Start blogging for your small business for less than $100
Whether you own a brick-and-mortar store or a Web-based company, blogs help small businesses
reach out and engage a targeted audience. This fact is not lost on many, but for some, blogs may appear to be just another time and money investment on top of an already hectic workload.
While it does require a time commitment to make
your blogging efforts worthwhile, it is entirely possible
to start blogging without making a significant
financial investment. In fact, it can be done for (way)
less than $100 a year, and here’s how:
Where to Start
Many solutions allow blogs to be hosted on the
platform provider’s server for free, providing a useful
option for businesses that want to start blogging
without breaking the bank. These platforms
allow users to sign up and have a fully functional
blog with an easy to understand, intuitive interface
and not have to worry about paying to host or
maintain it (e.g. security).
The most popular of these services are Google’s
Blogger and the WordPress.com platform (not to
be confused with the open-source, self-hosted software
from WordPress.org). There are many other
options, however, including the increasingly popular
microblogging platform Tumblr.
Make it Your Own
Some business owners may have concerns that
these free platforms do not provide the professional
look they want for their companies. Today’s vendors
recognize that blogs have to look appealing
and, as a result, most of the major platforms come
with a wide selection of themes and customization
options to make a business blog more visually
appealing — as well as incorporate the look and
feel of a company’s brand.
Blogger offers template customization that allows
users to select from about seven different templates
that are all highly configurable. Users have the opportunity
to modify the main color themes and background
images, adjust the width of the blog and alter
its layout. Blogger also has more advanced options that let users choose the font style and sizes of particular
sections of the blog and change individual
colors of different text sections. Each template
also provides the ability to add widgets, social media
buttons, RSS feeds, email subscriptions, surveys,
newsreels and more.
WordPress provides both free and paid downloadable
blog themes that can also be customized.
Users can choose from hundreds of free
themes, review specific features and even access
a visual preview of each theme. After activating
one of these themes, users can customize them
further by altering the headers, background and
fonts of various sections, adding widgets and
menus, optimizing for mobile and tablet devices
and altering a page’s CSS for full control over the
Total estimated cost so far: $0 - $45
What’s in a Name?
When first creating a blog on a free platform, it will be
hosted under the provider’s subdomain (i.e., sample.
wordpress.com or sample.blogspot.com). But
these companies also provide options for users to host
their own domains, which may better allow your business
blog to stand out in a crowd.
WordPress requires users to pay for an upgrade
of $12 per year to use domains owned by the company.
For $17 a year, users can register and map a
domain through WordPress. Other providers such
as Blogger and Tumblr will map domain names to
blogs and allow users to purchase domains through
them. In order to have a custom domain mapped
on services like Blogger or Tumblr, users must edit
the domain’s CNAME records through the registrar
where they purchased the domain.
The cost of a domain varies depending on
what and where you register, but it generally
ranges from $10-$40 a year — usually on the
lower end of the scale.
If you already have a business website but are
not yet blogging, the best option may be to integrate
a new blog onto your own site. This method
allows business owners to host a blog on their own
server for little to no cost, and it will prevent visitors
from having to leave the company’s website to
enjoy its content. This is easier to do with some
platforms than it is with others, so it is important
to check out each provider’s integration functionalities
before signing up.
Total estimated cost so far: $0 - $85
Get Busy, Make Money
Running a blog presents myriad possibilities for
your small business’ Web presence, but blogging
also presents an opportunity to earn a profit. Although
it may not be your main reason for starting
a blog, every small business should explore each
revenue stream they can — and blogging may
prove to be a significant one.
There are many ways to monetize a blog, the
easiest of which is by selling advertising space.
Blogger can easily integrate AdSense — Google’s
monetization platform for publishers — because
both platforms fall under Google’s umbrella. Likewise,
WordPress recently released WordAds, a similar
platform that allows users to sell ad space on
their WordPress blogs.
Remember that the primary reason to blog is to
deepen customer relationships and increase referrals,
and the first step is just to get your blog off the
ground. Free hosted solutions provide you with this
opportunity and allow you to get started in a way that
won’t have you constantly reaching for your wallet.
With only the potential costs of a domain
name, a premium theme if you choose, and perhaps
some plugins for added functionality, establishing
a professional blog can easily be done for
under $100. So, what are you waiting for?
Grab a “Benjamin” and start blogging!