As a small business, a blog is a great way to raise awareness of your brand and assert yourself as an expert in what you do.
By consistently creating content which addresses the issues and questions your potential clients have about your industry or niche, you can start to build trust and open up a new channel of communication which may bring new leads and new opportunities.
There are other benefits too in terms of driving traffic to your website, SEO for search engine rankings and gaining new followers on social media or new subscribers to your mailing list – all of which may ultimately lead to more sales.
But how do you write a blog for your business?
Here’s my simple guide to getting started with blogging, starting with:
It’s important not to skip the planning stage of writing a blog post, even if you think you know what you are going to write. As the old saying goes, those who fail to plan, plan to fail.
Another one is Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance, which is definitely to be avoided if you are incorporating blogging into your business’s marketing strategy.
Pick a blog topic
A good place to start, if you don’t already know, is deciding on a topic for your next blog post.
It must obviously be of interest to your target audience but it is important you do not assume you know what that is.
Use tools like keyword searches to see what are hot topics in your niche or have a look at what is popular and trending on the sites where your audience hangs out.
However, do not be a slave to trends to the extent that you decide to write about something you have no knowledge or interest in.
Although not every blog topic is going to light your fire – and in some businesses it might be tough coming up with one that does – it is always best where possible to write about a subject you have some flare for as your enthusiasm (or lack of it!) will likely come through in whatever you write and be obvious to your readers.
If it’s no fun for you to write it will probably not be fun to read either.
Once you have decided on your topic, you need to do your research and gather all the relevant facts and figures to back up your arguments and points you wish to make in your blog post. Double check everything – you could end up with some serious egg on your face and your credibility and reputation could end up in tatters if you base your blog post on incorrect data. Make sure that your sources are credible and quote or credit them in your blog post so readers can see where you are getting your information from.
Create an outline
Once you have all the information you need to hand and have an inkling of what points you want to make in your blog post, it’s time to create an outline.
Even experienced bloggers benefit from the process of working out the key points they want to make, how the post will be structured, what headings they will use, how the blog will flow and how it can be made easy to read, such as by the use of bullet points, graphs and charts, images and infographics.
Try these headings for your outline to get you started:
TOPIC: What is your blog about generally.
ANGLE: The aspect of the topic you are going to focus on.
OBJECTIVE: What you want readers to learn or understand by the end of the article?
MAIN POINTS: Use a list of bullet points of the main points you want to make
TIE UP: A summary of your content
CALL TO ACTION: What do you want the reader to do next – share the post on social media or download a free resource for example.
Once all your planning and preparation are complete it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of writing.
With every piece of content you create you have just a matter of a few seconds to reel in your reader and grab their attention.
The best (the only!) way to do this is with a killer headline.
Your headline needs to have an immediate impact to make readers want to know more and entice them to click through to your blog post.
It is often said that 80 per cent of the effort you put into a blog post should be spent on the headline and just 20 per cent on the rest of the content – that’s how important it is!
80 per cent of the effort you put into a blog post should be spent on the headline
The next most important part of your blog after the headline is the intro – or opening paragraph.
Again, it needs to have impact and explain to readers in as few words as possible the crux of your content.
They need to know why they should read on – what will be the benefit to them? What problem will your blog post solve? Which question will it answer?
If you are struggling to craft the perfect headline and intro, go with the first thing that comes to you for now and return to it when you have finished writing the rest of your blog post – the ideas might flow more easily when you have everything else down in black and white.
BUT DO GO BACK TO IT – ITS IMPORTANCE CAN’T BE OVERSTATED.
Now you can turn your attention to the main body of your content and it’s time to put that outline you prepared earlier to work to get all your main points, arguments, solutions, information, facts and figures down in such a way as to make them easily “digestible” to your average reader.
With the sheer volume of content out there to “snack” on, you need to make your blog super “tasty” if readers are to bite.
Use eye-catching images, make figures easier to understand by using graphs or tables if appropriate and even consider throwing in an explainer video or infographic to simplify and explain complication information.
Depending on the topic of your blog, you could incorporate this 5Cs of story structure into your article. (See infographic)
Try to make sure your content answers the who, why, what, when or where questions too? Not every one of those will relate to every blog post but it’s worth asking yourself them again and again as you write your post – who is this for? who will it benefit? what is the benefit? what is the solution? etc.
There is nothing more frustrating from a reader’s point of view than a blog post that promises the world but leaves them with more questions than answers.
Once the main body of your blog post is written and you are happy with your headline and intro, it’s time to tie up the loose ends.
Consider adding a paragraph or two at the end of your post summarising the main points that you want readers to take away with them?
Call to action
You should definitely add a Call To Action at the end of your post encouraging readers to interact further with you, whether by signing up to a mailing list, downloading an e-book you’ve written relevant to your readers, follow you on Twitter or just explore further relevant content on your website.
After the writing is all done, it’s time to do the shouting. There is absolutely no point spending hours crafting the best piece of content in the world if no one knows about it.
So now you need to promote your work.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
One way of increasing the chances of people finding your content is to make sure it is optimised for search engines.
This is a huge topic all of its own, but if you have a WordPress blog consider using one of the many plugins which help to optimise each blog post for the search engines by guiding you to use the right number of keywords in your copy and write the best headlines, slugs and meta descriptions.
Two of my favourites are Yoast and Squirrly because they are easy to use and don’t try to blind you with SEO science.
The likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram remain one of the most popular ways to promote blog posts.
If you share relevant content to your existing followers, it has the added benefit of increasing your reputation as a thought leader and expert in your niche.
Talking of influencers, if your post mentions a key influencer or expert, be sure to give them a shout out on Twitter or even let them know by email or Direct Message – they will probably be happy to share your content with their followers, helping to get even more eyeballs on your content.
Once you have posted your blog to social media, you still can’t sit back and forget about it.
People are not all on social media at the same time – so not everyone will see your post first time round. Try sharing it with different titles, images or at different times of the day to get a feeling for what works best with your audience.
Like all skills worth having, writing good content takes lots of practice.
Use tools at your disposal such as spelling and grammar checkers to keep your blog post free of errors which could leave you looking stupid and put readers off.
Ask a friend to read anything you write and, if possible, walk away and take a breather for a while before pressing the publish button. Come back to it with fresh eyes.
Other than that, don’t worry too much about your writing. No one expects you to be Shakespeare or even Stephen King – unless of course you are Stephen King.