Blogs have now become vital tools for businesses. In fact, this is one of the elements that you may consider as what will determine whether your business will become a roaring success or not.
Blogs drive traffic to your website.
The way how your target customers decide what to buy has dramatically changed in recent years. Your target customers prefer doing their own research even if they first learned about your product or service through an ad.
A blog gives you the chance to provide them with the information that they’re looking for so that they feel that they’re making a well-informed purchasing decision. You can create a detailed blog post that answers their most pressing questions and eliminates any possible objections or apprehensions that are keeping them from hitting that “Buy Now” button.
Blogs help you rank higher on Google.
According to Advanced Web Ranking’s latest results, 31.19% of people click on the first link listed on the first search results page (SERP) of Google.
Source: Advanced Web Ranking
Even more important is that there’s a massive difference between a website that’s listed #1 and #3 in Google. That means, if you want to get more customers, you got to get your website to the top of the list.
Publishing long-form blog posts is one effective way to do this. A study done by Backlinko shows that website with blog posts averaging 1,890 words are those that tend to rank higher on Google.
The reason is very simple.
Publishing long-form blog posts gives you the chance to include more of your targeted keywords on your site without making it look like you’re keyword stuffing (that’s a big no-no).
This is important because one of the factors that Google considers when ranking websites is their relevance to the keywords your customers use when searching. The more times this keyword appears on your site, the more relevant your website. So the more relevant your website, the higher Google will rank you in its SERP.
Generate new leads for your business.
Did you know that websites with a blog generate 67% more leads than those that don’t?
Generating leads means that your business now has a pool of potential customers that you can build a relationship with and nurture so that they eventually become paying customers. You can create a blog post for each stage of your marketing funnel, and include a content upgrade at the end of the blog post to drive them further down your marketing funnel.
Effective quality link building
High-quality backlinks (those that drive traffic to your website) is your website’s lifeblood. Each time you publish a blog post, and authoritative sites use your blog post as reference, this boosts your credibility not just with your customers, but with Google, too.
The most cost-effective way to start reaping these benefits from adding a blog to your website is by creating your site on a blogging platform.
There’s no shortage of blogging platforms options available. However, not all these blogging platforms are created equal.
That’s why I’ve created this checklist to guide you in choosing the right one based on your business needs.
#1: What’s your goal?
Think about it for a moment: why are you planning on starting a blog on your website?
The obvious answer may be that every business is doing it. But I encourage you to go deeper than that.
You see, the moment you start a blog on your website, your subscribers would expect you to be consistent. By consistent, I mean in terms of the quality of your blog post and the frequency you publish this.
When you fall off the grid, even for a couple of weeks or a month, it tells your subscribers a lot about how you run your business. After all, if you can’t be consistent with your blogging, how can they expect you to be consistent with everything else you promise them?
Also, your goal will help you decide which blogging platform will work best for you.
Here are some questions to ask when considering your blogging goals:
- What would be the takeaway you want your readers to get when reading your blog?
- Can I devote time to sit down and write a blog post each week?
- Would I be incorporating ads, videos, or social media feeds in my blog?
#2: Know your niche.
I know that I may sound like a broken record here. However, if you ensure that the blogging platform you’ll get is the perfect fit for your business, you got to be clear about what niche you want to target.
For example, if you’re running an interior decorating business, you may want to embed posts from your Instagram account to your blog posts to use as examples or on your blog’s sidebar.
Screenshot from Live Your Style
Perhaps you’d want a no-brainer way to add animated GIFs of graphs and charts to your blog post so that it doesn’t look too dull and stale.
The best way to find out what features you’ll need to serve your niche better is by coming up with a buyer persona.
Again, this is cliché, but critical nevertheless. Your buyer persona represents that ideal customer or client for your business. It will guide you on what topics to blog about. More importantly, what will keep this ideal customer of yours interested to finish reading your blog post, subscribe, and come back for more.
#3: Is the installation and set up easy?
Most of the popular blogging platforms require to install and set this up first on your web hosting provider to before you can actually start blogging. You got to make sure that installing and setting up your blogging platform software is straightforward.
If you’re working with a team, you might want to set certain restrictions to their access when they log into your blogging platform’s backend. So make sure that you choose not only a blogging platform that will allow you to do this, but also very easy to set up.
#4: What are the built-in features available?
