Small business blog success: Hard but not impossible

  1. writing a blog
    Francois Badenhorst

    Francois Badenhorst Business Editor, UKBF & AWEB Staff Member

    Posts: 91 Likes: 18
    2 |

    Earlier this year, Atlassian - of HipChat fame - acquired Trello for £328m. For Joel Spolsky, Trello’s founder, the acquisition was a long way from his innocuous existence as an early noughties software blogger.

    When I chatted to Spolsky last year he stressed how crucial these blogging days were to his success. He did warn, of course, that the internet is now far noisier than it was back then, making blogging a trickier pursuit. But the foundational role blogging played in his success is still a worthy lesson.

    When Spolsky began writing a blog called Joel on Software, he says, software developers were treated “like typists”. But his blog was one of the first to focus just on developers and the industry. “I was the only person out there writing these things down and putting it on the internet and other developers reacted warmly,” he said.

    After diligently cultivating his audience, he started the extremely influential forum Stack Overflow – and, eventually, the project management tool Trello.

    Of course, Spolsky’s amazing success story is an outlier. Very few people will attain blog superstardom, let alone parlay that success into fabulous material wealth. For the rest of us, though, is it still worth blogging? Especially in the internet’s now crowded, industrialised form.

    The UKBF user Poppylong asked precisely this question recently. She runs quite a few businesses – but in this case, she was asking specifically about her bespoke wedding dress company.

    “I have a WordPress blog, but never really blog,” she writes. “Is it worth starting? I can see the point of adding weekly news etc., but I don’t understand how the blog would be found/read. With the free version of WordPress is there a way to tag images so I appear in Google images searches (for example)? Also, does it matter what I name the WordPress site? Is it better to use my company name, or what I sell?”

    The answer, in a rare moment of unison on UKBF, was: it depends.

    “It really depends what your business is,” writes James Baldock. “If you’re intending to sell anything through your web site, how much time/money/effort you want to put into your marketing.

    “We run quite a few web sites for people who work in various industries. Some of them blog, others don't and this is based on lots of things such as how much time they can commit to doing it each week, whether they can write well or not, whether their industry is interesting enough to blog about or not.

    “The blog posts need to be of a good length. I’d suggest at least 500 words but aim for more like 1,200. They also need to be interesting and unique. Lots of pictures help, in particular with the wedding sector.”

    What Spolsky did well with Joel on Software was that he zoned in a particular intellectual and technical terrain. His blog resonated with readers because it was well informed and authentic. In the same vein, the user Nicecat warned: “I would blog if you can regularly write content that is relevant to your market and interesting.”

    UK business directory, for instance, has been running an IT related blog for several years. “I work in IT so use the blog for documenting fixes,” he says. “It receives hits from around the world, and recently I started to use the blog to advertise my services.”

    Peter Gogolin agrees with Nicecat’s advice: “The internet is full of ugly blogs on 'wrong' domains but with huge following, because the content is just so good. And also a lot of blogs setup by SEO experts for companies who post nothing, nonsense or just a fluff and nobody cares about them.

    “From our experience blogging is only a good idea when you can sit down and come up with at least ten articles within your expertise which you can imagine your audience to be able to read and think: ‘This is what I wanted to know!’ If you have this, the rest are relatively secondary execution details which can be helped by any good online marketer.”

    Ultimately, a good blog comes down to, as UKBF member Colombo writes, credibility, passion and the ability to create buzz. And, crucially, content enables a small business to factor into ‘long tail searches’ on Google. “A blog gives you great scope to promote niche product or services eg. ‘Volvo Penta engines Plymouth’ or ‘wedding photography Cheddar Gorge’,” writes Colombo. “It saves you a lot of money on Google AdWords.”

    The key really is content. As Fisicx says, your writing doesn’t need to be explicitly packaged as a ‘blog’ to offer value. “It just has to be published content. A blog is just one of many methods of publishing content. The key to success is the content not the method of delivery and very few people have the skills and talent to write engaging content. Those that do will see an improvement in ranking because it’s the sort of content Google likes. Everyone else will see little or no benefit.”

    I’ll give the final word to a ghost of UKBF’s past: Dan Izzard, the former community editor, advises: “A blog is just a vehicle for content that should provide value to your audience. By packaging it as a ‘blog’ all you are saying is that it is personal (normally), regular (should be) and published on your site.

    “If you have an ecommerce site for example, other longer form content on your site (a blog, an article or whatever you call it) provides an area to show proof that you are knowledgeable in the area of product you are selling. It will help with SEO (if done correctly) but in its first instance should be engaging to someone who is sat in front of it.”


  2. Solo Platinum

    Solo Platinum UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 0 Likes: 0
    very well said Francois. I'd say, write for people and for write for educating your customer rather writing for search engines. Also, if your post is informative and engaging for users, they will definitely share it among their network and on social media and it's a huge bonus. And great content will always be picked up google and other search engines
    Posted: Aug 16, 2017 By: Solo Platinum Member since: Aug 2, 2017