Small Business Blog: How to Create a Blog for Business in Five Simple Steps

Let’s face it: blogging is more than just a passing fad.

Tens of thousands of businesses use their own small business blog on a daily basis to find new customers, provide better service to existing customers, and grow their existing business further than they ever could have gone before.

If you’re a small business and you’re not using an inexpensive blog to educate, entice, and cultivate customers, and you are hurting for business, you might as well hang up your license to do business.

Everyone from small Mom ‘n’ Pop shops to major corporations have gotten into the blogging game.

If you still aren’t convinced that there is real potential in this medium, then nothing I can say is going to convince you of its value (although you can read this article here on 5 Reasons Every Business Should Have a Blog).

If you are convinced that blogging for your business is a good idea, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get started. So we put together the following easy to follow guide to getting started with your own business blog.

How to Pick a Blogging “Platform”

First you need to understand that there are many different choices of various software technologies for your blog. There’s everything from the Google-owned Blogger.com to open source WordPress to smaller blogging sites such as livejournal and tumblr. There are also smaller niche blog providers like weebly.com or hubspot.com.

In true Google style, Blogger.com is very simple and basic, and it’s actually how I started out. It is so simple in fact that if you start with Blogger, you will probably outgrow it fairly quickly.

WordPress, on the other hand, gives you the greatest flexibility. Just to be confusing there are actually a couple of different flavors of WordPress.

There is wordpress.com, which offers a free site (i.e.www.Joesblog.wordpress.com), and WordPress.org, which is an open source project with limitless advice available on the web, but no corporate owner.

You can set up a 100% free wordpress.com site without a unique domain or you can use wordpress.com with your own domain which is just the cost of the domain registration or about $20/year. Or, you can use self-hosted wordpress.org with your own domain for maximum flexibility and customization, which is about $100/year total for the domain registration and hosting costs.

Let’s Cut to the Chase: Pick WordPress.org

I will make the choice of various different platforms incredibly simple for you: you should pick wordpress.org. I wish I had learned how to use a self-hosted WordPress.org site years ago. In fact, wordpress is so flexible and customizable that many websites actually use it – websites which do not look anything like a traditional blog.

You can pick a “theme” which affects the overall “look” of a site from thousands of free themes available, or you can pay a little to upgrade to a more sophisticated theme. When you are ready for a new look, you can change your theme. It will save you thousands hiring a web designer to completely overhaul your site.

Here’s a list of wordpress.org business themes if you want to see various different options.

The Five Basic Steps

The actual work of setting up the blog is not complicated, although it can be for the uninitiated. Here are the basic five steps. After I describe the basic steps, I will go into more detail:

  1. Choose a Domain Name
  2. Buy a Domain Name
  3. Sign Up for a Web Hosting Provider
  4. Install WordPress
  5. Start Blogging!

Step 1: Choose a Domain Name for Your Blog

The first step is to pick a name for your blog.  It is also in many ways one of the most difficult decisions you will make in your young blogging career, and I realize it’s difficult making such a significant decision when you haven’t even gotten your feet wet.

However, I encourage you to try to avoid analysis paralysis at such a weighty decision up front.  There are thousands of incredibly popular, well read, high-traffic blogs operating today that have bad domain names, and they do just fine. If you asked the owners of these blogs, they would probably acknowledge they would choose a different domain name if they knew then what they know now. But they’ve had success, even in spite of their domain names.

Because you are going to be blogging to get more business, you need to have your own domain name and not a name with .blogspot.com in the domain, such as www.joesfavoriteblog.blogspot.com.

You can get some more tips here: Choosing the Domain Name for your Blog.

Here are some important suggestions regarding picking a domain name for a business blog:

  • Try to use the keywords for your target market in your domain name. In other words, if you are writing a blog about Montana flyfishing, you should choose a blog with both Montana and Flyfishing in it. If MontanaFlyfishing.com is taken, then try adding words to the end such as MontanaFlyfishingcenter.com or Montanaflyfishingheadquarters.com.
  • Try to avoid using your first and last names for two reasons: (1) you lose the search engine optimization benefits of integrating your desired keyword terms into your domain, and (2) if you ever want to sell your blog or your business, it will be harder to sell if it is your personal name.
  • You may want to pick a memorable but made up word which you can use to establish a new brand. Think of yelp.com, netflix.com, flickr.com or google.com. Creating a new brand can involve a lot more work, but it may result in a new, valuable asset.
  • If you are using the blog to complement an existing store’s offerings, then you may want to bypass picking a new domain name and simply integrate the blog into your existing website. On the other hand, you can pick a different name that is related. For example, if you are a golf retail store in Northern New Jersey, you could name your blog “NorthNewJerseyGolf.com” and indicate that the site is “sponsored by” or “presented by” your store.

Step 2:  Buy a Domain Name

The next step is to buy the domain name. You can usually get a free domain name when you sign up for a hosting package, such as with Bluehost.com, which is a very popular hosting provider.

Another good hosting provider is Hostgator.com, which I use for California Law Report. I’ve had great luck with their customer service, which has helped me by going above and beyond a couple of times when I’ve had technical issues.

Another option is to buy the domain through either a large domain registrar like Network Solutions or GoDaddy.com.

Step 3: Sign Up For A Web Hosting Provider

If you didn’t sign up for a web hosting account when you bought the domain, then you need to pick a hosting package. You will save a few bucks by prepaying for a longer period of time.

Step 4:  Install WordPress Using “One-Click” Install

After you have signed up for your web hosting account, you will need to “install” wordpress. This may sound intimidating but the hosting provider will walk you through the process and it’s actually quite simple.

However, for those who need someone to walk them through the steps, I recommend this basic video by blogger Pat Flynn on how to set up a blog in four minutes or less:

 

If you still don’t want to set up the blog yourself, then you can go on elance.com and hire a freelancer for probably $100 to set up the blog for you along with choosing a theme, standard plugins, and basic customization. If you still don’t want to spend that amount, then you can also use Blog Setup, which is owned by entrepreneur and blogger Erica Douglass which will set up your blog for free.

How and why do they do it for free – and what is the catch? They sign you up for a hosting plan using hostgator.com and they get paid a small commission from the web hosting company to refer you as a new customer.

Step 5:  Start Blogging

Now comes the hardest part. Now you need to get started writing.

There are a million bloggers who will give you advice on how, when, and what to include in your blog.  However, here are a few of my own tips on blogging specifically for a small business blog:

  • Try to post as frequently as your schedule will allow. I usually find 2-3 times per week is a good schedule. Read my post on 7 Habits of Highly Effective Business Blogs.
  • Do not blog constantly about your business and what products you offer. Instead, you should share your expertise as much as possible. The theme is to be as helpful as possible, and good things will come from it.
  • Think strategically about what keyword searches your ideal client is probably doing. In other words, picture your ideal client sitting down at a computer and googling certain terms. You should be sure to incorporate these terms into your blog posts.
  • Outline what topics you plan to write about a few weeks in advice. Over time, you will accumulate a lot of material which demonstrates your expertise that can be re-purposed in an ebook or some other format.

Above all else, be sure to have fun and be creative. If you aren’t having fun with your small business blog, readers will be able to tell and your product will not be worthwhile.

 

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Photo credit: Flickr/Annie Mole