More About Quotations in Blogging for Business

Chocolate Quotation Marks and Asterisk

Using quotations in blog posts can help create anticipation, suspense, or drama, as we went over earlier this week in my Say It For You blog. Quotations help reinforce points while adding variety and authority, and, so long as they are not overdone, they can be a very good idea in blogging for business. But, in addition to the content writing itself, there are some technical to-dos and no-nos about quotations that bear need mentioning, and that will be our focus today.

On the negative side, Dave Smith of realestatebloglab.com issues a caution about quotations: Don’t use double quote marks in blog post titles, he says.  Double quote marks at the beginning and end of a phrase tells the search engine to look only for those exact words in that exact order, severely limiting your ability to “get found” through category or organic search.

A second crucial caution has to do with plagiarism.  The dictionary definition? “An instance of using or closely imitating  the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s
own.” Sure, you’re creating value for your readers by curating, gathering information from many sources, but it’s only fair to create a link to the authors’ sites, giving them the attribution or credit, advises Nick Schaferoff of Torque.

While we’re talking about mechanics, there’s benefit to be had in linking back to your own former blog posts. ”I find that when someone views more than a single page on your blog that they’re more likely to remember it, subscribe to it, comment upon it and become a regular and loyal reader,” Darren Rowse of problogger.com observes.

“Quotations can bring your writing to life – the reader imagines someone saying the words,” says Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty, but you have to follow certain rules, depending on what other punctuation marks you mix with your quotation marks. In American English we always put periods and commas inside quotation marks, she stresses.

There are two reasons to use quotation marks in English writing, explains yourdictionary.com.

1.  You are quoting someone; that is to say you are using someone else’s exact words, and you are giving that person credit for having said them.
2.  You are being sarcastic (He can’t get a date, because no one wants to be seen in his “car”.)

As a blog content writer and trainer, I’m not being in the least sarcastic when I say that, in business blogs, quotations can be a very good idea!

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In Business Blogs, Quotations Can Be a Good Idea

Quotation MarksHow good an idea is it to use quotations in your business blog? Very good, once you allow for certain caveats. You can use a quote to:

  • reinforce your point
  • show you’re in touch with trends in your field
  • add value for readers (by aggregating different sources of information in one business blog)
  • add variety to your material
  • add to the authority of your claims

In “How to Use Quotes in Your Speech”, Andrew Dlugan says that a quotation is more powerful than simply repeating yourself in different words. But Dlugan offers a caution I want to emphasize to business bloggers: Avoid closing your speech with a quote. “Your final words should be your own,” he cautions.

I agree.  Curating the work of others (bloggers, authors, speakers) is a wonderful technique for adding variety and reinforcement to your own content.  Remember, though, when it comes to writing marketing blogs, you’re trying to make your own cash register ring.  It’s your voice that has to be strong throughout the post, so readers will click through to your website or shopping cart. (In the case of Say It For You ghost blogging clients, the blog writer must become the voice of each business owner or professional practitioner.)

“Depending on how you deliver the quotation,” Andrew Dlugan adds, “you can create anticipation, suspense, or drama.”  (As much as I’d like to imagine otherwise, “Abraham Lincoln once said” or “Microsoft founder Bill Gates once said…”, will probably capture more attention than “I always say…”.)

Dlugan offers a couple of warnings:  a) Don’t use a quote that everyone knows: you’ll receive no benefit from repeating it. b) Don’t overdo.

In blogging for business, quotations can be a very useful tool!

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Blogging to Inspire

“Unless your blog only serves as a personal diary, you should aim to inspire others with your writings,” hongkiat.com advises. All you need to be concerned about is how much value you can provide to readers.  How do you go about providing value? Honkiat’s answers:

  1. Write what others didn’t think of.
  2. Write what is noteworthy, be it a solution or an opinion-based entry.
  3. Be specialized.
  4. Be persuasive.
  5. Be relatable
  6. Demonstrate expertise.

