How to Write a Great Blog
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Tuesday 25 September
By Natali Drake

WHERE DO YOU START?

You have a website and you have a section for blogs and now you don't know what to do next. Do you even need a blog?
Yes.

Every business and brand needs a blog, and if you're not sure why please take a look at Part One of my series about Blogging.

In this article I won't be covering the techie side of blog writing. There are some amazing YouTube tutorials by wonderfully kind people (normally young students who feel sorry for the technologically inept and old school writers) where you will learn all you need to know about Wordpress and the like. Setting up a site and posting blogs is not as difficult as it looks. I promise.

But you know what IS difficult? Writing a blog that anyone gives a toss about.

As a writer and brand consultant who's worked in marketing for twenty years, writing blogs for clients is part of my job. There are many reasons that some companies don't choose to have someone in-house to write for them - maybe they only want the odd blog here and there, they aren't confident about their own writing abilities, they don't have the time or they just have no bloody clue what to write about. 

So in this 'How To' blog I am going to outline the following:

- How to find inspiration for blog topics

- How to write a blog

- How to make sure people read and share it

INSPIRATION

Before you can start blogging for your business or brand (even if that brand is yourself) - you need to know what it is you are going to talk about.

First rule of blogging is that you don't just talk about yourself. Woah, I hear you cry, but isn't blogging all about selling yourself? Yes and no. 
Blogging is about building your brand image, it's about reaching out to your customers/fans and giving them something to read about that will entertain them or be informative. The ONLY two reasons why people go on-line is to amuse or inform themselves.

So how do you write about yourself without actually writing about yourself?

Easy, simply understand your market...and give them something that will interest them.

I'm a freelance writer and I also offer marketing solutions for small businesses, but you won't find any blogs on my site telling people how great I am. I don't need to. If you write successful blogs then you are SHOWING your market how you can add value to their brand, you are SHOWING them that you understand their needs and you are SHOWING them that you are the expert in your field. There is no need to tell them.

So what do you write about? Here is my Top Ten Topics:

1. Lists and Top Tens
People are in a hurry, they don't have time to read every word on your blog, so giving them a list of 'My favourite things' or 'Top Ten Facts About...' will help them pick out the parts that appeal to them the most.

2. Make it seasonal
What's on people's minds right now? If it's Christmas presents or going on summer holidays then link your news or new product info to that. It's okay to mention your brand, just don't turn the article into an infomercial/advertorial!

3. Make it amusing
People like to laugh, and they like to make others laugh. If you write a funny blog then it will get shared...and that's great for business.

4. Make it personal
People like Real Life. They buy magazines that tell you stories about alien abductions and celebrities having affairs, they watch docusoaps and they watch YouTube videos of real people sharing their every day comings and goings. So write a 'Day In The Life' blog. Let your customers see the real person behind the brand.

5. Write a series of blogs
This 'How To Blog' series is in Two Parts. Mainly because I had too much to say for one blog and also because I wanted my readers to come back to my site.

6. Did you know?
We all love trivial facts. If you sell wine then run a series of 'Did You Know?' blogs about the history of wine making. If you sell life insurance then write about strange ways people die (morbid, but probably effective).

7. Share your experiences
Many of my clients work in the wedding industry and I write their blogs about their brides' special day. People love to get behind the scenes info and get a feel of the real service your offer.

8. Share testimonials
If a happy customer has written a long letter to you, with their permission turn it into a blog - it's a great way to promote your services.

9. Keep it topical
Has something happened in the news lately that everyone is talking about? Get involved. If you sell shoes and a celebrity has famously fallen over because of her footwear then voice your opinion. People will be look for the gossip on-line, so if you are writing about it then you will come up in their Google search and you will lead shoe lovers back to your website.

10. Invite others to join you
Mix it up, don't do the same thing every day/week/month - however often you blog (a few times a month is fine for most companies). If you totally run out of ideas then invite like-minded guest bloggers to talk about themselves on your site and they may do the same for you. By day I'm a consultant, but I'm also a published fiction author. On my author page I have other writers talking about their books and I interview people in the industry and write book reviews. My readers get bored with blogs just about me...and I look generous helping others promote their books too!

