Build the Thesis Ahead of the Blog

thesis building in blogs

“Before you begin writing an essay or writing a research paper,” the Research & Education Association’s QuickAccess laminated writing guide advises, “draft a working thesis statement.”

That’s great advice for student, even better advice for business blog content writers, I believe.  It’s advice too often neglected, I find, with the operative work being “before”.

The thesis statement should contain two parts, REA explains:

  1. the subject of the essay
  2. your opinion on the subject

As an example of a weak thesis, REA offers this: “High school dropout rates are increasing.”

What’s wrong with it?  Lacks an opinion and is too general.  A stronger version, the guide suggests, would read:  “Because higher education is needed more than ever before in order for members of today’s workforce to be successful, the rising high school dropout rate is harmful to society.”

For business blog writing, though, that second version is far from ideal – too wordy, for one, and lacks “pow”. Two shorter, related sentences might create more impact: Here’s my version:

“Our kids are dropping out of high school; to staff our workplaces, we need to give our education system two major tweaks.”

Writing with impact, as REA is correctly telling students, requires thinking. And not just any thinking – it takes pre-thinking and planning. Composing an effective college essay is serious business; composing an effective marketing blog post IS business. Sure, our blogs may state a business owner’s or practitioner’s case in less formal, more conversational style than essays, but preparing a working thesis statement forces writers to focus, which translates into impact.

Just as REA teaches, the thesis statement should contain two parts:

  1. the subject (ONE main idea, ONE aspect of the business or practice)
  2. the opinion (a slant or unique value proposition, the answer to the online searcher’s questions – Why should I do this now? Why should I choose you?)

Build the thesis ahead of the blog!

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Bloggers – Avoid the 5 Big Mistakes Advisors Make

marketing blogs like newspaper interviews

“When dealing with the media, there are five common mistakes that financial advisors tend to make, “ writes Sally Cates in Financial Planning Magazine. “I should know,” Cates remarks (for 25 years, she’s been helping advisors have discussions with reporters).

I should know, too. As a now-retired financial planning practitioner who trains blog content writers, the mistakes Cates mentions are the same ones I often notice in business blogs.  Although reporters are not our business owner or practitioner clients’ target readers, we writers need to avoid committing the same “doozies” Cates lists:

Too general a message
“Reporters like examples, case studies, interesting details, and fascinating client situations,” Cates coaches advisers.  (Blog readers find those details and case studies engaging.)

TMI (too much information)
Don’t provide too much technical detail, Cates tells the advisors.  “Your article shouldn’t require a law degree to decipher.” Use true stories to highlight the mechanics.

Over-sharing
Don’t vent about prior firms or share resentments about co-workers or job conditions, Cates cautions. In similar vein, I caution blog content writers to avoid bashing competitors, focusing on their own strengths.

Delayed response
Reporters work on tight deadlines, so call them back promptly, Cates tells advisors.  The equivalent in the blogosphere is allowing too much time to elapse between posting.  Frequency and regularity earn “Brownie points” from both readers and search engines.

Being disorganized
Prepare talking points for each interview, Cates says, including data to support the points you want to make. Business bloggers need to curate – and property attribute – materials from different sources to support the points and add value for readers.

We should all know these things, of course, but Sally Cates’ piece is a good reminder to avoid those 5 big interview/marketing mistakes!

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Eye-Catching Titles for Business Blogs

blog titles that are eye-catching

 

While the February issue of Science News Magazine had great examples of statement titles followed by explanatory statements, last November’s issue of Science News was a treasure chest of eye-catching and tantalizing titles – you just had to read those articles to find out what they were all about!

In business blog content writing, of course, we don’t have the luxury of using “mysterious” titles, since the “spiders” (search engine algorithms) will be matching the phrases used in our titles with the terms typed into readers’ search bars. The trick is to use keyword phrases while still

One option is to include the “Oh!” part of your title in the meta tag description, which is the blurb of information that shows up beneath your clickable website address on search engine results pages.)

You wouldn’t know it, but the article “Lumpy Space” is about matter in the universe clumping together due to the pull of gravity.  “Big Moves” is about how Asian nomadic herders build new Bronze Age Cultures. “Robot doesn’t stop at flying” is enticing, but with few clues as to the content about a new insect-inspired flying machine used for search-and-rescue operations. “Faux cells could treat diabetes” is a much more of an informative title.

Among all those titles in the Science News Magazine issue, it was easy to choose my favorite:   “Ewe look familiar”. The “meta description”: Trained sheep have advanced face-processing abilities similar to those of humans, researchers have found.

