Not a writer? No worries. You can still write a show-stopping blog post for your business.
“How, though? I can’t string a sentence together.”
Well, although I’m sure that’s a lie, you can become better at writing content for your own business. All you’re missing is a winning formula.
Firstly, let’s get this out the way - no one cares about your products (phew - glad that’s done.)
Although you might have a kick-ass product or service, that you cannot wait to share with the world - sadly, as soon as you start pushing out those sales-focused blog posts people switch off.
It’s true. We’ve all been there.
Even on LinkedIn, when you receive direct sales pitch messages out of nowhere for a product or service you don’t care about - reading a sales-led post gives you those same chills you receive when one of those LinkedIn messages pops up on your screen.
And while you might have a fantastic product or service, you first need to prove to your audience you know your stuff.
Ok, let’s start with ideas and the content you’re going to create.
Firstly, don’t be guarded with tips and tricks
So many people are playing their cards close to their chest when it comes to sharing expertise. And I’m not sure why...
Educating your audience is what helps them remember you down the line. When they’re thinking ‘ahhh, I need [insert service] - oh I remember what’s his face, he dishes out good advice to do with it; I’ll approach him.”
Don’t hold back when it comes to sharing actionable tips and advice with your audience. Educating your audience with interesting and insightful information around common questions to do with your service is the kind of content that will get you noticed over time.
Guarding your expertise with your life means you:
A. Look like you know naff all about your industry
B. You don’t become visible for the right reasons
How to generate blog content ideas
After speaking with managing directors, this is the roadblock that stops a large proportion of content writing in its tracks.
“But what am I going to talk about?”
With over four million blog posts written today (as of 3:40 pm on 4th December 2019) - you might think, what could I possibly add to this content pile that will get me noticed and differentiate my company from anyone else?
Your market might be saturated, but that doesn’t mean your audience has seen this angle of content before. You’re the one writing it, too. You have experience of the industry you are currently working in - you might share some golden nuggets of information that helps just one person in your audience.
You are what makes you different from other businesses, so you need to exploit that.
Here are some blog angles to get your creative writing juices flowing:
Make a list of questions your audience has about your products; each one acts as a blog idea. Remember - focus on offering insightful advice and tips rather than pushing your business.
Stories your audience can learn from. Entertaining and insightful - showcase your experience and offer first-hand advice.
Tools/apps relevant to your business sector. If you’re a life coach, for example, you might want to share some relax apps you’ve found beneficial, or as a business consultant, you might want to share some money-saving apps to help your audience cut costs.
New approaches, processes or tools. This could be a timely news item affecting your industry and its audience or a hack you’ve come across that makes a process quicker.
Customer research/insight. Use this to build an informative content piece. Surveying your audience and creating an article about the results etc.
Write all your separate content ideas in a spreadsheet and pick a new topic each time to write about.
I don’t think too far ahead when it comes to content planning. I start thinking about my topic just before I’m going to write a piece of content for my blog. I don’t believe in planning six months ahead for a content strategy.
Your approach to content marketing should be agile; you never know what big news story will pop up that’s relevant to your audience, so you have to be ready to go with the flow.
Look at your competitors
Trawling your competitors’ websites for content that has performed well for them is a great way to gather some ideas for your blog.
Noticed a blog post they shared across social media that received a good level of online interaction? Why did it do so well? What was the content angle?
Taking note of how the industry leaders create content can be the best way to start your content strategy. If you find a topic that’s worked well for your industry, then why not make a version of the same post but make it even better?
Use blog topic generators
Although a lot of the time the ideas they spit out don’t make too much grammatical sense - they can be a great way to start you off when you’re at a loss where blog ideas are concerned.
There are many free blog title generators you can use, here are some of the ones I’ve used in the past:
Create a content direction document
This sounds so planned, but it’s not really for content planning purposes, it’s to make sure you stay on track when it comes to the kind of content you create for your audience.
Remember, you’re creating content that is of interest to them, not you.
In my content direction document I have included:
My blog mission statement: who am I writing for? What problems do they have and how can my specific services help them?
My audience personas: who is it I am explicitly targeting with my content, and what do I understand about them? What barriers do they have and general problems that I can help try and solve with my content?
