Why do people binge watch Netflix, race home to not miss the next episode of their favorite show and demand no spoilers on the most recent popular movie release? It’s hard to walk away from a good story. Storytelling isn’t just for the big screen, history books or a great novel.
Blogging is your opportunity to tell a story - to teach and reach new customers through your website by answering their questions and offering solutions to their problems.
Writing is a critical first step in the inbound methodology because it’s incredibly effective at attracting new visitors to your website. It opens the virtual doors of your company and invites potential leads in for a look around. If you’re struggling to bolster your website traffic, then it’s time for you to start telling a story (a lot of stories).
If customers begin seeking out your business because you offer the best information, they’re likely to return to you when they’re wanting to hire help.
Lesson 1: Where to find stories to tell
Great! You are ready to start writing, but the blank page and blinking cursor are mocking you, daring you to start but causing you to freeze all at the same time. What do you do now? First, take a deep breath. We have all been there, frozen with the inability to know what to write about. Also, don’t worry. You are probably not about to write in permanent ink, and thankfully the typewriter is retired and replaced by a word processor complete with a backspace.
The best strategy is to just start writing. Fail fast is the most efficient way to finish a blog. Write an awful introduction and a bad headline. It doesn’t matter because you will make it better as you refine the content. Blogging isn’t a place to tell the same story everyone else is telling. It also isn’t a time to talk only about yourself, your business and your products and services. Instead, it is an opportunity to add to the conversation.
A great place to find ideas for blogging is to ask “What are others talking about in my industry?” This isn’t time for plagiarism, but instead a chance to find the missing pieces and offer new solutions to old problems. Think about how your business does things differently, and talk about your unique approaches. Buzzsumo is a good place to begin researching. Type in a keyword and see who is getting the most visits or social shares.
When scientists or academics are preparing to tackle a new study, the very first step is to see what already exists. Why study something we already have answered multiple times? The researchers will spend an entire section of their new study discussing the related published information, and you should too. Linking to reliable sources ranking well on Google will help expand your topic and provide proof to specific assertions or data.
Next, take it a step further by figuring out what questions your customers may have about your products or services by talking with them directly or guiding the brainstorming process with the buyer personas in mind. Make sure you provide a clear and concise answer and discuss one topic at a time. Pro Tip: Add to the conversation getting very specific. If you have a carpet cleaning company, instead of writing a blog about all the stubborn stains in a carpet, write about one stain in-depth.
You don’t want to write stories if your customers won’t care. Your buyer personas should drive the what you write about and the way you write. For example, if you have an asphalt company that targets businesses, you might want to teach your readers how a well-maintained parking lot creates fantastic curb appeal.
Maybe you have a carpet cleaning business, and many of your customers have young children. Then, you might consider sharing your industry-insider secrets on cleaning up those tough stains like red kool-aid or pet stains. Search out a few keywords. What is relevant to your business? Who is answering the most questions, and providing a lot of information? How can you provide new or in-depth answers?
Spend time scanning social media and reading comment sections, and be prepared to share your personal experiences. While there is a ton of information on the internet, your story is one of a kind, so step out of your comfort zone and get real with your readers. Next, set a timer and spend 20 minutes or a little longer to brainstorm every idea and write them down. No judgements, no critics, just write until your timer goes off. Consider every stage of the buyer's journey: awareness, consideration, and decision.
Think of blogs that will aid in every step of the way with a special emphasis on awareness. Finally, choose the best ideas and just start writing. Yes, it is that simple.
Lesson 2: The writing formula for a great blog every time
The great thing about blogging is you don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time. Many strategies of storytelling are timeless. Here is a loyal structure that is great with only mild modifications over time.
1. Start with a headline (or several)
The headline one of the most important components of your writing. It will either cause readers to overlook your work, or it will be too enticing not to click. So, what makes a good headline?
An odd numbered list is oddly attractive.
A big numbered list (especially 29) is hard to pass up.
