Blog To Show Readers You’ve Got Their Number

numbers in blog titles

Numbers that can be expressed in one or words should be spelled out, while figures should be used for larger numbers the Purdue OWL advises. Following that guidance, you’d express ”two million dollars”  or thirty-one years in words, while writing “126 days”.

There’s a very good reason, however, that most magazine editors and blog content writers choose not to follow the first part of that OWL advice.  Few would choose to write “two million dollars”, “fifteen reasons”, or “thirty-one years”.  Numbers – in digits, as opposed to being spelled out in words – have more impact.

Here are just some of the titles I saw displayed on magazine covers at my local pharmacy only this morning::

  • 341 Cluster Solutions
  • 147 Tips From Home Cooks
  • 101 Hearty Dishes for the harvest Season
  • 50 Fall Ideas
  • 293 Fresh Looks for Classic Cuts
  • 145 Festive and Easy Decorating Tips

When colleagues at online marketing firm Hubspot analyzed their own blog posts to see which titles had performed the best in search results; the top eight, they found, each included a number!  Some of the numbers were short, and OWL would have had the authors spell those out in words.  But numbers in words simply lack the “punch” of numbers in digits, it appears.

Some of the Hubspot winners:

  • “How to monitor Your Social Media Presence in 10 Minutes a Day”
  • “22 Educational Social Media Diagrams”
  • 12 Mind-Blowing Statistics Every Marketer Should Know”

Several research studies have show that headlines with numbers tend to generate 73% more social shares. “Our brains are attracted to numbers because they automatically organize information in logical order.” And, for some reason, one study revealed, odd numbers are seen as more authentic than even numbers.

It’s interesting. The American Marketing Association’s Manual of Style tells us not to use digits to express numbers that occur at the beginning of a sentence, title, or subtitle! Another way Ryan McCready thinks the so-called experts have it wrong has to do with the number 10. Thought leaders have agreed the number 10 is too common and will not stand out on social media, but McCready found the exact opposite to be true – the number 10 is the best number to use for blog titles.

It’s not only in blog post titles that numbers wield power. At Say It For You, I advise business owners and professionals to use statistics (one form of numbers) in 3 ways:

1. Attention-grabbing
2. Mythbusting (statistics help prove the reality versus the widely held misperceptions about your product or service)
3. Demonstrating the extent of a problem leads into showing readers ways you can help solve it

Blog to show readers you’ve got their number!

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Let Your Blog Content Writing Be Driven By Demand

market research“One of your most important concerns is just how much knowledge, experience, or training you can expect in your readers,” David McMurrey teaches in Audience Analysis – Just who are these guys? If you expect some of your readers to lack certain background, do you supply it in your document, he asks?

 

  • If you say no, you run the risk of customers being frustrated with your product or service.
  • If you say yes, you increase your work effort and add to your page count.

There’s no easy answer, McMurrey admits, but you need to know what your audience is going to expect.

As Sleeping Media Giant points out, it’s important to analyze your online audience and target your campaigns to them. I like pointing out that, while blog content writing is an art, there’s quite a bit of science to it as well, and a good part of the science involves targeting that content towards the specific type of customers you want – and who will want – to do business with you.

At Say It For You, we tell clients, one way to target content is to set up a category index on the blog page, so that readers can find their way to content that matches their specific interests. (When you’re just beginning to post blogs for your business or practice, organizing the material isn’t so important, but as you continue posting content over months and years, those categories come to be invaluable.

For your part, when you’re studying your report from, say Google Analytics, you can see which categories were most frequently viewed. That allows your content creation to be driven by “demand”, with the blog itself functioning as a consumer survey tool!

One thing I often find myself pointing out to business owners is that the navigation from the blog to the main website will be smoother and more direct if new “landing pages” are added to the website top match the different search term categories that attract searchers to the blog. (As a blogger, I become part of the company’s marketing team, which, hopefully, includes a web designer and Search Engine Optimization expert.)

Spend an afternoon wearing the hat of an online searcher who’s looking for information about the type of products and services you provide. What are the search engines “serving up”? What kinds of information are you finding on your competitors’ websites and social media pages?

