Posted tagged ‘Social media’

Does Online Marketing Work?

May 14, 2013

Small Business Content Marketing (for the timid)

Author: Brenna Pearce

Online marketing does work. You just have to have a plan.

As you already know if you’ve been reading my blog, the majority of Canadian small businesses don’t even have a website. Of those that do, most are more likely to use social media only for posts and updates for their customers, instead of actively marketing their brand, values, and vision to future customers. Sadly, most don’t recognize the value of blogging used in conjunction with a great content marketing plan in growing their companies. Most who do have websites are also missing out on a huge opportunity to increase revenues and inbound leads because they treat their websites as billboards instead of a vital part of an active, dynamic, online marketing plan.

Having seen this time and again, I’ve decided to put together a short ebook that outlines the basics of creating a content marketing plan. In the guide, you’ll discover:

  • Why you should be taking advantage of online marketing
  • How to use various online marketing methods together
  • Some fantastic worksheets to get you started thinking about your brand and its relation to your content marketing plan
  • And much more.

If you know someone who owns a small business and who could benefit from this book, please pass on the link below.

To download your free copy, please visit:
http://www.pearceenterprise.ca/online-marketing.php

Majority of Canadian Small Business Owners Are Still Living in the 1980s

March 25, 2013

Author: Brenna Pearce

I’m straying from small business blog writing advice in this post once again, but I thought the subject was important. I was doing some research for a presentation I’m giving about blogging for small businesses and I came across some interesting statistics I’d like to share with you. A recent (February 27, 2013) poll conducted by Ipsos Reid and commissioned by RBC, shows that the majority of small business owners in Canada are still living in the 1980s. Are you one of them? Read on.

Are You Missing a Major Marketing Opportunity?

The poll has some disturbing results; disturbing because so many companies are missing out on, and seemingly oblivious to, a major marketing opportunity. Among its results, the survey of small businesses in Canada showed that more than half of all small businesses in Canada have no dedicated website for their business. The poll doesn’t indicate if they have some other online presence, such as Facebook, which might be considered by some a dedicated website. My view is that a dedicated website would be a website exclusively owned by the company and hosted by some Internet hosting company. In other words, the company would have its own domain name and its website content would be created by, for, and about the company itself. Facebook wouldn’t qualify as a dedicated small business website by that definition.

English: A NES console with the Super Mario Br...

Living in the 1980s

So, the poll says, only 46% of Canadian small business owners have their own website. It’s no surprise then that 56% of business owners say that they believe finding and keeping customers is the biggest challenge they face in the coming year. Back in the 1980s the most common link to the outside world was the telephone. The most common way to market your business was through traditional advertising methods. Still, someone thought up the repugnant idea of using the telephone to market certain types of businesses and telemarketing was born. But again, this is still the marketing model for 54% of Canadian small businesses in 2013, 20+ years after the Internet Revolution began.

Is Your Website Just an Online Billboard?

English: British Columbia billboard photograph...

So, by now you’re thinking proudly to yourself, “I have a website for my small business”. Well, maybe you shouldn’t be so smug just yet. How are you using your small business website? Is it just an online billboard that features your products and services? Are you actively promoting your business online? In fact, only 41% of small business who actually have a website use it actively to promote their business, according to the poll. It isn’t enough just to have a website, you also have to make use of it to market your business.

According to Statistics Canada, 80% of the Canadian population is online. If you’re not trying to drive potential customers to your website, then what good is it? Recently I had a discussion with a new acquaintance about blogging. At one point he responded that he had an archive of articles on his website that he had written about his professional activities. Great, I asked; who’s reading them? How are people finding your articles? And how are people finding your website? By accident? By you directing them to your website when they come into your store or when you meet them at a networking function?

Create an Active Online Presence

Seriously, small business owners, it’s not enough just to hand out business cards with your website URL printed on them. You need to create an active online presence. How do you do that? One of the best ways, of course, is by blogging about your company, your industry, and the products and services that you sell.