Although I’m using a science magazine as an example, truth is, composing business blog post titles involves a combination of art and science ; reaching readers and, at the same time, satisfying search engines takes an elusive combination of narrative skill and business practicality. 

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Statement Titles for Business Blogs

 

blog post title ideas

Leafing through some Science News Magazine issues, I realized their writers are fond of using statement titles followed by explanatory statements, sort of like the “Huh? Oh!” titles I often use in writing business blog posts. The “Huh?s” are there to startle and capture interest, but the “Oh!’”s are needed to match up with the terms searchers used.

  • “Slow Childbirth Can Be Normal” is attention-getting, for example, but the explanation in the subtitle is needed to a) make the author’s intention clear and b) have search engines match the article with readers searching for information about caesarian sections surgery: “Rethinking labor could lead to fewer unnecessary C-sections”.
  • “Life had a chance in Earth’s infancy” is curiosity-stimulating, but the intention of the article is made clear in the subtitle, “Asteroid barrage didn’t leave plant sterile, scientists claim.”
  • The title “Magnetic Knots” gives almost no clue to the subject of the article, and we need the “Oh!” subtitle: “Swirls called skyrmions could transform data storage.”

In business blog content writing, there are different ways these “Huh?”/”Oh!” pairs can be used to accomplish the twin goals of stimulating curiosity and interest and improving SEO rankings. From an SEO standpoint, of course, we content writers don’t have the luxury of using very long titles, since the “spiders” will use only a certain number of characters for ranking. Still, the beauty of the “Huh?” is that it’s a grabber.

We might need to say “Forgo the C-Section: Slow Childbirth Can Be Normal”, with the rest of the explanatory material going into the opening lines of the post itself.

One option is to include the “Oh!” part of your title in the meta tag description, the information that
describes your page to search engines.  (The meta is the blurb that shows up beneath your
clickable website address on search engine results pages.)

It was easy to choose my favorite among the titles in that Science News Magazine issue:  “Ewe look familiar”. The meta description: Trained sheep have advanced face-processing abilities similar to those of humans, researchers have found.

No, I don’t believe search engine algorithms would have matched “Ewe look familiar” to “face recognition ability”. But putting just a little “Oh!” in that “Huh?” might be just the recipe for getting that fascinating blog post about the face-recognizing sheep “found”.

 

 

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Business Blog Openers That Wait to Reveal

blog writing

Yes, as I emphasized in an earlier post this week, opening lines are key in blogging for business. Why not, I suggested, use the opening sentence to make your thesis clear along with your topic? In other words, searchers should be assured not only that they’ve clicked on the right link to get information on the topic they typed into the search bar, but get a preview of your slant on the subject.

“To drive quality traffic to your site, you must think like a publisher,” content marketer Rustin Banks observes.  One model Banks suggests online content writers should copy from print journalism is the inverted pyramid structure, beginning with a broad thesis, getting more specific as you get further into the post.

But, of course, there’s more than one way to skin that thesis statement, as quickstudy.com explains to college students. And, of course, there are many different ways to approach what, in corporate blogging training sessions, I call the “pow opening line”.  And, while searchers must be assured they’ve come to the right site for the information they want, you don’t necessarily have to “show your slant” at the start of the post.

Show our slant we must, though. Blog posts, to be effective, can’t be just compilations of even very useful information we’ve aggregated. One thing I’ve learned over the years of creating blog content for dozens and dozens of clients in different industries and professions is that it is opinion that humanizes a blog and differentiates a business, professional practice, or organization from its peers.

We can wait to reveal, however. Shopify’s suggestions for blog templates, for example, include listicles, how-to posts, and storytelling posts. Listicles “round up” existing content such as “10 Interesting Indiana Foods to Try for Your next Pitch-in”. How-to posts tell ways to solve a problem, while storytelling posts offer interviews with customers, or experiments you’ve done.

Using any of these formats, we can explain what conclusions we’ve arrived at. Having set the stage, we can end with our opinions, putting our own unique slant on best practices in our field.

 

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Opening Blog Lines Say Which Side You’re On

blogwriting tips

In blogging for business, I teach, opening lines are key. In fact, they’re key in all kinds of writing, as quickstudy.com’s “Writing Tips & Tricks” points out to college students.  Their thesis statement, Quick Study explains, will set the tone for their entire essay.

