in other words

Blog Series: Create a Winning Blog | Part Three: Writing Shareable Blog Content

Coralie Fernando - Monday, January 26, 2015

Welcome to Part Three of the Three Part Series: How to create a winning blog! Have you read Part One and Two yet? Make sure you do before reading on! In the third part of the series, I’m focusing on execution: That means creating engaging blog posts that will have your readers sharing and promoting your wise words! There’s quite a bit to get through, so I’ve narrowed it down to ten easy steps:

1. Write an eye-catching title

Chances are, people will stumble across your blog via social media, your website, or a through a search engine result. This means that the first impression is the headline and a short description. Make it count! If this is the difference between them clicking through or moving on, it needs to be eye catching.

2. Don’t be afraid to get personal

Blogging is a great way to speak to your audience in a more informal voice than you might otherwise employ across other media. It’s expected, and will instantly build a stronger rapport. Share personal experiences that might be relevant to the subject matter you’re writing about. It will endear your readers to you and bridge the gap of ambiguous formality. Keep the tone light, so it’s easy to read. When I blog, I imagine I’m speaking to a friend over a coffee.

3. Quality, not quantity

This is absolutely key! Keep your points concise and avoid wandering tangents – this isn’t the place for a dissertation! Ideally your readers should be able to read one post within about 10 minutes, and certainly no longer than 20. Long posts, no matter how significant the information, will not be read. Use examples to illustrate your points, and embrace visual imagery to keep the content interesting.

4. A picture says a thousand words

And data indicates a video will be shared three times as much as a copy-only blog post. Keep in mind consistency of image and video styling, and try not to have the placeholder take up too much space. Infographics are also a great way to tell a story. If your visuals aren’t original, be sure to reference the owner.

5. Consistent style and design

Branding is, of course, of paramount importance. Make sure your blog is consistent in tone of voice, design and style. If you have different bloggers writing for you, keep tabs on them to ensure they’re on track. This also means consistent treatment of heading, hyperlink, body copy and number styles.

6. Review, revise, rewrite. Repeat.

I’ve always been envious of writers who can crack out a jaw dropping article in one sitting, but just because I couldn’t, it didn’t sway me from becoming a writer. Everyone will have their own way of doing things: I prefer to write the post in one go, and not worry too much about the details initially. I need to do this just get the ideas out on the page. I’ll then take a walk and think about something else before revisiting, reviewing and tweaking. If possible, I’ll give it to someone else for editing. Fresh eyes are incredibly important!

7. Call to Action

While a blog is an informative piece designed to educate or entertain, it also provides a fantastic opportunity to call your readers to action. If you have a service or solution to the issue that you’re writing about, ensure you have a link to that area of your site. Never assume the reader will find their way there! Short CTAs are great ways to direct readers to other places on your site that they may find interesting.

8. Optimise

You optimise by using key words in your title, headings and sub headings, meta tags, meta description, anchor text, first sentence and concluding paragraph. This means your blog posts will actually be found by people searching for information relevant to your post. While your engaging headline should contain a few keywords, if it sounds forced, leave it. It’s better to have an engaging title rather than one created by a robot.

Meta tags are the keywords assigned to your post based on their content. These tags inform the search engines what your blog post might be about, and will help to determine the relevancy of the post when someone completes a search query. Meta descriptions are the short blurbs that appear under the titles in search engine results. They’re often the second thing people read after the title, so it’s crucial to captivate them in under 160 characters or less. Key words will ensure the relevancy of the post to search engines.

Images and videos too, can be optimised by the alt tag and file name. Since search engines can’t read images, these tags help alert them to the relevancy of your visual content as well.

9. Share the love

Every article you write should be promoted through as many channels as possible. Extract an interesting snippet or sentence from the post and use it as a hook to encourage your readers to click through. Ensure each blog post has clear social media sharing tools so that your readers can also independently share the posts online. With time, your analytics will demonstrate which social media channel is working hardest for you, and which posts are most popular. This data will be extremely powerful in helping you to determine what works and what doesn’t, and you should revise your blog plan accordingly.

10. Engage and respond

As with social media, if you allow comments after your posts, make sure you respond! Sometimes you might get negative comments. Don’t ignore them. Address any concerns, answer all the questions and be as transparent as possible. Apologise if necessary and follow up within a few weeks to see that all their questions were answered.

So, that concludes my Three Part Series on How to create a Winning Blog! Did you enjoy it? Please don’t hesitate to tell me if so, or if there is anything else you’d like to know about. If you’re thinking of starting a blog but don’t have the resources or time to write one, get in touch today to see if I can help.

Image courtesy of cavan images

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!