My Cyber Social Map

While it is true that a blog eventually becomes a series of archived articles, writing a blog also needs to be an ongoing, dynamic process. Websites on their own are static rather than dynamic and plugged in to the daily digital Internet “news cycle”. A blog serves to keep your small business constantly connected to the worldwide online community. Each new subscriber is also a potential sharer of your information. Add the blog to Facebook and LinkedIn and you suddenly have access to all of the people you are connected to as you share each new blog post. They in turn may share your blog post to all of their friends. This is the organic nature of information-spread across the Internet. You in turn, need to visit bloggers’ sites similar to yours and post comments and share your website address. This gives you a very simple method of creating back-links, which is another way that Google uses your information to make you more visible in the search returns. Also, you create cross-links in each blog post that point to your other sites, such as your primary website and other social media websites, again creating interest from Google. Each blog post also needs to be created with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in mind. The more relevant searchable terms you can add to your blog posts (without keyword stuffing which Google will ban you for), the more visible you will be in search returns. So you can essentially funnel new readers to your primary website.

Also keep in mind that a site like WordPress has almost 40 million users. You can “Press” each and every blog post and it is featured on the main news aggregator section of the WordPress site. That is a tremendous amount of new exposure for each and every blog article you post although, admittedly, only for a short period of time. Still, your blog posts also go into a classification category that indexes your blog site and makes it available for anyone interested in your information category. If you’re looking for worldwide exposure, this is certainly a fantastic way to get that. I have visitors on my blogs from all over the world.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult!

Are you a small business owner still living in the 1980s? Still relying on telephones, newspaper ads, and other antiquated technology? Confused about how to turn your website from an online billboard hoping that someone might “drive by” on the Information Highway and see it, to a dynamic, vital part of a content marketing strategy that will bring in new business? Leave a message in the comments section below or visit our website; we can help you with all of that!

Finally, remember this sobering fact: of the 46% of Canadian small business owners from the RBC survey who had websites, 38% generate 25% to 50% of all their revenues from online activities. Can you afford to throw away that much business? If not, you should start thinking about creating a content marketing strategy.

Dollar Sign in Space - Illustration

7 Reasons You Don’t Need a Business Blog

December 3, 2012

Does Your Small Business Really Need a Blog?

It may seem a bit self-defeating for a blog about small business blogging from a company that offers small business blogging services to suggest your company may not need a blog, but that’s exactly what this post is about. There actually are some types of small businesses that don’t need a blog or at least would get less success from blogging than from other social media use. Some companies, especially some large corporations, have found more value in social media than in blogging. Much depends on your content marketing strategy, how you share content, and why you need to share content. It also depends on how much time, effort, and (sometimes) money you’re willing to invest in blog maintenance. For some entrepreneurs, starting out with social media platforms like Facebook might be a better option.

So here are seven reasons your company may not need a small business blog:

  1. You’d rather write about personal issues than create an online business persona
  2. You don’t have the time to maintain your blog
  3. You’re not willing (or can’t afford right now) to hire someone to do it for you if the above points apply
  4. Your industry is regulated and requires disclosure or compliance oversight
  5. You aren’t sure if you might accidentally or purposely libel someone or how your content might do that (see also point one)
  6. Your business requires interacting every day with its customers
  7. You require real-time feedback from your customers

1. In a previous article, we looked at vanity blogging. As a small business writer you need to detach your own personal outlook on life from your online business persona. According to last year’s State of the Blogosphere report from Technorati, 60% of all blogs belong to people who just want to express their opinions and speak their minds.

Image representing Technorati as depicted in C...

Their primary success measurement is personal satisfaction. Entrepreneurs, however, who make up about 13% of the blogosphere, blog to share information about their company and industry. Their primary purpose is to gain professional recognition and attract new customers.If this isn’t your primary purpose for blogging, you probably shouldn’t have a small business blog.

2. Blogging is hard work. It involves planning, research, good communications skills, creativity, a reasonable knowledge of SEO techniques, and general marketing know-how. You need to keep a regular schedule and provide content that makes sense and is valuable to the person reading it. If you’re not sure if you can commit to all of this, think twice about starting a business blog. At the very least, discuss some planning techniques with a professional.

3. Some entrepreneurs, especially small business owners, don’t really see the value of blogging and can’t imagine there’s any real ROI to it.

ROI Webinar

Yet they’re willing to plunk down hundreds or even thousands of dollars every year to post a business card-sized ad in a local newspaper.

An excellent blog written by a professional small business blogging service can give you far more ongoing exposure than a newspaper ad, and at a fraction of the cost. If the first two points apply to you and you’re not able to pay for a professional small business blogging service, then you might want to wait before starting a business blog.