Everyone wants to know a secret.
Add in action words and bold claims to bring more eyes to your content.
Even negative headlines perform exceptionally well.
Write several working blog titles to guide the next steps of the writing process. Try to start with five or six.
2. Write an introduction
The first few sentences are just as crucial as a great headline. Your readers will decide in just a moment whether or not you are worth their time. A good headline is like the lede sentence of a news article. It should grab their attention and tell them what to expect all in 35 words or less. Sounds like a big challenge, right? It is difficult, but not impossible.
You should dedicate a significant amount of time on the introduction. Write it once, then rewrite it. Here’s the main takeaway: A great story always has some type of conflict. In a blog, you should introduce the conflict fast. Drop your visitors in the middle of the problem, and the issue needs to resonate. They have to feel the pain you are describing in a personal way. Introduction = grabbing a reader’s attention + describing a problem + promising a solution.
3. Conduct research
If you know the problem and the possible solutions, it is time to start your research. Who has answered the questions? Were they effective or can you make a stronger piece of content? Who should get your outbound links? Make notes about your insights and conclusions through the process, so you don’t have to constantly return to the same web page over and over again, or worse, so you don’t lose your research. The best places to research is on Google, Academic resources, Amazon books, or your favorite places to read blogs about your industry.
4. Create an outline
You shouldn’t travel without a map, and you shouldn’t write without an outline. The outline keeps your writing organized and easy to follow. Use subheaders to highlight important points, like your numbered list or sections throughout the content. This will create easy to digest blogs that viewers can scan.
Remember it is a fast paced world. Make it possible for readers to get it and get going to something else.
5. Fill in the content
The content is why you are hunting down headlines and crafting up beautiful intros. Don’t forget to deliver on all your promises. Prevent reader fatigue with interesting bullet points and short paragraphs. You are not in high school (or college composition). Paragraphs don’t consist of five or more sentences. Take that rule and throw it out the window because it doesn’t apply to your new style of writing. Throw in some you’s and your’s, keep it casual and keep it quick. Make sure the content is packed with value and sources, so your readers come back for more in the future.
6. Plug in a call-to-action (CTA)
Don’t forget, the entire purpose of blogging is to attract new leads. Let your new visitors know exactly what to do next, and don’t be shy about it. If you want them to download an ebook, then tell them. If you want them to call, then ask. Don’t be cryptic, and always be useful. Fantastic! You just finished a blog. Wash, rinse and repeat several times a month, and stay consistent.
Lesson 3: Editing strategies to create better copy
The article is written, but before you let out a sigh and pat yourself on the back for a job well done, you need to edit.
Even the best writers who produce tons of content a day need a good editor. If you don’t have an employee ready to read all your work, that’s okay. Software like Grammarly, GingerSoftware, or After the Deadline, can help you publish work that is flawless.
Common mistakes every writer makes:
Forgetting a comma after an introductory clause.
To Oxford comma or not to Oxford comma (make a decision and stick with it. AP style does not use an Oxford comma in most instances.)
Your, you’re and there their they’re
Passive voice (which is okay sometimes, but can really put a damper on writing)
After you write and edit, then it is time to distribute. Make sure you choose a relevant image to accompany your new blog post and start posting to social media and your website. Writing is not a “build it, and they will come” process. No, it takes time and persistence.
Every blog is like a deposit in a savings account. If you want enough in the account to retire, you have to deposit regularly. Chose how many times a month you would like to publish. For you, that may be two or three times. Make a decision and be consistent.
Lesson 4: Enlist writers who love to write
You might be a good writer and be familiar enough to do the process yourself, but you might also hate it. Growing your business sometimes means recognizing what only you can do and delegating everything else. We understand, not everyone loves to sit down and produce content, and that’s okay! Our writers sit down every day and publish hundreds of words. They love it! Call us for a free marketing strategy session. We can talk about your blog and so much more.