By Ben Parr (MASHABLE)
This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable () regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.
If you’re like most socially-savvy companies, your business probably has a blog. It’s a great way to connect with your customers, announce new products, and provide a human face to your company’s image.
While writing insightful and informative blog posts is the most important thing to do with a company blog, the design and implementation of your blog is key as well. The right plugins can help you get discovered on Google (), while a cluttered design can turn off potential customers.
With that said, here are some of my top tips for customizing a small business blog so that it is professional, productive, and easy to discover.
1. Install some top blog plugins
If you are using blog software such as WordPress (), then you can add plugins to customize how your blog looks and functions. While there are tens of thousands of plugins available on multiple platforms, a business blog should focus on search engine optimization (SEO), making the blog load faster, and making it easy for others to share blog posts via email, Twitter (), and other social networks. Check out the WordPress Plugin Directory to see some of the web’s most popular plugins.
2. Integrate social media links and buttons
Don’t be afraid to integrate Facebook () and Twitter on a business blog. It’s a standard practice and will help drive new visitors to your blog. Social media buttons make it easy for customers to tweet out your work, while adding links to the company’s Twitter and YouTube () accounts will help bolster their numbers and improve their ranking in search.
3. Focus on simple designs, not bells and whistles
The focus of a blog should be on the content, not on widgets or sidebars or flashy designs. It’s better to have a very simple design template than a complex one if you want to convert readers into customers.
4. Do show effort in the design, though
A corporate blog is also a chance to show off a human element of the company and to be creative. Just using the standard template is usually lazy and most readers will know it. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
5. Have your blog on your own web domain
Most companies have their blogs at blog.companyurl.com. It’s generally considered unprofessional for a company to have a blog hosted on WordPress.com or Typepad ().com, so always have your blog somewhere on your company’s website.
6. Don’t hide your “about” information
Assume that your average reader has never heard about your company. If you have that in mind, you want to be sure they can quickly find out more about you. Either have a paragraph at the top or on the side describing the company, or make the “About” page very prominent.