4. Some industries are highly regulated (e.g. funeral homes, financial services companies, insurance companies, etc.). If yours is one, you may not be allowed to blog independently or at least not without the help of a lawyer. Given the compliance violation risks and higher costs involved, you likely don’t need a blog.

Gavel (PSF)

5. If you can’t hold your tongue (or rather your keyboard) and your temper, you probably don’t need a blog. There are real risks of libel when you’re writing content that’s freely available online. Trashing another company or blogging about an annoying customer, revealing another company’s trade secrets, and so on, can bring real, serious, legal consequences, not to mention permanently and irreparably damaging your reputation. Here’s one small business owner who lost her temper and went too far after a customer’s online review of her restaurant: www.cbc.ca. Bottom line: If you don’t understand the concept of libel, hire a professional or don’t blog.

6. Some companies will definitely get more value and customer engagement from social media platforms rather than blogging. A lively restaurant or nightclub might get more benefit from fast and responsive tweeting than from a blog, for example. Companies that specialize in content marketing through social media like Facebook, Twitter, etc., can help you get the most out of the high engagement interactions that these platforms offer. If you need rapid, high customer engagement, you probably don’t need a blog.

7. A related issue is companies who need fast turnaround time in their customer interactions. Some businesses can lose sales if their customers and the business owners don’t have information quickly enough, especially when selling solely online. If you need real-time interaction with customers, you probably need social media platforms more than you need a blog.

So clearly blogging isn’t for every small business. Now, to be sure, most of these points don’t represent reasons not to have a blog at all. You could very well use both blogging and social media in your content marketing efforts, with blogging playing a minor or secondary role. Social media platforms absolutely can be more effective (and safer) than blogs in certain circumstances.

The flip-side is that if you do have a blog and it’s not very well written or its irregular in terms of posting articles, you could actually end up doing more damage to your business reputation than good. People judge you and your business by the content you provide. You’re not trying to be Hemingway or Nietzsche, you’re just trying to be a good, solid, reliable source of information about your company and your industry. You don’t need to be profound, just memorable.

Have a question about small business blogging? Contact us or visit our website today!

5 Simple Tips to Make Small Business Blogging Easy

November 20, 2012

"Black-white 2 Vista" icon theme

Writing a small business blog can be a challenge. These 5 simple tips will change your blogging life. Whether you’re just getting started or you’re starting to lose interest in writing your blog, here’s how to generate fresh new posts whenever you want.

5 Simple Tips

  1. Choose a theme
  2. Pick 3-5 topics about that theme
  3. Write down 5 or more points that you want to get across to readers for each topic (do them one at a time over several days or even weeks)
  4. Write a paragraph about each point
  5. Choose a title for your post

Polski: LOGO LAPTOP

1. Start With a Theme

One of the simplest ways to get going (or get going again) with your small business blog is to think of something you believe your customers would really like to know about your business, services, or products. For a start-up company that might mean picking a theme about how your business is unique when compared to competitors. For an established business you could choose a theme that you see repeated over and over again in customers’ questions. Your theme could be about a specific product or product line or a supplier you value or how one of your services is of great value to your customers.

Write down as many themes as you can think of. Brainstorm with other people, such as employees, friends, even Facebook fans. Ask them what subject themes they would like to read about.  Then write about them. Chances are if they want to read about certain subjects other people do too.

Let’s say I own a small DIY brewing company start-up where customers brew and bottle/can their own beer. For my first theme, I’ll choose brewing techniques. This is an important theme for my company because, well, that’s what we do here. I also come up with future themes: types and classifications of beers and ales, information about the brewing industry (history, latest trends), and so on. I have enough themes to write about now for at least three months ahead.

2. Pick a Few Topics

Once you have your theme,  choose 3-5 topics about that theme. Several topics allow you to create an informational series of articles. This helps to keep readers coming back for more information. You should space your topics out over a few weeks. So, if you picked four topics, you could space the series of articles out over a month (one a week).

For my DIY Brewing Company, I’ll pick the following topics:

  • Mixing the right mash
  • The fermentation process
  • Measuring specific gravity
  • Filtration

3. Make Notes for Each Topic

Pencil Icon

Now that you have decided on your topics you need to figure out what you want people to know about those topics. This could include “how-tos” for using a product, or interesting ways that people make use of a product, or why your company chose this product over hundreds of others available in the market, or how your industry is changing and you along with it. The point is to take a different approach from what others are writing about the product or are writing at similar companies about similar topics. You need to differentiate yourself from the herd, as with everything else you do when marketing your company.

