I was a late-onset blog writer. Early on, my resistance to it was a force of nature. I held a firm belief that blogging was a self-indulgent thing reserved for those who either a) were blindingly brilliant and thus had a lot to say, b) had a lot of time on their hands, or c) loved the sound of their own voices. Years ago, early blogs seemed to fall into a couple of types for me: Long, rambling tomes by scholarly types, or short, newsy updates on “what I ate between dawn and dusk today.”
I think it was the writer Seth Godin that eventually changed my mind. He’s been blogging for a long time, and it was through him I discovered the concept of the bite-sized blog that is still thoughtful and useful. Checking out his blog – just a topline view of it – will show you the variety of shapes, sizes and textures blogging can take (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/).
Although I don’t blog anywhere near as often as I’d like (a situation I’m trying to remedy) I’ve not just become a convert, I also recommend blogging to anyone who has a business website. Here are some reasons why:
- First, you don’t have to call it a blog.
To many in my tribe, even the word “blog” is uncomfortable and geeky. But the idea of being able to regularly share a bit of writing with faraway people and benefit from that connection? Not geeky. For those who just bristle at the word itself, I’ll just eliminate the word “blog” from the rest of this article and stay in the mindset of “sharing useful stuff online with people I want to help.” ‘Kay?
- It’s neither hard nor expensive to set up – in fact most of our clients are on WordPress, which makes it a several-minute (not several-hour) task.
For those of you who use WordPress or many DIY website builders, the capacity to write on your website, in the form of “Posts”, is already built in. You just, er, start writing. If you want your writings to also be reachable through a click on your site’s menu, adding it there is easy-peasy.
- You don’t have to write War and Peace.
Seriously, I think this was the hardest barrier for me to overcome. I thought that every time I sat down to add a post, I had to have a Big Idea, one that no living human had ever shared before. I had to lay in a thermos of coffee and a stack of Kind® bars because it was going to take hours to get my elaborate point across. But although some long postings can be great (helpful for search engine rankings for example), a mix of long and short keeps both you AND your readers interested. I’ve stopped reading more than one writer’s online work because I simply didn’t have time to read 5000 words today, thankyouverymuch.
- It isn’t just you talking about yourself, or creating elaborate research papers, or being a genius all the time.
It can also be any or all of the following, super-short or comfortably long, your choice:—Popping out to share a short piece of news you just found that’s relevant to your unique audience
—A new tool or technique that you just discovered helps your productivity or peace of mind
—Something you just read that angered/inspired you
—A success story from one of your clients or partners
—An event that just happened that changed how you think about something
—A new idea you’ve just started to hatch
—A photo of where you do your work
—A little video or audio or TED talk you found (or made, or were in)
—An upcoming class, workshop, webinar, book reading, anything experiential and interesting to “your people”…and so much more. If you need a stack of ideas, let me know
- You get a chance to show you’re good at what you do, and show how approachable you can be, so people are more comfortable connecting with you.
Making regular additions to your website by writing and sharing is a way your clients, prospects, customers, and donors can get to know you as a human being: what you know, who you are inside, what’s important to you, what you notice. This is one way new people can determine that you’re worth the risk of contacting you or giving your product/service/cause a second look.
- It will make web search engines love you more.
People are looking for you on the web, even if most of your work happens to come via word-of-mouth. Writing something substantial even semi-regularly (once every couple of weeks) can please the Google gods in several ways. There’s a lot of goopy science behind this, so I’ll just share a topline:Search engines detest abandoned/neglected websites cluttering up the data landscape, and will ding you (meaning: no one will find you) if yours is rarely updated. Publishing something regularly is a relatively painless and free way to keep your website out of that trap.The engines also prefer sites that are substantial, with lots of pages bearing the key words used in your business. Posts you create are basically more and more pages…and that’s good.
They like to see people come to your website and stay a while, versus quickly ducking in and leaving. Giving them something juicy to read helps keep them interested and staying put.
If you write things that people share with others, and/or link to from their OWN websites, that gives you even more brownie points.
- It will help bring you new website visitors, clients, fans, and supporters.
When you write and publish something on your website, you can easily share that same material on social media (often it’s just a matter of using certain little tools installed on your site, which will auto-publish what you’ve written to multiple outlets.) More pages, more exposure on the web, more of your words showing up on social media with links back to you…it all adds up to more people being exposed to you and to your work, and coming to you to learn more.
- It will give you a space to have a conversation with your Your People.
When you look at your website, does it have any place where people can converse with you? If you provide great resources for your intended readers, for example, is there a place where they can say Thank You, or suggest even more resources, or ask a question, or even tell you that the link you provided isn’t working any longer? Posting new writings on your website gives you the ability to accept comments (which you would pre-screen via email). These comments can form a conversation, something that everyone can learn from. Suddenly your website is a gathering place for people you’re hoping to get to know and work with.
- Every day you come across things that, as they pass through your consciousness, make you think “I’d love to share that with My People—they’d get so much out of it.”
And then…it’s gone. Replaced in your short-term memory by something more pressing. Or stuffed in a computer file and buried. Or torn out and filed in a folder, where it stays for months or years, until it’s no longer relevant. A space for writing on your website becomes a repository for all of those helpful, meaningful things, which you can quickly share with the world. (You can even publish them to your website via email.)
- It will help you to continue to craft what you offer the world, by helping you discover (and share) what matters most to you, and to the people you’re trying to help.
In terms of cultivating good ideas for new ways to help my audience, nothing has helped me more than writing regularly. The poet Mark Doty said, when asked why he writes, that “…it is the way I know what I think and feel.” I write. I think. I gather information. I get feedback. I leap to different possibilities. I find new ideas sprouting. It’s like a muscle, one that I exercise because it helps me be strong enough to help the people I’m in this to help.
Blogging will certainly not make or break your business, but it has so many benefits that it seems a shame not to at least give it a try. You may be very surprised at what you find.
Let me know if you need help getting started.