A Hopeful Note on the Future of Business Blogs

“What’s the future of blogging?” is the intriguing question posed by Scott Yates of Hubspot.
Yates admits he doesn’t know about blogging a hundred years or even twenty years from now,
But he’s pretty confident that in the near future, blogging will be more important than ever for businesses.  (“Whew! Glad you said that, was our reaction here at Say It For You.)

On just what is Yates basing all this near-term confidence? What do people read? he asks. Good stories and useful information.  That’s what people have been reading for centuries and that’s what they will be demanding for centuries to come, he believes. The format can change, but as long as content continues to be valuable and entertaining, no worry needed on the part of us freelance blog content writers.

The caveats?  Yates offers a few of those:

  • You don’t just need to have a blog.  You have to update it – often. Hire someone to do it for you. You can still have some input as well as the final say about what goes on your blog. The quality does matter more than the quantity, but if the quantity is small, nobody will ever find you, so the quality won’t matter.
     
  • Keep your blog posts concise and to the point – it’s not a novel!
     
  • Give people what they want, which is value. Provide good stories and helpful information on a regular basis.

Since, at Say It For You, we’re involved not only in marketing to consumers, but also in B2B marketing through blog writing, I was very interested in what KISSmetrics had to say about the future of content marketing business to business. Most content marketing, says KISSmetrics, focuses on industry trends, and company details, but that is going to radically change, because the focus will need to be on the target audience’s needs.

KISSmetrics has a very interesting take on blog SEO: “Blogging SEO is changing, but only in some ways.  It’s almost like a car in that the design, colors, and minor features change each year but the core remains the same.”

Seems the future vision for business blogging should engender more confidence than concern.

 

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What Makes for High Quality in Business Blogs?

Everyone seems to agree that providing high quality online content in the form of blogs matters. But just what makes for “high quality” when it comes to blogging for business?

“A good blog requires persistence and a high frequency,” says Marcus Taylor in socialmediatoday. “Those things aren’t created by tools,” he reminds us. “They’re created by you.  Your levels of energy, willpower, and determination are huge factors in the overall success of your blog.”  

While Taylor promises “I won’t go all basketball coach on you,” he wants readers to bear in mind that “if you want to be a decent blogger, work on yourself, especially on learning effective copywriting skills.

Jay Sodemers of Forbes weighs in as well on the topic of quality. “High quality content is aesthetically attractive, easy to read, and suitable for scanning and skimming (which is how the majority of your website visitors will consume your content.”

Formatting is very, very important, Sodemers cautions. Optimal formatting, he explains, includes the appropriate use of:

  •  bolds and italics;
  •  short, concise sentences and paragraphs;
  •  bullet points and numbered lists;
  •  appropriate use of white space
  •  headers and sub-headers to break up long chunks of text.

And, Sodemer adds, “While it’s difficult for search engines to determine whether content provides value, it is, ultimately, the only thing that matters for human readers. Value can be derived in a number of different ways, but the most common include:

  •  Does this content solve a problem?
  •  Does it answer a question?
  •  Does it provide entertainment?
  •  Does it make people laugh?
  •  Does it provide unique, expert insight?


As a corporate blogging trainer, what do I teach constitutes quality? All of the above, plus above-average commitment to the cause of getting the word out!.

 

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Tracking Changes in Blogging for Business

Bogs changed everything – if not in the way we expected, is UK newsman Daniel Hannan’s intriguing observation.

But for us freelance Indiana blog content writers, have things really changed that much over, say, the seven and a half years that I’ve been on the business blogging scene? Yes and no, would be my honest answer.

There are more of us content writers, a lot more, for starters. The sheer quantity of content offered to online readers by businesses, practitioners, and organizations is staggering.  Readers have reacted by become less patient and more discriminating.  Fact is, low-quality, over-general, and advertising-like content just doesn’t keep eyeballs around for long.

So, does blogging still work? Oh, yeah. In fact, Hubspot cites the fact that B2B companies that blog only once or twice a month generate 70% more leads than those that don’t blog at all! Still, Hubspot cautions, “You need to focus on publishing something that will attract the right people.”

What I’m telling newbie Indianapolis content writers is that while, seven and a half years ago it was possible to build up a real head of steam just by blogging frequently, in today’s market, we have to promote our clients’ blog via social media and email.  In other words, everybody has to work harder to stay in the game.

