Best Days Blogging for Business

 

Want to know the best day in 2019 to begin a diet? Straighten hair? Lay shingles? The Old Farmer’s Almanac can tell you, based on the moon’s astrological signs. There’s a “best day”, according to astrologist Celeste Longacre, to:

  • buy a home
  • pick fruit
  • pour concrete
  • wean an animal
  • wash the floor
  • paint
  • lay shingles
  • get a perm
  • make jelly and jam
  • go camping
  • get married

Since chicks born under a waxing moon in Cancer, Scorpio, or Pisces are healthier and mature faster, eggs should be “set” (placed in an incubator or under a hen) 21 days before the desired hatching time, we learn.

Fascinating stuff. In fact, I thought, naming a “best time” for certain activities can be an effective “template” for serving up information to business blog readers. From the list above, for example, I can see:

  • a real estate company’s blog post about the best time to buy a home or paint
  • a home repair company’s blog about pouring concrete and laying shingles
  • a beauty products seller’s blog about perms
  • a caterer’s blog about the best time to plan a wedding

Is there a best time to publish blog posts?

Garrett Moon of CoSchedule.com reviews the results of a study by Kissmetrics:
The highest percentage of users read blogs in the morning.
The average blog gets the most traffic around 11AM on Mondays.

Blogtyrant.com came to a different conclusion: The most traffic is around on a Wednesday, between 9:30 and 11 USA East Coast time, he says.

Managing Editor Erin Balsa has a practical piece of advice: if the majority of your traffic lives in Los Angeles, distribute your content on weekday mornings at Pacific time; if they’re in New York or Boston, the mornings on Eastern time.

As a blog content writing trainer, my second favorite piece of advice comes from Karen Evans, founder of Start Blogging Online! Karen reveals “the surprising truth” – there IS NO universal best time to publish. What works for one blog might not work for yours.

My very favorite advice comes from Rob Steffens of blueadz.com. Ron tells bloggers: “Remember, riming isn’t everything; consistency is key.”

You may not need an astrologer to pinpoint your own best days for blogging for business!

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The Pros and Cons in Backyard Business Blogging

 

“The Pros and Cons of Backyard Livestock”, by Jack Savage (the piece appears in the 2019 Old Farmer’s Almanac) illustrates how serious stuff can be presented in a wickedly funny way. And, while not every business blog content writer could pull off the humor, that “Pros and Cons” format is very workable as a template for informational blog posts. Savage offers his advice in five sections: chickens, horses, goats, pigs, and cows. For each, the author gives some background information:

Chickens – the world has 3x as many of them as humans.
Pros: eggs
Cons: keeping them safe from foxes, coyotes, and weasels
.
Horses – you’ll be feeding your horse, but your horse will not be feeding you, and the horse will have final say over who rides whom.
Pros: You can ride a horse
Cons: Writing checks to the hay guy, the vet, the tack shop, the truck-and-trailer dealership.

Goats are highly social, curious, interactive, and smart ruminants (chew their cud).
Pros: Hilarious
Cons: Feet and horns have to be trimmed, you’ll need to keep milking.

Pigs are cute when they’re young, not as filthy as their reputation suggests, and put on weight fast.
Pros: Bacon, ham, sausage, port roast (and did we mention bacon?)
Cons: Destructive, sunburn easily, butchering is serious business

Cows (also ruminants) make you feel like a real farmer and are a lot easier to handle than elephants.
Pros: Unadulterated milk and cheese
Cons: Find a large animal vet, and give him all your money.

In training business blog content writers, I call the technique Savage is using here “templating”. When you have several pieces of information to impart, I explain, consider ways to “unify” them under one umbrella or list category. In fact, at Say It For You, I’m always on the lookout for different “templates”, not in the sense of platform graphics, but in terms of formats for presenting information about any business or professional practice. The format lends variety to the different posts, and also helps readers organize their own thoughts on the subject. Brandon Royal, author of The Little Red Writing Book, calls them “floor plans”. In a chronological structure, the writer discusses the earliest events first, then moves forward in time. In an evaluative structure (which is what Jack Savage used), you discuss the pros and cons of a concept. If a presentation is structured, it will be useful to the reader; otherwise, it will be confusing and of little value.

What if your products and services are nothing to joke about? Jack Savage obviously isn’t enamored of the idea of becoming a backyard livestock farmer – his hilariously amusing remarks are hardly designed to “sell” readers on embracing that kind of new enterprise. But just because your company is serious, doesn’t mean all marketing has to be,” Jason Miller of Social Media Examiner counters. Humor is a hook, grabbing the audience’s attention, as well as an icebreaker, but it’s important to focus the humor around a problem your company can solve.

If Jack Savage were a blog content writer for an animal feed company, could he have fairly presented the drawbacks and challenges, while still encouraging readers to explore animal farming?

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Serving Up Myths, Signs, Tips, and Facts in Business Blog Posts


To get started with what Neil Patel calls a “documented blogging strategy”, he says, you need to plan topic ideas. When he’s feeling light on those, Patel admits, he simply fires up Hubspot’s Blog Idea Generator.  When Patel wanted to write about link-building, for example the Generator suggested building blog posts around:

  • 20 Myths About Link Building
  • 10 Signs Your Should Invest in Link Building
  • 10 Quick Tips About Link Building
  • The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Link Building
  • The History of Link Building

In training business blog content writers, I call this kind of tactic “templating”. When you have several pieces of information to impart, consider ways to “unify” them under one umbrella or list category. In fact, at Say It For You, I’m always on the lookout for different “templates”, not in the sense of platform graphics, but in terms of formats for presenting information about any business or professional practice. The format lends variety to the different posts, and also helps readers organize their own thoughts on the subject.

Let’s take a closer look at each of those Generator templates:

Myths…Blog posts are the perfect medium for “mythbusting” to dispel counterproductive thinking about your industry or profession.

Signs you should….I like the subtlety of this implied Call to Action. It doesn’t order readers to take action, just creates an awareness of a possible reason to act.

Tips… When I’m helping new clients who are business owners or professional practitioners, I often find they feel some ambiguity about planning their blog post content.  In the beginning, many feel uneasy about giving away valuable information “for free”. But offering tips is a great way to selling yourself and your services to online searchers.

Worst advice…The fear of losing something, psychologists tell us, motivates people more than the prospect of gain something.  This template about “worst advice’ plays on that fear of losing out because of bad advice.

History of….History has an important place in blog content writing. History-of-our-company background stories have a humanizing effect, creating feeling of empathy and admiration for business owners or practitioners who overcame adversity to build successful careers and corporations.

A recent Reader’s Digest article sparked yet another “template” idea: 50 Health Facts Your Doctor Wants You to Know:

In a “stall” on your “documented blog strategy”? Try using templates to serve up myths, signs, tips, and facts.

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Learning from Leonardo in Blogging for Business

 

“Learning from Leonardo”, Walter Isaacson’s article in Time: The Science of Creativity, could serve as a checklist for blog content writers.  DaVinci’s work holds lessons for all of us, the author says; even if we can’t match DaVinci’s talents, we can try to be more like him. How can that apply to creating innovative and captivating blog content?

Be curious, relentlessly curious about everything around you.
I have a theory about human curiosity that I think tests out in corporate blogging:  Our curiosity is at its most intense when it concerns testing our own limits. Yes, readers like juicy gossip tidbits about sports and movie stars. Yes, readers have interest in how stuff works in the world and how things came to be. And, yes, (as I always stress in corporate blogging training sessions), by definition of their having found your blog, readers have an interest in your field. But (or so my theory goes, anyway), readers are most curious about themselves, how they “work” and the limits of their own knowledge and their own physical capabilities. I believe that’s why readers find arcane pieces of information and “quizzes” so hard to resist .

Observe, starting with the details.
Examples and details are the very things people remember long after reading a piece. Corporate websites provide basic information about a company’s products or a professional’s services, but the business blog content is there to attach a “face” and lend a “voice” to that information by filling in the finer details. Ask yourself what you want readers to know about your topic for that post and think of three details for each idea, Quick Study advises students.

Go down rabbit holes. (Leonardo “drilled down for the pure joy of geeking out,” Isaacon says.)
I find seeming “useless” tidbits of information highly useful when it comes to blog content writing. It’s interesting when business owners or practitioners present little-known facts about their own business or profession. History tidbits, for example, engage readers’ curiosity, evoking an “I didn’t know that!” response.

Respect facts.  “Be fearless about changing your mind based on new information.”
Whether it’s business-to-business blog writing or business to consumer blog writing, the blog content itself needs to use opinion to clarify what differentiates that business, that professional practice, or that organization from its peers. People are looking for more than information – they need perspective. On the other hand, nothing is more compelling than honesty. If the business owner or practitioner’s perspective has evolved, that change of mind should be powerfully clarified in the blog content.

Avoid silos.  At presentations, Isaacson relates, Steve Job would use one slide depicting the intersection between two roads: Liberal Arts and Technology, Isaacson notes. Besides coming across as more credible, when business owners or professional practitioners stay up to date in their own fields, they are in a better position to spot threats and opportunities early on. If readers can see evidence in your content of, not only your expertise, but your openness to insights gained from experts in other fields, that broadens their own understanding along with their trust in you!

In striving for authenticity and creativity, we blog content writers have a lot to learn from Leonardo DaVinci!

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Who-Else-Is-Doing-It Blogging for Business

The mini-article “Hosts with the Most” in the Perspective section of the AARP magazine suggests an interesting way blog content writers can use statistics to sell. “Maybe more of us want to run bed-and-breakfasts when we retire than we thought…Americans over 60 are the fastest-growing group to become Airbnb hosts.”  In fact, we learn, there’s been an astounding 102% one-year growth in Airbnb hosts age 60 and up, with senior hosts capturing 13% of the total market.

If this little magazine were a blog post written to persuade retirees to become Airbnb hosts, it would tie back to the theory of social proof, meaning that, as humans, we are simply more willing to do something if we see that other people are doing it. In other words, people reference the behavior of others to guide their own behavior. When using statistics in business blog posts, we teach at Say It For You, it’s important to include the source, providing the answer to readers’ unspoken question: “Why should I accept these statistics as proof?”

To be persuasive, statistics must be combined with other kinds of evidence, Stephen Boyd cautions public speakers. You might state a statistic and then give an example reinforcing the number he says, or show what the statistic might mean by comparing it to something with which the audience is already familiar. In offering a dollar figure, for example, say “That amount would be like supporting your child through four years of college.”

The “Hosts with the Most” article does something even better – it paints a picture of results:  “Older Americans get more five-star ratings than any other demographic.” When you’re composing business blog content, I tell writers, imagine readers asking themselves – “How will I use the product (or service)?” “How will it work?” “How will I feel?”  In other word, the focus of a bog post written to persuade readers to buy must be on the end result from the recipient’s point of view.

To be sure, opening your post with a startling statistic can be a way to grab visitors’ attention, and statistics can often serve as myth-busters. (If there’s some false impression people seem to have relating to your industry, or to a product or service you provide, you can bring in statistics to show how things really are). Statistics can also serve to demonstrate the extent of a problem.  Once readers realize the problem, the door is open for you to show how you help solve that very type of problem for your customers!

But my experience has shown me that statistics, even the startling sort, aren’t enough to create positive results for any marketing blog. Why not? The fact that a serious problem exists (even if the searcher suffers from that very problem) is not enough to make most readers take action. And in the final analysis, of course, the success of any blog marketing effort depends on that action. What blogging does best is deliver to corporate blog sites customers who are already interested in the product or service you’re providing! And while statistics may not galvanize prospects into action, they can be used to assure readers they are hardly “alone” in their need for solutions to their medical, financial, or personal challenges

Assuring readers that not only have they come to the right place for help, but that lots of other people have found your solution helpful, will bring who-else-is-doing-it, social proof business blogging success. 

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What-Are-We-About Blogging for Business

blog mission statement
Painted on a wall at the Cleveland airport, I discovered what could serve as the perfect model for introducing a blog. After all, when the owners of a business or professional practice have made the decision to include blogging as a key factor in their marketing plan, they need to tell their online visitors why. 

   Rock & roll is not an instrument. Rock & roll is not even a style of music; rock & roll is a spirit.   It’s been going since the blues, jazz, bebop, soul R&B, rock & roll, heavy metal, punk rock and yes, hip hop. And what connects us all is that spirit…rock & roll is not conforming to the people that came before you, but creating your own path in music and in life. That is rock & roll. And that is us.
                                                                              Ice Cube, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, 2016

At Say It For You, I provide business blogging assistance to business owners and their employees, and the Ice Cube piece reinforced my idea that blog content writers need to “introduce” themselves. Think about it – in business blogs, readers are often asked to subscribe to the blog, pose a question or comment, sign up for a mailing list or newsletter, or buy products or services. But readers need to be given a reason to do those things, and the “because” needs to explain what the principles are which will be reflected in the content of the blog.

Fellow blogger Rick Short, Indium Corporation’s Director of Marketing Communications, says that, before beginning a business blog, it’s important to have a goal and then work backwards. Short lists the four P’s of blogging:

Point
If your blog doesn’t have a specific point, don’t even start.
Passion
If you don’t have a burning passion about the topic, don’t even bother.
Personality
A blog needs opinion, likes and dislikes, not just a dry, dull review of the facts.
Perseverance
If you can’t keep up the discipline of posting frequently, find a new hobby!

The Ice Cube piece, while not a blog post, certainly covers the first three of those basics.  The writer’s passion is obvious, and Ice Cube’s clearly giving readers a taste for the animating “spirit” of Rock & roll. Now a blog would fill in different details and pieces of information, but all of that content would flow from the original “what-are-we-about” piece.

A personal injury attorney explains what his practice is “about:
“In my line of work, which includes helping victims of sexual assault and abuse, I’ve learned that life can be brutal, but the process of seeking legal remedy need not be. Being a guy who still values old-fashioned, face-to-face client service, but who still tries to keep up with modern technology, I decided a blog would be just one more way to get our message out to the people who need to hear it. I want the sexual abuse portion of our blog to reach folks who know they need to speak out about what happened to them or to someone they love. They need to know that victims may be entitled to financial compensation, which can help them rebuild their lives…”.

A tree trimming company explains why they are offering a blog:
Our goal here is to keep you informed about tree health, tree safety, tree trimming, tree and stump removal, other tree services, and Indiana Strong’s dedicated team of tree service professionals. But most of all, this blog will be about you, because we want to help you make informed choices for your home and family.

Before showing them what your business blog posts are going to be about, tell ‘em what you’re all about!

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Tell Business Blog Readers: Review. Check. Evaluate. Consider.

call to action

That entire two page spread in Crossroads, AAA Hoosier Motor Club’s magazine, I realized, constituted one big Do-It-Yourself Call to Action. There were actually seven CTAs in a row:

  1. Know your coverage.
  2. Think about what’s changed since your last checkup.
  3. Review your home inventory.
  4. Check your liability coverage.
  5. Consider natural disasters.
  6. Evaluate your auto coverage.
  7. Call your agent.

As a blog content writer, I was glad to see that the AAA magazine authors had remembered to answer the question “Why should I?” before it was asked: “Just as an annual physical is good for your health, taking time to regularly examine your insurance coverage can help ensure your financial well-being.”

Too obvious? Too pushy?  Just plain too many AAA Calls-to-Action?  Perhaps. “Your blog can be a powerhouse when it comes to lead generation and reconversion, but you have to know how to use it, Pamela Vaughan writes in Hubspot. “The CTA you choose can make or break the conversion potential of any given blog post you publish,” Vaughan adds. Consider the stage of the sales and marketing funnel your visitors are in and narrow down the list of CTAs to match.

Neil Patel of crazyegg.com talks about using end-of-content CTAs, which appear right at the end of the article.  The logic – “If a reader reaches the end of an article, they are engaged and ready to convert.”

Does directly asking for the customer’s business invalidate the good information you’ve provided in the piece? Not in the least. When people go online to search for information and click on different blogs or on different websites, they’re aware of the fact that the providers of the information are out to do business. But as long as the material is valuable and relevant for the searchers, they’re perfectly fine with knowing there’s someone who wants them for a client or customer.

Content that provides value will indeed help readers:

  • review their own knowledge
  • check the information you’ve against what they already thought they knew
  • evaluate the current services and products they are using
  • (hopefully) consider what you have to offer.

But, for readers to follow seven different CTA’s is a bit much to ask, I’d advise. Better, in each blog post to focus on ONE message, ONE audience, and ONE outcome.  Business blogging, in fact, is ideal for using what I call the Power of One!

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Do-You-Know-the-Difference Blogging for Business

 

White tea is made from young leaves, green tea from more mature leaves, with the white  named after the silvery-white hairs on immature buds on the tea plant.

Does the difference matter? According to the Beverage Guidance Panel, which includes the chair of the nutrition department at Harvard University School of Public Health, white tea blocks more than 100% of DNA damage in vitro against cooked-meat carcinogens, while green tea blocks only about half.

Enhanced meat is fresh meat that has been injected with a solution of water and other ingredients such as salt, phosphates, and flavorings. According to the USDA, about 60% of all raw meat and poultry products have been injected with or soaked in a salty solution. If you’re trying to control the levels of sodium in your diet in order to reduce blood pressure, opt for labels such as “contains up to 4% retained water”

Helping online readers know the difference is certainly a core function of blog content writing. Exactly what factors distinguish your products and services from everyone else’s?  Even more important, why should those readers care?

Sometimes, to add variety to an informative blog post, you can “season it” with an interesting tidbit. Speaking of salt levels in meat, for example, you might mention that the number one use of salt in the United States isn’t related to food at all!  According to the U.S. Geological Survey, almost half of our salt goes towards de-icing roads.

In fact, corporate blogging training sessions, I often recommend including interesting information on topics only loosely related to the business or practice. If it’s information most readers wouldn’t be likely to know, so much the better, because that tidbit can help engage online readers’ interest.

The word salary, for example, comes from the word “salt”, because in ancient Rome, soldiers had to purchase their own food, including salt. We’ve all heard individuals described as “not worth their salt”.

“The toughest job selling value to customers is getting them to picture the full depth and breadth of everything your company has to offer,” Tim Donnelly writes in Inc. magazine. In other words, customers need to “know the difference” and then understand why that difference matters!

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Blogging for Business Outside Your Own

 

 

“Can authors write characters whose experiences are outside of their own?” That’s the very question posed by Diana M. Pho in her article “Through the Looking Glass” in Writer’s Digest.  Writing across difference is important, she says, since “the best fiction has the ability to transport readers into another’s shoes and make readers consider a new perspective.”

Pho identifies three different approaches to writing about matters which extend beyond one’s own identity:

  1. “Invaders” act without responsibility, focusing on the “exotic” and on stereotypes.
  2. “Tourists” are deeply interested in the subject and try not to impose their own biases.
  3. “Guests” strive for authenticity and strive to gain expertise and attribute knowledge to the proper authorities.

As head of a team of professional content writers, I have been thinking a lot about the outsourcing of business blog content writing. Companies are making great efforts to express their personal brand. Can a writer who is not educated in the client’s particular field produce copy that is an authentic expression of the client’s ideas, personality, and expertise?

In fact, I’m sometimes asked how we “do it”.  It takes two things, I respond:  research and good hearing.  A ghost blogger uses a ‘third ear” to understand what the client wants to say and to pick up on the client’s unique slant on his/her business or profession. Far from functioning as invaders or even tourists, we strive for authenticity.  What keeps us going is the learning.  For us, in order for us to create a valuable ongoing blog for your business, it’s going to take as much reading and research as writing.

On the other hand, while it’s true that the dominant trend in business blogging is outsourcing (the obvious reason being that few business owners or professional practitioners have the time to create and post blogs with enough frequency to attract the attention of search engines), different clients prefer different levels of help vs. DIY.

At one end of the spectrum, the business owner might want certain employees to receive corporate blogging training so that they can then take over the function of business blog writing. At the opposite extreme a company might turn over to a business blogging service the entire effort of crafting the message and maintaining the consistent posting of corporate blog content.

Authors of novels can, indeed, write characters whose experiences are outside of their own identities. Professional blog content writers can come “through the looking glass” to do the same.

