I’ve had a love and hate relationship with blogging for a long time.  I was a blogger before blogging was cool.  Before MySpace even.  I was using Blogger before Google bought it.  If I looked real hard, I could probably even find the free hoodie or t-shirt Google sent all Blogger’s users after the acquisition.  I used to be a rabid blogger, but it’s been an up-and-down struggle throughout the last decade as life got in the way.

It’s understandable why some small business owners bristle at the thought of incorporating a blog in their social media marketing strategy.  It’s so much work!  How do I start?  Will people expect voluminous tomes of incisive thought I’m incapable of churning out?  Trust me, I understand.  Some days, I can barely rub two cogent tweets together, much less an entertaining or informative blog.

That said, blogging is kind of important to your small business’ online marketing.  Besides all the obvious things like SEO, there’s a ton of opportunity in business blogging.  You can really establish yourself and your brand with an authentic and thoughtful blog.  You can really put a unique human face on your brand, and that’s something I cling to as a consumer.  You engage your customers in a way few — if any — big box businesses can.

But as more and more businesses get up and running with a blog, there are a few glaring problems that keeps me from hitting up their blog with any regularity.  These, by extension, may hinder my connection with the business itself.  They’re possibly small issues, and easily fixable.  So what turns me off to a local business blog?

Inauthenticity.  I can smell it a mile away, and so can your customers if you’re not careful.  If you want to put a human face on your brand, write with authenticity.  You wouldn’t be in business unless you did something better than everyone else out there.  Prove it.  You don’t have to write a masters thesis on the science of baking an apple pie.  Put your own personal flavor into it.  You’ve got a voice.  You just may not know it yet.  As you start blogging, you’ll be amazed how fast it comes out if you let it.  And for the love of God, don’t let your marketing agency or other people blog for you.  It’s OK to get help getting your blog set up and running, but I want to read you.  Don’t fret over run-on sentences.  Good grammar helps, but don’t feel like you have to write like a professional author.

More links than original thought.  It’s OK to reference other blogs or sites in your own blog from time to time.  When your blog becomes more of a reading list of third-party ideas than a showcase of your own, you look derivitive.  I want to connect with your personality and expertise.  Don’t be afraid to let it come though.

And if you do link or cite another blog or site on your own, give them attribution.  You’d want credit if someone else quoted your thoughts on their blog.  Why not share the love?

Blog design.  Nothing puts me off more than a blog that’s too busy, hard-to-read, or littered with useless widgets.  When setting up your blog, choose a blog template that fits your business’ personality, but is also clean and accessible.  Resist the urge to “pretty it up” with unnecessary sidebar widgets and other fluff.  Let your words make the impression.

No social sharing.  If I read a blog that resonates with me, I’m compelled to share it.  I’m not alone.  Watch your Facebook news feed.  People share what they like, and that’s exactly what you want from your audience! I’m going to be ten times more likely to share your blog with others if I’m given easy opportunity to do so.  There are many options for adding buttons to your blog articles that make it easy for readers to share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks.  Blogging sites and platforms have many plug-ins available for just this kind of thing.  Take advantage of them.  If you don’t know how to use them, get someone to help you.  You’ll be glad you did.

Missing or hard-to-find RSS feeds.  RSS feeds are kind of an old-school concept, but pretty important for blogs.  What RSS stands for varies depending on who you ask, but it’s a feature of most blogging platforms.  It allows me to see your most recent content.  With so many great blogs out there, many people use sites like Google Reader to keep up with the content they like.  Giving me an easy-to-find link to your RSS feed gives me a better opportunity to keep up to date with your blog, and what’s going on in your business.

Lazy blogging.  Yes, blogging does take effort.  There are days or weeks where sitting down and writing a blog is the last thing in the world you feel like doing.  But when you let your blog get stale, I’m more likely to seek out fresh content — perhaps at your competitor.  Again, I’m not expecting life-changing nuggets of wisdom every time.  It’s not always realistic to set such high standards for your blog, and it may actually lead you to lazy blogging.  But it’s not hard to make a basic connection with your audience.  Share a positive experience you had at your workplace.  Pose a topic that could spur conversation in your blog comments.  Mix it up!