Chances are you already know what your website will look like and how it will function.
That said, it’s essential to make sure that the blogging platform that you choose can provide you with all the features you need built into it. Sure, you can always buy these from third-party sites. And although the subscription fees may be minimal, these quickly add up. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself spending hundreds of dollars on features that you could have otherwise gotten for free.
Here are some of the essential built-in features to look for in a blogging platform:
User-friendly website themes
Although you can easily buy an awesome looking website theme, many of these can be quite expensive. They can also be quite tedious to customize so that your website looks like how you envision it.
That said, finding a blogging platform with a library of ready-to-use themes helps a lot because you can start adding the content after you choose which one you’ll use.
Another thing to look for in a blogging platform is whether they have an array of landing page templates you can use for your content offers and sales pages.
In addition to being mobile-friendly, these landing page templates should allow you to present what you’re offering to your target market. That way, you not only get your message across but also get them to convert into leads and, eventually, into customers.
Aside from being able to get leads, you’ll also need to include a contact form on your website easily. This will help your customers reach you when they got questions about your products, send feedback, request for assistance, and even offer an opportunity for them to collaborate with your business.
Contrary to what you may think, SEO is still essential to help you rank on the first page of Google.
The way SEO is done in 2019 is far different from a few years back. So it’s not enough that your blogging platform has a built-in SEO tool. It should also be regularly updated to give your website the edge from your competitors.
If you’re selling on your website, your blogging platform should provide you with a way to accept different forms of payments.
Remember, not everyone’s comfortable with keying in their credit card information when they make a payment, no matter how secure your website may be. So make sure that your blogging platform will let your customers use payment methods like Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and PayPal.
Embed social media feeds
This is crucial if you’re selling a physical product. Being able to embed your posts on your Instagram account and other social media sites only make it easier to post pictures of your products within your blog.
At the same time, it provides social proof for what you’re sharing on your blog post. Since customers tend to buy products recommended by other people, it will increase the likelihood that your readers will opt to make a purchase.
#5: Is it ready for mobile-friendly?
With Google shifting their algorithms to mobile-first indexing, it’s essential that your blogging platform will make your website mobile-friendly. That’s because Google ranks mobile-ready higher than those that don’t.
There are two things to check with make sure that the blogging platform you choose is mobile-friendly.
First, check if the blogging platform provides responsive designed themes and templates in its library. This will ensure that your website automatically adjusts to the screen size of the device that your visitors are using when they check out your site.
Take Spark CMS’ website, for example. Here’s how it looks like when it’s viewed on a desktop.
And here’s what it looks like when it’s viewed on mobile.
The second thing to consider is the website speed. Ideally, your website should load between 1 and 3 seconds. Otherwise, your visitors would opt out and go elsewhere.
You can check sites like Capterra and TechRadar to get feedback from current users on how fast or slow the blogging platform you’re considering loads, especially on mobile devices.
#6: What’s your budget?
Although there are lots of free blogging platforms that you can use, you’d be better off investing in a paid blogging platform when you create a website for your business.
For starters, you’ll be stuck with a generic URL that includes the name of your blogging platform. This can make your website’s address difficult to remember and less professional.
Another setback you’ll encounter when using a free blogging platform is that the features and control you have is minimal. Ironically, the only way you can unlock more features and get more control is by upgrading to a paid subscription.
Ideally, you need to have sufficient budget to keep your website up and running for at least a year. This gives you plenty of time to generate revenue on your site, allowing you to renew your subscription easily.
#7: Are you just starting, or do you have an established business?
This ties in with #6. When you’re just starting your business, you’d want to find a blogging platform that will give you the most features and capabilities without having to spend a fortune. That way, you won’t have this nagging thought at the back of your mind if you’ll have the funds to keep your site up and running. This is especially important if you’re doing all your transactions on your website.
On the other hand, if your business is already generating revenue, you’d want to choose a blogging platform that’ll provide a host of advanced features to encourage more sales while keeping your existing customers so happy that they’ll refer you to those in their network.
#8: Does the blogging platform provide monetizing options?
Perhaps you don’t have a specific product to sell to your target customers yet. In that case, you’d want to make sure that the blogging platform you choose allows you to make money through other means.
Some things you might want to check are:
- The ability to post and run ads on your blog
- Adding different kinds of affiliate links
- Capability to run a membership site
#9: Can you do local SEO here?
