I recently published a blog – 7 things I’ve learnt from writing 687 blog posts – and I wanted to follow up with some practical tips. If you’re thinking of launching a blog (and you should) I really hope this helps.
I warn you, this is a longy, but there’s a lot of information here and it’s written for professionals who are committed to embracing the cornerstone of a personal brand – a blog. So here goes…
1. Platform – where you blog
It’s very important to have your own blogging platform, even if your content is featured on your company site or elsewhere. I use both WordPress and Blogger, both of which have strengths. WordPress is easy to use, it has great support and most importantly, great designs. Blogger is owned by Google so the SEO is excellent, however the templates are not so awesome.
Your blog will follow you throughout your career, so once you get started, invest the time in creating your own blog and post everything you write here. Please do not only post your content on other sites, including social media sites. Even if you are seduced to feature your content elsewhere – including platforms like LinkedIn – cross-publish on your blog as well.
2. But do cross-publish blogs on LinkedIn
With that said, cross-publish all blogs on LinkedIn, because it is a massive opportunity, providing you with significantly wider exposure to your content. Some of the reasons:
- Every time you publish a blog on LinkedIn, your community is alerted to your blog. This encourages your community to go and check it out. However, if you only share a link from your own blog, it just goes into your feed and your community is not alerted, which means the majority of your connections will miss it. If you publish on your own blog first, make sure you put a link at the end of your LinkedIn blog back to your original site
- When your LinkedIn connections like and comment on your blog, their connections see it, which significantly extends your potential reach
- And if the algorithms of LinkedIn pick up your blog and feature it in Pulse communities, you’ve got a whole new opportunity to influence well beyond your circle
- Sharing your blogs to LinkedIn groups is also a massive opportunity, although I would recommend you ask others to share your content for you. There is a lot of self-promotion in LinkedIn groups, and it is turning many people off groups
LinkedIn blogs offer greater exposure of your content to communities far outside of your normal reach. That’s how you increase readership and make a bang in your world.
Medium is also an option. I haven’t invested heavily in this site, but I do recommend checking it out. There are many blogging platforms available. Do your research and work out which is the best one for you.
3. Subscribe to a photo site
I use Shutterstock and will reference them here, because they have been very kind in giving me free access to stock photography and images. This is one of the benefits of being perceived as an influencer. Even before I received this generous offer, I always subscribed to photo sites. All blog posts must feature at least one image, and with 63 per cent of the world’s population visual learners, having an image is baseline for success.
In fact, check out this research by Xerox stating that colored visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%.
According to Jeff Bullascontent that has relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.
According to this article by Buffervisual content is more than 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content.
We live in a visual world. People respond to relevant visuals. Make this a priority in your blogging strategy. Alternatively, if you’re a great photographer, designer or artist, use your own visuals.
Please don’t steal photos. You’re stealing from talented people, artists. Equally, there are a huge number of free stock photo sites too. I personally don’t think the images are good enough, but look at the options and do the right thing by the artists creating these amazing images.
4. Get good at titles
With eight out of 10 potential readers deciding to read your blog based on the title, it’s important to get good at this craft – and it is a craft. Do some research, understand what makes a good title, and resist click-bait while avoiding being overly sophisticated when things like ‘listicles’ have a place – which is why I’m using listicles in this title – it works.
Pay attention to the titles that draw your attention and understand what it was that attracted you. Review from the readers perspective.
5. Understand the power of emotions
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou
One of the greatest quotes of our time, and it is spot on. Blogging is all about tapping into emotions and understanding the human psyche, as well as what motivates us. The top five reasons people share content are:
Laughter is also another strong reason, but humour does not always cross international borders.
Even if you are a B2B professional, remember that humans are emotional creatures. We decide and buy based largely on emotions. So, if your blogging is only rational, there’s a good chance it won’t resonate. We are emotional about our problems, so finding a solution for them – that taps into our human need – should be our biggest priority and factored into our blogs.
According to Gregory Fournier, director, strategic partnerships, APAC, at Unruly, the human brain works in three different ways:
1. Cognitive responses: how you process knowledge, feel like you are learning something, or whether you are shocked or confused
2. Basic emotions: pride, happiness, sadness, and admiration – what you use to build up memory
3. Primal responses: vital functions and instinctive reactions: fear, anger, arousal…
The two key drivers to share:
1. Emotions: This is subconscious. “I don’t choose to love, I don’t choose to cry, I don’t choose to feel goose bumps after a very emotional video – but I do. And I need to feel something strong for me to share”
2. Social motivations: When I choose consciously to share for a particular reason
I recommend checking out Unruly’s ShareRank Elements and Periodic Table in the referenced article. It outlines the different weightings of share-ability based on the emotions evoked.
