Although many consumers have moved from blogging to social media, the format is still widely popular with businesses. In fact, most experts stress the many benefits of business blogging, including building thought leadership and improving SEO.

Setting up and maintaining a blog takes time and resources, two things that many growing businesses have in limited amounts. To make the most of your work, it’s important that your blog posts are carefully planned from the start. Here are a few things your blog needs to turn readers into paying customers.

Blog with a Goal

Instead of blindly posting content on your blog, experts advise businesses to set a goal and work toward it. You may simply want to create interesting content that will keep customers coming back. If you’re service based, you could realize the benefits of building thought leadership, which encourages customers to contact you when they need services like yours. It may feel as though you’re giving your expertise away for free, but you’ll actually find it draws customers to you, especially if your posts are so interesting, readers share them with others.

Know Your Audience

Each blog post should be written with your potential readers in mind. Consider what information your audience would most benefit from reading and focus on that as you brainstorm topics. With each post, note the comments you’re getting and pay careful attention to the type of readers who are interacting with your posts. Also consider the buying cycle in your blog posts, understanding that customers who visit your blog are likely in the early research stages of the buying process, so you may not be able to get them to convert immediately. Instead, your posts should give them the information they need to make an educated decision.

Form Partnerships

Blogging on your own website limits your reach. Instead, consider reaching out to others in your local area or industry who can host your blog post for a day. You can offer a guest spot on your own blog in exchange.  You’ll both be introduced to new audiences and you’ll boost your SEO through backlinks. Guest blogging also helps you with social media marketing, since you’ll be able to link to each post across all of your platforms.

Link to Your Own Products

For product-based businesses, it’s important to make your blog posts useful while also showing off what you’re selling. A fashion retailer, for instance, could highlight the best fashions of the upcoming season or showcase the best fashions for millennial office workers. For each product mentioned, it’s important to link to the area of your site where customers can purchase the item. If you provide a coupon, make sure the image of that coupon is clickable, taking the customer to your site where they can start adding items to a shopping cart.

Make It Visually Appealing

Despite all of your hard work, if your blog design is atrocious, customers won’t stay around to enjoy it. If you aren’t tech-savvy and you can’t afford a designer, use a drag-and-drop site builder that lets you start with a template. Make sure your blog design is clean and simple with easy-to-read text. Your navigation should be carefully planned, as well, with customers able to easily get to important sections of your site directly from your blog. You should also incorporate images into your posts, since large chunks of text tend to scare readers away.

Include a Call to Action

If you post your content without giving your readers a takeaway at the end, you’re missing an important opportunity. It can be tricky to avoid being too sales-y while still getting your message across. The type of call to action (CTA) depends on the goal of your blog. There are even tools that allow you to personalize your call to action based on the person reading your post. Even the most marketing-oriented CTAs can be effective if placed as a short statement at the end of your post.

Businesses can use their blog to increase visibility and gain new customers. It’s important to carefully plan your posts before you begin blogging to ensure you’re working toward a goal. Over time, you’ll learn more about your target market and you’ll be able to adjust your blog to fit that market.

Dan Steiner is an entrepreneur, Internet-marketing expert and author from San Luis Obispo, Calif. He currently serves as CEO of Avila Web Firm, an award-winning web-design and Internet-marketing firm. His work has been featured in a number of publications, including Entrepreneur, HuffingtonPost, and Inc.