All well and good, but for blog content writers whose aim is the marketing of specific products or services, how does inspiration figure into it?  The answer, I concluded, might come from a YouTube video a friend had turned me onto, listing the ten most common regrets people have later in life.

On the one hand, I reminded myself, in a business blog, the last thing one would want to do is sound “preachy”. After all, readers arrive at a particular website seeking information about a product or service, or to learn more about what that company or individual knows or knows how to do. Still, wouldn’t that information be even more compelling when combined with an inspirational element?

For example, the first most common regret people have is not having travelled more. What if, in a blog post, you described ways to learn about and experience other cultures, even if you had neither the funds nor the time to actually go abroad?  A furniture company describes “12 Spaces Inspired by India.” From catering to fashion, there are endless opportunities to market  products and services  using the appeal of international culture.

Not spending enough time with one’s parents is another common regret. Rather than reinforcing guilt feelings, blog marketers can introduce unique gift ideas, conversation starters (“Tell me a story of a special holiday we shared when I was little)”. Of course, the topic of connecting with parents is ideal for eldercare facilities, elder lawyers, photographers, and therapists, but even shoe companies, food delivery companies, and cell phone companies can offer ideas to help adult children do “a little bit more” to connect with and help their parents.

One of the biggest regrets people mentioned was caring too much about what other people think. This one has endless applications to inspire readers by offering advice, products, and services that help boost self-esteem. As wealthygorilla.com says, “You cannot let the opinions of others dictate how you are going to live your life.”

The typical website, I believe, is more like the catalogs of an earlier era, explaining what products and services the company offers, who the “players” are and in what geographical area they operate. Of course, the better websites give at least a taste of the corporate culture and some of the owners’ core beliefs. The blog’s purpose is to address unspoken questions such as “So, is that different?”, “So, is that good for me?” More than that, however, the blog is there to inspire, helping people address those common regrets.

 

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Ohio River Lessons About Business Blogging

My two-day get-away with friends to historic Madison, Indiana wasn’t supposed to be about business, and it wasn’t. Later, though, recalling the different guided tours we’d taken, I realized I’d had blog content writing on my mind after all. While learning interesting facts about how a telegram saved Madison from demolition and how Kentucky “owns” the river up to Indiana shoreline, I’d learned a lot of dos and don’ts about presenting information to a group.

Tour guides, remember, have the benefit of addressing audiences that have demonstrated they are already interested in the subject matter. In the same way, online searchers arrive at your blog precisely because they have a need for the very kinds of information, products, and services you provide!  But in both cases, now that the searchers/tourists have arrived, it’s up to the guide/blog content writers to keep them engaged, taking them to someplace new in their knowledge and thinking!

Our Lanier Mansion tour guide understood the “one-message-per-post” rule I teach when training blog content writers: in each post, have a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of your business. In each room of the mansion, our guide would point out just one interesting item – the parlor had “windows you could walk through”, while the winding staircase had the signature medallion of the architect embedded in it.

The guide, who told us he works for the Indiana History Center, spoke with personal pride, using first person pronouns – “we” will be finishing the renovation of this wing, “we” had to find…. I stress the importance of first person business blog writing because of its one enormous advantage – it shows the people behind the posts, revealing the personality of the business owner or of the team standing ready to serve customers.

Our Rockin’ Thunder jet boat tour guide, Captain Paul, was likewise knowledgeable and passionate. Because the noise of the engine made it impossible to hear while the boat was moving, Paul needed to stop periodically, cut the engine, and then point out interesting facts about Ohio River and Kentucky River history. In effect, in his presentation, the Captain was forced to obey one of the cardinal rules for successful business blogging, namely frequency.  Blog posts provide a steady stream of “sound bites” – little bits of different, interesting, and informative content.

One tidbit of information we learned on that tour was this: Bridges over the Kentucky River are painted blue.  Why? The land donor was a University of Kentucky football fan!

