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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Blogging to Help Make Them or Save Them Money

blogging to save them money

“Before we write a single post, we ask ourselves, ‘Does this help our readers make or save money?’” says Kathleen Garvin, editor and marketing strategist for finance blog The Penny Hoarder. “That’s key for us. We’re content creators, but we only want to publish a story if we think it’s truly helpful or interesting for our readers.”

“When developing content, keep in mind the three E’s of content: Educate, Entertain and Engage,” writes Dennis Wakeman of the Social Media Examiner.

Teaching is, in fact, a large part of what we blog content writers do. How does the product or the process work? How can the business owner or professional practitioner solve the problem?

In the broadest sense of the word, entertaining is part of the job for blog writers. No, you needn’t become a comedian, but unusual anecdotes, tips, trends, and tidbits help keep readers on site.

Getting people to actually connect with you and participate in the conversation is much harder than it looks, Wakeman admits. He suggests using polls and very specifically asking for comments. Whenever somebody actually clicks on a link, takes a poll, or posts a comment, he explains, that brings them closer to becoming a client or customer.

So what about helping readers make and save money? The personal finance blog Squawkfox.com was voted #1 blog in Canada, because it’s full of tips on de-cluttering, cutting spending, and staying within a budget. (In training career mentees, I would coach them, both on their resume and in the job interview, to tell their prospective employer how, in their summer jobs, they had saved their employer money, time, and hassle.) Similarly, at Say It For You, I teach writers to make the content about them, not about you and your business or practice!

So what about helping your own business or practice make money? Your call to action should point readers to the next point in the sales funnel, says ProBlogger. You might ask web visitors to subscribe to your newsletter or sign up for a free webinar so you can turn them into paying customers in the future

In blog content marketing, it’s all about helping readers make and save money!

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What-Do-You-Want-To-Own Blogging for Business

 

In an interview with a top investment strategist, the reporter from Barron’s posed many of the questions that have become standard for that type of encounter: “Why are you still bullish?” “What do you see as the biggest risk in this market?” “What are the ramifications of more money in passive strategies?” “Which sector is the most crowded?”

As a blog content writer,I have to admit that I found one of the reporter’s questions the most impactful. Why? The reporter said “you”: What do YOU want to own at this stage of the bull market? (“OK,” was my gut reaction as a reader. “Now we’re getting down to the heart of the matter; what is she doing with her own money?”)

Marketing blogs, I firmly believe, tend to be most effective when they are at their most conversational and most personal. Blogger John Haydon runs a bootcamp about “narrative voice”, and recommends using second person (“you” and “your”) in corporate blogging for business to provide useful information to readers and give those readers the feeling that the author is speaking directly to them.

There’s more to the “what do-you-want-to-own thing than having content writers understand and speaking directly to their audiences, believe. The Barron’s reporter wanted the interviewee to commit, not merely offer advice. The question demanded an “I would” answer.

Nobody likes guys or gals who can speak of nothing but themselves, their skills, and their products, you know, the “But-enough- about-you” types.  Yet, as a corporate blogging trainer, I stress the importance of first person business blog writing because of its one enormous advantage – it shows the people behind the posts.

Imagine that every visitor to your blog is asking you a question that demands an answer beginning with the words “I would” or “We would.” Try What-do-we-want-to-own blogging for business!

 

 

 

 

 

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For Further Explanation, Bring in the Cockpit Crew

personal opinionShould fliers be forced to watch the safety video? Most definitely, writes George Hobica in USA Today. Whenever there’s been an emergency on a plane, we see videos of passengers doing the wrong things, such as escaping a crash landing carry luggage and not wearing shoes, or not knowing how to put on oxygen masks, he reminds us.

As a blog content writer and trainer occupied full time with getting people to read the content my team prepares for our clients, I was highly interested in Hobica’s take on the subject. His premise: If the videos explained the reasons behind the instructions they give, then people would listen more.

For instance, Hobica suggests, the exhortation to “place the mask over your mouth and nose” could be changed to “Place the mask over both your nose and mouth because otherwise you won’t get enough oxygen and you’ll pass out.” In other words, he’s saying, tell why your audience should follow your advice.

Acknowledging that “the longer the video lasts, the more passengers will tune out,” Hobica suggests that just one fine point be explained in person by one of the cockpit crew just before takeoff:

“Folks, this is your first officer.  Before takeoff, I’d like to remind you that in the
event of an emergency evacuation, it’s imperative that you leave all belongs in
the overhead bin or under the seat.  Do not bring them with you.  Doing so could
cause death or injury to other passengers.”

From a business blog content writing standpoint, there’s more than one lesson to be gained from Hobica’s observations:

  • The interview format can be very useful in creating blog posts that are more compelling in many cases than the typical narrative text. The blog writer serves as “reporter”, eliciting direct remarks from the business owner, key employer, or practitioner.
  • Attempting to cover too much ground in a single blog post, we lose focus and strain readers’ attention span. Other things to cover? Save those for later posts.

The takeaways for blog content writers? Explain your reasons for your recommendation or advice.  Then, for further explanation, bring in the cockpit crew!

 

 

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In Blogging and in the Air, a Bit of Explanation Goes a Long Way

explanations in blogging“Although many frequent fliers think they know what to do in an emergency, in fact most probably haven’t listened to the safety videos in years and if you quizzed them about the content, they’d flunk,” writes George Hobica in USA Today.

The basic content of safety videos, Hobica explains, is established by the International Civil Aviation Organization, with room for additional advice at each airline’s discretion. It’s all super-important content, he says, because whenever there’s been an emergency on a plane, we see footage of passengers doing the wrong things – escaping a crash landing carrying luggage and not wearing shoes, or not knowing how to put on an oxygen masks, for example.

So what can be done to get passengers to watch the videos? (As a blog content writer and trainer who’s occupied with getting people to read the content we prepare, I was really interested in what Hobica would have to say on the subject.)

“I truly believe that if the videos explained the reasons behind the instructions they give, then people would listen more,” he says. “For instance, the exhortation to ‘place the mask over your mouth and nose’ could be changed to ‘place the mask over both your nose and mouth, because otherwise you won’t get enough oxygen and you’ll pass out'”.

