I hear a lot of talk these days about the benefits of blogging for small businesses. Sometimes it seems everybody these days is starting a company blog. If you're a small business owner and you haven't already started a blog, I bet you've at least considered it.

Problem is, as many people as there are out there crowing and strutting over the success of their blog, there are just as many -- maybe even more -- grumbling about how their blog is a huge waste of time and energy that never produces any results.

So, should you blog?

On one of the forums I frequent, a new member recently asked if it was "worth it" to start a blog. This member noted there were already some blogs in their field, but none of them seemed to be doing all that well. They were concerned it might be a waste of time to try to stimulate reader interest in what could be a "dead" niche.

Well, sure, it could be the other blogs aren't doing well because people genuinely aren't interested in the topic. On the other hand, it may simply be a matter of the other blogs just not being worth reading. Generally speaking, in almost any niche, there are some truly terrible blogs, a large pile of mediocre blogs and only a few that are actually worth reading on a regular basis.

So what does it take to make a blog "worth reading"? How do you decide if blogging for your business is worth the investment of your time? Step one is to be honest with yourself about your reasons for doing it, and what you can bring to the table.

Let's get realistic. Consider these questions:

Do you have something to say? And is there enough of it to warrant a blog? A blog post written because you genuinely care about the subject will resonate a whole lot better with your potential readers than one written because it's been three days since your last update and your How to Make Tons of Money Blogging book says it's time to post again. You don't have to post every day, but unless you can come up with enough interesting topics to justify posting on a fairly regular basis, blogging may not be the best alternative for you.

Do you enjoy writing (at least a little bit)? Let's face it -- blogging is writing. You don't have to love it more than free chocolate, but it would probably be helpful if writing at least outranks "being beaten with large sticks" on your personal Fun-O-Meter. If you're simply worried about not being a "good enough" writer, take heart. As with many things in life, writing gets easier (and you get better at it) the more you do it.

Can you write about something other than just your company and its products? Nobody wants to listen to a non-stop sales pitch. If you want readers (well, repeat readers, that is), you'll need to find something else to write about, at least every now and then.

Are you willing to take a risk, express an opinion, have a point of view? Stiff and stilted corporate-ese and insincere marketing-speak are the kiss of death for a blog. You need to have (and use) your own human, individual "voice" in your posts. A little scary? Could be! So, can you handle it?

Do you have (or can you quickly develop) a thick skin? When you express those opinions in a blog, you open yourself up to comments -- from customers, from competitors, from random passers-by. Not all of them will be complimentary. Unless you want to do irreparable harm to your business (or personal) reputation, you must be able to keep a cool head and respond with maturity and grace. You also need to know when to let it be. Sometimes, not responding is the best response you can make. Can you do that?

Do you have (or can you acquire) realistic expectations? Are you willing to toil in (relative) obscurity for a time, or does your motivation rely on instant results? Listen, blogging is a marathon, not a 100-meter dash. It will take time for your blog to gain traction. In the meantime you'll probably spend a lot of time writing posts to which no one comments and which you suspect no one (save you and your mom, and maybe not even her) actually reads. If you think your blog is going to leap to the head of the pack right out of the starting gate, you need a serious reality check. (Unless you're already a celebrity with throngs of eager fans quivering in breathless anticipation of your next syllable, in which case, nevermind. Carry on.)

So, is it "worth it" for your business to have a blog? That depends in part on what you consider "worth it," and how much work you're willing to put in to get there. The quality of the results you get will depend on the quality of your blog itself. Done well, blogging can attract new visitors to your website, help establish you as an authority in your field, and maybe even help you make an additional sale every now and again.

Only time will tell if you get what you were looking for in the end. But I think if you're willing to invest the effort to create a blog that's worth the time it takes to read, your readers can make it worth your time to blog.

April 2, 2008

Learn more about the ways Diane can help improve the performance and profitability of your business web site, or request a no-obligation personal consultation, by visiting www.NineYards.com.


Excellent Article! I really believe every single business should have a blog.. They are so useful in clients and customers learning about you and your company. Thanks for the post and I enjoyed the read.

Randy Zlobec
Search Engine Marketing Specialist/ Author

Blogging is at the top of my "To Do" list for quite some time. Yep, I have an "editorial calendar" lined up, subjects to opine, and most importantly, a defineable goal. My challenges? Time and being a nutty perfectionist! By the end of a long day, my brain is simply frazzled, making it darn near impossible to strand coherant sentences together (something that lil Ms. Perfectionist simply will not tolerate).

Thanks for the inspiration!

Bonnie Parrish-Kell
Dancing Rabbits Communications

Thanks for writing this. As at least one of the other commenters mentioned, you answered questions that I believe are top of mind for many businesses--in a balanced way. A lot of it comes down to your total marketing budget (time plus dollars). This is just one more investment and each business needs to determine where it will get the best ROI. As you note that depends on the audience, the quality of the blogs already out there, and the size of the budget. I've been on the fence a long time. Search engines love blogs but can I really write with attitude--something that I believe is needed given the number of people who write about marketing-related topics. My angle would be making it easy for your clients to buy. I'd be interested to hear if you believe that warrants yet another marketing blog....

To blog or not to blog is not the question. If your business is IT then jump in the Blogosphere but if you're not in IT there is a far better option-- sponsor bloggers.

Sponsorship, not affiliate marketing, not CPC, not paid reviews but real sponsorship.