On the good news side, the mechanics of setting up and running a blog are easier, far, far easier. Back seven years ago, it was pretty difficult and expensive for a small business owner to create even a basic website, whereas today the actual posting of content is s..oooo.. much simpler.

But while blogs are technically websites, what I believe hasn’t changed is that there is a basic difference in function between a company’s or practice’s main website and its blog. (The website is publishing a definitive message, with the blog’s function being to keep publishing fresh content. A website is organized hierarchically, meant for reading top to bottom.  A blog, by contract is organized in reverse chronological order and can be searched by readers for specific content.)

Have things really changed that much for us freelance blog content writers? Mostly, no. Publishing frequent, relevant, engaging content is still our job and our joy.

 

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The Ghosts of Business Blogging Past and Present

Changes are happening, have been happening, and will be happening. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about the changes that have taken place in the world of business blog content writing. For one thing, Google has been changing its algorithms as frequently as we change underwear, it seems, and that has meant we’re learning to write with readers, rather than spiders, in mind.

Attitudes about ghost-blogging have been changing, too. (As long as the writer doesn’t pretend to actually be the business owner or professional, I’m not sure “ghost blogging” is the correct term to use.) In any event, a growing number of businesses and practices are hiring professional writers.  That’s not what’s changed. It’s just that no one’s hiding it any more.

Ghostwriting itself has a long, proud history, and people hired writers for the same reasons back then as they do now. Celebrities or public figures didn't have the time, discipline, or writing skill to create a book, a speech, an autobiography, an article, or even an important letter, so they hired writers to do these things for them. As a professional blog and website page content writer, I am an avid reader on the topic of all forms and styles of ghost writing.  The more I read, the more interesting material I uncover.

  • Our first president, George Washington, used several very famous ghostwriters, including Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, to compose his political speeches and writings. 
  • The movie “Amadeus” brought out the fact that composer Wolfgang Mozart was paid to ghostwrite music for wealthy patrons. 
  • Romance novelist V.C. Andrews' had people writing in his name after his death!
  • And around the Nashville country music scene, I learned, it’s called co-writing, because most of the artists whom you hear performing the songs didn’t actually write the words..  

These are all fun facts from the past, but blogging is much more in the here and now.  The mission of a ghost blogger like me is to market your business or practice, helping clients and customers find your business.

While reasons for using ghostwriters (both then and now) include lack of time and lack of discipline, many simply aren’t confident in their own writing abilities.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Ghost blogging can help "say it for you", win the search, and get the business!

 

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Change Has Got Blog Writers in a Bear Hug

Back in 2005, when blogging for business was a fairly newly new thing, The BusinessWeek cover story was titled “Blogs Will Change Your Business.” By contrast, just one week ago, the now Bloomberg BusinessWeek commented: “Go ahead and bellyache about blogs.  But you cannot afford to close your eyes to them, because they’re simply the most explosive outbreak in the information world since the Internet itself.”

Of course, I was in on most of the story, having begun my Say It For You blog content writing business seven and a half years ago. It’s interesting to read what others have to say about how blogging has changed over the last decade.

  • What does Daniel Hannan of the UK mean by this strong statement:  “Blogs changed everything – if not in the way we expected”?  Far from the lack of quality control predicted for online media, he says, “the dialectic of blogging ensured a higher standard of accuracy than before” and “Blogs have improved veracity, quality, and diversity.” While Hannan is referring primarily to news and opinion blogs, blog content meant to promote businesses and professional practices must stand the same rigorous test by well-informed consumers. “Sure, most blogs are painfully primitive,” comments Hannan. “That’s not the point.  They represent power”.
     
  • Unbounce.com talks about the way blogging changes the blogger. “The net result is not only a profound understanding of what you are doing, but a belief in its purpose.”
     
  • Google’s been changing the way it approaches blogs as well, points out Eric Enge of Search Engine Watch. “In short, Google is doing a brilliant job of pushing people away from tactical SEO behavior and toward a more strategic approach, Enge observes. In its Hummingbird algorithm, “Google has built a capability to understand conversational search queries much better than before.” How does this development represent major change? “The focus now is on understanding your target users, producing great content, establishing your authority and visibility, and providing a great experience for the users of your site.”


In the business world, we’ve all been told about how important it is to embrace change. For us freelance blog content writers – change has got us in a bear hug!

 

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Becoming a Tidbit "Source Spot" for Indianapolis Blog Writers

Desk #95 at the back of the U.S. Senate Chamber is where you find the candy.

