Business blogging can be exceptionally rewarding. When done correctly, a successful blog can bring attention to your business, can attract new customers, and can turn your current customer base into the type of fans that companies like Apple, Netflix, and Ben and Jerry’s have: people who will not only buy your product or service, but evangelize it to their peers. Of course, like anything, there is a right way to go about starting a business blog and a wrong way.Creating a blog for your small business isn’t easy; it requires hard work and the ability to think creatively about your work. But if you avoid the five big mistakes laid out in this post, your chances of building a successful business blog will be much better.

Mistake #1: Treating Your Blog Like a Press Center

The number one mistake that business bloggers make is to treat their blog as an extension of their current press center. Repeat after me: Your blog is not the place for press releases. Blogging is a conversation and it offers a way for your customers to connect with your business on a completely new level. Press releases, on the other hand, are the exact opposite. They’re impersonal, they’re self promotional, and most readers don’t trust them. If you use your blog to republish press releases your customers will have no reason to keep reading and they’ll also likely not trust your content.

How to Avoid: First, don’t ever put out a press release on your blog. You can use your blog to make product or other business announcements, but do so with original writing and in a more casual voice. Second, do use your blog to write about things other than your core business. Share your thoughts on your industry, share insights into the day-to-day work life and processes at your company, and provide tips and tricks you have learned during your time in business.

Mistake #2: Not Blogging Regularly

Think about the blogs you read on a regular basis — how many of them publish only sporadically? Most successful blogs put out new content at least a couple of times per week and try to stick to a regular schedule. Consistently putting out quality content will keep readers returning and over time it will help you build a community and turn your customers into fans.

How to Avoid: Blogging regularly isn’t easy, so to avoid burning out, brainstorm editorial ideas ahead of time. If you plan to put out new posts every Tuesday and Friday, for example, try not to start writing Tuesday’s post on Tuesday morning. Get other people at your company involved so that one person isn’t shouldering the entire blogging load, and even consider sourcing content from your customers. Remember that anything can provide fodder for a good blog post, so pay attention to the things you read or see on other blogs, newspapers, magazines, or television.

Mistake #3: Not Enabling Conversation

As I already said, blogging is a conversation, and not allowing it to occur on your blog is a mistake. It’s true that blog comments can open you up to criticism, but blogging is an unparalleled opportunity to connect with your customers. You’ll get a lot more out of blogging if you enable — and even encourage — your customers to respond to what you write.

How to Avoid: Obviously the first thing you need to do is enable commenting on your business blog. But beyond that, you need to remember that the conversation is two-way. Get in there and respond to the comments readers leave on your blog and you’ll be more likely to develop a community around your writing that can help turn your customers into fans who will evangelize your products and services and provide you with quality feedback. You should also participate in the conversation on other blogs in your industry by leaving comments on posts elsewhere around the blogosphere. That will help you to establish your “blogging brand” and bring new readers your way.

Mistake #4: Making New Content Hard to Discover

Your blog won’t be very helpful to readers if they aren’t able to easily find new content. You need to make your blog discoverable and you need to make sure that when you add new content, your regular readers will be able to find it.

How to Avoid: There are a few ways to make sure your blog content is more easily discovered.

– Make your blog easy to find by linking to it prominently from your company’s web site and including your blog’s URL in your email signature, on your business cards, and in sales and marketing collateral.

– Use a full RSS feed (because the goal with most business blogs should be to get read, not boost page views) and make it easy for your readers to find and subscribe to.

– Embrace social media technologies like Twitter and Facebook as a way to notify your fans and followers of new blog content, and make it easy for your readers to share content with each other through social media channels and via email.

– Optimize for search engines by putting relevant keywords in post titles and URL slugs and write about the things that your customers are most likely to be searching for — but avoid sounding artificial simply so you can stuff some more keywords into a post.

Mistake #5: Expecting Too Much, Too Soon

Blogging isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Your blog won’t be an overnight success, and for the first few months it might feel like you’re writing for no one. It can take time to build up your readership and have a regular community of people who participate on your blog. Don’t expect immediate returns from your blog and do expect to put in a lot of hard work.

How to Avoid: Set attainable goals and realize that you’re in it for the long haul. Don’t cancel your blogging efforts after three months — give it at least a year of regularly putting out quality, original content. And make sure that your blog is easy to find, and that your readers are able to easily comment and share posts with others.

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