I don’t mean for that to be offensive. I actually don’t know anything about your content, but I’m just playing the odds. Millions of blog posts are published every day. Chances are good that yours aren’t the cream of the crop. I mean, if they were, would you be reading this article?
So we agree—your content needs help. It isn’t generating traffic or leads or conversions or revenue. People don’t seem to care. Yet other businesses are finding success with content. What are they doing that you’re not?
Here are a few pieces of advice that I wish someone had told me when I started out in marketing and, specifically, blogging.
1. Write what you know
Typically, this advice is given to writers who want to publish books, but it goes for blogging, too. Too many bloggers write content they think they should, rather than what they actually know or have strong opinions about.
Dentists post blogs on their websites with content like “9 Reasons to Brush Your Teeth.” Nobody wants to read that. You know that nobody does. The title alone tells you everything you need to know about it—it’s a list of obvious reasons to brush your teeth that you’ve heard a million times.
The same is true in your industry. Whatever the basic, obvious topic is, you’re tempted to write a post about it. Resist that temptation. Nobody cares. Your challenge is to find something about your industry that you have special insight on or, at least, you can spin in some way to make it legitimately interesting.
Instead of “9 Reasons to Brush Your Teeth,” maybe our dentist makes an infographic with actual patient photos (with their approval, of course) showing the degradation of teeth over time when you don’t brush. Here’s what your teeth look like at one week, three weeks, one month, three months… Who wouldn’t want to scroll through that, anticipating the inevitable, horrific wreck at the end?
Find that opportunity for your own content. Don’t waste your time with the crap everybody else is writing. Don’t write posts that are better answered on Wikipedia. Write your story.
2. Have an opinion
Remember in high school when you were learning how to write an essay? The first thing they taught you was how to craft a thesis statement—a simple, concise sentence that says what you’re going to be arguing throughout the rest of the paper.
The thesis is crucial in academic writing but it turns out it’s pretty important in blogging, too.
Don’t be afraid to present an argument and defend it. It makes for more engaging reading when the author has confidence in their convictions. Your writing is weakened every time you use the words “may,” “sometimes,” “often,” “potentially,” etc. Your readers understand that not every bit of advice is going to apply in every situation, but you should write like it does. If they do reach out to chastise or debate you, great! You’re participating in a conversation rather than writing vanilla copy that is immediately forgotten.
3. Build an audience first
A lot of people start blogging with the idea that people will magically find their blog all by themselves. The internet is a magical place, but not that magical. You’ll end up shouting into a void.
You need a publishing and marketing strategy for every post. Don’t bother writing/editing/posting something if you’re just going to tweet about it and then sit back to wait for the readers to flow in. They won’t.
If you don’t have an audience yet, build one. There are lots of ways to do this, but my favorites are giveaways, where you advertise (yes, with money) on social media or at events, and require that people give you their email addresses to sign up; and guest posting, publishing content on websites that already have readers with links back to your site. You can also connect with influencers online and ask them to share your content.
Whatever you do, determine how you’re going to promote your content before you write it.
4. Write because you love it
The pressure to blog and participate in this whole content marketing thing is real. Problem is, it’s pushing a lot of people who don’t consider themselves writers and some who even hate putting pen to paper.
It’s really not that big a deal. If you don’t love writing, don’t do it. If it’s a struggle each time you sit down at your laptop, go do something else. If your company absolutely needs a blog (like, if you sell content marketing software and it would be hypocritical not to), then hire someone who is passionate about writing to do it.
We all learned to write when we were kids. Some of us loved it and pursued it, honing a craft through trial and tribulation; others loved and pursued other passions. If you’re one of those others—great! Focus on your passions and leave writing to someone else.
Just make sure that the content they’re writing follows these rules. Otherwise, yours will be another invisible, throwaway blog on some dusty corner of the internet.
Also, don’t forget that “content” doesn’t necessarily mean “blog.” You don’t have to write articles. If you feel more comfortable making videos, recording podcasts, designing infographics, or heck, writing catchy songs, do that instead. Whatever content you can create that will be most irresistible to your buyer personas and you’ll be most excited to work on, make that.
5. Pay no mind to the experts
If you get caught up worrying about how long your posts should be, what your SEO keyword density should be, how long your titles should be, what your pictures should include, etc., you’ll get lost. There are countless articles on the web covering these topics; they all say different things.
The thing is, none of it is universally true. Some bloggers find enormous success with short posts (Seth Godin); others write very long ones (Moz). There’s no way to know what’s going to work for you, your business, your industry, and your buyer personas until you experiment for yourself.
So just start creating content and see what works. Run a variety of tests. Use your own metrics to make decisions, not the anecdotal ones provided by the so-called experts.
I count myself in this, too. If you find success writing about something you don’t know anything about, have no opinion on, have no built-in audience for, and hate to write about, well, keep up the good work!