When George Murphy came to the U.S. Senate in 1965, he brought along his sweet tooth, and, even after he lost his seat five years later, the “Candy Desk” kept going, maintained today by Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois.

Since I fancy myself something of a “source spot” for business blog content ideas, collecting tidbits of information like the Candy Desk story have become my stock in trade.  If we open our minds to it, I’m convinced, we Indianapolis content writers can make very good use of such on-the-surface-useless information. In fact, I have a name for the process of pinpointing these gems - tidbit mining. Two of my favorite tidbit “gold mines” are Mental Floss magazine and The Book of Totally Useless Information.

The whole idea, as I explain that, in corporate blogging training sessions, is to provide information most readers wouldn’t be likely to know. Tidbits help engage online readers’ interest.

A couple of really good tidbit examples from the September issue of Mental Floss magazine have to do with handwriting:

  • How does the post office decipher bad penmanship? When a machine finds an illegibly addressed letter, it sends a digital image to a special plant in Salt Lake City, where 700 specially trained clerks crack the code, usually in under 3 seconds. If the process fails, the letters are christened nixies and ultimately end up in the shredder.
     
  • The Institute of Medicine reports that 1.5 million injuries occur each year because pharmacists or hospital workers misread the handwriting on the prescription.

Who might incorporate this information into their marketing blog posts?  Well, corporate mailing handling and mail forwarding service companies, for starters. (I found no fewer than 50 million Google results by searching “mail handling services for business".)

Then what about blogs about teaching cursive in public school? Tutoring services might use this information to talk about preparing students for the world of work. And what about pharmacy schools and physician's assistant degree programs attempting to attract students?

Business blog content writers – never underestimate the power of a good tidbit!

 

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Using a Business Blog to Tell How and Why

There are two types of big questions, remarks @jessanne, editor of Mental Floss magazine. There’s the really, really big kind, the philosophical questions Plato fretted over, and then the ones we’re driven to Google to find out.

These “how?” and “why?” questions are at the very heart of blogging for business. Online searchers arrive at your business blog needing to know how to find products and services, how to do something, how to solve very specific problems. Readers also want to know why: Why should they choose product A over product B?  Why is C a better course of action than D? And, as Jessanne so aptly points out, these may not be Aristotle-level existential questions, but they are the very sort of questions that bring magazine readers and online visitors to our pages.

Blogging for business has the potential to reach different groups:

  1. New (recent transaction) customers
  2. Repeat customers
  3. Other companies’ customers
  4. Potential customers
  5. Strategic partners (vendors, colleagues, professional associates)

All of them are asking “how?” and “why?”. And, when you provide the answers, remember that they’re still thinking, "So what?  So what's in it for me?"

In other words, people are online searching for answers to questions they have or for solutions for dilemmas they're facing.  Or, they might need a particular kind of service and aren't sure who offers that.  Or maybe they need a product to fill a need they have.  That's when, if you've been consistently blogging, they find you, because your blog post gives them just the information they're looking for.

Generally, online searchers want to:

 

  • Find out what they’ll get if they buy
  • Discover whether the product is a good match for their needs
  • Gain perspective about how the pricing and the quality stacks up against the competition

But, just because blogs deal with relatively simple “hows” and “whys”, I caution business owners and their blog content writers alike, don’t shy away from the really, really big, “philosophical” questions. One point I often stress in corporate blogging training sessions is that you’ve gotta have an opinion, a slant, on the information you’re serving up for readers. Who are you? People are attracted to and want to understand the person behind the business.

Get at least a little ways into the big, big questions, inserting a little Plato along with the Google…The business owner’s or professional’s own “voice” is a real power source for blog content!

 

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Better Business Blog Posts Emphasize the Positive

“The tape guns are not for customer use!” was the headline on the poster my National Speakers Association colleague Todd Hunt saw in his local UPS store. There was more text on that sign, Hunt reports: “For liability reasons, it is prohibited for customers to use our industrial tape guns.  If you need something taped up, please either purchase a tape dispenser from our retail wall or just ask us to tape it up for you.  We’re always glad to help.”

In his e-newsletter,Todd (who’s been described as “funnier than a business speaker, more informative than a comedian’) uses this UPS sign to teach his readers a couple of lessons all of us business blog content writers can use:

“They (UPS) offer a great service, but they’ve buried it in the body text!”  Come right out with your message (I call this the “pow’ opening line). “Need your package taped? Just ask!” is the starting statement Hunt would’ve put on that sign.

