As a small business, you might invest a lot of energy, time, and money in keeping momentum on your blog, yet you fail to achieve results and get people reading.
There are a few reasons why that happens. On the one hand, you might write about topics that make little sense for your audience. On the other, you might have trouble keeping up with the tempo, so the blog quickly turns into an abandoned ship that gets rusty with each passing day.
Since we craft WordPress solutions that help people build websites, we have first-hand experience working with many small businesses that create blogs: from restaurants, digital agencies, and architecture studios to NGOs, photographers, ceramic artists, you name it.
During the past ten years of working with such creative souls, we identified what works and what doesn’t when it comes to building a blog that aligns with your values and objectives.
In this article, I’ll guide you through identifying the blog posts that are most relevant to your audience, the next steps after publishing a post, and how to differentiate yourself and your business through your blog.
Let’s get to it.
- Your company blog is not (just) a self-promo channel
- Have a clear intent behind your company blog
- Writing the blog post is just the start
#1. Your company blog is not (just) a self-promo channel
Writing a blog post about how great your products or services are or about what an amazing business you have is not the sustainable route to go.
People interested in what you have to offer come to your blog because they want to get to know you, evaluate if you are trustworthy, and get answers to their pressing concerns by understanding where your expertise lies and how you can lend a hand.
If you want visitors to spend time on your blog, it’s important to:
Use the blog to share your true self
Treat the blog as a place where you can showcase your personality and values at length. After all, there’s so much you can write on a product or service presentation page. By blogging, you can create multiple opportunities to showcase yourself in all shapes and forms.
With each piece you write, people can get a feeling about your core values and beliefs, how you prefer to do business, how you treat your customers, how you manage your team, and so on.
In an age of abundance where competition is one click away, presenting your true self can become a big differentiator and make you top of mind for your visitors.
For example, at Pixelgrade, we are known for our transparency, bulls**t free talk, and the in-depth knowledge we try to offer with each post we publish. It’s not a coincidence that we put together long-form pieces of writing where we turn a subject on its head, nor that we’ve been sharing the good and bad through our reports. It’s a choice, one aligned with who we are; therefore, it makes perfect sense to keep doing it.
Identifying the values you stand for and what you want to be known for is no easy feat, as we have experienced ourselves, but one with significant long-term benefits for your business and blog.
Treat your blog as a two-way street
You must be in tune with what your audience expects from you. That’s why it is always a good idea to gather feedback regarding the content they would like to read on your blog.
You can start by asking your customers about the content they usually consume (related to your business), what questions they seek answers to, and the things they want to know about a company before becoming a customer.
On the other hand, if you’re just scratching the surface and are in the early days of building your business, ask the people around you that fit in your target. You’re not going to get the Holy Grail, but it’s still better than making decisions blindly.
Another great tactic to find meaningful ideas about upcoming articles is to go through the comments (on the website or social media), search through the email feedback, or other interactions you have with your audience (via private messages, face-to-face discussions, and so on). These places can uncover curiosities, questions, concerns, and dilemmas people have and become valuable writing pieces.
Constantly adjust the blog to the changing needs
Each insight you get can help you adjust and adapt the content you put out there.
Let me explain.
You could find out that you need to reorganize your content into different categories for a more convenient discovery. You could explore new subjects you never thought of before and even create other types of content you never imagined, such as ebooks, courses, or webinars.
What matters is constantly listening to your readers and adapting what you publish to their growing and changing needs.
This does not mean that your blog is their Bazaar, where everything is welcome.
Not at all.
You have the last call, but bear in mind that your blog should evolve according to 1) how your business changes and 2) the needs of your audience if you want to stay relevant.
Here’s a specific example.
A few years back, we only provided blogging WordPress themes. To better serve customers from this cluster of products, we put together a content calendar dedicated to this niche—from how to write an About page that represents you to how to nurture a community around your digital house.
Once we expanded our portfolio to include themes for photographers, restaurants, and more, we had to adapt our blog posts (and even re-write some of the old ones) so that the knowledge shared can speak to a greater and more diverse audience.
Moreover, with time, we noticed that plenty of our articles for specific areas like writing tips or website performance advice could easily get the shape of ebooks that people can digest at their own pace.
Our blog has been evolving a lot during the last few years—some of the content was repurposed and took other forms that are more accessible to our audience. Keep that in mind when you think about your blog, too.
Don’t treat the past articles as useless or irrelevant because you invested a lot of time and energy to make them possible. Try to find ways to adapt them to the new reality to continue to offer value to your readers.
#2. Have a clear intent behind your company blog
There’s A LOT of content of all types out there. From Youtube videos to new Netflix shows almost every week, to blog posts and newsletters to social media posts—each of them fights for our attention.
People’s mental bandwidth is the most precious currency these days. Therefore, it’s important to:
Be thoughtful about what you publish
When there are so many things to do with our time, it’s important to choose the right places to spend our attention. Try to be crystal clear about what you have to offer, when you are offering it, and deliver on your promises.
And don’t think that more is always better. Your audience will be grateful for not overcrowding their mind and digital space with updates every day. They have more important things to do.
To make sure people understand what our blog is about, we created a dedicated blog post (pinned on the blog archive) in which we talk about why we run a blog, why we named it Upstairs, what we’ll be writing about, and what to expect while visiting it.
You might consider writing a similar statement piece to set the right expectations for your audience.
Speak from experience
We’re all tired of reading the same recycled content that floats around the Internet without providing a new perspective on things—“10 things to do this. 5 ways to change this.”
These types of articles don’t fly anymore.
