4 Actionable Criteria for Effective Business Blog Posts

Make business blog posts grabby, lean, rich, & actionable. Your company blog is a central content engine for your marketing. Rock your posts in 4 steps.

Use Lean but Grabby Titles

You have 70 characters for your title – any more isn’t usually visible in Google results, and they will cut you off mid-word. Use that space to make your title:

  1. Search-friendly: Put in one search term you want this post to be relevant for. Don’t try to cram in everything – the post still needs to be catchy, readable, and stand out in a sea of others. When shared in venues like Twitter, your title may be all you get. With 140 characters total for Twitter posts, and leaving room for your link and a hashtag, there’s little extra space for an added description.
  2. Click-friendly: Make the title *compel* the reader to click. No matter how important or interesting your post is, boredom can kill your title so no one gets past it to see what you’re saying.

Short-sighted mistakes include

  1. Focusing just on Google: ideally, your content is shared in all kinds of venues from Google Plus to LinkedIn to Twitter to Pinterest – it’s not just a standard “I’m searching for a plumber” audience you’re appealing to. It’s a whole host of potential referrers and sharers to their own audiences you normally can’t reach. Keep humans in mind for your title.
  2. The Pavlovian Response mentality: Writing only to someone who is trying right this moment to buy your services reduces your post to a pitch that trolls for the rare immediately acting passers-by. In fact, the most effective content stays green (remains relevant) over time and reaches the wider majority of people who are still in the process of thinking through what they need to do. Most of the audience isn’t yet ready to act; your post can speed up that process, but not if they don’t get to read it. Keep your audience in mind for your title.

Use Lean but Grabby Lead-in’s

You have 160 characters of introductory text (at the start of the blog post) that will show up in Google, perhaps a little more or less in some social venues. Use that space to make your lead-in:

  1. Personal: Not personal about *you*, but about *them*. What is the situation they are in, where they need the information, insight, analysis, or advice you’re providing? If you can’t answer that question, revisit the post as a whole and ask what problem it’s designed to solve, what it’s designed to teach, what common question it’s designed to answer.
  2. Compelling: Speak informally, not formally or academically, even if you ooze prestige and learning. Connect with your audience, the way you would if you were face to face with someone over coffee. “Look, Ron, I hear what you’re dealing with, and I can sum up what would help in 10 words. If you want more detail, I can explain.” Except, in this case, just do it.

Common mistakes include

  1. Don’t fill it with fluff – like, “There are many different ways you can think of to possibly approach the problem of….” There, you’ve burned half your space for the lead-in to your post, and you haven’t yet said anything. It’s not likely to get a lot of clicks. If someone gets murdered at the end of the story, start with that, and get right to the bloody scene of the crime.
  2. Don’t fill it with pitch – like, “As an expert with 40 years in the business, I’ve had occasion to help clients with…” There, you’ve taken up half your lead-in with something potential leads on the web are inundated with – yet another thinly-veiled sales pitch. That’s Pavlovian. They’re not salivating at the sound of your bell out there – they don’t know you or owe you, and you haven’t earned any relevance with them yet. Instead, given them good reasons to click, with an excerpt that promises an important solution, necessary information, or indispensable advice. Then brand your post at the end.

Write Rich Content

Your post will be maybe 300-400 words. It can be longer if you’re building ‘anchor’ content (content that’s meant to be a consistent resource over time, like a guide) to push out into the search world and remain ‘evergreen’. Regular posts, especially with timely material, are typically under 500 words. Use that space to make your post content:

  1. Actionable: Throughout the day, people get e-mails, texts, and read articles or information related to work. Each bit of content is a to-do, an action item, or else we’re probably burning time and attention on less effective stuff. We honor our audience by doing the translation *for* them – turning our insights and information into actual steps they can take or personal policies they can implement to achieve their goals. It’s *their* goals that, in a sense, supersede our own in the conversation, and that’s the only reason they’ll read our stuff in the first place. Think in their shoes and prescribe more than describe.
  2. Chunked: Digestable content gets digested, and it works better when cut up into bites, whether that’s a series of posts, or a post broken into a series of sub-headlines, or a longer guide with a table of contents. You can create a compelling headline for each paragraph of your post, not counting the lead-in and lead-out, if you like. It’s easier on the eyes, and it operates in the real space where people live – people don’t read first, they scan. They *decide* if they’re going to read while looking at the main headlines. We did this in school to study for tests – we looked at what was in bold. Those actions we mentioned make great sub-headlines.

