In our new Ask the Pit Crew series, members of the Pole Position Marketing pit crew answer your web marketing questions from their unique perspectives with a “bonus lap” by a guest industry expert. Have a question you’d like answered? Email it to us!
This Week’s Question: I have a blog for my business, but what should I be writing about?
Stoney deGeyter’s Answer from an SEO Perspective:
Write about whatever it is that your audience is most interested in. A blog is a great informational tool, so use it to dispense information about your business, your products and services, how you do what you do, why you know what you know, tips and tutorials, and even steps on how your audience can also do what you do.
Your blog is your outlet to your audience. It’s your opportunity not to showcase what you sell, but to prove why you are the expert in the product or services you offer. If you sell water and water filtration systems, be the expert on all things drinking water related. Tell your audiences the best places to find natural water, where to buy the best water, tell them what filtration systems produce the cleanest water. Show them how to filter water for themselves. Be the expert that every camper, backpacker and water snob goes to in order to learn more about water.
Will you lose potential customers by giving away information for free, showing people how to do for themselves what you are trying to get them to buy? Sure, a few. But by being the expert you are probably bringing in 10 new potential customers for every one potential customer you might lose. Build an audience and a following, and sooner or later those readers are going to become buyers.
Because they can’t always do it themselves. And since you’re the expert, they know they can trust the products you’re selling. It’s that simple.
So, back to your question. How do you know what to write about? Find out what your audience wants to know. Then you’re not really writing you’re posts, your audience is writing them for you.
Debbie Briggs’ Answer from a Content Marketing Perspective:
Even though I’ve been writing for the past 20 years, it doesn’t mean it’s always been easy. Writer’s block is real and ugly, and that cursor can seem like it’s mocking you with each blink on a blank computer screen. The reason why? The topic could be technical and dry, or maybe you’re just not feeling creative.
My solution? Walk away. Take a coffee break. Go for a walk around your office building. Chat with a co-worker for a few minutes. Maybe even tell them what you’re working on—or trying to work on—for your blog. That conversation might just be the thing that gets your creative juices flowing.
Or maybe you’re having trouble with the beginning of your post. This one’s easy. Start with the middle. I know this can be tough for people with OCD—I have to go in order! No, you don’t. Once you have the “meat” of the post, you’ll be able to sum it up nicely with a killer intro that will make people want to read the rest.
Whatever technique you use, don’t give up! Developing a method for blogging that works can take time—and that’s OK.
Kathy Gray’s Answer from a Social Media Perspective:
Since “everybody’s doing it” and the “experts” suggest it, you decide to start a blog for your business, but the blank empty pages are staring you in the face, and you have no idea what to write or even how to get started.
Know thy audience…
As with any form of marketing, you need to know your audience/customers, their buyer personas, what their problems, concerns, needs, pain points and interests are, and how your product or service can help them.
A friend of mine recently developed a new product, Bordo Tasters Tablet, that solves a problem for people who enjoy wine tasting. The tablet allows you to hold your glass of wine while recording notes during wine tastings. He launched the website with a blog, but doesn’t know where to start. He knows his customer’s problem, and he knows his customers are wine enthusiasts.
Should every post on his site be specifically about his business and the tablet? Absolutely not. With a blog you need to go beyond your business and product; it’s a soft sell. What other relevant and useful information could he share with his audience that is still related to his product?
He has a vast knowledge of wine and could write reviews of specific wines, information on upcoming tasting events, how to dress for a wine tasting, how to host the perfect wine tasting event, wine and food pairings or the five items every wine enthusiast must own. His blog should become something that not only attracts new customers, but keeps past and current customers engaged with his brand.
Plan, plan, plan…
Plan ahead by keeping an editorial calendar, and you will know what you’re writing about when you sit down at the blank screen. Brainstorm enough ideas to fill your calendar for three to six months, but be flexible in your schedule to allow for posts that come to you in-between brainstorming sessions. Once you get started with brainstorming and an editorial calendar, other post ideas will begin to flow.
