Whether you have a website, Etsy shop, or a shop on another online marketplace, you need to direct traffic to it to generate sales.
One of the best ways to generate long-term traffic and valuable traffic is to start a blog and write content that is of interest to your target market.
If you have a website, this is easy enough to do by setting up a section on it for articles.
If you don’t have a website yet, I hope you’ll consider starting a blog (you can do it for free) as a way to generate traffic you can direct to your online store (e.g. Etsy Shop, Amazon store, etc.)
STEPS TO START A BLOG TO PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS
1 – Determine if a blog will be useful to your business
2 – Make a plan to earn money from your blog
3 – Understand what types of blogs make money
4 – Determine which blogging platform is right for your business
5 – Come up with content that interests readers and allows you to promote products
STEP 1 – DETERMINE IF A BLOG WILL BE BENEFICIAL FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Here are some common questions related to starting a blog to promote a small business. Use the answers to determine if a blog is right for your business.
DO I NEED A BLOG FOR MY BUSINESS?
No, you certainly don’t need a blog for your small business.
However, as you’ve probably discovered, marketing your business is not the easiest task.
Consumers receive so many marketing messages in a day from different businesses, they’ve learned to tune them out.
A blog is a way to continuously promote your business and its products or services in a way that’s interesting to consumers and doesn’t feel like a marketing message.
So, no, your small business doesn’t need a blog, but it is a very useful marketing tool that I would strongly encourage you to try.
HOW IS A BLOG USEFUL FOR A BUSINESS?
Blogging can be worth your time for so many reasons.
1 – SEO (search engine optimization)
There are millions of websites out there and yours needs quality content for Google to even begin to acknowledge it. Then it needs that quality content posted consistently for Google to start ranking it on higher pages.
The goal is to get your website to the first page of Google when one of your potential customers types a search term related to your business and its products (something I’ll explain in this article).
For example, if I make and sell cat beds, my target market may search “best cat beds”. For my website to appear in the top results on Google, it must use those keywords, and related keywords, multiple times. So, I may write a blog article titled “The Best Cat Beds in 2020”. Within that article, I may use headings the include the keywords (e.g. “Best Cat Beds for Kittens”, “Best Cat Beds for Senior Cats”, etc.). I would also use the keywords (and related keywords such as “top”, “most popular”, “cats”, “kittens”, “felines”, etc.) within my explanations of which beds are best and why.
If your website only has 3 pages, most of which contain pictures of your products with few words, Google does not have enough information to understand what your website is about or to rank it as “valuable”.
If you fill your website with the keywords your target market is searching for, Google has more information to work with.
That’s where articles come in. They’re a way to add important keywords to your website, multiple times, without keyword stuffing (which is when you stuff keywords you want to rank for on your website over and over without it really making sense…Google does NOT like that).
2 – Social Media Content
If you’ve been wondering what to post to social media, aside from product photos or links to product listings, blog articles are your answer. They keep your audience interested, without always pitching to them and asking for money.
3 – New Customers
People turn to Google when they need an answer for something (e.g. where to buy a cat bed for their senior cat).
If your blog has an article that provides answers to their most common questions, they’re more likely to find your website.
If you provide a quality answer and help them out, they’ll be more likely to click around your website, trust your business, and potentially buy the products you’re recommending.
4 – Developing your brand
Think of your business’s brand as its personality.
Just as your personality comes through in many ways (from the movies and music you like, to how you style your hair, to the way you decorate your home, etc.), your business’s personality will also come through in many ways.
One of those ways is through your writing.
A blog allows you to write on subjects that expand beyond a product or shop description and will show more of your brand’s personality.
A blog can also help you answer questions skeptical shoppers may have (e.g. blog posts sharing before and afters, testimonials, or providing more in-depth answers to why people should buy from you) and take care of customers after they’ve purchased (e.g. tips for caring for their products or getting the most out of them).
This helps shoppers get to know your business, which helps build trust. Trust is important when it comes to making sales. No one will buy from a business they don’t trust, or don’t know enough about.
5 – Generate more money
A blog provides an opportunity for more revenue streams. If you start to attract enough traffic to your blog, you can make money in ways other than simply selling your product or service. (More details on how your blog can make money in an upcoming section).
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF A BLOG?
