Whether you own a landscaping business, market garden or plant nursery, a blog is a logical addition to your general web site. With their friendly tone and helpful advice, blogs can generate sales while also building valuable client relationships.
Yet it’s common among business owners to become seized with doubt after starting a blog, and to waste precious time researching how other web sites have presented similar information. After all, even when hiring writers to flesh out your vision, the responsibility falls on you to create content . That can be a daunting task when you’re trying to figure out how the “real” blogs do it.
Don’t approach content brainstorming from the point of view of what you think should be on your site, becoming bogged down guessing what kind of content leads to sales, clicks-per-page or generated ads. After all, thinking up ideas should be the fun part. Gardening is what you’re passionate about, and what you love to help people accomplish in their own backyards.
So as you’re jotting down ideas, imagine all the things you’d love to tell a friend about your gardening specialty — or even what you’ve been meaning to find out more about yourself. Don’t worry about organizing your notes, or whether the topics will definitely work as blog ideas. That kind of categorization can come later. Simply ramble on to your imaginary companion, and try to envision what her follow-up questions would be.
Next, consider the questions you hear most frequently from your clients, customers and friends. According to the Online Marketing Institute, turning to those issues as inspiration “gives you the opportunity not only to further inform your readers about your brand, but it lets them know you’re not just some content-spouting machine.”
“What do I do with this patch of dry, rocky ground in my backyard?”
“Do I have to pay thousands just to keep this hillside from eroding into the neighbor’s yard every time it rains?”
As a garden and landscape expert, you’re probably well aware that those two questions alone can launch a multitude of solutions. Applying that principal to your blog, you can plan two general blog entries on each topic, both offering a list of suggested solutions to common problems. Later, you can use those first entries as a springboard for later posts about each of those individual options.
A blog post with suggestions about coping with that troublesome backyard patch, for example, can lead to several additional blog entries, such as each of the various Mediterranean herbs that thrive in rocky places, as well as on raised bed gardening systems, and even on how to amend the soil to make it more hospitable to a wider range of plants.
In order to build content quickly, focus first on those broader topics, whether you’re doing the writing yourself or turning to freelance writers. As your blog entry ideas dwindle, circle back to some of the plants and techniques mentioned in passing for ideas on newer content.
In addition, a “Plant of the Week” post is an obvious way to build reader interest, not to mention a “Pest of the Month.” This is a also a good time to focus on botanicals and products offered in your garden center, or which you regularly install as part of your landscaping business. (While you should be avoiding heavy sales pitches in your entries, you also don’t want to make readers long for a rare plant which you have no idea how to procure.)
Of course, as you add blog entries, look for ways to send new readers back to existing posts via hyperlink. Soon, that older post about the dry backyard will boast a link to your own site’s new feature on creeping thyme, as opposed to a Wikipedia or extension service page.
Once your blog is established, pay attention to what’s actually happening in each post’s comments section. Keep a running list of frequently-asked questions from your readers, and start categorizing those questions by season, when appropriate. This will prove an immense help as you’re prioritizing assignments for writers.
For example, “Planting Frost-Hardy Vegetables” is a natural blog post for either late winter or mid-summer, because it allows your readers a chance to absorb the article, then order seeds and supplies for spring or autumn gardening. (Of course, you’ll want to back up that timeline even more in order to give your freelancers time to research and write the entries.)
Finally, resist feeling as if you’re wasting bandwidth by devoting some blog content to topics that don’t create an immediately apparent “call to action,” i.e., quick profit for your business. Remember, you’re building a community that seeks out your web site for ever-changing content and inspiration. In turn, that trust will pay off when your readers are ready to take the plunge into ordering plants and services.
5 Star Writer Melissa J provides website content, feature and newsletter articles, as well as informational blog posts.