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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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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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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Template Your Blog for Variety and Timesaving

 

There are many different ways the same information can be presented in different business blog posts, and thank goodness for that, I say.

In fact, at Say It For You, I’m always on the lookout for different “templates”, not in the sense of platform graphics, but in terms of formats for presenting information about any business or professional practice. Here are just a few possible “templates”:

How-to Post
This type of post aims to teach the reader something, Ali Luke explains taking them through a step-by-step process. Variations include “How I _____and How You Can, Too.” And “Why ____ Matters and How To Do it”.

List Post
The list post offers readers a selection of ideas, tips, suggestions, or resources.

Review Post
Review posts offer an informed opinion about a particular product or service.

OpEd Opinion Post
This post states a point of view about a particular topic (the blog author can then add his or her own commentary.)

Interview Post

The author interviews a client, an employee, or an outside source.

In addition to varying the format or template, I teach, you can offer different kinds of information in different blog posts. In a way, each time you post you’re pulling out just one of those attachments on your “Swiss army knife” and offering some valuable information or advice relating to just one aspect of your business. Another day, your blog post can do the same with a different “attachment”.

According to The Book of Totally Useless Information, a rough estimate of the numbers of snowflakes that have fallen on earth is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,0000, yet each one is different from all the others.

What does this have to do with blog content writing? A snowflake needs a nucleus around which to form, usually a speck of dust, sea salt, or other particle. No two specks of dust are truly identical, and the conditions of temperature and moisture are different each time; those minor changes are enough to make all snowflakes different.

The “nucleus” around which business blog posts are formed is their topic, the expertise and products that business offers. The key words and phrases around that topic are what bring readers to the blog posts. But, even though the overall topic is the same, there is endless variety that can be used to make each blog post special, and one way to differentiate blog posts is by using different templates.

Template your blog for variety and timesaving!

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Is Your Blog Post Title Worth a “Watch”?

Since we’ve been focusing on effective titles in my last couple of Say It For You posts, I couldn’t help but notice a certain article in my August issue of Financial Planning. The title reads “A Sector to Watch” and the article by Craig Israelsen is about including commodities in a portfolio to provide diversification as inflation ticks up. I really liked the “soft-sell” quality of that title. The author wasn’t “hawking” commodity funds, or even recommending them. Instead, it felt as if he was simply alerting his financial advisor readers to something that might be worth their attention.

Ryan Scott of HubSpot would describe that Financial Planning title as an “If I Were You” headline.  “When someone tells us how we should do something, we balk,” Scott explains. But when someone offers to show us why we should do something, it appeals to us,” he adds.
The Israelsen article does, in fact, include facts on the performance of commodities in different markets, and does make an argument for handling inflation using that type of investment. It’s the title, though, that caught my blog content writer’s attention, because it pulls back a couple of steps from making any argument, offering the almost casual suggestion that commodities are worth a “watch”.

“The job of a headline is to get people sucked into your ad/article in the first place,” is the advice Kopywriting Kourse offers. “The most important rule of titles is to respect the reader experience.  If you set high expectations in your title that you can’t fulfill in the content, you’ll lose readers’ trust,” Corey Wainwriight writes in HubSpot.

That’s precisely what’s so refreshing about the Israelsen title – it takes a contrarian position, literally ignoring both these pieces of advice. (Reminds me of the Tom Sawyer story, where, rather than persuading his friends to help him whitewash the fence, Tom makes it look like the task is so much fun that they want to participate…).

“Captivating titles are the ones that stand apart from the rest. Great titles aren’t afraid to be a little weird,” observes Ryan VanDenabeele in Impulse Creative. Craig Israelsen’s A Sector to Watch” certainly caught my attention. Is your blog post title worth a “watch”?

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Business Blogs – the Importance of Being Real – and Specific

be specific in blog posts

 

Business blog content writers today can take the title (if not the content) of a satirical play written 125 years ago, The Importance of Being Earnest, well, seriously. Sincerity in social media and self-promotion matters, as Katherine Erllikh so eloquently points out in the redbubble blog. “Optimizing things, getting followers, getting subscribers, advertising…those things are just half the puzzle,” Erlikh states. “It’s about sincerity.” You should be as real as possible, is the advice.