Well-meaning Mistakes Include:

  1. Thin Content: Rambling or using a lot of words to say very little is not making the best use of your audience’s time. Expertise is a form of leadership. If you’re a vocal person more than a literary one, take the time to read your draft aloud, and cut what you wouldn’t say to a room full of people. After all, a good post makes a good video, a good slideshow, a good infographic, etc. Treat each paragraph like a micro-post, with its own grabby title and important points. If you tend toward perfectionism, decide if the points are important mainly to *you* (an internal need to be thorough) or actually necessary to the bulk of your audience.
  2. Impaling Yourself on Keywords: That’s a trick from the previous decade, and it gets your post *de*moted, not promoted. Stop doing that. Use a search term in your title and once more in one of your sub-headlines, and be done with it. Just write naturally. Google is using semantic analysis now, based on artificial intelligence, which is a fancy way of saying they reward writing that is *not* search engine optimized but is natural, fluid, and human. If you keep repeating the same keywords in your posts, you’re burying it. That’s because Google has gone to war against search engine optimization as search engine manipulation. Optimization is making your stuff easier for Google to index and serve up to searchers (titles and lead-ins are relevant and natural, which is just what we’re saying here). *Over-optimization* is stuffing in a lot of keywords, and focusing on gaming the system, That system, which works on behalf of actual humans who don’t want to be tricked, gamed, manipulated, or controlled, is smarter than that now.

Sell Softly at the End

Content strategy is about thinking two steps ahead, not one. That means your conversation with your audience and through your microphone, be it your blog or other social media, is more sophisticated than, “Hello. I came here today to sell you my services. Raise your hand if you’re ready to buy now.” It’s not like you’re the only one selling what you have. Successful strategy means spending time getting into their shoes and finding and focusing on what’s important to them. You earn their confidence and trust by giving away some of your expertise for free, which is how they know you have any, despite that stack of business cards on the table in back. Finish your blog post with:

  1. A Call to Action (CTA): Use a one-liner at the end of the post that ties it together with what you want them to do next. It’s more natural if it’s different each time. If you’re an exterminator or veterinarian who just wrote a post about keeping fleas out of the home, you could finish the post with “Each flea lays up to 50 eggs per day, creating a nightmare cycle. If you already have fleas on your pet or in your home; I’ve got solutions for nixing that fast – reach out to me before those things multiply any further.”
  2. Confidence Inspiring Bio: Brand your posts *personally* at the end with an author bio and links to your personal social profiles, especially your personal Google Plus profile, so people can follow you for more of your expertise, if they want. You’re creating a relationship, and your expertise is meant to be contagious. This is the moment where you tie what you’ve written with your expertise, qualifications, and reputation. This is where you demonstrate they can not only rely on what they’ve read, but look on you as the local area expert or clear winner among competitive professionals. You become their go-to person.

Worst Mistakes Include: 

  1. The Hard Sell: Pitching and promoting your services throughout the post. Effective content marketing means separating any immediate desperation to sell – “I need people who want my services to pay me right now and become clients” (yes, you do), from the digital equivalent of pitching pamphlets at everyone who walks by, and transforming that impetus into a longer view of building your reach, reputation, and relationships online. People who don’t succeed in digital marketing begin sentences about their goals with “I just want…” and begin writing with “If you’re looking for a new car…”. It’s the lowest level of prompting and response, and it will sabotage your best efforts at building digital authority in search and social media. Don’t do it.
  2. Presumption: Talking to them as though they’re already your clients is great, if we just mean to taking on an intimate voice. But don’t want to forget the distinction between fans of your company and new leads who don’t know you from Adam, who have no reason to cheer until they find value in what you’re offering in this very post. You can post the occasional award, recognition, or feature in the news, but don’t laud your experience and skills throughout each piece, or it comes off as inauthentic to the wider audience.

An effective content strategy puts authenticity and subtlety as top criteria for your company’s marketing. Your blog posts are too important to just knock out – heads down – robo-writer style – without a focus on these qualities. In essence, your communication to the world – via your blog – is your communication about your company, even when it’s not mentioned at all.

Contact MadPipe to guide you to richer audience engagement and more clientele.

Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides creative direction, marketing leadership, and campaign direction for firms that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, Forbes, and Success Magazine.

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