If you're a salon owner or beauty professional online, chances are you have a blog. If you don't, or are unsure of what they can offer your business, I suggest you take a look at this post on why blogging is a great idea for your business. Today's post is going to focus on immediately actionable tips and advice for your blog, what we've learnt through our blogging and how you can save time. Essentially, blog like a pro.
Which Blogging Platform to Use
There are a myriad of blogging platforms out there, some more technical than others. Generally, the most popular blogging platforms are Tumblr, Wordpress and Blogger. There are different advantages to each, but generally Tumblr is great for image based blogs, Blogger is simple and friendly, and Wordpress is the most robust. We use Wordpress as it offers large amounts of customisation, has a very active support community and most importantly, supports plugins (extensions that offer extra features). I would recommend Wordpress if you're serious about your blog being a core part of your online strategy (you can build the rest of the site around it also), but the others are also great spaces. As a lot of salons tend to have static sites, this is quite a good idea.
If you are using Wordpress, there are a couple of plugins I would always recommend: Yoast SEO, WP Biographia and WP Super Cache. These plugins can make a remarkable difference to your blog. Yoast helps you sort out a lot of the issues Google doesn't like, Biographia puts a little "about me" section at the bottom of your posts and is an easy way to set up Google Authorship without having to do any coding, and Super Cache speeds up your site load time and makes for a better user experience. Both Yoast and Super Cache have a lot of features that can appear complicated, so I'd recommend having a look at this guide by Quick Sprout for how they should be set up. Be warned, it does get a little technical in places but for the most part is relatively straightforward.
There's also a plethora of tools that can make blogging that much easier. These are my two favourites that save hours each week:
Content Generator by SEO Gadget - a guide for which can be found on their blog. This handy spreadsheet allows you to input your keywords (say, "beauty" or "hairdressing") and finds the most popular articles online relating to those terms. From this, you can get an idea of what's trending and who's talking about it. It even suggests influential people who may be interested in your post. If you're stuck for an idea, have a go and you might find a spark of inspiration. Ours is pre-set to for the term "beauty salon" so we can keep up to date within the industry at a glance.
IFTTT (If This Then That) - it creates formulae, or recipes, for different online channels. That might sound a little meaningless, but it's really very handy and easy. As an example, we have it set up so that whenever we post a picture on Facebook, that same picture and its description are tweeted as well. This saves us tons of time going between the different sites. While you can have it to update Twitter for anything that's posted on Facebook, I don't think it's a good idea. Facebook and Twitter are used in very different ways and should be used accordingly. For blogging though, it means you just have to publicise your post in one place and it can be updated on many others. Given that so many of your user base and target audience will likely be female, try to create recipes that incorporate female dominated platforms. Instagram serves as a great example and is somewhere we're looking to get more active in the near future.
Blogging and social media go hand in hand. Publishing your content through your social channels will help increase traffic massively and let your fans know that you're offering them valuable information they might miss out on otherwise. As an example of how we tie our social media together (which again saves time and has positive results in terms of both readers and signups), I'll go through it step by step. Some of this is going to be specific to Wordpress, but other bits will be applicable for everyone.
2. We preview the post and take a screenshot of the title and first couple of paragraphs to upload on Facebook. We do this because pictures are more heavily weighted in Facebook's edge rank (the algorithm that determines how many people will see a post on their newsfeed). If you do embed a link instead, you should know that the information in the snippet is not set in stone. Things like the title and description are pulled from your post for the snippet on Facebook, but you can alter these easily.
3. The picture is then scheduled within Facebook to go up about ten minutes after we've scheduled the post to go up. A link to the post is provided in the description. It should look a little like this:
4. This photo is then tweeted up to fifteen minutes after it appears on Facebook through IFTTT (it can take up to fifteen minutes for the formula to refresh itself, it's not instant). We also schedule a further two tweets using Buffer about the post which appear in the evening and the following morning. Some people prefer to tweet more about each post, but I personally find that a little much - you will find lots of dissenting views on this though.
How Often Should you Blog?
