Giving it Away to Get ‘Em – the Other Side of the Useful Info Story

useful info in blogs

No, (as I spent some digital “ink” saying in my last post), I don’t think sports scores or snow statistics belong on the blog sites of jewelers, dentists, or veterinarians, when those are used primarily as a way to attract visitors. My take on that form of marketing is that it works counter to the purpose of establishing trust and credibility for the business owner or practitioner.

But there’s always an “on the other hand”, as I will be first to admit. Offering tidbits of information loosely related to the industry or field represented in the blog is something readers tend to like. It “puts words in their mouths”, gives them “ready-to-microwave” cocktail conversation consisting of little-known or just plain interesting things to mention at the appropriate moment.

Humor speaker Todd Hunt doesn’t have a blog, but his e-newsletter, Hunt’s Headlines, does that “words-in-the-mouth’ thing for me. This time, Hunt explained the difference between acronyms and initialisms:

An acronym is a word, Hunt reminded me, that is formed from initial letters and pronounced as a word:

Scuba = Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (I’d forgotten this)
NATO = North Atlantic Treaty Organization (I knew that one)
Laser = light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation (who knew?)
Zip (code) = Zone Improvement Plan (I would’ve missed this on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire)

Now that I think of it, to illustrate my Say It For You blogs and emails, I use JPEGS. I was never informed (until now) that the acronym stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group.

In an initialism, in contrast to an acronym, the letters are actually pronounced individually (not as one word). Examples are:

FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation
IRA – individual retirement account
AAA – American Automobile Association
ATM – automoated teller machine

One initialism pertaining to our work as blog content writers is HTML, which (I should’ve known this, but somehow didn’t remember)) stands for Hyper Text Markup Language.

I’m far from actually reneging on my earlier assertion that “you cannot afford to tax their (online readers’) patience by distracting them with sports scores or weather updates; you’re best focusing on the search topic that brought those readers to you in the first place. Still, in blog marketing it’s well worth the effort of digging up curious and little known facts relating to your business or profession.

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Blog Marketing – Giving it Away to Get ‘Em

useful information

Weather reports on a jewelry store website or blog? Sports scores to market a dental practice? Really?

Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide thinks it’s a good idea:

Another good way to increase your web site’s sticky content is to provide
up-to-date headline news, sports scores, international and local weather
forecasts, and stock market financial information……By providing visitors with
free and valuable information and services, you entice them to return to your
web site often, and in doing so you increase the number of selling opportunities
you have with each individual visitor.

World Weather Online claims, “There are millions of websites on the Internet and you have to make yours stand out for all the right reasons….They can peruse your website and at the same time have the added bonus of being able to check a wide range of weather reports.”

As a marketing blog content writer, I tend to lean the other way. The Nielsen Norman Group in “113 Design Guidelines for Homepage Usability” hits on my point exactly:

Imagine how disorienting it would be to walk into a store and not be able
to tell immediately what services or goods were available there. The same
is true of your homepage. It must communicate in one short glance where
users are, what your company does, and what users can do at your site.
Why should users do anything at a site if they can’t figure out what there is to do there?

“Provide good useful information and establish trust and credibility – sales will follow,” says the think-ebiz.com blog. You’re a subject matter expert (a SME) offering usable information and insights – but you’re not a SME on sports or weather. In corporate blogging for business, the blog content itself constitutes a Call to Action. Inserting non-related, albeit generally useful, information, in my mind, borders on bait-and-switch.

Remember, online readers have found their way to your blog precisely because there’s a match between the products, services, and information they need on the one hand, and what you have, what you do, and what you know on the other. Now that they’ve arrived, you cannot afford to tax their patience by distracting them with sports scores or snow statistics.

I’m Sorry, What Is It You Just Said in Your Business Blog Writing?

Blog marketing is a form of “giving it away to get ‘em”, which focus readers’ attention on information that is relevant, useful, and encourages action – with your business or practice!