Did you know that 46% of people searching on Google are looking for businesses within their area?
That means that if you want to increase your website’s chances of landing on the first page of Google, you got to make sure that you can set up your website for local SEO.
When screening a blogging platform, ask yourself the following questions:
- Can it automatically create an XML sitemap for your website?
- Will it provide you a robot.txt file?
- Can you integrate Google Maps and NAP on your Contact page?
- Will it allow you to create a clickable phone number so it will be easy for your visitors to call you?
#10: How versatile is it?
If you own businesses that target different niches, you’d want to get a blogging platform that will give you the capability to customize each of your business websites so that it caters to the wants and needs of your target customer for each specific niche.
#11: How quick can you get assistance from their customer support?
Aside from having a Knowledge Base or FAQ page, choose a blogging platform that will give you options to talk to a live person who’ll be able to explain and help you address your concern. That way, you won’t have to go through a trial-and-error process troubleshooting your website, which can be extremely frustrating.
#12: Would you need to pay separately for web hosting?
These days, you can find blogging platforms that already includes hosting in their package. This will be the better option, especially if you’re starting out.
One reason is that you won’t have to worry about setting up and installing your blogging platform. Once you subscribe, the blogging platform is all set and ready for you to start using.
Second, these blogging platforms will also allow you to pick a custom domain name for your website. So, you don’t need to pay for this separately, which means that you’ll end up saving hundreds of dollars in the long run.
More importantly, their customer support staff will be more well-versed in helping you out with any challenges you may encounter as you create your website.
#13: How secure is it?
Cybersecurity is a major concern these days, which is why of all the different things mentioned in this checklist, this is the most crucial.
Hackers and cybercriminals have become more aggressive on their attacks on websites in recent months. Take a look at these stats from Varonis:
- Ransomware attacks are increasing by over 350% each year
- 18.2% of ransomware attacks happened within the US
- 61% of businesses that fall victim to ransomware and other cyber attacks are those with less than 1,000 employees
- Companies lose an average of $2.4 million after a cyber attack
- Experts predict that damages incurred after a cyber attack will hit $6 trillion (yes, with a “T”) each year by 2021.
If large, established corporations like Toyota, Wendy’s, and Nieman Marcus, and government agencies like the US Federal Emergency Management Agency all fell victims to cyber attacks, how much more your small business website?
These are why it’s critical that you check the integrity of the blogging platform you want to use for your business website. Some things for you to consider are:
- Frequency of software updates. At first, it may be a bit annoying that you’ll be receiving prompts for you to update your CMS version. This is actually a good thing because it means that your blogging platform is keeping their software safe and secure from cyber threats.
- Security policies. With cyber attacks becoming more prevalent, web hosting companies and blogging platforms are expected to have policies in place to keep you protected in case of attacks. So make sure that you review these first.
- SSL Certificates. According to Moz’s interactive SERP feature graph, 97% of websites that show up on the first page of Google have an SSL certificate in place to make this secure. Also, since Google considers a website’s security extremely important, this will help your website rank higher. You’ll know if your blogging platform provides an SSL certificate to your site when you see your URL start with HTTPS.
#14: Can you scale your business’ website?
As your business grows, you will need to add more features to your website to serve your customers better. Choose a blogging platform that will let you quickly integrate these new features to your site without having to upgrade your plan.
#15: What are your technical skills?
This goes beyond what I’ve already discussed in #3. You also need to check how easy it will be to write and layout the blog posts you’re going to publish on your site. That includes embedding any media files, whether that’s a static image, an animated GIF, or a Youtube video.
You also need to check how easy it will be to integrate and customize the tools you plan to use on your website so that they work correctly.
This is a pretty long and exhaustive list. However, as you can see, it covers all the things you’ll need to check before committing to a specific blogging platform.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a perfect blogging platform. So the best way to use this checklist is to go through the list and categorize and prioritize each item based on what you currently have available in your business.
If you have an in-house web developer or someone good in IT, get that person onboard in your decision-making process. He or she can give you some blogging platform recommendations for you to consider. If you’ve already shortlisted potential contenders, ask him or her to give their feedback.
Your blogging platform is, after all, going to serve as the spine and foundation of your business website. Use this checklist to help you carefully screen the different blogging platforms available so that you can invest in the right one for your business.