Blogger Michel Fortin says he’s a big fan of reasons-why advertising. “Good, successful copy,” Fortin adds, “tells the reader why right up front.” (If you don’t, he warns, they’re left wondering why you left that information out.) Why are you highlighting a certain topic now? Why is the solution you’re proposing particularly relevant for this reader?

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If They Don’t “Get” Annie, They Won’t Buy the Gun

allusions

“Imagine,” LitCharts.com writes, “if every time someone used the expression “it was a real Cinderella story,” they had to retell the entire story of Cinderella to explain exactly what they meant.” By using an allusion to something a majority of people will already know, you can clarify your own message – provided they DO know what you mean.

Around six years ago, the Indianapolis Star ran a story about an auction at which items title of the piece was “Annie Get Your Checkbook”, referring to the movie and Broadway show “Annie Get Your Gun.”  As it happened, I recognized the allusion immediately, but as a blog content writer and trainer, I had to wonder how many other readers would have “gotten” the point. That’s the thing about allusions, I tell writers – they need to be handled with caution.

“Use pop culture references sparingly,” cautions Joanne Brooks of Helium.com, offering two main reasons why:

  1. You want your work to have relevance several years from now.
  2. Pop culture references can delay reading and cause you to lose your audience.

On the other hand, the last thing you want is to be ho-hum and b-o-o-r-ing,so there are reasons to consider popular culture references. For one thing, as Neda Ulaby noted on National Public Radio, even if only a minority among in your audience understand your allusion, they are going to feel like really special insiders and be bonded to you.

The Blocabulary blog points out that allusions can:

  • help people see unique connections between two ideas
  • help readers better understand the subject
  • be surprising and funny

My own observation, based on working with Say It For You blogging clients from many different industries and professions, is that it’s a challenge to find the precise style of communication that will best connect with target readers. While this is especially true in business-to-consumer blog content writing, even with suppliers and distributors, you want to avoid anything that is a barrier to understanding.

Going back to my original example of the IndyStar auction promo, in business blog copy writing, it’s a simple equation: If they don’t “get” Annie, they won’t buy the gun!

 

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In Blog Marketing, Look for a Plot

plot in blogging

 

“Don’t look for a plot here. This is a polemic,” are the words a reviewer in the Mensa Bulletin uses to describe J.K Hillstrom’s book, A Humanitarian’s Fantasy. The book is a more like a series of lectures, the reviewer complains, rather than a coherent, sequential piece of prose.

Individual business blog posts may appear to be non-sequential, separate pieces of writing rather than parts of a coherent whole. Yet a small business owner’s or professional practitioner’s blogging efforts can have an effect on marketing results that is disproportionately larger than might seem possible from mere short, informal selections. The power comes from the “plot”.  

Whenever I’m sitting down with new Say It For You business owner clients as they’re preparing to launch a blog for their company or practice, I find that one important step is to select one to five recurring – and related – themes that will appear and reappear over time in their blog posts. The themes may be reflected in the keyword phrases they are going to use to help drive search, but themes are broader in scope than just key words.

The variety in their blog is going to come from the details we will be filling in around those central themes, different ways the company’s products can be helpful, different valuable tidbits of information or how-to tips, plus specific examples of how the company helped solve various problems.

The unifying themes in a business blog are the beliefs of, and the unique “slant” of, the business owner or professional practitioner. Those “leitmotifs”  help the separate blog posts fit together into an ongoing business blog marketing strategy.

In blog marketing, look for the plot!

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Business Blogs – Inviting Buyers into Your Own Walled Garden

blogging for business

 

“Perhaps the world has moved past the idea of merely having a webpage that’s your own, and nobody else’s. Perhaps we’re expected to do everything, instead, on social media or in someone else’s walled garden,” muses Ernie Smith, editor of Tedium, in response to the question “Is blogging dead?” Maybe, when blogging was on the rise, Smith says, we needed an onramp to the information superhighway, a starting place in a culture where many people chose to both consume and create in equal measures. Smith prefers to think that blogging is very much still alive, but that we’re not using that term to describe our actions.

“There will always be a market for good content,” says “Redditor” William Pitcher. “What is gone are the days you could post what sandwich you had for lunch and have people read it because of the novelty.”

What about the studies showing that as many as 60% of social links are shared without ever  being clicked? The truth is, you still need those blog posts for the audience that does read and does care, says Dave Choate of rakacreative.com.

“Think about it: if you have a website and are putting out content on it, you are blogging,” says Gary Vaynerchuk. Blogging has simply morphed into a much broader category in which the attention graph has shifted.  Social networks are where you meet readers to direct them to your blog page. Don’t abandon the traditional blogging format, Vaynerchuk advises; instead test like crazy on social media to get people to click over to the website content.

Personal blogs offer something that social sites will never have, Vaynerchuk says – the fact is that you control the platform; you decide the amount and frequency of content output.  In a world of “rented:” social media space, that’s valuable, he explains.

As a freelance copywriter providing corporate blogging training, I’m finding the same thing. Businesses  are continuing – and more are beginning –  to use blogs to get their message out to business buyers.  The concept is the same as for personal blogs – bring readers to your website in order to convert them into buyers.

In the early days of Say It For You, I remember, Seth Godin was writing about cat blogs, boss blogs, and viral blogs. The “cats” were personal and idiosyncratic. The boss blogs were written to share ideas with team members. It was the viral blog category my professional ghost writing business was designed to serve. What each of my business clients is interested in remains the same: spreading the word about what they know, what they know how to do, and what they sell.  In other words, I help invite buyers into my clients’ very own walled gardens!

 

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Worm Your Way Into Readers’ Hearts with Business Blogs

 

The Tatoeba Project, which helps foreign students by translating from a foreign language into their own native language, has a lot to say about worms. Examples provided include sentences such as:

  • Tom put a worm on the hook.
  • Worms are sometimes beneficial to soil.

Even more interesting are these sentences:

  • Tom opened a can of worms.
  • The early bird gets the worm.
  • Tom seldom reads an editorial and is not a bookworm.

As blog content writers in Indiana, the basic tool we use to bring our business owner clients’ message to their prospects and customers is – language. True, the majority of our targeted readers might be U.S. born and bred, but some of the “lingo” we sling about so casually – in our effort to write “engaging” copy – well, it might need explaining.