For my “Mixing the Right Mash” topic, I’ll write about:

  • Types of mash
  • Pre-mixed mashes
  • Making your own mash
  • Choosing the right ingredients for your mash
  • Mashing tuns (about)

4. Write a Paragraph For Each Note

This might be the most difficult part of the entire blog post process. Blogging tips and techniques can only get you so far, after all. In the end, you’ll need to write a coherent paragraph about each note. You don’t need to limit yourself to one paragraph, though you probably should not write more than three, depending on the topic. Otherwise your post will become far too long.

I start my paragraph about “types of mash” like so: “As a beer brewing hobbyist, you have many different types of mash to choose from.” [Note that I didn’t self-promote by writing: “At DIY Brew we have many types of mash to choose from.” That sounds too much like a commercial and less like an informational article. Always try to write directly to the reader. Imagine that you’re speaking to one other person and instructing that person in a “how-to” manner.]

Then I would go on to list the different types of pre-mixed mashes, and introduce the topic of making your own mash for the next paragraph. Every paragraph should flow naturally into the next. The last sentence of your paragraph should be a natural cue for the first sentence of the next paragraph. For example, it would be more natural to go from “types of mash” to “pre-mixed” and “making your own” than it would be to start discussing mashing tuns (which is the equipment used for cooking the mash).

5. Choose a Title for Your Post

Choose a title that’s interesting and grabs a potential reader’s attention. “Mixing the Right Mash” might be a little dull for this title, but would do if you couldn’t think of something better. Something like “Choosing the Best Mash for the Best Results” might work better. People generally respond to “tips” titles, too (as in “5 Simple Tips to Make Small Business Blogging Easy”). Or you could be really inventive and work your topic points around  “M*A*S*H*” in the title; or maybe I’m just showing my age. You can also look  at my previous post, “12,000 Canadian Facebook Users Dead“, which is about how to spin a topic you’re writing about.

That’s it! It’s that simple. It’s a process and you just have to be methodical in your approach to this “chore”. You can probably see how you could use this process to easily plan an editorial calendar months in advance.

Please let me know if these tips have been helpful. Comment below or let us know on our Facebook page.

Entrepreneur or Provocateur? How to recognize when you’re writing a vanity blog, not a small business blog

November 19, 2012

(“Girl showing hearts on laptop”, Stuart Miles, http://www.freedigitalphotos.net)

What is a “Vanity Blog”?

Business owners who write on their company blogs about personal subjects not related to their business and its customers are what I call vanity bloggers. A small business owner who writes only to share cute personal stories, or share their personal philosophies and opinions is a vanity blogger. If you’re not using your valuable creative energies to promote your business and enhance your reputation as an expert in your industry in order to increase sales, you’re probably wasting your time blogging.

This may be an issue that has never occurred to some small business owners who blog. The subject relates back to my earlier post, “Batman’s Butler”, when I posed the question, “Why do we blog?”. The answer, you may remember, is that we want to communicate important information of value to other people. Unfortunately, we’re not always communicating the right kind of information as entrepreneurs. Instead, we may actually be impacting our readers negatively.

This concept cannot be emphasized enough: if you’re not writing for customers, you’re vanity blogging. Unless somebody knows you personally, they likely won’t give your vanity blog a second look. Why? First and foremost, you’re not offering them any useful information about your business. Second, and worse, you may be alienating potential customers because you’re sharing personal views about society, politics, etc., that they find disagreeable or even  offensive.

Write for the Right Audience

If you think you may be a vanity blogger, a good question to ask yourself is: who am I writing for? In other words, who is your audience? Are you writing for friends and relatives, or do you seriously want to find new customers? Most people who are curious enough about your company to check out your website and blog are so because you offer products and services that they need. If they are confronted with…

  • Your political views
  • Your religious beliefs
  • Your navel-gazing, personal confessions or other unsolicited revelations about your personal life
  • Puppies and kittens (unless related to your store mascot, animal welfare organizations you support or your pet store)
  • Your latest vacation
  • Anything else that is too personal

…your blog is likely doing little to support your company’s content marketing objective or generate new sales leads. In fact, it might be having the opposite effect.

