Today’s post is contributed by Richard Kao. Richard is the department manager of COSSales, a UK-based office, and tech solutions provider. A fan of digital marketing and workplace productivity, he loves reading blogs like to grow his knowledge and expertise.

The immense benefits of small business blogging are clear:

SMBs with a blog generate 67% more leads and get 97% more links to their websites than their blog-less counterparts.

5-Step Blogging Guide

And the perks go beyond lead generation and SEO. Did you know that, by 2020, 85% of customers will manage their relationships without speaking to a human?

A potential customer will do their own research about your products and services long before speaking to one of your sales reps – and a well-built SMB blog can put your offerings in the best light possible.

Sweet, isn’t it?

However, knowing the business advantages of blogging and actually reaping the benefits are two different things. If you are a complete newbie to the world of blogging, you will want to read the rest of the guide and discover how to start a business blog with a solid foundation.

First Step: Set Targets

To succeed in just about any endeavor, you need to know what success looks like. This is true for especially blogging. You want to set a goal and structure the posts and other pieces of content accordingly.

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So before moving to the next step, ask yourself the following question:

“What do I want to get out of my business blog?”

Are you looking to establish yourself as an industry expert or thought leader?

If that’s the case, your written pieces should be geared more towards establishing expertise – and less towards marketing products and services. The spotlight is on the biggest questions your target audience asks about the topic and the best answers you can provide.

If better SEO and greater organic traffic is the primary aim of your blog, the focus shifts to blog architecture, overall site speed, content optimization, and other important ranking factors.

And if you want to convert onlookers and visitors to newsletter subscribers and paying customers, creating email magnets and optimizing the blog’s design for conversions is the way to go.

Of course, there will be overlaps.

You still want to properly SEO thought leadership articles so your post is found by search engine users.

And if better SEO and rankings are the top priorities for a blog, applying conversion rate optimization (CRO) best practices to turn engaged visitors to newsletter subscribers is always a good idea.

However, startup and small business owners have to keep tabs on several moving pieces to keep their companies afloat.

Time may not be a luxury and you want to train your sights on just one of the blogging goals mentioned so you don’t get sidetracked.

Use Tried-And-Tested Formats And Best Practices When Writing Posts

Want your posts to have a better shot at getting found in the SERPs?

Here’s a simple, Google-approved trick:

Write well-researched, in-depth posts!

You see, the average length of the pages in Google’s top 10 results averaged 2,000 words, with the number one spot often spanning 2,416 words in length. Clearly, the big G favors articles and posts that go the extra mile in answering users’ questions.

Pandu Nayak, a Google technical staff member and author of the Panda Update, even said in a blog post:

“Users often turn to Google to answer a quick question, but research suggests that up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic. That’s why today we’re introducing new search results to help users find in-depth articles.”

However, writing in-depth blog posts can be a huge time-sucker if you start from scratch every time you sit in front of your laptop.

This may not be a problem if you’re a professional blogger with a lot of time to spare. But as a small business owner, spending half of your working day writing a post is out of the question.

So here’s a solution:

Stick to tried and tested blog post formats. Not only do they attract traffic and boost social sharing. They also save you time as you don’t have to brainstorm blog posts from scratch. Here are four blog post formats to add to your arsenal:

  • List posts: People love lists! How much? Well, an analysis of over one million articles saw list posts generate 10,621 total shares on average. A list post gives readers a specific and quantifiable return for the time and attention they invested in reading it. Here’s a sample.
  • How-to guides: When it comes to social shares, how-to guides are behind list posts in average social shares. But make no mistake about it: readers also love how-to articles. Just like list posts, this type of content promises readers a concrete benefit – like this guide on how startups can save money. The title makes it clear what readers should expect from it.
  • Case studies: In the UK, case studies are one of the 12 different tactics content marketers use, and 63% of marketers consider it as an effective way of establishing proof of a product’s or service’s value. Why not consider having a page on your blog dedicated to case studies and in-depth reviews from satisfied customers?
  • Product showdowns: Chances are, you have competitors. And potential customers would like to know how your offer stacks up against others. Publishing product showdowns or comparisons gives you the opportunity to highlight your edge.

Now, here’s one thing to keep in mind whichever blog post format you’re following:

Keep your post readable.

User experience (UX) is one of those “second-order” ranking factors. They may not carry as much weight as keywords, links, and on-page SEO. But they have a measurable impact on search engine rankings.

Google looks at a number of metrics to measure how well a site is optimized for UX.

The list includes linking patterns, time on site, bounce rate, and other user engagement metrics. And one way to ensure that website scores high in the UX department is to provide readable and useful content.

Your blog must provide relevant, actionable, and credible content. But the content itself should also be easy to navigate and optimized for all browsers (read: responsive). Here’s an example of a long-form list post that provides a good user experience. A few good things to note:

  • The font is big enough and strikes contrast against the background (easy to read)
  • It’s in-depth, goes beyond the 2000-word mark.
  • The scrolling sidebar is a nice addition, allowing readers to jump from one item to another in a click.

One minor issue with the example, however. Perhaps using real photos would’ve made for a more appetizing read.

The posts here at – like this guide on building a side income online  – also follow the same readability best practices. The example above starts with a quick intro and a branded image, followed by a table of contents for easier navigation. And it’s in-depth, too!

Always Add A Call To Action

Shocking fact: 70% of small businesses don’t use CTAs on their homepage.

Calls-to-action, as the name suggests, are instructions to readers designed to trigger or provoke an immediate response. And without one, a website or blog is leaving a lot of opportunities on the table: from new fans and followers, new subscribers, to new customers.

So don’t forget to add a call to action on your blog’s homepage – and posts, too.

But what CTA would be apt?

The answer depends on the goals of the business blog.

For example:

For thought leadership blogs, calling for visitors to subscribe to your email list to get valuable industry insight is a good start. And in your posts, ask a question near the end of the post and encourage readers to comment on their answers.

You may even want to include “Tweet This” CTAs in your post to help spread your message. After all, part of what makes a thought leader a thought leader is the people that listen to him.

Interlink To Strengthen The Blog’s SEO

Interlinking refers to any linking from one page to another page within the same domain. And it’s a key SEO and content marketing tactic for a long list of good reasons.

For starters, it’s one of the few ways to inform readers and Google of other important pages and posts in your blog. Not to mention you can link from popular posts to promote “money pages” such as a landing page.

But most important, in my opinion, interlinking gives readers additional reading options. And with it, readers get more reasons to spend more time on your blog. This reduces bounce rates while giving you more opportunities to get your products and services in front of the right people.

To get the most benefit out of interlinking, start by removing the “no follow” attribute in internal links. By switching to “do follow” links, pages within your domain pass authority to each other, boosting the blog’s overall metrics.

Next, you want to use an exact match keyword or a close variation as anchor text.

Now, you may have heard that having a high percentage of exact match anchor text links is a big no-no and can lead to a Penguin penalty. But that’s only half of the story.

True, Google frowns don’t like seeing thousands of links with the same anchor text pointing to a single page. However, this only applies to external links.

Matter of fact, Matt Cutts of the Google Webspam team clarified in a video that internal links with a similar anchor text are perfectly fine. But do make sure that the page being linked to is relevant to the link’s keyword.