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Seguidilla Blogging for Business

 

 

Poems often follow a particular set of rules.  The rules might be about:

  • the number of lines
  • the number of stanzas
  • the number of lines
  • the length of each stanza

For example, sonnets have 14 lines, and use line-ending rhymes. Limericks have five lines, with the third and fourth lines rhyming (an AABBA pattern). Haiku poems are three lines long, with a first line of 5 syllables, the second with 7 syllables, and the third 5 syllables. One less familiar form, which grew out of Spanish music, is called a seguidilla. Seguidillas have 7 lines, with a set number of syllables for each of the seven (a 7, 5, 5, 5, 5, 7, 5 pattern). Robert Lee Brewer explains in writersdigest.com.

Business blog posts should also follow a set of rules and include set elements:

  • Title – introduces the reader to your topic and create a sense of urgency to read the post
  • “Pow opening line” – arouses readers’ curiosity and interest
  • “Closer” – brings up the rear, restating your “thesis” or main point
  • Headings and subheadings – organize your content and make it more easily skimmable by readers.
  • Featured image at the top of your post – attracts attention, arouses interest, and helps explain the concepts to be discussed
  • Paragraphs – 1-4 sentences in length, with variation among paragraphs
  • White space – don’t crowd the blog with text and images

Whether the chosen poetic form is a seguidilla, a haiku, or a sonnet, the very regularity of the formatting allows the reader of the poem to “relax” in the familiarity of the presentation, while yet enjoying new and different approaches to the content of the poem itself. The poeta have all followed a very rigid pattern of syllables, but the content of each poem  presents a new and different point of view.

Part of the point of poetic form rules is minimizing clutter.  When it comes to business blog content writing, that doesn’t necessarily mean chopping the number of words. It’s more about making the posts more readable and easier to look at.

With a seguidilla blog post, it’s as if the reader can relax knowing what to expect out of a blog post and still be pleasantly surprised by the unique and original “slant” you’ve been able to give to the content!

 

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Powerful Paragraphs and Sentences in Blogging for Business


“Construct your paragraphs with a good eye as well as a good mind,” advises Richard Anderson in Powerful Writing Skills.  What does that mean? Consider how the paragraph looks on the page – would it be more appealing to the eye to divide it into two paragraphs?

Anderson’s reasoning includes the following considerations:

  • Enormous blocks of print implant an image of difficulty in readers’ minds.
  • Bunches of short paragraphs can be distracting.

The compromise: vary the length of your paragraphs without making the breaks seem forced. Generally speaking, Anderson points out, “the shorter the paragraphs and the fewer the number of ideas contained in them, the easier they are to read.

In writing good sentences, be yourself, using clear, honest, natural words on paper, Anderson tells writers. He recommends writers choose:

  • nouns over adjectives
  • verbs over adverbs
  • plain verbs over fancy ones
  • specific words over general ones
  • short sentences over long ones
  • personal over non-personal

But, if all your sentences are approximately the same length, Anderson warns, you’re putting    your reader to sleep; vary the length as a subtle way to keep readers awake.

Another way to bore readers is using clichés (overused phrases). They numb readers’ senses, he warns, and they are often too general and vague. “Allow the meaning of your message to choose your words rather than the other way around,” Anderson suggests.

Strunk and White sum up the concept in their own book, The Elements of Style: For the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts, a sentence should contain no unnecessary words.

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Blogging for Business With a Long Tail

 

Keyword phrases come in two “sizes” – short tail and long tail, verticalresponse.com explains to adword buyers. Short tails consist of one or two words and, because people are likely to search those terms more often, they bring in more online traffic. Long tails typically consist of 3-5 words, targeting more specific searches. The big advantage of long-tail keywords is that your ad is likely to be a lot more relevant to what people are actually searching for. Focusing on qualified buyers (who are “higher up on the sales funnel”) should boost conversion rates, verticalresponse advises.

  1. When researching keywords, Hittail.com explains, search engine optimizers consider three qualities:1. Search volume – the average number of times people have searched for a given keyword during a specified period
    2. Competition – how easy/hard it is to outrank competitors with a given keyword
    3. Relevance – how relevant the term is to your specific product, service, or website topic

Due to the increasing financial power wielded by large corporate advertisers, combined with the increasing efficiency of search engine algorithms, long tail keywords now comprise up to 70% of all search traffic, a survey by hittail revealed. That means it is far easier today to rank well for a multi-word keyword phrase, which is highly specific to your niche, than for a generic one or two word phrase. If you are fairly new to the marketplace, hittail advises, you need to outline the most relevant niche keywords and target them on your website by publishing blog posts, articles and landing pages.

No matter what else is “right” or “wrong” with your blog marketing efforts, Neil Patel says, (you will be ranked by site speed, mobile friendliness, engagement, etc.), “you’ve got to remember that on-page keyword phrase usage boosts the search volume performance of your content marketing efforts, by up to 15.04%”.

Patel is quick to remind readers that bottom line sales are not the only goal of blog marketing. “Remember that your content marketing goal must align with your organizational goal,” Patel says.  In addition to customer acquisition, goals might include

  • brand awareness
  • lead generation
  • customer retention and loyalty
  • building trust and rapport
  • exploring prospect pain
  • reputation-building
  • thought leadership

Achieving any or all of the above, as we teach as Say It For You, depends on getting found and getting read. On the positive side, as I assure business owners and practitioners just starting to do blog marketing, “The only people who are going to be reading your blog posts are those who are searching for precisely the kinds of information, products, and services that relate to what you do, what you have for sale, and what you know how to do.” The big advantage of incorporating long-tail keywords in the title and the body of your blog post is that is that those searchers are more likely to find you!

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Odds-of Comparison Blogging for Business

Odds of opioid death higher than car crash,” a recent Indianapolis Star headline read. Since, at Say It For You, I’m always alert for ways to approach creating original content for business owners’ and professional practitioners’ blogs, that headline caught my attention.

One way to make business blog content impactful, I teach at Say It For You, is to put information in perspective by using statistical comparisons. “Even when news stories, ads, or public service announcements do a good job of providing risk statistics, you still need more information to make the numbers meaningful,” explain the authors of Know Your Chances.

Whether a business owner is composing his/her own blog posts or collaborating with a professional ghost blogger, it’s simply not enough to provide even very valuable information to online searchers who’ve landed on a company’s page The facts need to be “translated” into relational, emotional terms to put things into perspective for readers and therefore compel reaction – and action. Statistical comparisons help do just that.

Online searchers may know what they want or even what they need.  They may not know what to call that need. They almost certainly lack expert knowledge in your field. Think about it. It’s difficult for potential customers to know if:

  • your prices are fair
  • how experienced you are relative to your peers
  • how large or small your business is compared to others
  • whether “small” better for this particular service or product
  • whether and how your approach to your field different from most others

Online searchers may have heard about a particular product or service that you offer, but not know what the odds are that they will have need of that product or service!  “Odds-of” comparison blogging for business provides that very sort of guidance.

Opening your post with a startling statistic can be a way to grab visitors’ attention. Statistics can actually serve as myth-busters in themselves.  If there’s some false impression people seem to have relating to your industry, or to a product or service you provide, you can bring in statistics to show how things really are. Statistics can also serve to demonstrate the extent of a problem.  Once readers realize the problem, the door is open for you to show how you help solve that very type of problem for your customers!

“Odds-of” blogging for business can increase the odds of online readers deciding to DO business – with you!

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Don’t-Bother-With….Blogging for Business

blog formats

 

At Say It For You, I’m always on the lookout for different “templates”, not in the sense of platform graphics, but in terms of formats for presenting information about any business or pro practice.  Possibilities include:

  • how-to posts
  • list posts
  • review posts
  • op ed opinion posts
  • interview posts

By varying the format or template, you can revisit topics related to your field over long periods of time without being repetitive.

The “nucleus” around which business blog posts are formed is their topic, showing the expertise and products that business offers. The key words and phrases around that topic are what brings readers to the blog posts. But, even though the overall topic is the same, there is endless variety that can be used to make each blog post special, and one way to differentiate blog posts is by using different templates.

Just the other day, for example, I ran across two new uses of a template, both in the February issue of Oprah Magazine:

  1. In “Finish Strong”, the author presents four rules for getting the most out of a workout.  Following each recommendation, there are two subsections: Do and Don’t Bother With. For example, under the rule “Heal Thyself”, the Do is to keep moving, which is “the only proven antidote” to delayed onset muscle soreness following a workout.  Under Don’t Bother With, the author lists products promising to flush out lactic acid, ice baths, and potions to reduce inflammation. Similarly, content writers, while advising blog readers on solutions, can add “what not to bother with”, in order to give the information a new twist.

2.  In “Fill Your Cup”, author Aleisha Fetters is giving advice about get-well teas, using the template “If    You Have…” If you have a tickle in your throat, use Echinacea tea.  Fetters than lists some of her recommended product choices. There are if-you-have recommendations for nausea, congestion, cough, and fever.

From a strategic standpoint, there are two different and compelling reasons for varying the template or format of your blog posts:

To create interest:
“You may find the information interesting, but unless you make it interesting to your readers, you won’t have any readers,” cautions Zhi Yuan in rankreview.com.

To use long tail keywords:
Long tail keywords tend to be more detailed, with a more narrow focus on one aspect of your product or service. Over long periods of time, your business blog content can become ever more focused and detailed, as you present the information using new and different “templates”.

Definitely DO bother with new templates in blogging for business!

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Are-Both-Sides-Right Blogging for Business

“Are both sides right?” asks veterinarian Carrie Donahue, writing in Good Health magazine, alluding to the debate about whether dogs should be on a raw diet or a conventional one. The raw camp emphasizes raw or lightly cooked meat, including organ meat and bones. The conventionalists are concerned about bacteria in raw meat and the threat of choking on bones.

The author concludes by saying that regardless which method is chosen, supplementation is important, going on to offer tips on which supplements help a dog have a healthy coat and skin, and which are beneficial for a pet’s brain, eyes, and heart..

Whether the topic of your blog marketing efforts is plumbing, pets, or pharma, the content itself needs to use opinion. It’s opinion, after all, that clarifies what differentiates your business, your professional practice, or your organization from its peers.  This Good Health article, takes a slightly different approach – airing both sides of a debate.

At Say It for You, I train content writers to reveal their unique “slant” or philosophy within their field.  That way, I explain, potential customers and clients feel they know who you are, not merely what you do,  and they are more likely to want to be associated with you.

For that very reason, one important facet of my job as a content writer is to “interview” business owner and professional practitioner clients, eliciting each one’s very individualized thoughts. The Carrie Donahue article about pet food suggests an alternate approach – present both sides of the story to readers.  When you clarify and put into perspective both sides of a thorny issue within your industry or profession, you’re performing a valuable service for readers.

On the other hand, I have observed, whether you’re blogging for a business, for a professional practice, or for a nonprofit organization, there needs to be a slant on the information you’re serving up for readers. In other words, blog posts, to be effective, can’t be just compilations; you can’t just “aggregate” other people’s stuff and make that be your entire blog presence.

There’s value in Are-Both-Sides-Right blog posts, no doubt, as Carrie Donahue so effectively demonstrates in this article. In the big picture, however, I have to conclude that, to achieve the status of “thought leader” and inspire action, business blog posts will need to involve taking one side of an issue, not both.

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Take an Occam’s Razor to Your Blog Content

Simplicity Score

 

Medieval philosopher William of Occam taught a logical problem-solving principle which came to be known as Occam’s Razor (forerunner of KISS – keep it simple, stupid). The concept:  simpler solutions are more likely to be correct than complex ones.

As blog content writers, we ought to get Occam’s message, learning to apply a “razor” to our own creations. “All writers should do a bit of counting words and sentences and revise their writing for the sake of their readers,” writes Nirmaldasan, explaining the Simplicity Score of business writing.
.
The Simplicity Score is based on the idea that the average sentence length is the best indicator of text difficulty, and it is measured by the number of complete sentences is a sample of 35 words.  The SS may vary on a five-point scale, with 0 being very hard, and 4+ being very easy. If our writing measures up to this standard, in ten sentences there will be about 170 words.

In her blog post The Wild and Crazy Guide to Writing Sentences, Michele Russell posits that at the heart of the craft of blogging is one very basic ability: writing good sentences. Imagine your sentences as links in a chain, Russell advises. “The stronger you can make each one, and the more tightly you can connect it to the ones on either side, the more powerful your writing will be.”

The WordPress Readability Analysis measures both sentence length and paragraph length, while the Flesch reading-ease test is based on the ratio of total words to total sentences, plus total syllables to total words.

Too much counting and measuring? Not really, William Strunk says in The Elements of Style. “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts,” Strunk explains.

While the Occam’s Razor Simplicity Score can help us keep our blog writing simple, we must also keep it interesting, Michele Russell reminds us. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of making most of your sentences similar in length, but the steady rhythm can lull readers to sleep. Use short sentences, Russell suggests, to “add a percussive bite” and keep your audience on its toes.  You use the longer ones to explain things in more detail. Varying the rhythm keeps readers guessing, she says.

It seems we blog content writers must learn to count sentences, words, and even syllables, but to avoid becoming formulaic, we need to do it in “syncopated time”!

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Serving Up Incredible Information in Your Business Blog

 

For years now, as a blog content writing trainer, I’ve been preaching the use of seemingly “useless” tidbits of information to spice up business blogs, engaging readers’ curiosity, and evoking an “I didn’t know that!” response.
Tidbits can be used to:

  • describe your way of doing business
  • clarify the way one of your products works
  • explain why one of the services you provide is particularly effective in solving a problem.

While one goal of any marketing blog is to help your business “get found”, once that’s happened, the goal changes to helping the online readers get comfortable with the way you do business. Blog content writing is the perfect vehicle for conveying a corporate message starting with a piece of trivia.

Owners of a grocery store or a food delivery service company, for example, might include trivia about food spoilage in their blog, highlighting their own food safety procedures.

Myth: Food should be defrosted on the kitchen counter.
Truth: When a whole chicken, is left to defrost on the kitchen counter, the surface will defrost first, allowing bacteria to multiply while the inside is still frozen.

 Owners of a health food store might blog about a widespread misunderstanding about spinach, highlighting the body’s need for iron and other nutrients.

Myth: Spinach is a superior source of iron, with ten times the iron content of other green leafy veggies.
Truth: Despite Popeye’s claims, the oxalic acid in spinach prevents the body from absorbing more than 90 percent of the vegetable’s iron.

A realtor’s blog might discuss the perception that a 30-year mortgage is the least expensive option.

Myth: The longer the payment period, the cheaper the payments will be.
Truth: You could end up paying more during the life of the loan if you pick the 30-year option instead of the 15-year mortgage. 

Common myths surround every business and profession.  If you notice a “factoid” circulating about your industry, a common misunderstanding by the public about the way things really work in your field, you can use a little-known tidbit of information that reveals the truth behind the myth.

Serve up “incredibly” credible information in the form of mythbusting tidbits in your blog.

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Blog Content Writers help Readers Dodge Dangers

  • readers' fear of missing out

Redbook‘s holiday issue has a page blog content writers should see, titled “Dodge Common Dangers”.  There’s a “Trim With Care” section cautioning readers to:

  • keep lit menorahs at least three feet away from flammable items
  • avoid overloading the Christmas tree with strings of incandescent lights
  • avoid running electrical cords under carpets or rugs
  • put glass ornaments low on the tree where they can be bumped
  • let the tree stay in the house more than a month

As a blog content writer, I felt, the magazine’s editors had managed to offer these serious fire-avoidance warnings with a light touch, resulting in very readable copy.

“Great copywriting compels action, so it’s no surprise fear is used in marketing,” writes Amy Harrison of Copyblogger.  Marketing messages, she says, may be based on readers’:

  • fear of missing out
  • fear of losing something
  • fear of future threat

For a message to be successfully persuasive, Harrison explains, the threat needs to be moderate to high, with the reader feeling he’s personally at risk, and that preventative action is simple.

Heavy-handed scare tactics, on the other hand, simply don’t work, as a study done by the National Institute of Health Science Panel back in 2004 clearly demonstrated.

All human behavior, at its root, is driven by the need to avoid pain and gain pleasure, Neil Patel of Kissmetrics points out.  Of the two, we do more to avoid pain.  Show your prospects all the dangers on the road from A to Z, and how your product or service is the weapon they need to defeat those dangers and discomforts, Patel advises.

In other words, as effective blog content writers, we can demonstrate to our readers how to dodge dangers.

 

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The 11 Characteristics of Master Business Blog Post Writers


There are eleven characteristics often considered to be women’s strengths, Nancy D. O’Reilly writes in her book In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other in Work and Life.

Interesting… was my reaction to that statement. In a content writer of either gender, I couldn’t help thinking, those very eleven strengths would result in a great business blog marketing effort.

1.  Emotional intelligence – the capacity to notice, manage, and express emotions.
Exhibiting emotion in content marketing is a good thing, increasing connection and impact.

2.  Empathy – the ability to understand other people’s feelings.
Corporate blog writing needs to aim for copy that proves the writer understands the problems customers have.

3.  Compassion – sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress and a desire to alleviate it
A skillful blogger creates a connection of understanding and sympathy with the audience that allows readers to be receptive to the message.

4.  Good communication skill – delivering and exchanging information
Bloggers are interpreters, translating clients’ corporate message into people-to-people terms, trying to find exactly the right tone.

5.  An ability to build relationships – connecting with others
Consumers want social currency, visible symbols of “insider” status and special understanding that they can show off to others.

6.  Multitasking skills – increasing productivity and getting ahead of the competition
Blog content writers spend time “reading around”, writing, illustrating posts with images, and formatting – the combination of skills is what makes for a great end product.

7.  A tendency to collaborate – working with others to produce a result
Business blog writing is a product of interaction – among the owner or practitioner and the writer, the webmaster, and even the employees.

8.  A desire to mentor – assisting someone less skilled
Reinforcing the familiar, then progressing to new information is an effective tactic for business blogging. Introducing your own specialized knowledge and “how-to” tips, positions you as a mentor to readers.

9.  Passion – feeling enthusiasm and excitement
Real enthusiasm  means believing in your industry, your company, your product, and your ability to serve your customers, and conveying that in the blog posts.

10.  Vulnerability – revealing one’s own weaknesses
True stories about mistakes and struggles are very humanizing, adding to the trust readers place in the people behind the business or practice.

11.  Endurance – persisting in the face of challenges
Sustaining the writing effort over months and years takes persistence.  By adding a few new items, rearranging some old ones, and staying alert to changing vocabulary and trends, writers can keep the blogs fresh. and new, never running out of things we just can’t wait to say!

O’Reilly’s eleven characteristics, I believe, describe not only women, but blog content writer “greats” of every ilk! 

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Surprise-Laden Blog Post Titles

two part blog post titles

 

Blog post titles have a multifaceted job to do, arousing readers’ curiosity while still assuring them they’ve come to the right place. One compromise I’ve suggested to blog content writers is using a two-tiered title, combining a “Huh?” (to get attention) with an “Oh!” (to make clear what the post is actually going to be about).

The latest business book covers use this “compromise solution” all the time. Here are some samples of recently published titles (The main or “Huh?) title is shown in bold, with the “Oh!” subtitle below it):

When to Jump
If the Job you have isn’t the Job You Want

Do  Nothing
Discover the Power of Hands-Off Leadership

The Persuasion Code
How Neuromarketing Can Help You Persuade Anyone, Anywhere, Any Time

When
The Scientific Secret of Perfect Timing

Originals
How Non-conformists Move the World

The Culture Code
The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

The Energy Bus
10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy

In This Together
How Successful Women Support Each Other in Work and Life

Unlike book publishers, we business blog content writers simply don’t have the option of using “mysterious” titles, since search engines will be will be matching the phrases used in our titles with the terms typed into readers’ search bars. So, just how can we get those keyword phrases in while still being enticingly enigmatic?

One possible way is including the “Oh!” part of our title in the meta tag description (the blurb of information that shows up beneath your clickable website address on search engine results pages).

Worth a try, anyway, with the idea being to pique readers’ curiosity and maintain the surprise, but meanwhile, giving the search engines the “advance scoop”.

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Can Your Blog Pass the Emotive & Information Power Response Tests?


(There’s a test for those, didn’t you know?)

Since emotional response towards advertising plays an important part in building a strong brand, researchers at the University of Bath, working with Nielson, came up with two ways to score ads.

