The Great, Off-Track, Course Correction Blogging Template

As in the old adage about skinning cats, there are many different ways the same information can be presented in different business blog posts.

In fact, at Say It For You, I’m always on the lookout for different “templates”, not in the sense of platform graphics, but for presenting information about any business or professional practice.

Leafing through a magazine called Working Moms, I came upon just such a template, one I think we freelance blog content writers can adapt to different clients’ needs. The particular article was called “You Know the Type”, and it discussed various “Mom” personality types.  There’s the Martyr Mommy, the Drama Mama, the Snowplow Mom, and the Educarer Mom. In each case, writer Katherine Bowers presented her remarks in three sections:

  • Where she’s great
  • Where she’s off-track
  • Course correction

For example, Martyr Mommy demonstrates reliability and concern for others, but she too often plays second fiddle in her own life, showing no respect for herself. The “Course Correction” section offers advice: Martyr Mom should whittle down the schedule and ask for help.

There was a lot of useful information in this three-page article about Mom types, yet that content was easy to navigate and understand because of the repeating “template”.

As a corporate blogging trainer, I sometimes pass on to writers a model I learned from a professional speech coach, called “The one-sentence speech and the 3-legged stool.” This Working Moms template reminded me of that model.

For each business blog post, choose one central idea to cover. Then, use three examples or make three points to reinforce that central theme.  The great, off-track, course correction template might be used to offer advice on financial management, healthy living, pet care, fashion.

1. Begin with a direct or indirect compliment to the online reader (if nothing else, they cared about the topic enough to find your blog!)  
2. Point out some common mistakes and traps (where consumers are often off-track)
3. Offer some useful advice.

Stuck in a content-writing rut? Try a template and call me in the morning!
 

 

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The Brown-Bag Blogging Compromise

Should employees be required to write blog posts? That's the question posed by Marcus Sheridon of SalesLion.com.

After all, Sheridan points out, one goal of content marketing is to produce as much content as possible, so the more hands are put to the task, the better. And, since content that answers consumers’ questions is the most valuable, and since those employees are typically the ones dealing with the consumers every day ,it stands to reason they should be committing that experience to print. Insourcing works, he says, but if it’s not required, employees won’t do it – (Duh)!

Stan Smith of pushingsocial.com isn’t buying. “Blogging is writing,” he says, “and writing for most people has a fear factor right up there with public speaking.  You can coach, bribe, threaten all you want but in the end, you’ll be writing most of your blog posts."

After eight solid years of providing blog content writing services to hundreds of different businesses and professional practices, I know exactly where Smith is coming from. So does Mikeachim, who points out that the 2009 New York Times statistic about 95% of blogs being abandoned hasn’t really changed.

Sheridan’s answer to the should-employees-be-required-to-blog question is still yes, but he offers three possible methods for using employees to populate a blog with content, suggesting that employees having a choice will increase the chance they’ll participate:.

  1. The employee writes the post.
  2. The employee creates a video post.
  3. The employee is interviewed by someone who then turns the information into a       blog post.

Stan Smith suggests a compromise plan as well.  His is a monthly brown-bag lunch session, where everyone contributes ideas for the blogging editorial calendar. The transcript then becomes fodder for the blog. (In fact, for at least some of our clients, we at Say It For You serve as blog editors, rather than as blog writers.)

 “In an age where content is the new gold standard of web-related and social media marketing; it’s time to start producing great content or find someone who can,” says Chris Warden of Jeffbullas.com, who’s clearly in the camp that advocates outsourcing of content writing.

Anyone can write, he points out. “The real feat comes not from putting words on paper, but from producing artistically crafted and genuinely interesting pieces of content that evoke a desired emotion from your readers.”

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Business Marketing 202: Doing the Who's Who Right

In blog marketing, I’ve found, getting things right often follows noticing things that are already right, then applying those techniques to our own business needs. Case in point: the “Who’s Who @the Federation page in the magazine from the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis.

In corporate blogging training sessions, I like to stress how important it is to blog in first person.  First person shows the people behind the post, revealing the personality of the owners and team members.

