10 Tips for Effective Blogging

effective bloggingIf you’ve just decided to start and you’re thinking about really effective blog­ging, good for you. You’ve just made a very smart decision. There are many good reasons to blog, both personal and professional; for my part I am a business blogger; any advice I offer is designed to help you blog effectively, on the assumption that you are trying to grow sales opportunities for a small business. That’s what blogging is all about at the end of the day – growing brand, adding customers and increasing revenue. But this all begins with a contribution to your potential customers.

To blog is to offer something for free, without promotion or sales patter, that your potential customer might find helpful. That’s all. There are many other benefits, including SEO, which I won’t dwell on here. What I want to do today is to help you get started in writing. We’ll come on to promotion next time. For now, I offer my ten tips for writ­ing effective blogs.

1. Have a purpose

If you don’t have a clear reason for blogging, then your audience won’t have a reason for reading. If you’re going to blog in general about anything and everything, you will need to be very funny or very clever. Expertise is at the heart of blogging. You need to write about something you know about.

2. Keep strictly to a schedule

This isn’t just beneficial to your audience, it’s good for you too. Stick religiously to a schedule and pick a time to write when nothing will normally get in the way. If you like a few drinks after work on Friday then your Saturday morning blog­ging plans won’t survive your first hangover. Pick a time you can keep to without forcing yourself to choose between blogging and something more fun.

3. Understand that this is a mara­thon, not a sprint

Nine people read my first blog. That’s not bad, it’s just the begin­ning. Your beginnings will most likely be equally humble. Don’t worry, stick at it. Don’t be intimidat­ed by zeitgeist YouTube videos that get a million hits over night, they are gone just as quickly. If you want to build something that will benefit your brand in the long term, it’s not going to happen overnight.

4. 200 words is not a blog.

Don’t think that dashing out a couple of paragraphs constitutes blogging. It doesn’t. There is a mini­mum length to offer genuine value. Don’t have your readers tune in to read your blog and disappoint them with a half effort. 600-1,000 words is about right.

Don’t try to blog about multiple top­ics in a single blog. Leave your audi­ence with a simple lesson learned and something to apply it to. That’s how you deliver value and keep people coming back.

5. Don’t promote yourself or your business directly.

Nobody wants to read an infomer­cial. A good blog will create a strong impression about you and your busi­ness. It doesn’t need to ‘try’. Just offer something interesting and helpful on the subject you choose and let the rest come to you. That doesn’t mean you can’t openly promote your business on the same page. ‘About Us’ blurbs, personal bios and links to your website are all fine at the top, side and bottom of your pages, just don’t compromise the integrity of your message with gratuitous references to your business. Respect your audience, if your subject mat­ter is interesting and relevant, they are perfectly capable of drawing the conclusion that you might be worth doing business with, you don’t have to hit them over the head with it.

6. Learn something.

Blog writing should be a learning experience for you too. While you’re researching the subject you’re writ­ing on, take the opportunity to grow your own knowledge, then share it with your audience. Things will get dull pretty fast if you’re just serv­ing things up from well inside your comfort zone. And anyway, unless you’re Stephen Fry, you’re going to run out of things to talk about at some point.

7. Remember you’re a blogger, not a journalist.

Your blog is your opinion, you don’t have to back it up with references, quotes or proof only with common sense and evidence enough to convince your audience that you are worth listening to. I don’t need to fill this white paper with footnotes and supporting statistics; it’s entirely up to you whether you think my opinion is worth listening to. I’ve got 25,000 readers, which entitles me to call myself something of an expert on blogging. That’s probably evidence enough. You can always pepper your righting with interest­ing facts. I find a statistical drop in can be useful. Top 5s / Top 10’s / ABCs are great. They tell the reader immediately how much they’re in for. They can scan the headings if they want to first. They are easier to write for you, they are immediately eye catching as headlines on Social Media.

8. Encourage comments and ac­cept them.

There’s nothing like a debate raging at the bottom of a blog to make the blog look interesting. Or maybe it’s just someone saying that they enjoyed reading your blog. Allow comments, encourage them and post them. You can set up some ba­sic settings on the major blog hosts to prevent obvious spam or ob­scenities, but once you’ve done that don’t edit or censor the responses. I never block comments from people who tell me I’m wrong, or that they don’t like what I’ve said. That’s what honest debate is. Take a punch or two, people will trust you all the more when they see you’re happy to post criticism. It also gives you the opportunity to respond and defend your view. It’s good to talk.

9. Don’t be too formal.

Blogging is business plus one beer. Take your jacket and tie off and sit down. Don’t put your pajamas on, get trashed and lie on the floor. We’re looking for just the right amount of relaxed. Use plain Eng­lish. You wouldn’t use words like ‘thus’ or ‘subsequently’ in the pub, don’t use them in a blog. Using long words to try and seem clever won’t work. People with a naturally large vocabulary can enjoy many ben­efits in getting their point across. You can’t take a shortcut to these benefits by inserting five syllables where you would usually use two. You are likely to create the opposite effect. Just use your own voice and language. If you’re not a natural writer, talk into a tape recorder, then right down exactly what you said. Your language and tone will carry through.

10. Remember your two audiences.

Ultimately, you need to blog for two separate audiences. One human, one arachnid. The Google spiders that will rank your web pages are a key reason for blogging. You need to follow your SEO rules at all times (no time to explain these here, I suggest you look up a relevant blog on Google including the all impor­tant title rules.) But never, ever, ever put your optimization goals before people. Better to forget everything you know about search engines than to produce a blog that is difficult for a normal person to read. These two things can sit easily alongside each other.

At the end of the day, try it for yourself and see what feels right. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

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