After months and months of procrastination, you finally jumped on the blog bandwagon. You saw the benefit, planned your content and jumped headfirst with several posts lined up. Though you adhered to your editorial calendar and checked SEO, you probably aren't taking advantage of all your blog's capabilities. 

Beyond the content and design, there is a whole world your blog is dying for you to take advantage of. It's the world of plug-ins. Plug-ins aren't just flashy gadgets; they're useful accessories that can take your blog to a whole new level. Not only can the right plug-in increase visibility, it can help attract more readers if you pick the right ones. Below are five plug-ins every blog should have. 

CommentLuv - We all know a good way to get comments on your blog is to read and comment on other blogs. CommentLuv is a plug-in that provides a link to recent posts to other blogs under a person's comment. Using it allows the commenter to promote their blog and it allows you to find more blogs to follow and comment that could potentially lead to more views on your blog. 

SEO by Yoast Everyone knows how important SEO is, but yet so many people have no idea how to do it effectively. SEO by Yoast takes the guesswork out of search engine optimization. By simply inserting your "focus word" in the form, the plug-in scans your document letting you know how many times you've used your keyword and if it needs to be used anymore. After checking your post, a green light, red light, or yellow light, alerts you to when your post is publish-ready or if more work is needed to further optimize it for search engine results. 

Akismet: Spam isn't just canned ham anymore. It has found it's way to the Internet in more places than just your email's junk folder. It's can now be seen on a blog near you. But that doesn't mean it should be seen. Not only does spam make your blog a little unsightly, it takes a lot of time to delete them. That's time you could be spending promoting your blog or creating more content. That's where Akismet comes in. This plug-in captures all the fishy comments and puts them in your spam "folder." Yo u then have the option to trash the legitimate spam or "allow" the good comments that may have slipped in mistakenly. 

Social Sharing - You'd be lying if you said you didn't want any of your blog posts to go "viral." I think it might be every bloggers dream for their post to spread like the cold in a daycare center filled with kids. Other than having great content, the best way to make that happen is by having a social media plug-in. There are several of these out there with easy sharing capabilities for sharing via email, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+ and more. While my favorite is Flare, there are several others that are easy to use. 

nrelate Related Content - So you've got a new blog post and it's getting a lot of traffic. But that doesn't mean you don't want traffic to your other posts! Instead of letting all your old posts fade into the darkness you can us this plug-in to get attention for older posts. This plug-in displays blog posts with similar topics on the bottom of current posts to attract more interested readers. This way posts published as long as a year ago can get the same amount of traffic as a recent post from yesterday. 

When was the last time you made a decision that wasn't associated with some type of emotion? Whether you decided to pay the bills, watch a particular television show, or cook dinner it was probably inspired by an emotion. They may not all be good emotions, but it was enough to push you to do something. 

We are emotional beings. We rarely make any decision without associating it with an emotion no matter how small it is. That's why if you or someone else were to describe your blog as just "fine," you know you are in trouble. Feeling simply "fine" won't motivate a potential audience to read your blog. It also won't inspire them to bookmark it, pin it to Pinterest, email it, or recommend it to a friend. However, it might inspire potential readers to ignore it. And why shouldn't they? Your blog hasn't given them any reason to keep reading because they already feel fine. You haven't made any promise to show them something that could potentially change their day or lives. 

To capture and keep an audience you need give them a reason to muster up some feelings that will pursued them to read your blog.  Allow them to feel surprised, shocked, inspired, intrigued, etc while reading.  Whatever you do, make sure it musters up a feeling! For example, If you were to write a blog post titled "10 Reasons Why You are a Terrible Parent" and list the biggest mistakes parents make, readers will probably feel intrigued and slightly annoyed by your accusation just by reading the title. Parents would immediately feel the need to click on your link, read your post, and learn what they are doing wrong before passing it along to their friends. 

If you are looking to garner a lot of comments, you may want to tap into controversial posts that will elicit lots of anger. For example, a post discussing why college is a scam or that Whitney Houston was a drug addict who deserved to die, will probably earn you lots of comments defended a point as well as tweets and Facebook shares. 

Want your readers to see you as a helpful and caring person/business? Allow them to feel inspired. Write a blog post that taps into their inner most desires. Tell them about the challenges you faced starting out or how you understand how difficult it is to take the risk of starting your own business. Not only will a motivating and inspiring post have readers coming back for inspiration on a regular basis, but they will be sure to tell other friends who need to be moved as well.

Of course, if you are looking to "move" readers without channeling inspiration you can always fascinate them. A blog that evokes fascination is usually lots of fun. Give them a "wow" factor or an unknown fact to garner attention. It gives readers a reason to associate you with being innovative, "in the know" and on the cutting edge. Plus, it could gain you credibility and lots of attention. Think about it. Wouldn't you take a second look at a blog that fascinated you with an interesting fact such as "80 percent of all cruise ships are refurbished from using old cars." (It's not true... but you get the picture) It's so fascinating that you just have to learn more about it! 

Next thing you know, your readers will practically be begging you for new information. And you don't exactly get begging readers with emotionless blogs. The lesson? Always make sure your readers feel something whether it be curiosity, intrigue, anger, sadness, inspired, fascinated, etc. As long as it's not "fine" you're in business!

There's no denying that having a blog is the "in thing" for businesses today. However, that doesn't mean that your business should start one. I'm sure many of you are gasping in disbelief considering I'm a writer; especially since blogging and writing for publication is what puts food on my table. But it's true. Your business may not even need a blog and it doesn't make sense to have one if you're not going to do it right. Here are five reasons why you probably shouldn't start a blog. 

