Finding affordable ways to market your new business is tough, but if you’ve done some research, “a blog” has probably come up as a possible tool.

Statistics show that blogs are powerful to consumers. According to online marketing business LocalVox, small businesses that blog generate 126% more leads than businesses without a blog. That’s a pretty impressive statistic. Here’s another: Over 60% of consumers say they have made a purchase based on a blog that they read.

With numbers like that, it’s not surprising to learn that more small businesses are setting up a blog and carving some time out to write content for it.

However, a lot of small business owners get frustrated when their posts don’t live up to the hype of these impressive statistics. You spend a few hours writing, finding images, and posting an article to your blog—only to check your metrics later and see two people have read it. And let’s face it, you know those two people are your parents.

So, now what? You’ve got this blog that’s supposed to be a killer marketing tool for your business, but no one’s reading it. While mom and dad might be loyal customers, an audience of two isn’t the return on investment you’re looking for.

Not to worry. There are ways to increase your blog’s reach beyond blood relatives and people you know personally. Here are six tips to increase your audience:

1. Write killer headlines

The decision to read an article can hinge on a title. Drab, lifeless titles aren’t going to bring readers in. Get creative with your titles. Here are a few tips to create must-click article titles:

Make people laugh

If you can get someone to chuckle, they’ll click on your blog post. Hopefully, the title to this post made you laugh a bit. We could have used a title like, “How to Increase Blog Traffic,” but by adding the bit about your parents it makes the topic humorous. Make sure your humor is tasteful, though.

Ask a question

Give your audience something to think about by asking a question. For example, a title like “Where Is Your Business Wasting Money?” is more appealing than “Learn How to Save Money On Your Utility Bills.”

Appeal to curiosity

Everyone is curious. Why do you think so many people read gossip magazines? The next time you write a headline, see if you can pique curiosity. Titles like, “This Blogging Trick Will Blow Your Mind” or “You Won’t Believe What Customers Created with Our New Table Saw” tease the imagination and get people to read your article.

Use trends

Take a trend that’s hot and tie it to your next blog topic. For example, HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones is popular, so consider creating a post that connects it to your business or product. For example, “What Game of Thrones Can Teach You About Fashion” is a must-read article. TV shows, blockbuster movies, trending topics on social media, and celebrity gossip make for excellent headlines.

2. Use tools to create better blog ideas

Your mom might love that post you wrote about the new vacuum attachment that you plan to sell, but your mom also liked your finger paintings.

Rather than write a post and hope your audience likes it, use online tools to help you create content ideas that are associated with vacuum attachments.

Tools like Buzzsumo and Ubersuggest can help. Simply pop in a keyword and it will give you a list of published content that includes that keyword that’s doing well. You can use this information to help you create topic ideas that your audience will actually read. Here’s a snapshot of the results that you get with Buzzsumo:

A look at Buzzsumo, an online tool you can use to generate blog topics.

A look at Buzzsumo, an online tool you can use to generate blog topics.

 3. Collect emails and send your content out

Yet another viable marketing tool is email. If you’re not already, you should be collecting email addresses. With a healthy email list, you can create a mini newsletter that encourages recipients to read your blog posts.

Set up email collection areas. If you have a brick-and-mortar shop, ask customers to leave their email address on a clipboard as they checkout. Your blog and website should also have a spot to collect email. The good news is you don’t have to bring in a web designer to make this change. Check out sites like Pippity or Pop Up Domination. These sites can help you create a pop up form that encourages visitors to enter their email address when they visit your website or blog.

Once you’ve collected email addresses, you can send a mini newsletter to your list of contacts that has links to specific posts on your blog. Take a look at this newsletter:

Email a newsletter like this to encourage people to read your blog posts.

Email a newsletter like this to encourage people to read your blog posts.

You can tease the content that you wrote on your blog and make the titles clickable. When a reader clicks the title, he or she is directed to your blog to read the full piece.

4. Try guest blogging

Consider writing an article for another website that’s within your niche. Now, if you’ve done some research on guest blogging you’ve probably come across people who claim this practice is dead, but I disagree. If you find the right website, you can really boost your website traffic. It’s worked for me.

As a content writer, I created a guest blog post for Social Media Examiner. The only links that took readers back to my website were in my bio, which was a short blurb at the end of the article. The day it was published, I got a record amount of traffic to my website.

The key is to find a trusted website that has a good following and that accepts guest posts. Do your research and reach out to a blog creator to inquire about the opportunity.

5. Keep up with housekeeping tasks

To keep traffic coming back to your site, you have to maintain your blog. Just like house chores, you have to do little tasks along the way to create a comfortable atmosphere. Here’s a to-do list to improve traffic:

Write consistently

You can’t write four blog posts a year and expect return visits. Once visitors realize that you’re not posting on a regular basis, you’ll lose them forever. That’s not to say that you have to blog everyday, but you should set a schedule and stick to it. Once a week is fine.

Write quality content

If you only have time to write subpar content, don’t start a blog. Your readers have a lot of options, so they won’t tolerate poor content. Take the time to write quality stuff, stuff you would take the time to read.

Be organized

Write posts that are broken up by subheadings, and use bullet points to keep everything organized. If someone clicks on a blog and sees 2,000 words in front of them without subheadings, they’ll probably leave. It’s too overwhelming. That’s why you need to pay attention to the way you format your article.

Use images

Much like subheadings, images are a great way to break up text. Plus, an image can draw the reader in. Every post should have an image in it. You can use stock image sites like Shutterstock or use your own photos.

Fill in the meta data fields

After you write the post, take the time to fill in the meta data fields. I’m talking about the boxes that are marked “tags” and “keywords.” The more information you can fill in the better. This meta data helps search engines find your content and bring it up during searches.

6. Track your results

There’s no way to improve if you don’t know where you’re starting. You need a way to track your success. A lot of blog platforms like WordPress have their own analytics built in. WordPress has a fairly basic dashboard that tells you things like views, visitors, and what country the visitors are from. However, if you really want to dig into some statistics, you should turn to Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a free tool that provides a more in-depth snapshot of your audience. KISSMetrics has a great beginner’s guide that you can reference, but after installing this measuring tool, pay attention to these four metrics:

Audience Overview

This gives you the broad strokes look at when people visit your site and how long they stick around.

How does this help? A high number of visitors is great, but if visitors are only on your site for a minute, what could they possibly learn? A change in content could help.

Referrals

Want to know what sites are sending traffic your way? You can see it in the referral section.

How does this help? Investigate these sites. Find out everything you can about them and return the favor. Add links to their sites in your blog posts. They might also be excellent candidates for guest blogging.

Queries

This is a list of search words that people use to find your site.

How does this help? You can use these keywords in your blogs and in the meta data fields.

Device overview

Find out if people are checking out your blog on their desktop or mobile device.

How does this help? If your customers are on the go, you might want to create shorter content and make sure your website has a responsive design to accommodate mobile users.

Above all else, growing your blog audience takes time. You won’t be a hit overnight. It’s a long-term investment that will pay off in time, which is tough for many of us who are used to the instant gratification world that we live in. Still, blogging remains one of the most effective and affordable marketing tools out there for small businesses. In time, you’ll have an audience that spans beyond the two people who raised you.

Do you have a business blog? How has it helped your business? How long did it take to build an audience? Share your experience in the comment section below.

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Lisa Furgison
Lisa Furgison

Lisa Furgison is a journalist with a decade of experience in all facets of media.