Not a month goes by without someone (often ironically a blogger) proclaiming that blogs are dead, buried, caput; a waste of time and energy in a vlogger’s world. Contrary to what the Insta-story generation would have us believe, however, blogging is very much alive and kicking – business blogging specifically is on the rise and company blogs have been shown to generate more long-term return on investment than traditional marketing efforts. In a world where content is absolutely marketing’s king, a good business blog will not only raise awareness of your company and steer online traffic your way, it will also attract and engage potential clients. As long as you get it right.
Know your audience
As with your website (and sometimes even your product or service), your blog isn’t for you – it’s for your customers. As tempting as it may be to recall the time you were lunching with a client and heroically Heimlich manoeuvred a choking diner, a business blog isn’t the place for sensationalism or vanity; your friends will be delighted by the story, no doubt, but your customers will likely switch off. Write for your customers; find problems or opinions within the industry to solve or expand upon, so that your content is helpful and thought-provoking. Fresh insight is always a welcome read, but stick to topics that concern your clients.
Use your own voice
Knowing your audience isn’t to say you can’t be authentic to your personality, which should show through in your writing style. Content that skirts around the issue or is constantly peppered with phrases like ‘in my opinion’ is boring – it is your opinion, you wrote the blog post, and you should have and hold a strong opinion throughout. If your posts lack character, you’re a generic voice that can become all too easily interchangeable with any other blogger in your field, so don’t be afraid to be funny, definitely don’t be preachy, and gradually share tidbits about who you are along the way so your readers get to know you – you want readers to come back for your take on the discussion and to ‘hear’ you as they read. What they don’t want is to read jargon or a flowery list of superfluous adjectives, so if you’re struggling to find your flow on a particular day, step away from the keyboard and come back when you’re enthused again.
Commit to writing and publishing
Committing to a writing and publishing schedule is massively important and often wildly overlooked; before you even begin your blog you need to have a catalogue of ideas that work for you and for your readers – some will be very fact-based and others will be opinion pieces, and generally opinion pieces take longer in the writing and fact-based blogs take longer in the research. Always have at least one ‘spare’ post for publication when life gets in the way; ideally, have lots, and with regard to how often you publish, consistency is more important than frequency.
If you know you’re heading into a killer week work-wise and can’t really spare the many tangents that research and an enquiring mind will inevitably take you on, be sure to schedule a couple of opinion pieces that you can bash out an outline for and then craft during the evening as part of your downtime. Whenever clients ask you questions add them to your list of ideas, check for comments or questions from readers on existing blog posts that could be used to write sequel posts, and always check up on the latest trends and predictions in your industry. Don’t be afraid to ask experts in your field to comment on these too; guest blogs are really popular and you can then add those experts to a list of people to interview in future for the blog, or for the holy grail of all successful blogs: the podcast… (watch this space).
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Most blogs follow a pretty straightforward structure – an intro that hooks the reader and sets up what’s to come, a main body of discussion, and a conclusion that draws it all together often encouraging the reader to comment or take action. In short, use it. If you want to divide things up with subheads, that’s great, but make sure each one is relevant and not repetitive, and listicles – ‘5 ways to…’, ‘10 top tips…’ – are a great way to appeal to readers that aren’t concerned with or don’t have time that day for in-depth analysis. Humans are visual, we’re also judgemental and impatient, so keep your format consistent – same style and structure, same font and font size, and good quality pics.
Create valuable content
This sounds ridiculously simple, and it is a simple statement in essence, but sometimes blogs can try so hard to create original, insightful and, crucially, shareable content, that they overproduce and post basic, ill-thought-out, and often badly written content. Business blogs are not Buzzfeed and should never attempt to be Buzzfeed – who was the last client keen for your input on whether they were or were not in fact a Friends superfan? Exactly. Valuable content is a combination of well-crafted words, knowledge and information that educates, assists or inspires your readers who, if you’re getting it right, are your customers and supporters; they need to consider you an industry authority and not a space to waste 10 minutes.
Use a social sharing checklist
The research and writing of a blog post isn’t enough to gain a steady, growing and loyal readership, you need to actively promote your posts so that people not only read it, but want to share it too. Naturally, this takes time, but make sure you follow a social sharing checklist each and every time you upload some new content and you’ve got the ball rolling. Firstly, use the social media channels that your business favours – according to socialmedia.co.uk, Facebook is still far and away the most widely used social media site in the UK. If your business doesn’t have a presence on Facebook however, but does on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, don’t waste time trying to build a Facebook profile from scratch and instead, focus on what you know works for you and your customers. Share, always encouraging your followers to share, and make sure you like your own posts too.
According to WordPress, over 409 million people view more than 20 billion pages per month and the content management system powers a whopping 35 per cent of the entire internet. As is evident, blogging is far from dead. But, it isn’t a walk in the park, and striking the right balance between style and substance is the key to getting it right – without substance, the most poetic of writing remains empty, so make sure you offer real insight into any topic you tackle and always remain curious, it’ll spark your creativity and help your words sing from the page.