Jayson DeMers, writing in Forbes, agrees. “Your blog posts give you a unique opportunity to share your voice and personality, building up trust and increasing your brand’s likeability quotient.”  “As you build up authority in your niche,” DeMers adds,  “this breeds trust and familiarity, keeping you top-of-mind when your prospects are ready to buy.”

One way content writers can “get real” is to post blogs with history-of-our-company background stories.  Those personal anecdotes can have a humanizing effect, engaging readers and creating feelings of empathy and admiration for the business owners or professional practitioners who overcame adversity. As a corporate blogging trainer, I remind newbie writers that there’s no lack of information sources available to our readers. In our blogs, therefore, we need to go beyond presenting facts, statistics, features and benefits.

In addition to being real – in fact, a way to be real – is to be specific. One concern business owners and practitioners express to me is that they don’t want to come across as boastful in their blog.  At the same time, they need to convey the reasons prospects ought to choose them over their competition. This is where being specific comes in – let the facts do the boasting, I explain.

As the first of “Seven Easy Ways to Write Better Titles for Your Blog Posts”, Ali Luke of problogger.com lists “Be Specific, Not General”. While some bloggers believe vague titles intrigue readers, who will click to find out what the title means, Luke says, the truth is readers have too many calls on their time and attention – they need to know what to expect.

“Details, specifics, and granularity can take otherwise generic writing and instantly make it shine,” asserts Hurley Write, Inc.  Imprecise business messages sound like double-talk. Good writers think hard about their goals and the direction they want to give others.”

Playwright Oscar Wilde knew “the importance of being earnest”, but business blog content writers need to understand the importance of being real – and specific!

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Business Blog Posts – What’s In It for Them?

WIIFM blogging

There are several similarities between the skills a speaker uses in giving an effective talk and those we bloggers use to write effective business blog posts, I was reminded just the other day,  listening to estate planning attorney Rick Randall address our group at the Financial Planning Association.

What’s In It For Them?
Just a few paragraphs into his lecture on some of the more arcane aspects of designing estate planning trusts,, Randall stopped, looked at us in the audience, and posed the question:  “Why do I care if I’m in your seat?”, proceeding to answer that very question from the point of view of the individual financial planning practitioner.

For business blog content writers, the cardinal rule to remember is that potential clients and customers want to know about Radio Station WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?).

Visuals – the Third Leg of the Stool
One of the legalities Randall wanted to get across to his audience had to do with protecting trust assets from creditors. Many clients are reluctant to take control of the assets away from their beneficiaries in order to obtain that protection. The law considers certain people to be “under our control”. To help us understand and remember which beneficiaries are “too close” (deemed to be under our control in decision-making), Randall used a simple visual of a pointing index finger.  “Up” refers to parents, “down” to offspring, “sides” to siblings, “front” to spouse, and “behind” to employees.

Visuals are one of the three “legs” of the business blog “stool”, along with information and perspective, or “slant”. Whether you use actual original photos or “clip art, visuals add interest and evoke emotion, in addition to cementing concepts in the minds of readers.

Case in Point
To increase interest and understanding of the legal concepts he was explaining, Randall employed a “true story” approach, using as an example an actual drawn-out Indiana estate planning dispute about which we’d all read in the newspaper.

For online searchers, nothing beats landing on a blog that has just the information, the products, and the services they were looking for. That’s doubly true when readers get the “people like me” effect, and stories of all kinds (“case studies”, customer testimonials, famous incidents from the news, Hollywood, folklore – you name it) help personalize your blog post.

For both effective professional presentations and effective business blog posts, it’s all about remembering the “what’s-in-it-for-them”!

