Confession time: even as an experienced business coach, I used to find blogging quite challenging. I spent way too many writing sessions having a ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ style stand-off with my enemies – the blinking cursor and the blank page.
In some ways that’s a good thing – especially for my coaching clients. Now, when I’m offering business advice about blogging, I’ve got a suite of hacks, tips and templates to save them time and effort (and from making the usual blogging blunders).
Having made the case for starting a business blog, this second instalment of our blogging series is going to focus on writing your first post.
At this point, you should have a list of topics to start with based on:
- the information your customers find valuable
- the keywords that drive traffic to your blog or that you are trying to rank for on Google
Pro tip: Create a content calendar of these topics to keep your blogging efforts on track. There’s a good one available on HubSpot. Planning out your content also saves you time in the long run, since you’re not starting off your writing session wondering what to write about.
It can also be a good idea to think ahead of time about how you want to approach these topics in terms of style. So let’s take a look at the different options.
Blog styles to consider
I mentor business owners to use a mix of blog styles and structures. Not only do some topics lend themselves to one more than another, but it is more interesting for the reader if you don’t just stick to one format.
There are a few ways you may choose to structure your blog. Here are some examples from the Tenfold Business Coaching blog archives:
1) a how-to post is where you give your reader a quick guide on something related to your business Eg Branding is more than a logo: 5 steps for growing your business into a brand.
2) a curated collection post is a great way to bring together valuable content in a way that is easily digestible for the reader. Eg An app-le a day: 27 wellness apps to maintain your most important small business asset.
3) a news jacking post allows you to leverage a current news item or event to make your post more relevant or capture readers searching for information on that topic. Eg What the 3% increase to minimum wage means for Australian business owners.
4) a blog series lets you explore a topic in more detail over several posts. Eg Ultimate business marketing essentials: 7 high performing tools for marketing your business
5) a promotional or celebration post allows you to talk about a new product or service you’ve added to your offering or just share some good news with your readers. Eg Celebrating success at the 2019 Business Excellence Forum & Awards
Pro tip: once again, HubSpot comes to the rescue by offering free blog post templates which can really cure blank-page syndrome.
Break it down: how to plan a blog
Regardless of the style you choose, your blog is always going to have three main sections:
Your intro should pull the reader in and let them know what the blog is about. You can do this in several ways including making a strong statement about your position on something, telling a personal anecdote or relating your blog post to some recent event (eg news hacking as explained above).
The body of your blog is the meat and potatoes. Here you build your argument or step-out your guide etc. It’s a good idea to brainstorm your key points and make each of these a separate section in your post, with its own heading/subheading. Once you have this outline prepared, all you have to do is fill in the blanks.
Your conclusion should summarise the blog topic and wrap things up with a closing statement. At this point, you will also need to decide whether you wish to include a call to action. This is where you ask the reader to do something – read the next blog in a series, leave a comment, share the blog on social media, call a phone number, etc.
Crafting your headline
Even seasoned writers stumble over writing a good headline. I usually tackle this task last and advise business owners to choose clear over clever. Start by simply stating what your blog is about and rework it until you’ve got something that will also pique the reader’s interest.
If you want to really up your headline game, try using this free headline analyser tool from CoSchedule. It will give you scores on readability and emotional impact etc. It’s quite fun, but don’t spend too long tweaking and agonising, trying to get a perfect score – you’ll get better with practice.
Linking through to other pages
There are two kinds of links that you might include in a blog post; external links to other website pages that you have referred to in your post (ie a study or some data that backs up your claim) and internal links (ie within your website such as another blog post).
It’s always best to limit the number of external links, since the aim of the blogging game is to attract readers and keep them on your website. One work around can be to set them up so that they open in a new window or browser.
Linking to other blogs and pages on your own website helps to keep potential customers on your site and learning more about why they should consider doing business with you. If you choose to do a series, make sure that you link them all together. This way readers can work their way through the series regardless of which one they land on first through the search.
How long should the ideal blog post be?
As a business mentor, I often find that clients balk at the idea of writing the 2,000+ word blog posts that are recommended by experts. The good news is that not every post has to be this wordy. You can have just a few meaty, valuable pieces of content that become the workhorse blogs that drive website traffic and then flesh those out by adding shorter posts to the mix. That said, you don’t want to go much less than 600 words as it’s unlikely to offer great interest or value to the reader.
I mentor business owners to write their blog and then go back and optimise for SEO by adding keywords where they fit. This helps you write posts that people actually want to read, since you are starting from a place of being helpful and informative (rather than meeting your own agenda of improving your Google ranking).
The main thing to remember about keywords is not to overdo them. It’s often enough to place them in the main headline, the first and last 100 words and then sprinkle them throughout the rest of your post where they naturally fit. If you find opportunities to work them into sub-headers, then great – but don’t force the issue.
Google is also now smarter about picking up alternative keywords, so you can brainstorm different ways of saying things to make your writing less robotic.
Choosing images for your blog
There are two things to think about when selecting an image for your blog; communicating visually what your post is about and avoiding getting into hot water over copyright. It’s important to take this second point seriously; plenty of businesses have had legal action brought against them over blog images – don’t risk it! To avoid dramas, my business advice is to go straight to image sources that supply royalty and attribution free images. My go-to sites are pixabay and unsplash – I can usually find something suitable that I can post with confidence.
Don’t forget to promote your business blog
You’ve written your blog, checked it for errors, added an image and pressed ‘publish’. So now you can just sit back and enjoy the bounty of web traffic… right? Sorry to break it to you, but no.
Look, no one wants to put all that effort into writing a blog that nobody reads. That why you have to promote it to your audience across a range of platforms. Direct people to your blog from LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, email marketing – even consider putting a link in your email signature.
As stated in our previous post on blogging, re-purposing your blog content is a major advantage of writing them in the first place. People tend to have habits about the way they consume information, so don’t worry about people getting content fatigue. When you think about it, by allowing them to access your content in their preferred way, you’re actually being more helpful.
The final word on blogging
As a business coach, I’ve seen many business owners set off on their blogging journey with great trepidation, but it doesn’t have to be a hard slog. Using templates and structures can be just the shortcut you need to get started with confidence. After a while you will find your own voice and a rhythm that works for you. Regular practice makes you write faster and more efficiently and, who knows, you may even find that your come to really enjoy it. Above all, just focus on being helpful and engaging in your posts and you can’t go really wrong.