English idioms, the FluentU blog explains, are groups of words which have a meaning which isn’t obvious from looking at the individual words.  “They’re used so often in everyday English,” the authors explain, “that if you don’t know them, it’s almost impossible to understand the context.”  FluentU offers a number of examples:

  • to hit the books
  • to hit the sack
  • to twist someone’s arm
  • to be up in the air
  • to stab someone in the back
  • to lose your touch
  • to sit tight
  • to pitch in
  • to face the music
  • to be on the ball
  • to be under the weather
  • to blow off steam
  • to cut to the chase

In blog marketing, the right words can make a big, big difference in what we like to call “the sales cycle” (itself an idiom!).  When it comes to lingo and industry jargon, we can literally “arm” readers by sharing – and explaining – the buzzwords.  That feeling of knowing the “inside scoop” allows prospects to feel in control and in a better position to make buying decisions with confidence.

Worm your way into blog readers’ hearts!

 

20 Essential English Idioms for Sounding Like a Native

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Business Blog Readers’ Fourth Drive

blog reader curiosity

 

One of the many things we don’t understand is this: What is interestingness? observe John Lloyd and John Mitchinson in the Book of General Ignorance. What we do know, the authors tell us, is that, while we humans have the same three primal drives as animals (food, sex, and shelter), it’s the fourth drive which makes us uniquely human – curiosity.

Appealing to blog readers’ fourth drive is certainly one secret to success in content writing.  Arousing curiosity through blog titles and through the opening lines of blog posts has proven to be a winning tactic. Why is that? For one thing, we like completion and balance.  Put a question out there and we are driven to find the answer, Lloyd and Mitchinson explain.  “What’s the name of the tallest mountain in the world?”  Most of us are quick to answer: Mt. Everest. But no, measured from the seabed, it’s Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii. Everest is the highest, but not the tallest.

Curiosity explains why readers enjoy juicy gossip tidbits about sports and movie stars, even personal details about the lives of famous people from the past.  Curiosity explains the interest readers have 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 curiosity about some aspect of your profession or business. What my own experience has taught me is that 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 magazine “quizzes” are so hard to resist.

Unlike novelists or even reporters, we blog content writers can’t afford to be enigmatic in the name of arousing curiosity, since it’s essential for us to assure readers that they’ve come to the right place to find the information that brought them online to find answers. Five times as many people read headlines as read the body copy, “Father of Advertising” David Ogilby taught. If the headline doesn’t do the trick, even if we appeal to searchers’ general curiosity, the danger is they’ll bounce away from our site before we get to share our thoughts!

In the preface to their book, Lloyd and Mitchinson may have unwittingly hit upon the business blog writers’ solution.  “The human brain is the most complex single object in the cosmos….what are we supposed to do with all that astonishing computing power? We think we know the answer – ask more questions.”

Appealing to blog readers’ fourth drive may be one secret to success in content marketing!

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Blog Two Viewpoints to Make Your Point

 

viewpoints in blogging

To promote my Say It For You content writing business, I became involved in various networking groups. Invited to make a presentation one day on the subject of asking for referrals, I chose to present not one point of view about referrals, but two…

Viewpoint #1:

  • Referrals build business; the more you ask for referrals, the more you’ll get.
  • Asking for referrals represents a small effort with a big reward.
  • According to the Wharton School of business, referral customers have a 16% higher lifetime value.
  • When you are referred by a trusted source, you gain “reflected trust”.

Viewpoint #2:

  • Asking for referrals feels “pushy” and “sales-ey”.
  • Real referrals aren’t made on request; they grow naturally out of satisfied customers wanting to have their friends enjoy the same benefits you’ve given them.
  • Requests for referrals are often ill-timed and poorly perceived (“Who do you know that could use my product/service?”)

Now, blogging for business, you’d have to say, is not an argumentative pursuit.  Still, your company’s – or your practice’s  – blog is your way of “arguing” in favor of your point of view relating to your industry or profession as compared with opposing viewpoints.

In the book Blogging for Business, Ted Demopoulis suggests referring to other online resources, listing different viewpoints and tips from others, and then clarifying your own position. “There are four different views on giving children an allowance” is more welcoming, he suggests, than “There is one right way to giving children an allowance”.

By offering more than one point of view, we blog writers can actually showcase our knowledge of thought trends related to our field, while at the same time clarifying our own special expertise and slant.

Blog two – or more – viewpoints to make your own point!

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Two Important Blogging Beginnings – Anecdotes and Questions

introductions in blogging

“The opening paragraph, or introduction, of your essay is key,” the Research & Education Association’s QuickAccess laminated writing guide advises. The guide suggests two “methods you can use to hook the reader”:

  1. Anecdote – a story that illustrates your point
  2. Question – establish a reason to keep reading (to find the answer)

“The introduction should include both your thesis statement and some background information about your topic,” QuickAccess continues.

In business blog content writing, anecdotes serve to keep the material fresh. While the message may be one that you’ve delivered in your blog many times before, adding a new story to illustrate the point makes the material seem brand new. Emotional appeal is what makes readers take action, and anecdotes give “heart” to the information. You may be selling a product or a service, but what you’re really selling is a solution to a problem readers are facing. The story makes that solution come alive.

Another way to state the importance of harnessing the power of storytelling in business blogs is this:  Use more examples; make fewer claims; “showing, not crowing”, will get you a lot farther in blog content writing.

I tell new Indianapolis blog content writers that, in creating content for marketing blogs, we need to keep in mind that people are online searching for answers to questions they have and solutions for dilemmas they’re facing. But even if those searchers haven’t specifically formulated their question, I suggest we can do that for them by presenting a question in the blog post itself!

You can use a customer question as a headline, then use the post to answer that question. Specifically, the question in the title or in the opening line “grabs” readers, demonstrating what they can expect to find in the blog post, and showing that you understand the dilemmas they’re facing and how to solve those!

Ask a question you know will catch their eye.  You can even add in a layer a curiosity, copywriter Amy Harrison suggests, by following your question with “The answer might just surprise you….”.

Anecdotes and questions – two important “Ones” in the one-two punch of blog content writing.  The “two”? All the valuable and interesting answers those readers were hoping to find.

 

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Build the Thesis Ahead of the Blog

thesis building in blogs

“Before you begin writing an essay or writing a research paper,” the Research & Education Association’s QuickAccess laminated writing guide advises, “draft a working thesis statement.”