1. You have no time
Coming up with topics, editing, and promoting a blog takes time. If you don't have time to do any of the above, chances are you are not ready to break into the blogging limelight. This is one of the main reasons why businesses outsource writers to handle a blog for them. (Even if you outsource you need to have time to answer questions)Plus, blog followers get used to seeing posts on a consistent basis. It would suck to loose your fans by not adhering to a timeline or blogging schedule. 

2. You have trust issues
If you don't trust the people writing your blog, you will always be dissappointed. In addition, the whole process will prove to be a grueling one filled with lots of edits, misunderstandings and communication breakdowns. I know, your blog is your baby but if you want it to have a fighting chance, you need to let go a little bit. Otherwise, do it yourself rather than assigning it to an employee.

3. No purpose
What's a blog without purpose or a goal? Some might call it a waste of space. I call it a blog destined for failure. Without a goal or purpose, your blog will take on no direction and fade into the background. Not to mention, you'll probably have a lot of difficulty coming up with topics or measuring the success of the blog. Do yourself a favor, and refrain from starting a blog if you're not even sure what you hope to get out of it. 

4. You won't promote it
Contrary to popular belief your blog won't bring in 1,000 followers by simply publishing a new post. You need to market the blog to get a following. That means sending email updates, attending events, and utilizing social media to get the word out. If you don't promote it, chances are you may be the only one reading the blog.

5. Not willing to interact
For the most part, blogs are about interaction and getting to know your audience. You must be willing to get into the minds of your target audience by communicating with them, reaching out, and asking for feedback. Otherwise, you might not be giving them what they want. Plus, readers like to know the blogger is in reach. 
If you are in to publicity and media, you've probably heard the term "editorial calendar" most likely in reference to magazine publishing when they are looking for advertisers. But it's about time you knew the term isn't exclusive to the magazine industry. Small and mid-sized businesses use it to keep publishing material organized within the company.

Now you may be thinking that you would have no use for an editorial calendar. But if you have a blog, newsletter, white papers,  direct mail campaign, or an ad circulation, it may be  in your best interest to develop one. Editorial Calendars are a great way for you to stay organized and think ahead in terms of content. Typically, editorial calendars are broken down by weeks for each medium and list the publication date, tentative title, distribution, keywords, tags, author, theme, or focus for that period.  Most people like to create one in Google Spreadsheets or Excel. My preference just happens to be Excel. 

Of course, your editorial calendar doesn't need to be as complex or include so much information. It could simply be a spreadsheet detailing a focus topic for each month; especially since it will most likely only be viewed internally. Regardless of how you choose to organize it, the editorial calendar will certainly be an asset for content creation. For example, if you have a newsletter and white papers, using the editorial calendar can assist with repurposing and recycling information to help save time. Furthermore, once it's time to brainstorm a blog topic or newsletter column, the editorial calendar can help keep your thinking in the right direction - another timesaver. Lastly, it can be used to help manage social media initiatives, contests, and promotions. 
I get a lot of blogging clients and as usual I ask them a lot of questions to get a feel for their style. In most cases, they have no problem answering my long list of prying questions. Yet, I always manage to stump them with one. "What is the purpose of this blog?" It's the one that seems to draw the most blank stares, awkward silences, and stuttered phrases. Or I get some variation of, "Everyone else has one so we should to." If this is your reasoning, you are heading for disaster. 

Yes, it's good to keep up with competition. However, you need to have a better reason than "everyone else is doing it". It's necessary to know what you are trying to achieve with your blog, otherwise you will be working aimlessly and head straight for destruction. Trust me -  a blog with no direction is easily detectable. 

So how do you get a direction? You consider your target audience, your service/product and what you hope to accomplish. Once you decide what your end goal is, it will be much easier for you to understand your blog's purpose and write in a way to reflect that.  The purpose directly relates to the way it's written. For example, if your purpose is to interact with more prospects, you may want to write your blog in a conversational tone and ask lots of questions. If your purpose is to establish yourself as an expert, you'll want to include how-to posts and lists. If you're still not sure, hold off on starting a blog until you can come up a plan of attack. After all, starting a blog without a plan (or a purpose) is like shooting a gun with a blindfold on. You'll only end up hurt and disappointed.
Taking the plunge to start a blog can be scary;especially when brainstorming hot topics on a consistent basis is expected of you. Don't worry, you are not the only nervous one. Professional internet marketers and business bloggers, break a sweat over it all the time. However, don't expect this feeling to last. I've got a feeling that after reading this post you may never stress about finding blog topics again. Here's my list of ways to keep the great ideas flowing:

1. Create a series
A series is the perfect way to keep the topic train rolling. This way you can create a different spin for the same topic multiple times. One of the easiest series I can think of has to the do with the alphabet. For example, a series called the ABC's of Wedding Planning could have posts about what ever topic begins with the next letter on the list for that week. You're guaranteed 26 different topic ideas! 

2. Change format
Writing content in the same old format week after week can get very dull. Switching it up every once in a while just might be the inspiration you need to churn out some eye catching topics. Post a video one week, a slideshow the next week, and a list for another week. Not only can the change help keep you motivated, but your readers may truly appreciate how you spiced things up. It's a win-win situation.

3. Join a forum
Want to know what your readers have questions about? Join a forum pertaining to your target audience and answer their questions in a blog post. Your readers will truly appreciate it. 

4. Read industry news
If the purpose of your blog is to be seen as an expert in your field, you should definitely be keeping up with industry news. Sign up for Google Alerts and newsletters for industry associations to have hot button topics sent to your inbox. Then give your expert opinion or write a summary about the latest trends or headlines. 

5. Follow what's trending
Got a Twitter account? Those trending topics on the side of your screen can tell you a lot about what people want to know about. Go through them, pick out a topic that is relevant to your blog and write about it!