  1. Information Power Score – measures what the consumer perceives as the value of the message
  2. Emotive Power Score – measures if the emotion is going to change feelings about the brand

So why am I interested in this research? Well, at Say It For You, our business is blog marketing, which means connecting professional practitioners and business owners with prospective clients and customers. And, while I continually preach and teach that blog posts are not ads, but more like advertorials, establishing connections is the name of the game for both advertisers and content marketers

Broadly speaking, the Bath studies showed, there are two types of emotive responses: those based on empathy and those that respond to creativity. In an empathetic response, people feel emotionally closer to the brand; in a creative response, the people feel the brand is imaginative and ahead of the game. “It’s always best if can get both empathy and creative,” Dr. David Brandt writes.

The way that information is communicated has an important influence on how likely people are to believe that information. And for certain advertiser categories, Brandt points out, empathy is more important (food and toiletries, for example), while for other categories (electrical goods or computers, for example), creativity is more important.

Readers of business blog posts fall into two categories, according to Morgan Steward of Media Post Publications:

  1. Deal seekers go online in search of bargains and discounts on products and services they already know and use. The effectiveness of the blog content writing, therefore, would be measured through the “information score”; the content would focus on the cost-effectiveness of your product or service and on any special deals or offers.
  2. Enthusiasts seek information to support their hobbies, interests, and beliefs.
    Blogs aimed at this audience might focus on the “emotive score”. On the other hand, creative packaging, color and shape appeal to these customers, so the “creativity score” can be important as well.

    Can your blog pass the emotive and information power response tests?

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They-Know-Why, You-Know-How Blog Marketing


Even if you’ve never smoked, there’s a lot to learn about blog marketing from the “Josh and Kayla know quitting is hard” TV commercial for NicoDerm CQ®, I was thinking just the other day.

Story power:
You may or may not ever have been addicted to nicotine, but as humans, we’ve always been addicted to stories, Alex Limberg writes in SmartBlogger.com. Stories, he explains, engage a deeper part of our brains than any logical explanation ever could. In the NicoDerm CQ® video, Kayla, leaving her dad’s hospital bedside to grab a smoke with Josh, realizes she needs to quit – she’s found her “why”.

People:
People-based marketing is driving change across the U.S. advertising industry, reports viantic.com. Even if your blog is devoted to marketing product, focus the content on how people will experience using it. The NicoDerm CQ® commercial shows “real” smokers experiencing the “real” challenge of quitting in a “real” human hospital setting. In blogging for business, where face-to-screen is the closest blog content writers come to their prospects,  introducing people (both people working for the company and users of the product or service) can ignite the kind of personal connection that gets readers emotionally involved.

Empathetic:
The “You know why, we know how” slogan is catchy, to be sure. More importantly, the tag line creates an emotional response. While advertising communicates a message about what a brand does, the way the message is conveyed has a greater influence on how likely consumers are to buy, David Brandt of Nielsen explains.  Ads that make people feel closer to a brand have a positive empathetic score.

Targeted:
Obviously, the Nicoderm CQ® ad is focused on a target market – viewers who are smokers, and smokers who know they need to quit.   In the same manner, business blogs must be targeted towards the specific type of customers you want and who will want to do business with you.  Everything about your blog should be tailor-made for that customer – the words you use, how technical you get, how sophisticated your approach, the title of each blog entry – all of it.

Advertising is “push marketing, while blogging is “pull marketing”, designed to attract searchers who have already identified their own need for a particular product or service. Those searchers already know why.What your blog content needs to demonstrate is this: you’ve done your homework and understand their “why”.  Your function is to furnish the “how”!

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How Committed and How Motivated Are Your Business Blog Readers?


“To me, when people talk about the fact that employees are not engaged, that means they’re missing what’s in it for them,” Margarida Correia writes in Employee Benefit News. “Employers need to help their employees understand how their lives are better because they are employed at the company.”

“Employee engagement represents the levels of enthusiasm and connection employees have with their organization,” Alexis Croswell of Culture Amp adds. It’s a measure of:

  • how motivated people are to put in extra effort.
  • how committed they are to stay there.

Notice the order, if you please, in which I presented these comments from two benefits experts.
If employees don’t first understand how their own lives are better because they are working at the company and how their own interests are being served, they are unlikely to commit to stay with that company and to put in that extra measure of effort.

Exactly that same order of priority will be operative when it comes to readers engaging with the content in a company’s – or a professional practice’s blog. 

Blog content marketing based solely on the features of products and services is simply not likely to work. Certainly, for blogs to be effective, they must serve as positioning statements and describe a value proposition. But blogs must do more, far more. Just why, exactly, should all those features and benefits you’ve spent paragraphs describing make any real difference to them?

At Say It For You, I’m fond of saying that in writing content for business blogs, the “what” needs to come before the “who”.  The opening sentences of each post must make a clear connection between “what” the searcher needs and the “what” your business or practice can offer to fulfill that need. The first order of business is writing about them and their needs. Only after that’s accomplished should you be writing about what you do, what you know, and about what you know how to do.

Just as those employee benefits experts talked about getting employees to commit to staying at the company, a blog has a “retention” function as well.  Engaged readers might decide at any point that they:

  • are ready to learn more
  • have a question to ask
  • are ready to sign up
  • are ready to buy

That would be a wonderful result, of course, so long as the navigation path on your website isn’t a nuisance.  Like unmotivated employees, unmotivated readers will not be willing to put in extra effort to satisfy their needs. Both the content itself and the navigation path on the website had better be easy to digest.

Don’t let your readers miss “ the What’s-in-it-for-them” in your business blog!

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Bloggers – Broken Plates are Good News, Broken Links, Not So Much

 

The Danish have a very old tradition of breaking dishes on the doorsteps of family and friends on New Year’s Eve.  The more dishes that are broken and piled up at your door on January 1st, the more friends and good fortune you have, Wescott writes in Tradish.

Unfortunately for blog content writers, broken links are definitely not signs of good fortune. A broken link connects the reader to an error message, rather than to more information, perhaps because:

  • The destination web page may no longer exist.
  • The user has software that blocks access to certain websites.
  • The destination website does not allow outside access.

Sites that haven’t been updated or checked for a long time may suffer from “link rot”, explains Quora.com. Broken links are bad news, no two ways about it, cautions technopedia.com.

At Say It For You, I offer advice that is a play on the Hippocratic Oath for healthcare providers (“Above all, do no harm”): Above all, I teach newbie blog content writers, do not annoy your readers with poor navigation, poor grammar, plagiarism, or just plain poor marketing tactics.

Broken and dead links make for a poor user experience, translating into missed opportunities to maximize the value of a company’s or practitioner’s website, as Geonetric points out. “How  many broken links does a visitor need to encounter on your website before they begin to associate your brand with difficulty, error, and failure?”

There are two types of links, Geonetric explains – internal (leading to other pages on your own website) and external (leading to pages on another website).  Internal links are most easily fixed.  But if an outside destination no longer exists, you’ll want to remove the hyperlink altogether, revising the content so that it no longer suggests a link at all.

Broken plates may be a sign of friendship and good fortune in Denmark, but nowhere in the blogosphere can broken links be considered good news!

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Boxing Day Mythbusting for Bloggers


Discovered a mild case – or an epidemic – of counterproductive thinking when it comes to your industry or profession? Blog posts are the perfect medium for “mythbusting” to dispel that counterproductive thinking.

Since our last Say It For You post (dealing with Santa’s red outfit and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer), Boxing Day was celebrated in the UK and Australia.  Many think Boxing Day is for boxing up and returning gifts you don’t want, but that’s not the case at all. It was on Boxing Day that, in the Middle Ages, churches would open their alms boxes and dole out the money to the poor.

One very simple format blog content writers can use when mythbusting is to simply list common myths surrounding a particular business, debunking each one. Oxygen Magazine does exactly that in the article “Sacking Sleep Myths” lists 5 myths. Each myth is followed by a paragraph full of debunking facts. It’s a myth, for example, your relationship will suffer if you don’t sleep with your partner. “Night divorce” can actually improve sleep patterns and in turn improve the relationship.

In a second mythbusting article in Oxygen. writer Jenna Aytyiru Dedic takes a different tack, using a claim/verdict format. Claim: Joint pain is exacerbated by cold weather. Verdict: False. There is no evidence that cold itself is at all culpable.

The debunking function of business blog writing is very important.  Blog content writing has the power to clear the air, replacing factoids with facts, allowing readers to see their way to clear to making decisions.

Offering little-known explanations that explode common myths is one way to engage readers’ interest, to be sure.  The next step, however, has to be leading into myths and little known details related to our own products, services, and company history, and providing a value-packed “verdict” for each false claim or misunderstanding.

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Christmas Marketing Mythbusting for Blog Content Writers

 

What is it about the color red for Christmas? Well, Toppen af Danmark’s website lets us know…

That song about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?  Rudolph was actually the marketing brainchild of American advertising exec Robert May, who added a ninth reindeer to the front of Santa’s sleigh as part of a promotion for a shopping mall. Furthermore, Santa may have gotten his red wardrobe as part of a marketing campaign by the Coca-Cola Company!

Meanwhile, in Five myths about the Nativity, University of Notre Dame New Testament professor Candida Moss explains that, contrary to popular belief, the word “manger” refers not to a barn, but a trough to feed animals. In first century Judean houses, mangers (from the French verb “manger”, meaning “to eat”) were found both outside and inside homes.

Myth-busting is a tactic blog content writers can use to grab online visitors’ attention.  In corporate blogging training sessions, I explain to newbie content writers in Indianapolis that citing statistics to disprove popular myths gives business owners the chance to showcase their own knowledge and expertise.

In the natural course of doing business, misunderstandings about a product or service often surface, and demystifying matters can make your blog the place to go for facts. The caution to keep in mind, however, is that readers don’t like to be “wrong”. It makes a lot of sense to use a business blog to address misinformation along with dispensing valuable information. Just don’t do it a way that makes readers “wrong”.

Ten years ago, when this Say It For You blog was just getting started, I shared a tidbit about camels from a website called Zoo Vet.  Camels may build up a pressure cooker of resentment towards humans, David Taylor explained, and camel handlers can calm the animals by handing over a coat to the beast, who will jump on it, and tear it to pieces, letting our all their frustration on the coat rather than on the human.

The parallel I drew was this: When debunking myths, follow up by throwing readers “a coat” in the form of a tidbit of little-known information that makes them feel “in the know”.

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Business Blogging – Don’t Forget What It Means


“To me, when people talk about the fact that employees are not engaged, that means they’re missing what’s in it for them…how their lives are better because they are employed by the company,” observes Dana Polyak in a recent issue of Employee Benefit News

Back to Radio Station WIIFM, that old sales training rule that all employers – and all of us writers of marketing blogs had better remember: employees want to know What’s In It for Me; buyers care about benefits, not features.

A number of years ago, in a brochure marketing professional Al Trestrail shared with me, he taught that after each feature  of the products and services your business or practice offers, you need to add the words “which means that…” What I took out of that discussion with Trestrail was that there are millions of blog posts out there making claims of one sort or another.  But what do those claims mean to the customers and clients reading the blog???

When people switch jobs, Polyak comments, they are ultimately seeking something more. “More” might mean better compensation, better benefits, better hours, shorter commutes, or more praise and recognition. At Say it For You content writing training sessions, I remind attendees that there has to be a “reason why” readers would follow the Calls to Action in a blog: Does your company or practice do things faster? Operate at a lower cost? Make fewer errors? Offer greater comfort? Provide a more engaging experience? In other words, What’s In It For Them?

In the current job market, Dana Polyak concedes, “there are a lot more jobs available than there are people available to fill those jobs.” In marketing, with both our existing customers and clients and the new ones we’re seeking to win over, it’s the same way.  “If you want to start beating your competitors, you will need to have a very good strategy in place, Smarta.com advises. But being cheaper may not be enough. What might well be enough is demonstrating that your product is:

  • of better quality
  • rarer
  • easier to use
  • safer
  • more efficient
  • more compact
  • more retro
  • more water-resistant
  • more beautiful
  • greener
  • fresher

As blog content writers, we need to understand the features of the products and services we promote, but we must never forget to explain What’s In It For Them!

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Who Did What? Clarifying pronoun References in Your Business Blog

pronoun references“Your readers will appreciate it, even if they aren’t conscious of why,” says Laura Yates, introducing the Grammar Cheatsheet for Bloggers with the comment that getting grammar right will make you a better writer. In fact, Yates asserts, “the purpose of grammar is not to be 100%, absolutely correct.  It’s to make your writing easier to understand.”

 

Even in the more informal style bloggers use, unclear pronoun references leave readers wondering who, exactly, did what. Whenever you use a pronoun, make sure it’s clear what the antecedent is for that pronoun The antecedent, the York University website explains, is the noun to which that pronoun refers. “Jane told Helen that no one would take her away.” (Who is “her”?  Who won’t be taken away – Jane or Helen?)

Towson Education observes that “Unfortunately, it is very easy to create a sentence that uses a pronoun WITHOUT a clear unmistakable noun antecedent”, and offers the following example: “After putting the disk in the cabinet, Mabel sold it.”  (What was sold – the disk? the cabinet?).“
“The supervisors told the workers they would receive a bonus.” (Who will be getting the bonus – the supervisors or the workers?) A pronoun should have only one, clear and unmistakable, antecedent, Towson teaches.

Try your hand at rewriting the following two sentences:  (The first two examples come from the Writing Commons website, the others from blogs I actually read today.) Remember you’re your purpose is to make clear to readers just who did what to whom:

  1. “President George Washington and his vice president, John Adams, had a difficult relationship, which he wrote about in letters to friends.”  (Who wrote the letters?)
  2. “American students differ from European students in that they expect more personalized attention.” (Who expects personalized attention?)
  3. “The answers were a bit comical to me, not to downplay their situations, but the fact they actually used the written form communication and ultimately it was enough evidence to have a restraining order against them.” (The answers? The people?)
  4. “Whereas Microsoft restricts access to files and locks users out, multiple people can collaborate and work on a Google Doc, Sheet, or Slide at the same time. And it automatically saves your work! “  (What saves – Microsoft? Google Doc?)

Who did what to whom? Clarify the references in your business blog!

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Keeping Sentences Short and Active in Your Business Blog

“Long sentences are for Charles Dickens,” says the Jimdo blog for entrepreneurs – “The short attention span of today’s reader demands sentences of 35 words or less.” To achieve that abbreviated effect, Jimdo advises using adverbs and adjectives sparingly, focusing on nouns and verbs, sticking to active voice.

That rule that is of particular help in business blogging, I teach at Say It For You. Why is short better?

  • Short sentences have “pow!”.
  • Short sentences, particularly in titles, can easily be shared on social media sites.
  • Focused sentences keep readers’ attention on the message.

That does not mean, though, as Brandon Royal reminds us in The Little Red Writing Book, that every sentence needs to be as short as every other. “The writer must judge how to weave short sentences with longer ones.” There’s a trade-off involved in writing copy, Royal is quick to add – sufficient detail will make a piece of writing longer, yet examples and details are the very things people remember.

Translating that into more powerful business blog content writing, I emphasize using specific and descriptive wording to “fill in the details” of the message.  Don’t be indiscriminate when scrapping modifiers. After all, it’s those adjectives and adverbs that add the emphasis, explanation, and detail to your writing, as grammarly.com says.

As a general rule, we bloggers need to keep our  sentences not only short, but active.  Sentences in the active voice have energy and directness, both of which will keep your reader turning the pages”, is the advice from dailywritingtips.com.

A few short-and-active disclaimers are in order:

While in this Say It For You blog I spend a lot of time discussing good writing, there’s a lot more to effective blogging than just the writing.  (Bloggers need marketing expertise and at least some degree of technical expertise around a computer.)

My remarks here are not about the length of a blog post, (a whole ‘nuther topic), but about optimal sentence length.

Short is not easy.  “Brevity hones thinking and forces clarity, as one Georgetown University  linguistics professor points out in USA Today, “but it can also mean losing subtlety and nuance.”

Adding my own reminder to business blog content writers, I’d say: Blog content writing needs to be personal and conversational, not terse. Don’t just be short; be sweet.

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Blogger Resources for Grammar Guidance

“Content writers in Indianapolis – take courage!” I wrote back in 2012. “ If your marketing blog posts are filled with valuable, relevant, and engaging material, your use of ‘a lot’ when you should have said ‘many’,” substituting ‘your’ for ‘you’re’, or inserting an apostrophe in the pronoun ‘its’ aren’t going to constitute deal breakers.”

But could they? In corporate blogging training sessions, in which the business owner and professional practitioner attendees largely serve as their own editors, I urge no-error erring on the side of caution. 

Yes, I know the online crowd likes to be informal, and yes, blogs are supposed to be less formal and more personal in tone than traditional websites. But when a sample of corporate blog writing is posted in the name of your business (or in the case of Say It For You writers, in the name of a client’s business), the business brand is being “put out there” for all to see. True, most readers will merely scan your content and won’t pay very close attention to details like those. Some might, though, and you cannot afford to have potential customers noticing your lack of care.

“Every time you make a typo, Richard Lederer writes, “the errorists win.” Lederer’s the author of the audiobook Grammar for Success, and just one of the resources I use for help in the GD (grammar disfuction) department.  Here are some others:

  1. “If you’re running a blog, getting grammar right is really helpful. For one thing, it will protect you from roaming gangs of Grammar Nazis patrolling the internet. But more important, it’ll make you a better writer. Your readers will appreciate it, even if they aren’t conscious of why,” explains the Grammar Cheatsheet for Bloggers (offered by GrammarBook.com).   
  2. “English has borrowed from many other languages and as a result, it is very complex. There are numerous rules concerning English grammar, and many exceptions to those rules,” observes the Grammarist, which includes an especially useful list of easily confused words – do you know the difference between “pending” and “impending”?
  3.  “However, there is one type of verb that doesn’t mix well with adverbs. Linking verbs, such as feel, smell, sound, seem, and appear, typically need adjectives, not adverbs. A very common example of this type of mixup is “I feel badly about what happened,” cautions Grammarly, where you can “find answers to all your writing conundrums with our simple guide to English grammar rules”.

Professional blog content writers of the world, unite! Are you going to stand there and let those errorists win??

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Two-Tiered Business Blog Titles


What’s “Into the Endgame” about? (How Parliament should weigh up the Brexit deal, of course.)
What about “Click to Download Teacher”? (Technology can help solve the problem of bad, absent teachers in poor-country schools.) “The New Abnormal”? (California faces the most destructive fire in its history). And “Drop It!”? (An argument about firearms will help to shape next year’s election.)

These and other two-tiered titles from this month’s issue of The Economist magazine can serve as a master tutorial for blog content writers. There are two types of titles, I’ve taught in workshops on business blog content writing. The “Huh?s” need sub-titles to make clear what the article is about, while the “Oh!’s” are self-explanatory. With one important purpose of marketing blogs being to  attract online shoppers, blog post titles are a crucial element in the process. That means that catchy and engaging as a title might be, it won’t serve the purpose if the words in the title don’t match up with the ones searchers used.

That’s the reason two-tiered titles use two layers. The first-tier “Huh?” startles and arouses curiosity.  The “Oh!” sub-title then serves to clarify what the focus of the content will be.  (No, this is not a bait-and-switch play, but more like a bait-and-focus one)

Which brings me to meta-tags, which are 160 character snippets of text that describe a page’s content; the meta tags don’t appear on the page itself, as wordstream.com explains, but readers can see them on the search engine page. In addition to being scanned by search engines, those little content descriptors help readers decide whether they want to click to read the content. The snippet serves as a preview of the “Oh!” portion of your blog post title.

For example, underneath the actual link
https://www.economist.com/leaders/2018/11/15/into-the-brexit-endgame, a searcher would see this snippet: “6 days ago – Britain and the European Union Into the Brexit endgame. How Parliament should weigh up the Brexit deal. Print edition | Leaders. Nov 15th”.

“The New Abnormal” – Huh? “Oh!” It’s about the California fire. In writing engaging business blog content, try using two-tiered titles.

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Business Blog Title Question Words


Ideas and Discoveries Magazine had a very good idea in terms of titles (which we blog content writers can make good use of) – using question words.

The tactic of question titles is one I’ve often suggested to new Indianapolis blog content writers. Keeping in mind that people are online searching for answers to questions they have and solutions for dilemmas they’re facing, sometimes we can help searchers who searchers haven’t specifically formulated a question by presenting a question in the blog post title itself.

The question serves to arouse readers’ curiosity about which side of the issue your opinion is going to represent, and about the answers you’re going to provide in the content of the post itself. And, of course, the title question can include keyword phrases to help Google index the blog.

