You’ve successfully set up your company blog. But now what?
You create great content for your blog, of course! The content of your blog is the magnet that pulls readers and potential customers to you.
The content is also what puts you on the Google search results, which drives organic traffic to you.
You can have the most expensive, most well-designed, the flashiest blog on the planet, but without great content, your blog is still doomed to fail.
Research is the key
Would you write an essay or a novel without first doing some research? Of course not! So why skip the research phase when writing a blog?
Research is essential to blogging. It helps you to understand your niche and target audience better and allows you to tailor your blog’s layout, tone, and content.
Moreover, you’ll need to continue to research the development of your niche, the shifting priorities of your audience, and the subject of each of your blog posts.
Do your research, and you will build a strong reputation as a reliable source, possibly even an authority, within your niche.
Keyword research is often linked to SEO or search engine optimisation, and this can be an intimidating concept for new bloggers.
Both keyword research and SEO are a lot simpler than they seem (we’ve written a guide on this).
It doesn’t matter how well written and engaging your posts are if nobody can find them. People need to be linked to your blog via search engine results when they search for related keywords.
To make this happen, you must ensure that search engines can easily identify the topic of your blog and each post title. This is what will stimulate traffic to your blog.
Once readers arrive, your well-written and engaging content can convert them into dedicated readers.
First, you need to identify the words people are using to search for topics in your niche.
If you run a pet store business, using “hound” as a keyword means you will probably miss out on all the traffic the word “dog” receives. Keyword research helps you identify the language your target audience uses to talk about your topic.
If you are using the same words or phrases they are to discuss a topic, they will feel more engaged with your content and will be more likely to visit your blog.
Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
Words are powerful; the right words are unstoppable!
But, how do you discover the right words to use? In the past, marketers underwent long processes of surveying consumers and collating results. But now, dedicated keyword research tools, available online, making modern keyword research simple.
These tools work by analysing the terms and phrases people type into search engines like Yahoo, Bing, and Google.
They can show you how popular a word or phrase is at a given time compared to its popularity in the past.
You can use the results to compare the popularity of one topic to another, including near-synonyms, like “hound” and “dog.”
Google AdWords also has a great Keyword Research Tool, and it offers limited access for free. More advanced tools and resources, including some functions of the Google Keyword Tool, require a subscription fee.
The Keyword Research Tool should be enough for most keyword research needs. It’s easy to use and will provide enough information to start optimising your posts and headlines.
If you become more serious about blogging further down the line, it may be worth investing in paid software that offers advanced features.
Checking out the competition
When creating content for your blog, you should always strive for originality.
But having said that, doing a bit of blogger espionage is always a good idea.
Use your keyword research to find sites within your niche. Take a look at the top results and thoroughly study any competing blogs.
See what topics they’re writing about, and store the ideas for future reference. Note the way these bloggers write and think about how you can write about similar topics in different and unique ways.
You’ll want to write down the topics down into a list, as they’ll also be useful later. Many bloggers keep a list of potential content ideas, which is sometimes known as a “swipe file.”
A swipe file is not something for you to copy and paste and get instant ideas, but for you to get inspired for your own blog.
These could include good blog posts you strive to match, pictures that inspire you, or articles you can use as sources for your next post.
It’s crucial that you learn to recognise what makes a blog post successful, and why. Don’t just look at posts you enjoy: seek out posts that have been read and shared numerous times.
For example, try looking at posts that appear on the front page of Medium, or posts that have received thousands of upvotes on Reddit. Try to identify what makes them popular.
Think about the following factors such as the storytelling angle that appeal to the audience, the language, the type of complementary media that is used (such as video or photos, and how the post is structured to form a cohesive article.
If you’re struggling to identify what makes a post effective, try looking at the comments. Readers will often talk about the details that they find compelling.
You can also look through the comments to see what issues the readers can identify in the article so you can avoid making the same mistakes.
Inspiration is like air. It’s all around us every day, but we don’t notice it.
Most of us think that our daily lives don’t seem all that thrilling.
But for any good writer or blogger, an entertaining and informative blog post idea comes to them even from the most mundane of ordinary activities, such as buying a sandwich or walking the dog.
One of the best ways for writers to find inspiration and improve their writing skills is to pick something up and just read.