That’s great advice for students, even better advice for business blog content writers, I believe.  It’s advice too often neglected, I find, with the operative work being “before”.

The thesis statement should contain two parts, REA explains:

  1. the subject of the essay
  2. your opinion on the subject

As an example of a weak thesis, REA offers this: “High school dropout rates are increasing.”

What’s wrong with it?  Lacks an opinion and is too general.  A stronger version, the guide suggests, would read:  “Because higher education is needed more than ever before in order for members of today’s workforce to be successful, the rising high school dropout rate is harmful to society.”

For business blog writing, though, that second version is far from ideal – too wordy, for one, and lacks “pow”. Two shorter, related sentences might create more impact: Here’s my version:

“Our kids are dropping out of high school; to staff our workplaces, we need to give our education system two major tweaks.”

Writing with impact, as REA is correctly telling students, requires thinking. And not just any thinking – it takes pre-thinking and planning. Composing an effective college essay is serious business; composing an effective marketing blog post IS business. Sure, our blogs may state a business owner’s or practitioner’s case in less formal, more conversational style than essays, but preparing a working thesis statement forces writers to focus, which translates into impact.

Just as REA teaches, the thesis statement should contain two parts:

  1. the subject (ONE main idea, ONE aspect of the business or practice)
  2. the opinion (a slant or unique value proposition, the answer to the online searcher’s questions – Why should I do this now? Why should I choose you?)

Build the thesis ahead of the blog!

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Bloggers – Avoid the 5 Big Mistakes Advisors Make

marketing blogs like newspaper interviews

“When dealing with the media, there are five common mistakes that financial advisors tend to make, “ writes Sally Cates in Financial Planning Magazine. “I should know,” Cates remarks (for 25 years, she’s been helping advisors have discussions with reporters).

I should know, too. As a now-retired financial planning practitioner who trains blog content writers, the mistakes Cates mentions are the same ones I often notice in business blogs.  Although reporters are not our business owner or practitioner clients’ target readers, we writers need to avoid committing the same “doozies” Cates lists:

Too general a message
“Reporters like examples, case studies, interesting details, and fascinating client situations,” Cates coaches advisers.  (Blog readers find those details and case studies engaging.)

TMI (too much information)
Don’t provide too much technical detail, Cates tells the advisors.  “Your article shouldn’t require a law degree to decipher.” Use true stories to highlight the mechanics.

Over-sharing
Don’t vent about prior firms or share resentments about co-workers or job conditions, Cates cautions. In similar vein, I caution blog content writers to avoid bashing competitors, focusing on their own strengths.

Delayed response
Reporters work on tight deadlines, so call them back promptly, Cates tells advisors.  The equivalent in the blogosphere is allowing too much time to elapse between posting.  Frequency and regularity earn “Brownie points” from both readers and search engines.

Being disorganized
Prepare talking points for each interview, Cates says, including data to support the points you want to make. Business bloggers need to curate – and property attribute – materials from different sources to support the points and add value for readers.

We should all know these things, of course, but Sally Cates’ piece is a good reminder to avoid those 5 big interview/marketing mistakes!

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Eye-Catching Titles for Business Blogs

blog titles that are eye-catching

 

While the February issue of Science News Magazine had great examples of statement titles followed by explanatory statements, last November’s issue of Science News was a treasure chest of eye-catching and tantalizing titles – you just had to read those articles to find out what they were all about!

In business blog content writing, of course, we don’t have the luxury of using “mysterious” titles, since the “spiders” (search engine algorithms) will be matching the phrases used in our titles with the terms typed into readers’ search bars. The trick is to use keyword phrases while still catching the eye!

One option is to include the “Oh!” part of your title in the meta tag description, which is the blurb of information that shows up beneath your clickable website address on search engine results pages.)

You wouldn’t know it, but the article “Lumpy Space” is about matter in the universe clumping together due to the pull of gravity.  “Big Moves” is about how Asian nomadic herders build new Bronze Age Cultures. “Robot doesn’t stop at flying” is enticing, but with few clues as to the content about a new insect-inspired flying machine used for search-and-rescue operations. “Faux cells could treat diabetes” is a much more of an informative title.

Among all those titles in the Science News Magazine issue, it was easy to choose my favorite:   “Ewe look familiar”. The “meta description”: Trained sheep have advanced face-processing abilities similar to those of humans, researchers have found.

Although I’m using a science magazine as an example, truth is, composing business blog post titles involves a combination of art and science ; reaching readers and, at the same time, satisfying search engines takes an elusive combination of narrative skill and business practicality. 

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Statement Titles for Business Blogs

 

blog post title ideas

Leafing through some Science News Magazine issues, I realized their writers are fond of using statement titles followed by explanatory statements, sort of like the “Huh? Oh!” titles I often use in writing business blog posts. The “Huh?s” are there to startle and capture interest, but the “Oh!’”s are needed to match up with the terms searchers used.

  • “Slow Childbirth Can Be Normal” is attention-getting, for example, but the explanation in the subtitle is needed to a) make the author’s intention clear and b) have search engines match the article with readers searching for information about caesarian sections surgery: “Rethinking labor could lead to fewer unnecessary C-sections”.
  • “Life had a chance in Earth’s infancy” is curiosity-stimulating, but the intention of the article is made clear in the subtitle, “Asteroid barrage didn’t leave plant sterile, scientists claim.”
  • The title “Magnetic Knots” gives almost no clue to the subject of the article, and we need the “Oh!” subtitle: “Swirls called skyrmions could transform data storage.”

In business blog content writing, there are different ways these “Huh?”/”Oh!” pairs can be used to accomplish the twin goals of stimulating curiosity and interest and improving SEO rankings. From an SEO standpoint, of course, we content writers don’t have the luxury of using very long titles, since the “spiders” will use only a certain number of characters for ranking. Still, the beauty of the “Huh?” is that it’s a grabber.

We might need to say “Forgo the C-Section: Slow Childbirth Can Be Normal”, with the rest of the explanatory material going into the opening lines of the post itself.

One option is to include the “Oh!” part of your title in the meta tag description, the information that
describes your page to search engines.  (The meta is the blurb that shows up beneath your
clickable website address on search engine results pages.)

