More than 50% of consumers begin a search for a new business or service online. For that reason, almost every successful company runs a website that highlights its products and services. Having a strong online presence is absolutely essential in today's economy.

But you can do more. If you want to make the most of your online presence, then establish a blog connected to your website.

A company blog has many benefits: It can draw increased visitor traffic to a business's website, it can provide an excellent platform for making announcements about new products and services, and a blog is a relatively low-cost venture, making it an ideal investment for the budget-conscious business owner.

A blog can help any company build strength in various ways, including the following four.

1. Tying Together Your Online and Offline Efforts

Using a company blog to promote offline events can pay huge dividends. If your company will be exhibiting at a tradeshow or launching a new product, raise awareness in advance by writing some engaging content about it on your blog, remembering these key rules:

  • Give readers a reason to read. Drab posts that outline only the date and the location of the event will be ignored and will provide no benefit to anyone. In contrast, interesting, informative content is mutually beneficial: readers get the information and context that they want, and you get the information about your offline event in front of a reader. And if they find the content engaging and informative, then they may well share it, promoting your event to an even wider audience.
  • Give readers time to take action.Posting the day before an event, no matter how well you write, isn't helpful. Give readers time to digest the information, plan their attendance (if relevant), and share the information.

Similarly, use offline events to point people to your site. Try running a competition at your tradeshow stand, with winners to be announced on the blog, as Marler Haley did recently. The uptick in traffic will benefit your site, and because the entrants took the time to visit your stand, chances are good that they will find further useful and relevant information on your site.

2. Demonstrating Knowledge

To succeed in a difficult economy, a business has to stand out from the crowd. A blog provides the perfect platform for an executive to show that his or her business has a cutting edge.

You can use a blog to talk about advances made by your company in product development and design. You can also use a company blog to talk about your industry as a whole. If you work for a clothing manufacturer, you could use a blog to discuss the latest fashion trends. If you work for a high-tech company, you could discuss exciting new developments in the world of technology and preview how they might be applied to your company's products.

3. Fostering Customer Relationships

Building strong relationships with customers is essential to any business's success. In the past, business owners could build relationships with their customers in brick-and-mortar stores. Given the global nature of business today, it can be difficult for executives to stay in touch with consumers. Many consumers feel like business leaders lack the human touch that drove the consumer economy for decades.

A blog provides the perfect platform for customer outreach. You can not only present timely, interesting information there about your company but also offer special deals to blog readers to increase brand awareness and encourage sales.

When using a blog for customer outreach, it's important to enable commenting features. Allowing customers to comment is a great way to build a dialogue and demonstrate that your business is run by living, breathing people.

4. Boosting SEO Success

In addition to being a great platform for displaying knowledge and interacting with customers, blogs can help bolster a business's SEO efforts and thereby boost traffic. As you work to make your blog posts interesting, focus, too, on making them keyword-rich.

* * *

A blog can be an important part of your online marketing efforts, so long as you keep in mind that its chief purpose is to present the human side of a business. Readers should feel that they are receiving valuable information, and they will like it even more if it's presented in a friendly, conversational tone.

So, to sum up, here are the essentials to making your blog a success:

  • Post interesting content. Ask yourself, "Would I read this?"
  • Post in time for readers to take action.
  • Post about topical subjects to demonstrate industry knowledge.
  • Engage with customers personally.
  • Promote participation through commenting, competitions, etc.
  • Post at least once a week.

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Chris Lee is a blogger and online marketer who writes extensively about tradeshow marketing. He currently writes on behalf of Marler Haley.