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Most small business owners know that there are ways to use a blog for business, they just don’t know how to put one to use for THEIR business. It’s common for entrepreneurs, for example, to think along the lines of, “Well, it makes sense for a huge accounting firm that has a marketing department, because they have plenty of changing regulations and laws to write about – and the means to assign someone to do it. But I’m just a small … (fill in the blank: retail store, Realtor, ecommerce business).”

The truth of the matter is that almost every business can benefit from having a blog, and you don’t need to have an entire marketing department to create a good one. All you need is a plan!

If you’re one of those people who enjoys acronyms and easy-to-remember mnemonics, here are the three things to focus on for your blog’s editorial plan:

• Content (what you’ll write about, keywords to use, voice, length)

• Customers (who you’ll be writing for/distributing to)

• Calendar (how to develop consistency and unique topics)

Here are some specific steps to build your editorial calendar:

  1. Choose a spreadsheet program and create eight columns (the last 4 can be narrow columns since they’ll just be used to check things off).
  2. Label each column as follows:

• Column 1 = DATE

• Column 2 = TOPIC

• Column 3 = TARGET PERSONA

• Column 4 = KEYWORDS

• Column 5 = NEWSLETTER

• Column 6 = FACEBOOK

• Column 7 = TWITTER

• Column 8 = LINKEDIN

  1. Under the DATE column, fill in the dates you’ll post a blog. This should be realistic (perhaps twice a week to start) and consistent (say, Tuesdays and Thursdays).
  2. Under the TOPIC, choose a very specific, narrowed down subject that will give your readers at least a tidbit of advice. Think “lowest common denominator” here. In other words, if you’re a Realtor in Evergreen, Colorado, you could write about a specific neighborhood’s attributes (school district, mature trees, low taxes, low crime, etc.) So your topic might be: “10 Attributes of Evergreen Highlands.”
  3. Under the TARGET PERSONA, you’re going to list several specific readers you’d like to attract. In other words, who are you writing this for? In this case, since Evergreen Highlands offers a minimum of two acres (some zones for horses) and access to tennis courts, a pond and a barn, you might break “potential homebuyers” down to specifics like: “homebuyers with horses” and “retirees with incomes over $150,000 annually” and “wealthy homebuyers who play tennis and/or swim” or “wealthy homebuyers who enjoy seclusion.”
  4. Under keywords, you’ll want to think of search words and terms that your ideal reader might use: “Evergreen mountain property,” “Evergreen ranches for sale,” or “Colorado mountain property for sale” or even “Evergreen gated community.” (Remember, it doesn’t matter if Evergreen Highlands is a gated community; you’re putting yourself in the potential customer’s shoes for SEARCH TERMS.)
  5. The last four columns are for distribution purposes. After all, you need to let people know your blog post is up! You can add other forms of social media, of course, but Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are probably the most vital platforms to get your link out to the public. If you don’t have a newsletter, there’s no better time than the present to start gathering opt-ins! Be sure to include that option at the end of every blog post.

 

Remember, blogs aren’t about selling. They’re about providing useful information to position yourself as an expert. Keep your posts specific so you don’t run out of topics, include your keywords and search terms throughout, post consistently and don’t be afraid to see what your competition is doing, or better yet … not doing!

Lucky you! There are two Denver homes for sale in your price range! Both homes are $595,000, near water, have quiet neighbors and are within walking distance to a school! So assuming all things equal, you should just buy the cheapest one, right?

Well here’s the deal: House No. 1 is on the lake in a neighborhood filled with working professionals and an award-winning charter school one block over. It’s move-in ready, practically brand new and will require little maintenance. All the fixtures are included – including top brand stainless steel appliances!

House No. 2 borders a run-down public swimming pool and most of the surrounding houses are abandoned due to foreclosure. There’s a beautician school two blocks away and the house is a “fixer-upper.” There are no lightbulbs or blinds, let alone a working stove or dishwasher.

Photo credit: Renjith Krishnan

 

You see where we’re going with this. If you’re going to get a bid for a website redesign, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Here are 25 questions to ask anyone who bids on your website redesign:

1. Do you charge a flat fee or by the hour?

2. Do you have experience designing ecommerce sites?

3. What changes do you recommend?

4. How might this technology or design limit future development of the site?

5. Do you have someone else in your office I can call if I can’t reach you?

6. Does this include maintenance or troubling-shooting? If so, for how long?

7. Does your rate quote include everything I’ve asked for?

8. Do you use an off-the-shelf template or build from scratch?

9. Will this be optimized for search engine ranking?

10. How easy will it be for me to make changes myself?

11. What other services do you offer?

12. Does this rate include SEO copywriting or do we need to supply all the text?

13. How many pages does this include?

14. Can you link this to my blog?

15. Will this include social media sharing capabilities? RSS feeds?

16. Will this reflect and support our other branding efforts?

17. How can we increase our rankings with the search engines?

18. Does this include video and graphics?

19. What analytics will it have?

20. What other features (newsletter signup, lead capture) will it have?

21. Is this mobile friendly?

22. Do you have references?

23. Have you designed other websites with similar features?

24. Where will my site be hosted?

25. What’s your policy on change requests and how long does it take?

While a $500 bid for a website redesign might sound like a steal, you might be getting a bare bones makeover. And much like the emperor’s new clothes, you could be left with less than you started with.

 

What’s your biggest fear about redesigning your website? The cost? Losing functionality? Giving up control? Share your thoughts here.

 

EasyChair Media can help evaluate your current website and give you straightforward answers to your questions about cost, function and analytics.