Now, the thesis statement of a blog post doesn’t necessarily need to come in the opening line, but in a recent Time Magazine issue, I found three very effective articles where the thesis is made clear in the very first line:

  • “Movies that were a lot of work to make shouldn’t be a lot of work to watch.”
  • “Vladimir Putin believes he’s destined to make Russia great again.  He has a long way to go.”
  • “Steven Soderbergh is one of those directors who can do anything – which doesn’t necessarily mean he should.”

In each of these articles, it’s clear to us as readers, from the author’s very first words, not only what topic will be under discussion, but on what side of the issue the author finds himself. In other words, we’re introduced to both topic and thesis straightaway.

As a business blog content writer, I like that.  And, were these three articles in fact blog posts, they would have obeyed the SEO rule of incorporating keyword phrases in their opening sentences, assuring readers who’d searched for information about movie reviews or about Russia that they’d come to the right place and inducing search engine algorithms to make that match.  I like that the author’s slant on the subject is clear as well as the topic.

In blog marketing, the reality is that readers have their choice of providers for whatever product, service, or information they’re seeking.  Our job, as I tell newbie blog content writers, is to help those readers make sense out of the absolutely oceanic online “library” of information available to them. Showing what our own choices have been (in terms of the way we’ve chosen to create or market a product, or in the way we’ve chosen to practice in our profession) helps them make choices.

Why not start out a blog post by making your thesis clear along with your topic? Let your opening line say what side of the “line” you’re on!

 

 

 

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Long-Tail Keyword Phrases in Blogging for Business

long tail keywords

 

 

To optimize your blog content, Lindsay Kolowich of Hubspot advises, focus on one or two long-tail keywords that match the intent of your ideal reader. In other words, optimization is not about incorporating as many keywords into your posts as possible (that actually hurts SEO), but about answering the intent of your visitors in a way that doesn’t feel unnatural or forced.

What are “long-tail keywords”? These longer phrases (three to four words), often question-based, focus on the specific goals of your audience. Website visitors searching long-tail terms, which are highly specific, Kolowich explains, are more likely to read the whole post and then seek more information from you.

In addition to using those keyword phrases in the content itself, there are certain other elements of a post in which you should try to include the keyword phrase or phrases you’ve chosen. :

Title
The headline of each post will be the first stop for both the search engine and the readers. The search engine will use the keyword(s) to determine the relevancy of your content to the search; the title tells readers they’ve come to the right place for the information they need. If you have a lengthy title, put your keyword near the beginning.

Meta description
On a Google page, for example, when you see an item, you’ll see the title in large blue/purple typeface (that’s the part you’d click on to be taken to the site), then under it the url address, and lastly a couple of brief lines explaining what you can expect to read in the post. It’s crucial, I explain to blog content writers, for you to use that meta description to “sell” readers on clicking there so they can read your content. Because the meta description has the power to satisfy certain readers’ intent, Kolowich emphasizes, the more engaging you can make it, the better.

Images’ alt text
Using images in your blog posts help explain your content and visually “perk it up”. But the images also offer an opportunity to incorporate those all-important keyword phrases as well.  Because search engines can’t “see” images the way humans can, Kolowich stresses, they use the alt text to tell them what the image is about.  It is worth the extra minute it takes, she says to change the name from “IMG23940” to “puppies-playing-in-basket”. It’s all the better, of course, if the description incorporates your keyword phrase.

Post content
Use keyword phrases multiple times in each post, first within the first 200 characters, several times throughout the post (depending on length of the post) and near the end, advises Susan Gunelius in abouttech.com.

The skill of choosing the right long-tail keywords to choose grows out of knowing your own business and knowing who your target customers are. What types of searchers is your business or your professional practice most likely to attract? How long is your blogging tail?

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Contrarian Content: Go Ahead – Blog to Differ

contrarian blogging

Whatever the conventional wisdom is, Brute Squad coach Ariel Jackson begs to differ. “In order to progress, we need to stop automatically accepting conventional wisdom as dogma and train ourselves to explore nuances and identify new approaches,” Jackson says.

There’s something very appealing and curiosity-stimulating about contrarian content, and, whether it’s business-to-business blog writing or business to consumer writing, being a contrarian has two effects:

  1. making readers sit up and take notice (This is not going to be same-old, same-old, readers realize.) 
  2. clarifying what differentiates your business or professional practice from its peers. (Again, why should we choose you if you’re serving up the same product and service as everyone else?)

On the issues relating to your field, what words should follow “I beg to differ”? When online readers find your blog, they want to know “Who lives here?” To be perceived as not only a provider, but an influencer, you need to formulate – and clearly state – your opinions!

