Want to know the secret to a successful small business blog? There are just two simple rules: #1 Use the blog to educate and amuse your customers and; #2 Always refrain from overt sales pitches.

People read blogs for all types of reasons; for news, for a laugh, to find inspiration or to learn something new. They don’t read blogs to be directly advertised at. That’s not to say that blogs can’t drive sales, in fact, the opposite is true. However, they shouldn’t be used as a vehicle for delivering a pushy sales pitch. Readers (as in, your potential customers), will run a mile and never come back.

To get readers returning to your blog you must provide content that is educational, helpful and interesting. We’ll talk about how to do that in a minute, but first, a quick word about design. Investing in a reputable company to design and build you a blog that looks great and is easy to navigate is worth it’s weight in gold. A good web developer will make it easy for your readers to digest your content quickly and share it with their friends, as well as optimise it for search engines, so that you can get even more readers.

Let’s chat about exactly how to create engaging content for your blog.

If you are really serious about building a successful and professional blog, then you should start by creating a content calendar. This is simply a schedule for what types of stories are going to be published and when. By mapping out a weekly or monthly plan you’ll stay focused, share a good variety of topics and never be stuck for inspiration.

3 different types of blog posts.

Try to mix up your blog content throughout the week so that complicated posts are followed by something lighter, and text-heavy posts are nestled between funny or photo-based posts. Here’s a few examples:

1. How To or Tutorials. These help teach your customers something for free (without asking them to buy anything). If you sell tennis rackets, you could share a series of photos that show proper technique for playing tennis.

2. Internet Memes. These are themed ideas usually based on photos or videos. If you own a pet store, you might jump on the #LOLcats meme and post funny pictures of cats on Mondays. Posting the same thing on a certain day of the week is a great way to get readers returning to your blog regularly.

3. News or Research. These provide practical information for your readers and establish you as an authority in your industry. If you sell cars, and there are new laws regarding how often your customers must register their vehicles, that would be good information to share.

Promoting your blog posts.

Once you’ve published your blog posts always share them via social media to ensure they get as much exposure as possible. If you took the advice at the very beginning of this article and hired a great web developer, they would have installed social media buttons on your blog that allow you to share each post in just one click.

Last but not least, engage with your readers. Ask them questions at the end of each blog post and when they leave a comment with their answer, reply to them with a meaningful response or simply thank them for reading. Be human. This type of interaction is what makes blogging such a powerful marketing tool, and what separates it from the cold mediums of TV and newspapers. Blogging is live, it’s engaging and it’s time to embrace it.

This article first appeared in Flavour Magazine, an industry magazine published by Peter McInnes kitchenware suppliers.

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