Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wed. on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Anita Campbell @smallbiztrends. The editor and chief contributor of http://www.smallbiztrends.com, one of the most widely read small business blogs on the internet. Her company, Small Business Trends LLC, is a media and information company. In that role she closely follows trends in the small business market and trends in technology. Her popular website won the Forbes “Best of the Web” distinction for small business blogs in 2005 and again in 2008.
Smallbizlady: How long has Small Business Trends been around?
Anita Campbell–It’s been around for six years. I started out on Blogger at a blogspot address for first few years. Then moved to my own domain and WordPress. That was my first jump to a new level. If you are still on the Blogger platform and dream big, I suggest moving to WordPress. You will need its expanded features. Remember, also, that perseverance is a key to success. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Every blog starts small with just a few readers.
Smillbizlady: How has blogging changed in the last 6 years?
Anita Campbell–In one sense it is still the same. But it has matured. Used to see a lot of shorter posts just dropping links to media articles. Now I think the bar is higher and you must have something original to say. People now point out interesting links at Twitter instead. There’s lots more competition now, too. Many more blogs. The need for a narrow niche is important today. There’s always room for good blogs, though.
Smallbizlady: The niche target market is so important in any small business venture. Why is the blog niche so important?
Anita Campbell–There are millions of blogs today. Many topics are saturated. It’s harder to stand out. A niche is one way to stand out. Your audience might be smaller, but you have the advantage of uniqueness.
Smallbizlady: What’s the #1 thing you should do to get your blog to the next level?
Anita Campbell–Think about your blog as a product. You are the manufacturer and distributor of that product. This gives you purpose and structure. Makes it easier to know what to do. It makes the process of creating content much easier. No waking up and wondering “what do I write about today?” Instead, it’s like a magazine – a clear concept. Problogger has a brilliant piece where he dissects a magazine as a way to shape a content plan.
You can find it in his e-book “31 Days to Build a Better Blog” (not free – but worth the modest price). Thinking of your blog as a magazine helps you set goals and stay on track.
Smallbizlady: Do you recommend having a marketing plan?
Anita Campbell–Yes! You should have the typical elements of a marketing plan in it. Clear target market. Unique selling proposition of your blog. Online marketing building blocks: SEO; email marketing; social media marketing. For an easy starting place, create plan for marketing a single blog post. Read Problogger’s post – how to get your post read by more than mom: http://adjix.com/uwkv After learning how to promote single posts, work your way up to a marketing plan for the blog overall.
Smallbizlady: Should you plan an editorial calendar for your blog?
AnitaCampbell–An editorial calendar will help you be more organized and make sure you stay on point. Strive for a general sense of what you publish when – but not too rigid. Allow yourself some flexibility.
Smallbizlady: What is the biggest mistake to getting to the next level with your blog?
AnitaCampbell–First mistake: trying to monetize a blog too soon. Not enough focus on your audience. You need to build an audience who clamors for your content. Focus on serving readers first. You are not likely to make any money from ads in the first 6 months — So why distract yourself?
Second mistake is not blogging enough. Most of the big name blogs post a MINIMUM of once a day. Your growth will be limited by how frequently you post. Here’s analogy: what if you developed a product, and only shipped it out now and then? When you “had time”? Would you expect that product to become a big seller?
Smallbizlady: Can a part-time blog be successful?
AnitaCampbell–I’m not saying you can’t benefit from a blog with 1 post a week. Just that the blog’s growth will be limited. You may be OK with a part-time blog – there’s not a thing wrong with that. Perhaps you have a full-time business and your blog is there solely to market the business. If so, be proud! But adjust your expectations — traffic will be modest. You will need to work at your blog full-time if you expect to become a popular end destination.
Smallbizlady: What about other mistakes preventing you from getting to the next level?
AnitaCampbell–Another blogging mistake is inconsistency. Inconsistency in how often you post. Inconsistency in your topics, sometimes getting off topic. Readers like consistency. Your readers want to know what to expect. Example: that you write about email marketing and they can get email tips at your blog. But if one day you write about your dog, and the next email marketing – don’t be surprised if readers are confused.
Read “Why They’re a Successful Blogger and You’re Not”: http://adjix.com/zvcx
Smallbizlady: What about guest bloggers?
AnitaCampbell–Guest bloggers are good. Readers like to hear different voices. Vet your guest posters carefully. Your voice and what makes your blog unique can get diluted if you are not careful. Don’t make mistake of thinking guest bloggers are freelance writers, either. Think of them like Op Ed contributors to a newspaper Editorial page.
But they are not newspaper reporters. Don’t expect them to be your workforce & only source of content.
Smallbizlady: How to do become a paid guest blogger for a corporate blog?
AnitaCampbell–Consistent top notch writing. Having something worthwhile to say in a conversational tone. Face it — large sites can afford to pay freelance writers. And there are plenty of laid off journalists. You must offer something different, such as an edgy tone or unique perspective or a well-developed reputation.
They also will want you to “bring your audience with you.” Get good at promoting your articles. Then you become more interesting to such sites.
Smallbizlady: How important is it to tie-in current events to your blog posts?
AnitaCampbell–Two schools of thought on current events. One school says “yes, current events make you relevant.” Another school says “stick with evergreen content.” No surprise, then, that mixing both types of content has merit.
For more tips on starting or growing your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog at www.succeedasyourownboss.com