Be purposeful about your opening lines, leaving no doubt in searchers’ minds that they’ve come to the right place to find the information, products, and services they need.
 
Todd Hunt suggests deleting the sentence about the liability – too negative. Just stash the tape guns behind the counter out of sight, he recommends, if there have been so many problems with customers using them! Emphasize the positive.

In business blogging I advise taking the high road in marketing strategy. In other words, don’t put down your competition.  Instead, simply emphasize your own expertise, products and services. “Accentuate the positive and latch on to the affirmative,” as Bing Crosby used to croon.

Offer your customers different options, Hunt suggests. We’re happy to tape your package closed for you at no charge.  If you prefer to do it yourself, we have tape dispensers for sale on our retail wall.

Communicate the fact that you and your staff have the experience, the information, the products, and the latest technology to solve problems and meet needs, yet offer choices of action to help readers feel they are in control.

Better business blog posts accentuate the positive!

 

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The Problem With Hero Action Beginnings for Business Blog Posts

Too organized for in medias res type business blog writing (that’s where you intrigue readers by going right to the conflict, then jump back to an earlier, quieter part of the story to deliver the information they need to understand the concepts)? Novelist Cheri Laser has at least three other suggestions for ways to begin a novel.  You might like to use what Laser calls a “hero action beginning” for your blog posts.

“In a hero action beginning, the hero is onstage, doing something active and interesting related to launching the core story,” explains Laser. For us Indianapolis freelance blog content writers, the equivalent would be a bold statement of what our business owner or professional client has to offer.

My friend and fellow blogger Thaddeus Rex lists “Four Ways STUFF has of Differentiating Itself”. A hero action beginning for a blog post might include one of those:

1. Features – your product or service can do something your competitors can’t (or yours does it better).
2. Location – your product/service is available someplace your competitors’ is not (or it’s more easily available)
3. Service – the buying experience you provide sets you apart
4. Cost – you’re the cheapest or the most expensive (exclusivity).

Of course, the secret, as Rex so rightly points out, is to really know your audience, so you know which of those things will be most likely to appeal.

When it comes to blogging (as compared to say, ads, billboards, or even brochures), the potential problem is that this sort of hero action beginning has a way of bordering on being a “boast session”. Fine to let online readers know about what you have and about the things you do, but keep this in mind:  It has to be about them!

In one recent issue of Speaker Magazine, authors offer tips to professional speakers who want to launch books they’ve written. “Don’t tell your prospects how great you are; tell them how great they will feel when the ideas in your book relieve the pain they’re experiencing.”

Hero action beginnings can be great as “grabbers” in business blog posts, with one proviso – remember that the real hero of any blog post had better be – the reader!

 

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Beginning a Business Blog Post In Medias Res

There are four different ways to begin a novel, explains author Cheri Laser, with a less commonly used choice of the four, yet a favorite of hers, being “In Medias Res”, meaning “into the middle of things”.

An  in medias res novel, Laser adds, introduces the characters and the conflicts at the mid-point or at the conclusion, then flashes back to catch up. The concept? Intrigue the reader, then jump back to an earlier, quieter part of the story to deliver the information readers need to understand the conflict.

Business blog content writers know the importance of intriguing and engaging readers, and of doing it right away. At Say It For You, I emphasize how big a deal it can be to get the “pow opening line” right. In SEO-conscious marketing blogs, of course, it may be the keyword phrases in the title that start the job of getting the blog found. But once a visitor has actually landed, it takes a great opener to fan that flicker of interest into a flame.

For today’s online searchers, that flicker-to-flame process is condensed, to say the least. “Every day, you fight a battle, competing with the internet, emails, texting and voicemail. “  Kimberly Yuhl of SteamFeed quotes a quite startling word quota from Statistic Brain: The average attention span in 2013 was 8 seconds. If the average adult listens to or reads one word per second, that gives us eight words to capture our readers’ attention.  “They had better be some powerful words,” advises Yuhl.

Darren Rowse of Problogger suggests starting with a question as one way to engage readers: Did you know….? How do you….? What’s one of the most common problems that…..? Do you want to learn how to…? Have you ever…? Do you ever wonder if…?

Another form of in medias res beginnings for business blogs is what Hector Cuevas calls the “shock and awe approach”, which involves starting posts by ”disagreeing with what is commonly accepted as the norm”. This, Cuevas suggests, “builds an instant sense of curiosity and brings up questions that your readers need answered.” The caution, he adds, is that your content needs to clearly explain your point of view.