If you’re not sure whether it’s worth it to start a blog for your small business right now, it may help to weigh the pros and cons (pros are listed under the previous question).
1 – It will require several hours of your time each week
Starting a blog for your business, adding a few articles, and then waiting for traffic to roll in won’t get you the results you’re looking for.
It will require significant traffic to reap the benefits of a blog. And significant traffic is reliant upon having several quality blog articles focused on a specific topic (which must relate to your business and its products/services).
If you’re maxed out on hours already, you may not have time to give your business’s blog the attention it needs to get the results you want.
However, consider the return on investment other marketing methods, such as social media, are currently giving you.
Many small business owners spend hours on social media each without the platforms ever generating sales for them.
A blog creates a greater opportunity for you to make a return on your time (i.e. make a sale because of a blog post).
2 – It’s not immediate gratification
A new blog typically takes months, sometimes years, to start ranking in the top spots of Google.
And if you don’t choose the right niche topic for your blog, or follow best blogging practices, your blog may never rank in a top spot.
Blogging is a long-term strategy.
3 – Blogging is competitive
There are millions of blogs on the Internet covering all types of topics.
People know it’s a good way to promote their small business or to treat the blog as a business and make money from it.
Chances are, there are thousands of blogs already covering the topic you want to write about.
But you can find a way to cover it differently or find a niche within a broader topic to help your blog stand out and gain traffic.
STEP 2 – DETERMINE HOW YOU WILL USE YOUR BLOG TO MAKE MONEY
If you’re starting a blog to promote your small business, then it’s important the blog gives you a return on investment. Explore the following questions to determine if a blog can help your business make more money.
IS A BLOG CONSIDERED A BUSINESS?
The definition of a business versus a hobby can vary depending on the jurisdiction, however, in most cases, anything you earn revenue from is considered a business.
More on the legal side of running a business can be found in LAWS FOR SELLING HANDMADE.
You must also treat your blog as a business. Track the hours and money you spend on it.
Your blog won’t give you a return on investment right away. As mentioned, it’s likely going to take several months before it attracts enough traffic to start generating sales and/or ad revenue.
But it’s important you see gradual growth in terms of traffic so you know you’re headed towards a return on your investment.
Once your blog starts attracting enough traffic to have the potential of generating sales, then you can keep an eye on its return on investment (ROI).
What’s enough traffic?
If you consider that the average conversion rate of an eCommerce store is 1 – 2%, then you know, on average, a website needs at least 100 visitors to make one sale.
However, that conversion rate is based on people visiting an online shop with the intention of shopping. The conversion rate of a blog is lower because visitors are coming to it to learn, not necessarily to buy. So it’s likely you’ll need more than 100 visitors to make a sale.
But it’s much more likely you’ll grow your website to hundreds of visitors if you have a blog. And, you also have the potential to earn ad revenue from your blog.
Blogging is sort of like getting a bike moving. It’s a little difficult to get started at first and you have to peddle really hard to get up to speed, but once you have some speed, you can coast for a while or peddle less to keep the bike moving.
So although you may not see a return on investment right away, once you get your traffic to a certain level, it will require much less work to maintain it.
Once it does start generating revenue, ensure it’s actually earning money.
Let’s say your hourly wage is $15/hour and you spend 2 hours a week working on your blog. If you use Google Analytics to track where sales are coming from and realize your blog is only generating one sale per week (which is for a $15 item), you’re actually losing money. You’re spending $30/week on your blogging hours and only receiving $15 in return for that time.
For an easy to follow guide on tracking return on investment, as well as other numbers that are important to your business, check out THE SUCCESS PLANNER.
HOW DO I MAKE MONEY FROM MY BUSINESS’S BLOG?
Blogs are useful to promote an existing business, or to act as a stand-alone business. They create several opportunities to generate revenue:
- Selling your products / services – your blog articles may focus on the benefits of your products / services, tips for using your products, testimonials from people who have used your products, etc. which may encourage more people to purchase from you. You can add links within articles, pointing to your online shop, which encourages people who came to read a helpful article, to check out your products too.