ID Magazine, I found, used question titles that clearly indicated what kinds of information would be “served up” in the article to come:

  • Why Wolves Hunt Differently From Big Cats
  • What happens When an Avalanche Stops Moving?
  • How Reliable is the Rorschach Test?

But the majority of the ID titles, I found, contained an extra, curiosity-stimulating, element into their question word titles. You simply need to read the article to find out what the “clue” means:

  • How a Feeling of Empathy Led to 60 Million Deaths
  • How Seven Dollars Set the Middle East Aflame
  • How 156 Nails Defeated Napoleon
  • How a Lab Accident Decided the Second World War
  • How a Meteorite Made Christianity a Worldwide Religious Power
  • How a Sandwich Triggered World War
  • How a Refugee Made George W. Bush President

Curiosity is hard to get right, Amy Harrison points out in copyblogger.com. You have to deliver on the promise. Don’t’ assume readers’ will cause them to power on through your copy looking for the answer that was promised to them, she says. Your blog post must include compelling benefits, rich imagery, and strong storytelling if you are to keep readers’ attention and encourage them to take action.

ID also demonstrates another useful strategy blog content writers can use: covering one topic, but coming at it in different ways. On the topic of wolves, for example:

  1. “How Wolves Shape Our Forests” offers insights on how reintroducing wolves into German forests impacts ecosystems.
  2. “Who’s the Boss Here?” explores the “family dynamics” of a wolf pack.
  3. “How Do You Save a National Park?” chronicles the Yellowstone Wolf Study, in which reintroducing wolves into the environment reduced the deer population in turn allowing more trees to grow, which in turn attracted birds, beavers, and fish.

Just as these articles each explore a different aspect of a single subject, the blog for any company, professional practice, or organization can be planned around key themes.  Then, in each post, the blog content writer can fill in new details, examples, and illustrations.

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Naming Your Niche in Blogging for Business

What advice can you offer that they won’t find anywhere else? That’s the question we tossed around earlier this week.  Michael Kitces, known for giving advice to financial advisors, thinks it’s about “naming your niche.”

More than ever, niches and mini-specializations are effective differentiation tools, Kitces claims. The two are not the same.

1. A specialization is about some kind of subject matter expertise.
2. A niche is about serving a particular group of clients with a particular need and applying a service or solution to that need.

As specialists, blog content writers want to address a critical need and be perceived as subject matter experts or SMEs. A SME has valuable, usable – and specialized – information and insights to share. At the same time, the SME adds value by going beyond the conventional wisdom and identifying new opinions – and new approaches – to the subject.

As niche servers, blog content writers define a narrow target audience made up of people who are already looking for products, information, and services relating to a particular need they have. Rather than presenting yourself and your business or practice as knowing a little about a lot of things, be uniquely informed – and passionate – about just one or two.

In the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Success as a Professional Speaker, Dr. Thomas Lisk
uses four questions to help speakers define their niche market:

  •  Can you list all markets or industry types that could purchase your kinds of expertise?
  •  Which of those markets needs your expertise most?
  •  Which markets are most likely to purchase your services?
  • Which organizations in these markets have enough funding to afford your ongoing
    services?

    Even if someone hears about your specialization and is duly impressed, they are not going to hand over their life savings to you, Kitces cautions new advisors.  They’re going to check you out.  And in that critical moment, he says “Your website has to be ready for them.”

    In Say It For You corporate blogging training sessions, I stress, the first step is to define your business niche and then focus blog content writing on the needs of that niche target market.

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Business Blog Content Writing – a Different Kind of Advice

 

You won’t find this holiday travel advice anywhere else,” asserts Christopher Elliott in the Indianapolis Star.  You’ve heard it hundred times: book early, prepare for bad weather, on and on. Elliott’s on a different wave length with his advice on how to behave and how to book, and how to travel.

First, he says, “Be kind to others.” In this time of road rage and in-flight altercations, that’s not common, but you should try to be that way, Elliott advises. “Look before you book”, doing your due diligence on tickets and accommodations “Be careful out there…understand where you are going, the population, the manners, the dress.”  “Stay a little longer” and “Treat your stress before it ruins your trip” are two other pieces of unconventional advice.

Good advice, Mr. Elliott. The whole concept of offering advice that’s out of the ordinary – that’s great advice for business blog content writers, to be sure. And the way he offers advice in this article – I like that, too.  It’s advice readers can use, right now. More than that, the author’s explaining the reasons behind each piece of advice and backing up the information with statistics.

A few years ago, in a Harvard Business Review article on advice-giving, the authors made the point that “those who give advice effectively wield soft influence—they shape important decisions while empowering others to act.” But the advice-givers, they must be engaged listeners, learning from the problems that people bring them.

I’ve often mused that, out of all the possible advertising and marketing tactics a business or professional practice might use, blogging’s way ahead of the pack – because it attracts customers who want to be sold. In fact, it’s the close match between the type of advice the searcher wants and what you know about that accounts for your meeting them in the first place!

I remember business coach and author Jim Ackerman saying that “Any business owner needs to be able to start a sentence with “I am the only ___________ in ___________ who _________”.  One of the principles of blog writing that we teach at Say It For You is differentiating yourself.  Does this company or practice do things faster? Operate at a lower cost? Make fewer errors? Offer greater comfort? Provide a more engaging experience?.

What advice can business blog content writing offer that “you won’t find anywhere else”?

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What’s in a Name When Blogging For Business

 

Richard Lederer, author of the book the Joy of Names, has a vested interest in his subject: his own name, he reveals means “powerful estate ruler leather worker”. But, “Must a name mean something?” (as Alice asks Humpty Dumpty).”Of course it must!” is Dumpty’s reply.

In writing to promote a business or practice, using stories about names and nicknames makes for engaging content. In fact, it’s an excellent idea to share anecdotes about people on the team who have earned a complimentary sobriquet.

Just this week, paging through a special edition of People Magazine devoted to The stars of Food Network, I noticed several examples:

  • Bobby Flay is “the elder statsman of Food Network”.
  • Ina Garten is “the ultimate hostess”.
  • Valerie Bernelli is “hot in the kitchen”.
  • Duff Goldman is “the designated baker”.
  • Guy Fiere is “mayor of Flavortown”
  • Alton Brown is “the geek of gastronomy”

As fellow blogger Michael Fortin reminds content writers, getting personal is a huge element in the success of business blogs. Sharing this type of fond moniker, along with an anecdote, adds interest to blog posts. Did you know that Alton Brown once invented a turkey derrick with ropes, pulleys, and a ladder, to facilitate safe and accurate fryer of a Thanksgiving bird?

Storytelling has the power to move from lifeless to life-filled copy, Luana Spinetti writes in webhostingsecreatreveals.net.

The following poem by Charles Delint (included on page 11 of the Lederer book) sums up the astounding power of names and the stories behind those names:

A name can’t begin to encompass the sum of all of her parts,
But that’s the magic of names, isn’t it?
That the complex, contradictory individuals we are
can be called up complete and whole
In another mind through the simple sorcery of a name.

As the People Magazine Food Network issue demonstrates, blending 6 cups of the power of names with 6 cups of intriguing anecdotes and – you’ve got some very delicious business blog content!

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Monikers and Sobriquets in Business Blog Content Writing

“The key trait of nicknames is that they are bestowed upon a person by others,” Richard Lederer points out in The Joy of Names, and for three main motivations:

  • affection
    ridicule
    group identity

Nicknames may be related to:

  • physical characteristics (Blondie, Red)
  • mental characteristics (Brainak, Noodlehead)
  • personality (Grumpy, Nerd, Nervous Nellie)
  • shortening of a proper name (Dave, Fran, Rich)

It can be important to us as business blog content writers, for variety’s sake, to use different monikers for both products and people (whenever the connotation is flattering, of course!). “Learn to love your thesaurus,” advises Tracy Gold of the Content Marketing Institute, especially when it comes to composing titles. There aren’t many words in blog titles, she says, so it’s important to choose exactly the right words.

Getting personal is a huge element in the success of any marketing blog, fellow blogger Michael Fortin reminds us. Sharing anecdotes about the guy or gal on your team who is the “codemaster”, computer genius, the “energizer,” the “fashionista, or the “financial wizard” helps humanize promotional content…

“Hollywood’s star-makers capitalize on the fact that people react emotionally to names,” Lederer explains. A name with box-office appeal projects the kind of image a star wants to radiate.

Stories about names and nicknames make for very engaging content, whether for history books or business blogs.  Harry S Truman decided his middle initial would have no period, because it wasn’t an initial for a particular name, but a compromise between the names of his two grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young.

Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, Theodore Roosevelt, the Rough Rider, and Ronald Reagan the Gipper. Mark Twain became such a well-known nickname that few remember the real name, Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

What stories of nicknames, monikers, and sobriquets are just waiting to be told in your business blog?

 

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We’ll-Just-Tell-You-Why-It-Should-Be-Us blogging for Business

introducing you in your blog

At first glance, the WageWorks ad (the company provides Health Savings Accounts for employees) seems incredibly boastful:

“We won’t tell you which HSA to pick.  We’ll just tell you why it should be us.”

On second glance, this ad reminds me of two points I made about thought leadership in recent posts on this Say It For You blog. One refers to a Wall Street Journal Magazine story about Kasper Egelund, the Danish kitchen company CEO. Egelund tells customers they can have his kitchen in any color,” so long as it’s black”. The very arrogance and self-assuredness embodied in that statement makes customers want to follow his recommendations.

When it comes to blogging for business, positioning ourselves (or our business owner/professional practitioner clients) as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) is obviously a worthy goal. We might be able to go one better, however, by presenting ourselves as thought leaders, willing to strike out in a direction that is a little different from the common wisdom – and being definitive about our opinions.

The WageWorks ad may be boastful, but it offers reasons employers should choose their HSAs over others available in the marketplace. In my “There’s-a-Reason-and-What’s-the-Reason Blogging for Business” post earlier this week, I explained that readers need to be offered a “because”, presented in terms of advantages to the reader of reading further and then following the Calls to Action in the blog post.

“When it’s your turn to speak, start with a bang, not the white noise of housekeeping,” Laurie Guest, CSP advises emerging public speakers. Opening strong, Guest explains, means being purposeful about your opening, with no quotes from famous people, or “Nice to be here…”, or humorous “ice breakers”.

In blog marketing, the idea is to powerfully position what you do and what your company does. Like CEO Egelund and WageWorks, be strong and bold – let them know why it should be YOU!

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There’s-a-Reason and What’s-the-Reason Blogging for Business

reason why

“There’s a reason why The Northside Social in Broad Ripple feels so comfortable,” Seth Johnson writes in Broad Ripple Magazine. (Great opening line. Bold assertion. Makes the reader want to know the why of it.)

In the same magazine issue, Jon Shoulders starts a review of Taylor’s Bakery (shown above) with another good opening: “How does a relatively small, family-owned bakery not only stay in business but also flourish for more than a century?”

At Say It For You, I’ve always stressed the fact that opening lines have a big job to do. As blog content writers, we have to assure readers they’ve come to the right place to find the information that satisfies their need for answers. On the other hand, a “pow” opening line that arouses curiosity may be just what’s needed to keep a reader progressing through the page. Think of beginning a blog post with the words “There’s a reason” or the question beginning “What’s the reason that…?”.

After his opening statement, rather than a lot of ad-like “sales-ey” text, Johnson’s write-up goes on to illustrate the “reason why” behind Northside Social’s success with a specific example:

We treat the chicken three different ways, Nicole says. “We brine it in pickle brine,
we marinate it, and then we confit it.  So we roast it in duck fat and then we bread it
and fry it to order.  It’s delicious”.

Shoulders, whose write-up of Taylor’s Bakery focuses more on business history and strategy,
offers a mouth-watering reason-why as well:

“If it’s baked and it’s sweet, you’ll likely find it at Taylor’s – cookies, cakes, doughnuts, Danish, breads and dinner rolls and flavored popcorn are all offered.  Everything is made fresh daily down to the ice cream…which is churned from scratch using special in-house machinery.”

In an article in Self magazine, the author urges readers to stop pussyfooting around and ask for what they need, but advises providing a reason for that need. Because at Say It For You, I provide business blogging assistance to business owners and their employees, I thought this Self article was “spot on“. After all, in business blogs, readers are often asked to subscribe to the blog, pose a question or comment, sign up for a mailing list or newsletter, or buy products or services.

But, as the Broad Ripple Magazine articles so aptly demonstrate, readers need to be given a reason to do those things. The “because” needs to be presented in terms of advantage to the reader.

Beginning a blog post with the words “There’s a reason why” or the question “Why” (is getting to know this company/product/service going to be a very good idea for the reader) might turn out to be a very good idea for the company offering the blog!

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Blogging as Long as It’s Black

Blog readers need to perceive you as an expert in your field, I teach at Say It For You.  And for that to happen, I believe, you need to clearly state a firm perspective on your subject. There’s no lack of information sources – and no lack of “experts” (purported or real) on any topic and that is the reason we need to go beyond presenting facts, statistics, features, and benefits, and get authentic and yes, even opinionated.

Around six months ago, I came across a wonderful feature story in the Wall Street Journal Magazine, featuring the Danish kitchen design company Vipp.  Explaining ”How a Salon Trash Can Turned a Design Brand Into a Phenomenon”, reporter Natalia Rachlin discussed CEO Kasper Egelund’s take-it-or-leave-it-approach:

“The first thing I always tell someone about the kitchen is that they can have it
in whatever color they want, as long as it’s black.”

 Vipp’s success is not in spite of, but precisely because of this firm posture. In the “lucrative and highly competitive kitchen market, which tends to be all about customization”, Rachlin posits,  being opinionated presents a picture of self confidence and expertise.

Expertise and exaggeration, of course, are two different things, and exaggeration is something blog marketers need to handle very, very carefully.  After all, we’re trying to build trust, and it’s crucial that we be factually correct in describing the extent to which our products and services can be of help. “Claiming to have expertise you don’t have can create customer dissatisfaction and complaints, ultimately eroding your reputation,” cautions the Ethics Center.

No, it’s not exaggeration we’re after in crafting blog posts, but influence. As blog content writers, our goal is framing our story in a way that this audience will focus on and respect. Chris Anderson, head of TED Talks, would remind speakers: Argue the rarer point or elucidate as only you can.”

Readers are looking to us for expertise and a firm perspective. It appears Vipp kitchen buyers, knowing  there is a rainbow of cabinet and backsplash finishes available to them, still love having Egelund tell them “as long as it’s black”. Shouldn’t we be “blogging as long as it’s black”?

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Appearing Professional Means Minding the S and G in Your Blog

grammar in blogs

“The English language sticks to its spelling rules, such as i before e except after c, about as strictly as we follow the no cell phones while driving rule,” jokes Jenny Baranick in the book Kiss My Asterisk. Society hasn’t exactly promoted healthy spelling, she says – we were raised with SpellCheck. However, we must learn how to do it; otherwise we will appear unprofessional, Baranick warns.

A few of us are old enough to remember the song lyrics, ”Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage” (OK, so I’m a grandmother..) However, there are certain words that simply should never join, Baranick states emphatically. (Well, certain ones can, she adds, but the meaning is totally different.)

Alright  is never all right.

Altogether and all together are two different things. We are all together at the coffee shop, and we are altogether (completely) happy about that.

Every day and everyday are also two different things. Every day you may write a blog, and every day you may take a 30-minute power walk.  But when blog writing and power walking begin to seem boring and everyday for you instead of exciting, that’s not a good thing.

When  A and part are apart,  they miss each other. Together, they are a part of a writer’s group. (“A part” means a piece of something that forms a whole.)

Of the two types of people who make up the English-speaking world, I find myself among the  minority who believe proper grammar and spelling matter on business websites and in business blogs. After many discussions of the subject at networking meetings, I concluded that the mainstream mindset is that, in our digital world, nobody notices grammar and spelling errors, and if they did, they wouldn’t care that much. Maybe Baranick’s Kiss My Asterisk will change some minds.

As a blog content writer and trainer, my thought is this: you always want to be sure poor usage and misspelled words aren’t distracting any of your readers. Minding the S and G in your blog can mean keeping your readers’ minds focused on the message!

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Top Ten How-To Titles in Blogging for Business


There’s a reason “how-to” blog post titles work, marketing gurus Guy Kawaski and Peg Fitzpatrick show in their user guide on social media. How-to titles might start out with those very words, or take forms such as:

  • Quick Guide to…..
  • Complete Guide to….
  • Questions to Ask Before…
  • Rules for….
  • Essential Steps to….
  • Most Popular Ways to…..
  • Tips for Busy……..
  • Tactics to….
  • What No One Tells You About……..

There’s a “biology” to selecting effective business blog post titles, I wrote in a blog post some five years ago. (Since, as blog content writers, one big challenge we face is selecting the best title for each post, I had found an exercise in an Ivy Tech Community College textbook in which students were to select the best out of four possible titles for an article about humpback whales.)

In composing business blogs, I reminded my Say It For You readers, we need to keep several goals in mind:

  • write engaging titles
  • include keyword phrases to help with search
  • be short and to the point
  • use power words

The overriding goal, though, in composing a title, I pointed out, has to be making promises we are going to be able to keep in the body of the blog post itself.

The correct answer in that student textbook was #3: “The Digestive System of the Humpback Whale”. That’s the one, the writer explained, that includes the writer’s focus in the paragraph.  The other titles were either too broad, too specific, or limited to only a portion of the paragraph’s content.

The best “How-to”s are neither too broad nor too limited. They have a “news-you-can-use” feel. The response you’re after from readers is, “Aha! “I have found the right place to get the information I need.

There are lots more How-to titles where those Top Ten came from, Kawaski promises. In fact, he’s got a chart of no fewer than “74 Compelling Fill-in-the-Blank Blog Post Titles” on a Twitter infographic. Try these on for size:

  • Key benefits of….
  • Essential things for….
  • Examples of things to inspire you…
  • Key benefits of….

How-to titles are the perfect tool in blogging for business!

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New Blogging Means Being Controversial

Be controversial, is the advice Ryan Deiss and Russ Henneberry, authors of Digital Marketing for Dummies. give writers. The idea – making yourself stand out by bringing up controversial topics even if you worry some of your readers won’t agree.

Whatever the topic, you have to answer four questions that will be in readers’ minds, Deiss and Hennberry stress:

  1. Why now? (Why is the information you’re offering timely?)
  2. Who cares? (Who in the target audience is likely to be affected by having or not having what you’re selling?)
  3. Why should they care?) How will their lives be different with your product or service?)
  4. Can you prove it?  (Here’s where case studies, testimonials, and news stories come in.)

Daniel of Freerange Communications agrees. “One way to increase organic traffic and build engagement is by writing controversial content while backing up your opinions”.  But, he cautions, “You cannot simply contradict what everyone else is saying…You need to support your arguments with accurate sources and data.

Daniel lists three possible approaches to writing controversial blog posts:

  • Riding coattails:
    Using an already popular subject to prove your point. For example, “Why Steve Jobs Constantly Ignored His Customers”
  • This versus that:
    “5 reasons email marketing is better than social media marketing”.
  • Being the messenger:
    “The  ——-  Myth Debunked”

If you decide to write about a heated topic, tackle the topic boldly, using clear sentences. You can even present arguments for both sides while making sure that the side you pick is clear, Daniel advises.

In blog content writing training sessions, I’ve always emphasized to content writers that blogs must have a strong, “opinionated” voice. Posts must go far beyond Wikipedia-page-information-dispensing and offer the business owner’s (or the professional’s, or the organization executive’s) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic.

In any field, there will always be controversy – about best business practices, about the best approach to providing professional services, about acceptable levels of risk, even about business-related ethical choices. Rather than ignoring the controversy, bloggers need to comment on the different views and “weigh in”.  New Blogging will consider controversy a tool for thought leadership.

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Should Blog Posts Be Op Eds?

opinions in business blogs

 

“Opinionated editorial essays are often the most fun, fast and furious pieces to get into print – especially for nonfamous  witers with strong opinions and day jobs in other fields,” opines Susan Shapiro in Writer’s Digest.

What about business blog content marketing? Should posts do more than describe the products and services being offered and include the opinions of the business owner or professional practitioner? Three insights from Writer’s Digest can help answer that question….

1. “Convey a strong link to your subject,” Shapiro advises.  “Unless you have fought in the Iraq war, have lost a family member there, or are yourself from Iraq, your chances of selling a piece about it are slim.”

