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Are you interested in starting a blog for your business?

Want to know how to set it up to get the best results?

There are lots of design and functionality options to consider when setting up your business blog. However, only a few make a vital difference in your blog’s success.

In this article you’ll discover the seven critical elements you need for your business blog.

seven essentials for a business blog

Discover seven essentials for starting a business blog.

Listen to this article:

#1: Choose the Best Blog Layout

Here are the three most commonly used blog layouts:

  • Three-column layout with two sidebars and the main content column
  • Two-column layout with one sidebar and the main content column
  • One-column layout with only the main content column

There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these layout options.

If you’re a publisher with a large amount of content that you want to promote alongside your articles, the three-column layout gives you plenty of space for promotion.

TechCrunch uses the three-column layout with two sidebars.

techcrunch 3 column blog design

An example of a three-column blog layout. Image: Placeit.

While this layout can distract readers from the main article, it might also keep them on your website longer, as they’ll have plenty of related content to click through to.

The main content and sidebar option doesn’t distract too much and provides areas to promote your products or services, additional content, social profiles and email list opt-in forms. If you want readers to give 100% of their attention to your content, the one-column layout is the best choice.

The Zapier Blog uses the one-column layout with just the content.

zapier one column blog design

An example of a one-column blog layout. Image: Placeit.

Of course, this doesn’t leave you with room for promotion of additional information, except throughout or at the end of posts.

The most popular option out of all three layouts tends to be the two-column, main content plus sidebar layout. The key to making this layout work for your business is to ensure that the sidebar focuses on your business goals, with the most important elements at the top.

The Hootsuite Blog uses the two-column layout with a sidebar to the right.

hootsuite two column blog design

An example of a two-column blog layout. Image: Placeit.

For example, if you want readers to opt into your email list, your email list opt-in box should be at the top of your sidebar. Follow it with links to your social profiles, top content and other information.

Most importantly, unless you’re an affiliate marketer or a publisher that generates income from advertisers, don’t give visitors any external links to leave your website, unless they point back to your main website.

#2: Make It Mobile

No matter what layout you choose for your blog, make sure that it’s mobile-friendly. Google recommends responsive design, which is a fluid layout that reshapes itself based on the size of the screen.

responsive design examples

An example of a responsive blog design by StudioPress.

You should be able to find a responsive design or theme for whatever blogging platform you use, such as the StudioPress theme shown above. You can also use plugins, like WPtouch Mobile Plugin for WordPress, that give any blog a mobile-friendly design.

#3: Add Multiple Opt-in Forms

If you want to convert blog readers into email subscribers to promote your company’s products and services, you need to have multiple opt-in forms on your blog.

There are several different ways to implement opt-in forms on your blog, and many tools to do it. Most email marketing software solutions offer a few different opt-in forms to choose from that you can add to your website using the provided code.

GetResponse, for example, has a Form Builder that lets you create forms to match your site design and place anywhere on your website.

get response form builder

Use the GetResponse Form Builder to create an opt-in form.

SumoMe allows you to add a variety of opt-in forms to any website (not just WordPress). You can add a smart bar at the top of your website, a scroll box that appears at the bottom right of the website or a light box pop-up that appears over the website.

sumome scroll box example

An example of a scroll box opt-in form by SumoMe.

OptinMonster allows you to add a variety of opt-in forms on any website (again, not just WordPress). You can add opt-in forms anywhere on your site, including the sidebar, footer, after a post, in floating bars, in slide-ins and in pop-ups.

optinmonster form example

An example of a footer opt-in form by OptinMonster.

While you don’t want to go overboard, with one opt-in form sitting next to or overlaying another, you do want to make sure that there is an opt-in form available so readers can subscribe at any time.

#4: Configure SEO Fields

If you use WordPress, you can install free plugins like WordPress SEO to create key fields for all of your blog pages to optimize them for search engines. Once installed, start by adding the SEO title and meta description for your blog’s homepage, optimized for specific keywords.

wordpress seo homepage title and meta

How to configure the SEO settings for your blog homepage in WordPress SEO.

As you create pages and posts on your blog, remember to fill in the SEO title and meta description. You can even add these fields to your category and tag pages. Go to the appropriate menu items under the Posts section and click on the categories or tags you want to optimize for search.

categories and tags in wordpress

How to find your categories and tags in WordPress.

