How to Blog Like a Pro – Or Just Hire One

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Setting up a blog is fairly straightforward, but most of those homemade blogs will have few readers. If you host a blog for hobbyists and feature posts on your model train collection or your pet hamsters, that’s probably fine. You’re doing it for the love of sharing information with like-minded people, and your blog will thrive in its niche as long as you maintain it. Business blogging, though, needs a professional look and feel that makes the most of your inbound marketing efforts while engaging readers enough to keep them coming back.

With a blog, you interact directly with your audience in ways that a static site can’t match. It’s less formal than a home page and more informative than a tweet. It isn’t, however, a set-and-forget tool; your blog needs useful content and just enough personality to shine without becoming too casual. It needs to fit your audience and your industry. Most of all, it needs frequent attention.

Blog Design for Business

One of the biggest mistakes novice bloggers make is overloading their site. Flashing graphics, multiple columns, different fonts and a chaotic jumble of ads turn what should be a clean-lined, professional blog into a visual yard sale. Brainstorm with your blog designer and come up with all the bells and whistles the blog could have, and then eliminate at least half of them. The more you pare down your blog’s appearance, the more your readers can focus on your posts.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know how important it is to make sharing easy. You want widgets that allow readers to share, “like” or tweet with a single click. When visitors can’t see the articles for the widget menu, though, it’s time to streamline. Choose the platforms with the greatest reach and effectiveness for your industry – on this blog, you’ll see Google+, Twitter and Facebook links, but a more visually oriented business might bring in Pinterest and Instagram – and make the rest available on a mouse-over menu. You’ll get a sleeker site and more sharing when you let visitors focus on a few prime channels.

How long your blog posts should be is a matter of some debate for SEO experts. Google and other search engines use proprietary ranking algorithms, so not all the data SEO specialists use has pinpoint accuracy. What the experts do know is that too-short posts don’t have enough substance to be compelling reading to visitors and are therefore probably devalued by search engines. Short posts also lack visual punch on the page and make a blog look like an aggregate site instead of a useful source of information. If your posts contain text alone, aim for 350 words or more. For posts with embedded video or high-quality, relevant images, you can go shorter on the text. Pictures might not be worth a thousand words, but the exchange rate is still pretty favorable.

Content for Your Blog

No matter what subject you cover in your blog, have something to say about it. Express an opinion, offer talking points, give readers actionable tips or a how-to, create top-10 lists, introduce the benefits of your latest product line – any of these give you something meaningful to discuss. What you don’t want is a collection of naked links and keywords pasted together with just enough connecting words to make sense; it’s a turn-off for readers and for search engines.

Original content is just as important for your blog as it is for every other text you publish – possibly more so because other bloggers read industry news and will recognize a spun or stolen article. Even straying too close to other people’s intellectual property is problematic, both for legal reasons and for your audience’s sake.

Expect to post often, especially if each post is brief. How often you post depends on the length of each post and the subject you cover; long, content-rich posts and articles once a week are fine, but so are shorter briefs three or four times a week. Big-time blogs such as GoogleBlog or the Huffington Post publish multiple pieces throughout the day, but they have a large staff of professional writers and content creators working on constant updates.

Major blogs also have complex editorial calendars, and while you may not need a whiteboard the size of your office wall to keep track of upcoming assignments, you or your content creator must have some ideas in the pipeline and keep careful track of deadlines. For a pro blogger whose full-time job entails reading industry news, brainstorming titles and taking copious notes, the time investment makes sense; for business owners and marketing directors, hiring out for content creation could be a more efficient plan.

If you have a passion for model trains or Roborovski hamsters, follow your heart and blog at length without worrying about SEO, keyword selection, editorial calendars or streamlined page design. Your business blog needs to wear a suit, and sometimes it’s best to work with a professional tailor and stylist to look your best in it.

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