As if it weren’t hard enough to make yourself seen in the big, bustling world of online marketing, consider this: snagging your blog readers’ attention is just the first challenge. To use your blog to grow your business, you have to keep those readers coming back, too.

Your home comfort blog should be a key part of your online marketing strategy. While various social media – including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ – serve their own purposes, your HVAC blog should sit squarely at the center of your online plan. Why? Because blogs are best-suited for the kind of quality content that will position your service company as the go-to source for information, products and service in your community.

And it’s great content that keeps home comfort blog readers coming back. Smart SEO practices – including strategically-chosen keywords in your blog posts to boost your rankings in online search results – help make the initial connection between your readers and your blog. But don’t count on just search engine optimization after that to turn your blog into a success story - one that connects you with potential customers, strengthens your relationships with current ones and generates leads.

Yes, sound SEO practices help make the introductions. But it’s quality, consistent content creation that will keep them coming back for more. Here are initial encounters into long-term relationships:

Offer a valuable gift. Accurate, relevant information provided by a local expert is a rare and beautiful thing on the Internet – and it’s a gift your readers won’t forget next time they need good information. Put yourself in a customer’s shoes: You’re a homeowner with a red-tagged furnace. You turn online first for guidance. You find an objective blog post written by a local expert that explains the meaning of that red tag, its associated risks and options for what to do next. (All Year Heating, Air & Solar, in Sacramento, published that very post; see Red-Tagged Furnace: Repair The Cracked Heat Exchanger Or Replace The Whole Unit?) Where would you go first for your new equipment?

Update your blog regularly. There’s no reason for readers to return to your blog if it offers nothing new. Stick to a blogging schedule – two or three times a week is manageable and keeps your content fresh.

Be surprising. Most of your blog posts will be short articles (200-350 words is usually enough to cover to basics without dragging on), but they can take a number of forms. Write a list of 10 energy-saving strategies in your region. Create a step-by-step guide to air filter replacement, tailored for new homeowners. Send your technicians out with a video camera to document some particularly disturbing ductwork, and post a short “before and after” video.

Write clear, concise – and grammatically correct blogs. Confusing posts spur readers to move on quickly. Wordy posts lose readers too. Show your respect for customers’ time by getting to the point. Edit carefully, too. You’ll be judged by your spelling and grammar – and you’ll lose credibility if it’s poor.

Make it a dialogue. Use your blog posts to engage HVAC blog readers in online discussions. Make it easy to post comments on your blog. Solicit questions and ideas. When readers respond, so should you – thoughtfully and quickly. Bloggers who interact with their readers find it easy to generate new ideas for later posts. They listen to their customers’ concerns and use the blog to provide solutions.

Make your blog easy to navigate. Is the design clean and intuitive, or is it cluttered with logos and confusing signposts? Does your blog feature a search bar that lets readers find past posts?

Make your blog easy to share. Each time a reader shares one of your posts on Facebook or another social media site, they’ve made another connection with your company (not to mention giving you a major boost by implicitly recommending your company to their own contacts and expanding your online reach). If your blog lacks a Facebook Like button – or Google +1, Twitter tweet, Pinterest Pin it or LinkedIn Share buttons – get them up there.

Set up an RSS feed button on your blog. RSS feeds let online readers aggregate their favorite blogs and other content into a customized “news ticker.” After readers add your blog to their RSS feed, each post you write will be added to their ticker.

Technology changes but the central mission remains the same: demonstrate your expertise in your field and your leadership in your community. Accomplish that, and your blog readers will keep coming back -- and turning into customers who'll help your contracting business thrive.

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.