Blogging can be an amazing marketing tool if you do it well. If you don’t have a blog on your website you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to promote your product or service. If you do have a blog, but don’t approach it the right way, you may not be driving much traffic to your website.
If you’re just getting started with a blog for your business, or if you find that your blog isn’t generating much traffic, then here are some tips for you.
Common Challenges When Beginning A Blog for Your Business
Okay, writing 101, especially for those of us who are perfectionists and procrastinators: just get started! Starting is usually the hardest part of any project. It’s super common to feel anxious or even paralyzed when beginning a writing project. Especially if it is not something you do regularly. Worrying too much about the results can stop you before you even start.
Don’t get stuck worrying about how the final product will be received. That’s where most of the anxiety comes from—worrying that it won’t be good enough. They key is to recognize that most good writing comes from revision. But first you need something on the page to revise!
So don’t agonize over every thought or sentence. Just get going and you can revisit it later. A trick I like to use is to pretend that I’m never going to show my writing to anyone. That helps me get out of my head and put something on the page. Then I’ve got something to work with.
Not Enough Knowledge or Topic Research
Most likely, you’ll need to know a lot about something before you can write about it. Solid content creates real value for the reader. Unless you’re already an expert on the topic this will require some research. There are a few ways to approach this and the best method will depend on your own needs and style.
Generally you should do some preliminary research before you start writing. Some people like to do most or all of the research before writing anything. But beware of rabbit holes! Endless research can be an excuse to put off actually writing.
You may want to do just enough research to get started. Create an outline. Once you know enough about the topic to start breaking it into pieces you’ll probably start to notice a natural ordering and hierarchy of ideas.
There’s no ‘right’ way to organize most topics, but it should make sense. Focus on moving from broad to narrow ideas. Once you have a list of the main ideas you can start filling in sub-topics. These will become the main headings and subheadings in your blog.
The research process is dynamic. Writing about a new topic helps me identify weak spots in my knowledge. As I continue researching and revising these areas I’m able to flesh out my understanding. You should play with this until you find the approach that works for you.
Not Making Your Reader Care About the Topic
Never take for granted that the reader cares about what you are writing or that they will understand why you think it is important. Your reader shouldn’t be able to read your blog and wonder “so what?”
Consider your topic and ask yourself who should care and why? Then, answer that question for the reader, clearly and explicitly. The Content Factory recommends doing this from the very first line, pointing out that:
“if you don’t give [readers] a reason to care about your article, they’re going to get that information or solve that problem somewhere else.”
Your readers will have a specific question in mind. Anticipate that question or issue and explain how your blog resolves it for them.
Not Optimizing for Search Engines (SEO)
More on this later, but if you’re not considering SEO you’re missing out on one of the main ways to increase your target audience. Your blog needs to be written in a way that encourages search engines to rank it highly. You want it to appear in search results. Otherwise you will have to rely almost entirely on content marketing, ads, and other proactive means of getting people to your website and blog.
Editing and Revision
In the end, don’t be afraid of doing a lot of editing. You may be reluctant to throw out any of the writing that you spent so much time on. Just remember that this is part of the process. Pretend that you are editing someone else’s work and be ruthless!
A blog should generally be streamlined and direct. Remember that great writing comes from revision!
Components of a Great Blog
There is no single formula for a blog, but there are a few things that successful blogs have in common.
Provide Valuable Content
Providing real value to your readers is the most important aspect of a great blog. Solid content is key to developing a following or creating the kind of trust that generates leads for your business. It’s also one of the ways to help get your blog to rank in web searches (more on this below). Giving away your knowledge is one of the best ways to provide value. Jay Baer, author of Youtility, calls this giving away “information snacks” in order to “sell information meals.”
Select Your Topic With Care
If you are blogging as a marketing tool, then you want to connect your blog topic to the product or service you’re promoting. If you have a legal practice, write a blog about one of the issues you address in your practice. If you have a line of health products then you might write about health issues—something addressed by your product line. If you’re blogging for a restaurant you might write about seasonal foods and a type of cuisine you serve.