Of course, just about every business or organization has a profile page on its website.  Mostly, those pages tend towards the boring, listing job titles and credentials, and sometimes hobbies such as tennis or golf.

The Who’s Who @the Federation page, by contrast was very personal. Boring? Anything but. Each profile included 7 items, 4 of which are rather standard, including name, home town, and position, and how the person has worked at the Federation.. The other 3 things were a bit of a switch:

  • Family (this includes what the employee’s spouse does for a living, plus the names and ages of the kids)
  • “People can come to me if they need…”
  • “Why I find working at the Federation meaningful…”

What an absolutely great model for content writers creating blog posts and Who’s Who profile pages for company websites! As consumers, we’d all like to think we’re dealing  with people who find dealing with us meaningful! And wouldn’t it be great knowing you’re invited to come to the specific person who can best fulfill your specific need?

“Talk to people. We can accomplish a lot, a lot more quickly, if we put down the devices to have good old-fashioned conversations,” cautions Indianapolis Reverend Jeffrey Johnson.

OK, blogging and web content are device-based. But, the closer the content can come to good old-fashioned conversation, the more marketing can be accomplished. We need a lot more of people-can-come-to-me-if-they-need online content writing!

 

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Business Bloggers take the SQ3R Initiative

On Mondays, I’ve been serving as a tutor in the Ivy Tech Learning Lab, and just the other day, I found a treasure there I knew I had to share with business blog content writers. That “find” was a little paper-back book called Study Skills Strategies, by Uelaine Lengfeld.

On page 2 of the book I found what we now refer to as an infographic. This chart depicts a study technique called SQ3R, consisting of five steps students can use to learn successfully from a written text.

When it comes to online blog readers, I couldn’t help reflecting ruefully, there’s no way every reader is going to go through all five steps.  In fact, today’s searcher is a scanner rather than a true reader. That means, I’ve concluded, that we, the business blog  writers, have to be the ones performing those steps and literally leading the readers by the hand through our content.

Survey – “Take a sneak preview of the reading you’ve been assigned,” The first part of the survey involves examining the title of each chapter.  in Say It For You  corporate blogging training sessions, I emphasize using keyword phrases in the first part of the title of each blog post. A third concept that’s important for blog content writers to remember is keeping the title and the actual blog post content congruent.

Question – “Always read with the intent to answer a question, using the words who, what, when, where, or how,” Lengfield advises students. Blog writers need to anticipate the questions and answer them before they’re asked. But rremember, as friend and fellow blogger Karl Ahrichs says, “People want the answer in a few, short, well-thought-out words, with a long answer to follow if requested.”

Read & Underline and Recite & Write are the next two steps. But, since our target readers have hundreds of marketing and sales messages hitting them each day, it’s up to us as content writers to, as we post our content online, use bolding, italics, and graphics to “steer” our reads through the learning process.

Review – in blogging for business, the tie-back technique serves as a forced review for the readers. Whatever you meant to convey in the post, in the closing line tie back to that theme, using the very words you used at the outset.

In business blogging, we content writers need to take the SQ3R initiative!

 

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Blog for Business Without the Expletives

One meaning of the term “expletive” is swear word, and most business content writers, very sensibly, wouldn’t dream of including offensive language in a marketing message. There’s another meaning, however, for the term “expletive”, and while that one’s not nearly as likely to offend readers, Writers’ Digest still advises avoidance.

A syntactic expletive is a word that contributes nothing to the meaning of a sentence, only to the syntax or structure of it.

Example #1:
“It was her last argument that finally persuaded me.” How can the writer get rid of the expletive? Writers’ Digest suggests the more direct and forceful ”Her last argument finally persuaded me.”

Example #2:
“There are likely to be many researchers raising questions about this methodological approach.” Better to say “Many researchers are likely to raise questions about this methodological approach.”

When it comes to web-based communication, words, along with pictures, are a business' only tools.  As a professional ghost blogger, I work with words and phrases. Above all, though, I teach this: Our job is to communicate, as plainly and directly as possible, how your business – or your client’s business - helps its clients and customers.

