I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of business blogging, a crucial leg of any content marketing campaign. Most corporate-sponsored blogs are subpar, ones full of promotional content that don’t actually work for the company.

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It isn’t always the writer’s fault. Rather, it’s a combination of how the blog was launched, the support that keeps it going and the social assets that drive traffic. Throughout my time as a professional blogger, one who writes for dozens of companies and professionals, I’ve noticed a few easily-fixed flaws behind these blogs.

1. Terrible Themes

A visitor to your blog will see pictures, colors and shapes long before caring about the content. The theme, especially through WordPress or any other popular blogging platform, is crucial. For smaller companies, the “theme” is usually limited by a marketing budget and the tech support they have for setting up the pages.

Fortunately, it’s not too difficult for a computer layman to work out a decently acceptable theme that is user-friendly and leverages content at the same time. Consider the following:

  • Pay for a premium-quality theme that has built-in social media buttons, widgets and other elements of a high-quality blog.
  • Get rid of anything you don’t need on the page. This includes redundant sidebar features, bulky header images and anything else that distracts the reader.
  • Look at some other blogs within your industry and see how they’re set up. It’s no big secret that simple news headline-style blogs are more reader-friendly.

2. Overtly Advertorial

Business blogs have purpose: To drive traffic to a site and rank a company higher on search results. While commendable, it’s not always in your best interests to shout out your goals to the everyday visitor.

The trick is creating content that people want to read and placing subtle calls-to-action, links, and ad-style content where appropriate. The average Googler doesn’t want to click an article claiming “The 12 Secrets of Mortgages” and be taken to a signup page with big banner ads.

3. Married To Websites

I’ve written for two types of blogs: Those that are loosely independent and those that are tied directly into hard-to-navigate websites. The former are my definite choice, especially when the writer has control over how posts look, feel and are presented to an audience.

Blogs that are subpages of a main website, as in lists of articles in a rigid site that aren’t posted by the writer, are much more difficult to use. For one, content on a website is automatically branded. In addition, writers lose control over design elements, formatting and other backend options.

Request an external site if possible. You can always link them together down the road.

4. Missing Navigational Elements

Readers visit blogs and expect certain things. For example, here are a few standard must-have pages for business blogs:

  • An “About Us”
  • Contact Pages
  • Links to Main Website
  • The Home or Root Page

On all of these pages, you want a set of organizational links that can take readers to specific content on a navbar. This allows your audience to easily navigate your content, find the top articles and get an overview of what you write about.

5. Poor Post Format

Terrible post formatting is like putting a Picasso watercolor in a frame you bought from a corner store. The best content will fail to impress if you don’t have reader-friendly design elements, multimedia, headlines and other eye-catching aspects that make content thrive.

People flock to blogs for information. To deliver what they want to know, you need to make posts scannable, punchy and attractive. Here are a few tips:

  • Use images throughout that reinforce your content and guide readers down the page.
  • “Preview” your posts before you publish to make sure the text flows nicely around images and there are no spacing issues.
  • Utilize subheadings, bold and italics to separate sections. This allows readers to skip down to find what they want.
  • Play around with fonts, character sizes and line spacing to find a combination that matches your theme.
  • Use lists, steps, numbers, and bullet points to deliver your fact-by-fact content.

6. Lame Content

We’re now transitioning into the content-specific portion of this post, one that is only important if you get the basic backend elements of a blog up and running beforehand.

What about content marketing

Your headlined content, as in the info people see once they stumble onto your page, is a make-or-break deal for visitors. Usually, bloggers use recent posts as a homepage (which I recommend). Those top three or four posts, of course, need to be powerful enough to draw in readers.

This raises the question: What are you writing about?

Are you explaining your industry topic by topic, sharing inside info on new trends, giving tips for homeowners, or just going with the flow and writing whatever comes to mind? The topics (and headlines) are really where it’s at, especially since nine out of 10 readers will be pulled off newsfeeds because of neat pictures and intriguing headlines.

To put it simply, your content cannot be lame. Here’s how to avoid being that uncool blogger with boring posts:

  • Work that headline to death until it mystifies even you, the writer, even if it’s way more exciting than the topic in question.
  • Form posts around talking points and cliff notes to increase the skimming factor.
  • Use anecdotes, personal experiences and a splash of humor to handhold readers to the bottom of the page.
  • Save the expected call-to-action for the end of a post. In addition, keep any promotional jargon out of the main content unless it’s relevant.
  • As mentioned, use pictures and multimedia to reinforce the points you’re trying to deliver.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this content exciting to anyone except me, the writer?” If it’s not, it’s not worth posting.

7. Quality vs. Quantity

The Quality vs. Quantity conundrum for bloggers is this: If I had to choose, is it better to write more short posts or fewer long-form posts?

Without knowing exactly the sort of content you’re producing, the answer to this question is a bit fuzzy.

If you have the luxury of time and the exceptional storytelling ability business bloggers need to succeed, then go for as many high-quality posts as possible regardless of length. For most bloggers though, a well managed combination of “short” and “long” posts will help you build a blog readers will come running back to.

8. Failure to Launch

Part of your blog’s overall success is dependent upon the engagement you earnthrough social media. Followers expect you to use a few post slots for sponsored business content. And why not? It is your Facebook page, after all.

To make sure people are actually interacting with — liking, sharing, clicking – your social posts, you need a killer headline, captivating thumbnail image and a compelling description. Everyone knows this, of course, but few have the time to tailor each post shout-out to various social platforms.

On Twitter, for instance, you’ll need to use a combination of hashtags to pick up traffic, punchier diction and an active follower base to earn any hits. Each platform is different when you consider the time of day you should post, the interaction and what followers expect.

9. Lack of Direction

Finally, newbie business bloggers are usually lost in the woods and have no idea what to do except write a few posts and hope for the best. Ultimately, these blogs suffer from unplanned, rushed content and lose steam after a few weeks.

You need to decide from day one what (and who) your blog is for. An overarching goal is to draw traffic to a website or product, which means building content around topics that pull (not push) prospective customers to your blog.

Without proper direction, you’ll never realize the full potential of what a powerful blog can do for your business.