A blog can be an important tool in your marketing campaign. When combined with your website, email newsletter, social media, customer database, and ecommerce system, a blog can fuel the development of your online presence.

How do you start a blog for your business and what can you do to ensure its’ success?

Here are five critical things you should do before you cut the ribbon on your business blog.

1. What are your goals?

It may sound simple, but you need to address this question before you get started. What is the purpose of the blog? Is it to explain your services? To establish yourself as an expert? Maybe you want to create leads by offering information that you require registration to read or download (require an email in order to download materials, for example).

Whatever your goals, you need to define them. As a rule of thumb, your blog should help assist you in meeting your business goals in general.

PRO TIP: Don’t launch a blog if you don’t have a goal. Don’t launch a blog if you aren’t going to regularly post. And do not, I mean DO NOT launch your blog if you plan to only publish posts about your products and sales. No one will care.

2. Who is your target audience?

This is critical for any blog. You must identify a target audience to help you craft your content and also for marketing purposes. If you’re a car dealership your audience is potential car buyers. If you’re blogging about plants you’ll want to write for people with green thumbs. Usually, your ideal reader is similar to your ideal customer or client.

3. What do you want your readers to do?

This directly correlates to the goals you set for your blog. If your blog is a lead generator, then you must have very clear steps for guiding your reader to subscribe to get blog updates and/or get your lead generating content. If you are trying to get people to share your blog posts with their social network then you’ll want to write it in an engaging manner and make it easy for the reader to share it. Each blog post should have a “call-to-action” that inspires the reader to do something.

PRO TIP: The “something” you want your reader to do should be only ONE THING.

4. Who’s going to blog and how much time do they have?

Listen: If you can’t commit to writing blog entries (GOOD blog entries), then you’re not going to be successful and you’re going to look bad to your customers.

The most effective and successful blogs are those with fresh, new content posted at least two to three times per week.

Can you do that, or do you have an employee or freelance writer who can? Will you have a team of bloggers or will it be one voice?

You can get away with publishing only once per month (or even less) if your content is AMAZING.

5. Have you made an editorial calendar?

If so, why not? Maybe you’re not sure what an editorial calendar is.

One of the first things you need to do is make a list of 7-10 keyword-rich categories. Once you determine the categories (or subtopics) of your blog, you can plan your content calendar. If you plan on posting three times per week, then plot out post ideas for each of your categories: try to post an entry to different categories. Brainstorm topic ideas, as many as you can think of. Then, fill in your calendar.

Try to stay several weeks ahead of the game by having at least 12-20 articles in the pipeline to be published. If you’re posting about topical issues, think hard about whether that’s a good idea, it will require discipline. Even if you want to do that, you should be able to write “evergreen” blog articles that can be published anytime regardless.

PRO TIP: “Evergreen content” are blog posts on subjects that will never expire.

If you ponder these five questions BEFORE you launch your business blog you’ll be off to a good start. Good luck.