Ten years ago, when I was just starting in the blog content writing field, I heard Chris Baggott, co-founder of then-company Compendium Blogware, caution: “Without a system for gathering and analyzing information about the visitors to your blog, you’re operating in the dark.” Marketing company Hubspot  agrees. Providing valuable content will get you far, the Hubspot authors explain, but it will only get you so far!

Let your blog content writing be research-based and driven by demand!

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Companies Use Blog Content Writing to Get Real

blogging

 

Just why do companies blog? Susan Gunelius, author of Blogging All-in-One for Dummies, offers a list of reasons:

  • to build brand awareness
  • to network with other businesses and experts
  • to build relationships with existing and potential customers
  • to boost sales
  • to communicate marketing messages
  • to learn more about their customers
  • to manage reputation
  • to set up expectations for the customer experience

    My favorite on the Gunelius list was this one:
    “To seem real and human in the consumer’s eye rather than as an untouchable entity”

As a blog writer and blogging consultant, I find that “getting real” through online content is the real goal – and the real challenge. I explain to business owners that putting up fresh blog posts about new products or recent accomplishments tells people that you are in the game. Blog posts help demonstrate that you care about quality in all dimensions of your business.

One interesting perspective on the work we do as professional bloggers is that we are interpreters, translating clients’ corporate message into human, people-to-people terms.  That’s the reason I prefer first and second person writing in business blog posts over third person “reporting”. I think people tend to buy when they see themselves in the picture and when can they relate emotionally to the person bringing them the message.

“Do you want a tone (for your blog) that is professional? Humorous? Journalistic? Personal diary? Choose one and then inject your own personality into that style,” Gunelius advises.

Getting down and human” in business blogs is so important that it becomes a good idea for a business owner and professional to actually write about past mistakes and struggles. And, I tell entrepreneurs, whether you propose to do the blog writing yourself or collaborate with a professional blog content writing partner, the very process of deciding what to put in the blog is one of self-discovery. In a sense, blogging is a way to “get real” with yourself!

To be sure, marketing, boosting sales, and reputation management are all worthy goals.  The over-riding goal, as Susan Gunelus so aptly puts it, is “to seem real and human in the consumer’s eye!”

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Companies Use Blog Content Writing to Get Real

blogging

 

Just why do companies blog? Susan Gunelius, author of Blogging All-in-One for Dummies, offers a list of reasons:

  • to build brand awareness
  • to network with other businesses and experts
  • to build relationships with existing and potential customers
  • to boost sales
  • to communicate marketing messages
  • to learn more about their customers
  • to manage reputation
  • to set up expectations for the customer experience

    My favorite on the Gunelius list was this one:
    “To seem real and human in the consumer’s eye rather than as an untouchable entity”

As a blog writer and blogging consultant, I find that “getting real” through online content is the real goal – and the real challenge. I explain to business owners that putting up fresh blog posts about new products or recent accomplishments tells people that you are in the game. Blog posts help demonstrate that you care about quality in all dimensions of your business.

One interesting perspective on the work we do as professional bloggers is that we are interpreters, translating clients’ corporate message into human, people-to-people terms.  That’s the reason I prefer first and second person writing in business blog posts over third person “reporting”. I think people tend to buy when they see themselves in the picture and when can they relate emotionally to the person bringing them the message.

“Do you want a tone (for your blog) that is professional? Humorous? Journalistic? Personal diary? Choose one and then inject your own personality into that style,” Gunelius advises.

Getting down and human” in business blogs is so important that it becomes a good idea for a business owner and professional to actually write about past mistakes and struggles. And, I tell entrepreneurs, whether you propose to do the blog writing yourself or collaborate with a professional blog content writing partner, the very process of deciding what to put in the blog is one of self-discovery. In a sense, blogging is a way to “get real” with yourself!

To be sure, marketing, boosting sales, and reputation management are all worthy goals.  The over-riding goal, as Susan Gunelus so aptly puts it, is “to seem real and human in the consumer’s eye!”