It was easy to choose my favorite among the titles in that Science News Magazine issue:  “Ewe look familiar”. The meta description: Trained sheep have advanced face-processing abilities similar to those of humans, researchers have found.

No, I don’t believe search engine algorithms would have matched “Ewe look familiar” to “face recognition ability”. But putting just a little “Oh!” in that “Huh?” might be just the recipe for getting that fascinating blog post about the face-recognizing sheep “found”.

 

 

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Business Blog Openers That Wait to Reveal

blog writing

Yes, as I emphasized in an earlier post this week, opening lines are key in blogging for business. Why not, I suggested, use the opening sentence to make your thesis clear along with your topic? In other words, searchers should be assured not only that they’ve clicked on the right link to get information on the topic they typed into the search bar, but get a preview of your slant on the subject.

“To drive quality traffic to your site, you must think like a publisher,” content marketer Rustin Banks observes.  One model Banks suggests online content writers should copy from print journalism is the inverted pyramid structure, beginning with a broad thesis, getting more specific as you get further into the post.

But, of course, there’s more than one way to skin that thesis statement, as quickstudy.com explains to college students. And, of course, there are many different ways to approach what, in corporate blogging training sessions, I call the “pow opening line”.  And, while searchers must be assured they’ve come to the right site for the information they want, you don’t necessarily have to “show your slant” at the start of the post.

Show our slant we must, though. Blog posts, to be effective, can’t be just compilations of even very useful information we’ve aggregated. One thing I’ve learned over the years of creating blog content for dozens and dozens of clients in different industries and professions is that it is opinion that humanizes a blog and differentiates a business, professional practice, or organization from its peers.

We can wait to reveal, however. Shopify’s suggestions for blog templates, for example, include listicles, how-to posts, and storytelling posts. Listicles “round up” existing content such as “10 Interesting Indiana Foods to Try for Your next Pitch-in”. How-to posts tell ways to solve a problem, while storytelling posts offer interviews with customers, or experiments you’ve done.

Using any of these formats, we can explain what conclusions we’ve arrived at. Having set the stage, we can end with our opinions, putting our own unique slant on best practices in our field.

 

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Opening Blog Lines Say Which Side You’re On

blogwriting tips

In blogging for business, I teach, opening lines are key. In fact, they’re key in all kinds of writing, as quickstudy.com’s “Writing Tips & Tricks” points out to college students.  Their thesis statement, Quick Study explains, will set the tone for their entire essay.

Now, the thesis statement of a blog post doesn’t necessarily need to come in the opening line, but in a recent Time Magazine issue, I found three very effective articles where the thesis is made clear in the very first line:

  • “Movies that were a lot of work to make shouldn’t be a lot of work to watch.”
  • “Vladimir Putin believes he’s destined to make Russia great again.  He has a long way to go.”
  • “Steven Soderbergh is one of those directors who can do anything – which doesn’t necessarily mean he should.”

In each of these articles, it’s clear to us as readers, from the author’s very first words, not only what topic will be under discussion, but on what side of the issue the author finds himself. In other words, we’re introduced to both topic and thesis straightaway.

As a business blog content writer, I like that.  And, were these three articles in fact blog posts, they would have obeyed the SEO rule of incorporating keyword phrases in their opening sentences, assuring readers who’d searched for information about movie reviews or about Russia that they’d come to the right place and inducing search engine algorithms to make that match.  I like that the author’s slant on the subject is clear as well as the topic.

In blog marketing, the reality is that readers have their choice of providers for whatever product, service, or information they’re seeking.  Our job, as I tell newbie blog content writers, is to help those readers make sense out of the absolutely oceanic online “library” of information available to them. Showing what our own choices have been (in terms of the way we’ve chosen to create or market a product, or in the way we’ve chosen to practice in our profession) helps them make choices.

Why not start out a blog post by making your thesis clear along with your topic? Let your opening line say what side of the “line” you’re on!

 

 

 

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Long-Tail Keyword Phrases in Blogging for Business

long tail keywords

 

 

To optimize your blog content, Lindsay Kolowich of Hubspot advises, focus on one or two long-tail keywords that match the intent of your ideal reader. In other words, optimization is not about incorporating as many keywords into your posts as possible (that actually hurts SEO), but about answering the intent of your visitors in a way that doesn’t feel unnatural or forced.

What are “long-tail keywords”? These longer phrases (three to four words), often question-based, focus on the specific goals of your audience. Website visitors searching long-tail terms, which are highly specific, Kolowich explains, are more likely to read the whole post and then seek more information from you.

In addition to using those keyword phrases in the content itself, there are certain other elements of a post in which you should try to include the keyword phrase or phrases you’ve chosen. :

Title
The headline of each post will be the first stop for both the search engine and the readers. The search engine will use the keyword(s) to determine the relevancy of your content to the search; the title tells readers they’ve come to the right place for the information they need. If you have a lengthy title, put your keyword near the beginning.

Meta description
On a Google page, for example, when you see an item, you’ll see the title in large blue/purple typeface (that’s the part you’d click on to be taken to the site), then under it the url address, and lastly a couple of brief lines explaining what you can expect to read in the post. It’s crucial, I explain to blog content writers, for you to use that meta description to “sell” readers on clicking there so they can read your content. Because the meta description has the power to satisfy certain readers’ intent, Kolowich emphasizes, the more engaging you can make it, the better.

Images’ alt text
Using images in your blog posts help explain your content and visually “perk it up”. But the images also offer an opportunity to incorporate those all-important keyword phrases as well.  Because search engines can’t “see” images the way humans can, Kolowich stresses, they use the alt text to tell them what the image is about.  It is worth the extra minute it takes, she says to change the name from “IMG23940” to “puppies-playing-in-basket”. It’s all the better, of course, if the description incorporates your keyword phrase.

Post content
Use keyword phrases multiple times in each post, first within the first 200 characters, several times throughout the post (depending on length of the post) and near the end, advises Susan Gunelius in abouttech.com.

The skill of choosing the right long-tail keywords to choose grows out of knowing your own business and knowing who your target customers are. What types of searchers is your business or your professional practice most likely to attract? How long is your blogging tail?

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Contrarian Content: Go Ahead – Blog to Differ

contrarian blogging

Whatever the conventional wisdom is, Brute Squad coach Ariel Jackson begs to differ. “In order to progress, we need to stop automatically accepting conventional wisdom as dogma and train ourselves to explore nuances and identify new approaches,” Jackson says.

