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“Content Is King”. “Start a blog”. “Leads? You just need to drive traffic to an SEO optimised landing page and capture their emails. Then follow up with a buyer sequence – keep an eye on your dashboard to measure conversions”. What?! Anyone even remotely interested in the world of content, writers especially, will no doubt have heard this cacophony of marketing miscellany time and time again. And you’re supposed to know what it means.
Content – blogging in particular – however confusing, makes the internet go round, businesses grow, and is the one thing that nowadays almost anyone can do. The only issue being, of course, that it takes forever, and it’s not just about writing something good. There are loads of frilly bits that everyone expects but nobody teaches. For free, anyway. Keeping a high quality blog that rides SEO like a surfer pro catches a wave is now a full time job. Or is it?
Don’t get me wrong, blogging is still heavily time consuming if you haven’t got someone to do it for you. But there is a myriad of tools and support out there that will make your blogging life a tonne easier. And because I don’t want anyone to have to spend the mammoth amount of time I have figuring out how to craft a blog that works, I’ve – yup – written a blog about it.
How Successful Blogs Work
Defining ‘successful’ as a blog that boosts your business, what makes a successful blog is a combination of content writing principles, SEO, layout, plugins and leverage. But it all starts with great content writing. No-one will read your blog, share your blog, follow your blog or fill out the form within your blog if it’s written badly.
As you can see from GetApp’s infographic, a poorly written blog is a top annoyance. When I’m not creating content for blogs, I’m creating content for business books. I’ve worked on more than 180 business books and blogs myself, throughout the business and with the team collectively it’s close to 700. My blogs, research papers and business books total approximately 3,000,000 words to date, and counting. While I’m learning more about it all the time, I feel comfortable saying that writing is ‘my thing’.
But while the marketing systems behind a good blog are different to those of a good book, many of the writing principles are similar. Using the exact tools and tips in this article, www.writebusinessresults.com went from 0 website hits per month (bar the odd prospective client checking us out) to over 1,000 in the course of just 21 days.
It involved quite a few extra hours getting it figured out and as you can see from the image above, there are plenty of other factors at play. But that’s a great result in such a short timeframe. This is why I’m keen to share these principles with you. This article will hopefully share new writing practices and also save you a tonne of time.
Who Should Blog & Why?
It’s not just authors who need a blog. All businesses need a blog just like all business owners need a book. In 2019 and beyond, with the right systems around it, content will help you to grow your business, sell more books or consulting services or whatever service or product you provide, and build a name for yourself in the mainstream. I recently published an article on the benefits of having a blog in 2019 and how to implement.
The traffic your content generates will help you build an email list of people who like what you have to say. You can then keep them engaged and when the time is right, informed on your services, or online course, or event, or book release. Your network is your net worth, as they say.
And what better way to attract the right people than to show them, consistently and regularly through the power of the written word, who you are and what you’re about. Let them see your values and your passion as well as your practical knowledge. This article tells you how to write a blog that generates a healthy amount of regular traffic, for you to monetise, through high quality content writing.
A lot’s changed in the content world since I started in 2015 and it continues to evolve at a rapid pace, but I can promise you one redeeming thing; it has never been a friendlier place than it is in 2019. So join me; get involved, get your successful blog up and running, and rep the benefits in a fraction of the time it takes many others!
Content Writing Principles
The key to a successful blog is and always will be great content. All the marketing systems in the world won’t help if people click on your blog and then see it’s rubbish and leave the site. And by rubbish I mean badly written, unstructured, off-topic, a headline that doesn’t reflect what’s inside, an abundance of typos, and much more. Rather than focus on what not to do though, let’s focus on the things you can do.
Your blog, just like a good book, needs a beginning, middle and end. Start your blog with an overview that introduces the topic and explains the bigger picture. Then break down the main content down into sections using subheadings. Within each section, use paragraphs to break the text up into smaller segments. The WordPress plugin Yoast recommends no more than 300 words per section and keeping sentences to 20 words or less wherever possible. This will make your blog more readable.
On readability, as Tom Sant points out in the first edition of his book, ‘Persuasive Business Proposals‘, “You may be capable of reading like a college graduate, but that does not mean you will want to all the time. Most people find it easier to read if the text is a couple of trade levels below the level of reading master they have achieved. In any writing, you want to focus your reader’s energy on understanding your ideas, not on the task of reading itself, so you should write at an easy comfortable level.”
Precisely. So how do you objectively measure the readability of your writing before you upload your blog into your site (which is where readability plugins like Yoast operate)? Because most people I know prefer not to write and edit their blog posts in their site’s post editor itself. It’s just awkward. They use GoogleDocs or a writing app to get it 90% there. And if you’re using good old Microsoft Word? Well, you can actually do measure readability of a text in Word, too.
The reading level of your document will be displayed as a percentage of passive sentences your writing contains. It does this using the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease Index and Grade Level Index. It basically tells you how hard it is for your writing to be decoded. The Grade Level Index scores your writing out of 10 according to the grade level it will be most understood by, so an 8.0 means your writing is of eight grade standard (it’s based on the U.S. education system). The Reading Ease Score is based on a standard of 100. The higher the number, the easier the writing is to understand.
