If you’re sitting down to write a quick post for your business’ blog, you’re probably thinking you’ll be in and out in 30 minutes. Just whip something out off the top of your head and get on with your day. But if you want your post to count — like, drive traffic and therefore customers and therefore cash money — it’s well worth your time to be a bit more strategic.
Terra Dawn, owner of Uncork Your Dork, a membership-based blog about SEO and traffic-building, is an expert in such things. We were going to write a straight-up profile of her because she is awesome, but then we thought, Hey, what if she helped us write the post instead? A meta take on blogging for business — learning how to blog for business as we blog for a business. Yes!
So here, a post about business blogging, with the help of business blogger extraordinaire Terra Dawn.
Step One: Know Thy Reader
First things first: Figure out who your reader is. “Most bloggers are going to say, ‘But Terra, I know who my reader is!’” says Dawn. “You do actually have more than one reader. All of your readers are not named Mary and have a 9-to-5 job.”
Dawn suggests that you probably have three or four sub-categories of readers. For us here at Seed, we know you’re small business owners, startups, freelancers, and independent contractors (and we love each and every one of you!). That said, you are probably not all interested in the same things.
“Your entire audience is not going to be interested in tax season,” says Dawn about Seed customers (of which she is one), “’cause maybe a good portion of them are going to have their tax stuff in place. Or maybe some are deathly afraid of taxes and avoid them at all costs. Figure out which of your audiences you’re writing for and have a really clear idea of them as you’re writing.”
So, since you’re reading this, it’s very tempting to ask you to write in and tell us who you are. And in fact, please do! But since that won’t happen until after this post is posted, we’re going to give it our best guess. If you’re a Seed customer who is reading about blogging for business, you’re probably a small-business owner with either a product or an idea that you’re hoping to get in front of more people. (Not gonna lie, I feel like a bad psychic right now.) (Also, am I right?)
Step Two: Vet Thy Idea
Secondly, you must vet your post idea. “I get really excited about ideas and I think most small-business owners do too,” says Dawn. “It could be an idea for a blog post or a product, but you will wake up at 12:00 a.m. like, ‘Oh my God, I am a genius, I am going to be a millionaire in a week.’ One of the things that a lot of bloggers do not do is vet those ideas to make sure that they are actually needed.”
How to determine if it’s needed. A web search. But not a Google search. Instead, go to BuzzSumo.com. BuzzSumo (and other programs like it) will rate the popularity of the topic you want to post about by informing you of how many times other posts on said topic have been shared in the past. And no, you don’t have to worry about the fact that thousands of people have already written about what you thought was your brilliant standalone idea; there’s pretty much no such thing as an original idea, and that is really, totally okay.
“You want this idea to have been thought of already,” says Dawn. “It’s a great thing, because those people have gone ahead and taken a look at the community.”
But a caution: BuzzSumo is not cheap. Plans start at $79 a month and go up to over $499 a month. But there is a hack, and that is that you can get away with about seven free searches a day without a plan. Or, you can use a different web scraping tool, like one of these guys.
We’re gonna hop over to BuzzSumo and see what it says about writing posts about “blogging for business” …
… and we’re back! The top result has 438 shares, followed by the next with 275 shares. That doesn’t seem like much, does it? What about “blog for business”? Hold on…
“If the top result has five shares, chances are this is not a good topic for you to write about,” Dawn says. But 1,100 — or even 438 — is good. (Which is nice, because we’re already 850 words in to this post.)
And if you’re worried that your topic has too many shares, Dawn says there’s no reason to fear — in fact, you have every reason to celebrate. After all, the topic has already been vetted, and you’re going to approach it in a way that is unique to you.
“Someone won’t like the way that [other] person teaches,” she says. “They like the information, but they need you to explain it in your way. Go after it with a different angle, or just do it anyway. Someone is going to love the way you write. Someone is going latch onto your branding.”
Step Three: Do Not Be Lazy About Thy Headline
The next step is going to be to create a great headline. That’s easier said than done, of course, but it’s critical — you do want people to click, don’t you? Dawn says that the strongest headlines will “hint at the solution but not tell the solution,” because, again, “you want people to read it.”
Our headline promises great blogs and only six steps, so we assume it’s got appeal.
Step Four: Maketh Subheds (Like This One!)
Next, you’re going to want to break your post up into subsections that have separate headers and, if possible, are broken into steps. This is great for SEO, because Google loves steps, and it’s also great visually for readers. “Your readers are going to show up show up on your blog and skim for the answer they are looking for,” says Dawn.
Crap. We did not break this up into subsections or steps. So we are going to do that now.
Step Five: Brand Thy Images
We’re almost done! Now that you’re finished writing (which we almost are), go through your own branded images and attach them to your post. This is particularly important for Pinterest purposes, says Dawn, because if you don’t set your own images, Pinterest will set them for you, and then you will have a post with 10 different images attached to it, thereby making it impossible for people to recognize the post or the brand (you!).
“You want to stick out, not necessarily like a sore thumb, but one of those really nice, manicured thumbs,” says Dawn. Fortunately, Dawn has done that work for us by supplying the lovely image of herself that you see to the left! And it does make you want to click, doesn’t it? (We know – us too.)
Step Six: To Thine Own Voice Be True
“If you listen to nothing else I said,” says Dawn about this almighty sixth step, “listen to this.”
“This” is perhaps any writer’s worst nightmare. Take your post, go to another room, and read it out loud. This serves two purposes; one, you will catch any typos, missing punctuation, or “your/you’re” gaffes. Two, you will realize very quickly if you sound like yourself or like someone trying to impersonate William S. Burroughs in a blog post about widgets. Not that we don’t all love William S. Burroughs, but we are not all William S. Burroughs. You should sound like you.
“I cannot stress this enough,” says Dawn. “The only way you are going to get a following who is dedicated to you, not just popping in for a quick hit, is if you stand out, and you are only going to stand out as a blogger with your voice. If they show up and your posts are boring, they are not going to care. It doesn’t need to be award-winning; the people who read your blog want to feel like they are sitting across the table from you at a coffeeshop. The only way to achieve that is to read your stuff out loud.”
So, here we go. We can’t really show you that we did this, but if it helps, we just did, and it was mortifying, but also we fixed some pretty critical punctuation and also cut some segments where we sounded like real dorks.
And you’ll never know where they were.
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