Ah, the business blog. It’s allure has captured the imagination of many an online marketer, but its rewards elude all but the most resourceful of marketers…
Okay, so that’s perhaps a touch dramatic, but the fact of the matter is, blogging can be a great way to build your business (in fact, I’d say it’s one of the best ways, but I’m biased). It’s great for building familiarity and trust with your audience and can do wonders for your SEO rankings.
So why, then, do so many business blogs fail?
At the risk of coming off as a bit crass, the honest answer is fairly simple: most business blogs suck. At best, the typical business blog post leaves a potential customer feeling underwhelmed. At worst, it leaves them feeling confused, frustrated and mistrustful.
It sucks for your potential customers and it sucks for your business.
Since this isn’t a good situation for anyone, the question is, how can you write a business blog that fills your potential customers with confidence and makes them eager to learn more about your business?
Running an Effective Business Blog
Running an effective business blog isn’t a matter of writing a 200-word blog post a few times a week or posting the intermittent PR piece. If that’s all a business blog is to you, you’re better off investing that time into some other marketing channel.
Unlike most marketing content, building an audience isn’t about selling your product or services. It’s about giving people something that they value.
Maybe you have special information that helps your audience. Maybe you discuss issues in an entertaining way. Maybe you make them feel good or powerful or like they are part of something meaningful.
Regardless of the specifics, an effective blog gives people something that they value. And, in return, that value convinces them that you are a business they want to, well, do business with.
With all that in mind, here are a few ways to improve the quality and performance of your blog:
1. Stop talking about yourself!
Most business blogs read like an informational brochure. They take every possible opportunity to mention their business and how great it is.
Unfortunately, to your readers, that’s the blogging equivalent of Miss Othmar…
Guess what? No one clicks on your post because they want to hear about your business. If people want to read about your company, they’ll click on an ad.
People click on your blog posts because they want value. Often, it’s because they believe that you have information they need. If they get a brochure about your business instead, they’re going to feel frustrated.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t mention your business or the awesome things you do for your customers. You just need to be more subtle about it.
That being said, people are okay with you talking about yourself…as long as it feels like a natural part of your article. They get it. You’re a business and you draw on your experience as a business to write your posts.
So, if you are writing about a case study, you can reference yourself. After all, you’re part of the story. Just don’t go on and on about how awesome you are—let your reader come to that conclusion on their own.
When it comes to blog content, focus on delivering value, let people sell themselves on your company and then give them a way to buy—don’t use your articles to sell yourself.
2. Write Something Worth Reading
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to write 4,000 words to have a decent blog post. However, if your post is only 200 words long, your audience may come away feeling like you don’t really understand your topic or you don’t have anything meaningful to say.
When it comes to blogging, quality is better than quantity (although a quantity of quality is ideal). If you have 5 tips to share, don’t split them up. Put them all in one article—even if that means you don’t get 5 articles out this week.
On the other hand, don’t write more words just to boost your word count. People can spot empty content a mile away. After all, anyone who’s ever written a high school paper with a minimum word count has included filler content before.
I could go on, but then this would start to feel like filler content, so let’s wrap things up, shall we?
In general, I’d recommend an absolute minimum of 500 words per article, if not 700-1000+, depending on what your audience responds to. After all, if you don’t have at least 500 words to write about a topic, does that topic really deserve to be an entire blog post?
3. Write Something Worth Sharing
Sharing is the lifeblood of blogging. If your articles aren’t being shared, you aren’t building an audience.
According to the New York Times Customer Insight Group, there are 5 key reasons why people share content on social media:
- To provide others with valuable and entertaining content
- To define themselves
- To develop their relationships
- To feel more involved in the world
- To support issues or causes they feel passionately about
If you aren’t writing articles that people will share for one of these reasons, odds are they won’t get shared.
Now, not all shares happen via social media. Sometimes people share via email/text or simply show an article to someone (even a printed version of an article, heaven forbid!). However, how your content is shared is less important than the fact that it is being shared.
Remember, your goal is to build an audience. The more people who see your articles, the bigger your audience will be.
With all that in mind, you need to write posts that people will want to share. If you can write in an entertaining, engaging style—do it! If you can write material that helps people understand themselves and the world better—do it! If you can write stirring stories about important issues—do it!
Depending on what you’re good at, you can be cheeky, deeply insightful, enthusiastic, a great storyteller…the list goes on and on, but the important thing is, write something that you would look forward to reading.
If you don’t enjoy writing it, your audience won’t enjoy reading it. And, if they don’t enjoy reading it, do you think they’re going to share it?
4. Understand Your Business Goals
While it is important to write a meaningful, shareable content, its also important to remember that you can’t just write articles about celebrities or cat videos. Your articles also need to achieve a business goal.
For example, if your business goal is to build upper-funnel brand awareness, you might write articles about broad topics your audience cares about. This is especially effective if you do a little paid promotion on social media to get more eyeballs on your content.
On the other hand, if your business goal is to resolve bottom-of-the-funnel concerns so that people will make a purchase, you might write about specific experiences or results your customers have had that relate to the concerns you are trying to address.
Can you see the difference here? Depending on your business goal, what you write about (and how you write about it) will change. This sort of audience awareness is at the heart of a great business blog.
Not every article will appeal to every reader, but if you know who your audience is and what message they will resonate with, your business blog will deliver great results.
5. Nail the Details
When it comes to writing blog content, details matter. Nothing says, “this is my obligatory blog post for the week” like a poorly written article.
In particular, while you might not be a grammar Nazi, nothing undercuts your blog’s credibility like sloppy writing—59% of people wouldn’t buy from a website with poor grammar!
In all seriousness, though, if you don’t care enough about your articles to make them clean and easy to read, your audience won’t care enough to read them.
In addition to writing a largely typo-free article (even the best editors miss things sometimes), it’s important to pay attention to your tone and voice. You’re building an audience, so you need a consistent tone and voice that works for your audience.
In choosing the tone and voice of your blog, I generally recommend sticking with a conversational tone. You’re writing a blog, after all, not technical documentation or a glossary of terms.
People read blogs because they want to learn from people. They want to hear thoughts, feelings and insights. If they just wanted information, they’d read an article on Wikipedia.
The easiest way to catch both grammar and tone problems is to read your posts out loud to someone (if you don’t have someone handy, this online tool is another good way to check your post).
If you can’t read it out loud without stumbling over words or gasping for breath at the end of a sentence, you’ve got a grammar problem. If your listener’s eyes glaze over or they get distracted while you’re reading to them, your content needs to be more interesting.
A blog can be a great way to build your business…provided you’re willing to put in the time and effort it takes to build an audience. As with any blog, if you aren’t willing to give your blog enough attention, you’re better off spending your time on something else.
However, if you consistently stick to the principles outlined in this article, you can use your blog to do amazing things for your business. As the editor of Disruptive Blog, I’ve seen our blog steadily increase in value over the past two years. Today, our blog is the most profitable marketing channel in our internal marketing arsenal.
Business blogs are great, the only question is, are you up to the challenge?
By the way, if you’d like to talk to me about your business blog (or business blog aspirations) and get my feedback, let me know here or in the comments. I’d be happy to give you some honest feedback and suggestions.
Any thoughts on this advice? Would you add any more common business blog problems? What has your experience with business blogs been like?
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