As a business blogging trainer, I urge bloggers to demonstrate why the facts they’re offering might matter to readers, suggesting ways readers might use that information for their own benefit. Sometimes, though, tidbits of information can be so intrinsically interesting, it’s worth including them even if they are not actionable.  Why? To add variety and fun to your content, and to demonstrate your own knowledge in your field.

As blog content writers, we’re the “tour guides” for our readers.  Sure, before they arrived, they were already interested in what we know and what we know how to do. Now that they’ve arrived, it’s up to us to take them to new “places”.

 

 

 

 

 

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Self-Checking Your Business Blog

 

 

 

 

 

“These 5 fast and easy self-exams can tell you if it’s time to see a doc,” Kate Lawler writes in ATM Magazine, encouraging readers to check the inner lids of their eyes, the appearance of their skin and hair, their balance, and their heart rate.

As a content writing trainer, I had to applaud the organization of that two page AARP  article.

  • Formatting, including boxed sections, bullet points, images, and bolding, made skimming and reading easy.
  • For each type of check (eye check, skin check, hair check, balance check, heart check), there were three sections: an introductory paragraph on how to perform the check, then a “What you want to see/feel” section followed by a “IF you see or feel” section, listing signs you need to have a doc check you out.

Of course, I couldn’t resist thinking about ways for blog marketers to do similar self checks, not on themselves, but on the “health” of their content.

Business blog “heart check”:
Are you delivering new content on a regular and frequent basis? Is your subscriber list growing?

Business blog “eye check”:
Staying informed – and keeping your readers informed – on what’s happening in your field increases your credibility and value. Subscribe to – and occasionally cite – industry or professional journals, culling information you think your own readers will find useful.

Business blog “skin check”:
Business owners and professional practitioners will inevitably need to deal with a dissatisfied customer or two. Dealing with complaints and concerns “in front of other people” (in blog posts), offers you the chance to offer useful information to other readers and explain any changes in policy that resulted from the situation. Being “thick-skinned”, yet having the ability to be flexible are the marks of a healthy blogging process.

Business blog “hair check”:
Just as sudden hair loss can be a sign of anemia or thyroid disease, a sudden drop in readership can alert blog marketers that a change in approach is needed. Regular analytics checks can show which categories were most frequently viewed by readers.

Business blog “balance check”:
Balancing different types of content adds variety to a business blog. Opinion pieces can be balanced by “curating” contrasting views of other people in your field. News posts offset how-to posts. First person writing can be offset by third-person narrative, and short and long sentences can balance each other.

Why not carry out a self-exam on your business blog?

 

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Where Are You Going and Why Are You There?

In the e-letters my friend Jane Thompson, the trade show marketing consultant, sends me, I invariably find valuable pieces of advice that relate to blog marketing. While trade shows can be a tremendous source of leads, industry information, and networking, Jane explains, she sees many companies wasting time and money because they don’t have an over-arcing strategy.

Truth is, I see companies wasting time and money on blogging for the same basic reason.  Yes, as Christine Whittemore writes in simplemarketingnow.com, “A blog is the centerpiece or hub for your content strategy as well as any marketing you do using social media…It’s via a blog that you are able to develop thoughts and create meaning for readers.”.

But what business owners and professional practitioners need to realize that a blog isn’t –and cannot be – an all-purpose, Swiss-army-knife solution for all their marketing needs. In fact, blogging is just one piece of the general strategy you work on with your team (which might well include a blog copy writer, but which also might include the web designer, the business manager, the employees, loyal fans, even sometimes a franchisor).

Jane Thompson talks about the importance of choosing the right shows and setting goals. In relation to your blog content creation, questions to consider include:

  • Are you selecting the right keywords and phrases?
  • Is there a clear navigation path from the blog to landing pages?
  • Is your content varied enough?
  • Is it usable?
  • Does it include evergreen and currently trending content?
  • Is it revealing of your values?

