or refer to a new post, this can be done in minutes. For a podcast it is very tricky and even videos would require a lot of effort to include later changes.
Blogging for a small business comes down to: finding topics your audience/customers are interested in, researching the topic (if needed) and writing relevant articles. Afterwards you might want to get it proof-read and add a few graphics or charts to drive engagement.
If your budget is limited, the incentives for blogging are even bigger: Videos and podcasts require more equipment and more time to learn to use the equipment. A blog comes at almost no monthly cost.
Should I use a free blogging service for my small business?
While it sounds like a great idea to hand over any work to get your business blog up and running to an external service, such as Medium, it comes at significant costs in the long run.
Articles on platforms such as Medium are usually marked as “nofollow”. This means the links don’t carry any “link juice” (= rank power), as online marketers would say. In plain English: The links won’t help your website or product to rank on Google. At the same time, all links point back to the Medium website, therefore their website will receive any link juice (power from the incoming links). You are losing out twice on the chance to have content to help your site rank higher.
Same goes for Blogspot and almost any other services which allow you to blog for free. If you aren’t paying for a service, you are the product.
How can I start a blog for my small business?
There are a number of options to get your business blog up and running fast and relatively pain-free. The options range from very simple, entirely web-configured solutions to slightly more technical solutions which require basic technical knowledge around DNS and databases. As mentioned beforehand, the goal here isn’t to find the perfect solution - the goal is to find a decent solution which works for many people.
No-Code Blog solutions
While the previously mentioned Medium and Blogspot come at a hidden cost, there are still options to build a blog without touching source code. These options usually require you to configure your blog using web-interfaces.
Many people still opt to have a Wordpress website. WordPress isn’t just a blog, it’s an ecosystem with matured services as well as endless plugins and themes to pick from. To get started with a WordPress business website you will need to choose a hosting company. Thanks to strong competition between the companies, their hosting costs are very low for a small website. Many people go with A2 Hosting or TMD Hosting. Both allow you to simply install WordPress using a one-click deployment. Follow the easy steps through and you will have your site up and running within less than two hours. Afterwards you can install a WordPress Theme suitable for your business as well as plugins in the admin section (under “yourdomain.com/admin”).
“Hylia” as a static website with minimal configuration
If you aim is to get writing quickly you can use Hylia, a static site template based on the popular eleventy generator. It comes with free hosting on Netlify and one-click deployment (see Hylia homepage). But this requires a bit of configuration and some minor technical knowledge. If you’re keen, go through the following steps:
- First you need to register for Netlify to use their free hosting and GitHub for the free storage of your website.
- Then follow this link to kick off the deployment. Click “Connect to GitHub” and next “Save & Deploy”.
- On your new site click on “Domain Settings”. Add your domain under “Custom Domains”. The button “Add Domain alias” is a bit further down. If you haven’t got a domain you can register one here or search on startup name check for available domain-names and social media handles. Afterwards you will need to configure the A-record in the DNS settings to point to “18.104.22.168”. If you need assistance with this, contact Namecheap or your domain registrar.
- Under “yourdomain.com/admin” you can create your first login to the content management system (CMS) and later add or update your website content.
While these steps may demand an hour of your time it will give you a free and decent-looking blog ready to start writing content. If you want to tweak the design you will need to do this in code or hire someone for the job. On a freelancing site like Freelancer.com, PeoplePerHour or Upwork you will get a number of offers in a short time. Make sure to be clear on your expectations and communicate these. Alternatively, you can use a WordPress blog for your small business (see above).
Low-Code Blog solutions
While the above mentioned no-code blogs options are fairly straightforward, it’s a bit different when you bring in some coding/system configuration. If you aren’t a stranger to writing some source code and know how to configure systems you might want to skip web-interfaces and get straight to the underlying services.
You can either use a self-hosted solution of WordPress or the more modern SilverStripe for your purposes. Hosting SilverStripe is as easy as Laravel or any other Standard-PHP application these days. Laravel fans might want to have a look at OctoberCMS here.
Alternatively you can pick a static site generator. If you are new to the topic you might want to read a brief introduction into static site generators. VuePress and Nuxt are excellent starting points. You can find an extensive list of static generators here. Choose one based on your experience with the underlying programming language, not based on trends or hyped projects.
Small Business Blogs and SEO
For any of the mentioned approaches you should prioritize search-engine optimization (SEO). Here are some basic SEO pointers to keep in mind when starting a business blog:
- On WordPress go with Yoast SEO as the market leader. For SilverStripe make sure you’ve got silverstripe-social-metadata and silverstripe/googlesitemaps.
- If possible, host your blog on the root domain (e.g. with “yourdomain.com/blog”) instead of a sub-domain (e.g. “blog.yourdomain.com”). While the differences matter less than before, this is still considered best practice.
- Use “-” (dash) to separate words in the so-called slug (e.g. “my-article”). Always use speaking slugs (e.g. finding-the-right-cleaning-service, if your article title is "Finding the Right Cleaning Service") instead of generic URL segments such as “article-21”.
- Try to get your articles as close to the root domain (“yourdomain.com”) as possible. It's better to go with “yourdomain.com/blog/my-article” over “yourdomain.com/blog/2020/January/my-article”. While not always possible, the ideal case is to have them directly under the root domain (“yourdomain.com/my-article”).
If you want to learn more about SEO, the MOZ SEO Beginners Guide is a great starting point if you are new to SEO.
While it might seem like a challenge, getting your own small business website with a blog up is fairly easy and can be done by non-technical users too. Pick a solution on your experience level: if you’ve got no technical background or aren’t sure about any of the steps mentioned above, stick to the WordPress approach. It requires no more than filling in a few forms. If you have an appetite for a slightly more technical solution, go for a static site generator based on a programming language you know.
It will take a bit time until you are confident in using your new blog and have written a number of posts. After publishing at least five posts get onto marketing of your articles across platforms and networks. With minor investment of time you can achieve much more than you expect.