For your next business blog post, consider starting in media res!

 

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A Writing Prompt Challenge for Business Bloggers

How do you “ignite your creativity engine” and “fuel your inspiration”?

Writers’ Digest advises novelists to use story starters or writing prompts. And while as blog content writers, we aren’t dealing in fiction, at least some of the 52 prompts suggested by Brian Klems and Cris Freese could conceivably pump up the creativity level of our content marketing.

In fact, I challenge readers of this Say It For You blog to write in ideas about how they’d go about using one of these prompts in one of their own posts.

My own favorites from among the Writers’ Digest prompts:

  • “You return home from work to find a ‘Dear John’ letter on your table.  Oddly, it’s from a FUTURE romantic relationship.  What does the letter say?”

(Couldn’t professional service providers use this? In what ways might the blog reader’s future relationship with you either succeed or fail? Paint a picture of what it’s like being a client or patient in your service or practice.)

  • “You’re trying to read the morning newspaper when your cat begins pawing at your leg.  You brush him away, but he jumps on the table and begins meowing.  Final, the cat speaks.  What does he say?”

Successful business blog writing reminds online searchers of the annoyances and frustrations they are have in dealing with their present service providers, and that you and your staff have the experience, the information, the products, and the services to solve exactly those problems and meet precisely those needs.

  • “At work, you’ve been getting a Post-it note on your desk every morning that reads, ‘Why did you do it?’ You’ve talked to your boss, the night cleaning crew and your co-workers, but no one seems to know who’s putting the note there or why.  You decide to work through the night in hopes of catching the person.”

In many marketing blogs, the blog content writers focus on appealing to consumers’ fear.  To appeal to a better kind of customer - the kind that buys for the right reasons and then remains loyal, I train writers to appeal to readers' better nature and focus on the problem-solving aspects of the offered products and services.

Ask yourself:  Could writing prompts pump up the creativity level of my blog?

 

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Business Blogging Helps Friends See What You Enjoy

“Each year, the largest performing arts conference in the world draws artists from around the globe to New York Midtown Hilton Towers in Manhattan. …you can enjoy the newest ideas in theatre, dance and music,” explains my friend and fellow blogger Thaddeus Rex. “But, please,” he warns, “Don’t plan to eat in the area.”  Why? "Food in this hood winds up extremely expensive and excessively lame."

Rex’ blog post, which begins on this negative note, carries two positive benefits for readers:

A valuable tip:
“Walk just a few blocks west of 54th and 6th to 9th or 10th Avenue, and you get twice the quality for half the cost.”

In blogging for business, it’s important to proactively interpret information in ways that are not only understandable, but usable by readers. Engaging? Fresh? Relevant? Unique?  Those are all qualities to strive for in blog content writing. But offering basic, immediately usable information is a very compelling way to welcome prospects who are meeting you through your blog.

An insight:
“These businesses have learned the secret of differentiating via location.  They know they don’t have to be best in the world.  They only have to be best on the block. Once people are up on their feet, walking around, they get hungry….They assume high price means high quality.  And many never know the difference.”

Smart blog content writers know that there is no lack of sources where readers can find information on our subject.  But readers don’t want to do that – they want our help making sense out of the ocean of information out there. They want our guidance arriving at insights that will help them understand and use all that information.

Many consumers (those who assume a burger with a high price is a burger of high quality) never know the difference. “But YOU know the power of energy,” Thaddeus tells his blog readers. “YOU discern quality with a steady eye and are willing to work for it”.  

Does your business blog help your new friends (your online visitors) see what you enjoy?

 

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Don't Notch the Bedpost in Your Business Blog Post - Yet!

“Most branding activities are just well-catalogued brag sheets“, according to marketing speaker Bruce Turkel (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at our National Speakers of Indiana chapter a few months ago). And while these “bedpost notches such as credentials, accomplishments, satisfied clients, etc., may please your grandmother, he says, they don’t interest anyone who’s not already thinking about hiring you."

Reading that advice, I couldn’t help being thankful. To a certain extent, we blog content writers are able to put our business owner and professional practitioner clients in a more advantageous position as they meet prospects. After all, readers who arrive at a business blog have already “drunk the Kool-Aid”. They already have an interest in the topic and are ready to receive the information, the services, and the products our clients have to offer.