Set aside an hour or two daily to do some reading. You can read a new book, or read your favourite blog/ news site.
As you continue to identify and learn from effective writing techniques, try venturing into reading territory you have not explored before.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Special interest groups and forums: Discussion forums that for specific interests, such as Reddit subforums are a great source of blogging ideas.
Look at the discussion threads that are trending and has a ton of replies. These are usually the ones that make good content ideas for your blog.
If your business has a Facebook page, look at what your followers are asking in the comments. Or ask them what they wish to learn.
- Quora: Quora is a place where users ask questions, and people who are qualifies to answer replies to their queries. Watch for questions that have a ton of followers and are within your niche. Use these questions as a jumping-off point for your blog post topic.
- Amazon: Did you know Amazon is a research goldmine? Whether it’s research for your target market, or for your content, you can easily find what you need without spending a cent.
Check out the bestselling books in your niche. Read their reviews and see what the reviewers love or hate about the book. Or better yet, if the book has a free preview, look at the contents page.
The content page tells you how the book is structured. Use the headline of each chapter to get inspiration about what to write next.
- Magazines and other publications within your niche: You’ve probably already read extensively into your industry, but having a keen eye towards the writing style of other writers can help you identify new ideas.
Deciding on style and tone of your blog
Blog posts aren’t like college essays or work memos—they’re an independent medium, and the medium is a significant factor in determining the style and tone of your writing.
Just as you won’t send an email to a close friend using the same language and tone as you’d use to write a complaint to a service company, your blog writing should ideally be distinct from other forms of writing that you currently engage in.
The general rule of thumb is that blogs are conversational in tone. Your blog should develop an ongoing conversation between you and your readers.
Because blogging is more intimate, even corporate and business blogs will adopt a friendly, casual tone, to give the organisation a human point of contact.
Therefore, consumers develop trust towards your business, and feel like they are interacting with a real person rather than a faceless entity.
While corporate blogs may remain slightly more formal than personal ones (including fewer personal experiences and anecdotes, and more technical language), their purpose is the same as any other blog – That is to build a community of readers.
In today’s world of short attention span and skim-reading, readers will simply leave a blog where the posts take too much time and effort to understand.
Here are some other valuable tips about having the right tone in a blog post:
- Avoid specialist terminology and complicated vocabulary if possible, unless you are targeting a particular audience you know will understand it (and you aren’t concerned about alienating those who do not).
If you’re using words that you do not use in real life, chances are they are words your readers will not use or understand. No one will read a post if they need a codex to decipher.
If it is necessary to include specialist terms, include definitions alongside to make things easier on your readers.
- Be friendly - You’re trying to start a conversation with people, so you want them to feel comfortable. Imagine yourself as the person that everyone wants to talk to at a party—pleasant, entertaining and able to hold the listeners’ attention.
- It’s not about you, it’s about them - Even though the blog belongs to your business, you should avoid posts that only talk about how great your business
While this doesn’t mean you should never talk about yourself, you should avoid coming across as overly egocentric. After all, no one likes that person who’s all “me, me, me.”
- Inject positivity into your writing - Getting people to smile or laugh makes them more likely to remember your blog.
A positive emotional reaction enhances your readers’ experience, lifting the words from the page into their own emotional realm.
You’ll realise your message cuts right across and straight into your readers’ minds.
- Don’t try to hard-sell - Readers can tell if you’re forcing a sales pitch down their throats and it will make them uncomfortable. The key is to help them make a buying decision through trust, not manipulation.
Style and tone should come across as natural when you first start writing you may even find yourself changing your style.
In writing, that’s called ‘finding your writing voice.’ The more you write, the more natural your voice will become, and before you know it, it becomes second nature.
Unique content that is different
Being unique can be a challenge for new blogs, but uniqueness is the winning ingredient that sets the good blogs apart from the rest.
Nobody wants to read about something that they can simply google and get thousands of answers in just seconds. If your blog becomes another place with cookie-cutter content, no one is going to pay attention.
While it can be difficult to have unique topics, tone, or even opinions, the easiest way to be unique is to simply talk about your own experiences.
Your experience is uniquely your own. While the same incident (an accident, a party celebration, or even a business transaction) can happen to 2 or more people, your thoughts and emotions can be totally different from the others.
