Blogging to Help Make Them or Save Them Money

blogging to save them money

“Before we write a single post, we ask ourselves, ‘Does this help our readers make or save money?’” says Kathleen Garvin, editor and marketing strategist for finance blog The Penny Hoarder. “That’s key for us. We’re content creators, but we only want to publish a story if we think it’s truly helpful or interesting for our readers.”

“When developing content, keep in mind the three E’s of content: Educate, Entertain and Engage,” writes Dennis Wakeman of the Social Media Examiner.

Teaching is, in fact, a large part of what we blog content writers do. How does the product or the process work? How can the business owner or professional practitioner solve the problem?

In the broadest sense of the word, entertaining is part of the job for blog writers. No, you needn’t become a comedian, but unusual anecdotes, tips, trends, and tidbits help keep readers on site.

Getting people to actually connect with you and participate in the conversation is much harder than it looks, Wakeman admits. He suggests using polls and very specifically asking for comments. Whenever somebody actually clicks on a link, takes a poll, or posts a comment, he explains, that brings them closer to becoming a client or customer.

So what about helping readers make and save money? The personal finance blog Squawkfox.com was voted #1 blog in Canada, because it’s full of tips on de-cluttering, cutting spend, and staying within a budget. (In training career mentees, I would coach them, both on their resume and in the job interview, to tell their prospective employer how, in their summer jobs, they had saved their employer money, time, and hassle.) Similarly, at Say It For You, I teach writers to make the content about them, not about you and your business or practice!

So what about helping your own business or practice make money? Your call to action should point readers to the next point in the sales funnel, says ProBlogger. You might ask web visitors to subscribe to your newsletter or sign up for a free webinar so you can turn them into paying customers in the future

In blog content marketing, it’s all about helping readers make and save money!

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In Blogging and in the Air, a Bit of Explanation Goes a Long Way

explanations in blogging“Although many frequent fliers think they know what to do in an emergency, in fact most probably haven’t listened to the safety videos in years and if you quizzed them about the content, they’d flunk,” writes George Hobica in USA Today.

The basic content of safety videos, Hobica explains, is established by the International Civil Aviation Organization, with room for additional advice at each airline’s discretion. It’s all super-important content, he says, because whenever there’s been an emergency on a plane, we see footage of passengers doing the wrong things – escaping a crash landing carrying luggage and not wearing shoes, or not knowing how to put on an oxygen masks, for example.

So what can be done to get passengers to watch the videos? (As a blog content writer and trainer who’s occupied with getting people to read the content we prepare, I was really interested in what Hobica would have to say on the subject.)

“I truly believe that if the videos explained the reasons behind the instructions they give, then people would listen more,” he says. “For instance, the exhortation to ‘place the mask over your mouth and nose’ could be changed to ‘place the mask over both your nose and mouth, because otherwise you won’t get enough oxygen and you’ll pass out'”.

Blogger Michel Fortin says he’s a big fan of reasons-why advertising. “Good, successful copy,” Fortin adds, “tells the reader why right up front.” (If you don’t, he warns, they’re left wondering why you left that information out.) Why are you highlighting a certain topic now? Why is the solution you’re proposing particularly relevant for this reader?

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If They Don’t “Get” Annie, They Won’t Buy the Gun

allusions

“Imagine,” LitCharts.com writes, “if every time someone used the expression “it was a real Cinderella story,” they had to retell the entire story of Cinderella to explain exactly what they meant.” By using an allusion to something a majority of people will already know, you can clarify your own message – provided they DO know what you mean.

Around six years ago, the Indianapolis Star ran a story about an auction at which items title of the piece was “Annie Get Your Checkbook”, referring to the movie and Broadway show “Annie Get Your Gun.”  As it happened, I recognized the allusion immediately, but as a blog content writer and trainer, I had to wonder how many other readers would have “gotten” the point. That’s the thing about allusions, I tell writers – they need to be handled with caution.

“Use pop culture references sparingly,” cautions Joanne Brooks of Helium.com, offering two main reasons why:

  1. You want your work to have relevance several years from now.
  2. Pop culture references can delay reading and cause you to lose your audience.