- Paid advertising – you can place ads on your blog either through a program/service like Google Adsense, or Mediavine, or Adthrive, etc., They’ll run a variety of ads on your site (in the sidebar, header, footer of your blog, or within articles. Or you may operate your own ads and find related businesses to promote on your blog (so your ads are more specific to your audience). Each time someone clicks on an ad, you’ll make money.
- Paid posts – other businesses may be interested in writing articles for your blog and paying you to post them.
- Affiliate links – you can promote other business’s products within your blog posts using affiliate links. If readers click your affiliate links and purchase the products you’re suggesting, you make a percentage of each sale. For example, if I sell cat beds and my blog covers the topic of caring for a senior cat, I may write an article on the best senior cat foods and include affiliate links to those foods.
WHAT TYPES OF BLOGS MAKE MONEY?
Almost any type of blog / blog topic can make money, however, every successful blog is dependent upon:
1 – A large enough audience interested in the topic of your blog
It’s likely you can find some people to be interested in anything you write about. However, you’ll need thousands of people searching phrases related to your blog each month.
The average click-through rate for the top result on Google is 31.7% (source).
That means if 1000 people search “why isn’t my senior cat eating” and my blog article is the top result, only 317 of those people will click on my link.
As your website drops in the ranking (e.g. my website appears in the 10th spot when someone searches “why isn’t my senior cat eating”), that click-through rate (CTR) also drops.
Let’s say the average CTR for the 10th spot on Google is 5%. If, each month, 1000 people search “why isn’t my senior cat eating” and my blog article appears 10th out of the results, I may get 50 visits to that website in a month (not bad for one page).
However, if there are only 10 people searching that phrase in a month and I’m in the 10th spot, I may not get any visits.
This is why your topic needs a large audience.
2 – Producing quality content
Quality articles that strategically use keywords are essential if you want to make money from your blog. They not only help your website / blog rank higher in Google results, but they’ll also help you keep readers on your site longer, so you have the potential to turn them into customers.
If there are thousands of people who search “why isn’t my senior cat eating?”, I may write a blog article titled: 5 Reasons your Senior Cat Isn’t Eating. But if I quickly threw that article together in 250 words, copying the same answers every other website has, Google is unlikely to rank my article high in the results.
If someone does discover my article, they’re likely to scan my answers in 30 seconds, realize the article isn’t very helpful, and quickly leave my site.
If, on the other hand, my article is 3000+ words, uses several quality keywords, and offers unique, quality suggestions, Google and my readers are more likely to find it valuable.
When readers stay on a website for several minutes and view several pages on it, it shows Google that readers find the content valuable (which encourages Google to rank it higher). It also gives me a better opportunity to build trust with my readers and hopefully turn them into customers,
3 – A product or service readers can buy
It certainly helps your blog make money if you can offer, or link to, a product or service related to your blog’s topic.
For example, my blog covers topics related to caring for a senior cat and I sell beds for senior cats, and also link to food, litter boxes, toys, brushes, supplements, scratchers, etc. for senior cats. Those products create more opportunities for me to make money.
You can still make money without a product/service, you’ll just be reliant on ad revenue.
Typically, you’ll need a lot more traffic to generate significant revenue from ads.
When someone clicks on an ad, you may only earn $0.20 (depending o the ad). Businesses such as Mediavine or AdThrive (who take care of setting up ads on your site and working with advertisers) require a minimum amount of traffic to accept your blog, which may be 50,000+/month. But, once you have that type of traffic, those pennies per click add up.
Once your blog has significant traffic, it has the potential to earn money. But it will be more successful at earning money if it has a product or service to offer.
STEP 3 – BUILD YOUR BLOG & ADD CONTENT
Once you’ve determined a blog will be a good way to promote your business and generate revenue, then you can build a simple site for it and start adding content.
HOW DO I START A BLOG FOR FREE?
Nothing is truly free; it will require your time after all. However, you don’t necessarily need to spend any money to start a blog.
As with anything, the free version of a blog will be limited. You’ll always have access to more features when you upgrade from the free version.
But if you’re just getting started, you can absolutely start with the free version.
There are many free options out there from WordPress and Wix to Shopify and Squarespace. Some offer free trials while others are free until you decide to upgrade.
Consider your goals to help determine which platform is right for you.
I personally use WordPress and am a fan of it.
EVERY platform will have a learning curve, so it’s important not to throw in the towel or jump to another platform because you don’t understand how to use one right away.
