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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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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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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Business Blogging Tips Out of Consumer Reports Magazine – Part B

blogging tips

 

“My TV prompts me to do updates, but I often ignore the requests.  Is that bad?”  That question was the headline of an article in the March issue of Consumer Reports Magazine.

Think about that tactic for a moment as applied to blog marketing – using a customer question as a headline, then using the blog post content to answer that very question! Hardly new, that “Dear Abby” idea (in my former career, I used that very question answer format for 24 years in my weekly financial planning column).

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 a question, I suggest we do that for them by presenting a question in the blog post title itself.

Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide thinks that giving away information to get clients in just this way is a good idea: “By providing visitors with free and valuable information and services, you entice them to return to your web site often, and in doing so you increase the number of selling opportunities you have with each individual visitor.”

Specifically, the question in the title “grabs” readers, not only demonstrating what they can expect to find in the blog post, by showing that you understand the dilemmas they’re facing and how to solve those.

Question-answer is actually a very good format for presenting information to online readers. But there’s no need to wait until readers actually write in their questions. (Were all the Dear Abby questions actually sent in by readers?  Does it matter?) Every practitioner hears questions from clients; every business owner fields customer queries daily. Sharing some of those in blog posts reminds readers of challenges they face – and the solutions you have to offer!

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Business Blogging Tips Out of Consumer Reports Magazine – Part A

numbers in blog titles

2.8 billion.  That was the entire headline – “2.8 billion” of an article in the March issue of Consumer Reports Magazine. How could you not want to find out more?

The first paragraph of the article consisted of three very short sentences: “That’s how many robocalls – computer-generated calls – were sent to Americans in December 2017. Some are legitimate, such as surveys and political messages. But many are scammers using ‘spoofing’ software to masquerade as a company or even a government agency.”

As the owner of a professional blog content writing company, I’m always talking about the “pow” opening line. That’s the line that contains keyword phrases (important in SEO marketing blogs to reassure search engines they’ve made a good match and readers that they’ve come to the right blog.) The opening line is also the one that presents a question, a problem, a startling statistic, or a gutsy, challenging statement. The two-word Consumer Reports title is nothing if not gutsy.

The second reason the “2.8 billion” title is a brilliant tactic is that it’s a number. Numbers lend strength to a case. Statistics provide factual proof, by showing the extent of the problem (in the case of blogging, the problem your product or service helps solve!).

Using numbers in blogs is hardly a new concept. Business blogs are filled to the brim with statistics. In fact, one of the hottest trends in business blogging today is infographics, which is a way of presenting statistics in visually appealing form by combining numbers with graphic images.

Numbers grab attention and firm up facts. Where the words come in, though, is putting the statistics into perspective, so that readers are given the answer to their “So what?” and “So what’s in it for me?” questions.

About those robo-calls?  Consumer Reports follows up the “pow” number with three pieces of good advice: Block ‘em, Don’t answer them. Don’t engage.

What startling NUMBER could you use to grab readers’ attention before offering them good WORDS of wisdom?

 

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Steering Clear of Duplicate Content in Business Blogging

duplicate blog content

“Blogs are owned media.  Your blog content is yours,” Says Heidi Cohen of SocialMediaExaminer.com. But is it? “They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Yet, on the Internet, some people take this type of compliment way too far,” laments Nick Schafferhoff of torquemag.io, and “copied content runs rampant online.”

Schafferhoff’s referring to duplicate content.  Sure, parts of any blog writer’s content will always be based on what other people have written before, Schafferhoff concedes. But, when using information from someone else, create a link to them, he advises, even if you express the idea in your own words.

The technical problem duplicate content creates is that, when similar content is being shown on multiple URLs (web locations), it’s as if road signs are pointing in different directions for the same destination, Joost de Valk of yoast.com explains. The duplication is no problem for the readers, who are steered to the information they were seeking.  If it’s your content being duplicated, it’s your problem,         de Valk stresses, because that hurts your rankings. Since most duplicate content is caused by technical factors, your web developer can sometimes solve the problem, he says. (A canonical tag tells search engines that a specific url represents the master copy of a page, and using rel canonical prevents duplicate content from appearing on multiple urls.)

What about “rejuvenating” your old blog posts and reposting the new version?  Does that create duplicate content? It does, explains Gretchen Louise in “What Bloggers Need to Know about Duplicate Content”. If you publish a post that is a very close duplicate of another – even your own- Google might consider that content scraping, she says. Better to edit and refresh an old post rather than re-posting it. On WordPress, for example, Gretchen suggests, you can show “last updated” on the original post rather than “posted on…”.

