We can’t stress enough the benefits blogging has to offer different businesses regardless of their size. First off, blogs provide search engines with the fresh content they like, allowing marketers to create opportunities to plug in important keywords that can increase your visibility on search engine results pages. Blog content also allows you to develop strong relationships with potential and existing clientele, answering any questions they have. This will, in turn, establish your business as an industry leader and connect people to your brand. Finally,blogs are social media platforms; this means they can be shared via social networks or email to hundreds of leads.
Some of the proof for all this, outside of our personal experience, is research carried out by HubSpot and Ignite Spot. The former uncovered that companies tend to double their sales by increasing the frequency of their blogging from 3-5 times per month to 6-8 times. As for Ignite Spot, its 2013 blogging statistics infographic showed that small businesses generated 126% more leads,especially since 81% of U.S. customers rely on blogs for advice and information while 61% make purchases due to a blog post.
To reap the benefits of blogging for small business, you should seriously consider the platform you’ll be writing on and publishing through. Therefore, here are five blog content platforms for small businesses (and a *bonus*) you should try building your website on.
WordPress is one of the first and leading blogging platforms around. Whether you go for WordPress.org or WordPress.com, both free platforms have been the choice of many of the top 20 blogs. However, you need to take your pick from the two forms of WordPress. The .org platform is open source blogging/CMS software; this means that you can download the installation files and add themes and plug-ins. However, you need to be tech savvy and good at programming to join 22% of the web.
As for the .com platform, this commercial site allows you to host a free website. You can opt to bear with a few limitations for the free service or pay a yearly fee to remove any restrictions. For instance, by opting for the Business plan for $299, you will get a free blog, custom domain, 50 minimum premium themes, unlimited videos and space, zero ads, and live chat support. Regardless, you won’t have to worry about locating a web host or installing WordPress software since the website does everything for you.
Pros of WordPress
- The technology WordPress features continual updates to the platform while free statistics and peer support are offered.
- Multiple theme options are offered for free, but you’re welcome to opt for one of the thousands of paid themes.
- You can boost your blog with plug-ins which enhance your site’s capabilities. For instance, you can add an SEO plug-in to drive traffic and give your blog an edge in search results.
Cons of WordPress
- WordPress blogs don’t allow bloggers to publish ads on their blogs unless they opt for a .com paid account. The same limitation doesn’t apply to those self-hosting with a .org account.
- WordPress is open-source software, making it vulnerable to security threats. This means that you should focus on protecting your site. You may also want to hire a web developer to ensure that your site is regularly maintained and up-to-date.
Blogger is one of the pioneering blogging platforms. Launched in 1999 by Pyra Labs, it’s now part of Google and one of the best choices for those stepping into the blogging world. Though its interface is quite similar to WordPress, it’s considered easier to use. In addition, its latest overhaul has made small businesses choose it due to features like integration with AdSense and site analytics. In fact, Built With reports that sites using Blogger have reached 34,783 sites by January 2015, which is a long way from the 6,220 sites that used it in February 2014.
Pros of Blogger
- As part of Google, it allows marketers to combine numerous Google services that can extend their reach and maximize their traffic and ROI.
- The service is free and reliable most of the time. However, it isn’t owned by you and Google can shut down the service or prevent access to your site.
- Despite being known for limited site designs, Blogger recently launched a template designer which will edit and change designs without the need for HTML or CSS code.
- Thanks to Google’s secure platform, Blogger offers you peace of mind when it comes to managing server resources or creating backups.
Cons of Blogger
- You won’t be able to categorize your posts, which is a disadvantage if your brand offers different product lines.
- Moving your Blogger site to another platform isn’t easy. In fact, many decide against it since it may compromise their search engine rankings, subscribers and followers to. Though you’re welcome to export your content, it’ll be a while before Google’s servers forget you.
- Blogger’s support is quite limited. You can either access the basic documentation or use the user’s forum to get answers for your questions.
Tumblr is a microblogging platform which focuses most on visual content. However, the versatile blogging platform supports text, quotes, links, chat, audio and video. This explains the popularity of Tumblr, which announced by Feb 03, 2015 that it had 221.7 million blogs and 102.8 billion posts. The site also published that it took only 30 seconds for people to join. When used for businesses, it’s the perfect platform for marketers who want to highlight value with the help of pictures and short videos. For instance, to market a floral shop, you can use Tumblr to showcase its floral arrangements.
Pros of Tumblr
- This blogging platform is quite easy to set up, customize and publish through.
- Tumblr has a more social aspect than the first two blogs on this list, especially since it’s designed for young demographics. This allows marketers to build an online community with ease.