I personally prefer not to position my information in a negative way, however sometimes when I’m frustrated a message isn’t cutting through, I do. When I’ve used titles like: What’s holding Asia’s businesses back from content marketing? for example, it got a lot of attention. I prefer to be positive though, but negative does work.
6. Writing for the digital world
I write long blogs, but I used to write long blogs with huge walls of text. Big chunky paragraphs that took up the whole screen. I’ve learnt that lesson now.
To write for the digital world it’s critical to have short paragraphs (two sentences max), lots of bullet points, and to break the content up with visuals and titles. Most people will only scan content these days, so make sure you are making it easy for them to pick up your key points in your blog while they scan.
As you become a reliable source, people will spend more time reading, but this is the reality of the overwhelmed reader today. Make it easy for them to love you.
7. Your style of writing
When I started my professional blog, I was more formal. I definitely didn’t swear and the language was professional. Over time I loosened up, because the reality is, the people who know me best are my biggest supporters, and while they expect (or maybe hope) that I won’t drop an f-bomb in my professional blogs, they still want to read me.
It’s completely normal to start out formal and structured in your early blogging days, but do give yourself permission to relax, and remember to write as you speak. This is not a whitepaper or a scholarly exercise, this is you, the human-being, reaching out to your world. I recommend you learn this lesson early to help you succeed faster.
Your job is to connect with your readers, so connect with your true authentic self-first to ensure you come across as that.
8. Research is important
As a blogger, it’s important to master the art of supporting what you say with stats. The world is full of stats on most topics, but one thing I learnt after working with a professional sub editor, is when you find a great stat to support your view, follow the reference as close as you can to the original source.
Therefore, if you find an article with a stat that supports your argument, and it links to where it got that stat from, keep following the links until you get close to the original source of the research. This is always more credible and sometimes uncovers a different context in how that research was presented in the first place.
I recommend that you are very careful about presenting statistics to support any argument you make. Check the research company – is it credible? If not, find the most credible research businesses in your industry, and use their research.
Whatever point you want to make will have statistics to back it up, but if it’s not credible, you lose credibility. Be conscientious about this.
9. Editing your work
It’s really really important to edit your work, even better if you can get someone else to do it. If you are going solo, I recommend putting your blog aside for a day and going back to it the next day to edit. It’s definitely much easier to edit if you create some distance from it. Also edit it by reading it out loud. That’s a tip I learnt years ago and it helps!
With blogs, being perfect isn’t critical. You can’t be and sometimes when you are, it comes across as insincere. Additionally, most people are very forgiving when someone is writing in a second language, but it’s still got to make sense to people right?
I know my blogs are never perfect (this will be full of typos/grammatical errors), but I work hard to get them close. With that said, it’s impossible to be perfect, because you just can’t see your own errors or bad habits.
However, in recent months I’ve read some blogs that are truly challenging. I want to support these people, but the language is practically un-readable. Resist using local language or slang – unless it’s globally understood – and be careful with acronyms, because it rarely works, especially if you’re older. In fact, it often just makes the reader cringe.
We have a lot of options with the written word today and there is more freedom to play around with it. I love the fact that we don’t have to be so formal anymore, but don’t forget to focus on writing so it makes sense.
If you know writing is not your thing, there are plenty of online sites where you can find a cost-effective editor. Fiverr is one example. You can also find freelance editors in every country in the world. Check out Upwork for great quality talent too.
The important thing is finding an editor that doesn’t edit you out of the piece. When you find that person, keep them close.
If you are podcasting or doing video logs, the same sites have great editors and producers you can work with.
10. Relevant links
If you are referencing any information in your blogs, make sure you link to it. Linking has caused all sorts of interesting discussions in recent years, mainly because not all links are relevant or created equal. Additionally, some businesses do not like being linked to, especially when it’s not appropriate.
The best thing to do is only use links to quality sites to provide back-up references to what you are talking about. Additionally, Wikipedia, Google sites (like YouTube), etc.. are all strong link material and good for SEO.
Because that’s why it’s important to include links – it dramatically increases your SEO. But it doesn’t just have to be external, link to your own content as well, which keeps driving people back to the blogs you’ve already written. Just make sure it is relevant.
Before you publish any blog, do a final check – have I included at least one relevant link? Or have I overdone the links? If you do, Google could punish you.
11. Understand SEO and SEM
I recommend reading this Hubspot article on the difference between SEO = Search Engine Optimization and SEM = Search Engine Marketing. They work hand in hand with each other, but are not the same thing, so it’s important to be clear on the difference.
I am not an expert in this field, but a basic understanding is very important to ensure your blog is successful. For example, you have categories and tags on your blog – make sure you are using the best words to drive Google to pay attention to your site.
