So, you have a brand-spanking-new blog and a million and one ideas and the energy to be a prolific blogger. Yet you pause, asking: “Do I really know what I’m doing?”
Many media consultants now assume that clients have basic blogging skills, much like they assume clients know how to use a computer. That said, although anyone can type in the “insert body here” box on a blog posting form, there are a number of strategies that separate scribblers from bloggers.
So how to be a “capital-B blogger?” Start with these tips:
- Provide relevant information. Don’t just re-hash someone else’s comments unless you have a unique perspective.
- Don’t use a blog as a hard-sell tool. Blogs work best when you use them to disarm prospective clients — the blog should speak to the writer’s depth and breadth of knowledge about some subject, and should convey the personability of the blogger. Posts that are a litany of “buy my product” or “here’s why you need my services” get old, fast.
- Be careful with personal or insider references. The Internet is a truly global phenomenon, so chatting about things that only a handful of people will understand will turn them off. A personal blog is perfectly acceptable, but ideally, it should be closed to the public and by invitation only.
- Remember that what you write, is discoverable. Don’t betray confidences, and respect the privacy of others. Get permission before mentioning people in a specific way (e.g., by using full names or URLs). Be sensitive to people who may wish to remain private online.
- Make your writing enjoyable. Use humor and literary devices where appropriate, and don’t over-write in an excessively academic or technical style unless your audience expects it.
- Try to blog frequently — depending on the industry, you could blog daily. Try to put up something at least weekly.
- Aim for a reasonable word count. A series of 50-word posts can get boring, as are the 5,000-word posts.
- Use keywords to help search engines find your post. If you are writing about porcelain cat figurines, use “porcelain,” “cat,” and “figurines” frequently in your text.
- Invite the reader to engage. Provide a link or call to action every now and then, and offer freebies sometimes (e.g., a chance for a free product or service) to those who respond. Keep comments open on posts to encourage reader dialogue, but moderate them to keep the discussion civil and spam-free.
- Write well. Don’t be too wordy or grammatically incoherent or colloquial. People do judge by writing style, so pay attention to spelling and syntax. Get help from a professional writing coach, if necessary.
- Convey expertise. Use a blog topic as a chance to share what you know with a larger audience. The demonstration of competence helps build credibility with a prospective client.
- Remember that a blog is not a sales tool but rather a mechanism for building trust with clients and prospects. Keep it free, keep it current, and give a few (but not a lot) of self-serving links to products or services so as to keep the reader’s cynicism at reasonable levels.
- Participate in link-exchange programs with referral partners or clients, to increase traffic.
- Study the basics of search-engine optimization and social-media marketing to understand that certain words and phrases are more likely to get a “hit” on a search engine, so use those words and phrases often in a post.
- Keep a blog current — this demonstrates that the writer is actively engaged in his work.
- Add other things to a blog site to add value — such as inbound RSS (syndication) feeds, files, static “about us” and FAQ pages, and such.
- Find a blog template that matches the tone and industry of the blog. A writer’s template should look very different from a music teacher’s. Depending on the blogging engine (Blogger, WordPress, Movable Type, etc.), there are thousands of free templates that a blog owner can install and customize.
- Media usually works better than text, so to the extent that photos and videos (sometimes hosted online through YouTube or Flickr) can be inserted into posts, do it. It’s far better to insert a video about making macaroons than to type a post about how to make macaroons.
- Make sure that the blog comments sections aren’t hit by spammers; this will significantly reduce the blog’s credibility
- Use hyperlinks frequently to reference source material. Don’t mention a news story at CNN, for example, without making sure that the CNN reference is clickable to the original story.
There. Twenty tips for beginners. Do you have your own ideas to add? If so, please leave comments to start the conversation.