LOCAL BUSINESS SUCCESS CENTER

Tips, trends and marketing advice to help you grow your business.

It's pretty hard for any small business to survive today without a web presence. Beyond a basic website and social media accounts to inform and interact with customers, it's now becoming more important for small businesses to launch dedicated blogs. While blogs present a tremendous opportunity to reach consumers on a deeper level, they should not be approached from anything but an expert perspective. If you're considering starting a blog but are unsure how to proceed, read on.

1. Outsource the Technical Tasks Unless you're an IT pro, your blog's technical set-up is best left to someone who can put it together with quality and efficiency. However, that's not to say you need to break the bank in the process. Explore outsourcing websites like Guru, Freelancer, and Elance to find a qualified web developer. Investigate each candidate thoroughly and be sure to ask for references and examples of past projects. I had my blog set-up for $125 by a freelancer, and I was very impressed with the finished product.

2. Commit to Superior Content The most important element of any blog is the quality of its content. Potential customers are going to assume that you're an expert in your field, and they want that assumption to be validated before they commit to giving you their money. Post high quality articles with informative and relevant advice, showcase your industry knowledge, and provide tips that add real value to your customers' lives. And don't sacrifice quality for quantity. It's not a given that you have to post something every day. Simply decide on a posting schedule, write compelling content, and remain consistent so your readers know what to expect.

3. Market on Newer Social Media Websites Assuming that you already have a Facebook and Twitter presence, you should also look to share your blog posts on some of the newer social media outlets that are quickly gaining popularity. Google+ is rising in significance; Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit, and StumbleUpon are excellent options as well. Not all are suited to blog content, but all can be used to draw web-surfers to your site. The most important thing to remember is that you can't expect word to get out about your blog on its own. You have to spend just as much time finding avenues of exposure as you do writing copy.

4. Include an About Us Tab By creating an About Us tab on your blog, you give readers the opportunity to get a quick snapshot of your business as a whole. Include pictures of yourself and your senior staff members to personalize the page and give your company a friendly face. Many people are going to click on this tab before looking at your blog, so be sure to devote a good amount of effort to it.

5. Answer All Comments Whenever you get a comment on any of your blog posts, be sure to answer it as quickly as possible. You might simply want to show some gratitude to a reader for taking the time to offer an opinion. If you encounter a provocative or contrarian comment, address it, but always be deferential and respectful of the commenter's viewpoint. One of the goals of your blog should be to build a community of readers and subscribers by interacting with them. Make them feel valued, and you give potential customers a reason to do business with you.

6. Make Your Blog’s Home Page Easy to Read Some small business owners make the mistake of overwhelming their readers with content on their blog’s home page. That's definitely a mistake to avoid. There's nothing wrong with including tabs to other resources in your blog, but keep the body of your home page relatively clean and straightforward. A basic design with some white space will help readers focus on the content you do display there.

Final Thoughts Creating a blog for your small business takes both time and effort, and maintaining it does, too. If you get to the point at which other areas of your business begin to suffer, consider hiring a freelance writer or two with industry experience so you can simply oversee the blog rather than produce all of its content. Saving money is important, but it's equally important to know when making a minor investment will save you valuable time.

What tips do you have for small business owners who want to launch a blog? Share them in the comments!

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