If you’ve ever wondered “how do I write a blog post?” you’re not alone. I probably get asked this question more than any other in my business. Our clients know that a blog is a great vehicle to tell their stories, answer questions and help their customers and followers, it’s just the doing it, that’s the hard part.
We’ve had many phone meetings to help our clients get the blog ball rolling. Finally we’ve coalesced all these calls into a top tips, how-to that we hope will help ignite the writer in you.
If you’re new to blogging, your blog is lying dormant, or you’re questioning your ability to do this blog thing, this article is for you.
Since we have convinced nearly all of our clients that they could benefit from a blog, it is incumbent on me to coach, cheer-lead, and sometimes even cajole our clients to jump in and get writing. There are so many benefits, three important ones I wrote about in a separate article.
But you’re already convinced. You know that your blog is your vehicle, your opportunity to connect with your audience whoever they are – customers, members, your community or prospects. You know how important a great blog is and the benefits it can deliver.
So without further adieu, here are my top tips:
While there are certainly great tips for writing better blog posts, the wonderful thing about a blog is that it is free of the dictates of other forms of communications. If a press release reads like this…
then a blog post sounds more like this…
While media releases are as dry as melba toast (apologies to the melba lovers among us), your blog frees you to speak with a more natural voice. I often tell clients to think about how they speak with their customers on the phone or over drinks (the first drink). The first example is how robots speak to one another and is exactly what you want to avoid.
Whatever your voice – even for more conservative audiences, no one seeks out stuffy, overly formal content over drinks or online.
Putting your audience first means they may come back for more
Putting your readers first is they key to building a following. Knowing your audience and catering to them is key. Your goal should be to write truly informative and helpful content. So instead of talking about your company and your products and why your solutions are best, turn it around to focus on how they benefit your audience. The example above shows how even though you’re still announcing your new bacon products, you’ve made it all about your customers. But now it’s just a lot more interesting.
Here are some examples of reader-focused posts:
- How to’s (how to use your product or service in a beneficial or creative way)
- Share your expertise with your audience to help improve their lives and careers
- Share an idea that has worked for someone else
- Highlight a customer success (and take a few subtle bows yourself)
- Share your opinion – on something focused in your industry and become a thought leader
How long is a blog post?
We get asked this question all the time and my answer is that a post is as long as it needs to be.
If you’re providing a how-to on an area of your software or some other technical process, your readers will benefit from your detailed explanation. If you’re posting a picture of your team at an industry trade show with a few lines of explanation, that works too. There are definitely search engine benefits to having at least a few sentences for each post. And for longer posts be sure to re-read what you write and edit out what isn’t absolutely necessary to make your point. Meandering tangents are tedious.
Try to keep your posts specific. You don’t need to crack all the mysteries of the world in one post. Develop a laser focus and break your ideas up into different posts that you link to from each one. That’s the beauty of a blog.
Write with clarity
This may seem obvious but working with so many different organizations, we offer the perspective of the outsider, the audience, questioning the meaning of jargon and acronyms. Sometimes clients’ in-depth knowledge of their own products and services leads to assumptions that everyone else gets what they’re talking about when often that’s not the case. Knowing your audience will help you to gauge your content but it may also help to err on the side of super clarity.
As I try to improve my writing with every effort, I often sit back after banging out my content and remember what my initial intent was. The internal conversation is something like this: “the point I was trying to make is everybody struggles with finding their voice at first. Did I get it across succinctly?” Circle back to your original objective and evaluate your content against it.
Who should write the articles?
Depending on the size and skills within your organization, it may be one person (the owner, head of marketing and communications or the head of sales) or in the case of some of our clients, it’s a collaborative affair with different contributors representing various departments of the business. For example one client has contributors from all areas of the firm: support, sales, leadership, and the marketing team.
Delegating the blog to the new student intern is probably not a great idea despite her “awesome social media cred”.
Whether you’re the lone contributor or you have a number of voices, what matters is that each contributor can communicate effectively and that each voice reflects the overall voice, message and style of the firm.
Delegating the blog to the new student intern is probably not a great idea despite her “awesome social media cred”. Choose the people who know the company, its products and its community best – and can communicate it.
For your blog to take off, you must commit to contributing new posts regularly. This is the hard part. You’re busy doing what you do but here’s something to keep in mind: the more you write, the easier it will become. It’s like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Here are some suggestions to help you commit:
- Create a list of ideas for future posts – I have a list in Google Drive and every time I think about a topic I think would be useful to my clients, I add it at that moment. When I’m ready to write my next post, I have a list of ideas, ready to choose from.
- Set goals and schedules – This may be an either/or suggestion. If you set a goal to add one, well-written, useful post per week, then you’ve got a week to make it happen. For others, it may help to say, I’m writing a new post every Tuesday morning. Whatever works for you, embrace it.
- Let your subscribers know in your newsletter or on Twitter that you’ll be publishing a new article every week (or every day depending on your commitment). Sometimes committing publicly is all you need to follow through.
Keep them reading: break your copy up into sections with scan-able, interesting sub-titles and other eye-grabbing tools
Are you still with me? Because this is a rather long post. If you are, then thank you for your interest! Part of your amazing stick-to-it-ness may be owing to the use of sub-titles that break up the article into meaningful topics encouraging you to read on. Creating lists with bullets and the use of block quotes, much like you see in newspaper and magazine articles, are also key to hooking the reader.
Images can also attract attention to the article and entice you to read more. We try to incorporate a photo, illustration or screen capture, depending on the subject matter in every post.
Listen, assess and create
Once you’ve committed to your blog and you are creating various types of blog posts, listen to what your audience is saying. Read the comments being made or the questions being asked in the comments below each post. They may point you to new conversations. If you’re not getting many comments, take a look at your Google analytics and see what posts and what type of posts have the most views. It will help you focus your efforts on the content your audience finds most interesting.
In future posts about blogging we’ll talk about the nuts of bolts of writing better blog posts and promoting them.
Do you have any questions that we didn’t cover in this blogging 101 article?