10 Killer Business Blogging Tips You Can't Live Without (Until You Can)
With so many blog-tips blog posts to choose from, you'd think as many people issue blogging tips as write blogs. In fact, there's probably even more business blogging experts than parenting experts floating around the ether.
Don't get me wrong, I love internet advice. I used to suck up as many parenting articles as I could on a mission to find the one magical key to sleep, the universe and avoiding judgemental stares that turned out to be just my own sense of inadequacy reflecting back at me.
And then one night it suddenly became clear: when it comes to raising kids, there's no single right answer to make it all easy. You've just got to believe in yourself, get on with it and hope for the best.
It's the same with blogging. You can (and should) read all the advice you can tolerate, but always ask yourself whether it's the right advice for you, because the more confidently you forge your own path, develop your voice and tailor your message, the more successful you'll be.
It's ironic then that I've put together a list of 10 essential blogging tips to help you get started, get comfortable, find your voice, then disregard once you've found your stride.
1. Have a goal
Way before you start to write, think about your strategy. Who are you writing for and what are you trying to achieve? No matter how much you enjoy it, writing takes time that could be spent doing other things. It has to return on your investment.
Each and every post should contribute to your core message. Personally, I want to help small businesses achieve their online goals. This post contributes to my core message by providing blogging and content marketing tips. By helping small businesses, I raise my profile with people I know need the kind of services I provide.
This advanced content marketing guide from Quicksprout has loads of specific, actionable tips on defining your target audience and your blogging goal, and deciding how your content will help you achieve that goal. It takes some work to set up, but once you've defined your goals and built a calendar to guide you, blogging will take less time and you'll be more likely to keep it up.
2. Pay attention to structure
This one is short and sweet:
- State the benefits of reading the post in the introduction.
- Break up your content into short paragraphs and obvious sub-headings so readers scanning the post can see what's in it.
- Summarise what you just said at the end. Reiterate the most important take-away piece of advice as a gung-ho call to action.
3. Talk to one reader
Something Terry Wogan did so well on the radio works just as well in a blog post: imagine you're talking to just one person. Not your entire audience, just one of them. Create a picture of that person in your head. Who are they and what tone do they expect you to take? What prompted them to read your post?
Now boost your confidence by imagining that one reader is your biggest fan. They think you're an awesome writer and they look to you for help and advice.
Talking to one person makes it easier to find your own voice, to trust yourself and your knowledge, and get on and say it. There are millions of tips out there for finding your authentic voice. The best one? Practice, practice, practice.
4. Forget advertising
The web was born with a dream. It was to be the great leveller, giving the man on the street, the politician and the multinational corporation equal opportunity to be heard.
It was the 90s, and everything was going to be AWESOME.
Fast forward 20 years and those values pretty much still hold true. Businesses are still expected to act and talk like people on the web. The traditional hard sell simply doesn't work, unless it's backed by a big pile of kindness, generosity and sharing.
If you fill your blog posts with adverts for your business, you'll turn people off, so try not to mention your business at all.
Some of the best marketing advice websites (I like Moz.com and convinceandconvert.com) make little or no reference to their own revenue stream. They've demonstrated their expertise so completely that they have little need to market their services at all. They get paid to speak and write, and they've got companies with great big budgets banging their doors down.
I find the odd ‘if you need help with this, just ask' works a treat.
5. Analyse performance
If you don't measure it, you can't improve it. Decide which metrics are important to you and add columns to your content calendar to track them. I don't monitor much apart from traffic to each post and shares on social, because my blog is currently fairly small.
If you copy all your content to Medium.com you can get stats about how many people read to the end of the your articles, allowing you to check which topics, intros and subject lines work best. You also open up your content to a new audience.
6. Start anywhere
Writing is always 99% editing. No matter how beautiful the first sentence that spills out of your pen, it should never look the same three hours later.
It isn't like painting a wall, where you start at the left and carefully paint until you reach the right. Writing is like starting in the middle of the wall with a few scruffy strokes, then filling in a bit at the beginning, a bit at the end, then scribbling and scribbling with that roller until it looks perfect.
Start with a few words then flesh them out into notes, swap them around, add to them, swap them around again, wait until the next day, do a bit more research, add some more notes and start knocking it into shape. All of a sudden you'll find a complete article staring back at you.
7. Make it long and rich
Attention spans are famously short on the web — so much so that the traditional blog post length recommendation is just 600 words — but good quality content captivates whatever the medium. In fact, the longer the post, the better your content could perform.
Of course, don't just witter on to get your word count up. Spend at least a day (or a day's worth of hours) on every post, researching ever deeper to find those juicy stats and ‘aha' inducing facts.
8. Draw your readers in with an angle
At least 60% of people who land on an article never make it to the end. In fact, an average of 40% will click away before reading a single word. The headline and the first few paragraphs of text are therefore critical to drawing a reader in and making them stick with you.
It's essential to be clear from the off about how your article will benefit your reader. More than that though, you have to suck them in with a story, or, at least, the writing equivalent of offering your readers a cup of tea before you get into the meat of the post.
You could start with:
- A fact or stat they're unlikely to know already, which alludes to even more delicious factoids in the body of the post.
- A personal experience that acts as a metaphor for what you're talking about (start with an anecdote).
- Something going on in the news or media that teaches us about your subject (‘What Star Wars can teach us about content marketing').
If you copy your posts to Medium.com, which ones get the most reads to the end? Is it the articles you expected? Was it the subjects, the articles with the meatiest stats, or the posts with the best stories and anecdotes?
9. Make up some new clichés
You don't have to be a great writer to blog, but here's a little trick to make your writing more interesting. Forget the clichés — our brains skip over them. They add nothing to your copy, and may even make it less likely to be read.
Although no one likes an old cliché, they really like a new one. Make up new phrases by sticking a few old ones together. Do it last. Once you've written an article with a structure that works, fiddle with the phrasing.
10. Throw all the tips away and do what feels right
Should all blogs be clear, impeccably structured, 2000-word epics full of well-researched facts and figures? Most of them, yes. But it's not the only way.
I know someone whose professional blog has become a phenomenal success without a single listicle or scary headline. He writes about what he does for a living, mainly, but he also writes when he goes on holiday, has a day out or goes shopping. His headlines are vague. He starts every post with a rambling summary of the last few hours, without even attempting to allude to the body of the post.
The reason for his success? His authentic voice shines through absolutely everything he writes. He writes for no one, with no rules. And every one of his hundreds of readers and customers feel like he's writing just for them.
So there you have it. 10 essential killer blogging tips you can't live without for you to take very seriously then forget.