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The Title Can Be the Tease in Blogging for Business

There are two types of titles, I realized, browsing the business section at my favorite local bookstore:

1. The “Huh?s” need subtitles to make clear what the article is about.
2. The “Oh!’” titles are self-explanatory.

Whether in a book or a blog post, the title serves as a “tease” to get a browser to become a reader. Since an important purpose of business blogging is attracting online shoppers, blog post titles are a crucial element in the process. Titles have to be catchy and engaging, but they won’t serve the purpose if the words don’t match up with the reason the searcher landed there in the first place. The combo title hits both bases.

For example, at first glance, Measure what Matters, by John Doerr could be about marketing, weight loss, or parental advice on children’s growth rates. That’s a “teaser”.  I needed the subtitle to clarify: How Google, Bono, and the Google Foundation Rock the World with ODRs.

Other “Huh?”/”Oh!” combo titles included:

  • Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win
  • Originals: How Non-conformists Move the World
  • Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
  • The Human Advantage: The Future of American Work in an Age of Smart Machines

Sleeping Giant: The Untapped Economic and Political Power of America’s New Working Class

Why do titles matter even more in blogs than on book covers? There are two basic reasons:

  1. For search – key words and phrases, especially when used in blog post titles, help search engines make the match between online searchers’ needs and what your business or professional practice has to offer.
  2. For reader engagement – after you’ve been “found”, you still need to “get read”.

The question title, based on the idea of asking readers if they’re grappling with an issue or a need (one you not only know about, but which you’re accustomed to helping solve) can be perfect for the headline of a business blog post. But, there’s a right and wrong way to use question headlines, Amy Foote points out in “The Dos and Don’ts of Question Headlines”. Don’t:

  1. ask obvious questions that address questions to which most people already know the answer
  2. use question headlines as a fear tactic

In well-constructed blog posts, I teach at Say It For You, the title should be a tease!

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Before Blogging for Business, Know Your Fruits and Vegetables

know your blog readers

 

“Knowing the audience for a particular essay is important because it determines the content that will appear in the writing,” the Ames Community College Online Writing Lab teaches. “In other words, having a focused topic is important, but having a specific audience is equally important.”

My professional speaker friend Karl Ahlrich found out the importance of this advice – the hard way. Addressing a large audience of accountants on the topic of employee engagement, he had opened with the story of a grocery chain in which store clerks proudly wore nametags on which each had completed the sentence: “my favorite vegetable is….” One young man had written his choice in bold letters: “Tomato”.

Poised to use that anecdote to make his point about the proper training of employees (after all, grocers ought to know tomatoes are in the fruit family), Karl was horrified to notice one audience member striding purposefully up the center aisle, headed for the microphone set up for audience questions and comments. “Nix vs. Hedden”, the man pronounced loudly. “Ummmm”, the audience replied, heads nodding. Puzzled as to why his anecdote had fallen so flat, the speaker struggled, almost too late, to refocus their attention on the topic of employee motivation.

(Later, my friend learned, Nix v. Hedden refers to an 1893 Supreme Court case. The ruling: Under U.S. customs regulations, the tomato should be classified as a vegetable rather than a fruit. Alas, while Karl had indeed had a focused topic, and in fact was addressing a specific audience, he had failed to properly gauge that audience’s knowledge level, (at least where it came to tomatoes!).

“Had Free People done their research on this segment of their audience, they would know how important the dance form, and the pointe shoes are to them,” Andrea Goulet Ford writes in Why Knowing Your Audience is So Important and Not Knowing it is So Dangerous. (The author is discussing the fact that readers found dance clothing line Free People’s promotional video offensive; it depicted improper ballet dance form and clothing unsuited for classically trained dancers).

“…it is important to analyse your online audience and target your campaigns to them. There are many tools to help you identify your audience, from Google Analytics data and social media to surveys – the more data the better! Once you have your data you can start to put together personas and plan your online marketing activities around them,” Sleeping Giant Media teaches.

“Consumers are used to telling stories to themselves and telling stories to each other, and it’s just natural to buy stuff from someone who’s telling us a story,” observes Seth Godin in his book All Marketers Tell Stories. My speaker friend Karl Ahlrich knew the power of story; he didn’t go quite far enough in researching his audience. “No marketing succeeds if it can’t find an audience that already wants to believe the story being told,” Godin explains.

