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A blog is one of a business’ most powerful potential tools when it comes to expanding their reach through digital marketing. Not only is it a chance to bring in new customers thanks to the ever present Google search, it’s a way to share information and new products and services with existing customers. Even more important than any of that, it’s a fantastic way to create and develop relationships that go beyond transactions with clients, customers, and the rest of your industry.

Much like with social media, the key is to make sure you have the right content, presented in the right way, in the right place, and at the right time to get the most impact out of the resources you put in to creating and maintaining a blog. Here are some straight forward tips to help guide your way into the blogosphere.

Go Where Your Audience Is

For most companies, the obvious choice of where to locate their blog is to simply incorporate it (in an easy to find location!) into their existing website. Typically this is absolutely the right call, especially if the company website is already drawing some respectable traffic. That said, there are a few things to consider. If your website is not a hub for the business but, for instance, Facebook is, make sure content is also being shared wherever your customers are. Furthermore, while it’s not necessarily the right choice for every company, Tumblr is a blogging platform that has some social media components and typically has an audience that skews a bit younger and slightly more trendy. It’s important to keep your content on your domain, since ultimately that’s where you want search results to lead your potential customers and so that you maintain control of anything you produce, but different platforms can allow you to repurpose content and reach a wider audience. Vintage-style clothing and decor retailer ModCloth uses their Tumblr to showcase new products, but to also highlight particular types of products that may fit a new trend or style (some of which aren’t new products and could otherwise be forgotten), and to create adorable and timely complete looks for special events or holidays using their full line of products, from shoes to hosiery to dress to coat to jewelry and beyond. The extremely media-friendly Tumblr format also allows customers to ask questions about how best to wear a certain item they already own or that they are possibly on the fence about purchasing. The end result is that customers can feel happier with their products and feel like they’re getting an increased value out of their purchases, making them more confident that they’ll come out of their entire ModCloth experience happy.

Know When To Be The Expert, And When To Be The Friendly Advisor

Depending on the industry, a company blog can be either a chance to highlight your expertise and to remind customers and clients that you are the expert on your field, or it can be a chance to make a customer feel like your product or service is suddenly more approachable because they have you, their friendly advisor, to help them out. In cases of advanced scientific or technical industries, it’s going to be important to show your level of expertise and experience. In industries like fashion or home decor, you want your customers to be able to integrate your products into their daily life, so the key is going to be making things seem approachable, easy, and fun. Some industries are going to have to walk the line between the two, something Daniel Hill of TooDifficult.com does to excellent effect. Hill’s business as a technology consultant hinges on two things — being an expert on whatever technology his clients may need his help with, and the ability to get the technology and his clients co-existing in a way that they come to find comfortable and workable as part of their daily lives. For Hill, splitting the blog portions of his website into “articles” and “answers” allows him to show off both his technical insight and his engaging and comforting personality, both of which are key to his business.

Who Is Your Audience?

Part of determining whether you want to speak as an expert or as a peer comes down to knowing who your target audience is. If you expect most of your blog traffic to come from other people inside your industry or related industries, the topics you discuss and the language you use can be more “inside baseball” and can play more to niche interests. If you’re aiming towards consumers or end users, your focus may be more on demystifying your products or services or your industry as a whole, or simply making them understand how what you do can be relevant to their lives. Some businesses will employ a combination of the two, which can be very effective as long as in each individual article, there’s a clear understanding of who you’re writing for, what you expect them to already know, and what they’re going to be interested in finding out. You can employ a clear split like Daniel Hill’s “articles” and “answers” distinction, or you can simply incorporate them together and use the appropriate presentation style for each.

Use Informative, Attention Grabbing Headlines 

The headline is the first thing people will use to decide whether to take the time to read a post, particularly now with the proliferation of social media sharing, RSS readers, and other content aggregators. Web analytics company Kissmetrics uses creative word choice in their headlines to encourage people to stop and read what they have to share. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by a headline entitled “Web Marketing Cannibalization”? They could have chosen to phrase that in less catchy terms, but that choice of words is not only evocative, it’s attention grabbing. Remember, on your blog’s home page, the first paragraph maybe be visible as someone scrolls down the page, but that is typically not the case when an article is shared via social media. If the headline doesn’t clearly state what the article is about and make it sound intriguing and worthwhile, you stand to lose potential readers who were just one click away from investigating your blog and, by extension, your business.

The Right Media Type For The Right Content

It’s easy to think of blogs only in terms of the written word, and articles absolutely have their place in blogging and will continue to do so. But no matter the industry, be aware of the fact that sometimes you would be better served by opting to use video or graphics to illustrate your point. Bay Area based online photography supply retailer Photojojo has an entire blog dedicated to DIY projects and tutorials to inspire their customers, and the tutorials are chock full of photos, animated gifs, and videos that make the projects seem fun and most importantly, doable. Not only do the projects sell products with customers purchasing supplies for the things they’re inspired to try, but the content makes the blog a destination even when their customers aren’t in the mood to shop.

Make It Personal 

This is true of so much, and yes we mentioned it while talking about social media, but it really is that important. Your company’s blog is an opportunity not for a sales pitch, but to share what you’re passionate about and what makes you and your industry great. Self-promotion is obviously necessary, if for nothing else than it keeps the lights on, but it should make up no more than ten percent of your content. Think about what types of information are both useful and enriching to your core audience and exciting and worth writing about for you and your team. Reviews of books or software or other products you’ve discovered, thoughts on new ideas coming up in your industry, behind the scenes or before and afters of your work, profiles of people you respect or admire that tie in to your business, introductions for up and comers that you’re excited by — there are so many options that are so much more than a sales pitch. Take a look at the blog of trendy and creative t-shirt retailer Threadless and how they show off the artists they admire who design some of their work, highlight the dedication of their fans, and get people involved in design contests. It’s a community, and it makes a successful company seem much more like a group of people you would be excited to involve in your life. That’s a relationship, and that’s stronger than any discount code or commercial.

Now that you’re armed with some knowledge, you’re ready to take your passion for business and your expertise and pour it into that blog. Got any great ideas already? Share them with us!