Neen James explains the subtlety well in Speaker Magazine.  A Subject Matter Expert or SME, she explains, knows something, whereas a thought leader is known for something. Thought leaders know how to present ideas in ways that appeal to a marketplace craving direction and wanting solutions to problems. Those ideas, those opinions, often go against conventional wisdom, James adds.

“I hope I change some minds along the way, and I hope my mind is changed here or there,” Ariel Jackson says in his introductory blog posts. “What if I start my blog, writing strong opinion pieces and then later change my mind about the right way to do things?” is a fear one new blog content writing client expressed.

The way I answer that question is this: People are going to want to do business with someone who has something to say about the way they choose to operate within their world, offering strong recommendations and opinions in their blog.  People are going to LOVE doing business with a real person, someone who’s continuing to think about improving the way they operate and how to incorporate new knowledge and new developments..

Blog content writing is an absolutely wonderful way to express what you think and why you do things the way you do. It’s also the ideal vehicle to ride as you change and develop in your thinking as a business leader.  Go ahead – beg to differ (including with your own earlier ideas!).

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Smart and Humanizing Blogging About “Alumni”

 

In my last post I took inspiration from Nuvo editor Laura McPhee, who devoted an entire section of the paper to highlighting NUVO alumni, people who had worked at Nuvo, then departed for “better things”.

From my vantage point as a professional blog content writer, I thought McPhee’s idea was fabulously innovative. Sure, many company websites have a section called “Our Team”, with bios of their key employees, but I’d never seen feature articles about the “exes”, people who’d, after all, left the company because they wanted a more promising work environment.

To me, blogs are often the humanizing members of the online communications family, making a company or practice relatable, by introducing the readers to the people behind the brand. And, of course, nothing can be more ”humanizing“ than  stories about real humans, even if they are no longer involved in making your products or providing your professional services. Those alumni are part of your company’s history, and, to the extent you’ve kept in touch with your “alumni”, what a great thing it would be to let your readers know that your company or practice is a great place even to have been!

But what do you write about those “exes”? Nuvo came up with some great interview question, and you can use those as models for blog content:

  • What do you remember most about your time here?
  • How did your time at ______shape your career?
  • Got kids, life partners, or work projects you wanna brag about?
  • Is there a particular story you remember from the time you worked here?
  • How did working here influence the work you’re doing today?

Staying in touch with ex-employees can be a win-win situation, Kelly Services advises. “Clearly
When an employee leaves your company, maintaining and strengthening your relationship can add value for both parties.”

From a blog content writing point of view, staying in touch makes for smart and company-humanizing blog posts!

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Humanizing Your Company by Blogging About “Alumni”

“We have a lot to be proud of after 28 years of publishing a weekly newspaper,” Nuvo editor Laura McPhee wrote. One of the things McPhee is most proud of, she adds, is the NUVO alumni, people who worked at Nuvo, then went on to “better things”.

What a captivating notion, I thought, reading that section of the issue. Many company websites have a section called “Our Team”, with bios of their key employees.  But alumni, people who left you because they wanted a more promising work environment??? But what incredible blog content those stories would make, I couldn’t help thinking….

There was a time, Susan Milligan recalls (HR Magazine), when, leaving a job, you’d likely get a few hugs and a promise that you’ll be missed, but both employer and employee knew they’d likely never speak to each other again. Nowadays, though, Milligan notes, companies are treating ex-employees as “alumni” in the hopes that those people will think fondly about their previous employer.

Eventually, Hank Gilman, deputy managing editor of Fortune points out, new and/or better jobs will come along for your more talented people – or they’ll want to experience something else.
You just have to understand and hope that someday they’ll return, he says.

Since I work as a professional blog content writer, I’ve obviously needed to abandon most of my generational bias towards long, individually composed business letters and long phone conversations in favor of electronic marketing tools.  But there’s a reason I gravitated towards composing blogs rather than website copy.

In a way, blogs are the humanizing factor in the online communications family, making your company or practice relatable. The blogs are where you meet the people running the business or professional practice. And, of course, there’s nothing more ”humanizing“ than  stories about real humans, the ones making your products or and providing your professional service – or who, in the past, did those things.

At Say It For You, we definitely encourage clients to include “Who’s Who in our business/our office/our industry” blog posts. Apart from the typical “Our Team” landing page on your website, which introduces people by name with a brief bio, the blog would offer close-up[ views of the functions each person serves. And, if you’ve kept in touch with your “alumni”, what a great thing it would be to let your readers know you’ve kept in touch with them and their doings.  Makes your company or practice look like a great place to be – or even to have been!

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