Jargon and expletives are bad, and they’re even worse for blogs. Searchers came to your blog to "find out" stuff, not to "ascertain", to get "help", not to "facilitate". You want them to "use", not "utilize" your services and products. You offer the "best", not the "optimum" of each. You help clients "plan", not "facilitate", and you do that "by", not "by means of" being great at what you do.

Leave out the “that”s and the “there are”s, and get rid of gobbledygook in your blog!

 

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Advice to the Front in Blogging for Business

“If you buy new tires, put them on the rear side,” begins a truly great blog post by Allstate Insurance. Mind you, I‘ve been a customer of an Allstate competitor for 40+ years, but I know a good business blog post when I read one.

I applaud six important things about Allstate’s “New Tires to the Rear” post, and, as a corporate blogging trainer, wanted to point those out:

  • It’s written in “I-you” format.  Personal. Direct. “I understand the pain….I’m here to tell you…” In first person, blogging for business can in reveal the personality of the business owner or of the team standing ready to serve customers.
     
  • It offers advice readers can use.  Right away.  They don’t even need to click.
     
  • It explains the writer’s point of view. “On a rainy day even a small puddle could cause your car to spin out.  Rear tires provide stability.  If they’re worn, even if the new fronts provide plenty of steering ability, if the rear tires are floating, you’ll spin out.”
     
  • It establishes the business owner as an expert. “I have ridden with thousands of drivers in demonstrations…almost all spin out when the car had newer tires on the front and half-worn rubber on the rear.”
     
  • It deals with readers’ objections and questions even before they are asked: What if I have electronic stability control features on my car? “Even electronic stability control – a system that can help to automatically bring you out of a spin – can’t help if the rear tires are completely hydroplaning.”
  • It’s opinionated, definitive.  “No more ‘even ifs’.  If you buy only two tires, place them on the rear axle.” 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.

New tires may be best on the rear of the car, but advice takes front and center in blogging for business!

 

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Filling Your Trivia Basket for Business Blogging - part C

No question about it – trivia can be useful triggers for business blog content ideas, making the challenge of continually coming up with fresh content to inform, educate, and entertain readers a little bit easier on busy business owners and employees and on freelance content writers like us.

This week, I’ve devoted my Say It For You blog posts to trivia found in Albert Jack’s book, Red Herrings & White Elephants, which traces the origins of phrases we use every day.

I’ve been suggesting types of businesses that might use each piece of trivia, but now that you’ve gotten into the trivia-mining swing, I challenge you to come with your own ideas for turning each piece of trivia into a  writing “hook”.
 

  • Let the cat out of the bag – Apparently there was a lot of cheating going on in the medieval marketplace. Having been shown a pig, a purchaser would be distracted by haggling with the vendor over price. When the buyer opened his bag at home, he’d find a cat had been substituted for the pig.
    This tidbit of information about dishonest dealing could be used by any business to emphasize its own merchandise return policy. A diamond merchant might cite its price protection guarantee, while a property appraisal website would discuss the importance of relying on a legally assigned value during a real estate transaction.
     
  • Bite off more than you can chew - We use this expression to indicate someone has taken on more than they can manage.  This phrase comes from the 1800s, when chewing tobacco was popular. The greedy would take such a large bite of tobacco, they were unable to chew it properly.
    The metaphor of unmanageable tasks applies to just about any business, and any blog content creator can discuss the wisdom of a business owner outsourcing certain tasks, from talent recruitment agencies to building cleaning services. Back when I was just beginning my work as a professional blog writer in Indianapolis, debates on the ethics of blogging for others often raged at networking meetings and seminars.  Meanwhile, of course, more and more companies were venturing into online marketing campaigns, viewing blog content writing as just another advertising and marketing function to be outsourced. Today, outsourcing the blog marketing function is common practice.

Be an ant. Begin stocking up on provisions for the business blog writing season ahead!

 

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Filling Your Trivia Basket for Business Blogging - Part B

This week, I’m devoting my Say It For You blog posts to trivia mentioned in Albert Jack’s book Red Herrings & White Elephants, which traces the origins of phrases we use every day. With the fall season setting in, it’s a good time to stock up provisions for the winter business blogging ahead.