According to the law, the moment a blog post is “created and fixed in a tangible form that is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or a device”, I assure business owners, that work receives copyright protection. Blog marketers do not need to register their blog or even attach a © symbol.

There are no official “laws” specific to providing the kind of fresh, relevant content that helps move your corporate blog higher in search rankings while continuing to engage readers’ interest. Remember, ideas are not copyrightable, and you are free to use someone else’s idea as a jumping-off point for your own expression, which means, of course, others enjoy the same freedom when it comes to your ideas!

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Practitioners Blog to be Viewed as SMEs

practitioners' blog

 

Mand training is an essential component of verbal behavior training for any individual who lacks this skill,” is the opener of an article on the website of the National Institutes of Health, discussing the treatment of children with autism.

“What are mands and why do we need to teach them?” is the title of an “advertorial” for the Applied Behavior Center for Autism published in the little Indy Kids’ Directory I picked up at the grocery store.

That entire page, I thought, helped “position” the professionals at the Applied Behavior Center as SMEs (pronounced “SMEE-S”), or Subject Matter Experts. According to About.Com, “a Subject Matter Expert is an individual who understands a business process or area well enough to answer questions”.

“Provide valuable information to people who need it, and let word-of-mouth marketing do the rest.” When readers “take home” or access the content of our blog posts, even if they are not yet clients (and therefore do not yet have proof of how well we are going to take care of them), the hope is that they will, in fact, share that content with others. Nowhere is this more effective than for professional practitioners’ blog content.

“It takes a lot of time and consistency, but teaching things how to request things open up a whole new world for them, the Indy Kids’ Directory article explains. ”Once a child learns ‘I talk, I get’, it is likely their ability to communicate will increase.”

Even if readers are satisfied they have gotten value out of the article, they may or may not choose to follow the Call to Action.  In this case, program director Jen DeRocher is saying, “If your child isn’t current a patient at the Applied Behavior Center for Autism and you’re interested in finding out more information, contact us today at…….

The one critique I might have of the DeRocher piece is that she does not make clear what  differentiates that practice from its peers (Are there any peers in Indianapolis?). Primarily, though, I think the article is very successful in conveying value, which is what every blog post must do. Whether or not readers of a practitioner blog convert to buyers, there must be information, skill enhancement, or a new way of looking at the topic.

Practitioners blog so that they can be viewed as SMEs!

 

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Question/Answer Blogging Benefits Readers and Bloggers

question-answer blog posts

 

The one-page advertorial in the February issue of Indy Kids’ Directory could serve as the perfect model for any professional practitioner’s blog post, I thought. The page is headed by a parent’s question: “My child is struggling with reading.  Could it be related to his speech difficulties?”

Yes, begins the answer. The speech pathologist, owner of Speech Connections, follows up by citing study results showing that as a group, preschoolers with speech sound disorders are at increased risk for reading disabilities and developmental dyslexia.

The rest of the page consists of a chart listing guidelines for speech sound development at each age.  For example, by age 1 ½, children typically develop the sounds P, M, H. B. and N, while the sounds “sh”, “ch”, and “z” may not be developed until  as late as age 8.

“The above chart is a general guideline,” the author cautions, following up with a gentle Call to Action: “If your child is not able to say sounds in his or her age range, then a consult with a speech-language pathologist is recommended.”

Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide thinks that giving away information to get clients in just this way is a good idea: “By providing visitors with free and valuable information and services, you entice them to return to your web site often, and in doing so you increase the number of selling opportunities you have with each individual visitor.”

Some business owners, I’ve found, are afraid that, if they share too much information about their field, clients won’t need to pay them to provide expertise! “Many advisers won’t share information with potential clients until they’ve been hired. But, by giving very useful information to parents about how to judge their children’s sound development, pathologist Boyer is establishing her own credibility.

A second concern business owners often express to me is that they don’t want to come off boastful and self-serving in their blog, or be perceived as using hard-sell tactics to promote themselves. Think about it, though. That information about children’s speech development is highly useful and may galvanize parents into taking action on behalf of their own kids. “We have to sell ourselves to potential clients so that they choose to work with us rather than the competition, Steve Wamsley writes in his book Stop Selling And Do Something Valuable.

Question-answer information blogging can benefits both reads and bloggers!

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