I’ve been using WordPress (WP) for over a decade, and now that it’s set up, it’s second nature to me. However, I did start a new WP blog from scratch, and even as a veteran WordPress user, I found it a little challenging to figure out how to add photos, add sections, edit content, etc.
But, to be fair, I did also test building a new blog on other platforms and found them to have a similar learning curve.
To start a blog for free, you’ll need to:
- Choose a platform (WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, etc.)
- Edit the content to reflect your business (e.g. upload your logo, change photos, edit text, etc.)
- Purchase a domain (optional) – a domain acts as the address of your website. Some platforms, such as WordPress, allow you to use a free domain, but it will include their business’s name. For example, if you want your own domain (e.g. www.yourwebsitesname.com) you will have to purchase it. Or you can use a free WordPress domain (e.g. www.yourwebsitesname.wordpress.com) but you have less control over the URL.
- Purchase hosting (optional) – think of hosting as renting a space on the Internet. Again, some platforms will give you a space for free (it’s like your blog is staying on Wordpress’s couch for free until it finds its own space). However, if you want your own domain (aka your very own address) then you must pay the monthly fees that come with it (moving off their couch and into your own apartment).
- Add blog content
I’ll have a step-by-step article on how to set up a WordPress blog for free, coming soon.
WHAT SHOULD I BLOG ABOUT TO PROMOTE MY BUSINESS?
There are several ways you can gather content ideas for your blog.
Start by thinking about your target market and the general categories they may be interested in within the topic you’re covering. If you’re not sure who your target market is, or are currently too general when it comes to your target market (e.g. women, or parents, etc.), start by getting very clear and very specific. HOW TO FIND A GOLDMINE OF CUSTOMERS will help you do that.
For example, if I’m targeting people who have senior cats, I may come up with a list of general categories to cover:
- Vet visits
Then, think about specific questions your target market might have under each category.
- What type of foods are best for senior cats?
- How to stimulate my cat’s appetite
- Is my cat having trouble chewing?
- Is hard food or soft food better for a senior cat?
- Should I feed my senior cat raw food?
- How to make raw cat food
I’ll share tips on how to discover popular questions your target market is searching on Google in another article.
As you go through the potential questions/concerns under each category, you’ll begin to build a list of potential blog article ideas.
But they’re only good to you if they somehow help you promote your business or generate revenue.
So before you begin writing an article to answer a specific question, consider if the reader will also have an interest in the products you’re selling, or in products you can promote through affiliate links.
Also, consider how you’ll bring their attention to those products.
Product mentions may be worked right into the article
For example, if I write an article titled “10 Ways to Make your Senior Cat Comfortable”, one of those 10 ways may be by updating their cat bed. In that section I could explain which bed features are more appropriate for a senior cat and then link to the beds I offer.
Or, if I write an article on the best toys for senior cats, I may focus on how playtime contributes to a happier cat. Then at the end of the article, I could share a short section on other ways to improve your cat’s happiness and mention “giving them a cozy bed” as one of those ways.
An article may be a stepping stone on a path to a sale
For example, if I sell beds made for senior cats and post an article covering the benefits of raw food for cats, I may then link to an article in my “you may also be interested in reading” section that discusses 10 tips to care for a senior cat. Then that article may mention giving them the right type of bed to sleep in.
Or your products may simply be the background to your article
For example, if someone comes to my site to read about raw cat food, I may not even mention that I sell cat beds. They may just have a look around after reading the article and discover my products on their own.
HOW CAN I PROMOTE MY BUSINESS WITHIN A BLOG ARTICLE?
First and foremost, your blog articles must be helpful.
Always keep the reader in mind and write articles for them. Then you can go back in and find ways to mention your business’s products or services.
If you write articles the other way around (focused on promoting your products and sprinkling in a few helpful tips) they’ll come across as a sales pitch. And no one wants to read a 2000-word sales pitch.
Consider implementing The Trojan Horse method when using content marketing to promote your products.
The more quality articles the better. Once you have several articles on your blog, work on maintaining it. One new article per week is a good average to follow.
Then be patient. You’ll start to see traffic trickle in, but once it gains momentum you’ll see bigger increases from week to week.
Good luck with your blog!
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!