At Say It For You, I tell newbie blog content writers: “Everything about your blog should be tailor-made for that customer – the words you use, how technical you get, how sophisticated your approach, the title of each blog entry – all of it.” Since we, as ghostwriters hired by clients to tell their story online to their target audiences, we need to do intensive research, as well as taking guidance from the client’s experience and expertise. Interviewing experts allows blog content writers to dig deep into the topic, hopefully avoiding tomato-style “faux pas”.

And, (drumroll, please), the moral is: – Before blogging for business, know your fruits and vegetables!

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Business Blog Readers are Looking for a Fix

“Can you email me the information?” is never a request any sales professional wants to hear, admits Paul Cherry, author of Questions That Sell.  What should the salesperson do? Agree, then clarify, is  his suggestion. Ask the prospect: “ What kind of information will be most useful to you? What are you looking to accomplish?”

Salespeople should look for certain key words in their prospects’ answers, Cherry says. Those words reveal if the “targets” have any real interest in the product or service.

“We are looking to:

  • achieve…
  • solve…
  • eliminate…
  • avoid…
  • secure…
  • improve…
  • fix…

For most business owners, when asked why they want to use social media, their answers come down to one thing – selling more stuff.  In fact, as internet marketing consultant Chris Garrett remarks, “The blogosphere is coming around to the idea that commerce is not necessarily evil, that in fact businesses need to make money and they do that by selling stuff.”

Effective blog content drip-drip-drips the necessary benefit-led, fact-filled, objection-busting content to your targeted audience, in such a way that they don’t feel they are being sold to, Garrett explains. His own way of describing the blogging sales cycle is as a series of small agreements, where the prospect clicks to the blog, reads content, subscribes to the blog, signs up for an e-newsletter, and finally decides to call or write.

Jeff Thrull, author of another sales training book, Exceptional Selling, advises sales professionals to act against type:, “When in doubt, so the opposite of what a salesperson would do.” The good news in blog marketing is the same as the good news Thrull describes as operative in direct selling. At Say It For You, I advise using blog posts to demonstrate the business owner’s or professional practitioner’s expertise, and to offer valuable tips to readers.

At Stage #1 of their search, what the majority of consumers are likely to have typed into the search bar are words describing:

  • Their need
  • Their problem
  • Their idea of the solution to their problem
  • A question

    In short, those searchers’ first encounter with your business or practice is based on their need for help to do the very things Paul Cherry named in his keyword list:  they want to achieve, eliminate, avoid, secure, improve, and FIX.

No, you’re not in their living room or on the phone with them, but, in order convert those “strangers” to friends and customers, then, address your blog posts to them, and write about how you can  help them do exactly those things.

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Link to Open New Windows for Blog Readers

blogging

 

“Links – you need ‘em,” writes Amy Lupold Bair in Blogging for Dummies. On a blog, the author explains, links are part of the resource you are providing for readers.  Collecting links around a topic or theme helps to inform or entertain your blog’s readers. If you’re not only providing good content yourself, but also expanding on that content by using links, she adds, “you’re doing your readers a service they won’t forget.”

As I teach at Say It For You, one way to expand on your own blog content is collating.  That entails collecting information from different sources and then organizing that information in a different way. We then summarize those ideas and concepts we think our own readers would find useful.

Curation goes even further than collating. In fact, at Say It For You, we teach that 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. Pieces of information might have been taken from various sources, and might even represent different views. The information needs to be put into perspective so that two things occur:

  1. Readers relate to the “curator” – you, the author of the blog post – as an involved person who is personally engaged with the subject.
  2. Readers realize there’s something here that’s important and useful for them.

Now, with links, the piece of material you are curating does not itself appear in your blog, at least not in its entirety. Instead, you’re adding a hyperlink in your text, allowing the reader to click on that underlines text to go to the article, video, text, or webpage.to which you’re referring.

But here’s where Blogging for Dummies offers an important caution to blog writers: You don’t want to be sending your readers away from your site “into the Black Hole of the Internet”. Those readers might click and then forget where they originally found the link! Therefore, Lupold Bair cautions, change the setting to “open in a new window”.  That keeps your blog post open on the screen while they pull up the other site.

