How to write a brilliant blog post
This month I'm due to deliver training to a client's team at their London office - to help them write brilliant blog posts. I've already written quite a few blogs around the subject of promoting your blog, but when I was creating my presentation and handout for the workshop, I realised I've never really discussed the purpose of a blog or how to craft a brilliant post - one that people will enjoy reading and will share.
Posting regular blogs on your website can be a time consuming task with seemingly very little reward. If you’re questioning why you’re bothering, then read on. I’m here to explain why blogs are such a great marketing tool and to share some essential writing tips.
Why write a blog?
Let’s start by taking a quick look at exactly what a blog post is. Put very simply it is a short, self published, conversational opinion piece that is posted online. Here are four very good reasons why it’s worth investing time in writing regular blogs posts.
A blog will enable you to...
- Demonstrate authority and credibility. You’ll be sharing knowledge that will be useful to your customers and prospects.
- Create a page that can be indexed by Google and will therefore help drive relevant traffic to your website.
- Create content that people can share on social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter, which helps expose your business to a new audience.
- Provide you with material you can use elsewhere in your marketing, such as in a newsletter or an e-book.
What should I write about?
The answer to that question very much hinges on the answer to this next question – who is your audience? Your blogs should cover subjects that will be of interest and of use to your customers and prospects. If you haven’t done so already, I would strongly recommend conducting some customer profiling exercises to ascertain the demographic of your audience – their roles and related interests and pain points. That way you can make sure your blogs address these and appeal to them. Here’s some tips on how to profile your customers.
*Tip - Try to come up with a six month blog schedule so that you’re not scrabbling around for a topic each month. If you know what you’re going to write about each month, then it’s far more likely to happen.
What shouldn’t I write about?
I would strongly recommend you try not to venture into territory that holds no interest to you. Write by this rule of pen – “no fun for the writer = no fun for the reader”. If you’re not interested in the subject, then that will almost definitely come across in your blog. If there’s going to be a team of people blogging in your business, try to divide topics up between them and play to each of their strengths and interests.
How to write a blog
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of how to create a brilliant blog post – one that your audience will enjoy reading and are likely to share. There are some very simple rules to follow. Here goes...
1. Plan your structure
Your blog needs to be effortless to read. That means your audience needs to quickly understand the subject and the purpose of the blog, and easily digest the salient points. That’s why a coherent structure is absolutely essential. Spending time planning the structure will not only help your blog flow nicely, but it also makes the writing process a lot quicker and easier.
What should the structure look like?
- Introduction – This is a short paragraph that introduces the subject of the blog, so the reader can immediately decide whether they’re interested in the subject and want to read on, or not. When you’re writing your introduction think along the lines of this simple formula, “This blog is going to discuss X and you need to read it because Y”.
- Key points – Map out your key points and the order in which you want to address them. Present each point in a separate paragraph
- Conclusion – End with a brief statement that’s reflective of the main, overarching message. Most importantly, include a call to action, such as, ‘read more about this subject in this related blog’; ‘for more industry insights sign up for our newsletter’ or ‘call us for more information’ etc.
2. The title
One of the main reasons for posting blogs is to help with search engine optimisation (SEO) – getting your website up the Google rankings. Your title should therefore contain keywords that a reader will type into Google when searching for material related to your blog post. Again - keep it simple. Clever word plays won’t help with SEO.
*Tip – Don’t sweat over the title. It’s often easier to write the blog first, and leave the title until last.
3. Subheadings and bold text
It’s important to remember that people read very differently online. Think about how you read pages online. You don’t necessarily read from left to right. You’re likely to scan pages rather than read every word. You’re also likely to focus on subheadings, bold text and links. So make sure you break up your blog with relevant subheadings and include keywords in them.
4. Paragraph and sentence structure
Keep sentences and paragraphs short. It helps with readability. An average of 12-15 words per sentence is recommended.
5. Add links
You don’t want your reader to read your blog and then hop off your website and go elsewhere. You want them to take a look around the rest of the site and learn more about your business. That’s why you should always include links to other relevant website pages.
*Tip - When including a link don’t use ‘click here’. Links stand out, so if you reader is skimming the text they will zoom right past the text leading up to the links and focus on the links themselves. If all it says is, “click here” they will have to read back to establish the context and figure out where that link might go. It come back to making your blog effortless to read. Links written with unique and descriptive phrases will really help the reader.
6. Avoid jargon
You might very well be an expert in your field, but you have to remember that your reader probably isn’t. So don’t assume any knowledge. If something is usually abbreviated, write it in full the first time and include the abbreviation in brackets after. You can then use the abbreviation going forward.
7. Tone of voice
Blogs are informal opinion pieces so don’t be afraid to be conversational and to inject some personality and humour into your post.
8. Take the pressure off
Here’s another one of my rules of pen. "Writing Under Pressure = No Fun". Give yourself plenty of time and if possible, remove yourself from all distractions and disturbances. My biggest tip for getting started is this - don't attempt to formulate eloquent and clever sentences initially. Pretend you are having a conversation with a friend and explain to them what you are trying to say - then write it down. The most important thing is to put words on the page – it doesn’t matter how clunky they are, you can always go back and polish them up.
9. Sleep on it
I can pretty much guarantee that if you revisit your blog the day after writing it, you’ll revise it slightly – and always for the better.
*Tip – Print it off and read it. You’ll spot far more typos, word repetitions if you’re not reading it on the screen!
Of course, once you’ve written your brilliant blog, it’s time to promote it to as wide an audience as you can possibly reach. For tips on getting maximum value from your post ready my previous blog, ‘Does your blog have legs?’, and for tips on how to pitch your blog as a guest blog to an editor, read, 'How to successfully pitch blogs and article to editors.’