Posted on March 13, 2012 by Webfor Spread the loveBy Jo Lynn Barnicoat Blogging is a very effective way to market your business, products or services. It helps bring personality and soul to your business and brand, winning the trust and loyalty of your existing and prospective customers. Consistent blogging will also contribute to the Google ranking of your company’s products and services. 1. Where to start What? Not a writer? Here are some basic tips to get you started: Good headlines are essential. Make the title eye-catching, engaging, and appealing to your audience. A relevant keyword in your title will also enhance your SEO efforts. Don’t be too wordy. Blogs are not intended to compete with “War & Peace.” Brevity is the art of wit and will keep your reader interested. This is especially true since most people’s attention spans are very short online. Quality over quantity. You’re better off publishing 10 high-quality, informative posts than 50 garbage posts for the sake of ranking higher in the search engines. Make your posts effective and informative. Would you want to read your own post? The recommended length is between 400 and 800 words, with some leeway if the topic warrants. Feel free to use bullet points. Long paragraphs will lose your audience. Breaking up copy with lists will help avoid dense blocks of words. That means you should also keep paragraphs to no more than three or four sentences. 2. Develop a voice. Come up with a voice for your blog that appeals to your prospective customers. The nature of your business will be an important factor in your approach. If you are a law firm, you probably don’t want to come across as chummy. However, if you’re a pub, you might be informal and casual. This may take some time as you hone your writing. 3. Speak to your audience Many of your readers are prospective customers. Write posts that help them. Write at a level they understand. If you serve consumers, avoid industry jargon. If you serve businesses, a higher level of information is appropriate. Write on topics your audience wants to read about. However, don’t re-hash the same old information. Here are some ideas on how to brainstorm topics that will result in business from your blog: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Maintain a list of questions you get from prospective and current customers (these make fantastic topics for blog posts). Read other blogs and publications in your industry. Stay on top of current events. The more you blog, the more ideas you’ll get. Educate, inform, entertain, and engage. Work with tried and true blog themes. There are a number of types of blog posts that consistently draw readership: a. Lists with a number in the title: “3 Ways to Improve…”, “10 Ways to Enhance…” b. A human interest story that is topical and current c. People love tips, hints and practical advice That said, don’t expect every blog post to serve your entire audience. If you try to write on topics that serve everyone, you are severely limiting yourself. 4. Avoid selling in your blog posts. While you don’t want to come across heavy handed with a sales pitch, you should have your contact form and telephone number in the sidebar of your blog. Let your informative and expert blog posts do the selling for you. Your prospective customers are hungry for answers, if you provide them, they will utilize the contact form to get more information. 5. Plan ahead. If you can plan posts ahead of time, meeting your daily or weekly quota won’t be as daunting. But they have to be timely, especially if you are promoting new products or services. Jot down ideas when they pop in your head. 6. Incorporate relevant keywords, images and SEO best practices. While keyword placement is important, you must think about readability first and foremost. You may want to write your entire post first then insert keywords after. Add keywords and phrases so they read naturally in the content. Vary keywords to avoid repetition. Not including an image with each blog post is a missed opportunity. Besides adding visual appeal, tagged images show up in search results and add to your overall SEO strategy. Video links are a great option as well. SEO in Blogs is very important in helping the ranking of your website when people are looking for what you do. Here are some recommended best practices when writing your blog: If possible include relevant keywords in the title of your blog post. Think about how someone might search for the topic of your blog and make your title similar. Three- to five-word titles are good for users and search engines alike. Utilize your main keywords a few times in the blog and also use related terms and synonyms where possible. Be careful to sustain readability and not stuff keywords in your blog – it’s a no-no with Google and your readers. Write for the user first and balance in SEO best practices where it makes sense. Images are great for blogs and they also have value for SEO. In the alt text of the image put your keyword that describes the image. If you can name the image the same as the keyword that is good as well (i.e., keyword.jpg). Use bold or italics to drive a little more relevance to your keywords. 7. Don’t be shy. Don’t just wait for your audience to come to you. If you throw a party, you have to invite people if you want them to show up. The same goes for growing your blog audience. Promote your blog on your website, emails, and social media sites. Encourage readership and engagement. 8. Have a comment section in each post. Respond to reader comments, but also invite comments by asking questions in the blog. People like to have their voices heard and engage in dialog with you and other customers. 9. Make your blog easy to share. Make sure your webmaster has incorporated social sharing features. When someone shares your blog posts, it’s free publicity and a very effective tool generating business. 10. Edit your work. Use spell check to find typos and grammatical mistakes. Consider reading your blog out loud to hear how it flows. If possible, have another person check it prior to publishing. Even the best writers need another pair of eyes now and again. Bad grammar and spelling compromises your reputation, so don’t take it lightly. Just do it! Don’t be paralyzed with fear if you are new to the blogging game. There is no perfect blog and there is no perfect style of blogging. Don’t let the need for perfection get in the way of developing a blog that is effective for your business. You can do this!