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If you don’t have a blog for your business yet, it’s important to note that more than half of all businesses in the United States are already ahead of you. In fact, according to research by Blogger.org, a training program for bloggers, 60 percent of businesses have a company blog.

The best news? People read what’s put out there. Blogger.org’s research also revealed that each month 329 million people view one or more blogs and look at a whopping 25 billion pages. Additionally, HubSpot found that 46 percent of people read blogs more than once a day.

When a blog is done well, it can be very beneficial to a business. Here are five good reasons why having a blog is important:

Blogs builds brand awareness

Brands are powerful things. Consider the brands in your life that have taken on an identity of their own. For example, when you have a soda, do you ask for a Coke? Do you clean your ears with a cotton swab or a Q-tip? When you crop digital photos, do you use image-editing software or PhotoShop?

In the same way, you are more than your logo and trademarked slogan. Blogging allows you to put an authentic voice behind your brand that reaches a visitor in a more targeted way than standard marketing content on your website would.

You must, however, make sure what you put out there is right for your audience. As with all other aspects of your content marketing, before beginning a blog, understand your overall marketing strategy. Align your blog to work toward those goals. Then, begin to show a personal side of your business with a perspective that customers wouldn’t otherwise see through other channels.

Create content that is relevant to your target audience. When your visitors begin to read your quality content and connect with you on a deeper level, they begin to recognize all that your brand is.

Blogs establish authority

Who knows your business better than you? You have a passion, experience and ideas that only you know how to express. The most successful people in their fields become thought leaders. They share their valued opinions and become the go-to experts.

Jeff Bullas, listed as the #1 Content Marketing Influencer by Onalytica in 2015 and ranked No. 8 on Forbes “The World’s Top 40 Social Marketing Talent” in 2014, says, “A successful career and life is based upon being ‘on purpose.’ We all bring our own magic and uniqueness into the world. Your goal in life is to discover what that is, embrace it and share it.”

A blog is a great way to educate your visitors and potential customers. Let them love what you love. You become the expert in your field. As you provide information about timely topics, products, services and market trends, you become a trusted source.

Go a step further with your audience and share your knowledge with embedded whitepapers, tutorials, instructional videos or other content. Be the authority and, with every blog post, you have the ability to increase your credibility so your target audience will value what you provide.

Blogs drive traffic

Remember those 329 million people who view a blog each month? No matter where they see it, linking it to your website gets them there as well. Neil Patel, co-founder of the analytics companies KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg and Quick Sprout, found that within 18 months, he had 100,429 visits on his blog. By consistently blogging, he was able to increase the traffic to his company websites.

Don’t forget that search engines love fresh content. If you want to increase your search engine optimization (SEO), one of the easiest ways to do this is to put valuable and relevant content into your frequently updated blog. Here, you can also insert keywords within your content that increases your visibility.

According to Social Media Explorer, “The blog has become a significant and growing source of traffic … Long tail search terms are helping people discover us who might never have found our website.”

Traffic converts to leads

Research by Technorati showed that blogs have a significant influence on purchase decisions. In fact, a little more than 31 percent of consumers said that reading authoritative blogs influences their purchase decisions. In their “State of Inbound Report 2013,” HubSpot found that 82 percent of marketers who blog daily acquired a customer using their blog.

Experts like to point to the success gained by J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr.’s blog. Marriott has written about topics such as shoe shines, business data and even the “greatest heartache” of his life, losing his son to a rare mitochondrial disease. His blog generates 12 million visitors a year and $4 million in revenue from readers who eventually click-through and book Marriott hotel rooms.

On the company website, Marriott says, “All this got me thinking, ‘Why do I blog?’ I’ve found it’s a great learning experience and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it. I’m sure you probably have learned a lot about me. I do value family, work and community, and I’m not afraid to tackle controversial topics such as reforming our immigration policy or putting our non-smoking policy in our hotels in the United States and Canada. I like to talk about good news, but I’m not afraid to talk about the bad news, such as my blog about the bombing of our Islamabad hotel.”

In order to turn a visitor into a consumer, you need to develop a relationship. Blogging allows you to connect to your target audience in just this way. Bring them into the conversation by allowing comments and other feedback at the bottom of your posts. Responding to comments creates a rapport and builds trust.

As you take these steps, you are creating an awareness; the first step in the “sales funnel.” According to entrepreneur Saad Kamal, in order to create conversion, you must first create awareness, interest and desire. Then, visitors will take action.

To gain additional information about your audience, consider embedding surveys or polls in your blog. Ask readers for their input. When they feel as if they have a relationship with you, they like to provide their insight. Gathering this information is vital to helping you better promote yourself and your products and services.

Blogs provide long-term results

Blogging is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to enhance your inbound marketing efforts and drive traffic. The ROI can be great. According to HubSpot, marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13 times more likely to enjoy positive ROI.

One reason you can see success is because, with a blog, you can track specific metrics. You can see what posts are best read and most shared. You can get analysis on the specific topics and embedded links. Comments left by readers can provide insight you may not have gathered any other way.

Be aware, however, that like other content marketing efforts, the benefits of your blog may not be immediate. However, when you develop a relationship with readers who become customers and influencers, your results affect your bottom line in the long-term.

What’s a good business blog?

Now that you know the reasons why you should start your own blog, here are some business blogs that have been named some of the best.

Mark Schaefer, Rutgers University faculty and founder of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, LLC, studied Fortune 500 companies and their blogging efforts. He based his study on these categories:

  • Quality of content (is it interesting, creative, well-written, human?).
  • Consistency of publishing.
  • Engagement with audience.
  • Social sharing activity.
  • Alignment with corporate objectives.

These non-tech companies were found to have the best blogs. Additionally, Ecommerce Platforms, a London-based review site, found the 100 best business blogs about e-commerce, SEO, conversions and marketing.

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