Trivia of all types, I remind newbie freelance content writers, make for good “foodstuff”, and can be used in business blogs for defining basic terminology, sparking curiosity about the subject, putting modern-day practices and beliefs into perspective, and for explaining why the business owner or practitioner chooses to operate in a certain way.

Here are three more interesting “red herrings” that might come in handy for days when content writers find themselves running out of ideas for blog posts:

  • A plum job – In the 1600s, the slang term for £1,000 was “plum”.  Back then, of course, that was a serious amount of money and happened also to be the fixed amount of payment for certain government jobs. The average layman considered that to be a huge pay for doing very little
    What kind of business might make use of this tidbit of information?  How about an employment agency?  Clients of a financial advisor or of a bank might also find that piece of trivia interesting.
  • As fit as a fiddle – That expression indicates a person or animal who is in good physical condition. Back in the days of medieval court, it seems, the people considered most energetic and fit were the fiddlers, who would scamper about playing their music throughout the crowds.
    For what types of business might this piece of trivia add interest to the blog? A fitness facility comes to mind, as does any health-related professional practice.The information about the origin of “as fit as a fiddle” makes for the perfect   jumping-off point for a discussion about the role physical activity plays in our health.
  • To sleep tight – We use this expression to connote a good night’s rest. The first beds to be mass-produced in England had straw mattresses held by criss-crossed ropes attached to the bed frames.  As the ropes slackened with use, they needed to be tightened in order for the bed to remain comfortable. “Sleep tight”, therefore, meant “sleep comfortably”.
    This story could make for good blog fodder for a mattress store, a bedding company, or even a sleep clinic.

Stocking up on blog triggers like these can really help blog content writers get through the winter season!

 

 

 

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Filling Your trivia Basket for Business Blogging - Part A

Now that fall has officially set in, I’m reminded of Aesop’s Ant and the Grasshopper fable, cautioning us to begin stocking up provisions for the winter ahead. I like the concept, especially when it comes to stocking up materials for business blogging. Continually coming up with fresh content to inform, educate, and entertain readers – well, that’s a pretty tall order for busy business owners and employees. (Face it, that’s a tall order even for us professional content writers.)  And without a system for stocking up ideas, content creation can quickly get to the overwhelming stage.

That’s exactly why I’m constantly on the prowl for blogging “foodstuff” that we content writers can “store up” in preparation for those “winter of our discontent” days when ideas just won’t seem to present themselves. One “provisioning” tactic involves trivia.    

Trivia can be used in business blogs for defining basic terminology, sparking curiosity about the subject, putting modern-day practices and beliefs into perspective, and for explaining why the business owner or practitioner chooses to operate in a certain way.

This week, I’m devoting my Say It For You blog posts to trivia mentioned in Albert Jack’s book Red Herrings & White Elephants, which traces the origins of phrases we use every day.
In each case, I’m going to suggest types of businesses that might use that piece of trivia, but I challenge content writers to come up with their own ideas for turning trivia into writing “hooks”.

  • Piping hot – The old church pipe organs would hiss in the same way water does when it steamed, so, ever since the 1300’s, when something was boiling, it was  described as “pipe hot”.
    What kind of business  might make use of this tidbit of information?  How about a heating and air conditioning firm? A company that insulates pipes for residential or commercial buildings? A professional carpet cleaner? Aesthetiticians who use steam to clean out facial pores?
  • To thread your way through a crowd – Back in the 1500’s, mazes were a popular form of entertainment, and some people would take a clew (yarn or thread) and fix one end of it to the beginning of the maze, enabling them to find their way back out again. (The word “clue” derives from this as well!)
    To what kinds of business blog might this piece of trivia add special interest?  How about a tailoring establishment? A sewing or knitting supply shop? A surgeon??

Of course, stocking up on ideas for future blog posts isn’t all about trivia, as I explain to newbie blog content writers. Remember, the trivia tidbit is just the jumping off point for the message.

 

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Smaller Niches are the New Big in Blogging for Business

You have to contract to expand, is the message I’m hearing from quite a number of National Speakers Association star performers. Could these pieces of advice from three speaking leaders apply to us Indiana blog content writers? You bet.