This is going to sound somewhat perfunctory, but how ever often you find yourself able. We tried to do every weekday but have found this a little difficult to manage. Instead, we're going to do three times a week and really make sure we nail the content. However often you find yourself able (though I'd suggest once a week or so), do try to maintain a bit of consistency and coherency week on week. As an example, our new structures shall be:
Tuesday Tips - you know 'em, you love 'em.
Thursdays - what's hot in hair, beauty and fashion. The latest news and events from around the world, but also things a little closer to home.
Saturdays - perhaps best described as miscellaneous, it's going to be anything and everything not covered on the other two days.
We've found that for weekdays, publishing a post at around half twelve to half one is usually best as people are likely to be on their computers, browsing during lunch. I'm not quite sure about the weekends yet, but I'll let you know once I have a bit more data on this. My initial thoughts would be a little later in the day, trying to get that time when people have come back from a day out but before heading out for the evening. As a lot of salons tend to be closed (or at least a bit quieter ) on Mondays, so this might be a good time to write a couple of posts.
While it might sound pretty boring, I'm afraid it's essential. The most important elements in any post are:
Content - I'm not going to give much advice on this, it'll be different for everyone. If you have competitors, check out their blogs, see what they're doing with them and what they're not covering so well. Just make sure it offers value to your readers. There's plenty of advice on this online, and I love this guide. Terrific examples of business related beauty blogs can be found on the Hairdressers Journal.
Title - given that this is what draws your reader in, make sure it's snappy and has a hook. A good title describes your content in such a way that it becomes irresistible to the reader.
Readability - there simply isn't much point to blogging if it's hard to read. Check both how easy to read the language used is, and what the post actually looks like. Notice that this one has small blocks of text broken up by subheadings and pictures. This makes the content much more approachable.
Categories - not too many and try to put each post only in one or two. You can take a look at the ones we use for the blog both here and by navigating to the Categories tab in the menu at the top. While ours are mainly beauty related, there is space to talk about other bits and bobs. While you main focus should be on topics relating to the hair and beauty industry, don't be afraid to write on topics that deviate from this a little.
Tags - don't use them, just don't. They make blogs messy and hard to navigate. I'm always turned off a blog that has a list of 50+ tags. Use your categories and internal link structures better instead.
SEO (search engine optimisation) - a scary term for many to be sure. Don't invest too much time into understanding all the different aspects that go into search engine rankings (for there are many and they are complicated), but it is helpful to understand the core concepts so that they can be incorporated into your usual methodology. In this post, for instance, when I link out to another site, or part of our own, I hyperlink numerous words together instead of saying "click here". This sends signals to the search engines but is also more descriptive for readers. For more information, check out this great beginners guide to SEO by Moz and Google's Webmaster YouTube channel.
Calls to Action - end every post by asking readers to complete an action, whether it's sign up, look at your services or leave a comment. Make the most of people being on your site by getting them to fulfill the action you want them to and increase your conversions. Half the point of having a blog for your salon is so that people will be drawn into reading and discovering more about your services. Sometimes you just need to ask explicitly.
Settle upon a blog structure and a way of formatting for every post. Change it up if you find something that works better and update the old posts. Consistency is key. Given that the beauty industry (and especially salon services) is so image dependant, only put up images you think really highlight what you're trying to say. If you're writing a post about fabulous updos, feature nice pictures of ones you've done for customers before.
What I've Learnt about Blogging
It's a process of constant refinement - we are continually thinking about ways we could better streamline the process and save ourselves even more time. I'm not suggesting we get all the elements I've mentioned correct for every post, but effort is put into them and I believe this makes for a better user experience. There are many, many more elements that a great blog is comprised of, and if you do some research you'll find a ton of advice. The purpose of this post was to give a few simple tips you can immediately apply to your process of salon blogging and suggest a few helpful resources where you can learn more detailed info.
Good blogging can take a while (this post took about 3 hours), so don't be put off if it does take a bit of time, and while you might not see the effects immediately (or even for several months), if you blog well you're setting yourself up to be more successful as finding services online becomes increasing important.
If you've found this useful, or if you'd like any help or advice with your own blog, please let me know in the comments below - it'd be much appreciated.