October 1, 2014

Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends: Lessons Learned Building an Online Publication From a Blog

If you are reading this you already know how important Small Business Trends is in providing expert small business advice, while helping us all keep up with the latest news and developments. But some may not be aware that Anita Campbell started Small Business Trends as a personal blog using Blogger in 2003 to help her share expertise with her small business clients.

building an online publicationToday, the site is an online publication built on WordPress, with hundreds of contributors and a dedicated team Anita has assembled; with well over a million combined monthly visitors across its sister sites BizSugar and TweakYourBiz. And along the way, the site has helped Anita become one of the most trusted and respected voices in small business today.

I recently hosted Campbell as part of the monthly Atlanta Tribune webinar series, where she shared some of her vast experience in growing a loyal online audience.

Below are a just a few tips she shared that should help anyone looking to build a successful presence online today:

Long-Form Content Helps People Stay on Your Site

Small Business Trends average visitor stays on the site right at six minutes – much higher than the average site. Anita said one reason for that is some of the longer posts on the site. Most articles are under 500 words, others (like these for the interview series) go over one thousand words.

While everyone might not have time to read longer articles, those very interested in a topic will dive in and consume it all, which keeps their attention longer and builds loyalty.

Seek Out a Niche and Go Deep, Before Expanding Into General Areas

One thing Anita stressed is in today’s environment, it is extremely difficult to get traction by being a generalist. The competition is way too fierce if all you do is focus on what everybody else is focused on.

Today it’s about finding a unique niche you can own, and pushing out lots of quality content on that subject. By doing this you’ll begin to build a following, and then be able to expand into more general subject matter.

Even in the Age of Social Media, Email Lists Are Golden

It’s pretty easy to focus on social media when it comes to getting your content distributed across the Web. With over 220,000 fans spread across Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, Anita attributes a good portion of Small Business Trends growth to social sharing.

But she also says it’s very important not to overlook the continuing contribution email lists make to growing the number of views and visitors to the site.

Make Sure You Don’t Undervalue or Overvalue Content

Anita says it’s important to look at more than one metric to understand the impact an article makes on the audience. Sometimes articles get 1500 shares on social channels, but only get 3,000 total views. Other posts will get 30,000 views, while only being shared 200 times. The nature of the subject makes it more likely to be shared socially, or sent around more privately via email to teammates and partners.

Articles about social media get shared a lot, but articles about tax planning get emailed to people’s internal team – so it’s critically important to look at a couple of metrics to judge how popular an article is.

Religiously Keep Up With the Numbers

Speaking of metrics, Campbell says knowing your metrics is a must. In fact, her and her executive team do regular virtual meetings to go over the data to look at what pages on the site are drawing visitors (new and returning), page views and sharing activities and length of stay. They also look at these number across subject matter and authors to see if there are any patterns that help in understanding what connects with readers.

By doing this regularly they know what the audience really wants and can look at themes and stories that are resonating – and can guide contributors in the appropriate direction.

Tools to Use

Anita shared a few tools and tips she depends on to constantly keep up the quality of the content that makes it onto the site. Below are a few of she suggests:

  • My Yahoo for RSS Feeds – Editorial team looks at it each morning to see what stories are out there.
  • Article Headline Generator – Free tool that gives you a suggestions because 50% of the battle in getting people to read a post is getting the headline right.
  • Yoast SEO Plugin – Free plugin tht helps optimize your articles for SEO (gives word count, tells you if article is too hard for people to read, etc.)
  • Copyscape Premium – Copy and paste text of an article to make sure it hasn’t been lifted from somewhere else. Important if you have guest contributors.

To get all of the tips on building an online publication that Campbell shared, check out the slides from the webinar:


Or view the video recording:

This interview on building an online publication is part of the One on One interview series with thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today.

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Brent Leary


Brent Leary Brent Leary is a Partner at CRM Essentials and organizer of the Social Business Atlanta conference. Brent serves on the advisory board of The University of Toronto CRM Center of Excellence, writes the Social CRM column for Inc.com's technology site, and blogs at Brent's Social CRM Blog.

2 Reactions

  1. Thanks for the tips Anita! It really helps to go deep on a certain niche because you have a market who is also just as passionate in that particular niche. I have enjoyed all of your content so far. Keep it up!

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