“What should I blog about?” is one of the most common questions we hear from people doing their own digital marketing.
Blogging should be simple, yet people often do too much research to find the right topic. The worst thing you can do if you have an existing audience is to write a blog post for yourself and not for them. The blog is not for you, it is directed to inform your target audience about your main idea. If you follow these components you will be well on your way to creating an engaging blog.
Start with your current customers
First and foremost, always know that your current customers are the ones who are already familiar with your business or brand. Even if they are familiar with your brand, there are still things they will ask you about. Write those questions down, and answer them in a blog.
Not only will this keep them in the loop, but it will also give your potential customers a taste of the knowledge and expertise you give to your clients.
Think about potential customers
Odds are when you’re doing sales, you get a lot of the same questions from potential customers. They’re usually about cost, or the product or service you are offering. Answering these in a blog post can cut down on your time, and it can weed out the customers that aren’t a good fit. Stay away from broad topics and get specific. Always be honest and write like a human, not a robot.
As a brand, you want to tell the current and potential customers about your customer service. Storytelling goes a long way, and engaging the audience on the projects and experiences that you’ve encountered will help them envision themselves being one of your customers or remaining one.
Don’t worry, looking at your competition’s blogs or websites is not cheating. It’s a useful way to gather information about them. Staying up to date with the competitors in your area can help your business and tackle the important topics that need to be written about. Find something that you can provide a different take on, or something that you can explain in a more simple way, and do so.
Google your topic
Always make sure to research different ideas that you have. Having about three options will help you in creating an engaging blog. Google a couple of topics and then narrow it down based on the information you’ve come up with. What would spark your customers interest the most?
In third grade, I thought that if I wrote a story it would end up in every elementary school library. But it wasn’t. Luckily, I had a special teacher fulfill a little part of my dream. She went out and had it printed on a hard copy and put it in my school library. To this day, I owe my passion for writing to her.
Fast forward to today. What you’re taught you in school is how you should always write? FALSE. I am on the verge of creating a petition for colleges to teach writing for marketing, like how to write social media posts and how to write a blog post, and other things I am actually going to use in my future. Most people know college writing, if you don’t then you know high school writing. All in all they’re the same. College writing:
•Body Paragraph 1
•Body Paragraph 2
•Body Paragraph 3
Basically that’s how it goes… but you need stretch it out to 12 pages.
Now, blogs can be a similar structure, but not too similar in writing style. When writing for marketing, people want hear your voice (and in my opinion, that’s the most important part). But there are different ways to write a blog, some of my favorite are:
This type of blog post is all in the title. The how-to blog post is a blog post that tells readers, well, how to do something. First thing first, you need to deiced something to write about and or tell your readers what to do. Now write down the steps you believe are necessary for this topic. Once you have your how-to skeleton give it life! Write out your blog. Provide helpful information to your audience. Write out the points and fill in the bubbles. You can provide detailed information but still be to the point. Visualize it, make it eye catching and have fun!
You need to pick a compelling topic that goes along with something you can make a list for. Similar to the how-to post this will also have to have a skeleton built first. The outlining process is where you build up your lists. Now tell a story!
This is also known as the entertaining post. This post’s primary intention is to entertain. This kind of blog post is most free blog there is because you can write about almost anything with no type of outline. This type of content is mostly humorous content but sometimes can be informational. Make the post effective beyond its simple entertainment value.
This biggest difference between writing for marketing and writing for college is that you don’t need to fill up pages. In fact, it’s best that you make it really simple and easy for the reader to understand. You don’t need to fill it up with big words and repeat yourself to fill up space. Getting your point across in as few words as possible is recommended.
If you’re just out of school, this should be exciting. No more term papers, time to really enjoy writing!
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The goal for any headline is to get people to read the next line, and then the next, and then hopefully the whole post. That conversion between the headline and the post is where you’ll find success in attracting readers.
According to Copyblogger, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy only, and the remaining two will read the full blog or article.
How do you attract Googlers to your blog with just your headlines? Here’s 10 tips and tools on how to convert headline skimmers into blog readers.
1. Keep it short and specific.
Make sure your headline is your central message. That’s how a journalist convinces you to read their article in the newspaper. A short headline will tell readers what the article or blog is about, and entice them to read more.
If you wrote your headline to be “2015 is the best year yet,” readers are going to skip it because its not specific. Because that headline is so general, they’ll move on, unless you write something like, “2015 is the best year for beagles.”
That’s specific and short.
2. Headline Formulas
If you’re still unsure about writing headlines, don’t worry, there are tools to help.
Buffer compiled a list of formulas for Tweets, blogs, articles, emails and more. This way you can have a blueprint on the best headlines in order to create your own.