Don’t Be Confrontational

Note the word “confrontational” above. To some people reading your blog for the first time your personal views may be confrontational. You wouldn’t greet a customer in your store by immediately broaching the subject of politics or religion, would you? Would you start telling them about your personal relationship issues? No.

The first thing you normally do after greeting a customer and a little chit-chat is ask something like, “What may I help you with today?” That’s the same attitude you should have toward your blog. How can you help the reader who is interested in your company and its products and services?

Take It Outside

If you have strong opinions you want to share about anything not to do with your company, your products and services, or your industry, consider starting a personal blog detached from your business. Whatever your opinions about non-business issues, no matter how profound or well-thought out, there will always be people who disagree, people who can’t get past your personal beliefs or opinions who might otherwise have done business with you. So take those opinions somewhere else, outside your company.

Of course, there may be people who agree with your views. Would you rather have 20 new customers who happen to agree with you on a personal level or 100 new customers by being neutral about everything except your own business? Remember that you’re trying to appeal to as many people as possible at the business level so they will buy from you.

Pet Peeve

I pick on puppies and kittens a lot when I’m writing about content marketing, but it’s for a reason. I personally have two dogs, and I love animals. But I would never blog about them or share photos of them (unless a number of readers specifically requested me to do that, of course) in my blog for the sake of having something to post.

Now, writing a one-off story about your cat isn’t going to kill your small business blog; likewise writing about a favourite animal welfare group. If that’s all you write about though, or you write too frequently about your pets, then you’re not helping to promote your business. In a sense, you’re only promoting yourself. If you’re a pet store owner, you’re excused from these guidelines (but even then posts about pets should be business-related).

You could certainly post occasional blurbs and pics of your pets on other social media platforms, such as Facebook. That’s really more the place for that type of material. Social media platforms are where you go to engage people on a more personal level with your business.

Vacations

This one could go either way. A post about your latest trip to the Mayan Riviera with pictures of you in swimwear strolling the pristine white sands along the beach or whooping it up at the hotel bar properly belongs on your personal blog or shared with friends on Facebook. However, a business-related trip to the Mayan Riviera where you attended interesting workshops or seminars is a perfect blog subject, so long as any posts you create are about what you learned and how you think this new information will benefit your customers. See the trend here?

Think Strategy, Think Sales

People blog for a lot of reasons. The only reason you should be blogging on your business website is because it’s part of your overall content marketing strategy. The information you share through your business activities, therefore, should be “strategic”. In other words, you’re blogging for customers, and if you’re not you should be. This is the only way your blog is going to generate increased sales revenues. And if you’re not sure how to do that, you’re reading the right blog.

 

 

Today’s Title: I wanted a title that reflects the dichotomy of today’s feature issue, that we can either write as entrepreneurs or simply write  articles that reflect our personal beliefs. Provocateur is more often used in the context of “agent provocateur”, one who incites others to commit illegal acts. I’m using the term provocateur to mean provoker, as in provoking our customers in negative ways. (Being provocative is not always a good thing.)

 

The Small Business Bloggers’ Blog, is written with the small business owner in mind. Remember: Small business blogs should be about the business and its customers, not about the owner.

Have a comment or question about small business blogging? Comment below or visit Pearce Enterprise Research on Facebook!

Batman’s Butler Asks the Right Question

November 14, 2012

The Batsuit of Batman Begins, worn by Christia...

In the film, “Batman Begins”, Alfred the butler asks a dejected Bruce Wayne, “Why do we fall?” The answer: “So that we can learn to pick ourselves up again”. Why am I quoting Alfred the butler? The answer: because, in a way, this same principle applies to small business blogging. Many small business owners have tried blogging without seeing any real success from their writing activities and have let their blogs fall. Why do blogs fall? I think it’s because they haven’t asked themselves that one crucial question: “Why do I blog?”

So why do we blog? The answer to this question should be straightforward, but, paradoxically, isn’t for many of us. People blog on an almost infinite array of issues, but all blogs can be distilled into one basic, common principle: communicating important information of interest to other people.

What is important to you, however, may not be that important to a lot of other people. The trick in blogging effectively is realizing what ideas you have in common with the highest number of people possible, strangers in essence, and sharing important information about common concerns with them. This is especially true in small business blogging.