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Let Me Count the Ways to Use Numbers in a Business Blog

numbers in blogs

“Use numerals to express numbers 10 and above, and use words to express numbers below 10,” Paige Jackson of the American Psychological Association reminds writers.
Another writing guidance source, the Purdue OWL, has this to say: “Although usage varies, most people spell out numbers than can be expressed in one of two words and use figures for other numbers.” The OWL offers several examples of each choice:

Words:

  • over two pounds
  • six million dollars
  • after thirty-one years
  • eighty-three people

Numbers:

  • after 126 days
  • only $31.50
  • 6,381 bushels
  • 4.78 liters

When Pamela Vaughan and her colleagues at HubSpot analyzed all there own blog posts to see which titles had performed the best in terms of search results, the top eight each included a number, starting with::

  • “12 Quick Tips to Search Google Like an Expert”
  • “12 Mind-Blogwing Statistics Every Marketer Should Know”
  • “How to Monitor Your Social Media Presence in 10 Minutes a Day”
  • “The 9 Worst Ways to Use Twitter for Business”

Ryan McCready of Vennage.com is even more specific, suggesting, after looking at 121,333 unique articles, tthat 10 is the best number to use in blog titles. The number 5, McCready points out, is second. Avoid using the teens, he adds, and never, ever use the number 2.

Career coaches suggest that using numbers may be one of the most underutilized strategies in cover letter writing. Numbers are a great way to be specific about your accomplishments.  They also show that you pay attention to benchmarks and concentrate on setting and meeting goals.

As a blog content writer and trainer, I stress that numbers can be used in business blogs to “build belief”. For example, statistics can demonstrate the extent of a problem your product or service helps solve.

Whether you follow the APA formatting or the Purdue OWL, using numbers in your business blog is a way to quantify, or to qualify – and get the business!

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Marketing a Professional Practice Through Business Blogs

practitioner blogging

“Services – unlike products – cannot be seen, touched, held, etc. Buyers only know the true value of your service after they receive it (often with full effects taking place weeks or months later,” Oren Smith of Precision Marketing Group explains.

Since, at Say It For You, our content writers serve the needs of both product vending businesses and of professional practitioners, I was very interested in Smith’s breakdown of the challenges he believes are distinct in professional services marketing:

1. Intangibility: When people purchase a service, they are essentially buying into trust and ideas, “requiring professional services firms to market not only the service itself, but the people, knowledge, and skills behind it.” Use blog content to answer the “why”, the “what’s-your-purpose” question.  What drives the passion? Give your online visitors the chance to get caught up in your passion. I once wrote a reminder to eager-beaver business blogger newbies: In the dictionary, the word “belief” comes before “blog”!

2. A longer buying cycle: A professional practitioner’s sales cycle is longer and more complicated than a product-based sale, “as the perceived buying risk is typically much higher.” For practitioner blogs to be effective, I teach, they must serve as positioning statements. The visit has to conclude with readers understanding not only what your value proposition is, but exactly why that should make any difference to them. What’s the benefit in this for ME? How will MY interests be protected and served if I choose to become your client or patient? What will you do to keep ME “safe” from risk?

3. Relationships vs. transactions: Buyers often determine which provider is going to be the best fit for their business based on a serious of personalized interactions. As business blog content writers, we can work to inspire three types of trust in the business providers and professional practitioners who hire us to convey their message: Prospects must trust in the practitioner’s know-how, ethical conduct, and empathy.

4. An ongoing process: As sellers of professional services, “every touch point you have with a prospect or current customer throughout an engagement matters. and supports the value you bring.” The blog sets the stage for readers to make a judgment about their own expectations: potential clients are asking the question: “How will I know I’ve been helped by using your services?”

5. Education: “Understanding your customers’ pain points and what makes their businesses tick is a key preliminary step to selling your services.” Even though you’re offering a professional service, you’ll find that customers tend to respond better if you show them how the process works, even how to “do it themselves”. Readers often realize that they’re not an expert or don’t have the time, so they call you to come do it for them.
.
“Fully understand the benefits you bring to the table, why only you can do it, and why the client isn’t able to do it as effective on its own,” are Smith’s final words to marketers.

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Collating and Curating in Business Blogs – What’s the Dif?

curating content

 

“Expressing our love, gratitude and appreciation to others on the New Year by sending happy New Year messages for friends and loved ones is a great way to share in this spirit of renewal and joy with those around us,” Richard Kronick writes in the Huffington Post. “Expressing our love, gratitude and appreciation to others on the New Year by sending happy New Year messages for friends and loved ones is a great way to share in this spirit of renewal and joy with those around us.” Kronick continues, following this with a collection of both funny and serious new year messages.

What Kronick has done here is collate, meaning he has collected information from different sources and organized that information in a new way.  Collating, in fact, is one important way in which business blog content writers can bring value to readers. Using content from our own former blog posts, newsletters, or even emails, adding material from other people’s blogs and articles, from magazine content, or from books, we can collate that material into new categories, summarizing the main ideas we think our readers will find useful.

In his introductory remarks, Kronick has taken at least a small step into curating, which goes further than merely putting together collections. In fact, effective blog posts must go from information-dispensing to offering the business owner’s (or the professional’s, or the organizational executive’s) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic.

