Blogging is a great way to create content that your customers are interested in reading, helping you build new relationships and strengthen old ones. The content on your blog helps your search engine optimization and lets you demonstrate your knowledge and expertise to readers.
While these are all great benefits, maybe you don’t know how to get started. Not everyone is a trained writer and putting your work out for the world to see can be intimidating. To help you get started, here are some general guidelines to help you write a solid blog post.
Choose a topic
“I don’t know what to write about.”
That phrase derails many blogs before one post ever gets created. You sit in front of the computer, eyes glazed over, wondering what in the world you have to say that someone out there would care about. After 15 minutes, you decide the answer is “nothing” and decide blogging isn’t for you.
Here are a couple of ideas to help you get started.
First, what questions do customers often ask you? Are there a few questions that you hear again and again? If a few people are asking, it means many more are looking for the answer. Base your first blog post on one of those questions and spend a lot of time detailing the answer. If done well, you may attract web searchers looking for an answer to that same question.
Second, what questions do you wish your customers were asking you? What do you think they should know about? I’m not talking about your next sale, I’m talking about something in your industry, like a major change that you want your customers to know about. For service providers like accountants and lawyers, this is often a change in the tax code or law that a client group, like small business owners, need to be aware of. For restaurateurs, maybe there’s been a sudden spike in the price of beef that’s driving up your menu prices. Just like the weather forecaster lets people know when a sudden change is coming, you can play the same role locally within your industry.
Just keep asking yourself what you can educate your customers about, and whenever someone asks a question, consider it for a blog topic. Also, see what companies similar to yours are writing about and borrow some of their ideas.
Create an outline
Remember in school when your teacher made you outline your writing projects? Well, it’s finally going to come in handy.
An outline helps you focus your ideas before you start writing. For a blog post, it also helps you know where to insert a subhead, because for longer articles, you’ll want to break it up to make it easier to read.
Start your outline by writing down a topic statement. These work best when you write it the same way someone would search for it in Google. Examples: How to write a blog post. How to fix a vacuum cleaner. Why does my car need an oil change?
Once you have your topic statement, write down the main points that answer the question you created. For a how-to post, each point will be a step in the process. For a why-based post, each point is a reason that answers the why question.
Let’s take a look at an example. Say your topic is “how to change a car tire.” Your outline might look like this:
- Get car out of traffic and to a safe place
- Locate jack and spare tire
- Loosen lug nuts
- Jack up car
- Remove old tire and replace with spare
- Lower jack
- Tighten lug nuts
Each of these points becomes a subhead within your longer blog post. All you have to do now is detail each of the steps in the process and your blog post is now a helpful article.
If you want to add a little more of your voice to the post, write a short introduction before jumping into the first step, and add a short conclusion at the end. This will make the post more conversational and less like an instruction manual.
When you create your topic statement and your subheads (the points in your outline), be literal and don’t get cute with word plays. Search engines don’t understand word plays, meaning your excellent post may not rank as high as it should.
So for example, a post about teaching children to avoid Internet predators should have the title “How to teach your children to avoid Internet predators” not “The dark side of the Internet” or “Digital stranger danger.” The last two are plays on words and concepts that would work fine for a print publication -- and human readers understand them -- but for search engines, they don’t necessarily know what the article is about. You want to make every post as clear as possible to increase your search ranking.
Add a call to action
Being helpful with your content builds trust, but ultimately you want the person to do something other than enjoy what you created.
Every post should contain a call to action, or CTA for short. Typically, this comes at the end of the post and can take several forms, depending on what works best for you. The most common for blogs is a short author bio -- you can see mine below -- along with encouragement to do something: make a call, send an email, fill out a form, etc.
The CTA reminds people that you are there to help and gives them a way to get in contact with you if they want to learn more. This is the only spot in the blog post that should contain anything promotional, and that should be limited to a suggestion to contact you (or whoever is writing the post at your company) for more information.
Writing a blog post doesn’t have to be hard. Think through what topics your customers are interested in knowing about and focus on those to start, creating basic outlines for each to help you through the writing process. Make sure you add a CTA on each post and then start letting people know about all the helpful information you’ve created via Facebook and other social media.
Todd Shryock is the director of content for Emerge. If you have further questions about how to write a blog post or how to select a topic, contact him at tshryock@EmergeInc.com.