From “social media diva" Renee Quinn:

We can either know a little about a lot of things, or a whole lot about a few things, but never both. The more targeted your content is towards specific topics of interest in your field, the more you will be perceived as an expert. Be confident in your knowledge, and stay active to show those who follow you that you’re passionate and well-informed.

In  the Complete Idiot's Guide to Success as a Professional SpeakerDr. 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?


Ruby Newell-Legner agrees, advising speakers to find their niche market. Learning about the needs of your potential clients, you can solve their problems and become their go-to person, she says.

Newell makes a suggestion that I think is especially suitable for business bloggers: “Mention your services and topics at least eight times,” she suggests.  That doesn’t mean you should keep “selling yourself,” she cautions; just insert yourself into the story line:  “The other day when I was facilitating a workshop…” (business owners can insert whatever activity they would be doing to serve their customers), I found that one of the biggest issues is….”  “In a consulting session the other day…..”

Niche marketing can be extremely cost-effective, observes Kim Gordon of entrepreneur.com, as long as the benefits you offer have special appeal to that market niche.

Blog writing for business is the perfect match for niche writing. In fact, small might be the new big in blogging for business!

 

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Philosophical Blogging for Business

I’d never heard blog posts referred to as “philosophical” before, but Julie Neidlinger’s description really resonated with me. Philosophical posts are “idea” posts, she says, with the main goal being to further the culture of the brand or team writing the blog.

These posts (and here’s what really hit the spot for me) “are as much for the writer as the reader, helping to clarify the thought process… as the writer is working through the initial idea.” Some philosophical posts, Neidlinger observes, are “as much for the writer as the reader”.

“Philosophical posts are good,” she says, “in that they reveal the writers as real people. They don’t generally come from a place of hierarchy (i.e. teacher-down-to-student), but are instead on the same level. The reader is walking beside the writer and working through the idea.”

I express something of the same sentiment on the Say It For You website. “When you put up a blog with excellent content that engages your potential and current customers, you will typically receive the following four types of benefits: An SEO benefit, a promotional benefit, a credibility benefit, and (this is the one that comes closest to expressing what Julie Neidlinger is saying) a training benefit.

The way I explain the training benefit is this: When you blog, 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.

Going on to describe how philosophic blog posts are born, Neidlinger talks about content curation: “They often stem from books or other outside influences that have caused the author to think about new things and apply them to a current situation.”

The information in a blog post might have been “curated” from various sources. That’s a good thing, because you’re providing a valuable service to readers by collecting information and presenting it in one easy-to-access form.  On the other hand, “collections” are not nearly of sufficient benefit to readers.  Those facts and statistics need to be thought through and then put into perspective so that readers realize there’s something important here for them.

Ms. Neidlinger, I agree. Blogging for business means being a curator, but also a bit of a philosopher, thinking through the material before presenting it, along with the new thoughts you find going through your head because of others’ insights.

So, go ahead, I’d say to freelance blog content writers and to their business owner and professional practitioner clients – reveal the “real people” side of your blog writing!

 

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It's Never Too Late to Remember the "Why" Behind Blogging for Business

“Raise your hand if you want more website visitors,” says Corey Eridon of hubspot.com.
Now think about the way people find your website, he continues. They could type your name right in, but that’s an audience you already have. You could pay for traffic by buying an email list (don’t you dare, he adds), but that’s expensive and illegal. You could pay for traffic by placing paid ads, but even though that’s not illegal, it’s expensive.  So, how can you drive traffic? Blogging, social media, and search engines.

As a longtime blog content writers and corporate blogging trainer, I love Eridon’s very simple breakdown of the reason blogging works: “Every time you write a blog post, it’s one more indexed page on your website.  It’s also one more cur to Google and other search engines that your website is active and they should be checking in frequently to see what content you’ve published…”.

Blogging also helps keep your social media presence going, Eridon adds.  Instead of having a social media manager come up with brand new original content or creating that content yourself, your blog can serve as that repository of content.

What’s more, since the best business blogs answer common questions, consistently creating content that’s helpful to the target customers, Eridon explains, blogging helps establish the business owner or professional as an authority on the subject.