Having said that, our task is to keep those visitors engaged with valuable, personal, and relevant information.  Bedpost notching is important, enumerating the business’ or the practice’s special areas of expertise, years of experience, and success filling customers’ needs. To be sure, we don’t have a very long “window” to accomplish that task, really just a couple of seconds. That’s where Bruce Turkel’s “simple but not easy” recommendation comes in.

Build an “all about them” brand, he says. Speak to your clients’ wants and needs and not your own. Turkel offers two examples of that new paradigm thinking (in the context of how professional speaker should promote themselves):

Don’t:      “Roger McFlintock is the leading expert on underwater basket weaving.”
Do:          “Underwater basket weaving can change your life.”

Don’t:      ”Ellie Dabooter has spent the last 15 years teaching leadership skills”.
Do:          “Leadership is the single most important skill you can use to improve your
                business. Ellie Dabooter is singularly qualified to lead you there.”

As a corporate blogging trainer, I wholeheartedly agree. Any piece of marketing material can be tweaked to put the emphasis where it belongs – on the buyer or user.  In terms of online marketing, the What’s-In-It-For-Them paradigm shift is particularly relevant for blog posts.

Don’t notch the bedpost – yet. Sure, those online visitors found you because they’re already interested in your type of product or service.  Your first order of business, though, is confirming the importance of the subject matter in terms of the difference it can make in their lives!
 

 

 

 

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Bad Business Bloggers of the World, Untie!

By his own description, Richard Lederer is a verbivore.  Fans refer to him as the “poster godfather of good grammar”.  Lederer is able to laugh about common grammar mistakes writers make. Myself, I have a harder time suppressing my anger, particularly when it comes to bad grammar and incorrect spelling sins committed by blog content writers.

True (as I’m fond of mentioning in corporate blogging training sessions) the language used in blogging can be - in fact should be - more conversational than the stuff you might find in a company’s brochures or on their website’s “About” page, so that, depending on the target audience, blog writers are OK bending grammar rules by a bit.

But, as Richard Lederer reminds us (albeit with a smile), some of the crimes committed against our precious English language are definitely not on the OK list. “Every time you make a typo,” Lederer writes, “the errorists win.”

Copyblogger’s Brian Clark explains that while bloggers try to write the way people speak, there are certain mistakes that detract from your credibility, including four mix-ups:

  • Your vs. You’re
  • It’s vs. Its
  • There vs. Their
  • Affect vs. Effect


Gini Dietrich on American Express’ Open Forum worries that creators of customer-target content’s worry about the grammar police (I proudly sport my badge) can create writer’s block. The most important thing, she says it to “get the writing out of you. It can always be fixed to perfection later.” Still, Dietrich says, if you can learn to avoid basic errors (she mentions Brian Clark’s items of your/you’re, they’re/there, then adds the total no-no “irregardless), you’re off to a good start.

HubSpots’s Ginny Soskey adds a few errors to the watch list, breaking the news that
 “alot” is simply not a word, and cautioning writers to use “who”, not “that” when referring to a person: “Ginny is a blogger who likes ice cream.”

Judging from the search results when I Google “grammar and spelling mistakes in blogging”, everybody seems to be conscious of the problem. Still, the more I keep reminding blog content writers in Indianapolis how important it is to be fastidious using our language, the more examples of sloppiness seem to stare me in the face whenever I surf.

“Bad spellers of the world, untie!” quips Richard Lederer.  Professional ghost bloggers of the world, unite!” is all I have to say! Are you going to stand there and let those errorists win?

 

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Try a By-the-Numbers Business Blog Post

The editors of For the Record Magazine (a publication for health professionals) have latched on to a good  page design which I found very decorative, with seven 7 numbers (in color) heading up the seven short paragraphs of text.

While the basic information in your blog will be served up in word form, visuals add interest.  What’s more - (our grade school teachers used Show and Tell for a reason), people absorb information better when it is served up in more than one form.

For the Record’s writing about seven statistics, each having to do with health care.

Earlier this week, I described a “one-tank template”, based on a Columbia Club magazine article about places its members could visit using less than one full tank of gasoline. In this health magazine article, by contrast, the” template” is the numbers:

  • 8
    Only 8% of primary care phy6sicians reported being “very dissatisfied” with their Electronic Health Record system’s ability to lessen their workload.
  • 72
    This is the percentage of physicians who said technology was helping them make more informed health care decisions.
  • 94
    This is the percentage of patients who prefer video visits to telephone-only consultations with their doctors.

The point of using numbered lists in business blogs, I explain to blog content writers, is to demonstrate ways in which your product or service is different, and to provide valuable information that engages readers, helping them see you as a go-to guy or gal to solve their problem or fill their need.