For effective, profitable business writing, it has been said (although I can’t find the original source) that a good readability level to aim for is that of a 13-15 year old! This doesn’t mean the people you are targeting are only capable of reading to that level. They could well be of Mensa standard. It simply means that people are very busy and do not necessarily want to have to work hard to decode content. Quite the opposite, they want to consume content that helps them at a rapid rate. So it’ll pay to make yours easy to get through.
A reading score of 60 to 70 is equivalent to a grade level of 8-9, so a text with this score should be understood by 13 to 15-year-olds. For context, Sant gives the examples of The New Yorker, which is written for an index of 11 – a US High School Junior. Scientific America is at 12, and Newsweek is at 10. Aim for a reading score of 60-70 in your business blog and your results will improve.
Once you’ve covered all the points you wish to in your blog, it’s helpful to summarise any key points and always end with a call to action. The call to action tells the reader what to do next. It could be to recommend another related article, download a useful resource, buy a copy of your book, book a discovery call or sign up to a free course. This not only creates additional value for your readers, it can also reduce bounce rates – the percentage of readers that leave your site after viewing just the one page, rather than clicking through to other pages.
#2: Writing Style
You need to consider your voice as the writer. Always keep your ideal reader in mind and think about how they might like to be addressed. Keep it personal, rather than formal, by speaking directly to one person rather than imagining thousands of random people from all over the world. Even if that is the case, you are trying to build a good relationship and make them feel understood, welcomed and like you’re there for them. Which you are. It’s a far more empathetic approach.
I highly recommend writing up a detailed Reader Profile first – an avatar for your ideal reader who will of course match your ideal client. This will help keep you on track with your content and make customer-focused decisions around what to include and what to leave out. As visualised by inma.org’s infographic below, people are very different. You might deal with two or all three of these people in your business, yet they have different challenges, goals and requirements.
It’s therefore important that your Reader Profile describes as much about your reader as possible. Their age, gender, location, profession, mindset, family set up, finances, goals and dreams, fears, issues etc etc. You can even give them a name. It should describe one person that represents their group, rather than a group of people in one go. This will help you to keep your tone of voice personal and on point to each individual without becoming diluted. If you have different types of ideal client, do different reader profiles. Just avoid trying to cover two different people in one.
When writing, you will then be writing directly to and for that particular person. Regardless of who they are, you want to keep them engaged. Focus on using plenty of transition language and avoid over-use of adjectives. Descriptions are brilliant for storytelling and setting the scene but the rule with the number of words is less is more, when it comes to description. The best descriptive sentences focus on conveying the message in as few words as possible. The key is to choose good words.
I’m often asked about topics. “What should I write about?” Usually this question stems from a lack of clarity of the purpose of your blog and where it fits into your wider business development plan. That in turn leads to overwhelm. It’s easy to confuse that feeling for not having enough content. In reality, if you’ve been in business for any period of time, you will have loads of content. What’s missing is the right start point and some direction.
When deciding on what to write about therefore, create your Reader Profile in as much detail as you possibly can. Then, imagining that person in vivid detail, as if they’re standing right in front of you, ask them what they most want to read about right now. Mindset guru Jack Black, among others, called this exercise the Imaginary Boardroom. It’s a process he advocates using for tough decision-making. In your mind’s eye you invite 5 or 6 people, all different to one another, dead or alive, to your imaginary boardroom. Once they are all seated, you run your quandary by them and listen to them, in turn, tell you what their approach would be.
Applying that exercise to your content, brainstorm every single goal, dream, need, want, fear, question, challenge your ideal reader has. Give this some time – 30 minutes, set an alarm – and write everything down. By the time that alarm goes off, you’ll probably be quite amazed at just how many things you managed to think of.
Next, go through the list eliminating any that are repeated, any you don’t want to help with or can’t help with, until you have your shortlist. I bet there’ll still be at least 20 things on that list, probably more. If there are fewer than 20, you might be chunking up too much. Take a look at your topics and see if you can break them down into smaller topics. Or put them into https://answerthepublic.com/ and see what the grumpy man on the homepage can tell you about searches related to your topic.
Either way the point is to reverse engineer your content to suit your audience, rather than writing about whatever comes to mind and hoping for engagement.
If you’ve followed the steps in this article you should now have a:
Precise profile of your ideal reader
Decent list of great topics to blog about, based on your ideal reader’s demand
Structure or outline for each blog post you want to write that guides your research and content
Better idea of how to craft your own unique writing style and manage your tone of voice
Blog post written with SEO optimisation in mind.
Once you have your blog post written up and ready, you can upload it into your site, install the Yoast plugin if you don’t already have it, and make any final tweaks to improve its ‘searchability’ and readability before previewing and hitting publish.
This is an initial guide so there’s a lot more to consistently successful blogs. However if you’re producing great content, half the battle is won. Content writing is a skill that will take some time to develop, but it will revolutionise your business. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to master content writing yourself, I may be able to help. Let me know via WBR’s secure contact page and I’ll get back to you.
If you’d like the steps outlined in this blog as a checklist to print and reference as you go, please let me know via this secure contact form. When I get 10 requests I’ll go ahead and create it. I’ll let you know where you are either way and send it to you as soon as it’s available for download.