If you want to stand out, make sure you share your expertise, your know-how, and the lessons you’ve learned along the way. Avoid copy-catting others just because they seem to attract more eyeballs. You’ll be the winner in the long term.
For example, when we wrote about how to create your website’s footer, we shared the actual process we went through on pixelgrade.com. This way, people can see that we put skin in the game and share only tried-and-tested advice.
Acknowledge your shortcomings
Your audience will appreciate honesty and transparency and would rather hear about your missteps than read glamorous pieces about how great you’re doing without sharing anything about the process and learnings that got you there.
In the end, how much can you learn when everything seems to be flawless? Not much.
That’s why we never shy away from sharing the ups and downs we go through each year. Our goal is to provide insights into how a business evolves and maybe help others avoid our mistakes or, at least, know that they are not alone.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write about your successes. Just be careful to bring value to the people reading it by offering advice and insights into how you did it, and you’re not just bragging.
Don’t be afraid to be bold
While it’s true that your writing should match your audience’s needs, that doesn’t mean that you cannot speak your truth out of fear of making some readers uncomfortable.
Own your voice to attract people who resonate with your approach.
We did the same when we spoke about what we think should change in the WordPress publishing and media world, and we found that many other people felt the same way.
We were the first to voice those problems, but they were felt throughout the entire industry. This article opened a bigger discussion inside the WordPress ecosystem and made our voice stronger.
Don’t write only about what you do and the things that your prospective customers might be interested in right before purchasing. I encourage you to go beyond your core work and explore complementary areas that touch on what you do.
Younger generations, in particular, put a lot of pressure on brands to be more open, more transparent, more ethical.
For example, suppose you are a graphic design agency; you can write about the creative process behind your brand collaborations. Many other independent artists are interested in this type of content, thus making you a great source of inspiration for your peers (and open a pool of people who would love to work for you).
Or you could write about the local community projects you are part of that bring you joy and fulfillment—these stories will show your human side and allow potential collaborations to know they’ll be working with someone that cares about the wellbeing of others.
Another interesting route is to create a blog that brings your products in the center without shoving them into people’s faces. One of our customers is MontanaCans, a German company that produces high-quality spraypaint, which runs a blog dedicated to helping people creatively personalize their home and surrounding using the spray paints they make.
In our case, we share a lot about the culture inside the team and about the local endeavors we take to fulfill our mission—to support people to have an impact in their communities. These narratives showcase our human side, the challenges we face, and how we practice what we preach.
Although not all of these articles will be very helpful for SEO per se (optimizing for search engines), they exist to paint visitors and potential customers a fuller picture of who is behind the scenes. They will learn how you do business, the values you stand for, what you aim to achieve, and how you want to impact the world. It’s far more valuable than any search engine optimization tactic.
#3. Writing the blog post is just the start
Writing an article and hitting the publish button is not the end; this is the beginning of any blog post. The tasks that follow require many resources invested—often, more than what it took to write it.
First, the writing process implies editing, proofreading, and creating supporting images to help you convey your messages with ease. These all have to be in harmony with the overall way you communicate and the brand you built around your business.
Sometimes it’s as easy as finding the right image on Unsplash that conveys the right feeling. Other times, you might need to create an image from scratch or collaborate with others who can go the extra mile (like an illustrator or graphic artist).
Keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple. Choose the option that fits your available time and the skills you can bring to the table. Just make sure you don’t decide to skip the article because you don’t have the right image. Content-only can do the job, too.
Next, your blog articles should reach the right people. To give it the best chances of success, you need to develop a good promotional plan.
You don’t need some big spreadsheets nailed to your walls, but you must have a solid idea about the channels that can drive attention to your post.
You can start with sharing it on your social media accounts according to a predefined schedule. Given the various types of content these platforms require (links shared alongside a description on Twitter and Facebook, a descriptive image, and an eye-catching story on Instagram), think about how you can adapt to the requirements of the medium.
If you have a newsletter (more on how to start a newsletter on the right foundation), I encourage you to write one where you talk about your new piece and share some of the behind-the-scenes. Talk about what got you to write it, your thoughts now that you put your words on the paper, and don’t be afraid to show you’re a human experiencing plenty of emotions.
Here’s a great example from one of our past newsletters where we tried to offer some background around the motivations behind a new blog post.
Other publishers can also help you spread the word. Identify specific newsletters and blogs where your article can add value. Reach out and invite them to give it a read. If they find it worthy, you might get exposure to audiences that haven’t heard from you but are in your target.
All of these take a lot of time. Considering all the other things happening in your life and business, it’s important to be honest with yourself regarding the available resources. Whatever you think it will be, I suggest you double it just to be safe.
You might conclude that writing on your blog is something you can do once every couple of weeks. That’s okay—at least you will remove unnecessary pressure from your shoulders. At the same time, it will give you a deadline (which will motivate you to keep going) and set the right expectations for your audience.
Having a blog is a great way to build awareness, credibility and to make room in your audience’s mind as a possible solution to their problem. At the same time, each blog post acts as a way to (re)open the conversation and bring some light towards what you do and what you have to offer.
You can share a product presentation page so much until it becomes annoying. Still, a powerful story can reveal different perspectives around you and your business and attract new eyes to what you have to offer.
Plus, each article is an extra chance to create a liaison with your readers and generate a ripple effect. It’s easier to get mentions due to your unique perspective than to have your products promoted on other websites.
In the end, a blog means more eyeballs on you and more exposure opportunities.
Who knows, maybe among those curious visitors, some will remember you and return to get some of the things you have to offer. A few could come back because they were impressed with a story you wrote, others because they get frank advice about overcoming specific challenges.
Embrace them all regardless of their why.