“Links are the currency of the blogosphere,” the author explains.  Adding links to your posts is a good thing, she adds, provided you take your responsibility as a publisher seriously and link only to credible resources. As blog content writers at Say It For You, we certainly agree.

Opening links in new windows literally opens new windows of learning for your blog readers!

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Blog to Position Yourself as an Expert

Although the article in Steve & Jack’s Home News (from my friend Steve Rupp, the Keller-Williams real positioning through blogsestate consultant) wasn’t about blogging, it might have been. “Position Yourself As An Expert Source”, the title read; the content consisted of tips on establishing one’s credentials.

People respond to authority.  You’ll be able to persuade them more
if you can position yourself as an expert in your field or industry.

Those four tips, I couldn’t help thinking, is good advice for blog content writers. (After all, isn’t that the very point of business blogging – to position the business owner or professional practitioner as an expert source?)

1. Cite the experts yourself (quote authoritative sources of information that they already trust). Curating in business blog posts is based on the same concept.  Using content from other people’s blogs, articles, and books, we bring value to our own readers, summarizing the main ideas we believe they will find useful.  But effective blog posts go beyond that, offering the business owner’s unique perspective on the subject.

2. Highlight your qualifications. Don’t beat people over the head with your degrees and accomplishments, but remind them of your expertise and knowledge. When I offer corporate blogging help to business owners and employees, I caution against crossing the fine line between exercising “bragging rights” and bragging. One beautiful aspect of frequent blogging is that you don’t need to “shout” – you can “whisper” your sharply defined differentiated message over time.

3. Get testimonials. Ask others to share their experience working with you. Stories about customer satisfaction and problems solved wield tremendously greater power than statistics in converting lookers to buyers.
4.   Dress appropriately. That’s exactly the point I try to make when it comes to creating marketing blog content. I know the online crowd likes to be informal, and yes, blogs are supposed to be less formal and more personal in tone than traditional websites. But when a sample of corporate blog writing is posted in the name of your business  the business brand is being “put out there” for all to see. Dress your blog in its ”best”. Prevent blog content writing “wardrobe malfunctions” such as grammar errors, run-on sentences, and spelling errors. Avoid redundancy. Tighten up those paragraphs.

Blog to position yourself as an expert!

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Good Luck/ Bad Luck Blog Comments

handling blog comments

Often, when we’re setting up a new blog for a business owner or professional practitioner, the topic of comments comes up.  Should readers be invited to post comments?  Initially at least, most Say It For You clients are afraid to allow for comments on their blog.  Why? They fear those comments might be negative or critical.

When, just the other day, I received my copy of Steve & Jack’s Home News (from my friend Steve Rupp, the Keller-Williams real estate consultant), I thought about this dilemma of whether it’s good to allow readers to comment on your business blog.  The newsletter started out with a story called “Good Luck, Bad Luck.” This farmer’s stallion runs off, and neighbors comment on what bad luck that was.  Farmer says, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?” A series of bad/good events follows: The stallion returns with a herd of wild mare; the farmer’s son, while training one of the mares, is thrown off the horse and breaks his leg.  Because of the broken leg, soldiers do not seize this son for military service. The moral of the story is that all luck, both good and bad is fleeting.

Same thing with blog comments:  Blogs need to be available not only for reading, but for acting and interacting. Just the way that even bad reviews help ticket sales for plays, even when a posts a negative or critical comment about your product or service, you’re still getting “bang for your blog” from the search engines.

The “bad luck” side of the coin, of course, is that spam comment attacks tend to plague newly created blog pages.  That spam typically shows itself in three forms:

  1. Total nonsense, with links to sites the writer is promoting
  2. Totally unrelated to the topic of the blog
  3. Blatant advertising for web services

There is no definitive way to stop SPAM comments as Jeremy Politt of the ITeam admits. There are a few steps business owners and practitioners can take when setting up the blog platform, including:

  • Don’t automatically accept comments – reserve the right to review them and decide whether to publish them. (This is how I handle comments on this Say It For You blog.)
  • Include a “Captcha” so that readers must prove they’re human, not a digital SPAM machine gun.

Like the stallion running off and the farmer’s son’s broken leg, negative comments on a business blog are “good luck, bad luck – who knows?

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