How to Start a Business Blog

Starting a new blog can be confusing. Where do you host your blog? Medium, WordPress or self hosted? What’s the best place to share your articles? How do you convert views to leads? Should you create a mailing list? You keep writing but nobody’s reading!

If you understand what SEO, HTML, CSS, Markdown and RSS are, then this guide is for you.

I’m sure you can tell that my blog is not the most visually appealing one. However, technologically it’s top notch. To get it to this stage I went down a few dead ends. I’ll share those with you so you won’t have to. I’ll also point you to some free courses and in-depth guides from blogging experts for further study.

By the end of this article you’ll be confident with the technical decisions you’re about to make.

A few decisions

Blogging is a means to an end, not a goal in itself.

So figure out the following:

Determining a goal will sharpen your focus and give your actions a clear direction.

Is it important to have your own domain?

Starting a blog on a service like Medium or WordPress is convenient, but hosting providers disappear. In the years to come you’ll be working hard acquiring backlinks to drive traffic. Losing those means starting from scratch. Don’t let that happen to you, buy your own domain.

Additionally your articles will help define which keywords your main site ranks for in Google.

So is Medium useless then?

Used incorrectly it will lower your SEO, but used right it will boost it.

The trick is simple. Once you publish a post on your blog repost it to Medium and set the Canonical Link to tell Google that your site is the original one. Medium becomes just a mirror.

To set the Canonical Link you have to expand the “Advanced Settings” section. The option is hidden so that you only find it if you’re specifically looking for it.

When I first started my blog it was nearly invisible to Google. I had no organic traffic. But the Medium cross post consistently attracted visitors.

Subdomain or subdirectory?

Now that you have your domain you need to decide on your blog’s URL.

Internet lore has it that while blog.example.com is easier to set up, example.com/blog will get you more organic traffic.

While it’s hard to “prove” anything related to SEO, it’s logical to assume that a subdomain will make search engines perceive your blog as a separate product.

Big brands prefer the subdirectory approach and that’s what experts advise you should be doing as well.

Do the necessary extra work and host your content under your main domain.

Optimizing the URL further - the date

blog/how-to-start-a-blog/ or blog/2020-01-05-how-to-start-a-blog/?

Blog is short for “web log”, but very few of them actually “log” anything.

A date makes sense for product updates, personal blogs, or the news. Otherwise skip it.

For an evergreen article the date is irrelevant. Plus, it becomes even more misleading as you keep your article up to date.

patio11 started out with dates in the paths but now regrets it.

And further - the title

blog/how-to-start-a-business-blog/ or blog/blog/? (well, this one is silly but you get the idea)

Don’t put the whole title in the URL, as you might want to change it. Because it’s better to update an article than write a new one “Best Apps in 2019” will become “Best Apps in 2020”.

Your articles will need constant maintenance and you’ll keep rewriting them. Don’t get stuck with a crappy title. Keep the URL minimal.

Setting it up

For my blogs I use Hugo, but not everybody likes it. If you feel that you won’t enjoy spending several hours going through the documentation then have a look at other options.

If you do want to give Hugo a try see how to host it on Google AppEngine for free.

RSS please

There was a blog megathread on Hacker News recently. Here are a few comments:

Very interesting topics, but I had to search the source to find your RSS feed!

please can I ask you to remember adding an RSS feed to your blog?

Really interesting […] I wish you had an RSS feed though :)

Interesting. Could you add an RSS feed?

Remove duplicate content

If both /blog/ and /blog return a 200 OK then you’ve got a duplicate content problem. Make sure that the server that your web server has a unified slash policy and uses 301 Moved Permanently for the “wrong” URLs.

And remember about setting canonical links when reposting your articles to other blogs.

Mailing list

There is no point in running a blog if visitors will read your articles and then leave, never come back again.

Time to sign up for a mailing list provider. I use ConvertKit.

Their user experience sucks, it really does. But I read they have the best deliverability rates - and that’s what’s important. You can get around the technical difficulties.

They’re not very generous with their free tier, and maybe that’s why their deliverability rates are said to be highier. So if you want to keep costs low or you lost your patience with their UI try MailerLite instead.

Next sign up for Email 1K. It’s a free course about growing your mailing list. Rather than learning from the course contents themselves it’s more valuable to analyze the way they’re pitching to you. The “Next course opens soon” scarcity/time pressure tactic is just one that you will see.

SEO

As far as I can tell fine tuning mobile loading speeds and optimizing tags is irrelevant. It’s the backlinks that matter.

Each article has a separate rank and your domain authority is secondary. You need to figure out a way to get a few links to your articles before you can expect organic traffic.

Blogging for business is the best free course about SEO I’ve ever seen.

I have a blog. Now what?

Make your blog stand out, but not your writing style.

Write a few posts worth sharing.

And then promote it. Yes, you do have to promote it, otherwise nobody will see it. Successful bloggers advocate spending 20% writing your content and 80% promoting it. Accept it, there is no way around that.

Promotion

SEO takes time and building backlinks takes effort. If your product serves a small niche it’s better to make a name for yourself in the community instead. Don’t wait for people to find you, make yourself seen.

Check out the resources below. And when your blog is up and running continue to my detailed guide to content marketing.

Resources

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