February 3, 2016
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February 3, 2016
Millions of business blogs exist online, attracting visitors to companies’ websites and establishing businesses as trusted authorities in their respective industries. From an inbound marketing standpoint, blogging produces a wide range of benefits, including a 67 percent increase in leads over businesses that do not post B2B content. Ensuring your blog is visually appealing, easy to find (both from an SEO perspective and from visitors simply typing in your website’s address and clicking on the blog tab), and offering quality content is vital to making this strategy succeed.
However, the “offering quality content” part of an inbound marketing blog strategy is something many companies struggle with. The thought leaders within your organization—the ones most qualified to write the blog—might not be the best writers. Even some marketers struggle with this, choosing expediency and informality over a well-planned, well-written post. Simply including a blog on your website won’t ensure marketing success; the content must be powerful, clear, and entertaining—and marketing-driven.
That said, you do not need writing classes in order to produce good blog content, or years of editing experience to clean up other people’s posts. Some basic guidelines and due diligence can produce copy that is cleaner, more informative, and easier to read than the majority of business blogs out there. Here are four tips that will instantly improve your blog copy:
Mr. Zielinski, my English teacher when I was a freshman in high school, imparted some wisdom upon the class that I still apply to my writing and editing many years later: Don’t write like you talk! The advice makes perfect sense when you consider how people converse with each other on the phone, give speeches and presentations, or even interact in mundane situations.
While talking, we use inflections, clichés, slang, and run-on sentences; we place words in odd order or add extra words for emphasis or effect; and we often completely throw grammar out the window. Translate that speech into written text, and your spoken words might not be as logical as you hope to the average reader. Therefore, don’t write like you talk. The result will be concise copy that will deliver your message in the precise amount of words—no more, no less.
A common side effect of writing like you talk is the tendency to use have, has, or had in place of action verbs. Consider this example: He had a cold. This could mean more than one thing: He caught a cold, or was suffering from a cold, or recovered from a cold, or was just chilly. Replacing had with a descriptive verb improves the copy, delivers more impact, and leaves nothing to ambiguity. Beware of other generic verbs such as is, are, do, or get, which you can often replace with better, more specific verbs.
Blog posts that are one continuous block of text (paragraph breaks notwithstanding) can tax the reader’s patience. The sight of 800 words without any sort of visual relief may drive a visitor from your website, never to return. Break up the copy with subheads, bullets, bold text and lead-ins, charts, and lists—anything to entice the reader to stay, or to at least look at the display type and see value in your message.
Many writers of personal blogs come up with an idea and type away. This is fine for that medium, but for business blogs, you need a plan, because if you start rambling, you are going to lose the reader in a quagmire or meandering, unstructured thoughts. Before you start writing a post, draw up a brief outline of what you plan to write. An outline gives you a focus on where to guide your copy, and as an added bonus, it can provide those subheads that are so great at breaking up the page.
What are your favorite tricks to improve your blog posts?
About the author
Joe Gillespie is Director of Inbound Copy for SmartBug Media. He graduated from Marquette University with a B.A. in journalism and, before coming to SmartBug, was a two-decade veteran of the newspaper industry. Read more articles by Joe Gillespie.