According to a Kissmetrics study, readers will absorb the first three words and the last three words of a headline. So basically a six-word headline is ideal, right? I don’t know about you, but I don’t write six-word headlines very often. (you did on this post!)
Headline formulas are great to use as a guideline, but make sure they don’t make you sound robotic. Robots are the worst.
3. Emotional Headline Analyzer
Magnolia Media Network recommends using the Emotional Headline Analyzer. Type in a headline and it will determine if it will reach your customers in a deep emotional way.
The headline on this blog scored a measly 16.67%. Welp, back to the drawing board.
4. Avoid brag words.
Don’t put words like awesome, or magnificent in your headline. It will make it seem more like a sales pitch, and get ignored. That’s definitely not what you want.
5. Journalist writing imperatives.
Headlines: -Must be correct (in fact and implication) -Must connect to ordinary readers (be easily understood) -Must attract attention (using interesting, active words) -Must set (or match) the tone of the article
In the Columbia University School of Journalism, they give students this guideline and stress that headlines are the entry point for readers.
By using the aforementioned guideline, you’ll provide your readers with accurate headlines that convey the exact information you want them to have.
6. Think about media types.
You’ll have different character lengths depending on the media in which the post is shared. For example email subject lines that perform well are usually between 28-39 characters – that’s if you’re emailing your blog out to readers.
The Buffer Social blog researched the ideal character length of tweets, Google+ posts, Facebook posts, and a variety of other mediums. This way you’ll know what’s most effective to engage readers.
7. Use interesting data.
This might seem to contradict six, but if you have interesting data to share, use that.
Example: Canada claims moose as a pet.
That headline is a little boring, and will easily be glossed over. Try this one instead:
Example: 2,578 moose have been domesticated in Canada.
Doesn’t that make you want to know more? Both of those headlines are false, so don’t make a run for Canada to get your very own moose.
8. Does it work out of context?
Those that encounter your headline, might not have any idea what your organization does. So make sure that the headline you wrote doesn’t refer to acronyms, or language someone outside of your industry won’t know.
9. Consider word choice.
The more complex a headline, the higher the difficulty readers will have trying to discern it. They’ll go read something else. Forget using those $10 words. Do they really make your headline better? No, actually they probably confuse your readers.
If your reader can’t determine what the blog post is about just through the headline, you should probably consider a rewrite.
10. Make it useful.
Make sure your headline conveys the benefit of your blog or article. You want your blog post to add value to the reader. So when writing a headline think of this phrase in the shoes of your reader: What’s in it for me?
The other way to think about this is: WIIFY. What’s in it for you? This is an acronym one of my professors instilled in us in my PR and journalism courses. These headlines will convert skimmers into readers because there’s a benefit in the blog that will add value to what the reader wants to know.
Headlines aren’t easy to write. They need to convey a vast amount of information in very little. And that’s not a simple task, even for the best copywriters. Its okay to create multiple versions of a headline before you find the winner. Upworthy writes upwards of 25 different headlines until they can narrow it down based on many of these tips.
Sometimes there is nothing more intimidating than a blank piece of paper. When you know you need to have a blog written and you don’t come to the computer with the topic in mind, you can risk wasting a lot of time looking for inspiration in the wrong places. Whenever I start writing for a client, I start by researching and looking for blogs to bookmark for inspiration. I’m not out to copy what’s already out there. But by taking a look at what’s working, I can try a different spin or angle and add to the conversation in a positive way.
Keeping up with industry specific blogs also just keeps you up to date on what’s out there. It’s easier to spot a trend if you keep your eye out, and reading more often simply makes you a better writer.
Here are some blogs I bookmark for content marketing inspiration.
HubSpot There is always something new on the HubSpot blogs. They have a large number of qualified people writing on everything inbound. The type of content ranges from infographics to longer, research based posts.
Moz Moz most definitely leans toward the longer, more in depth posts. When I read a headline I’m really interested in I tend to set some time aside and read through it thoroughly. Another great place for inspiration is their comment section. A lot of really smart marketers and SEOs put in their 2 cents in the comment section and it can really spark something worth writing about.
The Content Strategist has a lot of examples of how brands are achieving success with content marketing. They have some great statistics and figures of how it’s done, and every piece is extremely engaging.
Creator by WeWork WeWork publishes content for business owners and freelancers as well as employees working in creative industries. I especially like scrolling through their newsletter and finding an article that looks interesting. Their website itself has a great layout and an awesome animation that shows you how far into an article you are.
Entrepreneur Entrepreneur has tons of writers and publishes a lot of content at a wide range. The articles are short and they have a nice feature that tells you how long an article is in minutes before you click on it. This is often where I’ll go for the quickest inspiration. And if I don’t find something that sparks a blog topic, I always find something great for sharing on social media.