We do a lot of blogging, for ourselves and for clients. In our view, blogging should form a central part of any content strategy, alongside video and other compelling visual media.
Blogging drives traffic, lead generation and conversion by providing clear value to prospects; it demonstrates the culture and personality of an organisation to potential employees; and it plays a significant role in driving search engine rankings. In short, it works.
But if blogging has all these benefits, why do so many companies do it so badly?
I often ask myself this question and usually after looking at some company websites. It just seems that in the majority of cases, blogging is done very poorly, so much so in fact, I rarely get beyond the introduction before clicking off.
I have several theories as to why this is, but I won’t discuss them for fear of ranting. What is perhaps more constructive, is to list a few points that might make your blogging more effective.
So, here we go …
Start with a strong premise
Can you summarise the argument of your proposed blog post in a single sentence? If not, chances are you don’t have a strong enough premise. This will result one of two scenarios; firstly, you have no blog at all. Secondly, if you do try to write a post based on a weak or convoluted premise, it will take all day to tease the argument out, and the chances are the end result will be mediocre.
If you don’t have a strong premise, do some research on what will be helpful to your prospects because no one wants to invest time reading something that doesn’t have a proportionate pay off.
The worst blogging strategy ever is ‘I need to write a blog today, what can I write about’. However, it seems to be the most popular!
This approach is unlikely to lead to anything truly valuable or timely as you’ll go with the first idea that pops into your head.
Don’t be that person. Make a content schedule, an editorial calendar. Fill it in with what you’re going to write about when. That way, you’ll never be stuck for ideas.
This doesn’t mean don’t be reactive to things in your environment that change; you have to remain flexible. It just means you won’t be scratching your head for topics to write about.
Oh, and of course, always consider lead times. If you flog winter coats, no point waiting until the cold weather comes to start talking about them, because you’ll have missed the boat.
Learn to write
This is an obvious one, but I make no apologies for including it in the list. Everyone who left school with a C or above in GSCE English thinks they can write. Sadly, most cannot. Or at least, not straight away.
The good news, however, is that with practice, pretty much anyone can write.
Concentrate on clarity, economy of words, grammar and develop a degree of finesse (that will come with time) and you will know your craft well enough to put your ideas across coherently.
Be Hemingway. Don’t be Proust
Learning to write is important but learning to write right is even more so. Marcel Proust might be hailed as thegenius of Modernist literature, but jeez he’s hard to read! His sentences go on forever; they twist and turn like an agitated taipan. His thoughts, channelled into some seemingly random stream of consciousness, often fill 20 pages. He challenges the reader.
When writing blogs, your job is to challenge the reader too, but with your ideas, not your writing style.
Hemingway, by contrast, was a newspaper man by trade. He was equally as brilliant as Proust but subscribed to the ‘never waste a word’ style of writing.
Be Hemingway. Don’t be Proust.
Do your research
We all like to think we’re choked to the brim with original thoughts and ideas, but sadly, we’re not. There’s little new under the sun. It’s 2019. Everything has been invented. All any of us can do is the same things slightly differently, or slightly better.
That said, there’s few things more (professionally) embarrassing than having someone point out just how unoriginal your ideas are. So do a bit of research first, just to make sure they pass muster.
Oh, and before you say it, yes, this blog is unoriginal. There’s loads of advice on writing blogs on the internet and this probably brings little new to that. But I wanted to have my twopenneth worth anyway, because the message hasn’t sunk in to a lot of companies!
Relate your blogs to your products and services
Again, a fairly obvious one, and it should be covered by your content calendar. But I see a lot of employee-written blogs that are little or nothing to do with the products or services the company provides. Often, they’re about their ‘passions’ or some such similar irrelevancy.
If you want to talk about your passions, start a personal blog and write it in your own time. Any blogs written for the company should be focused on delivering value to prospects, being helpful, and encourage them to convert.
To do this, you must provide solutions to their problems, both in terms of the products and services you offer, and the content you publish.
Include calls to action (CTA)
Ultimately, the point of a blog is to pique an interest in the reader and get them to take an action. That action is usually converting into a lead on your website. You do this by being helpful and offering value.
Including CTAs guides the reader towards taking an action. Without them, they’re more likely to just click off after reading the blog.
Don’t get me wrong, CTAs won’t convert every reader, but if your content is interesting, relevant and helpful enough, they will convert some readers. Some is more than none, so include CTAs.
Don’t forget SEO
As some of my colleagues will attest, I have a love-hate relationship with writing optimised copy. I’m an artist don’t you know, and I’m damned if I’m going to let a machine tell me how to write!
But, artistic pretentions aside, ignore it at your peril. Writing optimised copy gives your content a far longer tailwind and will continue paying dividends long after the blog is published.
So, if like me, you have artistic pretentions, you’ll have to get over yourself. If, also like me, you want to express your inner Tolstoy, do it in your own time.
Don’t spend too much time doing it
Blogging is effective, there’s no doubt about that. But if it takes you all day to turn your wonderful idea into 800 – 1,200 words of coherent prose then perhaps its not for you.
It’s probably more cost effective to outsource blog writing or drop it altogether from your marketing strategy.
Finally, enjoy the process
Blogging is a brilliant way of understanding and advancing your own thoughts. It enables you to test your ideas and teaches you to slow down and really unpick what you think about things. If often leads to ideas for new blogs.
It also enables you to better articulate your ideas in person, if you’ve spent time writing them down.
Producing a well written, coherent and persuasive article is a very satisfying accomplishment too, and one that will help your business succeed and grow. So, once you’ve finished your blog, get it online, promote it and watch your hard work pay off.
Blogging is a great lead generation strategy. For more lead generation ideas, download our eBook below.