One of the best things you can do online for your business or your freelance services is to start a blog. A blog will allow to attract very targeted prospects by providing content but just as any other marketing approach, it can also damage your business if not done correctly.
Here is a basic list to help you consider a few things before you jump in the water:
1. The Goal Behind The Goal
Before thinking about what you’re going to do online there is a general objective for your business. If you’re an independent consultant then you are looking into selling your services, if you’re an author your main objective might be to sell books. Establishing this from the beginning will help you stay focused and not lose sight of why you’re doing this.
2. Online Goals
What you’re trying to achieve online might be a small list of sub-goals working towards your main business goal. I recently had a conversation with a published author that told me she needed to increase her subscriptions to show her publisher. That is a great online goal, while she also needs to sell books, she’s already trying to improve her chances for a new deal.
3. Observe The Ninjas In Your Industry
Most likely there are a few individuals already kicking ass in your field and most likely you already know who they are but if you don’t, identify them and pay attention to everything they do from the design to content to every single element on the sidebar. I’m not trying to encourage you to “copy and paste”, that’s not cool, but to learn from them, get inspired and trigger your own ideas.
4. Plan To Leverage The Real Estate On Your Site
Now that you know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish, plan how your elements are going to be displayed on the site. If you are selling an ebook, perhaps it should be at the top of the sidebar. Make sure whatever is secondary goes below the fold in case people don’t scroll down. People will very easily fail to see your offer and that my friend… will be your fault.
Simplify, simplify, simplify. The more information on the screen, the more chances your visitor will miss what the point of your blog is. Eliminate the clutter and make sure your primary message is very obvious. Take a look at every single element on your site and question everything. How is the Twitter Counter helping you improve conversion? If this gives you some kind of authority fine but if there is no real reason other than feeding your ego, kill it.
6. Call To Action
Tell your visitor what to do. Don’t be afraid to say it because if you don’t the user is going to bounce around the screen for a few seconds and will probably do… nothing. You can have more than one call to action, for example “Order our eBook” and then “Subscribe to our RSS”. Be very clear, having just the RSS icon will probably do the trick with some people but why risk it.
Design for many of us is not important, if you think like that let me tell you that you are wrong. When I land on a website with poor design I get a bad first impression. I can assure you my next click will be on the back button. Having a good outside perception is as important as having a good inside reality. You can have a remarkable product or service but a bad first impression and people will not even consider giving you a shot.
8. The Platform
This is not a matter of having the budget or not, pretty much all the platforms are free. While Blogger or WordPress (.com version) are good ways to get started, today they are considered more of a personal solution. If you are serious about blogging for your business, you should consider the self-hosted version of WordPress (.org version) which will allow you to work on your own customization.
9. Content (But Not Just Any Content)
Content is still king, no doubt about that, but just saying that doesn’t really change anything. I will say this, take the focus out of yourself, nobody cares about you or your product (sorry). Instead focus on how to cover a need, how you can benefit your prospect. Aim to turn yourself into a leader by helping your tribe.
Become a resource for your public rather than trying to get direct sales. Forget the sale and let it come to you.
10. Schedule Everything
One of the most important things on your blog is to be consistent with your content and everything you do. Schedule everything, how many posts per week you are publishing, when and how to promote that content, how are you going to respond to comments. It is very easy to fall behind and a blog that’s not updated regularly can only damage you. That doesn’t mean you should post every day either. Have a balanced approach and a plan to execute it.
11. Support Your Content
It is very hard to make your blog known if you don’t get out of it. Think of platforms that can help you take that content out of your blog, you can use social media for example and use your blog as a hub. Make your blog the final destination, once the user arrives to your blog you can worry about conversion from reader to prospect and client.
12. Make Yourself Known
Give your blog some personality, make yourself present with a photo and a bio. There is something about seeing your face there that makes your prospect more comfortable, after all, you are the main ingredient in your business. Most of the time people make a decision over the relationship rather than how good your service is. Be active as an individual, mixing your business brand with your personal brand is proven to get you better results.
I’ll give you one more because I see a lot of this. Plugins are like toys, just make sure you don’t get too excited and install a bunch of unnecessary features that will only make your blog look like a flea market and slow it down.
Overall, this is not rocket science at all and making a few mistakes is probably not a big deal, what’s important is that you reach your goals.
Feel free to add your own in the comments…
Image courtesy of Dry Icons.