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Irrelevant. Dull. Long. Tedious. These are the words that make bloggers’ blood run cold. They’re also the words that mean your blog posts aren’t doing their job.
Blog writing is hard, but it needn’t be a useless endeavor. Done properly, blogs can be an effective and inexpensive marketing tool; in fact, we’ve proved that they can drive web traffic, increase engagement, and even improve ROI.
So how do you build a blog and write posts that develop customer relationships and keep readers coming back for more?
Here are the top reasons why your blog may not be working and what you can do about it.
Mistake #1: You create thinly veiled product pitches
Product pitches have no place in a corporate blog. I know this sounds harsh, but I’ll tell you why. First let me acknowledge that it’s natural for companies to want to pitch their products in this way. But let me also say that your audience is not looking for product information when they go to your blog; they have your website, datasheets, and product documentation for that.
Solution: Write a soft sell around your product.
Here’s a colorful example I like. Imagine you are dating online. Which message would resonate better with you?
A: I’m awesome. I’m good looking. Come on over.
B: You like this TV show, too? Who’s your favorite character?
Chances are the answer is B, which is the online dating equivalent of a soft sell. It focuses on building relationships and trust. And it’s the much better way to go with your blog.
It’s more effective to position your company as a helpful resource by writing posts that are of interest to your target audience. If the topic isn’t too far from your product, they will make the connection. Even if they don’t (which is highly unlikely), they are reading content on your website, so the connection is essentially being made for them.
Mistake #2: You do not serve your audience
For your blog post to resonate with your target audience, you must always keep them at the forefront of your mind throughout the entire process – from thinking about topics to writing a conclusion. What would they like to know? How can you help with their pain points and challenges? You simply cannot write about something that interests only you.
Solution: Give your audience something of value.
Your audience should walk away from your posts knowing something they didn’t already – this could be discovering a helpful resource like an application that crowd sources impressions on your LinkedIn profile pic or an opinion on a new way of seeing an old problem like the Apple-GM EV battle. They could also walk away having been entertained for a few minutes of their day.
Your audience is not looking for product information when they go to your blog; they have your website, datasheets, and product documentation for that.
Mistake #3: Your writing is too formal
A blog post is not a thesis or even a term paper. It doesn’t need the formality that academia requires and need not follow the same strict grammar rules. Unfortunately, most people’s writing experience harkens back to these days.
Solution: Write like you talk.
A blog post should be conversational. This means you shouldn’t try to write like a writer. It’s good to use contractions. It’s even OK to start a sentence with a conjunction – crazy I know. Try to use simple language and always use the first person. People want to know that they are reading a real person’s actual words. And an approachable person at that.
Mistake #4: You go off on a number of tangents
It’s very easy to lose your focus when writing just about anything other than a post-it note. Once you start exploring a topic, you’ll realize that there are many ways to slice an onion and many rabbit holes to jump down.
Solution: Keep your focus.
Try to explore several points to support your main subject but realize that this post need not be a comprehensive guide on your topic. Others have likely covered it and many more will. Focus on what’s important to your audience and don’t try to solve world peace at the same time.
You shouldn’t try to write like a writer. Instead, write like a person.
Mistake #5: Your post is a brain dump
It’s easy when you get a great idea for a blog post to then sit down and let the words flow freely. This stream-of-consciousness writing is rarely a good idea as it too often creates a rambling post that will likely not be easy to read.
Solution: Give your post some structure.
Sit down to write with a structure in mind. First decide on the type of post you want to do – a how-to, a list, an opinion piece, and so-on. Then create an outline – what’s your subject and what are the key take-aways you want your audience to get from your post? Create a working title based on your subject and section headers based on your main points. (You may want to use other headers too, but this is a great place to start.) You’ll be amazed at how this basic structure can make a world of difference. No more rambling and no more pointless deep dives. Suddenly, your post becomes easier to write and more enjoyable to read.
Mistake #6: Your claims are unsubstantiated
Whenever you write about something, you’ll likely be writing from experience. This said, you still need to substantiate your claims. Which sounds better?
- We received a good open rate.
- We received a 43 percent open rate when the industry average is 15 to 20.
Solution: Use real numbers and external links to support your claims.
Using fact and figures is always powerful. It not only gives your writing some color, it makes your claims far more real. Quoting other reputable sources also gives your argument some much-needed clout. If this were not enough to convince you, Google rewards content that links-out to authoritative sites with better search rankings.
You’ll be amazed at how a basic structure can make a world of difference. Suddenly, your post becomes easier to write and more enjoyable to read.
Mistake #7: You attempt to capture leads
Putting your blog posts behind a form is a mistake. You want to make it easy for people to read your posts. You cannot build relationships and trust when you withhold information in this way; people will simply refuse to engage. It’s like asking someone to marry you before your first date.
Covering your posts with a form and numerous calls-to-action is a similar no-no. People will be confused as to where to look and what to do. Pop-ups are even more cringe worthy. You know those boxes that slide in from the bottom right and obscure what you are reading or those overlays that pop-up when you are trying to exit a page? Unfortunately, pop-ups seem to be everywhere these days. In fact, they have become so prevalent (and annoying) that Google has started to penalize websites that use what they call “intrusive interstitials”.
Solution: Build relationships.
Having a CTA on each blog post is a best practice. You want to gently guide people to their next step. Have one CTA that refers people to a valuable piece of relevant content (which can be behind a form if it’s something substantial). Also ask readers if they would like to receive your newsletter. Both are perfectly acceptable so long as they are non-intrusive and non-distracting. Whatever you do, focus on cultivating relationships with your readers; don’t continually badger them to engage.
Mistake #8: You blog inconsistently
As previously mentioned, blogging is hard work. It’s difficult to continually think of topics that will both interest your audience and where you have some expertise. It then takes time and discipline to write posts regularly. But blogging inconsistently, while better than not doing it at all, does not form a bond with your audience and keep it alive. It also doesn’t keep your name top-of-mind. You can’t treat blogging as a hobby or side project.
Solution: Commit to a schedule.
There’s really no secret to blogging consistently other than committing to it like you would to a customer. One of our strategies at Third Law is to keep a running tally of ideas – jot them down when you think of them. Another best practice is to create an editorial calendar. Set aside some time and come up with ideas for a full quarter – or longer. Then you’re not stuck with a looming deadline and no ideas to write about. Not that we know anything about that.
It’s never too late to change
Whenever I go to a website for the first time, I go to the blog section. This tells me reams about a company’s marketing practice and even its marketing culture. What I see is typically disturbing: graveyards of forgotten posts and inappropriate content. When I check out the dates on the articles many of them are very old. What started out as a consistent endeavor slowly tapered off to “ever-so-often” and then to “not-at-all”. Or worse yet, to “whenever the company wants to promote its agenda”.
If most of the articles on your blog look something like, “Join us this June at TU to see our product demo”, I know immediately what’s wrong.
If this sounds like your company’s blog, it’s time to act. You need to avoid these common blogging mistakes to breathe new life into your content with topics that matter to your audience. This admittedly requires some trial and error, and you may not always hit the mark, but you’ll get a lot closer to it.