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:

  1. making readers sit up and take notice (This is not going to be same-old, same-old, readers realize.) 
  2. clarifying what differentiates your business or professional practice from its peers. (Again, why should we choose you if you’re serving up the same product and service as everyone else?)

On the issues relating to your field, what words should follow “I beg to differ”? When online readers find your blog, they want to know “Who lives here?” To be perceived as not only a provider, but an influencer, you need to formulate – and clearly state – your opinions!

Neen James explains the subtlety well in Speaker Magazine.  A Subject Matter Expert or SME, she explains, knows something, whereas a thought leader is known for something. Thought leaders know how to present ideas in ways that appeal to a marketplace craving direction and wanting solutions to problems. Those ideas, those opinions, often go against conventional wisdom, James adds.

“I hope I change some minds along the way, and I hope my mind is changed here or there,” Ariel Jackson says in his introductory blog posts. “What if I start my blog, writing strong opinion pieces and then later change my mind about the right way to do things?” is a fear one new blog content writing client expressed.

The way I answer that question is this: People are going to want to do business with someone who has something to say about the way they choose to operate within their world, offering strong recommendations and opinions in their blog.  People are going to LOVE doing business with a real person, someone who’s continuing to think about improving the way they operate and how to incorporate new knowledge and new developments..

Blog content writing is an absolutely wonderful way to express what you think and why you do things the way you do. It’s also the ideal vehicle to ride as you change and develop in your thinking as a business leader.  Go ahead – beg to differ (including with your own earlier ideas!).

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Smart and Humanizing Blogging About “Alumni”

 

In my last post I took inspiration from Nuvo editor Laura McPhee, who devoted an entire section of the paper to highlighting NUVO alumni, people who had worked at Nuvo, then departed for “better things”.

From my vantage point as a professional blog content writer, I thought McPhee’s idea was fabulously innovative. Sure, many company websites have a section called “Our Team”, with bios of their key employees, but I’d never seen feature articles about the “exes”, people who’d, after all, left the company because they wanted a more promising work environment.

To me, blogs are often the humanizing members of the online communications family, making a company or practice relatable, by introducing the readers to the people behind the brand. And, of course, nothing can be more ”humanizing“ than  stories about real humans, even if they are no longer involved in making your products or providing your professional services. Those alumni are part of your company’s history, and, to the extent you’ve kept in touch with your “alumni”, what a great thing it would be to let your readers know that your company or practice is a great place even to have been!

But what do you write about those “exes”? Nuvo came up with some great interview question, and you can use those as models for blog content:

  • What do you remember most about your time here?
  • How did your time at ______shape your career?
  • Got kids, life partners, or work projects you wanna brag about?
  • Is there a particular story you remember from the time you worked here?
  • How did working here influence the work you’re doing today?

Staying in touch with ex-employees can be a win-win situation, Kelly Services advises. “Clearly
When an employee leaves your company, maintaining and strengthening your relationship can add value for both parties.”

From a blog content writing point of view, staying in touch makes for smart and company-humanizing blog posts!

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Humanizing Your Company by Blogging About “Alumni”

“We have a lot to be proud of after 28 years of publishing a weekly newspaper,” Nuvo editor Laura McPhee wrote. One of the things McPhee is most proud of, she adds, is the NUVO alumni, people who worked at Nuvo, then went on to “better things”.

What a captivating notion, I thought, reading that section of the issue. Many company websites have a section called “Our Team”, with bios of their key employees.  But alumni, people who left you because they wanted a more promising work environment??? But what incredible blog content those stories would make, I couldn’t help thinking….

There was a time, Susan Milligan recalls (HR Magazine), when, leaving a job, you’d likely get a few hugs and a promise that you’ll be missed, but both employer and employee knew they’d likely never speak to each other again. Nowadays, though, Milligan notes, companies are treating ex-employees as “alumni” in the hopes that those people will think fondly about their previous employer.

Eventually, Hank Gilman, deputy managing editor of Fortune points out, new and/or better jobs will come along for your more talented people – or they’ll want to experience something else.
You just have to understand and hope that someday they’ll return, he says.

Since I work as a professional blog content writer, I’ve obviously needed to abandon most of my generational bias towards long, individually composed business letters and long phone conversations in favor of electronic marketing tools.  But there’s a reason I gravitated towards composing blogs rather than website copy.

In a way, blogs are the humanizing factor in the online communications family, making your company or practice relatable. The blogs are where you meet the people running the business or professional practice. And, of course, there’s nothing more ”humanizing“ than  stories about real humans, the ones making your products or and providing your professional service – or who, in the past, did those things.

At Say It For You, we definitely encourage clients to include “Who’s Who in our business/our office/our industry” blog posts. Apart from the typical “Our Team” landing page on your website, which introduces people by name with a brief bio, the blog would offer close-up[ views of the functions each person serves. And, if you’ve kept in touch with your “alumni”, what a great thing it would be to let your readers know you’ve kept in touch with them and their doings.  Makes your company or practice look like a great place to be – or even to have been!

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Business Blogging Tips Out of Consumer Reports Magazine – Part B

blogging tips

 

“My TV prompts me to do updates, but I often ignore the requests.  Is that bad?”  That question was the headline of an article in the March issue of Consumer Reports Magazine.

Think about that tactic for a moment as applied to blog marketing – using a customer question as a headline, then using the blog post content to answer that very question! Hardly new, that “Dear Abby” idea (in my former career, I used that very question answer format for 24 years in my weekly financial planning column).

I tell new Indianapolis blog content writers that, in creating content for marketing blogs, we need to keep in mind that people are online searching for answers to questions they have and solutions for dilemmas they’re facing.  But, even if those searchers haven’t specifically formulated a question, I suggest we do that for them by presenting a question in the blog post title itself.

Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide thinks that giving away information to get clients in just this way is a good idea: “By providing visitors with free and valuable information and services, you entice them to return to your web site often, and in doing so you increase the number of selling opportunities you have with each individual visitor.”

Specifically, the question in the title “grabs” readers, not only demonstrating what they can expect to find in the blog post, by showing that you understand the dilemmas they’re facing and how to solve those.