This is how you create uniqueness in your content– by using your own thoughts and opinions. Your blog’s uniqueness is something that needs to come from your own uniqueness as a business, or as a person.
Popular types of blog posts
Even when you are clear about your topic, it can be challenging to communicate your information in a way that readers will enjoy reading.
A suitable format can be a big help in getting your message and information across.
Here are some basic descriptions and examples of popular blog post formats:
Listicles:A list post can be a list of absolutely anything. Aggregate posts consist of a list of links, usually to a list of resources that are highly recommended.
Another type of favourite listicle post is the “list of reasons” - Why you shouldn’t buy a brand new car, why you shouldn’t hire a cheap web designer, why cheese is good for your health. The number of items is usually cited in the post title.
The humour site Cracked.com publishes many list posts on topics ranging from movies to health, with several unique titles.
“How to” posts: This is a surefire content winner if you pick something that people want and need to know how to do.
It directly addresses an issue that, by the end of the post, will be resolved (if you write clear instructions, that is).
eHow.com is a website dedicated to “how to” articles that address all aspects of life. Youtube is also a great source of ‘how to’ information.
Reviews:Blog posts that review products or services. Reviews are popular because many consumers nowadays don’t just walk into a store and choose what the salesperson recommends.
They do their own research online, reading user reviews before deciding which item to buy.
So if you can give unbiased reviews that are enjoyable to read, then your readers will love your blog.
Hot topics posts:These are usually served best when you have a strong argument on trending topics that are relevant to your niche.
For example, if you are in the car business and you are strongly against electric vehicles, you can write about your views in a blog post.
You can also address and potentially rebut counter-arguments to strengthen your position. A debate post doesn’t have to come to a decisive conclusion one way or the other; it can express both or several sides of an issue.
Narrative posts: Narrative posts are shared on personal blogs. They tell a story, often beginning with sentences like “The other day I…” or “Something happened last week….” They can tell a story about something that has happened or is happening to you, or you can share a story told to you by a friend or even something overheard in the grocery store.
Narrative posts can be a little trickier to sell, as the benefit to the reader isn’t immediately obvious.
But if you write them well, they are the best type of posts to hook readers in. The story should ideally reveal a relevant lesson for your readers.
The important thing in a narrative post is to keep your readers entertained and hooked. Make them care what happens next, and keen to know how the story ends.
Unless your blog will be dedicated to one type of post (for example, a “how to” blog, like eHow), it’s good to try and mix up the kinds of posts you publish.
Writing tips and techniques
There’s a popular quote among writers: “Easy reading is damned hard writing.”
Simple writing is a paradox: it’s the easiest to understand, but often the most difficult to produce.
People do not want to waste time and energy deciphering one post out of the millions published every day.
If they do not get the gist quickly, they’ll lose interest, and you’ll lose a reader.
Keep reminding them of what’s in it for them, and stay focused. If you go off-topic, you will stray into territory your readers do not care about, and they’ll be gone.
Let’s look at some primary areas of writing, language, and layout that will help you to communicate your message and keep your readers hooked.
Sentences, structure, and spacing
The easiest way to keep your writing fast-paced and straightforward and use short, digestible sentences.
Complicated, difficult-to-read sentences don’t necessarily make great writing.
When using longer sentences, make sure the meaning is clear and that they are framed by short sentences to maintain the pace.
If you’re aiming for a narrative style post, try using longer sentences for slower moments and shorter sentences for dramatic ones.
Similarly, you should avoid paragraphs of long sentences, or your article will look like a wall of text that will cause the casual reader to leave your blog almost immediately.
Adding space between paragraphs and leaving areas of the screen blank is called ‘adding white space.’ Interspersing your posts with a reasonable amount of white space makes them more comfortable for readers to scan.
There are other techniques you can use to break up the page, such as bullet points and numbered lists.
Specificity and credibility
Specificity is an essential part of blog writing. If you are trying to get an opinion across to your readers, then you’ll need statistics, references and testimonials will help convince readers.
These information helps to put you as a reliable source of information and encourage them to keep coming back for more.
Use examples to make readers understand your point. Your description of an event or emotional experience should be specific enough for the reader to picture it vividly in his or her mind.
