Tips for Business Bloggers Stuck in a Rut
If you are having trouble getting your business blog going, here are the basic elements to writing and managing a productive blog.
Writing is hard. At least it seems so if you don’t do it often… and most people don’t. If you are a business owner or are responsible for marketing a business, you know how daunting writing a blog can seem. There are always roadblocks to becoming a prolific business blogger for your company, but it shouldn’t be as painful as you might think it is.
A blog is a tool for inbound and content marketing which is often underutilized. Many businesses know they should be blogging, but don’t know what to write about or what results it will produce. Focusing on the rationale is an excuse to avoid the effort in most cases, because as long as you are producing content for your blog that is helpful for your customer, your business will find benefits from the effort.
The blog section of a website should be filled with content that is educational and relevant for your customers and your business. If you know your customer, you should already know some of the issues they experience in learning about your product and making decisions. These issues should be central to your blogging content efforts and once you write those out, you will have more than a few ideas for blog posts.
Getting started is the hardest part for many people, but staying creative and disciplined is also difficult. So no matter where you are in your blogging efforts, please use this best practices guide as motivation and step-by-step instructions for producing effective blogs for your business.
Subject matter for a blog doesn’t have to be elaborate, but each article should ALWAYS focus on the customer. It’s okay to announce new products and awards and other company-first messages in a PR style once and a while, but each post must be focused to how this topic benefits the customer who reads it.
Try to find topics that your general audience would be interested in and relate explicitly to that audience by calling out why they should be, or already are interested in it. The inspiration for these can come from new products you offer, seasonal and holiday ideas, tips and tricks, and questions from your customers themselves.
Use unique ideas like interviewing a business partner to provide tips on services related to your business but necessarily within your expertise. As long as the subject addresses a concern your customer may have in a positive way, it’s fair game.
If you can personalize an article concept by directly addressing a customer’s question, even better. The more directly you answer the concerns of customers, the better the blog becomes, and its chances of giving you new business improve as well.
One last thing to note in creating blog concepts, writing seasonal posts and relating to current events seems easy, but it’s worthwhile to try to convey your expertise with articles that will stand the test of time, also known as “evergreen content”. Evergreen content is an article that will be useful long after it’s published. This isn’t always possible but it’s a great goal when creating content.
Whatever the inspiration, there must be a tie back to the business in some way. If you want to describe the effects of a new industry regulation, such as “Mobilegeddon” in internet marketing, be sure you’re describing the subject in a way that addresses the concerns and interests of the reader, all while guiding them toward an action such as filling a lead form, asking a question, or attending an event.
The final action you want them to take should be promoted with a call-to-action (also known as a CTA). In the case of our Mobilegeddon post, something as simple as “contact our team for more information about mobile search rankings” is good, and remember that the action doesn’t have to be sales oriented. The CTA can be as simple as directing them to read another blog post, view an event registration page, or view a product page. It must include a hyperlink, or other explicit way for them to complete the action.
Tone and Style
The most important part of writing blogs for your brand is that you remain authentic and helpful. A conversational/informational tone that reflects the knowledge and personal touch your business normally gives customers will help motivate customers to relate to your brand in the intended way.
Try to have someone with a good editing touch review your post before publishing. Maintaining positive language is also important with the authentic tone, so when editing your writing, turn phrases like, “you don't want lots of bills” into, “we can help you keep your bills low”.
Another common issue is the use of punctuation to convey emotion. Enthusiasm is great, but all-caps text and over-use of exclamation points doesn’t go over well in a blog post. Editors can correct those elements as well as run-on sentences, poor transitions, and misused words.
An authentic tone means writing like you speak, however you must follow good structural guidelines to keep the article skimmable. Skimmable means the article is easy to scan with your eyes and find the part of the article you’re might be looking for. Remember, you only have a few seconds of your reader’s attention when they first visit your article, so you must make the most of it.
Small blocks of text, subheadings, bullet points, and numbered lists are immensely helpful for keeping blog posts flowing, easy to read, and easy to write.
Title – Keep it short and sweet and to the point of the article. (Note: you don’t need exclamation points in the title to get people’s attention, the words should inspire the click on their own) If you want to learn more, there is research on the words that inspire virality in online articles, but please avoid “click-bait” headlines such as “You’ll never guess...”, “Shocking results from….”, etc.
Introduction – It’s important to address the subject of the article and draw the reader in within the first 2-3 sentences. This first paragraph should set-up the question you are about to answer for the reader and give them motivation to read all the way through.
Lead-in – Create a short introduction for the body of the text by introducing what’s to come, tying the motivation set in the opening paragraph to the in-depth content to come in the body.
