Though it may be a bit circular to say on a blog, I love blogging.
It’s a great way to drive traffic, generate leads, demonstrate expertise and share information that is of interest to your customers. It does take some time and effort to do it right and we’ve posted about this quite a few times.
Today, I want to take the opposite angle. Rather than look at what to do, I want to look at what you should never do with your blog content.
7 Mistakes To Avoid In Your Blog Content
- Don’t be a blogvertiser. This is a sure way to drive people away. Fundamentally, blog content needs to be informative rather thanpromotional. No one’s going to want to read your blog if it’s a nonstop stream of sales pitches. When you’re thinking up blog content, focus on posts that will be useful to your readers.
- Don’t become a linkohaulic. Linking to other peoples’ content is very good every now and then, but the primary focus of your blog should be your own original content. Don’t get addicted to sharing other people’s posts. If you can add some context to an existing story or post, that’s OK. But try to be as original as possible.
- Don’t be a photophobe. Graphics and images should absolutely be a part of your blog. Pictures make blog posts more inviting and also break up your text to keep it from becoming a wall of words. You can skimp on pictures if you’ve got a creative writing or literature blog. But for most businesses, think visually before hitting “publish.”
- Don’t be stiff. Every successful blog shows some level of character and personality. Don’t write like you’re producing a textbook or a research article, even if it is a business blog (like this one). Never be afraid to insert some of your own personality. Blogs are expected to be a bit informal and should feel like a conversation.
- Don’t be longwinded. Blog content should be generally short and to the point. Posts are read quickly and should be easily digestible. For a business blog, try to keep posts under 800 words and it’s better to stay in the 400-600 word range. If you’re exploring a topic that needs more space than that, consider breaking it up into a series of posts.
- Don’t try to hit too many targets. You may have products that appeal to all people aged 10 to 100, but that doesn’t mean you should try to target them all in the same blog. If your audiences are so varied that what appeals to one group will turn off the other, you’ll need to break your content into separate blogs. Try to keep each blog tightly focused.
- Don’t be inconsistent. A regular posting schedule is one of the marks of a professional blog. Decide early on how often you want to update your blog and stick to it. Don’t change that schedule without good reason, and never let yourself go for long periods without updating.
None of these seven mistakes is particularly hard to avoid. You’ve just got to be aware of them. Write interesting, original blog content that helps your audience, keep it visually appealing and easy to consume, and publish with focus and consistency. Oh, and remember to have some fun.
When it comes down to it, the only problem with content marketing is … coming up with all the content.
It’s easy for professional writers to sit back and talk about the wonders of creating and how many good things an active blog can accomplish. All those rewards, however, require you to come up with high quality content that makes people want to visit your site and respond to it. That’s the hard part.
Now, I can’t tell you exactly what to write on any given day. But, I can give you some suggestions for putting yourself in the right frame of mind to get those creative juices flowing and write.
5 Ways to Make Content Development Easier
- Make time for it. If you’re going to sit down to write, especially if you’re not a writer by nature, you need to have some time to yourself. You can’t have phones ringing and assistants knocking on your door. Those sorts of distractions keep your logical brain turned on and your creative brain shut down. So, schedule your writing time as you would any other appointment.
- Change your scenery. It can be difficult to do content development in the same environment where you do all your business work. There’s a reason you sometimes see writers working in the dark corners of coffee shops. Just having a different environment starts you thinking in a different way. If you can’t get away from the office, try sitting in a different chair or using a laptop instead of your normal desktop.
- Keep an idea notebook. At any point in the day, an idea for a good blog, video or ebook might float through your head. Ideas usually come at a moment’s notice, inspired by random happenings. Whether it’s a paper notebook or a notes file on your smartphone, have something handy that you can immediately pull out to capture ideas when they come.
- Write, then edit. If you get a good idea, sit down and run with it. See what happens. Don’t worry about cohesiveness. Just put words on a page to see what develops. Then, go back later, preferably the next day, reread what you’re created and edit it into something cohesive. You get both the brilliance of initial inspiration and the refinement that comes from reflection.
- Seek out inspiration. Constantly seek inspiration in new places. Read your competitors’ blogs and see how they’re looking at problems. Consume articles from commentators you usually disagree with. Ask children what they think about an issue. A new, challenging point of view on a problem will often make your own brain kick into high gear. Give it a shot.
Good content development is work. No doubt about it. The fabled muse is as fickle with marketing writers as she is with novelists. The key to successful content development is putting yourself in the right mindset to create and then recognizing the inspiration when it comes.
Even for an experienced writer, few things can be more terrifying than staring at a blank screen and realizing you don’t know what you want to discuss.
After all, it’s easy enough to say you want to start blogging, but then comes the hard part: producing your blog content.
The good news is there are a handful of formats for business blog content that you can see in practically every company blog post online. If you’re stuck for inspiration, pick one of these templates and have at it.
Five Simple Templates for Blog Content
- Tips for the reader. These are simple enough. In fact, you’re looking at an example right now. Take subjects you’re informed about and write posts designed to help your readers become better at them. These could be posts with step-by-step of instructions or lists of general suggestions. Either way, these “tips” posts are great because they are truly useful for your readers.
- Mistakes to avoid. These are pretty similar to “tips” posts except they’re lists based on real-life challenges. They’re also a great way to show off your analytical and problem-solving skills. To really impress, each item needs three components: an example of doing it wrong, an analysis of why it’s wrong, and a discussion of how it should be done correctly.
