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One of the big questions I seem to get constantly from bloggers is how to measure the Return On Investments made into building and maintaining a business blog.

To be sure; the costs are many. While you can certainly startup a business blog for as little as a hundred dollars, and if you are in super-bootstrap mode you can even get one going for free, the expense in setup time is considerable. You’ll have to think through your startup plan, install software, start accounts, and create some content.

Creating content becomes a significant part of the expense as you get rolling. There’s the initial content development in building out the basic pages that support your blog like a Home page, About page and Contact Us page. Then there’s the expense in writing your posts each week. Just getting set up can easily jump into the thousands.

When I write an article, I typically spend an hour or two doing some research or gathering data from which I will formulate my posts. Then I spend another hour or more writing the draft and editing myself into some semblance of coherence. Then there’s the time it takes to get images ready, and then to post and perform all the followup social linking and announcing.

For any given post it can take anywhere from one to four hours depending on the complexity. If you are writing a post about a product feature or news event, you could easily consume four hours of work time. That’s a significant investment in time, especially if you are trying to post more than once or twice per week.

For more sophisticated bloggers there can be additional expenses including the time it takes to gain approvals from corporate authorities, or the cost of purchasing licensed images or setting up sales funnels, forms and feedback mechanisms.

Measuring ROI becomes a primary concern for cost conscious executives at every level. And for this reason the value of a blog is something we all want to measure.

Many of the actionable traits of a blog can be measured: how many visitors did we get in a given time frame, how many subscribers have we accumulated, how many clicks did we get on an ad or button, or how many downloads for an ebook, for instance.

The tricky part is that much of the return from a blog is not very measurable, but can go a long way to increase the value of your company and products.

Here are five ways a blog can add to the value of your business:

1. Customer Connections: With an emphasis on personalized customer interaction in business today, a blog is a good way to generate a connection with your customers on a more personable level while maintaining the objectives of the business.

2. Exposure: Like advertising, blogging can increase your exposure to a greater audience. Especially if you are paying attention to your SEO tactics and working to expand your longtail keywords within your copy.

3. Reputation Management: We are all online whether we like it or not. You’ll find comments about your product or business in every corner of the web, and it pays to take a proactive role in managing your reputation online. A business blog is the best way to maintain a voice on the Internet and to present your best face to the world.

4. Generate Interest: We have come to be comfortable with the idea that people don’t buy ‘things’, we buy ‘experiences’. Most purchases are based on word of mouth, reputation, or familiarity. Your business blog is a great way to openly discuss your business in a way that builds familiarity and encourages future interest.

5. Online Equity: Even if you are not focused on your web-based reputation or looking to build online exposure, there will come a day when this is very important to you. The best way to be ready for that moment is to begin your business blog today. Right now. Start building your online equity, and treat it like a credit report or real estate investment; the more time you dedicate to building it, the more valuable it is to you when you need it in the future.

What’s the ROI on a business blog? Similar to that of your business reputation in the most visible space in our commercial world: The Internet. And while it is not always measurable, you only have to look as far as Hollywood to see how connections, exposure, reputation, interest and equity can lead to great success, or great failure.