Removing negative feedback from comments.  Whether you open up comments in your blog is up to you, but I encourage potential bloggers to open up to comments.  I think many chose to close down comments because they’re worried about negative feedback.  What’s even worse is censoring the negative comments that do get placed.

There is a time and place for deleting comments — you are the curator of your own domain, so deleting offensive language, abusive language, spam, and so forth is warranted.  But if someone leaves a respectful negative comment, this is the perfect opportunity to apply some tactful, positive customer service in response.  Not only could it possibly turn the situation at hand around, but it shows your other readers that you’re open to feedback and ready to create a positive experience.

Intrusive web advertising.  It’s tempting to use third-party ad networks to inject web ads into your blog, to reap a little extra income from your traffic.  But there is a fine line between a banner ad and obnoxious, intrusive advertising.  If it pushes your blog out of the way, lays on top of it, pops up out of keywords in your article or makes noise, I click away every time.  This is one of the main reasons I rarely read websites from local newspapers or television stations.  They’ve become cesspools of “look at me, look at me” advertising.  If you want a little extra ad revenue, keep it simple and tucked neatly out of the way of your main content.

And for the love of God, if you feel the need to use the type of web widget where you walk out on top of your website and start talking to me, keep it on your front page only, give me a “mute” or “close” option… and think good and hard about “does this help or hurt my site.”  I usually lean in the latter category, but that’s totally up to you.

TOO keyword happy.  You definitely want to keep your blog fresh and keyword-rich to make Google happy, but there is such a thing as writing in an overly keyword-y manner.  Call me a content snob, but I’d rather read something that’s authentic and informative than something that reads like a verbal algorhythm.

Too worried about being “inside baseball.”  If I’m going to your blog, I have an interest in what you’re talking about.  Many small business bloggers ride the line between accessible and “inside baseball” way too safely.  While you want to be accessible (and remain in legal compliance should your industry require it), you don’t want to talk down to your audience.  Teach me something.  Give me a little bit of expert knowledge.  Show me what sets you apart from your competitors.  Appeal to your audience’s sense of curiousity, and you’ll hook them in.  Your blog is a great way to establish yourself as the go-to expert in your field, and that’s a great PR opportunity!

Not playing well with others.  Think about the people you hire.  You hired them for a reason.  They compliment your business.  They bring a point of view and certain expertise to the party.  Why keep them out of the sandbox?  Many blog platforms offer the ability to allow others to contribute to your overall blog.  A variety of topics from a variety of authors adds spice to your blog.  It also shows you have great people working for you and they know their stuff.  Let them play too.

No images.  When you share a blog article on Facebook, it skims over your page for images it can attach with the link.  If you don’t add images your blog, they may not stand out as much as they could when shared on Facebook or LinkedIn.  Adding an image to your blog is also a great way to add visual interest to your site.  If you add an image in reference to something you write about, it aids the reader’s understanding or appreciation of your subject.  Why wouldn’t a food blogger put a big, fat picture of the chicken parmesan they ordered on a restaurant review.  A picture’s worth a thousand words!  There are plenty of free or inexpensive stock photo and graphic sites out there.  Get creative!

The side you show.  Your blog soaks up your personality.  It’s your voice.  It bleeds passion if you’re serious about it and serious about what you do.  Don’t feel like you need to phony it up or put on a particular facade.  You won’t please everybody.  But your blog is a great opportunity to highlight the great things you do that average, everyday customers walking through your door may not know about.  Are you plugged into your community?  Are you charitable?  Don’t be bashful.  Let your blog be the place where you proudly exclaim the things you do that you should rightly feel proud about.  There are local businesses I go into everyday that do great things that go totally unnoticed.  Brag a little.  I love knowing the places I frequent do good things in my community.  It localizes you, it puts you in a good light, and it humanizes your brand.  Let your blog be the sleeve on which you wear your local community pride!

There you have it.  The reasons I stop following a local business’ blog are, in and of themselves, flipsides of some of the reasons they should be blogging in the first place.  Tweets are nice, but a whisper in comparison to the rich, full conversation you can have with your customers through a blog.  More and more, consumers strive to do business with locally-owned businesses in their community.  Blogging, as “part of the complete breakfast” that is your online marketing efforts, accentuates the drive and passion that brought you to start up your business in the first place.  Start yours today, and make it great.