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Is the business blog a “must have” or does it fall neatly into the “nice to have” category? Well, if you’re planning to commit time and energy to the creation and maintenance of a blog then it should certainly be much, much more than a nice to have. Whether created by an agency on your behalf or produced in-house, a blog should be seen as something that delivers concrete results. And if it doesn’t, the likelihood is that your commitment to regular updates will wane over time.

But here’s the good news – blogging can grow your business by delivering traffic to your site – traffic that you can turn into leads and conversions. Here’s how.

The Inbound Train

The biggest challenge for any online business is generating traffic when there may well be dozens, or even hundreds of competitors offering similar products or services. Typically, the customer looking for a particular product will begin by running a search on Google or Bing (other search engines are available) and select a few promising-looking sites from the first half-dozen or so. Sadly, searchers rarely venture beyond the first or second page, so achieving a good search engine ranking is all important.

Now there are various ways to do this. Certainly you can and should provide search-friendly content in and around your online catalogue. Additional information, product reviews, specs and videos can all help to drive search engine traffic. These are all vital weapons in the inbound marketing armoury.

Keeping it Fresh

But the blog can play a very special role. Unlike, say, product specs and descriptions, which tend to be static over a period of years, a blog provides a simple but hugely effective means to add fresh content to the site on a daily or weekly basis. And because of the nature of blogging – the blog is effectively the voice of the company – the content you post will be genuinely bespoke and unique to your business. In other words it makes you stand out and if done properly, it can also help you climb the search engine rankings.

That’s the first win. But once you’ve attracted a customer via a blog, there’s a very good chance that he or she will like your page on Facebook, follow you on Twitter or simply return to the blog at a later date. You have acquired a customer and one who may also act as an ambassador.

Leading Questions

Only a small percentage of customers will jump straight from the blogs to the main website and fewer still will convert but what you can do is begin to establish a longer-term relationship which will ultimately boost performance.

You can, for instance, use your blog as a tool to generate leads, a tactic that is particularly effective in the B2B arena. For instance, if you sell software solutions, the blog provides a forum to talk about subjects such as cloud computing or customer security issues. And once you have attracted readers you can offer additional content to those who register with an e-mail address – an eBook perhaps or case studies. What this enables you to do is build a mailing list comprised of people who have identified themselves as having a real interest in what you have to offer. These are your hot leads.

The Sales Force

But a blog can also be a means to drives sales directly. For instance, whether you sell mobile phones or handbags, the blog provides a means to enthuse about new products. As such the blog creates desire and drives demand.

The Call to Action

And arguably one of the most beneficial aspects of the business blog is that it establishes your company as an expert voice within your field. For instance, if we return to the example of a software solutions company, the blog provides an opportunity to explain concepts, chart new developments or outline the business benefits of a particular solution.

At one level this simply enhances the brand and builds a relationship of trust with the customer but these fundamental benefits can be augmented by calls to action, inviting readers to register or click through to the main site, a strategy that delivers leads and sales.

The Cumulative Impact

The impact of a blog is cumulative. A web search may take the customer to the latest update but equally, older content will show up on search engine rankings and drive traffic.

The key is to provide a blog that is relevant, useful or entertaining to your audience while also serving a clearly defined set of objectives – such as lead generation – which can be measured in terms of outcomes. And by monitoring the performance of individual blogs against your objectives you can hone future content to deliver optimal results.

As such blogging provides a means to drive inbound traffic and boost performance for a relatively small investment.

Photo credit: The Next Web/flickr creative commons

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