You know you need to blog, but maybe you don’t know how to do it. Whether you’re launching a new business or want to refresh your brand’s digital presence, this blog will help you get started on creating content people actually want to read.
1. Set the groundwork
Before you start blogging, you have to cover the very basics. Ask yourself these questions:
- What’s your blog’s purpose?
- Who is your audience?
- What do you want to get out of it?
- What do you want your audience to get out of it?
- How are you going to host it? (WordPress, within your website, etc.)
Arguably the most important of these questions is “Who is your audience?” Your blogging audience likely fits the same profile as your customers. It’s crucial to understand who they are and what they need so you can consistently deliver content that is relevant and valuable to them.
2. Generate topic ideas
Start collecting ideas for new blog posts. You never know where inspiration may strike, so make it a habit to write down ideas as they come to you. Set up a Google Alert for industry-related topics. Reading other headlines can help shape your headlines, and you might even be able to glean a blog post inspired by a recent news story.
Another great source for topic ideas is your customers. Think about frequent questions you get from your customers or common concerns they have. You can easily come up with a few topics that address those questions and concerns.
3. Create an editorial calendar
How much time are you or someone on your team able to devote to writing blog content every week? You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. Sometimes, less is more, especially if that content is valuable.
It doesn’t matter if you post once a day or once a month, just as long as you’re doing it consistently and the final product is valuable.
An editorial calendar serves as a visual to-do list that shows all the content you’ve created, and all the content that’s to come. It also helps visualize dates so you can plan content around holidays, new product/service launches, special announcements, etc.
4. Find your voice
How do you want your blog to come across to readers? Blogging affords you a little more creative license than other media. Depending on your brand and industry, it might be OK to use more casual language, sentence fragments or even–gasp!–end a sentence with a preposition.
You don’t need to ignore the rules altogether à la e.e. Cummings. Just know that the rules of blogging are more flexible.
Whatever your voice, write like a human. Whether you’re writing a blog for an organic pet food company or a legal practice, write in a conversational, human tone. Readers can recognize disingenuous, promotional language from a mile away, and it’s a huge turnoff.
5. Focus on formatting
Blogging isn’t as simple as plunking away on a keyboard and clicking “Post.” You want readers to read your blog, and that requires formatting.
Studies on how users read online content have found that they don’t actually read at all. They scan. One study of five different writing styles found that a sample website “scored 58% higher in measured usability when it was written concisely, 47% higher when the text was scannable, and 27% higher when it was written in an objective style instead of the promotional style.”
Instead, we scan in an F-shaped pattern. By keeping this pattern and some blog formatting best practices in mind, you’ll be able to optimize your content for readers and search engines.
There are a few ways to make your text more scannable:
- Chunky text: Thick blocks of text just won’t do. Readers scan text waiting for keywords and hyperlinks to jump out at them, so in addition to peppering in keyword-rich words and phrases, break up text into chunky paragraphs–five lines or fewer–and make it easier to scan.
- Lists: Bulleted and numbered lists and bold, italicized and underlined text are simple ways to improve the scannability factor.
- Subheads: Bigger, bolder text stands out against body text. Subheads break up the overarching topic into more scannable sections. It presents content in a more organized, less overwhelming fashion. You can also incorporate keywords into subheads to boost search engine performance, but don’t go overboard–a term known as keyword stuffing.
6. Cut the fluff
Cutting text isn’t always easy, especially if you’re the one who wrote it, but think of it this way: It doesn’t take 45 minutes to describe the plot of a 45 minute TV episode. Say what you need to say using the fewest amount of words possible.
There’s probably a paragraph that isn’t completely relevant, a sentence that can be trimmed down, or wordiness that can be made more concise.
Once you’re finished writing, go back and trim down the article. Then trim it down again. Bullet points and numbered lists are also easy ways to trim down text.
7. Always include imagery
Use at least one image with your blog posts to break up the text and make it more visually appealing. This also helps social media pull imagery when sharing the blog on your social networks. Royalty-free images can be found on Flickr and Creative Commons.
8. End with a call-to-action
Blogging serves a dual purpose: to prove your credibility and value as a useful resource and to nurture readers into becoming clients. Your blog posts should end with some type of call to action, whether that’s to download a free guide, subscribe to your email list, learn more about your services or contact you for a free quote.
It can be difficult to blog on a consistent basis, especially if you aren’t confident in your writing chops or if you’re too busy running a business to spend a few hours a week blogging. Webconsuls is a digital strategy agency that specializes in content development. From topic generation to editorial calendar creation to churning out blogs on a weekly basis, we can help design a strategy that gets your business on track and improves search rankings.
Contact a Webconsuls Managing Partner directly at 949.701.4714 for a free consultation.