You’ve an updated website. You’ve got a LinkedIn profile. And your Facebook page is up and running. What’s missing? If you don’t have one already, it’s time to start a blog for your business.

Since 2005 when Newsweek magazine announced in a cover story that “Blogs Will Change Your Business,” it seems that everybody has a blog. John Barger coined the term “blog” when he called his site the “Robot Wisdom Weblog” back in 1997.  Since then, blogs have exploded in the 21st century with the leading American blog-publishing service Blogger, reaching 46 million unique visitors each month.

Blog for Your Business

Here are some other interesting statistics from socialmediatoday.com on the online phenomenon:

  • Small businesses with blogs generate 126 percent more leads.
  • People state “interesting content” as one of the top three reasons they follow a brand through social media.
  • About 6.7 million people blog on blogging sites and 12 million blog on social media sites.
  • Nearly 77 percent of internet users read blogs.
  • More than half of bloggers are age 21 to 35.
  • About 80 percent of consumers surveyed say they trust information they read on a blog.

Why should you launch a blog for your business?  No matter what business you are in, blogs are a great way to connect with your customers or clients. Companies as varied as cleaning services to law firms can share personal knowledge and experiences through blog posts. Whereas your website stays somewhat stagnant – at least for a while – you can update your blog weekly or even daily to reflect what is new and exciting with your organization. You can share tips and strategies. You can even ask for comments.

If you have been putting off starting a blog, here are four basic steps to get you started:

4 Steps to starting a blog for your business

1. Determine your goals. The best blogs have a focus. What do you want to accomplish or establish with your blog? Strive to promote what you do but not in an overt way. Many bloggers do this by offering information that is related to their fields but not necessarily related to their companies.

For example, a real estate agency might offer general tips on buying or selling a home such as how to show your home to the best advantage or what home improvements pay off in resale. A clothing store might offer fashion advice such as color trends or how to accessorize. A landscaping company could give advice on tree trimming or on watering your lawn.

2. Consider your host site. Although they are tempting, the adage “You get what you pay for” usually holds true for some of the free blogging options that are out there. Why? Usually their basic features will not integrate with your existing Web domain and they will not allow for much customization, such as using your brand logo. Even if you are willing to forgo some of those extras when you start, you will pay for it if you are successful and want to update your blog later. It’s also difficult and sometimes frustrating to switch your followers over to a new host.

3. Develop engaging content. A successful blog is up-to-date and relevant. This means it is not enough to put on a new post every few weeks or so. In fact, you can lose followers permanently if they check your blog only to find the same post visit after visit.

Launching and maintaining a blog requires time and commitment. You are probably wondering how you can create enough interesting content to keep your blog going. Here are a few ideas:

  • Rotate the responsibility among your staff. Having different voices represented not only breaks up the workload but it shows a true team perspective of your company. Devise a calendar that determines topics and writers a least a month in advance.
  • Encourage guest bloggers. Having your clients contribute content is a great way you can highlight them and give them a chance to show off what they do. (Added benefit: your guest bloggers will also promote your blog on their blog and social media sites.)
  • Use freelance writers. Check online sources, such as Elance, Odesk and Freelancer, for writers to write on your suggested topics or to come up with their own ideas.

4. Drive traffic to your blog. It doesn’t matter how great your blog is if no one is reading it. Let people know about your blog. Here are some tips:

  • Add a link to blog on your social media pages.
  • Send your post to clients in an e-mail newsletter format with a link to your blog.
  • Include a link to your blog whenever you send an e-mail.
  • Share your article on social bookmarking sites.
  • Offer to guest blog on your clients’ blogs and then return the favor.

A final note, while words are great, be sure to include a visual component to your blog. Research confirms that we respond more quickly to pictures than we do to words. For instance, a 3M Corporation study found that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and we process visuals an amazing 60,000 times faster in the brain than we do the printed word.

Use photos and videos to illustrate your blog posts.  Social media scientist Dan Zarrella found that photos perform best for likes, comments and shares on Facebook as compared with text, video and links. And Marketing Sherpa, a B2B and consumer marketing firm, found that consumers spend 100% more time on internet pages that have videos on them.