Before we get to HOW to write a blog post, a word about WHY. After you are motivated by the purposes of regular blogging, we'll give you some veteran-tested tips on how to do it well.
There are boatloads of reasons business blogs are important and deserve time, attention and budget. Each piece helps to put a human face on your company, enhances your visibility, builds trust with your audience, establishes you as an industry expert or thought leader, and promotes your products and company culture.
But let's not forget that these are business blogs. They are different than personal ones.
- We blog to drive traffic to our website.
- We blog for leads.
- We blog for more business.
- We blog for marketing.
Look at these statistics:
How to Write a Blog Post (That People Actually Want to Read)
So How do you write a blog that Google, your grandmother AND your customers really want to read? We know the stakes are high, and getting higher (because all your competitors know about this), so here are a few tips we've learned along the way.
1. Plan Ahead
There's nothing worse than sitting down in front of an empty screen with no topic and no ideas and a deadline staring at you. The Remedy: get with at least one other person in your office and brainstorm six weeks' worth of topics. Then slot them into a blogging calendar taking into consideration any upcoming campaigns, product releases, industry events, etc.
2. Choose Topics Wisely
It's self-evident that you will write at a much higher quality level about topics that intrigue you, but alas, that's not always the way it is. Blogging on topics that don't thrill you can be onerous, but not if you consider it a craft. You might consider ordering content from a third party provider and then editing it to your standards.
Match what you provide with what searchers are looking for. This may take some research but the more you can write posts that match the search terms people are using, the better. Consider it a way of crowdsourcing your topic ideas.
Brainstorm a branching tree of ideas. Each possible topic may lead in other directions. For example, a general topic like "how to write a blog post" may lead to others like "how to edit," "best blog publishing tools," "copyright rules for blogs," "How long should blog posts be?" and more. Think like a potential customer, and remember that business blogs fulfill the role of attracting leads to look at your website, to get to know you better.
Still stuck? Use a topic generator like this one at WordStream. There are several types that comb the internet for headlines that contain your topic and may spark an idea. A topic generator can get you started on ideas and headlines that chase away writer's block.
3. Collect research
Find one or two previously published articles that zero in on all or part of your topic and mine them for ideas. DO NOT copy or re-write the entire article! A bit of emulation is fine, but be careful of lifting anything verbatim. A good content manager app will sniff out copies easily, as will a search engine.
Always check facts that you can't personally verify. For example, if you throw in a statistic, make sure it's from a reliable source. Just because Wikipedia says it doesn't mean it accurately reflects reality. Be liberal with attributions, giving credit where it's due.
4. Make an Outline
The best artists use a sketch or a study before they actually begin their work. You need the focus of an outline to keep you on topic and make sure the writing flows in an understandable direction. Many bloggers start with the ends and fill in the middle. All-important is your "hook." Ask the reader a question that you will answer later in the article. Suspense is a fail-safe way to keep people reading. Make it creative, clever, humorous, even informative.
5. Headlines and Subheadings
Search robots like headings. Think about headings as a search robot's first impression of your blog post and make it easy for them to determine what your content is.
Use numbers. Research has shown that people are drawn to a headline or subheading with a number in it. Marketing research firm Conductor has shown this in a study showing the impact of numbers and other variables in headlines:
Leverage curiosity by eliciting a question in the first sentences of your blog. Many headlines do this for the reader by articulating a question that might be on their mind as they start reading, like:
"Feel guilty about Styrofoam in Landfills?"
"Is Your Fancy, Expensive Website a Bust?"
"Wish you could leave work on time every day?"
We are a curious species and it's not hard to fan that innate desire to find out into flame. An air of mystery makes a good blog intro.
Bonus: Writing Tips
So much can be said about good writing, so we came up with a shamefully abbreviated top 5.
1) Vary your sentence length. Even the master of the sparse sentence, Ernest Hemingway, used a rhythm of short and long phrasing to accumulate a very readable effect.
2) Use spacing to emphasize ideas. Web pages are different than paper ones. A long block of text on a screen drives readers away while setting off ideas with white space separation is much more visually appealing. You don't have to save space on a web page like you do on a paper page.
3) Find your voice. Are you more like a journalist or a sitcom writer? Are you more comfortable in the realm of facts or ideas? As you write more, your voice will emerge. At times, you'll need to write in a different voice than you own, but you'll do better if you start off knowing what your own voice actually is.
4) Keep re-reading what have already written. This keeps your trajectory straight and true, and you'll start to see the flow of your logic and direction.
5) Cut it down. Even though a statistically optimum blog length is 1,600 words or a "seven-minute" reading time, your main task is readability. Re-read your article several times to streamline, trim excess fluff, and shorten sentences. You have to stay afloat in readers' minds for 7 minutes, so throw all non-essential wordiness overboard.
Our brains are wired for visual information. One brain study showed that we even see words as pictures - so why not include actual pictures in our blogs?
Photos or other graphics can make a point in milliseconds. The time it takes to recognize what's in the picture and relate it to the topic is not very long. That's crucial for attracting a reader to continue interacting with your material.
They draw people in with humor. Including a funny picture pull a lot of freight for you. Whether they want to or not, the viewer MUST deal with the information in the picture, interpret it, like or dislike it, laugh or roll their eyes… and this happens too quickly for them to even make a conscious decision about interacting with your material.
Edit, Proofread, Repeat
Get someone else to read your piece to look for coherent flow, clarity, grammar, and purpose. Even the absolute best writers need an editor to catch what they don't see, and it will always be better after someone else has a good look at it.
Perhaps the best advice we could give a blogger on how to write a blog is to keep doing it! Blog once a week on something that's important to a potential customer. Write down what your best salespeople say in their appointments. Address the pain points your customers have. As your company's reputation and online footprint grows because of your blog, you'll recognize the value in it.