Lean Marketing Tips: Blogging to Build Audience and Drive Traffic

For many small businesses and startups, blogging is an inexpensive and effective strategy to drive traffic to a site, develop a reputation, and build an engaged audience of potential customers, even fanatics, who will share your content, promote your message, and help you to herd more readers to your site.

We have been publishing the crowdSPRING blog since the day we launched our business and it has proven to be one of our more consistently successful strategies. A significant amount of the traffic to our site comes through the blog and many of our customers were first introduced to us by an article we posted that they somehow stumbled upon. We write for ourselves, but we also write with our audience of users in mind: small businesses, entrepreneurs, startup folk, and creative types.

We blog because we are trying to build our business, but we also blog because we have things we like to share: topics that interest us, trends we become aware of, people we admire, and ideas we want to share. Here, then, are 5 tips on getting going with your own blogging strategy.

1. Start it up. There are tons of resources that allow you to set up your blog quickly and easily and many are free. First the question of self-hosting vs. Hosted has to be answered. Self-hosting carries great benefit, particularly if yours is a web-based businesses. Setting up a WordPress page or the like is a relatively simple process, but it does take time and energy to do so; the advantage is that when self-hosted your blog can act as a very effective portal and provides you with great control over design and functionality. The advantage of a hosted blog on a site like Tumblr, or Posterous is that you can can have your blog up and running in minutes, leverage the built in communities those services offer, and allow you to focus solely on the content.

2. Focus. Pick a focus for your blog and work hard to make sure that 80% or more of your posts stay on target. For instance, the crowdSPRING Blog focuses on small business and startups and if you are a regular reader, you know that almost all of our posts are related to that topical area. More than anything, though, write with passion – readers want good writing and the best writing comes from the things you are most interested in that which moves and interests you.The posts your readers will find  most compelling are also the posts that you cared the most about.

3. Be prolific. My number one rule for successful blogging? Produce. Set yourself a schedule and stick with it. Make a commitment to write a certain amount every week and then do so. If it is just you writing for the blog, you should probably try to write at least two articles a week. If multiple folks will contribute, one post per week is probably right. We have 4-5 folks writing for the blog regularly and others chip in a post periodically so in any given week we have 4-6 fresh articles; this steady stream of content is what readers look for and what keeps visitors returning.

4. Make it easy to share. Search is important when building an audience for your blog, but social media even more so. You need to spread the word and, more importantly, you need to make it easy for your readers to do so. Make sure that you make your posts easily linkable; share them on your Facebook, tweet them out to your follower, use a sharebar or other tool to make sharing a one-click proposition for your readers, and promote your posts via other pages on your site or in your email campaigns. The simpler it is for readers to share, the more they will.

5. Use the right words. Just not exclusively. Many bloggers are 100% focused on the SEO value that their blogs provide. While this is an important aspect (I mean, duh. If people can’t find your blog through searches, then you might as well not bother) it should not be the only aspect. Take the time to figure out who your audience is and write for them, but also take the time to include words that they are searching for; one great (and free) resource is Google’s Keyword Tool, which allows you to see which words the most people are searching for. If you are an avid Vespa rider and you want to share your thoughts on the art of scootering with other enthusiasts, then write about that passion and they will find you. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that your posts and post titles should not include words that other scooter fans aren’t searching for. In short, makes it easy for them to find you, but focus on what you want to say more so than making sure you use the right keywords.

Photo: bby_