A gem of a quote I found in the book “Dance First, Think Later”, is this: “If you say that there are elephants flying in the sky, people are not going to believe you.  But if you say that there are four hundred and twenty five elephants in the sky, people will probably believe you.”

Numbers are valuable tools in corporate blogging for business because they add both interest and credibility to any factual material.  So, in order to freshen up blog post content, I teach in corporate blogging training sessions, start with an idea about your product or service, then put a number to it:

Whatever your business or professional practice, the real point of the numbers is to offer valuable information, showcase your expertise, and demonstrate ways in which your product or service can help problems.

 

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One-Tank Templates for Business Blogging

As a member of the Columbia Club, I get to enjoy the club’s monthly magazine. In fact, one article from last month’s issue sparked a great idea that I want to pass along to business blog content writers.  

The feature “One Tank Destinations” describes three interesting places to visit in Indiana, all of them close enough to downtown Indianapolis (Columbia Club is right on Monument Circle) so that you can get there and back on a single tank of gasoline.

Think about it – the Club’s providing interesting information to its members, adding value, yet not selling them anything. Of course, that’s one of the purposes of any blog presented by a business or professional practice – adding value to the relationship existing customers have with that business or practice, and demonstrating what a good idea in would be for prospects to get on board.   

The “trick” is in the title.  It would’ve been ‘blah” at best to call that page "Three Places to Visit in Central Indiana”. The expression “one tank”, on the other hand is catchy and makes the reader figure it out. What’s more, One Tank becomes a template unifying the three different mini-feature stories, one about Bluespring Cavern, one about the Culbertson Mansion, the third about Scribner House.

Whenever you have several pieces of information to impart, consider ways to “unify” them under one umbrella or category. The Writing Center calls this “glueing our ideas together”.

Actually, every blog post will probably need some “glue” in the form of transitions. As The Writing Center explains, whether you’re joining single words, phrases, sentences, or even paragraphs, transitions tell readers how to organize their thoughts as they read.

“One-tank templates” are perfect for business blogging!

 

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"Our Pick" Business Blogging

“Sleek and shapely wins the style race,” begins USA Today’s review of the the new Banana Republic sheath dress collection by designer Roland Mouret.

Always intrigued by fashion, preferring simpler silhouettes, I was intrigued by this article from a blog content writer’s viewpoint as well as from that of a would-be wardrobe connoisseur. Here’s why:

Reporter Andrea Mandell begins with testimonials –"Mouret’s dresses are being worn by the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, and Halle Berry", but goes on to assure readers that the Banana Republic versions are wallet-friendly.  

“When buying products, consumers are influenced by references,” choosing products that appear to have a “higher status”, explains Professor Nienke Vlutters of the University of Twnte.

In blogging for business, don’t forget to tell them “who else is doing it”!

Next, the designer himself is interviewed. He talks about his own favorite from the collection: the one-shoulder color-black dress, inspired by the one seen on Jennifer Chastain.

Customers want to buy from or work with the person who has the reputation, credibility, and knowledge of an expert, and that’s exactly the result we professional blog writers are aiming for on behalf of our business owner and professional practitioner clients.

What really gives the USA Today fashion piece its “pow!, in my opinion, is the section “Our Pick”. “We love his emphasis on sleek details such as this subtly patterned Sloan leopard panel pencil skirt…”, says Mandell.

The real blogging value gets added, I’ve always maintained, when content writers add “spin” to the information presented, basing the comments on the  business owner’s or practitioner’s own business wisdom and expertise. In other words, don’t just serve up information – add “your pick”.  Readers want to relate to you when you have knowledge AND an opinion to offer.

Interviews in a blog? Yes. Testimonials? Yes. But then, share your picks!
       

 

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Business Blog Readability in the Flesch?

“Readability is a critical yet often-overlooked aspect of writing – particularly online writing,” according to Jeanne Dininni of StraightNorth.com. The idea, of course, is to match your writing to your intended audience. “Some sites target a more educated demographic, some attract a population segment with specialized knowledge or expertise in a particular area, and others,” observes Dininni, “cater to more general audiences”.

Science?  Common sense? Both, actually. After all, we business blog content writers aren’t in this to entertain ourselves – we’re out to retain the clients and customers we serve and bring in new ones.

If you didn’t already know this, there are tests you can put your blog through to see how you’re doing in terms of readability - are you reaching the right people and doing it by using words and sentences to which they can relate?  Well, a Readability Index Calculator can give you the answer.