For example, I thought about what I wanted this blog to be about for quite a while. There are so many websites offering advice to would-be bloggers. I decided, after reviewing a number of local business blogs, that there was a real need for advice on how to blog as well as why a small business blog is a good thing. The important information I want to share with as many people as possible, those who I think share common concerns, small business owners, is how to make blog posts unique to their business and use them most effectively to generate new business. I believe this starts with writing well and writing strategically (i.e. with a definable purpose).

So, small business owner, why do you want to blog? Here are some of the reasons why small business owners should start a blog:

  • Improve search engine results (visibility)
  • Establish your industry expertise (credibility)
  • Influence social media platforms (networking/visibility)
  • Get customer response (engagement)
  • Answer common questions that many customers ask (FAQs)

Almost everything that goes on in your business is part of a subset of one of the above principles. Your blog helps you to articulate your business philosophy, your dedication to customer service, your unique selling proposition, and so on, to a very wide potential audience. A blog is more like setting up a table on the sidewalk and talking to random passersby to directly engage them in a conversation than it is like a newspaper or other traditional media advertisement. That’s why it has to be good. You want people to listen to you, not ignore you.

You can find all kinds of information on the Internet about how to start a blog and how to market it effectively. There are tips on how to share your blog on social media, how to syndicate your content, learn search engine optimization tactics, and discover where you can go to find blog space. Fewer blogs concentrate on the basic mechanics of strategically writing individual blog posts and writing them well. Fewer still concentrate on doing this when you’re a small business owner trying to blog for a local customer base.

Small business owners need this information. It’s a common concern for many (even if they don’t know it yet). Doing a great job marketing your blog doesn’t amount to anything if you’re highly visible but also highly irrelevant or boring. That’s why I blog. I want to help small business owners pick themselves again up in terms of their business blogging.

We will be looking at some of the other tips I mentioned above in future posts related to marketing your blog. These things go hand in hand with the essential purpose of small business blogging, which is generating new sales leads. However, my main concentration is how you, as a small business owner, can write well and engage your readers. This, in turn, will lead to increased interest in your company and to new sales. You won’t find any flashy gewgaws or doodads in these pages; just straightforward information that will help you write better and be more interesting to a greater number of people who need your products and services.

Now that you know why you blog, why you should blog, and you know there is help out there, pick yourself up again and start blogging well.

Today’s Title: I chose today’s title because, as I was asking myself the question “why do we blog?”, Alfred the butler kept whispering in my memory: “Why do we fall?”. I guess it was the similarity of the wording that evoked the parallel with the concept of small business blogs “falling” and Alfred’s “Why do we fall?” question.

Do you have a small business blogging question you’d like to see answered? Let me know in the comments section below, email me using the contact form on my website,  or drop by and leave a comment on the Pearce Enterprise Research Facebook page.

Visit Pearce Enterprise Research today to discover how we can help your small business blog generate new sales!

12,000 Canadian Facebook Users Dead

November 13, 2012

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

You’ve just been drawn in by a misleading headline. But don’t leave! Small business owners, read on. There’s a reason for this headline (and I promise not to do it again).

The Spin

This article probably isn’t what you expected when you first read the headline. You might have been thinking, “OMG, what happened?”, or something like that. In fact, my headline is like many online news article and blog headlines: misleading. The sole purpose of a skewed headline like this is to get your attention and pique your interest so that you will read the article.

You may already have guessed the spin behind this headline. In Canada Facebook has penetrated approximately 55% of the population (statistic from http://www.socialbakers.com). Assuming that, among the 22,500 Canadian deceased people ages 15-64 reported by Statistics Canada in their most recent report on deaths in Canada, we have the 55% Facebook penetration rate of the general population, then 12,340 people who died in 2009 may have had Facebook pages. So, 12,000 Canadian Facebook users are dead (although I’m playing a bit fast and loose with the statistics, I admit). I’m going to teach you in this blog post how not to create deceptive spin. And I’m going to show you how to make your blog post titles more engaging.

The Rationale

If you’re a small business owner with a blog, you do need to get the attention of potential customers. That starts with providing valuable and interesting information on your website and in your blog; but a big part of making that content appealing is picking the right headlines for your blog posts. And by the way, my Facebook-related headline here really is not appropriate for this article. This blog article is about creating engaging blog post titles, not about deceased Facebook users.

