How does blogging effect SEO?

Often referred to as social media, blogs exist on every topic imaginable, and in every industry.
Anyone with an Internet connection can set up their own cyber-soapbox in a few minutes — and for free on sites like Google-owned Blogger or Word Press.

But the question in the minds of many business owners: What possible return on investment can my company receive from launching a blog? There are numerous reasons why it makes sense to blog for your business, whether on your own site or on an industry specific site. Here are the top five:

1. Establish your expertise. By writing about what your business does and how you do it on a regular basis, you “show” that you’re an expert in your field.

2. Establish “real” credibility. Your blog allows you to be a real human and share your knowledge and opinions with the world (just be careful what you say — kids’ MySpace rants are keeping them out of college). Think of your blog as the online equivalent of casual Fridays. Show the world that your business is run by real people — and cares about real people — and that you’re not another Enron hiding behind a slick corporate web site.

3. Build a professional community. The best blogs create a network of people interested in similar topics. They comment on each other’s posts, and though they may disagree at times, the controversy increases the “buzz,” attracting more readers to the blog community. This community can serve as a source of referrals as well as a way to test new products or ideas and get feedback. Smart bloggers share their business secrets with this community — and whomever else might be following the discussion — increasing their perceived expertise and credibility, advancing their entire industry while sky-rocketing their own reputation.

4. Create relationships with your prospective clients. Your blog can invite prospective buyers “behind the curtain” and create a personal relationship with them long before they step foot in the sales center or visit the next open house. They can ask you questions in the comments section of your blog posts, which you should answer. Others will join in. Eventually your blog starts to act like a fishing trawler, hauling in prequalified traffic that is looking for your product or service.

5. Drive targeted traffic to your main web site. This is the biggest reason to blog. After all, the more traffic your site attract, the more potential sales. How does it work? Well, I’m sure by now you’ve heard of SEO (search engine optimization). Basically, SEO boils down to making your site rank higher for certain words or phrases on search-engine results pages.

In other words, you want your web site to show up when someone types words related to your business into a Google, Yahoo or MSN search. The higher you rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs), the more traffic you get. The more traffic, the more potential sales.