- Since Tumblr is the first choice of younger individuals, businesses which target this demographic can easily reach out to potential clients.
- The Dashboard feature allows marketers to deliver their sales, coupons, etc. in an easy or non-spamming way.
Cons of Tumblr
- Opting for Tumblr may cause you to sacrifice some of the freedom offered by other platforms. For instance, while you can alter themes using widgets and sidebars, you don’t have much control over themes or plugins.
- Like Blogger, Tumblr doesn’t allow self-hosting. So if it goes down during one of its scaling issues, your site may go away.
- Since you aren’t the first to discover Tumblr for business purposes, you’ll be facing tough competition and struggle to stand out.
Squarespace is one of the newest blogging platforms, but it’s also very powerful since it’s composed of a website builder and hosting service as well. It’s also an attractive choice since it allows users to click and drag features onto their sites. As a result, small businesses can enjoy sleek site designs that flaunt a modern look. Keep in mind that you’ll need to pay $24 per month annually ($30 month-to-month) to get the Business Package, which offers unlimited pages, galleries and blogs as well as unlimited storage and bandwidth.
Pros of Squarespace
- Squarespace has the power to create beautiful, rich imagery templates which will demand attention right away. The templates also exude a sophisticated vibe when clean or minimalistic.
- Templates are responsive, which means that your blogs will easily be resized according to the browser and device your clients use. This increases customer satisfaction, especially since InMobie reports that 60% of internet users use mobile device.
- Squarespace will provide you with more styling options than most website builders. Moreover, you won’t need coding experience to adjust fonts, colors, background images, etc.
- There are more support options to help you if you’re ever stuck. In addition to access to a centralized support team, you can view videos or use email support or the forum for advice.
Cons of Squarespace
- Squarespace isn’t a good choice for ecommerce businesses since they require hundreds of pages to manage.
- Most templates, especially those with a one drop down level, may limit you from delivering good user experience. As a result, your blog’s rankings may suffer.
- The blogging feature is self-contained. This means that you won’t be able to add blog elements in the website easily.
- The trendy and artistic look which Squarespace blogs flaunt may not be perfect for many businesses. For instance, while it’ll be great for a flower store, a Squarespace blog may compromise the seriousness of a new software developer.
To establish your reputation as an industry leader, Medium is ideal. The platform established by Twitter is designed to keep design and layout elements very simple, allowing visitors to focus on your content. If you pride yourself on being an information marketer and intend to use your blog to build trust and credibility through content, this is the tool for you.
Pros of Medium
- Medium allows bloggers to showcase their content to a large audience.
- The service is free, but you’ll need to have a Twitter account. The latter can be a bonus considering that you can use it to promote your posts.
- In addition to readability, Medium has built-in analytics and is very helpful with SEO.
Cons of Medium
- Selling products through Medium blogs is quite limited, which is why many use it as a secondary blog.
- The lack of customization and content discovery issues has deterred many writers in the past.
- Developing a following isn’t easy, especially since all user-generated content is hosed on Medium.com.
- Medium tends to refer readers to similar articles from other users, a feat which can counter your ability to develop your own brand or identity.
We’re throwing in the awesome HubSpot platform as a bonus. HubSpot is much more than just a blogging platform. It is marketing “suite,” if you will, that includes a blogging platform alongside all sorts of other marketing activity platforms (emailing, keyword research, social media posting and monitoring, etc.). It basically is an all-in-one platform that centralizes all of your online marketing activites and efforts and provides the tools to implement your strategy across all fields as well as track the progress of that strategy. The blogging “center” of hubspot includes template options; keyword creation and optimization guides; social posting options; SEO guidelines for meta data that walk you through optimization; and more. It is the “idiot’s guide” to optimizing your blogging efforts.
Pros of Hubspot
- Doesn’t stop with blogging–provides all the tools for getting your blog readers
- SEO walk through to maximize your search engine ranking
- Call-to-Action (CTA) and Landing Page creation tools to help you convert readers to leads
- Keyword research and creation/tracking center
- Integrate social posting center
- Detailed tracking and stats of blog visits and all other channels
- Hubspot offers a seven-day free trial so that you can take it for a spin free of charge
Cons of Hubspot
- Small businesses may not take advantage of all the tools,and therefore will miss out on the benefits and value.
- Requires a slightly higher investment, since it is much more than just a blogging platform
Weigh the pros and cons of each of these platforms wisely to decide which of these will be lucky to host your brand’s blog. However, don’t forget to have a blogging strategy in hand to ensure your consistency. Only then can you truly reap the benefits of this inbound marketing technique.