We must be influencers, I advise clients and blog content writers alike. Whether it’s business-to-business or business to consumer blog writing, the blog content itself needs to use opinion to clarify what differentiates that business, that professional practice, or that organization from its peers.

2. “Be aware of your audience…..Beware of making too many New York or Los Angeles references in a piece aimed at the Detroit News.”

As writers, when we tell the story of a business or a practice to consumers, we “frame” that story a certain way. “Your opportunity,” Seth Godin tells marketers, “lies in finding a neglected worldview, framing your story in a way that this audience will focus on.”  Chris Anderson, head of TED Talks, reminds speakers to do a jargon check based on audience research, eliminating technical terms and acronyms that will be unfamiliar to listeners.

3.  “Don’t share the obvious slant. Nobody wants to print what everyone already knows…Argue the rarer point or elucidate as only you uniquely can.”

One point I often stress in corporate blogging training sessions is that,  whether you’re blogging for a business, for a professional practice, or for a nonprofit organization, you’ve gotta have an opinion, a slant, on the information you’re serving up for readers. In other words, blog posts, to be effective, can’t be just compilations; you can’t just “aggregate” other people’s stuff and make that be your entire blog presence.
      
In “Ten tips to write an opinion piece people read”, A. Stone advises starting with an attention-grabbing opening line that cuts to the heart of your key message, evoking an emotion or curiosity.  It can be a strong fact, statement or even the beginning of an anecdote that has audience connection, he explains. “The first line is the display-window for all the goodies you have inside.” In opinion piece posts, the, the opener should at least hint at the “slant”.

Providing information about products and services may be the popular way to write corporate blog posts, but in terms of achieving Influencer status – that takes opinion!

 

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Steps to Light Up Your Place in the Blogosphere

blogging with intention
In coaching financial advisors, John Bowen Jr. writes in Financial Planning, he found that the most successful individuals had a secret weapon at their disposal: the power of their presence. Bowen names steps advisors can take to “light up a room when they enter”.  Blog content writers, I believe, can use every one of those steps to “light up the blogosphere” with their posts:

Know your story. “By opening up to others about what’s important to you, they will be more inclined to trust you with what’s important to them.”

Customers don’t want to feel like they are being told a brand story, the authors of “Tips & Traps for Marketing Your Business” caution. In your blog content writing, engage readers with storylike entries about existing customers and about you, they advise.  The idea is to create an emotional – and personal – attachment with your company or practice.

Build your dream team. “Leading financial advisors surround themselves with top people, in the form of strategic alliances.”

When things don’t work well in blogging, I’ve come to realize, it almost always has to do with lack of coordination among the team. The webmaster has to work together with the blog writer to provide the optimization and analysis that make the content “work”. Not only should there be periodic team meetings to discuss content, the blog writing must be coordinated with email and social media.

Live with intention. When you define your vision, your tasks become crystal clear.

One concept I emphasize in corporate blogging training sessions is that focusing on main themes helps blog posts stay smaller and lighter in scale than the more permanent content on the typical corporate website. The posts fit together into an overall business blog marketing strategy through “leitmotifs”, or recurring themes. These themes tie together different product or service descriptions, different statistics, and different opinion pieces. Once five or six over-arching themes have been chosen, the tasks of creating individual blog posts become crystal clear.

Amplify your influence.  Communicate your vision in a clear and lively manner. Make your vision come alive to others by using metaphors, examples, and anecdotes.

Most business owners and professionals can think of quite a number of things they want to convey about their products, their professional services, their industry, and their customer service standards. The problem is those ideas need to be developed into fresh, interesting, and engaging content marketing material. Metaphors help readers “appreciate the information picturesquely”.

Inspire those around you by providing leadership.

When it comes to blogging for business, positioning ourselves (or our business owner/professional practitioner clients) as SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) is obviously a worthy goal. Being a thought leader is even better. Our readers need even more from us than expertise, I’m convinced. Yes, we’re giving them subject matter, but they need help processing that subject matter. They need thought leadership!

Take steps to light up your place in the blogosphere! 

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What’s-Really-in-Your Blogging For Business

fear blog titles

There’s a reason the cover of Consumer Reports has a picture of a cow on the cover of this month’s issue, along with this very compelling question: “What’s Really In Your Meat?”  Titles catch the eye (that one certainly did mine) and set up readers’ expectations for what kind of content they’ll find if they open the magazine and read the article. As a blog content writer, I’m interested in titles.  What elements in the titles listed on a magazine cover, for example, are most likely to induce a browser to buy that issue? Then, which titles tempt the magazine reader to read those articles first?

I categorize this particular title, “What’s Really in Your Meat?”, as a “truth-about”. This type of header is meant to instill fear, one of the two dominant buying motives (desire for gain and fear of loss). In fact, people are drawn to articles with negative titles, my friend and fellow blogger Lorraine Ball pointed out a year ago.

A few other salient titles in the October Consumer Reports issue fall into the “How-To” category:

  •  “Beating Back Surprise Bills”
  •  “Keeping Your Data Private”
  •  “Simple Ways to Add Convenience and Security”
  •  “Good Riddance, Robocalls!”

Less disturbing (some might argue less compelling) than “truth-abouts”, in blogs, “How-To” titles perform the very important function of confirming to searchers that they’ve arrived at the right place to find precisely the kinds of information they need. 

Using a consumer question in a title, then answering that question in the article or blog post is yet another approach.  Three such pieces in Consumer Reports were:

  • “My car is starting to smell musty, and an air freshener isn’t cutting it.  What else can I do?”
  • “Can I catch food poisoning from another person?”
  • “How can I keep my leftover paint fresh enough to reuse?”

Truth-abouts, how-tos, and question titles, I teach at Say It For You, can all be effective blog titling techniques, with the purpose being to tell readers why they should bother to read what you’ve written in the blog post.

Most important, when choosing a title, design it so that it conveys not only the nature of the content, but the value readers can expect to receive from that content! Ask yourself this question:

For my readers, what’s really in my blogging for business?

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In Business Blogging, Focus on Attitudinal Variables

audience attitude in blogging

 

Laurie Hazard and Jen-Paul Nadeau wrote Foundations for Learning because they were keenly aware that many first-year college students have personal development issues.  It’s often not intellectual failings that affect achievement, the authors understand, but “attitudinal variables and personality traits”. Simply put, these authors understand that before their audience can be expected to respond to their “calls to action”, the students might need to be given some tools and techniques to help them succeed.

In blog marketing, we need to start out by really knowing the audience. In fact, that’s the only way that we can select items from our “tool kits” that are most likely to help those blog readers and move them to action. Every aspect of the blog needs to be based on that knowledge – the look, the content, the style of the blog – all must be based around your audience.

Hazard and Nadeau use “Jason” as an example. Jason perceives writing a term paper to be an arduous task, so rather than tackling the job, he avoids it. His anxiety fuels his fear of failure, since the young man assumes that a college student should already know how to do research for a college paper. The authors suggest students do a “cost-benefit analysis”, weighing the advantages of procrastination against the drawbacks.

Similarly, many of our blog readers think they ought to know how to deal with their issue or need. That’s the reason they’ve put off seeking help! The authors of this book invite students to imagine the end results of action – better grades, less pressure, greater sense of accomplishment. For blog content writers, that’s a pretty good model: Empathize with their pain or problem, then offer a path to a feel-better result. Stories, about both past successes and past failures can help our “Jasons” gain confidence. One way business owners and practitioners can demonstrate they understand their readers is by sharing tales of their own failures and the obstacles they needed to overcome.

In Hug Your Haters, author Jay Baer cautions marketers about three word choice categories that can cause trouble:

  • words that lack humility
  • words that diminish the customer
  • words of argument and avoidance

In blog marketing, we need to take a clue from the authors of Foundations for Learning: Before we can expect our readers to respond to our “calls to action”, we need to offer them tools and techniques to help them succeed!

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Blog To Show Readers You’ve Got Their Number

numbers in blog titles

Numbers that can be expressed in one or words should be spelled out, while figures should be used for larger numbers the Purdue OWL advises. Following that guidance, you’d express ”two million dollars”  or thirty-one years in words, while writing “126 days”.

There’s a very good reason, however, that most magazine editors and blog content writers choose not to follow the first part of that OWL advice.  Few would choose to write “two million dollars”, “fifteen reasons”, or “thirty-one years”.  Numbers – in digits, as opposed to being spelled out in words – have more impact.

Here are just some of the titles I saw displayed on magazine covers at my local pharmacy only this morning::

  • 341 Cluster Solutions
  • 147 Tips From Home Cooks
  • 101 Hearty Dishes for the harvest Season
  • 50 Fall Ideas
  • 293 Fresh Looks for Classic Cuts
  • 145 Festive and Easy Decorating Tips

When colleagues at online marketing firm Hubspot analyzed their own blog posts to see which titles had performed the best in search results; the top eight, they found, each included a number!  Some of the numbers were short, and OWL would have had the authors spell those out in words.  But numbers in words simply lack the “punch” of numbers in digits, it appears.

Some of the Hubspot winners:

  • “How to monitor Your Social Media Presence in 10 Minutes a Day”
  • “22 Educational Social Media Diagrams”
  • 12 Mind-Blowing Statistics Every Marketer Should Know”

Several research studies have show that headlines with numbers tend to generate 73% more social shares. “Our brains are attracted to numbers because they automatically organize information in logical order.” And, for some reason, one study revealed, odd numbers are seen as more authentic than even numbers.

It’s interesting. The American Marketing Association’s Manual of Style tells us not to use digits to express numbers that occur at the beginning of a sentence, title, or subtitle! Another way Ryan McCready thinks the so-called experts have it wrong has to do with the number 10. Thought leaders have agreed the number 10 is too common and will not stand out on social media, but McCready found the exact opposite to be true – the number 10 is the best number to use for blog titles.

It’s not only in blog post titles that numbers wield power. At Say It For You, I advise business owners and professionals to use statistics (one form of numbers) in 3 ways:

1. Attention-grabbing
2. Mythbusting (statistics help prove the reality versus the widely held misperceptions about your product or service)
3. Demonstrating the extent of a problem leads into showing readers ways you can help solve it

Blog to show readers you’ve got their number!

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Let Your Blog Content Writing Be Driven By Demand

market research“One of your most important concerns is just how much knowledge, experience, or training you can expect in your readers,” David McMurrey teaches in Audience Analysis – Just who are these guys? If you expect some of your readers to lack certain background, do you supply it in your document, he asks?

 

  • If you say no, you run the risk of customers being frustrated with your product or service.
  • If you say yes, you increase your work effort and add to your page count.

There’s no easy answer, McMurrey admits, but you need to know what your audience is going to expect.

As Sleeping Media Giant points out, it’s important to analyze your online audience and target your campaigns to them. I like pointing out that, while blog content writing is an art, there’s quite a bit of science to it as well, and a good part of the science involves targeting that content towards the specific type of customers you want – and who will want – to do business with you.

At Say It For You, we tell clients, one way to target content is to set up a category index on the blog page, so that readers can find their way to content that matches their specific interests. (When you’re just beginning to post blogs for your business or practice, organizing the material isn’t so important, but as you continue posting content over months and years, those categories come to be invaluable.

For your part, when you’re studying your report from, say Google Analytics, you can see which categories were most frequently viewed. That allows your content creation to be driven by “demand”, with the blog itself functioning as a consumer survey tool!

One thing I often find myself pointing out to business owners is that the navigation from the blog to the main website will be smoother and more direct if new “landing pages” are added to the website top match the different search term categories that attract searchers to the blog. (As a blogger, I become part of the company’s marketing team, which, hopefully, includes a web designer and Search Engine Optimization expert.)

Spend an afternoon wearing the hat of an online searcher who’s looking for information about the type of products and services you provide. What are the search engines “serving up”? What kinds of information are you finding on your competitors’ websites and social media pages?

Ten years ago, when I was just starting in the blog content writing field, I heard Chris Baggott, co-founder of then-company Compendium Blogware, caution: “Without a system for gathering and analyzing information about the visitors to your blog, you’re operating in the dark.” Marketing company Hubspot  agrees. Providing valuable content will get you far, the Hubspot authors explain, but it will only get you so far!

Let your blog content writing be research-based and driven by demand!

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Companies Use Blog Content Writing to Get Real

blogging

 

Just why do companies blog? Susan Gunelius, author of Blogging All-in-One for Dummies, offers a list of reasons:

  • to build brand awareness
  • to network with other businesses and experts
  • to build relationships with existing and potential customers
  • to boost sales
  • to communicate marketing messages
  • to learn more about their customers
  • to manage reputation
  • to set up expectations for the customer experience

    My favorite on the Gunelius list was this one:
    “To seem real and human in the consumer’s eye rather than as an untouchable entity”

As a blog writer and blogging consultant, I find that “getting real” through online content is the real goal – and the real challenge. I explain to business owners that putting up fresh blog posts about new products or recent accomplishments tells people that you are in the game. Blog posts help demonstrate that you care about quality in all dimensions of your business.

One interesting perspective on the work we do as professional bloggers is that we are interpreters, translating clients’ corporate message into human, people-to-people terms.  That’s the reason I prefer first and second person writing in business blog posts over third person “reporting”. I think people tend to buy when they see themselves in the picture and when can they relate emotionally to the person bringing them the message.

“Do you want a tone (for your blog) that is professional? Humorous? Journalistic? Personal diary? Choose one and then inject your own personality into that style,” Gunelius advises.

Getting down and human” in business blogs is so important that it becomes a good idea for a business owner and professional to actually write about past mistakes and struggles. And, I tell entrepreneurs, whether you propose to do the blog writing yourself or collaborate with a professional blog content writing partner, the very process of deciding what to put in the blog is one of self-discovery. In a sense, blogging is a way to “get real” with yourself!

To be sure, marketing, boosting sales, and reputation management are all worthy goals.  The over-riding goal, as Susan Gunelus so aptly puts it, is “to seem real and human in the consumer’s eye!”

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The Title Can Be the Tease in Blogging for Business

There are two types of titles, I realized, browsing the business section at my favorite local bookstore:

1. The “Huh?s” need subtitles to make clear what the article is about.
2. The “Oh!’” titles are self-explanatory.

Whether in a book or a blog post, the title serves as a “tease” to get a browser to become a reader. Since an important purpose of business blogging is attracting online shoppers, blog post titles are a crucial element in the process. Titles have to be catchy and engaging, but they won’t serve the purpose if the words don’t match up with the reason the searcher landed there in the first place. The combo title hits both bases.

For example, at first glance, Measure what Matters, by John Doerr could be about marketing, weight loss, or parental advice on children’s growth rates. That’s a “teaser”.  I needed the subtitle to clarify: How Google, Bono, and the Google Foundation Rock the World with ODRs.

Other “Huh?”/”Oh!” combo titles included:

  • Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win
  • Originals: How Non-conformists Move the World
  • Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
  • The Human Advantage: The Future of American Work in an Age of Smart Machines

Sleeping Giant: The Untapped Economic and Political Power of America’s New Working Class

Why do titles matter even more in blogs than on book covers? There are two basic reasons:

  1. For search – key words and phrases, especially when used in blog post titles, help search engines make the match between online searchers’ needs and what your business or professional practice has to offer.
  2. For reader engagement – after you’ve been “found”, you still need to “get read”.

The question title, based on the idea of asking readers if they’re grappling with an issue or a need (one you not only know about, but which you’re accustomed to helping solve) can be perfect for the headline of a business blog post. But, there’s a right and wrong way to use question headlines, Amy Foote points out in “The Dos and Don’ts of Question Headlines”. Don’t:

  1. ask obvious questions that address questions to which most people already know the answer
  2. use question headlines as a fear tactic

In well-constructed blog posts, I teach at Say It For You, the title should be a tease!

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The Barnum Effect Can Be Used Ethically in Blogging for Business

Barnum effect in blogging

As humans, we tend to crave to be “understood”. Sometimes, though, due to the Barnum effect, (named after famed manipulator and circus man PT. Barnum), we tend to give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of our personality. We believe we are being understood and that the descriptions (the “fortune”, the horoscope, the reading, the assessment) are tailored specifically to us. In reality, though, the descriptions are general enough to apply to a wide range of people.

Psychologist Bertram Forer tested this idea by giving a personality test to his psychology students, then asking them how well they thought the results matched their self-perceptions. Unbeknownst to those students, they had all been given the exact same summary of results “describing” their personalities. Almost all the students thought their “tailor-made” description was “spot-on” in describing their “one-of-a-kind“ personalities!

“Consider that marketing and advertising is also quite dependent on people believing that they are the ‘kind of people’ who would benefit from a product, or have a ‘specific problem’ for which they could purchase a solution,” observes Kate Kershner in How Stuff Works.

In a way, I explain to new Say It For You blogging clients, blogs are the perfect marketing tool for niche markets.  Remember, I tell them, you, the business owner, are not going out to find anyone! Blogs use “pull marketing”.  The people who find your blog are those who are already online looking for information, products, or services that match up with what you know, what you have, and what you do. Your online marketing challenge is not to seek out the people, but to help them seek you out!

The Barnum effect, when it comes to business blog posts, is what draws in those searchers, who perceive that the information and observations you’ve provided in the blog has “high accuracy” in terms of their own needs and wants. And, while Barnum’s tactics are now seen as having been manipulative, when it comes to business blogging, online searchers tend to make very accurate assessments of whether what they find is what they need!

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Before Blogging for Business, Know Your Fruits and Vegetables

know your blog readers

 

“Knowing the audience for a particular essay is important because it determines the content that will appear in the writing,” the Ames Community College Online Writing Lab teaches. “In other words, having a focused topic is important, but having a specific audience is equally important.”

My professional speaker friend Karl Ahlrich found out the importance of this advice – the hard way. Addressing a large audience of accountants on the topic of employee engagement, he had opened with the story of a grocery chain in which store clerks proudly wore nametags on which each had completed the sentence: “my favorite vegetable is….” One young man had written his choice in bold letters: “Tomato”.

Poised to use that anecdote to make his point about the proper training of employees (after all, grocers ought to know tomatoes are in the fruit family), Karl was horrified to notice one audience member striding purposefully up the center aisle, headed for the microphone set up for audience questions and comments. “Nix vs. Hedden”, the man pronounced loudly. “Ummmm”, the audience replied, heads nodding. Puzzled as to why his anecdote had fallen so flat, the speaker struggled, almost too late, to refocus their attention on the topic of employee motivation.

(Later, my friend learned, Nix v. Hedden refers to an 1893 Supreme Court case. The ruling: Under U.S. customs regulations, the tomato should be classified as a vegetable rather than a fruit. Alas, while Karl had indeed had a focused topic, and in fact was addressing a specific audience, he had failed to properly gauge that audience’s knowledge level, (at least where it came to tomatoes!).

“Had Free People done their research on this segment of their audience, they would know how important the dance form, and the pointe shoes are to them,” Andrea Goulet Ford writes in Why Knowing Your Audience is So Important and Not Knowing it is So Dangerous. (The author is discussing the fact that readers found dance clothing line Free People’s promotional video offensive; it depicted improper ballet dance form and clothing unsuited for classically trained dancers).

“…it is important to analyse your online audience and target your campaigns to them. There are many tools to help you identify your audience, from Google Analytics data and social media to surveys – the more data the better! Once you have your data you can start to put together personas and plan your online marketing activities around them,” Sleeping Giant Media teaches.

“Consumers are used to telling stories to themselves and telling stories to each other, and it’s just natural to buy stuff from someone who’s telling us a story,” observes Seth Godin in his book All Marketers Tell Stories. My speaker friend Karl Ahlrich knew the power of story; he didn’t go quite far enough in researching his audience. “No marketing succeeds if it can’t find an audience that already wants to believe the story being told,” Godin explains.

At Say It For You, I tell newbie blog content writers: “Everything about your blog should be tailor-made for that customer – the words you use, how technical you get, how sophisticated your approach, the title of each blog entry – all of it.” Since we, as ghostwriters hired by clients to tell their story online to their target audiences, we need to do intensive research, as well as taking guidance from the client’s experience and expertise. Interviewing experts allows blog content writers to dig deep into the topic, hopefully avoiding tomato-style “faux pas”.

And, (drumroll, please), the moral is: – Before blogging for business, know your fruits and vegetables!