- Product/service review. These are very straightforward. Write reviews of things you’ve seen or used that are relevant to your audience. There are lots of reviews out there about major consumer products like computers and cars. But far fewer when it comes to business-specific items. Remember, the best-written reviews are analytical, explaining why a product or service is good or bad.
- Favorites list. These posts are simple and fun. Generally, they’re lists of your favorite products or services in some category. Alternatively, they can come in the form of “Top X Reasons…” posts. This type of blog content necessarily presents a broad but shallow overview of your subject. So, don’t overuse it.
- News analysis. Want to show the world you’re a true expert? Write posts analyzing the state of your industry or looking at how outside news events impact your readers. Aim for honest discussions of the events, and try to keep your posts as fact-based as possible. Good examples might be how a proposed law will impact your industry or how a recent merger in your sector will alter market dynamics.
Most blog content follows the basic formats outlined above. If you find yourself struggling to write, they can be a lifeline.
Just pick a topic you’ve been thinking about and select one of the formats that works with the idea. You’re already halfway there. Now, just figure out the key points you want to make and everything will fall into place.
To buy, or not to buy. That is the question.
If you’re involved in any form of content marketing, you’ve probably already engaged in this debate. Perhaps with yourself. There’s a huge, easily accessible marketplace of individuals and organizations available to create blog posts, white papers and other written content for online business use.
However, many seem to believe this is a cop out. That somehow it’s more desirable to do it all themselves.
To my mind, this isn’t a difficult objection to answer. Choosing to buy content is a business decision about making your online marketing program the strongest it can be. You want to increase awareness of your products or services, drive traffic and generate sales. Those should be the only considerations.
Why It’s Not a Cop Out to Buy Content
- Buying website content is a business matter. This isn’t a creative writing contest and, frankly, no one’s going to know that you aren’t doing your own writing. You want your website to be as good as possible so that it serves your business and marketing goals. That means having the very best content you can muster.
- Outsourced writers are professionals. You’ve got your areas of expertise in business, but it’s likely that writing isn’t one of them. On the other hand, content writers do this for a living. They’re experienced in producing content in a number of voices, and doing the research to write the sorts of blogs or white papers that will get results.
- Purchased content allows for greater frequency. If you are trying to write web content yourself, you probably don’t have all that much time to work on it. Content writers, however, have all the time they need. They can give you more content than you can produce yourself, and this means having a blog that’s constantly updated and lively.
- Buying content leaves more time for your business. Whether you’re writing content yourself or handing it off to an employee, it amounts to the same thing: Someone is spending time writing rather than doing the job they were hired to do. Why take productive time away from a worker in lieu of a side project like writing? Let your accountants be accountants and your writers be writers.
- Paying for writing is no different than buying artwork. You don’t insist on hand-crafting all of the artwork and photographs on your website, do you? Chances are pretty good that you outsourced your graphics and photos because you don’t have those skills. In practical terms, buying written content is exactly the same thing.
- Professional writers bring an outside perspective. When a business writes its own blogs and other content, sometimes it’s too close to the material and can’t write objectively. This is similar to why it’s almost always better to hire an ad agency than to try to do ads in-house. Distance and perspective can make for a better end product.
I’m not saying you can’t write your own web content. If you or an employee are honestly talented at writing and have the free time to do it, that’s fine. However, if this is not the case, there really isn’t any shame in buying content instead. The goal here is to have a great website; the means matter far less than the ends.
Once upon a time, it was enough in the communications world to simply distribute information.
Yes, as PR folks we did write up our client’s stories in press releases. But then, our job was simply to distribute them to the media in as compelling a way as possible. The ultimate goal was further distribution of those stories via the media.
That old model is, well, just that … old. In today’s social-media enabled world, simple distribution is not nearly enough. Think about it. What is it that we should be distributing on Facebook and Twitter? Promotional materials telling folks how great our companies are? That’s a fail from the start.
No. Instead, we need to start with the creation of compelling content. Content that tells a story. Content that shares real information. Content that captures the attention. In short, content with value.
So, tied up in the idea of using social media is the concept that we must be willing to give content away. If it’s something so good that we might be able to charge for it, it makes an even better free giveaway. It’s not a choice. It’s the currency of social media. The cost of admission. If we’re not willing to share valuable content for free, we might as well not be there. But since our customers are there, we need to be. The math is simple.
What kind of content should we create? There are a lot of choices in a number of different mediums. Here are some ideas:
- Audio. This can be podcasts — my personal favorite — simple one-off interviews or conference calls. Anything you can think of that can be recorded and that adds value.
- Video. In the era of YouTube, this is a no-brainer. Video can literally take you there. Show off products. Introduce potential customers to your team. It’s super compelling and worth a look.
- Screencasts. If your company has an on-line product or service, screencasts are an obvious choice. You simply show people how to use what you want them to buy.
- Blog posts. Just like this one. Lots of folks simply enjoy reading a well-written post and, frankly, they’re pretty easy to produce. Just come up with a good idea and you’re off.
- Reports and white papers. Everyone loves free research. If you’ve got the kind of business that produces data, why not share it with the world? It’s rich in value and demonstrates your expertise.
- Photographs. Don’t overlook the power of the camera. Still photos can show your physical products off to great benefit. It’s hard to really want to buy something you’ve never seen.
There are certainly more content types out there and many, many additional applications for those listed above. My point is simply to note that as marketers and PR folks, we’ve got to start thinking like content creators. To not do so is to risk being left behind in the social media game, and that could easily spell disaster.