Then use the fields to optimize them for specific keywords.

yoast wordpress seo settings

How to optimize your tags and categories for search in WordPress SEO.

This tactic helps your blog get additional visibility in search for more keywords.

#5: Use Social Sharing Buttons

Social sharing buttons are a must for your blog post content. They make it easier for your readers to share your content on the social networks that matter to you.

If you’re comfortable editing your blog design, you can choose to add the official sharing buttons from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and your other favorite networks. These buttons pull the title, URL, description and an image (depending on the network) from the page they’re installed on and allow visitors to share them.

If you’d rather use a plugin, there are a vast number of tools to turn to. Shareaholic, for example, works with most major website platforms including Bigcommerce, Blogger, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, Shopify, Squarespace, Tumblr, Typepad, Weebly, Wix and WordPress. It allows you to create share buttons for over 80 social networks in different configurations.

shareaholic share buttons

Setting up social sharing buttons using Shareaholic.

There are also extensions like Filament that work on any website and allow you to create “flare” social sharing buttons that tally up your total shares across the social networks you’ve selected.

filament share buttons

Social sharing buttons by Filament.

The advantage of using a social sharing platform (like Shareaholic, Filament or others) rather than installing the buttons manually is the analytics. Look for platforms that will help you learn more about how your content is shared and who shares it.

filament share analytics

Filament social sharing analytics.

Also, be sure to experiment with the social networks you include in your social sharing buttons. You want to use the social networks that get the most shares and drive the most traffic to your content.

#6: Install Content Analytics

Besides social sharing analytics, there are several additional analytics tools you will want to set up on your blog to see how well your content performs.

First, start with Google Analytics. The Behavior reports show you details about the traffic your content receives.

google analytics top pages report

The Top Pages report in Google Analytics.

Next, make use of Google Webmaster Tools. The new Search Analytics report shows you how your content performs in search based on the number of times seen, the number of clicks and the average position in search.

google webmaster tools report

The Search Analytics report in Google Webmaster Tools.

You can also add SumoMe’s Content Analytics, which will show you how many readers make it through each piece of content.

sumome content analytics report

The Content Analytics report shows you how far readers get in a blog post.

Each of these tools can help you optimize your content marketing strategy to ensure that you’re getting the best results from your blog posts.

#7: Create Unique User Accounts

If you have multiple people blogging for your company, whether they’re employees, guests or freelance writers, create a new user account for each person. Platforms like WordPress allow each author to have a custom author bio with their posts and an author page that archives all of their articles.

author page on wordpress blog

An author page created by WordPress.

In addition, when people search for the author in Google, they might stumble upon your blog.

author pages in google search results

How author pages appear in search results.

If you have dozens of popular authors, this will allow you to get additional visibility in search and increased traffic to your blog.

Conclusion

There are many ways to set up a blog for your business. These tips will help you create a blog that gets specific results.

What do you think? What are the essentials that you have set up on your blog? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

TechCrunch, Hootsuite Blog and Zapier Blog images created with Placeit.
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  • Pel Abbott

    Kristi, what do you think about commenting? Should you allow it, and is an automatic login like the one featured here the best way to go? Should you moderate comments before they post, or automatically post? Thanks.

  • Hey Kristi,

    This was a great list of things to have in order to build a successful blog. Once you get going, the one thing that a lot of people tend to overlook is having some type of analytic tool to measure performance of your blog. You want to know why you’re not getting the results you want and how you can improve. This is vital to do or else you’ll end up getting the repeated results you don’t want.

    Thanks for sharing and I hope you have a fantastic week ahead!

  • Hello. I am Febriyan Lukito. Thank you for the informatif article.
    I want to ask about Author Page. Is it the same as the About Me?

  • Can’t learn enough about blogging! Still a beginner but happy blogger, I like all of your information and find it helpful (pretty soon I might start blogging and vlogging in english). Thank you so much for sharing!

  • You should always moderate comments if you are using the default comment system.

  • I’d moderate everything. Systems like this discourage spammers a bit, but not completely. Disqus makes it easy to ban a person and remove all of their previous comments, which is simpler than WordPress.