Another small tip is when you upload a photo, you will see an “Alt text” line. This is great for SEO as well. Make sure you put your name, your topic, or any other term or phrase that can drive the search engines to your blog.
Learn the basic tips and tricks to ensure you are more successful.
12. Think about blog design
There are many blogs that immediately turn readers off because they look horrible. Spending time and money on blog design is important, but equally, with the fantastic templates available, you don’t have to go crazy with budgets. Review blog sites you like and take inspiration from the great blogs available today.
A great place to start is any blog that talks about blogging or content marketing. They are selling the most essential thing today – content – so the understanding of how a site must look to succeed is a cornerstone of their industry. Content Marketing Institute and Jeff Bullas are both great places to start, as are traditional publisher sites.
Whatever the case, blog design is critical. I will not share great content from a poorly designed site, because it can reflect poorly on me. Design is very important.
13. What’s the user experience of your blog like?
It’s hard to assess your own site for user experience, but how people interact with your site and what they do once there is really important. I recommend sitting down with a few friends and watch them navigate your site. If it is hard or clumsy to navigate, you will see it by watching them. Ask them for feedback. Listen and learn. If you know any professional designers, even better.
Another piece of advice is to understand the psychology of eye-tracking, as it’s important to know where your primary information should be positioned, versus the less important information.
14. Social sharing tabs
If you want people to share your content, you have to make it as easy as possible for them to do it, and scrolling social tabs are a great place to start.
Make it easy to be successful by making it easy for your reader to act and share your content.
15. Finish with a question
No matter who you are or what you know, you don’t know everything, so I suggest always signing off with a question – what did I miss? Have I got it wrong and is there another way to look at this?
You are encouraging conversation – which is what it’s all about – so your sign off is important. I finish every blog with a question, hoping to open a dialogue, and while I don’t always get answers to the question I ask, the subtle message is I want to hear from you. Speak to me.
16. How will you sign off?
Too many people don’t put their names at the end of a blog and I say why not?
I sign all professional blogs off with Cheers, Andrea.
One friend signs off – To Success in Business.
Another Brazilian friend – Saludos.
And a Singaporean friend – Amitiés…
A sign off is important, because you’re a person and it brings your reader back to the person who wrote the blog – you. So think about signing off your blogs at the end and put some character into it.
17. What do you want them to do next?
Some people spend loads of time on this, and other’s let their blogs do it for them – with automatic recommendations for further blogs to read. If you do want to get the reader to act, whether for a business or personal blog, think about what your call to action (CTA) should be.
If you are speaking at an event, hosting workshops, selling books, or doing anything you want people to attend, act-on, buy or download, make sure you use the real-estate at the end of your blog to drive people where you want them to go.
You can see mine for this blog at the end of the site. I can use this space to do a lot more and I will.
18. Interview people
One of the best things I’ve ever done for my blogs is interview people in my industry. Sometimes this opens up massive doors and provides opportunities to build relationships with new people, but more than that, the people you interview will become fans of your blog and help you amplify it – because it’s about them right?
When I started my business a decade ago, I had a few years with two babies in the mix, the Global Financial Crisis kicking our butt, we moved countries a few times and experienced a lot of chaos. This resulted in me getting disconnected from my potential customer base. They’d forgotten about me.
To get back into people’s minds, I started asking people if I could interview them and that got me back out there in my field. Interviewing people is great.
19. Feature guest posts
One thing I haven’t done enough of is feature guest blog posts. I started inviting guest bloggers at the beginning, but it was too early and it just didn’t work. I’ve watched many people build mini-publishing empires by taking this approach, but it wasn’t a path I thought of following.
Should I have? Maybe, but I missed that boat. Is it an option for you? Definitely. It’s also a great way to build up a regular stream of content on your blog site.
I am regularly publishing my blogs on other sites, as they tend to have massive audiences that can give me greater exposure, so whether you feature guest posts, or work out where you want to be featured, this is a great option to be considered on your blogging journey.
There you go, 19 tips for any future blogger.
I really hope it helps, and please, if I’ve missed anything, I’d love to know? No one of us knows everything, right?
Thank you so much for reading my blog. I really appreciate it. If you like it, I’d love a comment, or perhaps you can tell me what is your best blogging tip? Of course, please feel free to share with your communities, because that’s what this is all about today – sharing and giving to each other.
If you like my style and what I talk about, feel free to follow me on any of these platforms on social media. My Google+ The Digital Conversationalist company page is new, so would appreciate some followers J.
Also stay tuned for my forthcoming book “How to Build a Rock Star Personal Brand.” I am determined to get it done by Christmas. Wish me luck.
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