Even though you’re using your blog for marketing never lose sight of your goal to provide real value to your readers.
Maintain a sharp focus within each post. Each blog post should focus on a clear, single topic. If you find yourself beginning to stray you may need to break things up into two or more separate posts. This is important for readability and for SEO.
You also want to maintain focus across blog posts. Select topics with an eye toward the long-term. Consider writing a series of related posts and creating internal links between them to keep readers on your site. You want to be able to post consistently, and on topics that are of interest to your audience.
If your topics are all over the place it’s harder to build a following. Blogging is something that pays off in the long term by building a community and by ranking over time in search engines (See Andy Crestodina’s “Content Chemistry”).
Craft Catchy Headlines
People don’t read blogs the way they read books. Readers will jump around the page and decide very quickly whether or not to continue reading. Catchy headlines help captivate readers and get them to actually dive into the content. Dave Kerpin of Likeable Local recommends crafting headlines that are “simple, powerful, useful and bold” (or “SPUB”).
Consider Style and Formatting
Remember, you don’t read a webpage the way you read a book. There are some basic strategies that make writing more approachable to readers.
People skip around on web pages. Creating an appealing visual aesthetic can make it easier for readers to navigate your blog, holds their interest, and emphasizes key points. This means that it contributes to people actually READING your blog!
Some style and formatting tips to focus on:
- Break up long paragraphs
- Use bullets and numbers
- Use quotes and graphics in between chunks of writing
Optimizing for Search Engines (SEO)
Whether you’re writing for fun or for marketing, you want people to read your blog. That’s only going to happen if your blog appears in people’s search results. So you need to optimize it for search engines. This is known as Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.
Search engines use algorithms to “rank” web pages. That’s what determines whether your blog appears on the first page of someone’s search results or way down the list where they’ll never see it.
Pages are ranked according to a number of factors, including relevance and credibility. In order to determine this ranking, search algorithms consider (among other things):
- KEYWORDS: Keywords (especially long-tail keywords) are one of the primary ways for search algorithms to determine your page’s relevance. You should do some keyword research and use them in a natural context to craft your title, headings, and text. Don’t engage in “keyword stuffing.”
- LENGTH: For SEO purposes you want your blog to be in the range of 1200-3500 words. According to Medium, a popular blogging platform, the ideal length is around 1600 words.
- BACKLINKS: Backlinks are citations from other sites. Getting other sites to link to yours is one of the best ways to boost your website authority.
- INTERNAL LINKS: Internal links (links to other pages on your website) boosts your website authority and its organic performance. Make sure that your links lead to topics that are highly relevant.
- TIME: The longer people stay on your page, the more reliable and relevant it will appear to search engines. This can be increased with internal citations, content length, quality, relevance and a variety of other factors.
If you want readers to find your blog you need it to appear in the top of their query search results. That will not happen if you’re not taking advantage of SEO best practices.
Include a Great Call to Action
Always include a call to action (CTA). This doesn’t have to be complicated, but it’s important. This is where you create conversions, get followers, or build an email list. It can be as simple as a “follow” button or a link to your landing page. The call to action is how you bring your reader to the next step in their journey to your product or service.
A CTA is usually at the bottom of the post. People today seem pretty immune to sidebars. Try providing a way for people to subscribe to your blog so you can start building an email list!
Keep these tips in mind and play with writing a few blog posts. You may find you enjoy it. Like most things, you will improve with practice. If you find that it’s not for you, that’s okay too. If you don’t enjoy blogging yourself, hiring a good content writer is a great alternative.
Jonathan Courtney is a legal consultant and content writer specializing in topics on law, sociology, mental health and wellness. If you’re interested in hiring him as a content writer or guest blogger, please contact him via email.