in other words

Blog Series: Create a Winning Blog | Part Two: How to Get Started

Carte Blanche - Monday, January 12, 2015

Welcome to Part Two of How to Create a Winning Blog! In case you missed it, please ensure you catch Part One before reading on...

So you’ve made the decision to create your blog, now it’s about putting a comprehensive plan in place to guarantee its success. How frequently can you afford to post? What will you write about? How will you find out what your audience wants to know? Like any key business strategy item, if your blog is to be successful, it takes some careful planning before diving in all guns a-blazin’!

What do you want to achieve?

Set out some achievable goals. As time progresses and from one year to the next, you’ll find that these evolve, but initially it’s always a good idea to think about what you hope to gain within a 12 and 24 month period. Then, review these goals every 6 months or so to see that you’re on track. If unforeseen circumstances dictate that your business starts to head in a different direction, simply revise them.

Some initial questions to help determine your blogging goals might include:

- What’s the company’s mission? What are the vision and ideals founded upon?

- What do you want to tell people about your business?

- Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. Which questions are asked most often? What would they like to hear more about?

- How would you normally convert a warm lead to a sale, and how could you apply this to your blog?

- Identify the gaps that exist in the market at the moment. How will you capitalize on them?

While this list isn’t exhaustive, hopefully it will get you started with developing some rudimentary thoughts on paper and, from there, a rough draft of topics to write about. Make sure this process happens with all the relevant business employees / writers. It’s really important you’re a) on the same page, and b) writing in the correct (and consistent) tone of voice suited to your business.

Do your research

Take a look at your physical competitors’ blogs i.e. the ones you hear about from customers, clients or general reputation. What are they blogging about? How are their posts being received? What’s generating the most buzz? Now look at your online competitors. These are the guys who have invested in their online marketing. You’ll know who they are just by tapping in a few key words into the search bar and seeing who pops up on the first page of results.

Notice how the search words relate directly to the blog post topics?

Now, go back to your rough plan and revise the blog topics again.

Stick to a schedule (no excuses!)

Developing a schedule or a calendar of blog posts is absolutely crucial if you want your blog to succeed. How often you blog is dependent on your resources. Larger companies with content teams might blog several times a day, but for a smaller business it’s totally acceptable to post once a week, or at a minimum every fortnight.

Google favours blogs that are posted regularly, on the same day – and if possible – at around the same time. The added bonus to this is that, as you start to develop a following, your readers will know to look out for your blog post at the same time each week. Build the anticipation in the lead up to the publication via social media. At the end of each post, give them a taster of what to expect in next week’s blog.

Once the schedule’s locked in, ensure all relevant parties have access to it and are clear on their respective roles. Excel works best for me, but if you’re more of a visual person, a hanging calendar works just as well!

Weave your wondrous web

With each blog post you publish, try and link a piece of it to another post or webpage within your site. Think of your blog posts as a huge intertwining web rather than a linear collection of articles. For SEO purposes, Google favours posts which link to other blog posts or web pages on your site. And for the average user, they’ll be more inclined to explore your site, in turn discovering more valuable information about you!

For example, let’s say you’re publishing an article on 10 Top Trends you expect to see within your sector next year. As you’re writing the blog post, you realise you’ve previously written articles about some of the specific trends you’re predicting. Make sure you hyperlink back to these posts. As you start to weave your web, you’ll dovetail and revive material whilst simultaneously encourage browsers to spend more time on your site.

Think about how you’ll promote it

So the content for your blog is planned, and the schedule in place. Now, as part of your extended content marketing plan, you’ll need to promote the blog to ensure people know it’s there and have an easy link with which to reach it. This may well include an email that’s sent out to your database, but it should also take into account social media.

There exists a plethora of differing opinions when it comes to social media and its effectiveness on professional businesses. If I’m honest, I was very hesitant when it came to creating my Facebook page. It’s called ‘social media’ for a reason, after all, and I didn’t expect to generate any direct returns from it. But… social media provides a forum with which to promote your blog (and other fun things), and makes it super easy for people to click straight to it. Google is also a fan, and the more it sees people clicking through to your site from external pages, the higher you’ll rise in its organic rankings.

As part of your social media plan then, ensure you allow for promoting blog posts through your appropriate social media channels. Sharing is caring!

Next stop: My top tips on writing blog content in the final part of of the series “How to create a winning blog”!

Can I help you with your blog? Get in touch. I’m very friendly.

image courtesy of erinzam

Blog Series: Create a Winning Blog | Part One: Why Blog

Carte Blanche - Monday, December 29, 2014

Blogging can be incredibly valuable to both individuals and businesses alike, for a host of compelling reasons. For the purposes of not boring you to tears in encyclopaedic fashion, I’m focusing on just one: How a blog will directly win you customers and grow your business. In my writing for clients’ blogs, as well as researching for my own, I realised that it took quite a bit of time to develop the necessary groundwork – so, I thought it might be a good idea to break down the jargon and share my thoughts and ideas. A blog really can have a direct and positive impact on the growth of your business!

