In my work helping small businesses improve their blogs, I've found some common mistakes that can kill your blog -- drive visitors away and make them never want to come back.
Fix these problems, and your business blog will start to get noticed and attract new clients.
Here are 10 of the biggest blogging flubs, and how to fix them:
1. Weak headlines. On the Internet, if your headline doesn't entice me, I'm not clicking and I'm not becoming a customer. If you do nothing else, at least learn what makes a compelling headline. Headlines that ask a question can be great. List-based posts often do well, too...like this one. The headline should have at least one key word that relates to the topic or theme of your blog.
To learn more about the psychology of what makes people click on headlines, read Psychotactics' free report, Why Do Some Headlines Fail?
2. Weak opening paragraphs. Your post should not take five paragraphs to get to your main point. The first paragraph should include key words for good search engine optimization (SEO), and touch on what you will cover in the post.
3. No social sharing. Many business blogs have no easy way for visitors to share them. At the very least, install a Tweetmeme button or a plug-in such as Sexy Bookmarks. The latter will give visitors the option to share on dozens of social sites including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, and StumbleUpon.
4. No photos. You'll be amazed at how much more interested readers will be in your posts if you include an image with each one. It will immediately make your blog look more professional. You can find free images (in exchange for a credit link) at Flickr Creative Commons or stock.xchng.
5. Not scannable. Most people don't read online, they scan. If your post isn't scannable with at least a few bold headings, readers will move on. Great blog posts have subheadings, or bolded lists like this one.
6. Too-long paragraphs and sentences. People read differently on the Internet than they do in print. They're generally looking for a quick read when they're online. If your paragraphs run on for miles, that's a turnoff. The same for long, complicated sentences. Break up paragraphs -- two sentences in a paragraph is great online -- and break up meandering sentences into two or three sentences.
7. Posts are too long. Posts of 1,000 words or more work on a few sites such as Copyblogger, but for the typical small-business blog, shorter posts are best. If you have a lot to say, split your topic into multiple posts or create a blog series, which helps drive subscriber signups. Aim for 400-500 words.
8. Rambling posts. Make one, focused point, and you're done. Going off on a tangent only confuses readers. If you want to discuss a related topic, create a follow-up post.
9. Tone is too formal. I've seen business owners sign posts with a letterhead block including their street address! A blog is not a letter you're going to mail. Instead of a formal signature, enliven your byline with a link to your site. Also, don't use jargon that could alienate new readers. Write like you're talking to someone.
10. Links are naked or dead. Newbie bloggers often throw links into posts raw, like this: http://www.mywebsite.com. That's bad blogging form, tipping off readers that you're an amateur. Enliven words as links instead. Then, check to make sure they work. It's a big turnoff to click a link only to find it goes nowhere.
Got any questions about using your blog to help your business find customers? Leave a comment below, and I'll try my best to answer.
--Carol Tice's blog, Make a Living Writing, was recently named one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers.