A blog is an invaluable tool for any business website. It's an opportunity to make your voice heard, show off your specialist knowledge, and reach out to your audience.
There's a commercial advantage too of course. Google is always talking about the importance of high quality content being added to a site regularly. Meanwhile the best blogs can generate links and social shares, leading to surges in traffic and all the benefits associated with that. So it's well worth investing a bit of time in blogging, even if you're a small or local business.
However, one of the most common challenges for a small business trying to write blogs in-house is the age-old complaint, I have nothing to write about.
Beating blogger's block
Next time you're stuck for a topic, run through some of these suggestions and see if you get that lightbulb moment:
What do you know?
You should always blog about what you know best. That's when you'll most enjoy writing, and sound most convincing. More importantly, what do you know that others don't? What valuable information, advice or tips could you offer to your users? The hard-earned knowledge you share in your blog could be a unique resource that gets shared, and will show you're an authority on the subject.
What do you think?
If a major change or controversy has affected your industry recently, why not add your two pence? Everyone has a different opinion, and staying quiet about the latest budget, relevant TV programme, legislation change or health scare will look like you don't know, or worse, you don't care.
If your opinion is different to the norm or unusual, you could find it generates quite a buzz; it's a bad example, but imagine how many people linked to that Samantha Brick article. Now imagine creating something equally attention-grabbing, but created a positive reaction for your business.
Follow the trends
Blogging about current events or talking points will show you've got your finger on the pulse, and is also great fodder for social media. If you want to keep it professional, check Google News, bookmark good sources, and set up alerts for your keyword - if big news breaks, cover it in your own way, and as above, say what you think about it.
For a more fun blog, try using Google Trends to explore the most-Googled topics of the day or month, and browse your subject area too. For example, a bar or restaurant might spot that some of the rising food and drink phrases from the last 30 days include Pimms and Mojito - a blog on the top 5 cocktails for summer evenings might therefore capture the mood, and catch a reader's eye. It's also a good idea to look at what's trending on social media; you might just find an untapped angle or flash of inspiration; even a TV show, sports event or viral video could give you an idea.
Stats and lists
Interpreting a recent survey or stats using graphs and charts can be great for a more serious business. If you have the resources, you could even set up your own survey or poll and publish the results. Meanwhile lists are something of a magic ingredient in blogging, so see if you can come up with a top 10, 5 reasons to, 7 of the best, 3 steps to - bite-sized chunks that promise to make the subject accessible and easier to understand, with a clear end in sight.
What do your customers want to know?
If there is a question you find your customers are always asking you - how to use something, what is the best of something - why not turn it into a blog post? You'll be helping visitors get more out of your product or service, and again showing your specialist knowledge of the subject.
There are also plenty of resources - Quora or Yahoo Answers for example - where people post their burning questions. Admittedly some are a little strange, but others might be a ready-made blog topic for you to sink your teeth into. In this example, a bicycle shop might be inspired by what Quora users are asking.
Talk about yourself
There is nothing wrong with talking about yourself, if it's interspersed with useful and insightful articles. A recent client win, an award, a case study, a conference you participated in, a new recruit, a charity challenge - sharing your company news will let customers see your success, and give your business a human face.
An interesting and engaging business blog can bring in new visitors, keep existing customers charmed, generate links, bring your social accounts to life, and allow you to portray your brand the way you want - with so many benefits, it really is an unmissable opportunity. What's more, once you've overcome the 'what to write about' blues, you might even find you enjoy it.