Connecticut-based women’s executive coach and founder of Bloom Online, Barbara Scala specializes in helping her clients through major life transitions -- both personal and professional. Judging by her client’s feedback, she does her job very well. But there’s one kind of transition that has her stumped: what to do with her professional blog.

“I definitely have to freshen it up. But, there’s a fear. Can I really commit to this thing? I’ve got to keep it sticky, captivating. Right now, it feels like it’s just a lot of busy work. I’m not really seeing any benefit to my business,” says Scala.

Her concern is not uncommon, nor is her dilemma. Over the past few years, many small to mid-sized businesses have rushed out with a corporate blog simply because everyone else seemed to be doing the same thing. Blogging tools are cheap and easy to use. Developing a strategy to effectively leverage it to help the business is another story.

Blogging for business

When asked about her blogging strategy, Scala had a one word answer: “Clients!”

“Everyone’s objective is to sell more stuff. People really underestimate what a blog can do for them. I would say move 'selling more stuff' down to priority four or five,” says John Jantsch, marketing and digital technology consultant for small businesses and the author of Duct Tape Marketing, both the blog and the book.

Jantsch encourages entrepreneurs, like Scala, and other small businesses to consider the following objectives instead:

  • Buoy search engine rankings. “No one outside Google really understands the science of their algorithms that determine page rankings. But we do know fresh content is one thing that really seems to help sites rise to the top,” says Jantsch. Blogging is one of the easiest ways to have a constant stream of fresh content on a site.
  • Establish your business as a “thought leader” in your industry. You may or may not be the leading expert in your field. However, perception is reality and if you’re one of the few offering up what you know in your field, then public perception will give you the title regardless. Blogging is a great way to get your name “out there” on a wide variety of topics in your industry. “It’s amazing what it can do for a brand,” says Jantsch.
  • Generate press and media coverage. “I think that journalists are finding that active bloggers make better sources for their stories. It makes it so easy to get a sense of what they know,” says Jantsch. It’s also an easy way for journalists to find you.
  • Brand differentiation. Blogging is a way to set a company apart from its competitors. What does it offer that’s unique? Just being the first company in a specific niche to offer a blog may be enough to accomplish this.
  • Firewall against bad public relations. A company’s online reputation can take a major hit just from one or two disgruntled (and vocal) customers. “A blog is one of the best reputation management tools,” says Jantsch. It can help claim your real estate in the search engine rankings, so that any negative feedback falls to the bottom of the screen or off to subsequent pages. It’s also a way to counter bad customer feedback and press.

Writer’s block

Ideally, Jantsch and most successful bloggers recommend posting at least three to five times a week. For most business owners and entrepreneurs that sounds like a major commitment, not to mention daunting.

“I don’t have time for perfection with these things. I don’t want to put up stuff with typos. The fear is whether I can give the readers what they want.” says Scala.

Jantsch says not knowing what to write is the biggest hurdle for bloggers.

“I tell them to put their blogging hat on every time they get asked a question throughout their day. The answers to those questions are what they should be writing,” says Jantsch.

Here are some other tips to kick start a stale company blog:

  • It’s okay to start small. Posting three to five days a week may be optimal. But if that’s not possible, commit to once a week. The important thing is to be consistent.
  • Keep it short and sweet. The average posting only needs to be about 300 words. Length can be checked in Microsoft word by clicking on “Tools” and then “Word Count.” Don’t worry about grammatical perfection and sparkling prose. Just keep it informative and useful. “The average small business is not looking to build up a large readership. As the blog’s archive builds up, so does its chances of people stumbling upon older postings by searching for very specific information,” says Jantsch.
  • Think about key words. What key words and phrases might a potential lead use to find your business in a search engine? Keep a running list and sprinkle them in postings, without being too obvious or heavy handed. Jantsch advises companies only looking for local business to make references to their location in postings. This will help people find your organization when they search by geographic location.
  • Showcase the blog. Since it is likely the freshest content on the site, make sure it’s featured on the home page. Don’t make site visitors click through a couple of screens to find it. Promote it in newsletters, as well.

The last piece of advice may be the most important. Pick the right person in the company to be the blogger. “It’s not necessarily the person in the company who is the best writer. I see this all the time. If you have someone who is really into it, then that’s who should be the one to do it. You want someone who’s going to champion the blog and not see it as a chore,” says Jantsch.