On the other hand, the last thing you want is to be ho-hum and b-o-o-r-ing,so there are reasons to consider popular culture references. For one thing, as Neda Ulaby noted on National Public Radio, even if only a minority among in your audience understand your allusion, they are going to feel like really special insiders and be bonded to you.

The Blocabulary blog points out that allusions can:

  • help people see unique connections between two ideas
  • help readers better understand the subject
  • be surprising and funny

My own observation, based on working with Say It For You blogging clients from many different industries and professions, is that it’s a challenge to find the precise style of communication that will best connect with target readers. While this is especially true in business-to-consumer blog content writing, even with suppliers and distributors, you want to avoid anything that is a barrier to understanding.

Going back to my original example of the IndyStar auction promo, in business blog copy writing, it’s a simple equation: If they don’t “get” Annie, they won’t buy the gun!

 

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In Blog Marketing, Look for a Plot

plot in blogging

 

“Don’t look for a plot here. This is a polemic,” are the words a reviewer in the Mensa Bulletin uses to describe J.K Hillstrom’s book, A Humanitarian’s Fantasy. The book is a more like a series of lectures, the reviewer complains, rather than a coherent, sequential piece of prose.

Individual business blog posts may appear to be non-sequential, separate pieces of writing rather than parts of a coherent whole. Yet a small business owner’s or professional practitioner’s blogging efforts can have an effect on marketing results that is disproportionately larger than might seem possible from mere short, informal selections. The power comes from the “plot”.  

Whenever I’m sitting down with new Say It For You business owner clients as they’re preparing to launch a blog for their company or practice, I find that one important step is to select one to five recurring – and related – themes that will appear and reappear over time in their blog posts. The themes may be reflected in the keyword phrases they are going to use to help drive search, but themes are broader in scope than just key words.

The variety in their blog is going to come from the details we will be filling in around those central themes, different ways the company’s products can be helpful, different valuable tidbits of information or how-to tips, plus specific examples of how the company helped solve various problems.

The unifying themes in a business blog are the beliefs of, and the unique “slant” of, the business owner or professional practitioner. Those “leitmotifs”  help the separate blog posts fit together into an ongoing business blog marketing strategy.

In blog marketing, look for the plot!

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Two Important Blogging Beginnings – Anecdotes and Questions

introductions in blogging

“The opening paragraph, or introduction, of your essay is key,” the Research & Education Association’s QuickAccess laminated writing guide advises. The guide suggests two “methods you can use to hook the reader”:

  1. Anecdote – a story that illustrates your point
  2. Question – establish a reason to keep reading (to find the answer)

“The introduction should include both your thesis statement and some background information about your topic,” QuickAccess continues.

In business blog content writing, anecdotes serve to keep the material fresh. While the message may be one that you’ve delivered in your blog many times before, adding a new story to illustrate the point makes the material seem brand new. Emotional appeal is what makes readers take action, and anecdotes give “heart” to the information. You may be selling a product or a service, but what you’re really selling is a solution to a problem readers are facing. The story makes that solution come alive.

Another way to state the importance of harnessing the power of storytelling in business blogs is this:  Use more examples; make fewer claims; “showing, not crowing”, will get you a lot farther in blog content writing.

I tell new Indianapolis blog content writers that, in creating content for marketing blogs, we need to keep in mind that people are online searching for answers to questions they have and solutions for dilemmas they’re facing. But even if those searchers haven’t specifically formulated their question, I suggest we can do that for them by presenting a question in the blog post itself!

You can use a customer question as a headline, then use the post to answer that question. Specifically, the question in the title or in the opening line “grabs” readers, demonstrating what they can expect to find in the blog post, and showing that you understand the dilemmas they’re facing and how to solve those!

Ask a question you know will catch their eye.  You can even add in a layer a curiosity, copywriter Amy Harrison suggests, by following your question with “The answer might just surprise you….”.

Anecdotes and questions – two important “Ones” in the one-two punch of blog content writer.  The “two”? All the valuable and interesting answers those readers were hoping to find.

 

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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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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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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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