Question-answer is actually a very good format for presenting information to online readers. But there’s no need to wait until readers actually write in their questions. (Were all the Dear Abby questions actually sent in by readers?  Does it matter?) Every practitioner hears questions from clients; every business owner fields customer queries daily. Sharing some of those in blog posts reminds readers of challenges they face – and the solutions you have to offer!

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Business Blogging Tips Out of Consumer Reports Magazine – Part A

numbers in blog titles

2.8 billion.  That was the entire headline – “2.8 billion” of an article in the March issue of Consumer Reports Magazine. How could you not want to find out more?

The first paragraph of the article consisted of three very short sentences: “That’s how many robocalls – computer-generated calls – were sent to Americans in December 2017. Some are legitimate, such as surveys and political messages. But many are scammers using ‘spoofing’ software to masquerade as a company or even a government agency.”

As the owner of a professional blog content writing company, I’m always talking about the “pow” opening line. That’s the line that contains keyword phrases (important in SEO marketing blogs to reassure search engines they’ve made a good match and readers that they’ve come to the right blog.) The opening line is also the one that presents a question, a problem, a startling statistic, or a gutsy, challenging statement. The two-word Consumer Reports title is nothing if not gutsy.

The second reason the “2.8 billion” title is a brilliant tactic is that it’s a number. Numbers lend strength to a case. Statistics provide factual proof, by showing the extent of the problem (in the case of blogging, the problem your product or service helps solve!).

Using numbers in blogs is hardly a new concept. Business blogs are filled to the brim with statistics. In fact, one of the hottest trends in business blogging today is infographics, which is a way of presenting statistics in visually appealing form by combining numbers with graphic images.

Numbers grab attention and firm up facts. Where the words come in, though, is putting the statistics into perspective, so that readers are given the answer to their “So what?” and “So what’s in it for me?” questions.

About those robo-calls?  Consumer Reports follows up the “pow” number with three pieces of good advice: Block ‘em, Don’t answer them. Don’t engage.

What startling NUMBER could you use to grab readers’ attention before offering them good WORDS of wisdom?

 

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Steering Clear of Duplicate Content in Business Blogging

duplicate blog content

“Blogs are owned media.  Your blog content is yours,” Says Heidi Cohen of SocialMediaExaminer.com. But is it? “They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Yet, on the Internet, some people take this type of compliment way too far,” laments Nick Schafferhoff of torquemag.io, and “copied content runs rampant online.”

Schafferhoff’s referring to duplicate content.  Sure, parts of any blog writer’s content will always be based on what other people have written before, Schafferhoff concedes. But, when using information from someone else, create a link to them, he advises, even if you express the idea in your own words.

The technical problem duplicate content creates is that, when similar content is being shown on multiple URLs (web locations), it’s as if road signs are pointing in different directions for the same destination, Joost de Valk of yoast.com explains. The duplication is no problem for the readers, who are steered to the information they were seeking.  If it’s your content being duplicated, it’s your problem,         de Valk stresses, because that hurts your rankings. Since most duplicate content is caused by technical factors, your web developer can sometimes solve the problem, he says. (A canonical tag tells search engines that a specific url represents the master copy of a page, and using rel canonical prevents duplicate content from appearing on multiple urls.)

What about “rejuvenating” your old blog posts and reposting the new version?  Does that create duplicate content? It does, explains Gretchen Louise in “What Bloggers Need to Know about Duplicate Content”. If you publish a post that is a very close duplicate of another – even your own- Google might consider that content scraping, she says. Better to edit and refresh an old post rather than re-posting it. On WordPress, for example, Gretchen suggests, you can show “last updated” on the original post rather than “posted on…”.

According to the law, the moment a blog post is “created and fixed in a tangible form that is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or a device”, I assure business owners, that work receives copyright protection. Blog marketers do not need to register their blog or even attach a © symbol.

There are no official “laws” specific to providing the kind of fresh, relevant content that helps move your corporate blog higher in search rankings while continuing to engage readers’ interest. Remember, ideas are not copyrightable, and you are free to use someone else’s idea as a jumping-off point for your own expression, which means, of course, others enjoy the same freedom when it comes to your ideas!

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A Good Story Can Get Rid of the Business Blogging Blues

tangents

 

My friends from the MindTripping Show  thought a nice feel-good story would help get rid of mid-winter blues, and they were certainly right. Interesting thing, though. While the story they chose to share in their Mind Trip of the Month did change my negative perception of rats, the tale has little to do with the wonderful kind of mind-tripping and magic that are the hallmark of Christian and Katalina’s long-running show.

There’s a lesson here for us business blog content writers, I thought. In fact, I’ve found going off on “tangents” can serve a real purpose in business blog posts. The business blogging challenge is both simple and daunting: How can the content of a business blog stay relevant over long periods of time, without becoming repetitive and even tedious to both writer and readers?

True, it’s important for business blogs to stay on task and on topic, because the search engines help readers find your blog based on topic. On the other hand, there are compelling reasons for not being repetitive in blog posts:

Technical reason:  avoiding “duplicate content”.  Search engines tend to penalize rankings of sites that duplicate content that’s already in the blogosphere.

Common sense reason: avoiding staleness and continuing to engage readers.

OK, then, so, how do you keep talking, several times per week over periods of months and years, about essentially the same thing, without becoming either duplicative or stale? Answer: You go “orthogonal”, meaning you veer off-course.  On purpose. You come up with material that’s unusual and unexpected, given the nature of your business. My Say It For You blog, for example, is about business blogging.  So why, back ten years ago, did I blog about an advertisement for a piano? I was being orthogonal.

The Mind-Tripping Show hosts were being orthogonal, presenting the story about heroic rats trained to ferret out land mines in order to save human lives. Blog posts need to capture readers’ attention in precisely the same manner, by presenting examples and illustrations that don’t at first glance appear to relate to the subject at hand.

A good story can get rid of the business blogging blues!

 

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Practitioners Blog to be Viewed as SMEs

practitioners' blog

 

Mand training is an essential component of verbal behavior training for any individual who lacks this skill,” is the opener of an article on the website of the National Institutes of Health, discussing the treatment of children with autism.

“What are mands and why do we need to teach them?” is the title of an “advertorial” for the Applied Behavior Center for Autism published in the little Indy Kids’ Directory I picked up at the grocery store.