It was very interesting to me to read a comment posted on Corey Erison’s blog by a Scott deLong.  At Say It For You, I’m always talking about the “training benefit” of blogging, and while DeLong doesn’t call it that, he “get” my concept. “The purpose is to present our people as experts, or at least well informed, but the benefit comes from the research they do to become better informed,”DeLong says.

In fact, there are four unique benefits that come from blogging:

  1. The SEO benefit - The more relevant content you have up about your business, the greater the chance that people will find you via search engines.
     
  2. The promotional benefit - The content in the blog exists to promote your business, your products and services, and you as the business owner.
     
  3. The credibility benefit - Your blog says a lot of positive things about you and your business. It says that you are in the 21st century and interested in using the latest tools to communicate with your customers.
     
  4. The training benefit - When you blog, you are constantly providing yourself with training about how to talk effectively about your business.

It’s never too late to remind yourself just why it’s worth blogging for business!

 

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"Right" Answers Make for Great Business Blog Content Writing

One of the givens for us content writers is that people are online searching for answers to questions they have and for solutions for dilemmas they're facing. I really believe that blog writing for business will succeed only if two things are apparent to readers, and in the order presented here:

1. It’s clear you (the business owner or professional practitioner) understand online searchers’ concerns and needs
2. You and your staff have the experience, the information, the products, and the services to solve exactly those problems and meet precisely those needs.

The problem, though, and it’s an extremely common one, is that buyers tend to ask the wrong questions.  I read a marvelous commentary on this very point by Allen Hammer email service provider Delivra. Among the top worst questions, Hammer observes, are:

  •  How much does it cost?  (You should be asking “What value does your solution bring?”)
  •  What features does your system have? (Better to ask “How will your technology help us reach our goals?”)
  • How many clients do you have? (Better: “How do most of your clients partner with your company?”)

So, how can we get readers asking the right questions so we can offer the right answers? One way is to let some of your other customers provide the answers before the questions are even asked, say the authors of Tips and Traps for Marketing Your Business. Testimonials showing how your technology (or your product or your service) helped other clients reach their goals offer the right answer even if the reader, absent your blog post, might have asked one of those wrong questions Hammer lists.

What’s more, while question-answer is actually a very good format for presenting information to online readers, there’s actually no need to wait until readers actually write in questions.  Every practitioner hears questions from clients; every business owner fields customer queries daily. Sharing some of those – both Hammer’s “right” ones and the ones he thinks are “wrong” -  can remind readers of challenges they face and issues they’ve had with their current providers of products and services.

“Right’ answers make for great business blog content writing!

 

 

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It's All in the Title in Blogging for Business

For novelists, a lot goes into a title.  It’s how they relate to their work-in-progress, their baby, for months to come, observes WritersDigest.com . We blog content writers, of course, aren’t given months to agonize over the title of any one blog post. Still, titles are crucial in capturing the interest of both search engines and online searchers.

There are two basic categories of blog titles, we’ve found at Say It For You. The first simply conveys what content readers should expect to find in the post or article. That type of title is not “cutesy” or particularly engaging, but can be highly effective in business blogging because it’s short and to the point and uses keyword phrases that match up with what a reader may have typed into the search bar. The second category of arouses readers’ curiosity, but gives only the barest hint of the content to follow.  A compromise I teach is to use a combination of a “Huh?” title to get attention and then an “Oh!” subtitle to make clear what the post is actually going to be about.

Thomas Umstattd advises authors to use the title to describe not the content of the article, but the value readers can expect to find in the content, making a case for why readers ought to even bother reading on.

In “Title Trauma”, Cindy Callaghan of Writer’s Digest offers a few “outside-the-box” avenues writers can explore for creating captivating titles.

  1. The Free Dictionary website offers common figurative phrases.
  2. Alliteration.  Say you’re writing about a hair salon in Carmel.  Look for descriptive words beginning with C.   “Captivating Curl in Carmel“ might become your title.
  3. Use song titles that express the idea you’re writing about.
  4. Use word switcheroos: “Come up with a well-known phrase or slogan, and swap in your keyword, Callaghan advises. She used “What happens in London stays in London.”

