Writing a blog has become a mainstay marketing strategy for many small business owners. Unfortunately, it’s also become a mainstay source of angst and aggravation for many who see it as a distraction from their core business.
There’s no doubt that a successful and popular blog can be a key driver in building awareness of your brand and stoking interest in your service. But blogging done badly can make a mess of your messaging, destroy your productivity, and undermine your efforts elsewhere.
Blogging can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. That it becomes a pain for some businesses is usually a result of them not having a clear understanding of what they’re trying to achieve with their blog.
Here are five basic rules about blogging to keep in mind:
As with all marketing strategies: for a blog to succeed, it must connect to a business goal. For instance, if you want your business to be recognised as an authority in a particular area, your blog must be designed to reinforce that goal.
Business owners seeking to establish a reputation as innovators in technology or data analysis are probably not going to gain much traction with eye-glazing treatises about their family holidays, homespun philosophies, or favourite recipes.
So: if you’re thinking of starting a blog, make sure every post connects to your proposition. For the example above, a blog post could still concern a family holiday; but it should then use that as a springboard to look at — for example — apps that aggregate information about popular resorts.
For non-professional communicators and marketers, developing a regular writing habit is easier if you have a structure, or a set of structures, to work with. Coming up with an original idea for each post will still be a creative challenge, but it becomes less taxing if you can work to an established template.
A list structure, as we’re using here, is a good example of such a template. For the reader, this structure presents the information in a clear and digestible way; and for the writer, this allows you to address a number of points without having to come up with elaborate (and potentially clunky) ways of connecting them.
Another template you could use is — Anecdote, Problem, Solution. This is a simple storytelling structure, whereby you take something that happened to you in an everyday solution (like a holiday), identify a problem (struggling to find the ideal resort), and then offer the solution to that problem (the app that compiles resort information).
A third template — ideal if you’re short on time or inspiration — is to ‘top and tail’ existing content. So, you might share a short YouTube video, adding a two or three paragraph intro and ‘back-announcing’ it with a take-out message.
The headline plays a crucial role in drawing your reader in. Devising good headlines is an art form, but even amateurs can improve their output by following a few simple principles.
Writing for the Content Marketing Institute, Barry Feldman came up with an ‘A to Z’ of useful techniques and short pieces of advice for crafting a compelling headline. Among them: challenging common myths or misconceptions, using a quote from the content as an effective teaser for the full version, or drawing a reader in with a surprising statistic.
Ultimately, it’s best to keep the headline short and snappy; and asking a question that your content promises to answer can be a simple and effective way of capturing your audience’s
The old cliché about a picture being worth a thousand words is true. Alongside the headline, it’s the picture that will bring people to your blog. Once you’re established, of course, people will seek out your thoughts and insights. But you need to grab their attention first.
Where to find pictures, though? There are dozens of online sources that provide free images for social media. Check out this post from Hootsuite for a few suggestions.
Ultimately, you want people to do something with the information provided, even if that’s only to share it on their social media channels.
But you can also use a blog to promote engagement. Ask people about their experiences. Link the blog to an online survey, which in turn can generate more content. Invite them to an information evening. Ask them to register for your newsletter.
Whatever you do, you want the blog post to be the start of a conversation.
Blogging takes time to get right. But it’s a lot easier if you follow these simple rules. Be clear about your goal, develop a structure, write a punchy headline, incorporate compelling visuals, and include a call-to-action.
Now get writing!