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Business Blog Readers are Looking for a Fix

“Can you email me the information?” is never a request any sales professional wants to hear, admits Paul Cherry, author of Questions That Sell.  What should the salesperson do? Agree, then clarify, is  his suggestion. Ask the prospect: “ What kind of information will be most useful to you? What are you looking to accomplish?”

Salespeople should look for certain key words in their prospects’ answers, Cherry says. Those words reveal if the “targets” have any real interest in the product or service.

“We are looking to:

  • achieve…
  • solve…
  • eliminate…
  • avoid…
  • secure…
  • improve…
  • fix…

For most business owners, when asked why they want to use social media, their answers come down to one thing – selling more stuff.  In fact, as internet marketing consultant Chris Garrett remarks, “The blogosphere is coming around to the idea that commerce is not necessarily evil, that in fact businesses need to make money and they do that by selling stuff.”

Effective blog content drip-drip-drips the necessary benefit-led, fact-filled, objection-busting content to your targeted audience, in such a way that they don’t feel they are being sold to, Garrett explains. His own way of describing the blogging sales cycle is as a series of small agreements, where the prospect clicks to the blog, reads content, subscribes to the blog, signs up for an e-newsletter, and finally decides to call or write.

Jeff Thrull, author of another sales training book, Exceptional Selling, advises sales professionals to act against type:, “When in doubt, so the opposite of what a salesperson would do.” The good news in blog marketing is the same as the good news Thrull describes as operative in direct selling. At Say It For You, I advise using blog posts to demonstrate the business owner’s or professional practitioner’s expertise, and to offer valuable tips to readers.

At Stage #1 of their search, what the majority of consumers are likely to have typed into the search bar are words describing:

  • Their need
  • Their problem
  • Their idea of the solution to their problem
  • A question

    In short, those searchers’ first encounter with your business or practice is based on their need for help to do the very things Paul Cherry named in his keyword list:  they want to achieve, eliminate, avoid, secure, improve, and FIX.

No, you’re not in their living room or on the phone with them, but, in order convert those “strangers” to friends and customers, then, address your blog posts to them, and write about how you can  help them do exactly those things.

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Link to Open New Windows for Blog Readers

blogging

 

“Links – you need ‘em,” writes Amy Lupold Bair in Blogging for Dummies. On a blog, the author explains, links are part of the resource you are providing for readers.  Collecting links around a topic or theme helps to inform or entertain your blog’s readers. If you’re not only providing good content yourself, but also expanding on that content by using links, she adds, “you’re doing your readers a service they won’t forget.”

As I teach at Say It For You, one way to expand on your own blog content is collating.  That entails collecting information from different sources and then organizing that information in a different way. We then summarize those ideas and concepts we think our own readers would find useful.

Curation goes even further than collating. In fact, at Say It For You, we teach that effective blog posts must go from information-dispensing to offering the business owner’s (or the professional’s, or the organizational executive’s) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic. Pieces of information might have been taken from various sources, and might even represent different views. The information needs to be put into perspective so that two things occur:

  1. Readers relate to the “curator” – you, the author of the blog post – as an involved person who is personally engaged with the subject.
  2. Readers realize there’s something here that’s important and useful for them.

Now, with links, the piece of material you are curating does not itself appear in your blog, at least not in its entirety. Instead, you’re adding a hyperlink in your text, allowing the reader to click on that underlines text to go to the article, video, text, or webpage.to which you’re referring.

But here’s where Blogging for Dummies offers an important caution to blog writers: You don’t want to be sending your readers away from your site “into the Black Hole of the Internet”. Those readers might click and then forget where they originally found the link! Therefore, Lupold Bair cautions, change the setting to “open in a new window”.  That keeps your blog post open on the screen while they pull up the other site.

“Links are the currency of the blogosphere,” the author explains.  Adding links to your posts is a good thing, she adds, provided you take your responsibility as a publisher seriously and link only to credible resources. As blog content writers at Say It For You, we certainly agree.

Opening links in new windows literally opens new windows of learning for your blog readers!

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Blog to Position Yourself as an Expert

Although the article in Steve & Jack’s Home News (from my friend Steve Rupp, the Keller-Williams real positioning through blogsestate consultant) wasn’t about blogging, it might have been. “Position Yourself As An Expert Source”, the title read; the content consisted of tips on establishing one’s credentials.

People respond to authority.  You’ll be able to persuade them more
if you can position yourself as an expert in your field or industry.

Those four tips, I couldn’t help thinking, is good advice for blog content writers. (After all, isn’t that the very point of business blogging – to position the business owner or professional practitioner as an expert source?)

1. Cite the experts yourself (quote authoritative sources of information that they already trust). Curating in business blog posts is based on the same concept.  Using content from other people’s blogs, articles, and books, we bring value to our own readers, summarizing the main ideas we believe they will find useful.  But effective blog posts go beyond that, offering the business owner’s unique perspective on the subject.

2. Highlight your qualifications. Don’t beat people over the head with your degrees and accomplishments, but remind them of your expertise and knowledge. When I offer corporate blogging help to business owners and employees, I caution against crossing the fine line between exercising “bragging rights” and bragging. One beautiful aspect of frequent blogging is that you don’t need to “shout” – you can “whisper” your sharply defined differentiated message over time.

3. Get testimonials. Ask others to share their experience working with you. Stories about customer satisfaction and problems solved wield tremendously greater power than statistics in converting lookers to buyers.
4.   Dress appropriately. That’s exactly the point I try to make when it comes to creating marketing blog content. I know the online crowd likes to be informal, and yes, blogs are supposed to be less formal and more personal in tone than traditional websites. But when a sample of corporate blog writing is posted in the name of your business  the business brand is being “put out there” for all to see. Dress your blog in its ”best”. Prevent blog content writing “wardrobe malfunctions” such as grammar errors, run-on sentences, and spelling errors. Avoid redundancy. Tighten up those paragraphs.

Blog to position yourself as an expert!

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Good Luck/ Bad Luck Blog Comments

handling blog comments

Often, when we’re setting up a new blog for a business owner or professional practitioner, the topic of comments comes up.  Should readers be invited to post comments?  Initially at least, most Say It For You clients are afraid to allow for comments on their blog.  Why? They fear those comments might be negative or critical.

When, just the other day, I received my copy of Steve & Jack’s Home News (from my friend Steve Rupp, the Keller-Williams real estate consultant), I thought about this dilemma of whether it’s good to allow readers to comment on your business blog.  The newsletter started out with a story called “Good Luck, Bad Luck.” This farmer’s stallion runs off, and neighbors comment on what bad luck that was.  Farmer says, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?” A series of bad/good events follows: The stallion returns with a herd of wild mare; the farmer’s son, while training one of the mares, is thrown off the horse and breaks his leg.  Because of the broken leg, soldiers do not seize this son for military service. The moral of the story is that all luck, both good and bad is fleeting.

Same thing with blog comments:  Blogs need to be available not only for reading, but for acting and interacting. Just the way that even bad reviews help ticket sales for plays, even when a posts a negative or critical comment about your product or service, you’re still getting “bang for your blog” from the search engines.

The “bad luck” side of the coin, of course, is that spam comment attacks tend to plague newly created blog pages.  That spam typically shows itself in three forms:

  1. Total nonsense, with links to sites the writer is promoting
  2. Totally unrelated to the topic of the blog
  3. Blatant advertising for web services

There is no definitive way to stop SPAM comments as Jeremy Politt of the ITeam admits. There are a few steps business owners and practitioners can take when setting up the blog platform, including:

  • Don’t automatically accept comments – reserve the right to review them and decide whether to publish them. (This is how I handle comments on this Say It For You blog.)
  • Include a “Captcha” so that readers must prove they’re human, not a digital SPAM machine gun.

Like the stallion running off and the farmer’s son’s broken leg, negative comments on a business blog are “good luck, bad luck – who knows?

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Template Your Blog for Variety and Timesaving

 

There are many different ways the same information can be presented in different business blog posts, and thank goodness for that, I say.

In fact, at Say It For You, I’m always on the lookout for different “templates”, not in the sense of platform graphics, but in terms of formats for presenting information about any business or professional practice. Here are just a few possible “templates”:

How-to Post
This type of post aims to teach the reader something, Ali Luke explains taking them through a step-by-step process. Variations include “How I _____and How You Can, Too.” And “Why ____ Matters and How To Do it”.

List Post
The list post offers readers a selection of ideas, tips, suggestions, or resources.

Review Post
Review posts offer an informed opinion about a particular product or service.

OpEd Opinion Post
This post states a point of view about a particular topic (the blog author can then add his or her own commentary.)

Interview Post

The author interviews a client, an employee, or an outside source.

In addition to varying the format or template, I teach, you can offer different kinds of information in different blog posts. In a way, each time you post you’re pulling out just one of those attachments on your “Swiss army knife” and offering some valuable information or advice relating to just one aspect of your business. Another day, your blog post can do the same with a different “attachment”.

According to The Book of Totally Useless Information, a rough estimate of the numbers of snowflakes that have fallen on earth is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,0000, yet each one is different from all the others.

What does this have to do with blog content writing? A snowflake needs a nucleus around which to form, usually a speck of dust, sea salt, or other particle. No two specks of dust are truly identical, and the conditions of temperature and moisture are different each time; those minor changes are enough to make all snowflakes different.

The “nucleus” around which business blog posts are formed is their topic, the expertise and products that business offers. The key words and phrases around that topic are what bring readers to the blog posts. But, even though the overall topic is the same, there is endless variety that can be used to make each blog post special, and one way to differentiate blog posts is by using different templates.

Template your blog for variety and timesaving!

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Business Blog Repurposing With a Purpose

re-purposing blog content

 

Finding ways to recycle existing content has a number of benefits, Megan Marris writes in Wordstream.com, including:

  • reaching a new audience
  • “dusting off forgotten tales”
  • making the most of your efforts

Your top notch content deserves repurposing, Marris states, but only the best will do.

  • Wordstream offers a rather impressive list of suggestions on alternative ways for using content from existing blog posts, turning them into:
  • webinars
  • podcasts
  • case studies
  • Power Point slide decks
  • Ebooks
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Twitter posts
  • online courses

Cornelia Cosmiuc of cognitiveseo.com adds to the list, suggesting that posts be turned into hands-on guidebooks, and that interview blogs be turned into expert advice e-handbooks.

I agree. At Say It For You I stress that it’s absolutely essential for blog marketers to learn to reuse content. Maintaining consistently high rankings on search engines depends on longevity. That means writers must maintain the discipline of regularly posting relevant, value-laden content over long periods of time.

But as a business blog writing trainer, I see repurposing as having a broader meaning than simply turning content from blogs into video scripts, social media posts, or email blasts. My idea of repurposing involves turning existing blog posts into new ones. The content in the new posts reinforces the content from the former posts. But the new version progresses to new information and perhaps a new slant on the subject.

“There are two things that make writing difficult to read. One is not giving enough detail and giving only a spotty coverage of an idea. The other is to try to give too much detail for the space allowed. Short articles should only provide a high-level discussion of your topic or in-depth coverage of one aspect of it,” advises quicksprout.com. One way to repurpose short blog content is to choose one small point and expand on it in a new post.

Derek Halpern of Social Triggers says it all: “You don’t have to create content day in and day out. You just have to work on getting the content you already have in the hands of more people.”  And that’s the main idea behind repurposing content, according to Hubspot.com: Take something you’ve created, put a new spin on it, and give it new life.

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Poor Grammar Spells SPAM in Business Blog Post Content

When scammers call, threatening you will be “taken under custody” because you owe back taxes to the IRS, that poor grammar alone is a giveaway,” business humorist Todd Hunt assures innocent victims. Of course, Hunt explains, “the real IRS never calls, never mails or texts, never asks for a credit card…and certainly never threatens to arrest you.”  The real clue, however, is that if ever custody were involved, you would be taken into it, not under it!

As a corporate blogging trainer, my favorite recommendation to both business owners and the freelance blog content writers they hire to bring their message to customers is this: Prevent blog content writing “wardrobe malfunctions”, including grammar errors, run-on sentences, and spelling errors.

What’s so important about grammar?  Aren’t blogs supposed to be conversational and informal in tone? In fact, I get a lot of pushback from business owners and professionals when I tell them their website is filled with grammar errors. Supposedly nobody “normal” pays attention to such language detail these days. That’s a dangerous attitude. As Writer’s Digest Yearbook points out, unconventional or incorrect grammar may be seen as an indication of carelessness or ignorance. The result? Readers may take the content itself less seriously.” “If a visitor sees a spelling mistake on the site, he will naturally assume that the carelessness applies to the business as a whole,” warns conversionmedic.com.

Blogs (as I’ve often taught) are more personal and more informal than websites, but they shouldn’t be sloppy. There’s a difference between more formal business writing and blog writing, he says, but “that’s no excuse” (for typos, misspelled words, and poor grammar).  Unlike your sixth grade teacher, internet searchers won’t “correct your paper”. They’ll navigate away from your blog and find somewhere else to go!

There’s a parallel aspect of “good taste” in presenting your brand in a blog.  Be sure any claims about your company’s products and services come across as reasonable and provable. Observing “Nice Guy” rules along with those of ”nice” grammar and spelling will tell readers they can trust you to do the right thing in all your dealings..

After all, you may never take those prospects “under custody” or even “into custody”, but you would like to do business with them!

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Is Your Blog Post Title Worth a “Watch”?

Since we’ve been focusing on effective titles in my last couple of Say It For You posts, I couldn’t help but notice a certain article in my August issue of Financial Planning. The title reads “A Sector to Watch” and the article by Craig Israelsen is about including commodities in a portfolio to provide diversification as inflation ticks up. I really liked the “soft-sell” quality of that title. The author wasn’t “hawking” commodity funds, or even recommending them. Instead, it felt as if he was simply alerting his financial advisor readers to something that might be worth their attention.

Ryan Scott of HubSpot would describe that Financial Planning title as an “If I Were You” headline.  “When someone tells us how we should do something, we balk,” Scott explains. But when someone offers to show us why we should do something, it appeals to us,” he adds.
The Israelsen article does, in fact, include facts on the performance of commodities in different markets, and does make an argument for handling inflation using that type of investment. It’s the title, though, that caught my blog content writer’s attention, because it pulls back a couple of steps from making any argument, offering the almost casual suggestion that commodities are worth a “watch”.

“The job of a headline is to get people sucked into your ad/article in the first place,” is the advice Kopywriting Kourse offers. “The most important rule of titles is to respect the reader experience.  If you set high expectations in your title that you can’t fulfill in the content, you’ll lose readers’ trust,” Corey Wainwriight writes in HubSpot.

That’s precisely what’s so refreshing about the Israelsen title – it takes a contrarian position, literally ignoring both these pieces of advice. (Reminds me of the Tom Sawyer story, where, rather than persuading his friends to help him whitewash the fence, Tom makes it look like the task is so much fun that they want to participate…).

“Captivating titles are the ones that stand apart from the rest. Great titles aren’t afraid to be a little weird,” observes Ryan VanDenabeele in Impulse Creative. Craig Israelsen’s A Sector to Watch” certainly caught my attention. Is your blog post title worth a “watch”?

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Give a Blog Post a Twist and It Superconducts

 

Meteorites sometimes contain naturally occurring superconductors, physicists are discovering. “Give a graphene layer cake a twist and it superconducts – electrons flow freely through it without resistance.” Superconductors, I learned, could potentially be used in new, energy-saving technologies, but today are impractical for most uses, requiring very cold temperatures to function. Still, my blog writing fancy was tickled by the image of those flowing electrons, freed with nothing more than “a twist”.

Putting a unique “twist” on a topic, I believe, is the very essence of blog content writing, enabling the flow of ideas via the internet to a business owners or a practitioner’s target audience.

Three toys can be used to illustrate the power of twist:

Hula Hoops:
When sales plummeted after an early rush of success, Hula Hoop manufacturer Wham-O, came up with a new twist, inserting ball bearings into the cylinders to make a “swoosh” sound, reviving consumer interest in the product; this year marks the company’s 71st anniversary.

Barbie Dolls
The newest “twist” on Barbie Dolls allows doll owners to change Barbie’s hair color and hair style with just a twist of her head.

Rubik’s Cube
The newest versions of the popular puzzler allows the shape to be twisted from a snake into a ball.

“You don’t necessarily need an original idea to craft unique content. You can always develop your own piece by adding the right dose of creativity into any topic your audience is interested in,” Julie Peterson writes in problogger.com. Take some good old ideas and make them different through your individual approach to the subject, she suggests..

The content in your blog posts, I explain to business owners, will be a way to continually think through and reinvent your business brand. The very personal twist that we work to create will mark your blog as uniquely yours.

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Business Blogs – the Importance of Being Real – and Specific

be specific in blog posts

 

Business blog content writers today can take the title (if not the content) of a satirical play written 125 years ago, The Importance of Being Earnest, well, seriously. Sincerity in social media and self-promotion matters, as Katherine Erllikh so eloquently points out in the redbubble blog. “Optimizing things, getting followers, getting subscribers, advertising…those things are just half the puzzle,” Erlikh states. “It’s about sincerity.” You should be as real as possible, is the advice.

Jayson DeMers, writing in Forbes, agrees. “Your blog posts give you a unique opportunity to share your voice and personality, building up trust and increasing your brand’s likeability quotient.”  “As you build up authority in your niche,” DeMers adds,  “this breeds trust and familiarity, keeping you top-of-mind when your prospects are ready to buy.”

One way content writers can “get real” is to post blogs with history-of-our-company background stories.  Those personal anecdotes can have a humanizing effect, engaging readers and creating feelings of empathy and admiration for the business owners or professional practitioners who overcame adversity. As a corporate blogging trainer, I remind newbie writers that there’s no lack of information sources available to our readers. In our blogs, therefore, we need to go beyond presenting facts, statistics, features and benefits.

In addition to being real – in fact, a way to be real – is to be specific. One concern business owners and practitioners express to me is that they don’t want to come across as boastful in their blog.  At the same time, they need to convey the reasons prospects ought to choose them over their competition. This is where being specific comes in – let the facts do the boasting, I explain.

As the first of “Seven Easy Ways to Write Better Titles for Your Blog Posts”, Ali Luke of problogger.com lists “Be Specific, Not General”. While some bloggers believe vague titles intrigue readers, who will click to find out what the title means, Luke says, the truth is readers have too many calls on their time and attention – they need to know what to expect.

“Details, specifics, and granularity can take otherwise generic writing and instantly make it shine,” asserts Hurley Write, Inc.  Imprecise business messages sound like double-talk. Good writers think hard about their goals and the direction they want to give others.”

Playwright Oscar Wilde knew “the importance of being earnest”, but business blog content writers need to understand the importance of being real – and specific!

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Business Blog Posts – What’s In It for Them?

WIIFM blogging

There are several similarities between the skills a speaker uses in giving an effective talk and those we bloggers use to write effective business blog posts, I was reminded just the other day,  listening to estate planning attorney Rick Randall address our group at the Financial Planning Association.

What’s In It For Them?
Just a few paragraphs into his lecture on some of the more arcane aspects of designing estate planning trusts,, Randall stopped, looked at us in the audience, and posed the question:  “Why do I care if I’m in your seat?”, proceeding to answer that very question from the point of view of the individual financial planning practitioner.

For business blog content writers, the cardinal rule to remember is that potential clients and customers want to know about Radio Station WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?).

Visuals – the Third Leg of the Stool
One of the legalities Randall wanted to get across to his audience had to do with protecting trust assets from creditors. Many clients are reluctant to take control of the assets away from their beneficiaries in order to obtain that protection. The law considers certain people to be “under our control”. To help us understand and remember which beneficiaries are “too close” (deemed to be under our control in decision-making), Randall used a simple visual of a pointing index finger.  “Up” refers to parents, “down” to offspring, “sides” to siblings, “front” to spouse, and “behind” to employees.

Visuals are one of the three “legs” of the business blog “stool”, along with information and perspective, or “slant”. Whether you use actual original photos or “clip art, visuals add interest and evoke emotion, in addition to cementing concepts in the minds of readers.

Case in Point
To increase interest and understanding of the legal concepts he was explaining, Randall employed a “true story” approach, using as an example an actual drawn-out Indiana estate planning dispute about which we’d all read in the newspaper.

For online searchers, nothing beats landing on a blog that has just the information, the products, and the services they were looking for. That’s doubly true when readers get the “people like me” effect, and stories of all kinds (“case studies”, customer testimonials, famous incidents from the news, Hollywood, folklore – you name it) help personalize your blog post.

