How to write a blog for business [and why it matters]
A recent question about how to write a blog as part of a broader approach to content planning 2020 content plan for business overwhelming you? Try these 5 tips + smile again prompted me to share a few ideas.
In these times when vast volumes of information about everything are easily accessible, devoting time, effort, and resources to write a blog, might seem like a waste. And if you’re a business owner trying to ‘do everything’, the thought of adding “Write a blog” to your to do list could be less a call to action than a cry for help.
I get it.
We’re reminded to write a blog and to share our content, but without a plan, a process, or an understanding of the why behind the blog, a good number of us can be paralysed into doing absolutely nothing.
Now I’m not suggesting this blog about how to write a blog has all the answers. It would be naive to think that with so many blogs already written on the topic. What I do hope is to provide practical information and how-to tips that can get you on the road to write a blog, if that’s a relevant a content marketing tool for you.
Why write a blog?
First, let’s look at why you would even write a blog. I mean hasn’t everything been done already?
Regardless of what business, trade or profession you’re in, there’s an excellent chance that whatever you want to write about on your blog, has, well, been done before. Not once, but many times. In some cases, it could be hundreds or thousands of times. It begs the question, Isn’t writing a blog pointless?
In 7 Day Book Blueprint, I reference a TED talk by Kirby Ferguson. In that talk (you can find it on YouTube), Kirby suggests there are no original ideas, only unique spins on ideas. He calls it a remix. I call it identifying your most meaningful messages.
To explain this more clearly, let’s look at dentists.
It just so happens that I’ve written my fair share of blogs for dental professionals and I can confirm there are only so many ways you can write about root canal treatment. That is, unless you dress it up with your own spin on things. And that’s what I encourage my dentists to do.
On its own, root canal treatment isn’t the most interesting topic. But add a few of your own thoughts, well, it becomes a more palatable proposition.
If I’m a dentist and I write about root canal treatment, it’s an opportunity for me to share my own philosophy of practice. Importantly, it’s also a way to connect and communicate directly with my potential customers (patients).
This is a good thing and the benefits are two-sided.
A patient, or potential patient, has the opportunity to learn about a difficult topic in a non-threatening way. They can gain a sense of whether you’re a dentist they’d feel safe enough to trust with looking after them.
The dentist benefits by taking time to articulate what’s really important to them (their most meaningful messages) and share it in a way that makes sense to their audience. This is otherwise known as conscious communication. I have found that once a dentist – or anyone – gets the hang of communicating this way, they become more aware, articulate, and confident.
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a good outcome, just from writing a blog.
More reasons to write a blog
Apart from clarifying our thinking, there are other valid reasons to write a blog.
I’ve found that most purposeful business owners are a rich repository of wisdom and information in their special area of work. The problem is, they carry all this around in their head and there is stays, never seeing the light of day. This can cause frustration, overwhelm, and disappointment.
By writing a blog regularly, there’s an opportunity to take what’s in your head and share it with the people who need it most: your customers.
A blog can serve to educate and raise awareness. It can solve problems. A blog can even position you as the ideal solution to a particular challenge.
Apart from connecting and aligning people with your purpose and wisdom, writing a blog provides an invaluable foundation for other marketing content.
Blog content can be repurposed as videos, infographics, social media posts, even chapters of a book. Rather than seeing your blog as a ‘one-off’, think of it more as building a vital foundation for your library of business content. This simple reframe will help you step off the content conveyor belt where you produce content for the sake of it. Instead, you write with purpose, knowing there is more to the exercise than getting words down.
As part of a clear content plan, writing a blog makes even more sense. Rather than being something you have to do, it becomes something you choose to do willingly because you recognise its value. When you reach this point, you’ve struck gold.
How to write a blog
If you’ve read this far I’m going to make a bold assumption that you need no further convincing that writing a blog could be a beneficial exercise for your business communication.
With no question about your level of desire, your enquiry now turns to the ‘how’.
Make no mistake, there are many blogs describing how to write a blog. What I’ve captured here are what I have found works for my clients and me.
So let’s break it down.
The blog topic
A stumbling block for many is what to write about on their blog.
My response? You could be overthinking it because identifying a blog topic or two is really not that hard.
A good place to start is by thinking about the top five to ten challenges or issues your customers face in relation to your business, products, or services.
Let’s look at the dentist again. Lots of people have a fear of the dentist. In many cases it’s so bad, they don’t go to the dentist for years. The results can be devastating and expensive to fix.
As a dentist you can write a blog that identifies this as an issue (calling out the problem). You can then explain why people are afraid of the dentist, perhaps citing previous bad experiences, the smell (yes it’s a thing), and concerns about costs and treatments (demonstrating understanding). A key part of the blog will be about how your business solves this problem for people. For example, you can talk about your friendly team and how they’re sensitive and take time with patients. You might elaborate on the technology and comforts you use to put people at ease (anaesthesia, blankets, movies, nice music, aromatherapy). Finally, you might explain that you’ve helped numerous patients overcome their fear of the dentist (perhaps even providing an example without disclosing information). You could explain how rewarding it is to see those people now feel confident enough to visit the dentist regularly and take good care of their oral health.
The take-away? If you’re really stuck for ideas:
- Start with the problems your customers have and solve them.
- Think about the questions customers regularly ask. While you might develop the responses into a succinct FAQ page on your website, you can expand on each of the questions in a separate blog.
- Do a keyword search on a topic and see what else comes up
- Answer questions you are regularly asked by customers.
On its own, root canal treatment makes for pretty dry content, that is, unless you spruce it up with an interesting story or two.
