A blog, an online communication platform, shares with website visitors timely, authoritative information on topics within a particular area of expertise. As the go-to person for your area of expertise, you may have been asked to contribute blog posts, or you may have decided on your own to create a blog. The following 6 tips will help ensure your success:
1. Give visitors a reason to return to your website. A dynamic website with interesting, substantive content attracts visitors to return regularly. Reward them with frequently updated content. Set a realistic goal to post at least once or twice a month—more often if you will reliably post more frequently. You can increase your frequency as your posting process becomes more efficient. Also, devise a strategy to attract visitors. For example, is your website address in your email signature block, on your business card, and on all of your give-aways? Does your blog link to Linked-In and Twitter? Does your website design lead readers to your blog? Do you encourage customers to visit your website? The Writing Center provides an updated list of blog post topics with our course participants’ materials and mentions our website and blog in our customer communications. How frequently will you post? How do/will potential visitors learn about your blog?
2. Keep an idea file/notebook for potential blog post topics. If a topic resonates with you, you are more apt to make it interesting for your readers. The following prompts will help you think of topics:
- What are your customers’/readers’ FAQs or common current challenges?
- In response to those challenges, what innovative product applications or solutions does your organization provide?
- What are hot topics in your area of expertise? What insight can you bring to those topics?
- What how-to information or top tips would interest your customers/readers and help them be more successful?
- What are the implications of recent changes in your industry or of changes in regulatory requirements or standards?
- What is your objective evaluation of an approach, new development, or product?
- What articles have you read recently whose topics beg for better, more in-depth treatment?
Also, can you get double mileage out of existing content? For example, did you recently create a presentation or an instructional handout that could be re-purposed for blog use? Can you re-use or link readers to FAQs already posted on your website? Each frequently asked question can be the seed for a blog post. Would colleagues be interested in hosting a specific blog post or providing a link to your blog on their websites? Would colleagues be interested in providing occasional or regular guest posts on your blog? What format will you use for your idea notebook? For example, will you use a bound journal with lined pages or an app on your hand-held device?
3. Plan a year of blog post topics in one fell swoop. Analyze your audience: Does your audience include fellow experts as well as less-knowledgeable lay readers? Existing or potential clients/customers as well as fellow employees? Decision makers as well as other influencers and thought leaders? With that diverse audience and their concerns, interests, and questions in mind, brainstorm and then prioritize 12 to 52 blog topic ideas—one topic per blog post. Identify topics for which you already have content. Identify topics that will separate nicely into several blog posts. For example, depending upon treatment depth, the topic “12 Quick Tips for Successful Blogs” could be three blog posts: “6 Quick Tips for Successful Blogs,” then “6 More Tips for Successful Blogs,” and finally “Take this Quiz on Successful Blogging Strategies and Techniques.” What topics will interest your readers?
4. Identify any topics that are seasonal, and enter them into your blogging calendar accordingly. For example, in September a photographer or a business etiquette guru could post tips and etiquette for sending personal and business holiday greeting cards, including a reminder to start early to schedule photo sessions, order greeting cards, and update customer mailing lists. In January a certified public accountant could post tips for organizing the prior as well as the upcoming year’s tax documents. Are there seasonal considerations in your area of expertise?
5. Remove from your website the tool for readers to comment on your blog posts. Unless you have the time and resources to effectively manage people’s questions and comments (friendly or hostile, attention worthy or trivial), instead encourage readers to email you their questions or comments.
6. Don’t “bury the lead.” Write an interesting, straightforward, predictive title that includes keywords and motivates readers to read your post. Then, unless a chronology of events or sequence of steps is more logical, “hit the ground running.” Use the journalist’s inverted pyramid. That is, begin the post with the information of most interest/importance to your busy readers. Also, keep the focus on your readers and their concerns, not on yourself. For example, rather than beginning with your credentials, you can include author information in a column to the side of your blog or with your copyright information at the end. Rather than describing how you came to write about this topic, anticipate your readers’ questions about the topic, provide just enough context, and let them know what they will gain by reading the blog post. Evaluate the titles and beginnings of several recent posts. Do they motivate website visitors to read your blog posts? How many sentences do readers have to read before they get to the point?
Which of the 6 Tips for Successful Blogs will you implement? What are your ideas for blog topics?
In our next post we’ll explore 6 More Quick Tips for Successful Blogs. You may also be interested in The Writing Center’s previous posts such as Clarity Clinic, How to Use Readability Statistics Scores, and 21 Steps to Create A Customized Style Guide.
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