Think of an art museum. “Too often, when people walk into a museum, they secretly think, I can’t see the point of this,” says Alain de Botton in Art as Therapy. The curator’s job, he explains, is to take the “snob factor” out of art, offering perspective on each painting, so as to help viewers connect with the artist’s vision. That’s actually a very good description of the way business bloggers can help online readers connect with information presented in a blog post. That information might have been taken from various sources, represent a review of trending news topics, or consist of facts and statistics that need to be put into perspective so that readers realize there’s something important here for them.

As a freelance blog writer, I’ve always known that linking to outside sources is a good tactic for adding breadth and depth to my blog content.  Linking to a news source or magazine article, for instance, adds credibility to the ideas I’m expressing.

Collation and curation – they are both tools we blog writers use to stay in touch – and keep our readers in touch with new ideas and current happenings.

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New Year Resolutions for Blog Content Writers

BLOG CONTENT

 

During the holidays, at least here in America, we seem to be “into” list-making. From shopping lists to Santa’s twice-checked  list, we now culminate the series with lists of New Year’s resolutions.

Looking back at the past year of offering Say It For You business blogging assistance, I found several simple lists I used to help readers come up with ideas for corporate blog posts:

1. Things consumers are likely to type into the search bar that could bring them to your blog:

  • Their need
  • Their problem
  • Their idea of the solution to their problem
  • A question
  • 2. Calls to action to include in titles and If-you-click-on-this-link promises, such as:
  • This link will lead you to a blog post that explains how to obtain more of something desirable
  • This link will lead you to a blog post that explains how to obtain less of an undesirable effect
  • This link will explain why one popular idea is falseMake a list of your own of content pieces that that might:

    …engage the interest of online readers who have found your blog post
    …provide valuable information to them?
    …clarify what you have to offer to fulfill their needs

    Hard to believe, our little content writing company, Say It For You, just celebrated its tenth New Year’s! Our content, now some 35,000 unique writing selections strong, may be found in clients’ corporate brochures and on their website pages, in press releases, “nurturing emails” and Facebook posts. Primarily, though, our pieces populate the blogosphere.

    In 2018, our “listicle” of wishes for you include:

  • Personal success
  • Business success
  • Good health
  • Lots of old friends
  • Scores of new ones
  • Superb SEO results

A YEAR OF GREAT BLOGGING!

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New Year Resolutions for Blog Content Writers

BLOG CONTENT

 

During the holidays, at least here in America, we seem to be “into” list-making. From shopping lists to Santa’s twice-checked  list, we now culminate the series with lists of New Year’s resolutions.

Looking back at the past year of offering Say It For You business blogging assistance, I found several simple lists I used to help readers come up with ideas for corporate blog posts:

1. Things consumers are likely to type into the search bar that could bring them to your blog:

  • Their need
  • Their problem
  • Their idea of the solution to their problem
  • A question
  • 2. Calls to action to include in titles and If-you-click-on-this-link promises, such as:
  • This link will lead you to a blog post that explains how to obtain more of something desirable
  • This link will lead you to a blog post that explains how to obtain less of an undesirable effect
  • This link will explain why one popular idea is falseMake a list of your own of content pieces that that might:

    …engage the interest of online readers who have found your blog post
    …provide valuable information to them?
    …clarify what you have to offer to fulfill their needs

    Hard to believe, our little content writing company, Say It For You, just celebrated its tenth New Year’s! Our content, now some 35,000 unique writing selections strong, may be found in clients’ corporate brochures and on their website pages, in press releases, “nurturing emails” and Facebook posts. Primarily, though, our pieces populate the blogosphere.

    In 2018, our “listicle” of wishes for you include:

  • Personal success
  • Business success
  • Good health
  • Lots of old friends
  • Scores of new ones
  • Superb SEO results

A YEAR OF GREAT BLOGGING!

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Why “Blog” and “Glob” are Antigrams

blog/glob

When most people talk of anagrams, the Book of Random Oddities explains, they mean words that can have their letters rearranged to make other words, such as “bat” and “tab”. In the world of recreational wordplay, though, an anagram is a rearrangement of the letters in a word, phrase, or sentence to make a new word, phrase, or sentence that refers to or defines the original in some way.” The authors offer a few examples:

  • dormitory/ dirty room
  • greyhound/ “Hey, dog – run!”
  •  angered/ enraged
  • the eyes/ they see
  • snooze alarms/ alas, no more z’s

Antigrams unlike anagrams, the authors explain, “beg to differ”.  Antigrams are phrases that can be anagrammed into something that means or implies its opposite. Examples include:

  •  funeral/ real fun
  •  filled/ ill-fed
  • astronomers/ no more stars

As a blog content writer and trainer, I couldn’t help adding one to the list:  blog/ glob.