  • Thanks Sherman! I agree – you have to have analytics in place from day one. It’s a great way to measure your growth from one year to the next. Hope you have a great week too! 🙂

  • Hi Febriyan! The About Me or About Us page on a blog is usually about the blog itself, the blog owner, or the business behind the blog content. The Author Pages are pages for each author who contributes content to your blog. For example, this (http://new-theme-socialmediaexaminer.pantheon.io/author/kristi-hines/) is my author page and this (http://new-theme-socialmediaexaminer.pantheon.io/about/) is the About Us page for Social Media Examiner. Both are important. 🙂

  • You’re welcome! 🙂

  • Agreed. I moderate everything, no matter what platform. Spammers will spam everywhere. 🙂

  • Elizabeth Delaney

    Great informaton here. I have learned a bit more today. Thankyou Kristi

  • Thank you Kristi for the insight.

  • You’re welcome Elizabeth! 🙂

  • Hey Kristi, aside from WordPress, do you know some other cms which is also good for making a business blog? Any cms out there that you would recommend?

  • Hi Kristi. Good work. I think this’ll be very helpful to a lot of people. Blogs are needed in business websites. It’s a must that they know how to correctly start one.

    BTW, I also learned a couple of things in your article. Thanks. 🙂

  • This is one of the most comprehensive beginner’s guides on business blogging around Kristi. I just hope enough people implement what you have elaborated on here to see positive returns on their blogging efforts…

    Way to go!

  • Joomla is supposed to be a good one with more flexibility. WordPress is the most commonly used, so it’s a lot easier to find support, themes, plugins, etc. for it though.

  • That’s great to hear! I’m glad you like it. 🙂

  • Thanks Vishal! 🙂

  • treb072410

    Another great post Kristi.. Thanks for sharing, very informative and very useful information you shared here..

  • Kristina Hughes

    Thanks for featuring these useful tips Kristi! All these mention points are really useful but configuring the SEO fields are most important to optimize blog on search engines..

  • Thanks! 🙂

  • Exactly Kristina! 🙂

  • John McDougall

    #7 can’t be overlooked. I am amazed how many companies skip this and put time into content and then post as admin.

    David Amerland’s 2015 book SEO Help (just finished it) starts with creating a Google account to identify yourself. Not that Google + is the main place to focus but his point is that Google needs to look at our various social profiles to judge who you are. This is a major part of semantic search / Google Hummingbird and why I am so interested to continue to improve at social.

    You have to go way beyond just keywords driving your posts up these days and excited to read your guest post ebook and just signed up for your blog post promotion course as well. Really excited to have found you and your work/services. No matter how well you know SEO, promotion can still elude you if you don’t have an organized plan.

  • Thanks John! I’m often surprised by the blanket admin account posting for everyone as well. If you get big enough authors on your website, you can gain a lot of traffic based on that reputation from search.

  • Thanks Kristi, i will try this.

  • Besides spam, what about comment trolls? I knew of a blog/news site administrator who refused to allow comments because he hated the nasty comments coming from anonymous handles. Understandable, but wasn’t he missing out on some interaction opportunities because of some online jerks?

  • I’ve noticed a lot of news sites shutting down comments because of trolls or argumentative people in general. In some cases, yes, it makes for interesting discussion. It can actually be a nice traffic booster if people keep coming back to your site to fight about things. It really depends on the environment that you want to have on your site though. You can always put everything on moderator approval basis only, but that slows things down if you’re not approving comments throughout the day.

  • Nicole

    I heard so many bad things about Sumome. Like the badge being displayed unless you pay to have it removed. Are there other plugins you could recommend that are free or a little easier on the pocket, without compromising the design of my website?

  • how can you detect a comment is spam or not

  • Thanks for these suggestions

  • Thanks for sharing Kristi! …a very informative post! I’ve recently redesigned my business website/blog from Joomla to WordPress. There’s thousands and thousands of WordPress resources out there, besides socialmediaexaminer, what other WordPress resources do you suggest?

  • Great post and points. Guess this will help beginners. Thank you for sharing Kristi

  • brb_bob

    If I read an article and I get to the end and I cannot comment if I want, I don’t share the article. In fact it really annoys me, especially if it is a news site.

  • I always feel comments separate blogs from article sites. It doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, but that just seems to be the evolution of blogging I guess.