Hire an existing blogger with an established readership of say 80,000 loyal readers each month-- like my blog for instance, or my 4 partners to-- to add content about your company to their blog. Not reviews, PayPerPost ads or link buying but honest to gosh sponsorhip just like businesses sponsor TV and radio.

And don't use a third party ad company to do it. Instead, find out which blogs your employees are reading on company time and hire the blog authors to post a prominent banner ad to the sidebar and do X number of posts per week about your business.

If your employees are reading a blog your customers probably read that same blog.

And remember to keep everything above board-- no secrets. If your business wants to control the message then do so but make sure it's apparent to everyone that the message is your's and not the blogger's.

This will go much farther than starting a new blog and spending years building an audience. And the first companies that adopt this sponsorship model will get worldwide exposure when the blogswarm begins.

@EZ Marketing Tool: Yep, that's the big problem, isn't it? Without great content, a blog is pretty much a waste -- and yet devoting the time and resources to develop that great content is the part some companies seem to balk at.

@Bonnie: Speaking as a perfectionist myself, about the only thing I can tell you is you've just gotta grit your teeth, hold your breath and jump in. As the old saying goes, "nothing happens until something moves."

@Barbara: I don't know if anyone can say whether a blog is worth it for you, except you. It depends on what you expect to get out of it. As long as you enjoy it, my personal feeling is: go for it. On the other hand, if it's a chore you're doing simply because you think you *should* be blogging, or because "everybody else is doing it," you might want to try brainstorming some other ideas instead. You don't *have* to blog, IMO.

@Billy: Hmmm. Interesting idea, although based on your description I'm not sure how it differs significantly from an ongoing pay-per-post arrangement. I'm concerned as well with what the loyal readers of the blog might think when suddenly the blogger they've come to know (and presumably love) turns into what is essentially a corporate shill. In your experience, does this impact the readership of the blog, or do the readers seem to be tolerant of this sort of change in direction/focus? It seems to me a big part of the point of blogging is for the blogger to express his/her views in his/her own personal voice, so I'm unsure how that will mesh with allowing a company to "control the message." Thanks for sharing your idea!

Diane, well put with your points. In blogging myself for business and helping other small businesses launch blogs the ones that have something to say, enjoy writing, produce valuable content, educate their readers and link out to other great sources (to be a resource themselves) are the ones that find success.

I even created a 4 page mini-book for my clients to read the second they mention an interest in blogging outlining similar points.

Also, in most cases/industries, they have to understand that blogging is a long term business builder, not a "shot in the arm". Those that have that patience will see the growth curve.

Good article, Diane. It's as simple as 1, 2, 3.
1. Businesses must dialogue with customers and prospects.
2. The blogging 'channel' beats all others in ROI in contacting the prime clients.
3. Somehow you've got to use this channel. QED

Even if you cannot answer all this questions with "yes". Just try it! Blogging can be a huge enrichment for every company.

A comment above says "every single business should have a blog"...the family restaurant down the street? The corner hardware store? The rent-a-maids? The local gym? If all these businesses "should" have a blog, let's just abandon all attempts at human contact and talk to each other via Twitter on our Blackberries. These businesses don't blog because if you want to know what they think, you walk in and ask them.

You build web sites around what your customers NEED to see and hear, not by what you WANT them to see and hear. If your customers neither need nor want to read a blog, then creating one is an exercise in vanity.

Most. People. Don't. Live. Online.

@Heather: I agree. :) A blog is a tool. Wise craftspersons use a tool only if it's the appropriate one to get the job done. Fortunately, most small businesses have a wealth of marketing tools available. One shouldn't feel obligated to blog simply because one has read somewhere "everyone's blogging" or "businesses must have a blog to succeed." There are plenty of people and businesses that don't blog, and (IMO) don't need to.

I resisted blogging for a long time but I have realized how powerful it can be. I started my Retirement Quotes to Help You with Your Retirement Planning Blog to link to and promote my new website The Retirement Quotes Café.

Although few people read or subscribe to my blog, my regular postings have resulted in a Google Page Rank of 4 in only 3 months. This blog can now be used to get more recognition for my other blogs and websites by the search engines. For example, my The Retirement Quotes Café Website now appears in the top 3 listings whenever someone searches for "retirement quotes" in Google. For the record, my website is less than six months old.

Ernie Zelinski
Author of How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free
(Over 85,000 copies Sold and Published in 7 Foreign Languages)
Featured at http://www.thejoyofnotworking.com/rights.htm

I have a link to your website.
Please link to this site.


Thank you!

It is a nice post and I completely agree with you because maintain a blog is not a problem and also it give very good worth to our business at the same time we can earn perks from that blog also. I expect some more postings.

Nice good blog!

cimen Having a blog for your business is really important because it can help a lot in letting out the word about your business...always remember though to keep the content of your blog worth reading, not boring and is related to your business

Great article of yours that i came accross while trying to decide whether to start a blog or not. Think after reading your article will hold off for the time being until i have the time to do it properly so thanks for the article.

I believe in blogging and if it can help your business in anyway then by all means start a blog. However I have to agree with you that no one wants to read a continuous sales pitch. One must be willing to write a general scope of topic that will offer benefits to readers like tips and advices or the latest news. This way you get to benefit from the exposure and your readers get to learn from your expertise.

Great post. You cover many things people don't really consider when starting a blog. For business, there is no reason not to start a blog. Just too many benefits to ignore.

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