All the pieces used to promote your business or practice must mesh – social media, traditional advertising, event planning, word of mouth marketing, community involvement.

Ask yourself, Jane Thompson reminds her trade show marketing clients: Where are you going and why are you there?

 

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Intro Blog Posts

I picked up Pulp Media’s 501 Things You Should Have Learned About Math from the bargain rack outside my favorite bookstore, and spent the next hour happily browsing through it.  As the printed introduction promises, “Several facts in this book are bizarre, mind-boggling, fun and interesting, but not one will make you want to put it down.”

But even better than that intro actually printed in the book itself, I found, was the intro offered by Amazon:

“This eminently browsable book presents history’s greatest mathematicians and mathematical discoveries in fascinating, easy-to-understand chunks.”

Every business blog, I believe, could use an introductory post telling readers exactly what to expect in posts to come.

“You’ll learn about Archimedes, Pythagoras, Isaac Newton and how their experiments and breakthroughs have changed the world. You’ll learn how “zero” came to life, how geometry was discovered and how mathematicians throughout history have cracked the world’s most challenging conundrums.”

An introductory post needs to entice readers, arousing their curiosity.  (And, did you notice the intro writer’s skillful use of alliteration such as in “challenging conundrums”))

“So if you don’t know your Fibonacci from your tagliatelle what are you waiting for?”

Nothing like offering a challenge to readers, giving them a reason to slimb aboard. (I knew who Fibonacci was, but needed to look up tagliatelle!)

Just as instructors make clear to students what the syllabus is for the semester and what tasks they are expected to complete before the next session, it’s crucial for us blog content writers to tell the readers what to expect of our blog, making it clear why we decided (or why our client decided) to offer a blog in the first place!

 

 

 

 

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No Thank You to Using the Ziegarnik Effect to Keep ‘Em Reading

 

We worry about things in which we have not achieved closure, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik realized back in 1927.  When writing content for a business blog, Hassan ud-Deen of unbounce.com concludes, you can use that Zeigarnik insight to “seduce your prospect”. You start the blog post with a hypnotic sentence, he says, snagging readers’ attention and “dragging” them into your copy, talking of a “mysterious little secret”. You keep dangling this secret “open loop” throughout the post, stoking their curiosity, using short sentences that go heavy on the “power verbs”, light on the adjectives. The right action words, Ud-Deen says,” give your copy a muscular, grab-you-by-the-throat effect that keeps your reader glued to the screen.”

To demonstrate one form of  the Ziegarnik effect magic, psychologists Davis and Knoles tested a technique known as reframing.  Going door to door to sell note cards for charity, they used two different “pitches”.  In Pitch #1, prospects were told the price was $3 for 8 notecards.  40% of the households approached completed a purchase. In Pitch #2, prospects were told the price was 300 pennies for 8 notecards;80% of the households became buyers.

What had happened?  The prospects’ routine thought processes were disrupted and they were distracted, Told that the 8 cards for 300 cents was a bargain, they kept trying to “close the open  loop” by figuring it out, remaining engaged in the buying process. What Hassan ud-Deen is inviting blog copy writers to do is “crank up” that confusion factor power to increase conversions.

Uncomfortable reading about all these “tricks??  I know I was, particularly in light of the fact that so many of our Say It For You clients are professional practitioners. . “You can use hard sales tactics when you’re doing door-to-door sales or sending sales letters, but you can’t use the same method for social media,” asserts Heather Sawtell of multibrain.net.  Writing in the Daily Egg, Neil Patel says ,“A successful blogging initiative has to provide valuable information and eye-catching visual content without coming off as pushy and sales-ey” Sawtell and Patel are much more in tune with my preferred methods of creating blog content..