 

TECHNIQUE

Unless you are a professional writer, most of you haven't had to write an article or essay since school. But the rules of writing a successful blog are not too dissimilar to writing a convincing dissertation for your English Lit class.

It all boils down to these 5 easy steps...

1. Plan
Decide what it is you want to say and make sure it is relevant to your brand and something that will interest your customers - then ensure that it is informative and/or entertaining.

2. Check your facts
The web is full of lies, exaggerated stuff and complete crap - so make sure you have done your homework before you add to the rest of the sensationalist nonsense online. If your blog is for a serious brand or corporate company, make sure that you state where you got your information from and where relevant add hyperlinks. It is NOT OK to say any old thing just to get clicks and shares!

3. Look professional
Spelling and grammar doesn't seem to be very fashionable any more, especially in the online world, but it does matter! If you want your brand to look professional and of a high quality then make sure that you spell things correctly and that your grammar is on point. If you are nervous about your writing abilities then ask a friend to take a look or hire a proofreader (me! me! me!) to edit it.

4. Follow this simple structure
- Intro has to outline what the blog is about, ease your readers in gently
- Follow this with a few sections of info and plenty of bullet points and subheadings
- End with a summary that takes the reader back to your original point

5. Always include a call to action
Most blogs have a comments box at the bottom like this one, or are linked to a main site...so in theory if someone wants to get hold of me, they can easily see all my Contact info. But if you are writing a blog to appear elsewhere, always make sure that your website is mentioned. Link sections of the blog back to your own site and always include a contact number or email at the bottom if there isn't a form.

And the biggest rule of all...

Never ever EVER cut and paste someone else's work and pass it off as your own. Not only is this unethical, lazy and makes you look like an unprofessional idiot...but Google knows when content is not original and you will get punished for it. Google will black mark you and you won't feature in their rankings. So don't copy - just like school, it's cheating!

AND LASTLY

You now know what to write about and how to do it...but how can you make sure that it will get read?

Well you can't. Not really. PR, Marketing and Social Media are not an exact science, sometimes things go viral because it has captured the imagination of a nation and no one knows why. Sometimes a blog falls in to the right hands and gets shared far and wide. Sometimes it's just pure luck.

But there ARE ways to ensure that your blog is at least appealing.

1. Don't make it too long
This blog IS long, I know that. It has a lot of information so it's split up into manageable sections - but most blogs are 400-1,000 words, 1,500 on some occasions if it's an article linked to a magazine-like site.

2. Break it up 
Add bullet points, captions, facts, images, headings and subheadings. People don't have time to read a lot (they will just pick out the bits they need anyway) and if they are reading your blog on their phone it will appear even longer than on a PC, so make it easy on the eye.

3. Add colour
Use lovely pictures and diagrams. You can use free design programs like Canva for headings and graphics, or look for free images online. Make sure that EVERY image you use has been legally downloaded from a free site or you have permission from the photographer, not the subject...the photographer! And use professional photos, nothing screams AMATEUR louder than a low quality crappy photo.

4. Share the love
There's no point writing a blog then keeping it to yourself. Share it on social media, link it to other blogs or your own website, send it to others to share and make sure people see it. 

5. Keep going
Much like glasses of wine, one is never enough. Fill your blog page with blogs, in fact don't even promote your blog until you have at least four others beside it. Keep adding. One a day is amazing, one a week is great, one a month is minimum. 

Your blog will not generate sales...don't write your blog and then a week later come back to me and say 'well sales figures haven't changed, what did I do wrong?!' Blogging should be part of a larger Marketing and PR strategy for your business, it's one of many ways of promoting yourself and creating a brand. When you have a website full of great blogs you retain your clients, you keep them interested and you get them talking about you - then once you have them in front of you it's time for the sales bit.

But that's another blog for another day.

Happy blogging, everyone!

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