This deepens the reader’s engagement with your content.
Try appealing to multiple senses by describing sounds and smells, as well as sights.
Though being specific is important, remember not to bore your readers to death with a story about every single mundane detail. Details should enhance your posts, not drag them down.
Clever use of repetition and comparisons
Repetition isn’t always a bad thing. When used well, repetition can be a powerful, persuasive device.
Start by stating the point directly, and then reinforce it with an example from a story or anecdote.
Use an analogy to make the point clearer.
Back it up with a quote from a notable figure. At the end of the post, summarise the point concisely to make sure your readers have really gotten the message.
Using techniques like metaphors, similes, and analogies can help reiterate critical points in exciting ways.
Analogies, in particular, are great ways of breaking down complicated information in a way readers can easily understand. Remember, always show, not tell.
Using these techniques, you engage your readers’ imaginations in a way that involves them in the experience you are describing.
Focusing on the reader
The readers are the most important focus of your posts—make them feel special, as if you are talking directly to them.
Do this by shifting the focus toward your target audience, and away from you.
Adopt a 2nd person perspective by using “you” instead of “I” and “me.”
A great way to make sure that the focus of your posts swings back to the reader is to shoot an exit question at the end of your post.
Don’t be afraid to ask your readers what they think and ask for comments. You can also ask questions throughout your posts, stimulating your readers’ minds as they mull over the answers.
Length of posts
The proper length of a blog post is often a topic of debate.
While most experts recommend a minimum of 2000 to 2500 words in a post, you shouldn’t worry about this too much when you are actually writing.
It’s always much more important to be able to express your thoughts and ideas fully, without stressing about how long your post will be.
If you feel that your article is too long, you can always cut your posts down into 2 or more articles.
Brevity alone does not impress readers; good writing does. As a general rule of thumb, though, if you can say it in fewer words, do.
A good blog post is able to discuss the topic in a concise and blogging is a medium ideally suited to brevity.
A strong argument doesn’t need thousands of words to make its point. Get into the habit of cutting words that are extraneous, unnecessary, or superfluous.
Using pictures and other media
While you don’t want to detract from your writing with loads of images and a busy layout, placing carefully curated media can add a lot to your blog post.
Pictures are the ideal choice, and if you use them effectively, they will complement your content rather than distract from it. By utilising images, you engage more of your reader’s brain.
An image you include in a post will be used as the main header image when it is shared on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
That means bold, beautiful images are more likely to grab attention. There are all kinds of different images you can choose to include in your posts.
Graphs and charts can be used to back up an argument and make statistical information easy to understand. If you’re reviewing a product, it’s logical to include a product image or two. Literal images are best when representing something specific, while abstract images evoke thoughts and emotions.
You may worry about copyright infringement when adding pictures to your posts. Public domain images are free images you can use without crediting the source or paying a fee.
For a comprehensive list of resources, check out the Wikipedia Public Domain Image Resources page. There are also many paid image resource sites where you can purchase higher quality, hard to find images, such as Getty Images and Shutterstock.
To play it totally safe, pick up a camera and shoot your own photos, or open up your paint program and draw your own pictures.
When you do add an image or two to your blog posts, you should add captions to. Like bullet points, they help the reader scan through the article quickly.
You can also use it to insert a witty comment or elaborate on specific details presented in the image.
Nowadays, there are also many blogs that use videos and animated GIFs instead of pictures. These are great options, but they may affect the viewing experience for your reader since they take a longer time to load.
Let’s face it – Your business is not going to win more customers if people don’t even know that your business exists.
And while you can let people know about your business through advertising or word-of-mouth, blogging is one of the most cost-effective ways of reaching out to your market through Google.
Also, one of the great things about blogging is that it gives you an opportunity to show off what you know.
Once your client finds you via a Google search, your blog can help to validate your expertise as you share all the information you know for free.
Blogging is an investment of time that keeps giving back in the long run. So dedicate some time and resources to running a successful blog, and you’ll see your returns in the future.
About Murray Dare
A digital marketing consultant and entrepreneur,
Murray runs his marketing agency Murraydare.co.uk and several online startups.
Murray has helped startups and businesses achieve online success through a considered approach to marketing.