The most-used calculator is the Flesch-Kincaid.  Your scores on the Flesch indicate two things:

  1. How easy your text is to read on a scale of 0-100. (A high score, say 60 or 70 means your stuff is relatively easy to read; a low score, say 20 or even 10 means you’re getting too close to legalese territory – and who wants that??)  
     
  2. What grade in school a person would need to have reached to be able to understand your content. (A score of 7 would mean the typical seventh grader would understand your writing, while a sixth grader might not. In fact a score of 6 or 7 would be considered optimal in journalism.)

So what, exactly, do those two Flesch-Kincaid measure to take your readability “temperature”?  Essentially, two things:

  • The average number of syllables per word
  • The average number of words per sentence.

I tested a recent blog post of mine, https://blog.sayitforyou.net/blog/ghost-blogger/dont-you-hate-it-when-blogging-for-business, with the following “verdict”:

“This page has an average grade level of about 7 and a reading ease score of 68.7. A value between 60 and 80 should be easy for a 12 to 15 year old to understand.”  

You need to know – how would your business blog measure up in the Flesch?

 

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An Email Tip Business Bloggers Can Use

Anyone involved in corporate blogging for business should read the latest e-newsletter I received from business speaker Todd Hunt.  Funny thing is, in this piece, Hunt’s not directly talking about business - or about blogging.  Instead, in this “Hunt’s Headlines”, he’s offering some tips about email. So what’s the connection?

Well, assuming you’ve got readers signed up for an RSS feed for your blog (and I certainly hope you do), and assuming you’re posting every few days (and, as a corporate blogging trainer, I certainly hope that’s true), then your most valuable readers are receiving not just occasional, but regular emails from you.

As an aside, Todd Hunt apparently agrees with the Power of One concept I teach blog content writers: focus on one central idea in each post, leaving the rest for another day. Hunt’s referring to email, but the caution is very valid for business blogs. The way he puts it is “Send separate emails, rather than bundling myriad items in one message.”

But, when you do that, Hunt points out, you need to be careful to vary the subject lines. If you don’t, you run the risk of having your client never open an email, because they believe they’ve already read that one!

Now, the first time a “stranger” arrives at your blog site through organic search (that person needs the kind of information, products, or services you offer but doesn’t yet know of you or of your business or practice), Todd Hunt’s tip won’t apply.  But for those of your loyal fans who’ve signed up for an RSS – wow! That tip could mean the difference between your business blog post getting read or having it be deleted before it’s ever been opened!

Of course, as Sharon Housley of FeedForAll reminds us, the best way to engage RSS subscribers is simply writing good stuff. “A consistent stream of original content will do well to earn subscribers’ loyalty,” she says, and “the best RSS feeds provide content that is compelling and unique.”

But, to be sure your “stuff” – all of it – gets opened, remember the Todd Hunt tip about varying the subject lines!

 

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Help Your Blog Readers Discover Your CTAS

True to its title, Discover Magazine (one of my favorite reads) provided an exercise in “discovery”.  Inserted between the pages, in no fewer than five different spots, were postcards.  Each card offered me the chance to “discover the savings” by signing up for a subscription to the publication.

Ever on the alert for marketing concepts that might be useful for us business blog content writers, I noticed several interesting things about the Discover postcard subscription-signup strategy:

Repetition: The cards were spaced at least ten pages apart. Whether I turned out to be a systematic reader, the kind who starts at the beginning and goes through the magazine story by story, or whether I was the kind of reader who skips over the first part of the magazine to get to the stories listed on the cover, I was still going to find one of those calls to action.

Appeal to different interests: One of the cards touted “Next Gen Tech” with an eye, I imagine, to hooking younger readers. Two of the others had “skinflint appeal", promising that every new subscription would include two special issue, and that signing up now for three years could save me as much as $141.

Engagement:  While a couple of the postcards were loosely inserted between pages, one was bound with the magazine, requiring me to tear it out before filling out the information.

‘“Without bombarding your audience with ‘Buy Now's!’ and ‘Click Here's!’’’ you can easily capture attention, drive action, engage audiences, and keep them coming back for more,” says Megan Brown of the Content Marketing Institute. How? Let them download a tutorial, fill out a lead form – in other words, do something.

Whether it’s a postcard in a magazine or a Call to Action in a business blog post, help your blog readers “discover”  you and follow your CTAs!

 

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