In a phone call yesterday, a prospect explained to me why her organization was looking for a new blog writer. It seems they had been working with a writer who just couldn’t nail the blog writing format.
“He’s a really good writer and he does a great job on whitepapers,” the prospect said. “But it’s taking multiple rounds of revisions to get the blogs right, and even then, we’re not real happy with them.” She said it has been taking up to three months for them to get one blog written and posted. Ouch!
Art and Science of Blogs
This got me thinking about the art and science of writing blogs. Yes, the writing style for a blog is different from the writing style for a whitepaper, website, brochure, newsletter or any other kind of marketing writing, as my prospect pointed out.
But what exactly is blog writing style? And how can you improve your blog writing? Here are 5 tips to help you write better blogs:
1. Remember why you’re writing the blog. Most marketers write blogs in order to get fresh content up on their websites regularly and position themselves and/or their companies as thought leaders and subject matter experts. When done well, blogs can help educate customers and prospects, build brand awareness and generate quality leads.
If you’re a marketer, you might be thinking “Duh” right now. I include this fairly basic tip because I see so many blogs that don’tseem to have a purpose — other than trying to sell something. Which brings me to my second tip.
2. Don’t try to sell with your blog. This is by far the biggest mistake most marketing bloggers make. Your blog is not — I repeat not— the vehicle for selling yourself or your products. Instead, it’s a vehicle for sharing valuable information, thoughts and ideas to help your customers and prospects solve problems or do their jobs better.
“But why would I give away information?” you might be thinking. “If I do, people won’t hire me.” The idea is to share just enough information so that readers reap value from your content without “giving away the store,” so to speak. When you strike the right balance, readers will see that you are the true expert in your field and they probably need to hire you instead of doing it themselves.
3. Write a great headline and lead. Now to the nitty-gritty of blog writing, which starts (where else?) at the beginning with your headline and lead. If you don’t nail this, nothing else you’ve written matters — because nobody’s going to read it. In fact, while 80% of blog readers read the headline, only 20% read the actual blog content, noted a recent post on Wishpond.com.
Plenty has been written about writing great headlines and leads, including the Wishpond blog, so I won’t get into it here. My point: Don’t neglect this critical part of your blog.
4. Get to the point quickly. This was one of the big problems the prospect I spoke with had with her writer. “It just takes him too long to get to the main point of what the blog is about,” she said. “As a result, very few people are reading our blogs.”
Blog aren’t the place for long, flowery, creative leads. Assuming you’ve written a headline that at least gets your readers into the first paragraph, you’ve now got a few precious seconds at best to draw them into the meat of the blog. So make it easy for readers to understand right away what the blog is about and why they should continue reading.
5. Make your copy “scannable.” According to Problogger.com, only 16% of people read online copy word for word. Instead, most people scan the page for words, phrases or headings that grab their attention — so you need to make sure your blog copy is scannable.
What do I mean by scannable? Break things up to create “breathing room” by including bulleted and numbered lists and plenty of subheads. Use formatting like boldface, italics and underline to emphasize key points. Also use pictures, borders, boxes and other graphics to create visual interest on the screen.
Bonus tip: Inject some of your personality into the blog. Remember that your blog is not a research paper or thesis so it doesn’t have to be stuffy and dry or full of citations and footnotes. Write in a casual, friendly tone that lets some of your personality come through.
And don’t be afraid to have an opinion or take a stand. Doing so will generate more reader interest and comments, which can spur online discussions and conversations with your readers.