For both effective professional presentations and effective business blog posts, it’s all about remembering the “what’s-in-it-for-them”!

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Should Business Blog Posts Shock and Awe?

shock in blogging for business
“Most advisors don’t spend their day thinking about how to jolt their clients, but I do,” asserts Certified Retirement Coach Robert Laura, writing for Financial Advisor magazine. A former social worker, Laura claims the way people respond to the various things he says and asks provide valuable clues as to how to work with them. Shock and awe, he says, are his tools to jolt clients in order to start new conversations that will help clients be better prepared for the future.

Can “shock and awe” help start conversations when it comes to blogging for business? Maybe. At Say It For You, I’ve maintained that the tone of any business blog needs to be consistent with the company’s brand. In order to appeal to a better kind of customer – the kind that buys for the right reasons and then remains loyal – my thinking has been that the Calls to Action (both the implied CTA’s in the blog content writing itself and the Call to Action buttons) should appeal to readers’ better nature.

The other side of the argument (and the point Robert Laura is making) is one that is also emphasized in MLT Creative, “Using fear appeals or scare tactics may be more effective than statistics or data because they may cause people to think more about the issue.”

With our blog content writer hats on, let’s take a closer look at three of Laura’s list of seven “shockers”:

1. “The difference between today’s haves and have-nots isn’t money.”
This statement is a thought provoker, counter-intuitive enough to grab attention and to encourage people to keep reading to learn the underlying thinking. Unlike scare tactic selling, bold assertions can serve as “conversation starters” in blogging for business.

2. Twenty of the 43 most stressful life events take place at or near retirement.”
Here Laura is grabbing his readers’ attention with a startling statistic. Statistics can be a tool in blogging for business. If there’s some false impression people seem to have relating to your industry, or to a product or service you provide, you can bring in statistics to show how things really are. Statistics can also serve to demonstrate the extent of a problem, which is what Laura is doing.  Once readers realize the problem, the door is open for you to show how you help solve that very type of problem.

3.  “Traditional estate planning is backwards and may be more damaging than no planning at all.”
There’s something very appealing and curiosity-stimulating about contrarian content, and, whether it’s business-to-business blog writing or business to consumer writing, being a contrarian has two effects: It makes readers sit up and take notice (This is not going to be same-old, same-old, readers realize) and it clarifies what differentiates your business or professional practice from its peers.

Should business blog posts shock and awe?  I don’t believe so. But should they arouse interest and provoke thinking?  You bet.

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Skiing Downhill in Business Blog Posts

Putting a summary or conclusion at the beginning of a piece of writing certainly sounds like a strange thing to do, but that’s exactly what Brandon Royal advises in The Little Red Writing Book. The pow-opening-line idea I teach in corporate blogging training session focuses on that very sort of “descending” writing structure.

Given the notoriously short attention span of online readers, the sooner it becomes clear there’s a match between what the searcher wants and what’s to be found in our blog post, the more favorable our chances of having that prospect take some action. And, of course, from a Search Engine Optimization standpoint, the “match” between query and content needs to be addressed (through key phrasing) in the blog title and in the opening lines of the blog post.

“In addition to their brevity, news stories have a particular structure that is easily recognizable,” the MTTC Communication Arts Practice & Study Guide explains. “The big, bold headline, for example, is intended to grab readers’ attention, while the first sentence or paragraph lays out the story so the reader knows what to expect.”

In a dialogue or speech, the problem with “working up to” a conclusion is that once you finally find out what the speaker’s point is, you’ve forgotten all the necessary details, Royal says. It’s just as frustrating, the author adds, “when you’re reading a piece of writing and you do not know where it’s going.”

But, when you’re a blog content writing serving up many posts over time, all revolving around the very same general topic, how do you keep things different and engaging, while still going smoothly “downhill”? And are your title and opening line going to “spoil” it for readers?

Awhile back in this Say It For You blog, I described a study done at the University of California’s psychology department. Subjects were given short stories to read, some presented with “spoiler paragraphs” that told readers how the stories would end, others without the spoilers. “Subjects significantly preferred the “spoiled” versions

Here’s the parallel: Readers come online searching for information, products, or services, and they are not going to take the time to read your “manuscript” (the full text of your blog post) without assurance that they’ve come to the right place.

If we freelance blog content writers frustrate online visitors by being unclear about the points we plan to make, they’ll be gone in a click.  We simply must learn to “blog downhill”.

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Business Blog Posts are Made for Biting the Bullet

bullet points in blogsIt seems content writers either love or absolutely abhor those little dots.

Jon of Presentation Advisors, for example, is antipathetic towards bullet points in PowerPoint presentations.  When we use bullets, we tend to lump ideas together on the same slide without giving any one of those ideas a chance to shine, he says.

Myself, I’m kind of partial to bullet points, and from what I’ve been told, Google and the other search engines like them, too.  In fact, as I actually stress in corporate blogging training sessions, lists and bullet points are generally a good fit for blogs; they help keep readers – and writers – on track.

“The aim of bullet points is to break complicated information down into digestible form or to highlight the main elements of a story, the Reuters Handbook of Journalism explains. Bullet points work in many story formats, Reuters adds, including briefs, updates, wrapups, interviews, and market reports.

Reuters offers several important guidelines for using bullet points:

  • Bullet points must be succinct, in the active voice and in the present tense
  • The minimum number of bullet points is two, the maximum five
  • They cannot exceed one line (about 10 words) in length

Lynn Goertner-Johnston’s Business Writing blog teaches how to punctuate bullet points:

Use a period after every bullet point that is a sentence.
Use no punctuation after bullets that are not sentences.
Use either all full sentences or all fragments, not a mixture.

Sometimes bullet points complete a stem, and then there should be a period after each one, Goertner-Johnson goes on to give an example of how a “stem” works.

I like living in Seattle because of its:

  •  access to work opportunities.
  • moderate climate.
  • liberal politics.

(None of the three bullets is a sentence in itself, yet we use a period for each because it completes the original sentence.)

What about using numbers in place of bullet points? Cypress’ Catherine Hibbard explains that using numbers in place of bullet points would imply an order of importance; with bullet points, all items have equal value.  Hibbard recommends beginning each bullet with an action word where that’s appropriate, but in all cases making tenses and verbs consistent.

One bullet point “compromise” I’ve found very useful is inserting a longer explanation after each point. That way, I am giving the individual items a “chance to shine”, while still taking advantage of the organizational simplicity of the bullet points.

For example, in this bullet-pointed list of Three Tips to Remember in Revamping Your Resume, J.P Hansen  gives three 2-3 word pieces of advice, all in directive (command) form, but then explains each in a longer sentence:

  • Explain, don’t list.  Write three full sentences about your current or previous job with three to five bullet points highlighting your achievements.
  • Limit activities. List just two hobbies to showcase your interests without seeming preoccupied.
  • Use active language. Opt for strong, positive verbs like sold, earned, and developed.

Business blog posts are naturals for “biting the bullet”!

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Blogging for Business B2B or B2C – the Basics Remain the Same

Earlier this week, I discussed personal, “Can’t-Leave-the-House-Without-It” – type blog content writing, inviting readers’ personal involvement in the subject. The question is: does that very personalized type of content work as well in business-to-business marketing?

Is business-to-business marketing really different from business-to-consumer? Masterful Marketing.com’s  blogger Debra Murphy certainly thinks so, listing at least four key differences:

  • B2B has a longer sales cycle
  • B2B is multi-step selling
  • B2B depends on awareness-building educational activities
  • B2B buyers make more “rational” decisions based on business value

As more and more businesses are beginning to call on Say It For You to help them get their message out to business buyers, I don’t perceive that the differences between B2B and B2C are all that great. After all, the process involved for the provider of products and services is the same – understanding your target market, bringing readers to the website, engaging them, and converting them into buyers. The basics remain the same – building trust and offering valuable information.

If anything, the longer and multi-step sales cycle in business-to-business blogging makes the frequent posting of new and relevant content even more important to the marketing effort. Also, in the case of  business-to-business blog writing, the blog content itself needs to contain opinion and insight, not only information and products. Our readers need even more from business blogs than competitive pricing and expertise, I’m convinced. In addition to valuable subject matter, but we must offer guidance in processing that material.

That People Magazine personal interview format could definitely be adapted for B2B online marketing, inviting readers to “complete the sentences”, recalling their own business’ experiences and their own needs.

What is it that your company should “not leave the office/plant/workplace without”?

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Can’t-Leave-the-House-Without Blogging for Business

can't leave without it blogging for business
It’s been five years now, but I still often think about that People Magazine Style and Beauty Extra with the article about staying “gorgeous at any age”. (Okay, I have a growing personal interest in that subject, but it also fits in with my ongoing efforts to help business owners and professionals use blog content writing explain what they do and how and why they do it.)

What caught my blog trainer’s eye in that magazine issue was the write-up of an interview with actress and businesswoman Jessica Alba, revealing her beauty secrets. The interviewee was asked to complete sentences such as:

  • I can’t leave the house without….
  • I’m really good at….
  • I learned to love….
  • My beauty trick is….
  • I first wore makeup when

I particularly liked that format because it’s so personal – a real person is filling in real details about “I” and “my”. As a reader, I started asking myself the same questions:  What can’t I leave the house without? What did I learn to love?

“‘Often personal examples go hand in hand with the use of the personal pronoun “I”,” explains Brandon Royal in The Little Red Writing Book. “Do not be afraid to use this pronoun; it’s personal and specific. Readers appreciate knowing how a situation relates to the writer in terms of his or her personal experience.”

Even more important, the statement-completion format invites readers to complete their own sentences, putting themselves “in the picture”, and recalling their own experiences – and their own needs. That People Magazine article, I thought, had a social media-like sharing “feel” Of course, the products and services being discussed (cosmetics) were of a personal nature. But in promotional content writing on any topic, as vividimage points out, people-focused stories bring more content-sharing opportunities.

Get your blog readers to ask themselves which of your products and services they shouldn’t be “leaving home without”!

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“Working the Room” by Blogging for Business

Just one of the ”49 secrets and shortcuts you need to know” asserts author Geoffrey James in Business Without the Bullsh*t, is how to “work a room”.  As you circulate among the crowd, hoping to build connections, James says, position yourself in a single sentence.”

Rather than giving your own job title or history, “provide a description of the benefits your customers, investors, or employers get as the result of buying from, investing in, or hiring you.,” he advises. Include an intriguing fact, he adds.

That idea of positioning oneself casually, yet precisely is perfectly suited to business blog content writing, I teach at Say it For You.  But, unlike the undifferentiated crowd at the gathering Geoffrey James described, readers find themselves on your blog because their search has already indicated a tie-in with what you have, what you do, and what you know. The task now is to make clear to those visitors

a) how you differ from your competitors

b) what a transaction with you looks like

c) what the end goal is.

By definition, blog visitors are ready for the second stage of “working the room” , involving people who have already shown preliminary interest.

“Casually reveal one of two facts about yourself that show how you’re different from the competition in a way that might be interesting or essential to that person’s company“, James says. “Working the room”, when it comes to business blogs, would ideally have involved doing preliminary market research to understanding the “pain points” and “points of interest” for target readers. That research, which is the blog writer’s version of James’ directive to “be curious about people you meet”, then allows you to choose an “anecdote” that resonates with your target reader.  Here’s one of the samples the author offers:

“At MIT I created a study that revealed how retail sales clerks can use
past purchases to help customers take advantage of what’s available
now in the store.”

Blogging- without- the- bullsh*t posts, as we see them at Say it For You, are the results of skillfully “working the room”!

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Cool Doesn’t Sell in Blogging for Business

enthusiasm in blogging“Cool doesn’t sell. A chilly professionalism doesn’t make much of an impression.  It is immediately forgotten, along with the idea you are promoting,” authors Steve Chandler and Scott Richardson declare in the book 100 ways to Motivate Others. The way to be enthusiastic is to act enthusiastic, Chandler and Richardson assure business managers.

The most effective way to position yourself in the market as a thought leader in this digital age, Rhiza Oyos claims, is to blog:

  1. Clients prefer to be informed and entertained. If you want your business to prosper, you need to publish valuable content.
  2. Publishing timely content on a regular basis requires you to do research on the latest trends and news in your field.
  3. Communication feels more personal when your customers know that you’re directly addressing their problems and concerns.

But how do you “act” enthusiastic in writing blog content? Well, first, be human.  Let you hair down. “People connect with people, and “your digital marketing strategy is begging for the human connection to make your content stand out from all the marketing ‘noise’,“ Kathy Heil writes in businss2community.com.

Ray Anthony and Barbara Boyd wrote Innovative Presentations for Dummies to help speakers get their audiences committed and acting upon their requests. They recommend:

  • Relating personal anecdotes and memorable stories
  • Conveying enthusiasm about the process or product, demonstrating that what you’re really selling are solutions to problems.

    Enthusiasm is contagious.  If your content shows you’re excited about your idea, your solution, your product, your service, readers will get excited. No doubt about it – enthusiasm sells. And, when it comes to blogging for business, enthusiasm spreads – to searchers, search engines, and right back home to YOU!

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Blog About What It Takes

Until I read “10 Things About Britain” in Mental Floss Magazine, I had never dreamed that, in order to become a certified taxi operator in London, drivers must study up for an extraordinarily difficult exam that involves detailed recall of 25,000 streets, along with the locations of clubs, hospitals, hotels, parks, theaters, schools, restaurants, government buildings and churches.

This article, I realized, makes a very important point about blog content writing for business, reminding me that online visitors searching for a product or a service typically have no idea what it takes to do what you do and how much effort you put into acquiring all that the expertise, which you are now going to use for their benefit.

I absolutely love the opening line of the “10 Things About Britain” piece:

“Cabbies are smarter than Google Maps.”

Blogging about the benefits readers will reap through using your products and services is not a matter of waving your credentials around or showing off – (OK, it is, in a way). But, in today’s click-it-yourself, do-it-yourself world, your content writing needs to demonstrate to online searchers that, in your field, you ARE smarter than Google Maps, or eHow, or Wikipedia.  What’s more, your corporate blogging for business must make clear, you’re a lot more caring of your customers!

 

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Varying the Voice in Your Business Blog

“Your greatest tool as a speaker is your voice,” cautions Toastmasters International. “When you speak, your voice is the primary link between you and your listeners. It is the medium of your message.” In fiction, the term “voice” describes the author’s style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, conveying the author’s attitude, personality, and character

“Finding a voice for your social media marketing can be difficult,” observes Kevan Lee in Buffer Social. Voice is not a statistic you can track or a design element you can tweak, Lee points out. What “voice” is, he posits is your brand personality, which might be lively, positive, cynical, or professional. Voice helps you create content that is sensitive to and resonates with your audience, adds Lauren Pope of gathercontent.com.

In your business blog, while viewers are reading, not hearing the voice, it’s important to have “voice variety”. That can come from writing some of the content in I-you format, with other posts written in third person. If a company person or a customer is being interviewed, the can be written in the “voice” of the interviewee or that of the interviewer.

“Third person narratives so often mimic the ‘beige voice’ of an objective reporter,” William Cane says in Write Like the Masters. With first person, he advises, “it’s usually easier to be intimate, unique, and quirky.”

No one communication style is best. What is effective is varying the voice in your business blog posts!

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Go Ahead – Write Blog Content About “Un-related” Topics!

unrelated topics

 

“Be generous. Be informative. Be funny. Be inspiring. Be all the characteristics you enjoy in other human beings,” says Gary Vaynerchuk in Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, a book about ”telling your story in a noisy social world”. From a marketing standpoint, the author explains, content writing can be about not just your brand, but about related topics.  You can even talk about un-related topics, the author says. Jabs can be anything that helps set up your commercial “ask”.

“No one wants to be interrupted (with banner ads and popups), and no one wants to be sold to.  Your story needs to move people’s spirits and build their goodwill, so that when you finally do ask them to buy from you, they feel like you’ve given them so much, it would be almost rude to refuse,” Vaynerchuk advises.

Visitors arrive at your blog to find information on specific topics.  But, once your opening lines have reassured them they’ve come to the right place, it’s a great idea to use some unlikely connections, even unrelated but fascinating tidbits of information to give readers a sense of being ahead of the crowd, having some unusual “inside information” or amusing tidbits to share with friends.

Getting personal is a huge element in the success of a blog for any business or practice Sure, Indianapolis blog content writers must focus on personal anecdotes and on the personal values of the business owners and of the people delivering professional services. But, to give the blog that needed extra boost, the content can reflect current happenings and concerns and topics trending on social media.

“Jabs” are nothing more than marketing “touches”, ways to establish connection between you and the reader. The trick, of course, is keeping up the flow of content. When I found that the biggest fear business owners have when it comes to maintaining a company blog was running out of ideas, I came up with the concept of tidbits.

Tidbits are interesting, little-known facts. While at first the tidbit appears to be unrelated to the business or practice, it can be used to explain the company’s products, services, and expertise.

An HVAC company, for example, could share the story from Mental Floss magazine of how, when President Garfield was shot and lay dying in the White House, inventors rushed forward with devices they hoped would help, using a contraption to blow air over a box of ice into a series of tin pipes, eventually using a half-million pounds of ice.

Jab, jab, jab, even about seemingly unrelated topics, Vaynerchuk explains, working up to that big “Right Hook” ask!

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Jabbing and Dee-jaying it for Blog Content Writers

blog jabs

 

“It isn’t about breaking the news or spreading information – it’s about dee-jaying it,” says Gary Vaynerchuk in Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, a book about ”telling your story in a noisy social world”. From a marketing standpoint, the author explains, news has little value on its own, but the marketer who can skillfully spin, interpret, and remix it in his or her own signature style can often tell a story that is more powerful and memorable than the actual news itself.

In Vaynerchuk’s metaphor, jabs are the content you put out, and the right hook is the “ask” – for the sale or for a donation. The right hook sells and self-promotes, but the jabs engage readers and trigger an emotional response, Tanner Hunt comments on Vaynerchuk’s book.

The thing about blog content writing, we’ve learned at Say It For You, is that your stuff might be high-quality and informative and still not have any measurable effect if it lacks emotion. But can “emotional” blog marketing be effective in B2 situations? Yes, yes, yes! Remember that computers don’t make the buying decisions; there’s always a person involved, and, by definition, a person has feelings.

What Vaynerchuk calls “remixing” I refer to as putting your own spin on the information. There is no lack of sources for readers to be “told” information; you want to “show” readers, using examples that are more unique and vivid, fact-based , but not focused on the facts.

Long before getting to the “right hook”, bloggers for business need to go beyond providing information and become “thought drivers”. Whether it’s business-to-business blog writing or business-to-consumer blog writing, the content itself needs to use opinion to clarify what differentiates that business, that professional practice, or that organization from its peers. In other words, blog posts will go from information-dispensing to offering the business owner’s (or the professional’s, or the organizational executive’s) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic.

A deejay, remember, is a very special type of performer, someone who does so much more than play tracks from a playlist.  The deejay answers questions and calls, offering comments and “slant” on the selections being played. Over time, listeners come to trust the deejay and value his/her advice.

Blog marketing isn’t about breaking the news or spreading information – it’s about jabbing and dee-jaying it.

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The 9 Types of Essays You Meet in the Blogosphere

9 types of essays in blogs

“Your college compositions will like take one of the following formats, ”Quick Access” authors advise students. The same list of 9 might apply to us business blog content writers, I couldn’t help thinking.

1.  Illustration essay – “Just as in a visual illustration, a written illustration shows the reader something or illustrates a point.” Beginning with a startling statistic is certainly one tactic blog writers can use to bring a point to the forefront of readers’ minds, then illustrating that point with specific examples.

2.  Narrative essay – A narrative is any type of story, and good ones should contain some dialogue and sensory details. Stories of all kinds – case studies, customer testimonials, famous incidents from the news, Hollywood, folklore – you name it) help personalize your blog post.

3.  Descriptive essay – The writer creates a picture for the reader, using close observation. Basic information about your business, material you’ve presented again and again in earlier business blog posts, can assume new power when you relate that content to different sounds, sights, or smells.

4.  Process essay – This essay explains how something happened or how something works.  There’s no end to the technical information available to consumers on the Internet, but as business blog content writers, we can help readers absorb, buy into, and use that information. How-to blog posts engage readers while establishing business owners and practitioners as knowledgeable in their fields. It might well be that, teaching is the new selling!

