Once upon a time, there was an empty space on the Internet waiting to be filled by a scrappy startup blog. Then arose two fearless leaders to take on this challenge–and thus the SpareFoot blog was born June 25, 2009, in Austin, TX.
We fed and watered our blog with lots of love, content and self-storage, and … voilà! Here we are. If you’re a longtime reader of the SpareFoot blog, then you’ve probably seen the transitions it has made throughout the years. From our new office, to posts about SpareFoot traditions like our wild happy hours, to new product features, to organization and storage tips, our SpareFoot blog has grown from a mewling yellow-black-and-white infant into a relatively mature and well-adjusted young adult. And we’ll do everything we can to prevent it from turning into Justin Bieber.
Startups + Blogging = Love
The concept of blogging has come a long way since 2003, when some of us still were publishing furious love poems on the blogging platform Xanga. Today, most businesses, organizations and public figures operate blogs. It’s not just for show. With increased emphasis on rich, high-quality content for search engines, blogs have accrued clout as one of the best ways to gain visibility online. According to HubSpot’s 2013 State of Inbound Marketing, 62 percent of marketers say they’ll blog in 2013.
If you’re at a startup, blogging can be one of the most useful, valuable and inexpensive ways to get the word out about your company and its products and services. From one startup to another, here are four blogging tips to keep in mind.
1. Keep It Simple.
WordPress is a great choice for a blogging platform–we chose it because it’s simple and quick to set up. Plus, we get great support from Austin-based WP Engine. According to one of our former developers, who set up the back end of our blog, WordPress’ easily customizable themes paired well with our vision for a clean, minimal layout and a responsive design.
Regardless of which blogging platform you choose, you’ll want something simple and easily updatable that lets your blog grow with your startup. Stay away from complicated layouts and designs–your readers will appreciate the simplicity (just look at the MailChimp blog!).
2. Organize Your Approach.
First things first: If you’re really thinking about growing your blog and producing fresh, timely content, creating an editorial calendar can be an indispensable way to keep yourself and others on track and accountable. At SpareFoot, we like to use a giant Google spreadsheet to plan and organize upcoming stories, beats, authors and promotion plans for the year.
“I went online and looked at examples of what other companies had done,” SpareFoot marketing pro and blog mother Rachel Greenfield said. “I borrowed and tweaked formats and made it our own. It was a constantly evolving process.”
If you’re worried about running out of topics, just remember that it’s all about exploring anything related to your industry in a way that’s interesting, innovative and refreshing to readers. It might seem insurmountable to constantly create relevant content for some topics. But hey–who would have thought that we could publish more than 300 posts related to self-storage?
“A driving philosophy for our blogs has been to make storage fun and more interesting than it has been,” Greenfield said. “We’ve done that by being kind of bold and doing crazy things on the SpareBlog, and occasionally covering potentially negative stories on The Storage Facilitator (our industry-facing blog), because we’re trying to be real and entertain, as well as inform.”
While it can be challenging to come up with enough topics for the entire year, Greenfield also advised that any startup should realize the huge potential for producing relevant content. Once the ball starts rolling, it won’t stop. We started out 2013 with only a few topics for each month. Now, our editorial calendar is bursting with more ideas than we thought possible.
3. Optimize Your Content.
“When we write blog posts for search traffic, we want to meet the consumer demand and actually give them what they need,” Greenfield said. “For example, our ‘How to Store a Fridge’ post remains one of our most popular posts, despite the fact that we wrote it almost two years ago.”
“WordPress is pretty well optimized out of the box,” in-house SEO expert Tony Emerson said. “The main thing you can do with a plug-in is override title tags and meta descriptions in case you want those to be different from your blog post title. We started out using All in One SEO Pack, a basic, bare-bones plug-in that gives you everything you need. Now we’re using Yoast–it’s more user-friendly, more commercial and provides some social functionality.”
4. Monitor Your Traffic.
As your blog starts to gain readership, look at which posts resonate most with your audience–what generated the most views, shares or comments? We found that the mix of consumer, company culture and Austin-related stories is best for our audience.
“It’s fun for us and the reader to have a variety of content,” Sparefoot Editor in Chief John Egan said. “We’re able to speak to a lot of people through our blog because of the array of content that we have. We never want the blog to be boring; we want it to be lively. Self-storage itself is not sexy, but we strive to make it and related topics easily accessible to people.”
Nourish your blog with great content, pamper it like you would a queen, and make sure you’re constantly evolving and growing. Remember that a blog post is, at the end of the day, a form of literature. Granted, it’s at the mercy of Google, SEO and content marketing, but it’s still a tiny piece of literature at its core–with your name on it.
So do what the literary greats do and don’t cop out: Connect with your audience, tell an interesting story, and humanize yourself and your characters (in this case, your startup). Just because you won’t receive a letter grade for your work doesn’t mean it won’t matter. You’re responsible for the content you put out there, and shoddy content makes John Steinbeck roll over in his grave.