Now with certain professions, there are issues around confidentiality, however, it is possible to refer to patients (in this case) in general terms. Stories are a wonderful way to make an otherwise dull topic more relatable. In fact, you might even consider opening the blog with a story.
Our dentist might refer to a patient who had successful root canal treatment and is now beaming with confidence again.
The take-away? Always include a story or two. It makes for better reading.
Of course, search engine optimisation (SEO) is an important element of writing a blog, but it can be confusing and overwhelming.
As I’m not SEO guru, and let’s face it, SEO changes all the time, I keep things super simple.
Continuing with our dentist example, if you’re writing a blog on root canal treatment, it’s a good idea to identify other keywords that people might use in their searches. In the blog, we might also use terms like “root canal therapy”, “root canal treatment options”, “stages of root canal treatment”, and so on.
When it comes to SEO, I strongly recommend choosing your topic, then do your keyword search. Approaching it this way allows you to formulate your ideas first, without turning yourself into an SEO pretzel. Add to this your certainty about your most meaningful messages, and you have a winning combination.
Keyword density – the number of times your keyword should be used on a page – is something to consider, but not religiously. There are tools that help with this, so plug into one of them, but don’t make it your religion. Get your topic, content, and message right, and only then tweak with SEO considerations.
The take-away? When it comes to keywords:
- Use them conservatively, but do add them to your headings and sub-headings. Apart from being good for SEO, using headings is also great for breaking up text into key points.
- Don’t over keywords; people and Google can see through it, and your content will sound like a robot wrote it.
- Get help with SEO so your meta descriptions, SEO title, and keywords are all optimized.
Unless you have a natural inclination, writing a blog can feel like hard work, even if it’s only 500 words. Fortunately, there are ways to make the process easier.
If I’m a busy dentist with lots of ideas, here’s what I can do:
- Get honest about how busy I really am and give up the idea I’ll do the physical writing of the blog
- Identify someone who can write the blog, for example, a content writer or digital marketing agency
- Assume some responsibility for the process by coming up with the ideas (remember the problems and FAQ)
- Commit to regular time when I can put my thoughts together
- Set up a shared drive document with all my ideas.
I know a couple of dentists who record blog ideas as an audio file. This is transcribed for the content writer, who in turn weaves the business brand voice and language into the written version. Often they’ll do this recording on a Saturday afternoon when they’re not busy in the practice and can be easily distracted. Recording an audio can take all of five or ten minutes. Apart from the time required for a review of the content, this is a highly efficient way of creating a regular blog. It also makes for a very conversational style of writing, which appeals to their specific audience.
So writing a blog, doesn’t necessarily involve any writing at all. It’s more about knowing how to work a system that works for you.
The take-away? Decide on a simple process you know will work for you given the limitations of time, writing ability, and experience. Then get help to deliver it and stick to your plan.
The voice, tone and language
When writing a blog, it can be easy to think your writing needs to come across a certain way. In fact, the only way your blog needs to sound is like you or your business.
I’ve learned that every business has a way of communicating, even if they don’t know it.
If your market is relaxed and casual, there’s a fair chance that’s how you’ll communicate in your blog. However, this approach wouldn’t be appropriate for an audience that’s more professional and academic.
The key thing is to be yourself. Communicate in a way that reflects who you are. That way when people do finally connect, you’ll fostered a genuine relationship.
Keep in mind this is something to look for if you engage a content writer. During the review process, you’ll quickly sense if your blog sounds like you or not.
The take-away? It’s a cliche, but be true to yourself. You don’t need to sound like or be anyone else. After all, you’re sharing your spin on things.
The call to action
Of course we want purposeful content to be front and centre in our blog, but purposeful content means including a call to action too.
That’s why somewhere in every blog, it’s wise to include an invitation to the reader to take action. It could be:
- Downloading a free checklist
- Booking an appointment
- Answering a question
- Subscribing to a list
- Clicking on a link to learn more
- Keeping your contact details handy for when they need them.
Here’s an example of the kind of call to action I’m referring to:
The take-away? Think of ways that make it simple for your audience to reach out and use them in your blog as a call to action.
Over time, build links into your blog, both internal and external.
Internal links can be made to other pages on your website, including other blogs you’ve written. External links can be to reputable sources.
If I’m a dentist, my root canal blog might include a link to my business website page about this treatment. I might also provide an external link to a relevant page on the Australian Dental Association’s website.
The take-away? Include links, but don’t overdo it.
The feature image
An engaging image that reflects your brand’s visual aesthetic, while also capturing what’s in your blog is essential.
Although it appears to be a deceptively simple task, selecting a feature image for your blog takes time. Just as we’re clear about the tone and language we use, it’s wise to select imagery that is true to you and your business, while at the same time appealing to your audience.
There are ample free stock image sites (I like Unsplash) and a myriad of paid sites. If you’re confused about the kind of image to use, ask for guidance from a trusted resource. Having a clear direction on this aspect of your blogging will help streamline the process, and that’s what we want.
The take-away? Have a clear brand aesthetic and use it on your blog.
A final word
Putting the things in place that support you to write a blog do take time and effort, but I’m yet to come across a business owner who didn’t feel satisfied they’d made the investment. If it’s in your content plan for 2020, start with one step. Find a topic that’s important to you and spend some time thinking, writing (or recording) why it is. Once it’s written down, you’ll feel pleased you took action.
Want to learn more about communicating consciously in business? Download the free guide for purposeful business owners that explains how to take manage your content and maximise its value.