In Part One, I explore the reasons WHY every business needs a blog, but make sure you stay tuned for Part Two: How to Plan and Research, and Part Three: How to Write Shareable Content.

Why blog?

Starting a blog can sometimes feel a little daunting. It’s a window into the personality of your business. What if people don’t like you or what you have to say? What if your competitors see your musings and hijack your ideas? And… how will you find anything to write about?

While all valid questions, blogging has become so instrumental to a successful digital strategy that only companies who would not want to grow their business, would deliberately choose not to have one. Just to clarify in case you missed that: If you don’t want your business to grow, you won’t need a blog! Blogging as a marketing activity, has grown instrumentally since it first came on the scene, and it’s still continuing to grow. Reasons businesses prioritise blogging include loyal readership, increased brand loyalty and improved lead conversions. 82% of marketers who blog daily, and 57% of marketers who blog monthly, acquired a customer using their blog (HubSpot State of Inbound, 2013).

Writing a blog breathes life into your business, and gives your customers another vantage point from which to understand you. By offering tips, sharing articles and proffering opinions on your area of expertise, it demonstrates a subtle confidence to be respected, as well as an insight into your personality that builds a closer bond with your audience.

Plus, while all this feel-good stuff is happening, blogging simultaneously becomes a fabulous lead generator.

Still not convinced? Check out the facts:

• 84% of inbound marketers - compared to only 9% of outbound marketers - cite organic sources (blogging, SEO, social media) as rising in importance. (HubSpot State of Inbound, 2014)

• 86% of consumers stated that using a search engine allowed them to learn something new or important that helped him/her increase his/her knowledge. (Pew Research Center, Search Engine Use 2012)

• 79% of companies that have a blog report a positive ROI for inbound marketing in 2013. (HubSpot State of Inbound, 2013)

How do blogs increase web traffic?

The reason for the increased web traffic and leads stems from improved search engine optimisation (SEO). Your blog posts increase the amount of indexed pages related to your business, which Google subsequently presents to prospective clients when they search for relevant topics. In other words, the more regularly and frequently you post on subjects relevant to your industry, the more Google will recognise you as a subject-matter expert, thereby improving your organic rankings during searches. When 60% of all organic clicks go to the organic top 3 search results (Business2Community), would you agree this was marketing activity worth investing in?

By optimising your titles, tags and descriptions with targeted key words, Google indexes the posts and drives traffic to your website. The best bit is that blogging is a gift that keeps on giving! Unlike an ad, your blog post stays live on your site until you physically remove it, so prospective clients can continue to find you months, and even years, after you post. The long term ROI far outweighs that of above the live advertising activity.

How do blogs generate leads?

SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate (Search Engine Journal). This is because a blog provides a safe place for prospective clients to read about your business and services / product. As a forum where they’re not being directly ‘sold’ to, and one where they’re learning something that is of interest, casual web browsers are more likely to engage with your call to action, in turn becoming a qualified lead. Data indicates the majority of us would prefer to learn about a company through an article, compared to an ad, which makes sense! A blog then, provides valuable real estate for a call to action, as you’re communicating directly with an already captive audience who trust the information you are setting out.

Interesting content will win over your clients

Why does anyone follow a brand, business or individual’s activity online? Because it inspires, educates or entertains. By tapping into your audience’s motivational triggers, you can create content that will keep them coming back to your website for more. (Make sure you read Part 3 of the series for tips on what content works!) Bear in mind that blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to gain traction with Google’s indexing process, as it relies on regular posts by you on varied topics relevant to your sector. Your blogs will have a highest return when they are published consistently over an extended period of time.

Check out my web and blog copywriting services here, or if you’d like to have a conversation about how I can help you with your blog, please get in touch! And don’t forget to keep an eye out for Part Two – How to Plan and Research your Blog!

Five Reasons to Hire a Freelance Copywriter

Carte Blanche - Friday, December 12, 2014

To set the record straight, copywriters don’t automatically assume they’re the only ones capable of stringing a sentence together. And clearly, when it comes to knowing your business, no one knows it better than you. So why, having already invested sums of cash on graphic designers, web developers and sales specialists, would you pay for a freelance copywriter to boot? It’s not as though you need any fancy software after all.

Open a Word Doc, bust out the synonym tool and a few thought provoking adjectives: Voila!

It’s a valid question, and one asked more often than I’d have anticipated. But – the more projects I take on, the more I realise just how much potential value a freelance copywriter can add. So, without further ado, here are my top five reasons to outsource to a freelance copywriter!