I could have called this blog post “How to Choose the Right Titles for Your Blog Posts”. Instead, I chose a dramatic, deliberately misleading title that at once shows how to and how not to choose a blog post title. It actually illustrates both main points of this article.

So how do you pick a good headline for your small business blog?

Wordle Cloud of the Internet Marketing Blog - ...

The Process

You might be tempted to start with a title and work backward from that to write the article. Generally, this is not a good idea because if you do that you’ll be limiting your creativity. You’ll find yourself stuck wondering how to write something that fits the title. Write your post first, look at it again, give it some dynamic spin if you can, then choose an engaging title that reflects the intent of your content.

But don’t take that last concept too far. One real danger is that you might choose a title that creates an expectation of the blog post content that disappoints your reader, just as I did with the title of this post. There likely will be many readers who come across this post title, click to read it, and then roll their eyes when they realize they’ve been misled. They hit the “Back” button and they’re gone, unlikely to return. That’s what could happen if you mislead readers by an overzealous spin on your title. There is good spin and there is bad spin. Spin is not about lying to your readers.

Initially, you will derive your headline from your editorial schedule and calendar. When you set up your content marketing editorial schedule (and you should already have done this), including planning related social media content posting, you first choose a theme for a series of posts. Then from that theme you drill down to specific subjects to write about and post online. However, it isn’t always enough simply to choose a subject summary as the title.

For example, let’s imagine that you’re a retailer selling widgets and you have just added the latest and greatest widget to your product line. You write an article about the benefits and advantages of these particular widgets over other, similar widgets. You could entitle the article “XYZ Company Adds New Widget to Product Line”, but that’s really not very exciting. “Big deal”, thinks the headline reader, who then yawns and clicks away from your website. So before that happens you need to start thinking about putting spin on the article before you post in order to make it more interesting to your readers.

Going back to our imaginary example, you suddenly remember a customer who had purchased one of your new widgets and took it with her on a recent vacation to Nepal. A good idea at this point would be to go back and do a bit of re-writing to focus more on the customer’s experience of the product. This is your spin.

Getting back to picking a good title, how about this: “Local Woman Takes XYZ Company Widget on Mount Everest Climb”. Although you probably won’t have too many customers who climb Mount Everest, the point is to think of more exciting ways to spin your articles. When your blog article includes information about your own customers using a product in interesting ways, potential customers visiting your website and blog for the first time are intrigued and want to learn more.

Mount Everest

Add a relevant image for greater effect

The example title above helps to raise questions in readers’ minds, such as:

  • “Who is this local woman climbing Mount Everest?”
  •  “Why did she take this company’s product with her?”
  • “Would I benefit from this product?”

Those questions might lead to thoughts like: “Maybe I should check out this company and this product.” That urge potentially leads to increased sales. And increased sales is the whole point of small business blogging. It’s a kind of intense advertising.

However, my perception is that many small business owners who already blog give very little thought to how their blog can generate additional sales, let alone to how the titles of their blog posts contribute to this. At best, they pick a humdrum, functional title that simply describes the subject they’re writing about. Often, this is simply because they don’t plan the article ahead of time. They write a blog post at the last minute and then neglect its title in their haste to get the article posted. But if you don’t engage your readers from the get-go your blog posts will go unread.

The Rules

The reason I chose this as my first subject for this blog is to start you thinking about the underlying concepts or “rules” of good small business blog writing. If you’ve already started writing your business blog and it isn’t producing any new sales leads, I encourage you to go back and take a second look at your existing posts. If you don’t have a business blog yet, then you’re already a step ahead by knowing how to encourage readers to look at your future posts.

Consider the following five general rules as you plan your blog posts and titles:

  1. Don’t mislead.
  2. Do find a fun, interesting, unique (honest) spin.
  3. Don’t “settle” for a mediocre title. Always remember, you’re trying to get new sales.
  4. Do make sure your content fulfills the reader’s expectations of the title.
  5. Do plan ahead so you have time to think about an interesting idea for every post.

Good blogging always includes well-considered post titles.  This comes from advance planning. Do start an editorial calendar and plan your themes and subjects ahead of time. We’ll explore how to do this in future posts, so please follow our blog to learn more.

The Small Business Bloggers’ Blog, is written with the small business owner in mind. Remember: Small business blogs should be about the business and its customers, not about the owner.

Visit Pearce Enterprise Research today to discover how we can help your small business blog generate new sales!