Mike Fleming’s Answer from a PPC Advertising and Analytics Perspective:
Trust me, I know what it’s like to sit around waiting for divine inspiration. You have an assignment (or you’ve given one to yourself), and you figure if you’re going to do it, you want it to be good. You want it to be REAL good. You’ve given yourself a deadline and you feel the pressure of performance. Now you’re frustrated because this is when you need the ideas to flow, but you’ve learned it’s not like a faucet you just turn on. No, it’s not a faucet. It’s more like a box with a key. When I learned how to put the key in and turn the lock, writer’s block disappeared forever.
If you’re having trouble with what to write about, I’ll bet you’re just not taking good enough notes about your days. For me, this is the best place to look. What happened today? Did a client have a question I couldn’t answer? Did I learn something interesting? If I summed up today in one word, what would it be? Did something frustrate me today? Was there a misunderstanding that needed clarified? Did I have an interesting angle on a popular topic (how many hit love songs are there?!?!)?
Then, a lot of ideas can be extended into a series. For instance, what you’re reading likely started with a common question that we hear all the time. How could we turn that into a series? Just keep answering common questions. Or there’s the “Yeah, but…” series that was inspired by a client receiving a recommendation and giving a lame excuse for not implementing it. If you pay attention to daily life, you’ll find yourself having to pick and choose from the plethora of ideas that will come to you.
Heck, if I just wrote about what to write about, you can turn anything into an interesting blog post!
Annalisa Hilliard’s Answer from a Link Building and Local SEO Perspective:
When it comes to writing for your blog, be practical and personable.
You’re not writing because you have a lot of extra time on your hands. You’re writing because consumers use the internet to research and find answers to their questions, in order to make more informed decisions.
Listen to the conversations taking place in-and-around your industry, and offer feedback that’s both unique and useful. Providing actionable information can help grow your readership. Your audience will recognize the practical value of your content and be more likely to engage with it.
It takes professional writers years to find their voice. This can be a challenge for businesses as well, especially if an in-house person is creating the content and isn’t necessarily a writer. In addition, it’s difficult for companies to show personality.
Make your writing personable. After all, extraterrestrials aren’t likely reading your blog. Having a personality will set your content apart from your competition.
“I have a blog for my business, but what should I be writing about?”
I’m going to apply a scalpel to this (Dexter style).
That’s important (imo). Who/what is attempting to communicate a message? I endorse narrative and a personal style. Like in customer service, consumers enjoy personalization; it facilitates style and unique disposition. Ensure your readers come to understand messages stem from an “I”—a unique voice.
‘Blog’ is a nebulous word, like “marketing.” When speaking with clients, I want them to understand all potential options regarding leveraged platforms. Blogs may feature videos, pictures, written posts, animation, etc.
Furthermore, don’t be shy about “going to play outside,” and “inviting people over to hang out.” (Look for opportunities to guest post on others’ blogs, inviting others to yours as well.)
It’s “your business,” yet you’re in the business of serving others. It’s important to understand you need to provide value. When I first got into PR/marketing, I was astounded by the go-to mentality of a number of owners: “My service/product is the best.” I think every owner who has ever operated a business in the history of the world, in every vertical, thought their stuff was the best.
Unless you can get Tiger Woods, wearing his TAG watch, to rave about your service/business, it’s best to show and let others tell how great you are. Build advocates for your business, but never forget your company relies on value provided to and assessed by your consumers, your advocates.
Please don’t listen too much to top SEOs and marketing gurus. (It’s not that there aren’t smart people out there, but “should” always makes my skin crawl—it’s a bit too uniform for a contextual world.)
Consumers and instances of need/purchase are unique, like snowflakes. There is no “should,” only nimble listening.
Put your ears to the street. Never leave the “hood,” where your customers’ anxieties, needs, and wants live and breathe. What are your customers’ questions? What kinds of problems does your service/product solve for them? You know your wants/needs as a customer, but you’re not your customer. Listen to them.
Content is an ongoing conversation with your target market. How do you like one-way conversations—people talking at you? It’s kind of annoying for me. I champion reciprocity, giving and taking of communication. I’m a great listener, and I always notice and appreciate when others devote time and care to listen. It’s respectful, rational, and makes for good business impressions.