My tone of voice: I don’t need to tell myself how to write my content, but this section could be useful if you plan to outsource your content or you hire a new member of staff. This section is very briefly how you speak to your audience. Is it informal? Chatty? Witty? Serious?
List of content ideas/angles: Now, as I’ve said already, I’m not a big planner when it comes to specific blog topics. BUT having a list of general topics can help you generate blog ideas much quicker. For example, the questions your audience regularly have about your industry; these are handy to be able to refer back to. You can’t remember everything, so jot ideas down as they come to you in this document.
Now you need to research your topic
You’ve settled on your topic for this content piece, and now it’s time to research it. The best way to study for your article is to find a whole load of similar blog posts out there and note down ideas sparked from these pieces.
Try and stick to mainstream resources that can be trusted and/or are well known. For example, the BBC, Guardian etc. but also established tools and websites within your industry. You don’t want to locate a fantastic sounding statistic and link out to a poor quality website that has no evidence to back up their research.
If I find a statistic I like, but it’s on a dodgy site, I will always drop it into Google to see if anywhere else more established has citied it. If they have, then fantastic, reference them but if they haven’t just leave the stat and move along.
Extra tip: Always collect the links of your research to help you quickly find the article and statistic again when it comes to editing your piece of work.
Get a draft down
My version of a ‘draft’ might not be the norm, but it works perfectly for me. Firstly, I leave a gap of a few hours or overnight if I can, between researching and writing the piece. For me, this bit of time helps me organise my thoughts and mentally get my piece positioned before I start writing it.
I write without checking whether what I’m saying is correct, sensical or spelt correctly - I don’t stop to re-read anything.
I open my document up and type away. I type all my thoughts down for each section. What my intro will include and briefly outline each section - sometimes writing whole paragraphs and sections if I'm on a roll.
Sometimes I can get carried away and start writing bits that should be in different sections.
Once I’ve started to write, it gets me into the flow of things. And for many, starting can be the most challenging part.
Nothing has to be refined at this point - no one is going to read it. This is just brain waffle for now.
So as not to disrupt my train of thought, I’ll make statistics up and write SOURCE in capitals, so I know to go back and get the correct statistic at a later date.
Once you start looking for the real statistic, time is wasting away and before you know it you’re on YouTube watching fail videos - not a rabbit hole you want to wander down!
Finding a working pattern that works for you
You might have fantastic will power - or you might struggle to keep your head in the task at hand. I have great will power when I have looming deadlines, but when it’s a piece for my blog, my mind can wander very easily.
I use a time management technique called The Pomodoro Technique. Invented by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, the method helps you break down your working day into 25-minute intervals. A five-minute break separates each 25-minute stint of work.
You can also set out how many intervals you want to work and give yourself a more extended break after three intervals or however you wanted to structure it.
You can download Pomodoro apps onto your smartphone, so you don’t have to keep creating a timer or remembering only to have a five-minute break. Finding an app that manages your time for you means you don’t have to rely solely on will power.
I find three stints of 25-minutes is sometimes enough for me to get an entire draft of my long-form content finished.
Take a break and then return to edit
After finishing a draft version of your blog post, you could benefit from having a break from the piece. You can get so consumed with it that you can no longer think coherently - it’s important to have a break at this point.
I find that a few hours away from a piece gives me time to gain a fresh perspective when I read and edit the piece.
Reading it through slowly after a break can highlight mistakes you hadn’t seen before and gives you the chance to add in a few more points here and there.
I always run my final blog post through a tool called Grammarly. Grammarly is a free tool that helps you pick up missed commas, grammatical and spelling errors, too.
Running your work through a tool like this should not replace your human proofreading process; it should just be an additional helper to tidy your work up that little bit more.
Extra blog post tip: include subheadings
Structure your blog post with subheadings. Subheadings are usually marked as header two or three - if you have WordPress all you have to do is highlight your subheading and click ‘H2’ or ‘H3’. Correctly marked header tags can help search engines understand what your content is about when indexing the page.
Subheadings also help the user navigate your blog post easier. According to research discussed by the Government blog - most people only read about 25% of what is on a page. This means it’s crucial to ensure your blog post is scannable and easy to digest.