12 tips for creating a must-read business blog

Business owners, bloggers and online marketers discuss what small businesses can do to drive traffic to their blogs, increase their page views and keep readers coming back for more.

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Too often business owners start blogging in the hope that it will drive traffic to their business, only to quickly fall into the trap of posting stale or sales-heavy content that gets no or few views. Then they become frustrated and either blog less frequently or abandon their blog, wondering why they bothered.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Business blogs, when done right, can help businesses (of all sizes) attract potential customers – and increase sales. Just follow these simple tips from SMB and blogging experts.

[ Related: 11 ways to build your online brand ]

1. Think about and write for your target audience. “Think about the audience you are trying to attract to your blog and share content that is relevant, interesting and valuable to that specific demographic,” says Arsineh Ghazarian, cofounder & CEO, Zveil.

“What are their most pressing questions and what information do you think they would find most helpful?” adds Shawn Graham, founder, Deep Varnish, a strategic marketing consulting firm. “Every post should provide interesting and relevant content and be written with your target audience in mind. If you’re not sure what questions they have, just ask! Doing so creates an opportunity to have a conversation with your readers and that’s ultimately what’s going to keep them coming back.”

2. Create a click-worthy headline. “Think of a headline as a billboard,” says Vincent Scatena, CMO, IMP Corporation, a supplier of new-surplus & used power generation equipment. “If [it’s] eye-catching [enough], people will click [on it] and read your blog. Simply put, the headline is your first impression. Our headlines have gotten us enough attention to be cited on major news outlets. I’m not saying you should put all your focus on headlines—having appropriate content is just as important—but it opens the door.”

3. Skip the jargon – and the sales pitch – and use a friendly, conversational tone. Write as though you are having a friendly, yet professional, conversation with your readers, keeping in mind that many of your readers may not know, or like, industry lingo. And even if they do, they probably don’t want to read something loaded with jargon.

Similarly, your blog posts shouldn’t all read like ads for your product or service.

“Hard sales pitches are a surefire way to ensure a high bounce rate and encourage visitors to look elsewhere for the information and services they need,” says Andy Lindus, COO, Lindus Construction.

4. Answer your customers’ questions.“Ask your sales team and customer service reps which questions are asked again and again and write posts that answer those questions,” says Julie Graff, social content liaison, Pole Position Marketing. “These are also the types of things [people] are typing into search engine queries, so this will help you gain some SEO traction. Not only that, but you will be providing truly useful information your audience will enjoy and appreciate. Doing this also helps establish you as an expert in your field, so even if searchers aren't ready to buy now, they will remember you when they are.”

5. Ask experts to guest post. “Reach out to experts to contribute to your blog about topics where you are not an expert,” suggests Nellie Akalp, CEO, CorpNet.com. “For example, I share tips on running a business as well as various topics relating to incorporating or forming an LLC. When it comes to marketing, social media, HR, accounting and other topics I don’t know much about, but want to share on the blog, I find experts in those areas to contribute a post,” she explains. “We [then] share that post with our community so that person gets exposure. So it’s a win-win!”

“Have a diversity of voices on your blog,” says Eric Quanstrom, CMO, KiteDesk, a sales prospecting tool. “By tapping influencers and experts you bring strong ideas to the table [and] enhance your brand.”

“Look to your customers, vendors and colleagues for guest blogs,” says Armita Ayrempour, marketing manager, MotherG. “For example, we are an IT managed service provider and one of our guest posters runs a software company. We cross-promote the content to both our companies’ contacts, [as well as in] LinkedIn Groups, which significantly increases reach.”

6. Look for trending topics and add your unique perspective. “Instead of just regurgitating the information that everyone else is discussing, put your own spin on the topic, [providing] additional insight or [discussing why or how it’s relevant to your target audience],” says Adam O’Leary, president, Encite Marketing. Doing this “will differentiate your [blog posts] from other articles while capitalizing on the popularity of the subject.” Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as “tools such as Technorati and Google Blog Search, can help you find [trending topics].”

7. Vary your posts (trying different formats to see which work best).“You can’t just produce posts hoping they will get picked up, shared and bring leads,” says Ewa Puchalska, outreach manager, GetResponse. “Experiment with different types of content around the same topic: blog post, infographic, SlideShare presentation, podcast, video.” Then be sure to “promote [your posts] and check what works best for your audience.”

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