One message per post is the mantra I pass on to newbie Indianapolis blog writers.  Each post, I teach in corporate blogging training sessions, should contain a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of the business or practice. “Stuffing” too much content in a blog creates a “glob” that strains readers’ attention span.

The focus of a single blog post might be:

  • Busting one myth common among consumers
  • One testimonial from a user of your product or service
  • One special application for your product
  • One common problem your service helps solve
  • One new development in your industry

On the other hand, a single business blog post can convey a sense of forward movement through linking to another page, or even by telling readers to watch for information on another product, service, or “how-to” in a coming blog post.

Don’t turn your blog into a glob!

 

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Add a Little “Why” to Your Business Blog Content

When speaker Todd Hunt saw a sign in his health club reading:

“Please Do Not Pour Water on the Sauna Rocks”

Hunt’s first thought, he relates, was “I’ll pour water on the rocks if I want to.  Nobody tells me what to do!” But after spotting the second line of copy on the sign, Hunt changed his tune:

“Our system is not built for water.”

“Oh, now I understand,” he thought.  Hunt reminds his audiences to always add “why” statements to make statements more customer-friendly.

The same concept of “explaining why” is used in training parents, teachers, and caregivers of children with behavior challenges to used “scripted stories”. Here’s an example:

:.
I like to run. It is fun to go fast.
It’s okay to run when I am playing outside.
I can run when I am on the playground.
Sometimes I feel like running, but it is dangerous to run when I am inside.
Running inside could hurt me or other people.
When people are inside, they walk.
Walking inside is safe.

In the case of the sauna and the behaviorally challenged children, the purpose was to prevent action (pouring water or running).  But in marketing, calls to action (CTAs) often use imperative verbs designed to provoke immediate positive action: find out more, call now, provide contact information, etc. The concept, Horner explains in “Writing a Better Call to Action”, is to show consumers how to take the next step and to create a sense of urgency around the offer.

Just as Todd Hunt intuited about the power of explaining why in sign copy, searchers who’ve found themselves at your blog want to know why they ought to keep reading/follow your advice/buy your products and services. Answering the “why’s” before they’re asked overcomes buyers’ natural skepticism.

Prospects actually need answers to five “why’s”:

1. Why me?  Why did you target this particular market (the one represented by this potential buyer)?
2. Why you (the author)? What is our expertise and experience?  Why do we care?
3. Why this (the offer) What are the specific solutions you provide?
4. Why now (the urgency)
5. Why this price (the value)

Adding “why” makes blog content statements more customer-friendly!

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Recovering and Recycling Business Blog Content

In addition to being a vehicle for attracting new customers, content created in the form of blogs can be useful in other ways. “While content marketing may be the trend du jour, content isn’t just for marketing,” explains Erin Nelson of contently.com. Last year,Nelson points out, GE used content to educate union employees on an upcoming labor contract vote. Vox uses content as a recruitment tool for designers and engineers.

In fact, “you don’t have to create content day in and day out. You just have to work on getting the content you already have in the hands of more people,” as Kevan Lee of Buffer Social reminds marketers.

“I still remember the days when you had to go to the library or track down the phone number of an expert to get some questions answers.  Now you just ask Google, visit Q&A sites, or tweet the question, and almost instantly get answers,” Dan Steiner of the Content Marketing Institute wryly observes. Blogs, Steiner points out, are instant sources of up-to-date information.

Here are just a few Say It For You ideas for re-purposing blog post content:

  1. Groups of blog posts can be re-purposed into e-newsletters, helping you “touch” past customers and prospects, and keep you top-of-mind with them.
  2. When your own clients and customers ask you questions, save them the search – simply email them a link to the post in your “blog library” that most directly answers their question or concern.
  3. Send an email with a full text of a former post to a selected group of prospects and/or clients, asking them to share their experience with the issue or solution that post covers. You might call it “Does this work?”
  4. Post a shortened version of a blog post on Facebook, soliciting comments.
  5. Update “old” content to fit in with new laws, new situations, new trends. (In fact, the most important target of a blog post “recycle” might be YOU.  Does that advice you offered three years ago still apply? How has your own thinking changed since then?

Recovering and recycling, even re-using business blog content –  is the smart way to go!

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