As an HVAC contractor, it's possible you've dismissed blogs as part of your online marketing strategy – and you’d have plenty of evidence to make your case.

Consider this, however: Good blogs – the ones that make smart use of search-engine optimization and consistently provide quality content – are attracting HVAC customers. I’ve seen some contractors drive almost a lead a day from their blog content, while others are attracting more than a thousand prospects a month to their websites through original content. Others are using their amazing blog content to package together truly helpful enewsletters for their current customers.

How is all this being done? By meeting people where they are -- online -- and giving them what they're looking for: expert, timely answers to their home-comfort questions.

The homeowners who study their options online, seeking advice from their local industry leader in advance of their significant investments, are also the homeowners who become excellent leads – if your blog provides what they’re looking for. And those quality leads? Well, you can use your blog to help turn them into customers you’d not otherwise have encountered.

Bottom line: Blogs help HVAC contractors grow their businesses by attracting new customers and keeping your former customers coming back. Here’s how and why blogs work to attract HVAC customers:

Your blog lets you speak to the targeted masses – in a voice of authority. While most HVAC contractors are not expert bloggers, they are experts in their own field. And it’s the benefit of your expertise and experience that your customers – and customers-to-be – seek when they type “buying a new air conditioner” or “red-tagged furnace” into their search engine.

Blogging lets you establish, build and maintain your position as the leading HVAC expert in your service area. Particularly when making a major investment like HVAC equipment and service, customers are attracted to industry leaders, who are known and trusted entities. When it comes to attracting HVAC customers, your company has to be attractive, too!

Your blog lets you kick-start the sales process – without being pushy. Hard sells turn off readers. As HVAC blog readers, your would-be customers are looking for information and advice, not a salesperson. By offering something of value to your readers, however, you can use your blog to engage them in a positive exchange – the sale’s early precursor:

• Offer a downloadable “How to Choose a Furnace” guide.

• Provide links to a Web form for a free estimate.

• Post a downloadable coupon.

• Perhaps most importantly, solicit feedback through your blog’s “Comments” section – and take each comment you receive for what it is: an opportunity to build a relationship with a prospect. Respond to each comment you receive in a timely and thoughtful manner – with an eye toward the easing your customer’s next step toward doing business with you.

Your blog lets you communicate the benefits of maintenance agreements. For many HVAC contractors, maintenance-agreement sales provide a reliable source of work during down times, not to mention a steady cash flow – and the opportunity to connect with customers in the market for new equipment and installations. They’re a key part of the plan for many HVAC contractors.

Blogs offer you a pulpit to explain the qualities of HVAC preventive maintenance plans (convenience, cost-effectiveness as they boost energy efficiency, priority service) in the context of a variety of informational posts.

Blogs let you reach good customers. Attracting HVAC customers doesn't just mean piling up page views on your blog -- it means attracting the right readers. People who look for information online are looking for more than a quick fix. They’re researchers – those who are looking for high-quality information from an expert source. Blogs stocked consistently with quality content reach people who are prepared to make long-term investments in their comfort and their homes.

Blogs let you maintain contact with current and past customers. Even after their equipment is chosen and installed, many homeowners seek information about reducing energy waste, improving indoor air quality and keeping their investment in peak condition. By offering a consistent source of information on those subjects, you can continue to engage your existing customers.

And by solidifying your position as your community’s industry leader among those customers, you’ll help ensure that those past customers will turn to you again for maintenance service, repairs and, ultimately, replacement equipment. They'll also be more likely to recommend your products and work to others.

There’s no doubt that more and more people look online first for answers about their home-comfort system, new technology or do-it-yourself advice. For growing HVAC contracting companies, providing those answers online has become a key part of their plan for attracting HVAC customers.

While social media continues to take on new forms, your HVAC blog should be the keystone of your social media strategy. It’s the place where you first post the quality content that you use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ -- and whatever comes next - to distribute. Whether you do the job yourself, assign it to your Web-smart employee or outsource your blog, maintaining your HVAC blog will be time and effort well invested.

Joe Pulizzi is CEO for SocialTract, the leading blogging/social media service for HVACR Contractors. Joe’s new book, Managing Content Marketing, is now available on Amazon and Kindle. Joe can be reached on Twitter @juntajoe or by email joe@socialtract.com.