Blogging Wisdom in a Puzzle Book

I’ve always been a puzzle book junkie, and one of my favorite puzzle types is the Quotefall. The other day, after solving one of the puzzles, I realized the puzzle creator must know something about business blogging…

The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way
or a new thing in an old way.

(The adage, I later learned, has been attributed to Richard Harding Davis.)

Saying “old things, is, in fact, a concern of many business owners and professional practitioners when it comes to their blog. Even if they understand the overall marketing value of having a blog, their concern is that, sooner or later, they (or their blog content writer) will run out of things to say. In blogging training sessions, I need to explain that it’s more than OK – in fact it’s a good idea – to repeat themes already covered in former posts. The trick is to adding a layer of new information or a new insight each time.

To us blog content writers, “saying old things in a new way” means that each time we’re preparing to compose content for a bog, rather than asking ourselves whether we’ve already covered that material and how long ago, we ought to plan content around key themes. That way, we can be using the same theme while filling in new details and illustrations.

What about writing new things in an old way? In the process of introducing new information or suggesting a new attitude towards certain features and benefits of a product or service, behavioral science tells us that we must create a perspective or “frame”. The “new” concept needs to be presented in a way that relates to the ”old” and familiar, so that readers can envision an improved result for themselves.

So, what happens when you realize that information you’d put in a blog post months or even years ago isn’t true any longer (or at least isn’t the best information now available in your industry or profession?) Maybe the rules have changed, or perhaps there’s now a solution that didn’t even exist at the time the original content was written.

This is the perfect example of saying old things in a new way. Armed with your new understanding or with a better solution to a problem of which you’ve now become aware, explain what you used to think, (linking back to the old blog posts), then share the new, better information you have today.

That Quotefall puzzle was a good reminder that the secret of good blog content writing is saying old things in new ways and new things in old ways!


Effective Blog Post Titles Force Readers to Figure it Out

blog post titles
As a blog content writer, I’m always fascinated by what makes certain word combinations used in advertising pack such tremendous marketing power, while others come across as mere “slogans”. Years ago, a presentation by humorist Dick Wolfsie provided a clue. In order for a joke to be funny, he said, the person listening to or reading the joke has to be forced to figure things out. The laughter, he explained, is the reward that listeners or readers give themselves for having understood the meaning of the punch line.

I was thinking about that concept the other day, realizing why some TV ads just seem to “fall flat”, while others stick in my mind for days. Xfinity’s “Simple. Easy. Awesome.”, for example, doesn’t tell me a thing about the company’s products or services, or even relate to their funny video. The title fails to make me think, giving me nothing to figure out. In contrast, USAA’s title “What you’re made of, we’re made for” compelled me to try and figure out the meaning of the message.

“Whenever you think of the brands you know or perhaps love, there are chances that you not only recall the brand name, but campaign slogans, too.” Anne Carton writes in, “Slogans are the taglines or phrases that are used by a company to express the importance or the core idea of their products or services,” Carton continues. Effective slogans have the positive “X” factor that makes us look twice or even thrice, she adds.

As I often stress at Say It For You, blogs are not advertisements, and therefore blog titles are not slogans. Still, there are two basic reasons titles matter – a lot – in blogs:

  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’ve still gotta “get read”.

The Dick Wolfsie insight comes into play here: Effective blog post titles not only relate to a reader’s search, but force the reader to figure out if and how!


Proofing Your Blog Posts

“When you’re writing to attract customers, what you’re really doing is persuading them to choose you over someone else,” writes Amy Pennza of the Content Factory. “People tend to take action when they’re presented with facts, not assertions,” she adds. 

At Say It For You, we know that, when searchers arrive at your blog, they already have an interest in (and probably some core knowledge about) your subject. Blog marketing reality is that, in order to move searchers to the next step, you need to “prove your case”. Some of the ways to do that include:


  • Statistics about the problem you’re proposing to help solve. (Implications: a. The searcher is not the only one confronting this issue. b. Your company/practice has helped many others solve this very problem.) 
  • Credentials highlighting the experience, training, and degrees earned by you and your staff members. 
  • Social proof emphasizes the fact that many others have benefited from the solution you’re proposing. Simply Psychology explains that people are more willing to commit to a course of action if other people are doing it. Blog content writers can use testimonials and success stories to create “normative influence”.
One particularly powerful form of proof is known as reverse proof, a term that comes from
coin collecting. Rather than featuring a fronted raised image on a mirrored field, reverse proof coins feature a frosted field with a raised, mirrored image.  According to APMEX®, reverse proof coins are considered more beautiful and valuable than standard coins. 

Translated into blog marketing, reverse proof involves comparing your proposal with alternatives that prospects might consider. But, rather than focusing on competitors’ shortcomings, focus on the customer’s solution, advises, allowing the customer to see solutions they didn’t think were possible. In fact, Sales Force advises, don’t use comparisons at all, never allowing the discussion to turn to competitors.


Kevin Phillips of iMPACT Learning Center strongly disagrees. “What is your biggest concern with telling website visitors that there are others out there that do the same thing you do?  Are you afraid that if you tell them there are more options, they’ll choose those other options every time?”  You should write about your competitors, Phillips says, and for the following reasons:
  • It shows consumers you’re honest.
  • It establishes you as an industry thought-leader.
  • It allows you to control the conversation.
If your goal in blog content writing is not only attracting customers, but persuading them to choose you over someone else – you need to be “proofing” your blog posts!

Start By Being on Their Side

being on the side of the reader

In his 30-second “elevator speech” introducing himself at our InfoConnect2 networking meeting, fellow member Cody Lents shared something I think blog content writers need to hear.

Most sales processes, Cody said, go as follows:

  1. Here’s what we have to offer….
  2. Here’s how it works…..
  3. Here’s how it can help you……
  4. What do you think?…..

In contrast to that features/benefits model, Cody’s message to a prospect runs more like this: “I understand you have some problems with ……. Let’s figure it out together.”

Cody’s words reminded me of a post I published six years ago, called “Business Blog Readers Need Content Writers to Get One Thing Straight”. Recommending anything, I reminded blog content writers, before you’ve demonstrated you’ve done your homework and that you understand the readers’ needs, well that is not likely to have them following any of your calls to action.

There’s just so much information out there for searchers to use, so many bloggers telling  what they have to offer, how it works, and how they can help. What needs to come across loud and clear is that the business owners or practitioners understand the readers and those readers’ specific needs and problems.

Another aspect of putting ourselves in prospects’ shoes comes into play when our blog post is sharing industry and company or practice news and announcements. Readers must buy into the idea that this news is going to be important to them. In a way, the blog content writer is playing the role of an advisor, and people look to advisors for more than just information, even if the topic is highly relevant to their needs. Readers will be saying to themselves, “OK, I get it, but how does that news affect me?”

When it comes right down to it, the whole blog marketing thing is not really about search engine optimization, although that may be one motivating factor for starting a blog. What I believe it IS really about is providing those who find your site with a taste of what it would be like to have you working alongside them to help with their challenges and issues. (That’s true whether the business owner or practitioner is writing his or her own blog posts or working with professional content writers at Say It For You.)

You’ve gotta start on their side!


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?