You can build a good, solid flow of regular visitors to your website with the help of a well-written blog. This makes them a useful tool, no matter what you’re trying to do online.
So it seems worthwhile outlining how to create a useful blog.
If you’re looking to get people coming back to your site again and again, there are a few essential guidelines to follow.
1. Consistency is key. People want something regular to read every week or month. No one is going to come back frequently to a site where hardly anything is ever published on the odd chance they might be lucky. Once you have a consistent blog up and running, you can reinforce it with a regular email to get your content into people’s inboxes and bring them back.
2. Get the reader engaged by informing or entertaining them. Ideally, do a little of both. Be informative to show that you’re a reliable and knowledgeable authority in your field. Meanwhile, an entertaining blog lets readers know you are approachable.
3. Think about what the readers want. You may be bored and stressed from a busy week, or your kids may be driving you mad, but readers of a professional blog don’t care about that. Tell them about current affairs they will be interested in, give them advice they can use or work hard to entertain them.
Planning and Inspiration
The big part of writing that many people skip happens before pen touches paper (or finger touches keyboard). That is planning.
Plan who you want to talk to, what points you want to make, how you want to tie it all together and how you want to lay it out (more on that below). This ensures that your blog will send the right messages and work effectively as a promotional tool. A good plan also saves time in the long-run by turning your writing from a process of fumbling in the dark to a quick and easy walk in the park.
Going backward, more planning can help even more. Make a blogging calendar and you can plan your topics in a structured way so there are no gaps in your narrative or repetitions within a short space of time.
If you’re ever lacking inspiration, there are loads of places to get it from:
Industry magazines, sites and blogs – Endless fonts of knowledge.
Clients – I get a lot of my ideas from people I do work for. You can answer the questions they’ve asked or even feature them in your blog with permission.
Regular occurrences – Events from International Women’s day to Christmas provide opportunities for a fresh perspective on things.
Competitors – What are they talking about? More importantly – what are they not talking about that you can be?
Current affairs – Plenty of inspiration is offered by everything from niche industry news to the headlines of the day.
Trends – Find out what’s hot in your sphere with the help of Google, social media or other online forums.
Your experiences – Your own work could be informative and interesting for your clients. Write about how you overcame a challenge or succeeded in a big way this week.
What you write your blogs about is often a matter of personal taste, but there are some important guidelines I can lay out here for you.
First, if you’re blogging for a particular purpose – such as to sell something or raise awareness – keep the content relevant. Blogs work best to build up your authority in a field when they are hitting the core points and answering the core questions in that field. They also work best to sell products and services when they cover topics related to those things.
Don’t worry about keeping ideas and information back for your paying clients. Everything you put out there is something that could bring in a new customer. Remember, what goes around, comes around. Here are some great examples of topical, interesting blogs:
Gary Vaynerchuk’s blog is the ultimate authority builder. It has turned him into a wine guru and one of the biggest voices in marketing with millions of subscriptions to his ‘exclusive content’ lead magnet. More on this later.
The Squeeze Magazine is a brilliant (and well named) juice company blog that goes beyond talking about the brand to cover all aspects of health. The recipes and tips interspersed with high-class articles sell the product without the reader even noticing.
Match styles to your audience but generally keep it as simple as possible with a bit of formality and professionalism. While it’s often okay to use an apostrophe instead of writing out “it is” all the time, u shud avoid using things lyk txt lingo (unless you’re trying to be ironic). Words like ‘mate’ or ‘darling’ are bad ideas too unless you’re in a 1970s pub.
A good all-round approach is to stick to the kind of language you would use in a client presentation. That keeps things on the straight-and-narrow but allows for a little tailoring. For instance, an accountant would be far more formal in a presentation than a DJ.
One of the few set-in-stone rules is avoid jargon. Even in the most technical of businesses, this is a turn-off for a reader who is giving their time to read your material. If it doesn’t confuse them, it will make you sound pretentious and condescending. If you really must throw around a few technical terms, explain them before you start using them. This is doubly true for the terrifying TLA (three letter acronym).
This brings us back around to keeping things simple. Aim to suit a young reading age and you can speak to most of your readership. Go the other way and you will start to put some of them off. Don’t worry about sounding like a simpleton. A good writer or a passionate enthusiast will sound just as good in simple terms as in complex ones.
Ernest Hemmingway is a good example of an incredibly simplistic writer. The software that bears his name – Hemmingway – is actually a great way to maintain a simple and attractive style. I’d recommend it to any blogger who wants to reach a wide audience.
Looking through your blog, users will probably come to the most recent one first and then scroll backward through time. This doesn’t help the user to access the information they want, and it could mean that your best work gets lost after a few weeks.
Sorting blogs into different categories or topical tags lets users find the blogs they want or are interested in more easily. This will increase the number of people coming to your blogs, the length of time they stay on your page and the likelihood they will return.
Within each category, you can also sort your blogs so that the most popular is at the top. If it’s working for your readers, then keep sending them to it.
Lastly, it’s always a good idea to keep the on-site previews of your blog small so that more can be seen by readers at one time.
Promoting Your Blog
There are many, many ways you can promote your blog. You can pair it up with a regular email shot giving people samples of what you have to say. These two methods both feed into each other brilliantly with people signing up for the email from the blog and then coming back to the blog from the email.
Lead magnets are generally the best way to get people to sign up for the email. Offer readers something like a free guide or voucher in return for their sign-up and watch the subscriptions roll in. Find out more here.
While we’re on the subject, linking between your blogs is another good way to bring in and keep your readers.
Social media offers another great way to get your blog out there. Link back to your articles, give the public a taster, talk to people and bring in the masses.
Remember to tag your blogs, write a description and aim to get a few relevant keywords for your site in there in order to climb the search engine rankings.
Calls to action and selling
Calls to action – requests for the reader to do something like buy a product or sign up for something – are a point of contention. Put in too few and you miss the sales chances your blog generates, but too many and too strong can put the reader off.
I like to put a good one or two at the end of my blog – preferably ones that are relevant and genuinely interesting to my readers. That ensures sales chances are converted without scaring readers off.
I hope these suggestions are useful to you. Happy blogging!