1. To make sense of the jargon

As simple as it is, one of the main bonuses to engaging a copywriter is the benefit of an outsider’s perspective. When you’re so involved in your business, the lingo and service/product offerings become part of your everyday speak. And when that happens, it’s easy to lose sight of what your audience actually understands and what will have them losing interest in befuddlement. When you start to lose this perspective, assumptions are unconsciously made that risk alienating your audience. My role here lies in giving structure to your content and distilling the important information into bite size portions your audience understands. If they don’t get what you’re saying or why you’re saying it, they will almost certainly not do whatever it is that your call to action asks of them.

2. An objective point of view

Unless you’re a one-man band, chances are there will be differing opinions about what should be included within your marketing copywriting and why. Do your customers need to know you’re ten years old? Is it relevant? How significant is the size of the business? That it’s locally owned? The turnover? All too often, marketing copy drowns in varying versions of ‘See how awesome we are? You’d be mad not to buy from us!’ But, if your copy doesn’t speak from an authentic place that engages directly with your target audience, it won’t work. That’s where the objective perspective comes in handy. By outsourcing to a professional (that’s me), you’re removing any internal factions with differing opinions. Once the style, tone of voice and plan is in place, at the end of the day it’s just about good copy.

3. Meeting your deadline

When someone internally has copywriting on their to-do list, it’s often left to the last minute. Whether it’s a case study, a blog post, or a social media plan, it will almost certainly be booted out in favour of other urgent ‘real’ projects that clients are waiting on. When you hire a copywriter, you engage someone whose only job is writing. My profession is solely about writing quality content that meets your deadline. And when your deadlines are met, the plan runs to time, and your business goals are fulfilled.

4. Quality content

When a business has heavily invested in designers and web developers, I find it so disappointing when the copy has clearly been left to the eleventh hour. Remember, it’s the content that describes to your clients what you do, how well you do it, and why they need it! If you have something amazing to share with the world, it’s crucial to ensure your content faithfully portrays your product or service in a way that gets people excited and promotes confidence. Would you trust a new acquaintance if they bored you, used words you couldn’t understand or changed personalities each time you met them? Would you buy from them?

5. Content is the future

Almost every marketing and comms professional agrees: content marketing is progressively important in the role it plays within marketing strategies. Consumers are increasingly hungry for information, and are in a position to make informed decisions like never before. Relevant and up-to-date content makes a confident statement about your position as a subject matter expert, and it’s this confidence that will inspire trust. While a holistic content marketing strategy includes much more than copywriting, words form a major role in conveying your key messages, connecting with your audience and ensuring you stay firmly front of mind.

Anything I’ve missed or want to know more about? Email me on info@carteblanchecopy.com

Image courtesy of simpleinsomnia

Could bad grammar be stopping you from meeting your next customer, or worse still… your soul mate?

Carte Blanche - Monday, December 01, 2014

A good friend of mine, single at the time, once told me he was really struggling to meet women.

"That's crazy", I said. "You're young.. attractive.. successful. They would be lining up to go out with you".

"No, no. That's not it", he said. "I don't have an issue meeting them. It's the aftermath of texting that puts me off".

Bemused, I asked him to elaborate.

"It really bothers me when they don't use the right grammar and spelling in a text".
"But, that's nuts", I laughed. "It's a text, not a love letter. It's supposed to be short and full of abbreviations! And anyway, what's grammar got to do with you going on a date with someone you like?!"

"Yes, but it's still a mark on their level of intellect as to whether they're using 'there', 'their' or 'they're'. I can't help it. It's a massive turn off."

I've never quite been able to get this conversation out of my head. I started to wonder about all the seemingly smart, beautiful women out there who would have no idea they were rejected on the basis of a clumsy 'I think your so hot'.

Which begs the question, what incredible opportunities have you unknowingly missed out on as a result of bad grammar? The dream job? The perfect client? Imagine the hordes of grammarphobes choosing someone else's product further to dismissing your semi-colon with an identity crisis.

Good grammar could quite literally be life-changing - for an individual OR a business.

I was a recruiter way back when, and I will shamefully admit that a single typo in a resume would be enough to have a finger twitching towards the 'reject' button. It works both ways, of course: It wasn't uncommon for clients' job descriptions to be littered with careless apostrophes and slapdash to and toos (nothing short of catastrophically unprofessional for the grammar grinch).

The point, at the end of the day is this: Good grammar equals credibility. In advertorials, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on your website - words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, you will be judged if you can't tell the difference between your itses.

Is it harsh? Possibly. True? Absolutely. With an impending deadline, it can be tricky to find another pair of beady eyes to proofread when you Just. Need. To. Get. The. Thing. Out. But one thing's for sure: It will be impossible for you to claw your way back from the irrevocable damage to your professional integrity and brand, if you don't.

And who knows - That grammar grinch you were texting may just agree to a follow-up date as well.(Or at the very least, after reading this you've realised you should review the autocorrect function on your phone.)