What I like to call the “I/you conversational style” is precisely the approach most effective for business blogs. As a corporate blogging trainer, I use the word “selling” in a very specialized sense.  That’s because, in today’s world, whatever your business or profession, there’s almost no end to the information available to consumers on the Internet.  Our job then, as business blog content writers, isn’t really to “sell” anything, but rather to help readers absorb, buy into, and use all that information. Thank you, but I don’t believe I’ll have much need for  Ziegarnick today!

 

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A Nutritious Business Blog Diet Balances Features and News

 

Like newspapers, business blog content writing can balance feature stories with news. News stories cover breaking, time-sensitive stuff; feature articles might have the same impact whether you read them today or two months from now.

The word “news” when it comes to blog marketing, can mean two entirely different things.  The first type centers around you and your company or practice. Readers need to know about new products and services they can now obtain through you, any new partners or employees you want to introduce, and your recent or upcoming activities in the community; your blog is the perfect way to keep your audience informed as these things are happening. It’s very important, I explain to newbie content writers, to present this “you news” in a way that appears to be “all about them”. For every piece of news about your company, you need to address the unspoken questions such as “So, is that different?”, “So, is that good for me?”

The second type of news relates to your community, your city, your country, even worldwide events, “what’s-going-on-and-how-do-we-fit-in news. In fact, reading daily newspapers is just one of many strategies for blog content development. In a blog post, you might cite material from the news story, relating it to new developments in your own industry or field. The idea is not to regurgitate what’s already been said, as waxmarketing.com points out, but to showcase your own expertise and experience, offering a new perspective on that very news item.

The second type (most blog posts would likely fall into this category) is the feature story. These offer helpful “how-tos”, questions consumers ought to be asking, and stories about how you solved clients’ or patients’ problems. Feature posts are non time-sensitive, and in fact, the goal is to have the material be “evergreen”. (When someone searches for information on a topic, it’s quite possible for them to “matched up” with content written a long time ago.) Good informational content, after all, can have relevance even months and years later after it was first published!

A nutritious business blog diet balances features and news!

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Are You Game to Blog?

AARP’s September issue chose an interesting way to present content. In place of an article about saving money and getting the best deals possible, the editors offered a game grid, challenging readers to search for words on a grid.  There were ten sentences with certain words printed in red, and readers were asked to locate those words in the grid.

There’s no doubt about it, in blogging for business, the words are the most important element.  Where visuals come in, whether they’re in the form of “clip art”, photos, graphs, charts, or even videos, is to add interest and evoke emotion.  That innovative AARP article can serve as a reminder to us content writers to keeping “changing things up”. Here’s my adaptation of the AARP game, using definitions from Hubspot.com. (The words in bold are the ones to find.)

W     H     A     R     T     I     C     L     E     R     H     O

R      Y      T    R     T     O     A     N     C     H    O     R

S      P      M    E     T     A     T     A     G     S      I     M

S      E      A     R     C     H     E    N    G     I       N     E

X     R      G     B     L     O     G    U     Q     G     T     T

I      L      Q      J     K     P     O    S      T      J      E     A

S      I      M     P     L     E     R     E     D     S      R     T

Y      N      Z     K     P     G     Y     R     I     X     N     A

P      K      F     O     O     B     M    C    P     Z     E     G

B      C      W     E     B     S      I      T    E     V     T    S

  1. An article is one single post on a blog.
  2. The collective community of all blogs and bloggers on the internet is called the blogosphere.
  3. A category defines the topic addressed in the blog.  A blog about apple pie might fall under
    “baking”.
  4. Anchor text is clickable content on a web page that takes the user to another page or
    website called the hyperlink.
  5. Metatags are elements of information that help a search engine categorize web pages
    correctly.
  6. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, a means for users to subscribe to a blog feed and
    be notified when new blog content has been published.

(Readers are welcome to send in the solution to the game in exchange for high praise plus a hyperlink to their own website. The real point of all this, though, is to remind bloggers to use visuals and to be innovative in presenting their products, services, and ideas to their own readers!)

The question is – Are you game to blog?

 

 

 

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