5.  Definition essay – A word or term is defined by using examples, descriptions, comparisons, or contrasts. Sometimes, in corporate blogging training, I ask writers to make zany comparisons: Online searchers almost certainly lack expert knowledge in your field. That makes it difficult for them to judge if your prices are fair, how experienced you are relative to your peers, and where you “place” in the big “scheme” of products and services.

6.  Comparison-contrast essay – The writer explains the similarities and differences between two things. Compare-and-contrast is one of several structures we blog writers can use to help customers and prospects derive the greatest use out of the information we’re presenting. Use what they know, comparing your ”new” solution to traditional “old” solutions to the problem your company solves. Compare unfamiliar things to things with which readers are already comfortable.

7.  Classification essay – The writer puts things into groups of related objects, with the purpose being to break down larger groups of things into smaller components. Collecting information from different sources and organizing that information so that it is more understandable to our readers plays a big part in creating value through a blog.

8.  Cause and effect essay – A cause is the reason why something happens – the effect is the result of that cause. Consumers reading a blog post are not trained in whatever the company’s specialty is, and could understandably misunderstand the significance of the data presented, and the advice and the intent behind it. Clarifying the best way to address certain problems is one important function of business blogs.

9.  Persuasive essay – The writer is trying to convince the reader that his or her own opinion is valid. In blogs, you want to be perceived as a Subject Matter Expert offering usable information and insights rather than as a salesperson. The blog content itself constitutes a persuasive Call to Action! 

Are you using all the 9 essays as you  create content for the blogosphere?

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The Long and the Short of Business Blog Writing

“So which is better for you: long or short content?” Rob Marsh asks on copyhackers.com.

The short of it as per Forbes.com: “Write short, pithy posts.  After 750 words – or sometimes after only half that – you risk losing your readers’ attention”.

The long of it as per Buffer:  “Posts longer than 2,500 words received more than twice the social shares of posts less than 2,500 words long.”

But, forget long vs. short. What do people actually read? March asks. An easy way to “fatten up” your thin content is to make it longer, but should you, he wonders. In other words, what do human beings prefer?  According to the Medium.com data lab, the optimal posts take the average reader seven minutes to read.

To succeed with longer content, you have to use your WORDS, March cautions.

W –well researched, with examples and case studies
There’s a privilege to blogging, I always tell content writers, and that privilege comes with a duty we have to offer usable, high-quality, well-researched content, presented in quality fashion.  Our online readers have a right to expect no less.

O – outstanding, triggering an emotional response.
At Say It For You, I tell blog content writers that one reason I prefer first and second person writing in business blog posts over third person “reporting” is that I believe people tend to buy when they see themselves in the picture and when can they relate emotionally to the person bringing them the message.

R – regularly posted
Recency and frequency are crucial. Once-in-a-while blogging just doesn’t do the trick, even if it’s high-quality stuff.  To satisfy a search engine, your blog material must be updated frequently, and I mean very frequently.  It seems that when it comes to blogging for business, search engines are saying, “Never mind what you’ve done. What have you done for me lately?”

D – designed to encourage reading
A scannable, easy-on-the-eye layout, with subheads, bolding, graphics, and paragraph breaks ,keeps readers’ attention.

S – substantive – important and covering the subject in depth
Blog posts that demonstrate a high degree of expertise backed by solid research, plus a very high degree of focus, give readers a sense that paying attention longer is “worthwhile”.

Smaller Targets, Better Hits in Blogging for Business

So which is better for you? At Say it For You, my own motto over the years has been this:

Make blog posts as long as they need to be to get the point across, but not a single sentence longer!

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Shedding Shame in Business Blog Marketing

blog marketing

 

Have you ever asked someone to “pardon your tartle?” Tartle is actually the Scottish term for the kind of “brain freeze” you get while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.” Helping readers avoid (and, if necessary, deal with) awkward and embarrassing situations is one valuable service business owners and practitioners can offer through their blog content.

“A learning culture (in an organization) is often open to employees failing, considering it a part of growth,” writes Bill Howatt in theglobeandmail.com. In blog content writing, it’s important to reassure readers that they have come to the right place to arm themselves with the information they need to perform well, but that on the other hand, they are not expected to do things perfectly right “out of.the gate”. Your products, your services, and your advice will help them get the job done and avoid the faux pas they fear.

“The web is one big network of advice,” writes Rebecca Haden in Haden Interactive. “After all, she says, “people come online either to play or to get information”. There’s a difference between valuable information and a diagnosis, Haden cautions, particularly when it comes to medical information online. Yet modern consumers like to be informed and they will go online for it, and you’d like them to find that information at your website rather than elsewhere, she observes.

“We are constantly on the lookout to see what other people think about us. When we think that people are evaluating us negatively, our sense of self takes a huge hit,” a study by John Jay College professor Joshua Clegg showed. By showing that you’re able to handle the discomfort and move on, you will minimize the effect on the way others view you, Clegg advises.

“Tips and tricks to…..” are popular with blog readers, making them feel “armed” and prepared to handle the situation. In fact, one point I’ve consistently stressed in these Say It For You blog content writing tutorials is how important it is to provide valuable information to readers, while avoiding any hint of “hard sell”.  Well, providing tips and helpful hints may very well be the perfect tactic for accomplishing that very goal. Readers who feel empowered to “shed shame” and cope with awkward situations are readers who are likely to feel loyal. 

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Business Blog Marketing – Explaining When the Cows Come Home

old sayings in blog content

When exactly do “the cows come home”? And who was the first person to “steal someone’s thunder?” Who would ever put a cat in a bag? Writing in Reader’s Digest, Jacopo Della Quercia shares the history of several colorful expressions that are part of the English language, but which have “lost the connection to their delightful origins”.

For us business blog content writers, “delightful origins: can be a tool for livening up blog posts designed to market a business or a professional practice. In fact, I teach at Say It For You, history has an important place in blogs. “History-of-our-company” background stories have a humanizing effect, engaging readers and creating feelings of empathy for business owners or practitioners who overcame adversity or at least extricated themselves from a “pickle”.

What’s more, I have a pet theory about the kind of trivia Della Quercia is presenting in the Reader’s Digest piece: I think our curiosity is most intense when we’re testing our own knowledge. We’ve all heard the colorful English expressions he’s talking about, we all use them, but now that he’s brought them up, we realize we have no idea where they came from.

It’s fascinating to realize that cows were often milked in their barns at night, making that task one of the last ones on a farmer’s list. People used to sell piglets tied in bags, but a shady dealer might swap the piglet for a less expensive animal, such as a cat. 18th century dramatist invented a device to simulate the sound of thunder for his plays – and a rival dramatist copied the method for a production of Macbeth.

From a blog marketing standpoint, the expression “the cold shoulder”, which might have originally meant serving a guest a cold shoulder of mutton (an inexpensive, undesirable dish) to get rid of him, could be incorporated into a blog on etiquette – or on fashion (“cold shoulders” are all the rage). The expression “Till the cows come home” could be used in a message about a provider’s prompt service. Several of the other sayings Della Quercia mentions can also be useful – I can see “Blood is thicker than water” being used in a blog post about estate planning or business succession planning.

Della Quercia writes about “the surprising sources of great sayings’> As writers, we need to be on constant alert for surprising sources of great blog content!

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Business Blog Title Threesomes

 

A couple of years ago at Say It For You, I began calling attention to the idea of using certain literary devices in business blog titles with an eye to making them more “catchy”.  In addition to alliteration, a second creative writing technique is “threesomes”. The same Fortune magazine that used those ten alliterative titles I named in my last post also had at least two good examples of the Power of Three:

  1. Introducing MUFG Bank – trusted, global, seamless
  2. Right place, right fit, right now (WorldBusinessChicago.com)
  3. “Real Reliable”, “Real Service”, and “Real Pride” (parts of an advertorial series about the Stihl Company)Like alliteration, The Rule of Three is a language device. We’re all familiar with these examples in which three related words or points presented in quick succession for literary effect:
  •  “Friends, Romans, countrymen”
  •  “I came, I saw, I conquered”
  •  “Of the people, by the people, for the people”

Things that come in threes are more persuasive, Moodle explains. Since we process information using patterns, threesomes make content more memorable.

Some more modern examples include:

  •  Stop, look and listen
  • The good, the bad and the ugly
  • The Olympic motto Faster, Higher, Stronger.

“It’s no accident that the number three is pervasive throughout some of our greatest stories, fairy tales, and myths,” writes Brian Clark of Copyblogger.com. the combination of pattern and brevity results in memorable content, which is why three bullet points are more effective than two or four, Clark adds.

Blog posts, I teach at Say It For You, have a distinct advantage over the more static website copy. Each post can have a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of your business, and call for a single action. The single topic focus, though, can be supported by three points.

Alliteration, according to Hubspot, makes text “lovelier to read.”In business blog content writing, threesomes might not add “loveliness”, but they do tend to leave an impression!

 

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Business Blog Title Tongue-Twisting on Purpose

alliteration

 

Remember the two old tongue-twisters “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” and “She sells seashells by the seashore”? Those two sentences are actually extreme examples of a creative writing technique called alliteration, in which you repeat the same letter or sound at the start of nearby words.

A couple of years ago at Say It For You, I began calling attention to the idea of using alliteration in business blog titles with an eye to making them more “catchy”. You see, it’s one thing to write great content, and quite another to get it read and ranked, as Corey Wainright of Hubspot reminds us.

Apparently, alliteration is a good idea not only for blog posts, but for magazine content as well. The other day, reading through this month’s issue of Fortune, I noticed many examples of alliteration in article titles:

Turning Travel Time into Quality Time is about private aviation company Wheels Up.
Critical Condition is a piece about a “botched acquisition by Pfizer”.
How to Connect with Tomorrow’s Customer is a piece about a “botched acquisition by Pfizer”.
Facebook’s Fix-It Team is about the company’s efforts to purge hate speech and criminal activity from its site.
Make Your Business “Sense” Smarter and More Self-Aware is about microelectronic sensors.
An article about Mattel is titled Barbie’s Diversity Dance.
A congressman from California is pushing an Internet Bill of Rights; the write-up is titled Man in the Middle.
An ad for Botox® is headed The Details Make the Difference.
The toy company Bird is featured in a piece called America’s Scooter Showdown.

“It is important to note that alliteration is about the sounds of words, not the letters; therefore, the letters “k” and “c” can be used alliteratively (as in  kitchen and cookie), as well as the letters “s” and “c” (as in sparkle and  cycle),” ereadingworksheets.com explains.  The words don’t need to be directly next to each other in the sentence or stanza to be considered alliterative, the website explains, but a good guideline to follow is whether you can detect the repetition of sound when you read the line aloud.

“Have some fun with alliteration,” Hubspot advises in “Foolproof Formula.” Why? “It’s a device that makes something a little lovelier to read, and that can have a subtle but strong impact on your reader.” Making a subtle but strong impact on readers? That’s precisely what our work at Say It For You is all about!

 

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Take Blog Readers to Where You Want Them to Be

guiding blog readers

More data in business blog posts may not be the best way to persuade readers and to overcome skepticism, Jeremy Porter Communications teaches, because “those who make the most emotionally persuasive arguments win.”

Both this week’s Say It For You posts are focused on Jeremy Porter’s “Nine ways to create an emotional connection”. On Tuesday we covered the first three; here are the remaining six:

Tell a story
“Stories are memorable, easily shared, and inspire action.” Successful content writing for blogs is all about the power of story, I’ve found over the years. In fact, one big, big part of providing business blogging assistance is helping business owners formulate stories.

Use metaphor
Metaphors can make a speech interesting and memorable, Porter teachers, using as an example the one used by Martin Luther King said that “America has given the Negro people a bad check…But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.” In a business blog, even though the overall topic is the same, there is endless variety that can be used to make each blog post special. One technique is usuing metaphor to make an unusual comparison between two things.

Visuals
“Support your speech with photos or video.” While the story line is paramount in blogging for business, where visuals come in, whether they’re in the form of “clip art”, photos, graphs, charts, or even videos, is to add interest and evoke emotion.

Get the delivery right
“It’s important that your tone, volume, and speed of delivery matches the moment.” It’s true that Porter is coaching speakers, but the same lessons apply to us business bloggers. The “facts” about the business or practice, I teach Indiana blog writers, must be translated into relational, emotional terms that compel reaction in readers.

Words matter
“Have a thesaurus handy and be ready to swap words that don’t pack enough punch, or pack too much punch. Do you want to say pain or agony? Sad or devastated?” One of the many delights of my work as professional ghost blogger derives from the discovery of “word tidbits” in other people’s writing. A really good word tidbit hits you smack between the eyes; in just a couple of words, it conveys an entire situation.

Use rhetorical devices
The Rule of Three makes a message easier to remember: The iPad2 was “thinner, lighter, and faster”; Abraham Lincoln spoke of a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
In business blogging, I recommend a razor-sharp focus on just ONE story, one idea, or one aspect of a business, a practice, or an organization (other aspects can be addressed in later posts). But the “rule of three” still applies, in that you use three examples or three details that support the main idea of that blog post.

The lesson we business blog content writers can take from the Porter Nine: in writing business blog posts, more data may not be the best way to persuade – logical arguments are important, but appealing to readers’ emotion will win the day!

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Emotion in Business Blog Posts – When Facts are Not Enough

business blogging with emotion rather than facts

In writing business blog posts, giving them more data may not be the best way to persuade and to overcome skepticism. That’s a lesson Science News editor-in-chief Nancy Shute needed to learn. One of the first inclinations of scientists and journalists, Shute observed, was to shower skeptics with facts, sure those skeptics would “get it” when it came to, say, climate warming or the efficacy of vaccinating children.

As counter-intuitive as that may be, Shute warns, it’s time for scientists to learn how to connect with people with different views. Why? “The fear of solutions may be greater than the fear of impacts” and being bombarded with facts can make people dig in even more. People tend to seek out evidence that supports their own world view. In short, emotion trumps fact.

When it comes to climate change, for example, scientist and professor Katherine Hayhoe first provides stories that are deeply researched and fact-checked, but then offers together-we-can-fix-this messages of hope.

In blog marketing’s two horse race, as Jeremy Porter Communications teaches, “those who make the most emotionally persuasive argument win.” The goal, Porter explains, is to create a connection with your audience that makes them receptive to your message. He names seven emotions and their opposites that marketers can tap into to get an audience “from where they are to where you want them to be”:

  • anger/calmness
  • friendship/enmity
  • fear/confidence
  • shame/shamelessness
  • kindness/unkindness
  • pity or compassion/indignation
  • envy/emulation

When it comes to business-to-consumer blog marketing, each of these emotions can be tapped to give the facts you’re providing more “depth” and power. This week’s Say It For You posts will focus on Jeremy Porter’s “Nine ways to create an emotional connection”:

Be human
“Remove the metaphorical barriers between you and your audience.” In business blogging, one goal should be to present the business or practice as very personal rather than merely transactional. Remind them there are real life humans behind the scenes, providing the product or service.

Be authentic
Don’t put on an act. Don’t “lecture” your audience. Infuse a sense of humor into the content once in a while, and include photos of your team being themselves.

Use the right frame
A speaker on clean energy, Porter says, rather than warning and threatening about the dangers of too much carbon, might describe “opportunities for people in a clean energy economy”. In blog marketing, it pays to accentuate the positive, offering readers a vision of the results they can experience through using your products and services.

In writing business blog posts, more data may not be the best way to persuade!

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Business Blog Posts – the When and the Why Then

timing for posting blogs

 

“While planning your blogging strategy and schedule, you want to avoid busy times, when a lot of brands are posting to their blogs and there is increased competition for readers’ attention,” advises trackmaven.com. So, what is the best time to publish a business blog?

The question of timing is an important one – according to a recent report by MarketingProfs.com, 75-80% of marketers use blogging as part of their company’s content marketing strategy. In general, the most competitive day of the week to publish a post is Wednesday, with Sunday posts getting the most shares.

Writtent.com offers the following Rule of Thumb: Find the perfect balance of what you want and what your audience wants. Easier said than done, of course, but key questions to ask yourself, Writtent. adds, are whether you can keep that schedule consistently and publlish high-quality content at that frequency.

Of course, the best time to publish blog posts, Writtent.com concludes, varies by audience. If they are mostly business people, blogging on Saturday wouldn’t work well. As blog content writers for businesses and professional practices of many varieties, at Say it For You, we have come to realize the truth of that finding. (Our Say It For You blog is published every Tuesday and Thursday, first thing in the morning, and many of the subscribers “open” it very early in their business day.

Research continues apace on the when-and-why- then question about blog post publishing. Dan Zarrella of Hubspot aggregated millions of lines of data over three years, pinpointing three stats about when to publish blog posts:

  • For page views – Monday between 8 and 11 AM
  • For increased engagement – Saturday between 8 and 11 AM
  • For more Facebook shares – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday

The most important of the insights Zarella offers, in my humble opinion as a content writing trainer, is this one: “Increasing publishing frequency leads to more traffic and incoming links.”

 

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“Flesh Out” Business Blog Posts with Details

Business blog content writing can balance feature stories with news. News stories are time-sensitive, while feature articles might have the same impact whether they are read today or months from now.

When it comes to blog marketing, “news” can mean two entirely different things.  The first type centers around you and your company or your practice, including new products and services you’re offering, new employees you want to introduce, or your recent or upcoming activities in the community. (Of course, it’s important to present this news in a way that makes it clear why your readers would want to know about it.)

Then, there’s news related to your city, your country, even worldwide events, keeping your readers updated on “what’s-going-on-and-how-do-we-fit-in. In a blog post, you might cite material from the news story, relating it to new developments in your own industry or field. The idea is not to simply repeat what’s already been said, but to showcase your own expertise and experience, offering a new perspective on that very news item.

I had reason to reflect on the concept of using community news in blogs as I attended the
500 Festival Memorial Service here in Indianapolis. From a business blog writer’s point of view, the web page about the service is a very good example of content that is detailed, informative, and which contains an implied Call To Action (spurring readers to attend the event).

There is a hyperlink from the article to the webpage of In.gov that shows a picture and offers detailed information about the War Memorial itself. In the same way, business blog posts can link to landing pages on the business’ or the practice’s website.

The article includes plenty of detail, explaining the terms Cortege (military funeral procession) and Caparisoned (riderless) Horse, and demystifying the symbolic meanings of the reverse Cavalry boots in the horse’s stirrups and of the Army Saber attached to the saddle. “Examples and details are the very things people remember long after reading a piece,” states Brandon Royal in The Little Red Writing Book, and I emphasize to Indianapolis blog writers the importance of.”fleshing out” their content with visual detail.

Business blog writing can balance feature stories with news, but for maximum impact, put “flesh” on the facts with details!

 

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Does Your Business Blog Offer Advice That Sticks?

 

blog advice that sticks

“Helping people do sensible things with their money is just as hard as getting people to do the right things for their health,” Moira Somers tells financial advisers in the Journal of Financial Planning. Financial planners’ advice, she believes, is too often unskillfully given. (As business blog content writers, I wondered, are we falling into that same trap?)

The field of adherence research, Somers points out, has led to a revamping of medical education. What would make it easier for patients to do the right thing? In financial planning, she adds, advisers “contribute mightily” to the problem of advice being ignored. Key advice-giving “sins” she names include:

  • using incomprehensible jargon
  • disregarding the emotional side of the client experience
  • acting as though the prospect lives in a social vacuum
  • failing to plan for “non-adherence”
  • dominating meetings by talking too much
  • take a judgment-laden stance towards clients

Valuable to-dos we promotional business writing professionals can glean from this article:

  1. Make all content as free of professional jargon and specialized lingo as possible.
  2. Aim for shorter “meetings” (break technical information into bite-sized pieces).
  3. Do not assume understanding of critical points. Offer anecdotes and focused testimonials to prospects can really “see” the advantages of what we offer.
  4. Make it clear that we have an understanding of our target readership’s needs.
  5. Project warmth, showing our “human side”.
  6. Use clear typeface, bullet points and bolding to draw attention to important points.
  7. Suggest questions readers can ask themselves while choosing among options.

    It matters where on the page we put our Calls to Action in each blog post. I often remind business bloggers to provide several options to readers, including “read more”, “take a survey”, “comment”, or “subscribe. On websites with no e-commerce options, of course, “Contact” is the ultimate reader “compliance” step

“Does your advice stick?“ Moira Somers asks financial planners. “Learn strategies for giving advice that clients will follow,” she concludes.

Does your business blog offer advice that sticks?

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