The best writing and titling assistance of all for novelists, suggests Callaghan, is the kind that comes from a critique group or writing partner. Of course, the ideal situation for freelance blog content writers is where there’s an approval process.  Assuming you’re in the much more common situation of being your own editor, reading over the post in “Preview” mode, all formatted and ready for publishing, increases your chances of finding your own mistakes before anyone else does.

Pay particular attention to those crucial  5-12 words in the title. After all, you want business blog readers to do just that!

 

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Questions to Kickstart Your Blog Writing

Often, writers will do interviews to gain background information for an article or a novel, and WritersDigest.com offers a great list of questions to get those interviewees talking. The answers to those questions, I think, make for exactly the kind of content most likely to humanize business blog posts, revealing the real people behind the pages of a business’ or a practice’s website.

As a content writer, you’re after the story behind the page, I teach in corporate blogging training sessions:

  • What were your goals when you began your business/practice/organization?
  • What helped you make up your mind to do it?
  • What obstacles did you face?
  • How did you find solutions to those obstacles?

Skillful business blog writing reveals the person behind the page:

  • Why is your work important?
  • What have you accomplished that makes you most proud?
  • What mistakes did you make and what did you learn from those mistakes?

Two of the "Four P's of Business Blogging", after all, are passion and personality. In business blog posts, as compared to brochures, ads, or even the website, it's easier to communicate the unique personality and core beliefs of the business owners.  Over time, in fact, a business blog becomes the "voice" of the corporate culture, whether the "corporation" (or partnership or LLC) consists of one person or many.

It’s important for readers to understand the opinion behind the page:

  • How do you see the future bringing changes in your industry or professional?
  • What are the biggest concerns you and your competitors must deal with now?

Prospective clients and customers want to sense leadership, to “meet” business owners and professionals who have strong opinions about important issues in their field.

As blog content writer interviewers, we really asking all those questions on behalf of online readers, helping them feel good about making the decision to deal with our clients.

Interview questions are a great way to kickstart blog writing!

 

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Business Blogs Can Be Sporks and Foons

There’s more than one important way in which small business owners’ or professional practitioners’ business blogging efforts can have a disproportionately large effect on their marketing results. Blogs, in other words, can be sporks.

A spork, you remember (sporks can also be called “foons”) is an eating utensil that combines the scoop of a spoon with the tines of a fork. Actually (when I train corporate blog writers, I advise being alert for tidbits like this to help explain products and services), sporks are not a new invention.  Patents for fork-spoon combinations have been registered since 1874, and the term “spork” appeared in a dictionary in 1909.

As applied to blog content writing, “sporkiness” is expressed by the ability of business blogs to serve multiple marketing purposes. If you’re a business owner or professional practitioner, that “sporky” quality is there whether you do the blog writing by yourself, have your entire team participate, or collaborate with a professional ghost partner. The content in the blog posts will be one way of continually forcing yourself to think through and reinvent your business brand.

For example, as shortcutblogging explains, blogging can focus on gaining new customers or on deepening the relationship with your current customers.  There are four reasons, authors Dave Young and Paul Boomer say, any business should be blogging:
 

1. To create authority and credibility
“A blog provides a platform to stand on and show the world you know what you’re talking about.”

2. Relate-ability
“Blog readers are human and like to do business with people who have a personality.”

3. Search engine results
“The search engines love content. Period.”

4. Repurposing content
“A smart business never duplicates work and will turn past blog posts into books, white papers, presentations, etc.”

Make no mistake – all business and practices are generating content and doing it all the time. Letters? Content.  Email to customers and suppliers (and from customers and suppliers)? Content.  Brochures and flyers? Content. Instructions for product use? Content.  Power Point presentations and DVD/s? Content.  Radio and TV advertising copy? Content.  You get the idea…All that content can be re-purposed into blog posts. And, even more important for our discussion today) – all those blog posts from months and years ago (all still residing on the Internet) can be repurposed into emails, ads, letters, and videos.

Are you sporking and fooning with business blog content? You should be!

 

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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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