Creating a blog for your business is simple to set up and a great way to promote your products and services. But the real question: Will it get results? Only if done right, says Mark Satterfield, author of The One Week Marketing Plan: The Set It & Forget It Approach for Quickly Growing Your Business (BenBella Books). While anybody can key words into a template, it’s not so easy to create a professional blog that reels in potential clients and keeps current ones engaged. You have to strike the right tone, come up with great topics, and know how to hold a reader’s attention.
“Done well, your blog can become an essential component in your marketing arsenal,” says Satterfield, of Gentle Rain Marketing, Inc. The power of writing a regular blog goes beyond building a brand for your business and attracting new clients. If you do it consistently, your blog becomes a powerful tool for cementing relationships with your existing clients and thwarting the attempts from your competitors to poach them.”
In The One Week Marketing Plan, Satterfield shares actionable strategies to help entrepreneurs set up a successful, sustainable niche marketing plan in just five business days. Here, he spotlights eight tips for creating a compelling, business-driving blog:
1. Know what your readers care about. First and foremost, successful blogging is all about offering value to your readers. It doesn’t matter how well-written your posts are if they don’t provide useful information or answer readers’ questions. People are looking for resources to enhance their lives. “Specifically, I advise you to not only consider what your target audience cares about, but also to think about the words and phrases they’re likely to use when searching for that information,” Satterfield suggests. “Be sure to include these keywords in your headlines and copy so that your posts will be more likely to show up in the first few pages of search results. This is one component of search engine optimization, or SEO.”
2. Find your voice. (And make it an engaging one!) If your goal is to drive readers away or put them to sleep, write in dense “corporate speak” and use a lot of industry-specific, arcane phraseology. The tone of your writing should be more entertaining and approachable, even though you’re primarily talking about your business. “If you read your blog post aloud and conclude that your words would turn an in-person meeting into a snooze-fest, think twice before hitting ‘publish,’” advises Satterfield. “In fact, when you’re creating posts, aim for the tone you’d strike in a one-on-one conversation with a prospect or customer.”
3. Write about compelling topics. Consistently creating compelling content is a challenge for a lot of bloggers. So that you don’t find yourself facing blogger’s block, it’s smart to have a broad understanding of what readers generally find interesting. “I suggest making a list of posts you want to publish, so that you can work on them when inspiration strikes,” Satterfield says. “Be sure to keep a constantly evolving record of any new ideas that come to you.”
4. Tap into current trends. “Google Trends” is a valuable tool that lets you know on an hour-by-hour basis what the most popular searches are. If you write a timely post centered on one of these trends, you may get a quick traffic boost to your blog. “As a busy business owner, you can’t constantly monitor Google trends, ready to churn out a relevant post,” Satterfield acknowledges. “But whenever you can link a trend to your business, do so. Because it is a trend, you know it’s something many of your readers are already interested in and familiar with. Think of it as a topic ‘freebie.’”
5. Get (somewhat) personal. Just because it’s a business blog doesn’t mean it has to be all business. Sharing select details about your personal life can get you a lot of mileage because it accelerates the “know, like, and trust” factors that are crucial for building relationships. “It could be the movie you just saw, the restaurant you just ate in, or the conversation you just had with a client,” he notes. “Sprinkle these moments in from time to time, and your blog will have plenty of personality—trust me!”
6. Channel your comedic spirit. Your readers probably sought out your blog post because they were looking for specific, maybe even technical information, insight, or advice. But that doesn’t mean you should shy away from humor. Your readers will appreciate a good chuckle—and more to the point, they’ll be more likely to remember your business because you made them laugh. “You know your target audience and what they will generally respond well to, so trust your instincts and adjust your approach going forward if need be,” Satterfield instructs.
7. Watch your word count. In general, try to write posts that fall between 300 to 500 words. Many social media experts agree that 300 words is the minimum number necessary to get SEO benefits for your blog. (In other words, don’t count on shorter posts to affect your ranking in search results.) And once you go past the 500-word mark, you may be in danger of “losing” some readers’ attention. Satterfield points out, “If you do need to use more than 500 words, break your post up into Part I and Part II, using the same headline. You’ll get twice the SEO bang for your blog!”
8. Give them something to look at. We live in a visual culture, so spice up your posts with pictures. This will make them more interesting and memorable to readers. Don’t rely solely on stock content; post original photos or graphics from time to time and caption them with SEO-friendly keywords, which will boost your blog’s rankings. “You can even embed videos in your posts,” Satterfield says. “Whether you’re sharing a clip that showcases a new product or videoing yourself talking about a topic of interest, visitors to your blog will appreciate the multimedia approach and may share your videos with their own circles.”