Sub-headings – Separate sections of the article with subheadings. Note in this Three Deep blog article how there are subheadings which divide the article in sections so as a reader, I can quickly find or skip past sections.
Body – The middle of the article should have a few sections which go into descriptive detail to answer the questions posed in the title and introduction. Try to create content that gives readers a sort of “a-ha” moment which they can take away to tell someone else about what they learned in the article they just read.
Paragraphs shouldn’t be more than 4 or 5 lines on the page if possible. Large blocks of text can simply look like too much to read so try to break up paragraphs into discrete points.
Conclusion – Wrap up the blog by summarizing the points brought up in the introduction and body. If there is a takeaway to reinforce, do it here. Be sure there has been a call-to-action and if there hasn’t, place it here with a motivating point to take the next action.
Blogs don’t need to be long, but should be at least 400 words and can follow the 5-paragraph essay format taught in schools so that the points are effectively introduced, described, and wrapped up with a purpose given to the reader.
There are studies that show longer posts are ultimately more engaging and are more likely to convert an intended action, as well as rank higher in search engines. The reason for this is simple, the longer the post is, the more informative it likely becomes, and ultimately you have produced more value for more readers. Google and other search engines want to provide searchers with the best possible content, so they look for the most valuable content available.
Don’t make content length a roadblock to producing articles, though. Getting caught up with producing a large post can take time, and publishing a variety of short content around in-depth long-form content can keep your readers interested in your blog over time.
Search Engine Optimization shouldn’t be the main concern with writing a blog, but should guide a few basic things when producing a new post. Some elements of a blog that impact SEO, such as meta data and more listed below, may require navigating outside your website’s content management system blog post editor page.
- The post length described above, 300 words, is a number generally acknowledged as Google’s baseline for substantive, high-quality content length.
- Keywords should be derived the main subject of the article, but if you are creating your content from keyword research, that main descriptive phrase should be mentioned at least once in the body of the article and perhaps in a heading as well.
- Meta titles and descriptions of each post should be unique and motivating because these are the elements which Google looks for as the content to show a web page in search results.
- Your post should include at least one link to another page on your website. Using a focus keyword for the destination page, such as a product name, as the anchor text for the link is the best practice. For appearance reasons, the links shouldn’t be longer than 4 words if possible. Linking to the contact page is fine, but there should always be at least one link.
- Links to other websites should be set to open in a new window or tab so that the user isn’t taken away from your site on the click.
One concern of many people managing a blog is how often to post. The spectrum is wide and you may wonder whether a long post once a month is better than short posts several times per day.
There certainly isn’t a maximum posting frequency if you can maintain quality, that’s why news sites publish all day every day (see this article for some context). If you can publish every hour all day, you have suddenly become a high volume content publisher, which probably isn’t part of your marketing goals.
On the other hand publishing once per month may be considered less than the minimum for blogging frequency. Publishing frequently is meant to create more frequent visitation of your website, and ideally a loyal online audience that looks forward to your updates. Building an audience is definitely a business development model that has been successful for companies of all types, but it takes a lot of time and work through channels beyond a blog.
Writing a blog frequently will hopefully establish a voice for their brand, and if the stuff is good and they promote it well, it could pay dividends in organic and social reach, and perhaps in actual revenue. This is the mission of content marketing.
If you have enough content to publish all day, but it’s not substantive enough for full posts, you should try to be more active on social media. Posts that are more like press releases would be good announcements on social as well. A good way to post short content is to publish a “rundown” blog post like Three Deep does every Friday, including a list of links and short content snippets which they want to share.
Long story short, Google (and your customers) like when there is high quality content no matter what, and frequency doesn’t matter if the content stinks. The focus should be on creating good articles with relative frequency.
Using Multimedia Content
Do you have dreams of posting blogs with content more engaging than simply a bunch of words? Using multimedia content like photo galleries, slideshows, embedded videos, infographics, or some other interactive feature can be a great way to inject some depth into a blog post.
A lot of brands use embedded YouTube videos and SlideShare decks in their posts, but one mistake they sometimes make is to leave the visuals there by themselves. Words will add context to the visual content and can further entice the user to view to the end of the feature.
Also, you always need to wrap up with a CTA after showing media. This could simply be to view another video, but use CTA language to encourage further engagement with your company.
Go Forth and Blog!
With these instructions in your pocket, you should feel more confident and ready to become a great business blogger. Schedule some routine time for you to work on the content on your own or with your marketing team so you can start producing great articles that eventually turn readers into customers. The next step is promoting your content through marketing channels, but that is a subject for another article.
If you still feel stuck or just don’t have time for blogging, Three Deep Marketing can help you get out of the rut with a full scale content marketing plan.