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Skiing Downhill in Business Blog Posts

Putting a summary or conclusion at the beginning of a piece of writing certainly sounds like a strange thing to do, but that’s exactly what Brandon Royal advises in The Little Red Writing Book. The pow-opening-line idea I teach in corporate blogging training session focuses on that very sort of “descending” writing structure.

Given the notoriously short attention span of online readers, the sooner it becomes clear there’s a match between what the searcher wants and what’s to be found in our blog post, the more favorable our chances of having that prospect take some action. And, of course, from a Search Engine Optimization standpoint, the “match” between query and content needs to be addressed (through key phrasing) in the blog title and in the opening lines of the blog post.

“In addition to their brevity, news stories have a particular structure that is easily recognizable,” the MTTC Communication Arts Practice & Study Guide explains. “The big, bold headline, for example, is intended to grab readers’ attention, while the first sentence or paragraph lays out the story so the reader knows what to expect.”

In a dialogue or speech, the problem with “working up to” a conclusion is that once you finally find out what the speaker’s point is, you’ve forgotten all the necessary details, Royal says. It’s just as frustrating, the author adds, “when you’re reading a piece of writing and you do not know where it’s going.”

But, when you’re a blog content writing serving up many posts over time, all revolving around the very same general topic, how do you keep things different and engaging, while still going smoothly “downhill”? And are your title and opening line going to “spoil” it for readers?

Awhile back in this Say It For You blog, I described a study done at the University of California’s psychology department. Subjects were given short stories to read, some presented with “spoiler paragraphs” that told readers how the stories would end, others without the spoilers. “Subjects significantly preferred the “spoiled” versions

Here’s the parallel: Readers come online searching for information, products, or services, and they are not going to take the time to read your “manuscript” (the full text of your blog post) without assurance that they’ve come to the right place.

If we freelance blog content writers frustrate online visitors by being unclear about the points we plan to make, they’ll be gone in a click.  We simply must learn to “blog downhill”.

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Blog About What It Takes

Until I read “10 Things About Britain” in Mental Floss Magazine, I had never dreamed that, in order to become a certified taxi operator in London, drivers must study up for an extraordinarily difficult exam that involves detailed recall of 25,000 streets, along with the locations of clubs, hospitals, hotels, parks, theaters, schools, restaurants, government buildings and churches.

This article, I realized, makes a very important point about blog content writing for business, reminding me that online visitors searching for a product or a service typically have no idea what it takes to do what you do and how much effort you put into acquiring all that the expertise, which you are now going to use for their benefit.

I absolutely love the opening line of the “10 Things About Britain” piece:

“Cabbies are smarter than Google Maps.”

Blogging about the benefits readers will reap through using your products and services is not a matter of waving your credentials around or showing off – (OK, it is, in a way). But, in today’s click-it-yourself, do-it-yourself world, your content writing needs to demonstrate to online searchers that, in your field, you ARE smarter than Google Maps, or eHow, or Wikipedia.  What’s more, your corporate blogging for business must make clear, you’re a lot more caring of your customers!

 

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Blog About What It Takes

Until I read “10 Things About Britain” in Mental Floss Magazine, I had never dreamed that, in order to become a certified taxi operator in London, drivers must study up for an extraordinarily difficult exam that involves detailed recall of 25,000 streets, along with the locations of clubs, hospitals, hotels, parks, theaters, schools, restaurants, government buildings and churches.

This article, I realized, makes a very important point about blog content writing for business, reminding me that online visitors searching for a product or a service typically have no idea what it takes to do what you do and how much effort you put into acquiring all that the expertise, which you are now going to use for their benefit.

I absolutely love the opening line of the “10 Things About Britain” piece:

“Cabbies are smarter than Google Maps.”

Blogging about the benefits readers will reap through using your products and services is not a matter of waving your credentials around or showing off – (OK, it is, in a way). But, in today’s click-it-yourself, do-it-yourself world, your content writing needs to demonstrate to online searchers that, in your field, you ARE smarter than Google Maps, or eHow, or Wikipedia.  What’s more, your corporate blogging for business must make clear, you’re a lot more caring of your customers!

 

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