One thing small businesses are always short of is time – and blogs take a lot of it. Here are 10 practical tips for making your blog more productive without the need for a huge investment of time or money.
1. Add Two Conversion Activities to Your Blog
A fatal flaw for any blog is failing to offer readers a way to and a reason for contacting you. You should have two offers: one for browsers, and another for buyers. Browsers are window shoppers, information collectors; they will be interested in free downloads, white papers, etc. Buyers are in the market; they will be interested in special offers, discounts, etc. Offer forms should appear on the sidebar – the higher, the better.
2. Provide Content with Practical Value
For most business blogs, readers are more interested in substance than style. Rather than labor over ever word choice, use your writing time to communicate information that helps your customers save time, reduce cost, be more efficient and eliminate headaches. That will keep readers coming back and thinking of you when they are in the market for what you sell.
3. Add Images to Blog Posts
There are lots of websites that offer royalty-free, low cost stock images – we like Fotolia. It’s a snap (pun intended) to download images and insert them in a blog post, and well worth doing. Images attract attention and make readers curious to learn more. The best spots to place an image are at the top of a post or at the top right.
4. Add Captions to Images
Since readers will hone in on your post’s image before they start reading, why not add a caption that conveys a key benefit of whatever you are writing about? A simple caption such as, “Learn How to Save 25% on Your Printing Costs” will certainly persuade someone to read further. Without the caption, the reader may not take the time to figure out why he/she should read the post.
5. Craft Headlines for Persuasion and SEO
Your post’s title will be read even more often than an image caption, so everything I said in #4 applies to headlines in spades. At the same time, your title has a lot of SEO (search engine optimization) power, so it should contain keywords whenever possible. You can find all sorts of headline writing tips online – here is an article I wrote called 33 Foolproof Headline Strategies that may be helpful.
6. Practice Good Blog Typography
Unless your content is visually inviting, visitors will leave quickly. To get people reading, keep paragraphs under five lines, use bullets, use bold and italic selectively to highlight key points, make sure margins are neither too wide nor too narrow. In addition, avoid light text on dark backgrounds, fonts that are overly small or large, and fonts that are hard to read.
7. Add and Optimize Your Social Share Buttons
One of the best ways to attract new readers is to have existing readers tweet, Facebook Like, LinkedIn share, Stumble or Digg your content – the list of social networks goes on and on. Make sure to position social share buttons at the top and bottom of your post — and use popular button designs that people recognize instantly. Share buttons are like impulse items at the grocery check out counter – they have to be obvious and appealing.
8. Promote Your Blog Offline
Many businesses struggle to attract readers because they haven’t spread the word to their customer base. Add a link to your blog to email signatures. Talk about your blog in sales presentations and collateral. Consider offering customers a small incentive to subscribe, such as a coffee mug or a $5 discount on their next order. If the content is good, customers will see your blog as another benefit of doing business with you.
9. Make Sure Your Blog Has an Email Subscription Option
Almost every blog has an RSS subscription form, but the problem is, there are tons of people who don’t know what RSS is or how to use a feed reader. That’s why it’s critical to have an email subscription option, displayed prominently at the top or near the top of your sidebar.
10. Don’t Advertise for the Sake of Advertising
Ads can be a real turnoff. Ads clutter the blog and distract from the content, and put questions in people’s minds about the motives behind your blog. Unless ad revenue is central to your blog strategy, it’s best to stay away from advertising altogether.
Over to you. How have you fine-tuned your blog to make it more effective?
Guest Author – Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, a Chicago SEO company, that works with small and midsized firms that do everything from denture repair services to electrician gloves. Brad has been an active blogger since 2005, and writes frequently on business blogging and social media. Follow Brad on Twitter.