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Finding Your Voice and Picking Topics

If you're starting a blog for business purposes, you probably wonder what it will take to make it successful. The goal of starting a blog is likely to draw traffic and establish yourself as an expert in your field, which will ideally lead to increased to sales, leads, web traffic  and overall brand awareness for your specific business. It is important to remember that traffic to a blog does not happen overnight; there are several important pieces to the puzzle to succeed in building a loyal audience. Keep in mind that regular, recurring blog visitors are more valuable than those who find it via a Google or Yahoo search only to never return.  So even if you get them there once, you will need to keep them interested!  Here are a couple tips:

1. Content -- Relevant, fresh, and timely content is crucial to attracting and keeping visitors to your blog; it will help you both draw traffic from search engines and create audience loyalty. In order to take advantage of the long tail of search, your blog needs to rank well for the keywords readers of your niche are searching for. Once those users click through to your blog, it's your job to keep their attention by producing quality content. Your goal is to turn search engine traffic into return visitors. Blog comments are also a large part of building loyal readers.

So, what topics should you write about? Obviously, choose topics related to your specific industry and that will be interesting to those you are trying to reach. On the Zillow Blog, we write about anything related to the real estate industry because those interested in that topic are the folks we wish to appeal to. Many bloggers fall into the trap of regurgitating what everyone else writes. This won't help you build strong readership in the long run. Most blog readers aren't just reading your blog -- they are also reading other blogs focused on similar topics -- and often topics are repeated frequently. If you aren't adding any insight of your own to your posts -- your audience will know and probably call you on it (or get bored and leave).  Strive to be creative with original content and original ideas.

Further, you should be passionate about what you write about; if not, it will be painfully obvious. My personal opinion is that in most cases, forced blogging won't turn out well. If you're blogging because you heard it's an easy way to attract prospective clients or traffic, think again. Starting a business blog is a big-time commitment if you hope to benefit from your blog.

However, content alone won't do the trick, which brings us to Tip #2:

2. Have a Strong Voice
-- This is key to almost all successful blogs-- even more so than content in come cases. A voice keeps readers coming back again and again. Voice allows the reader to feel like they "know" you without actually having met you. Voice provides a way for readers to connect on a personal level. Voice is interesting. Unless you are an experienced writer, expect finding your voice to take awhile. From my experience, I would suggest reading good writing and then start WRITING yourself. There are a handful of decent free blogging tools that you can use, such as Wordpress.com and Blogger.com. Just sign up and start posting your thoughts. You can even make the blog private while you get a feel for it -- or open it up to a few trusted friends or colleagues to get their thoughts. Figure out what style works for you and your business. Once you get comfortable with your "voice," you're probably ready to branch out and start writing on your business blog. Bring your blog to life!

Write often, write well, write with a voice -- your readers will enjoy the personality you bring to your blog.

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