That entire page, I thought, helped “position” the professionals at the Applied Behavior Center as SMEs (pronounced “Smee-s”), or Subject Matter Experts. According to About.Com, “a Subject Matter Expert is an individual who understands a business process or area well enough to answer questions”.

“Provide valuable information to people who need it, and let word-of-mouth marketing do the rest.” When readers “take home” or access the content of our blog posts, even if they are not yet clients (and therefore do not yet have proof of how well we are going to take care of them), the hope is that they will, in fact, share that content with others. Nowhere is this more effective than for professional practitioners’ blog content.

“It takes a lot of time and consistency, but teaching things how to request things open up a whole new world for them, the Indy Kids’ Directory article explains. ”Once a child learns ‘I talk, I get’, it is likely their ability to communicate will increase.”

Even if readers are satisfied they have gotten value out of the article, they may or may not choose to follow the Call to Action.  In this case, program director Jen DeRocher is saying, “If your child isn’t currently a patient at the Applied Behavior Center for Autism and you’re interested in finding out more information, contact us today at…….

The one critique I might have of the DeRocher piece is that she does not make clear what  differentiates that practice from its peers (Are there any peers in Indianapolis?). Primarily, though, I think the article is very successful in conveying value, which is what every blog post must do. Whether or not readers of a practitioner blog convert to buyers, there must be information, skill enhancement, or a new way of looking at the topic.

Practitioners blog so that they can be viewed as SMEs!

 

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Question/Answer Blogging Benefits Readers and Bloggers

question-answer blog posts

 

The one-page advertorial in the February issue of Indy Kids’ Directory could serve as the perfect model for any professional practitioner’s blog post, I thought. The page is headed by a parent’s question: “My child is struggling with reading.  Could it be related to his speech difficulties?”

Yes, begins the answer. The speech pathologist, owner of Speech Connections, follows up by citing study results showing that as a group, preschoolers with speech sound disorders are at increased risk for reading disabilities and developmental dyslexia.

The rest of the page consists of a chart listing guidelines for speech sound development at each age.  For example, by age 1 ½, children typically develop the sounds P, M, H. B. and N, while the sounds “sh”, “ch”, and “z” may not be developed until  as late as age 8.

“The above chart is a general guideline,” the author cautions, following up with a gentle Call to Action: “If your child is not able to say sounds in his or her age range, then a consult with a speech-language pathologist is recommended.”

Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide thinks that giving away information to get clients in just this way is a good idea: “By providing visitors with free and valuable information and services, you entice them to return to your web site often, and in doing so you increase the number of selling opportunities you have with each individual visitor.”

Some business owners, I’ve found, are afraid that, if they share too much information about their field, clients won’t need to pay them to provide expertise! “Many advisers won’t share information with potential clients until they’ve been hired. But, by giving very useful information to parents about how to judge their children’s sound development, pathologist Boyer is establishing her own credibility.

A second concern business owners often express to me is that they don’t want to come off boastful and self-serving in their blog, or be perceived as using hard-sell tactics to promote themselves. Think about it, though. That information about children’s speech development is highly useful and may galvanize parents into taking action on behalf of their own kids. “We have to sell ourselves to potential clients so that they choose to work with us rather than the competition, Steve Wamsley writes in his book Stop Selling And Do Something Valuable.

Question-answer information blogging can benefits both reads and bloggers!

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Business Blog Writing to Boost Readers’ Brains – and Your Own – Part B

helping blog readers remember

The deeper I delved into that delightful little book. Brain-Boosting Challenges, the more I realized how right I’ve been about the “training effect” of a business blog.  As you’re busy describing your accomplishments and reviewing the benefits of your products and services, you’re keeping them fresh in your own mind, constantly providing yourself with training about how to talk effectively about your business.

The many brain-boosting ideas and memory “hooks” the book offers hint at techniques business blog content writers can use, including this one:  “A useful technique when learning facts is to contrast them in some way.”  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.

“Chunking” is a memory device that binds sequential digits or words into groups. Telephone numbers, for example, are usually both written and pronounced in groups, the Brain-Boosting authors explain. Chunking is one way business bloggers can offering technical information in “chewable tablet form”, because it breaks down information into bite-sized pieces so the brain can more easily digest it. The “reverse” form of chunking is to take individual pieces of information and show how they are related, perhaps in ways readers hadn’t considered.

Bullet points represent a graphic way to organize information, and it seems content writers either love or absolutely abhor them.  Myself, I’m kind of partial to those little black dots as a way to keep readers’ attention on track. Like anything else, of course, bullet points can be overused, but they’re certainly visually attractive.

The idea, of course, when it comes to marketing a business or practice through blogging, is not to have the readers memorize your content, but to have them find it – and by association – you, memorable. If the writing style is clear and simple, triggering familiar associations in the readers’ minds, those memorable business blogs can improve their memories, and, quite possibly, your own bottom line!

 

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Business Blog Writing to Boost Readers’ Brains – and your Own

blog writing to boost memory

Turns out I was right about the “training effect” of a business blog. When you blog, I like to say, you verbalize the positive aspects of your business in a way that people can understand. You put your recent accomplishments down in words. You review the benefits of your products and services and keep them fresh in your mind. In other words, you are constantly providing yourself with training about how to talk effectively about your business.

“Learning to express yourself clearly and compactly is useful not just in terms of coming across well when speaking to others, but it also helps you to think with great clarity,” the Paragon Books Brain-Boosting Challenges explains.

“When we think we can remember a first letter but no more, there’s a good chance we’re actually correct,” the authors say. The first letter of a word is a critically important part of our ability to identify it.”  Two creative writing techniques that can make your blog post titles, as well as some of the text content, memorable and interesting are alliteration and assonance. Alliteration repeats the same consonant (Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers) or the same vowel sound (Honesty is the best policy).

“To help make a memory stronger, when you go back over the same material, it’s helpful to try presenting the content to yourself in a difference way to force yourself to think it through from a fresh angle.” Isn’t that precisely what business blogging is, continually approaching the same core topics from different angles?  What you can do with the blog is offer different kinds of information in different blog posts. 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.

As a blogging trainer, one concern I hear a lot from business owners or professional practitioners is that sooner or later, they’ll deplete their supply of ideas for blog posts. “I’ve already covered my products and services on my website – what else is left to s