Last week in part one of this blog post I discussed what a blog is, what the benefits of blogging are and what platform you should use.
This week in this quick guide to blogging for beginners I’ll be discussing ideas for blog content, looking at a typical blog post structure, some tips for driving traffic to your blog and a quick look at commenting.
What Should You Write About?
This is probably one of the biggest stumbling blocks for new bloggers. Once you get started you will find that you will naturally start to find topics to blog about but as a new blogger it’s worth setting aside some time to come up with topics.
Here’s a few suggestions to help you get started.
1. What common questions do your customers ask you?
Yes you might have a FAQ section on your website but it’s worth expanding these into longer blog posts. If customers ring you up or email you with questions then they are probably also searching online for the answer. By blogging questions and answers you are attracting new people to your site.
If you don’t currently get many questions from your customers it’s worth throwing some out on your social media channels or asking people what they’d like to know. This is a great way to get people invested in your blog content, when you publish they are more likely to read, comment or share it themselves as they feel like they are a part of it.
2. Share company news
What is going on in your business? Do you have a new product or service? A new staff member? Have you been nominated for any awards? What happens behind the scenes?
It’s important not to make all your content directly about your business as people will see it as promotion but blogging is a great way to keep customers and potential customers up to date with what’s happening. Next time they pop in they’ll feel that they already know about your business and will feel more comfortable.
3. Customer testimonials
Sharing positive customer feedback is a great way to show you are good at what you do as long as it looks authentic. Sharing customer stories on your blog is a great way for people to see how you work, it will resonate with them far more than you telling them what you do. Shooting video of customers or transcribing conversations with them in their own words are great ways of making your testimonials more authentic.
4. Share industry news
What is topical within your business at the moment? What do people need to know about your area of business? Sharing this news and making it more accessible to your target market is a great way to get read.
5. Knowledge Sharing / Content Marketing
Blogging is a great way to show off your expertise. Give people a little taste of what you know and they will come back to find out more. That is the strategy behind this blog and I find it works well.
Think about what else would interest your potential customers other than what you do. For example if you offer training in growing vegatables you might blog about green issues as a topic that your target market might be interested in.
Set aside a few hours to brainstorm these topics with the aim of coming up with 20+ potential blog post ideas. This should take you through the first phase of your blogging.
Is There A Specific Structure To Blog Posts?
Some people work to a structure some people just sit down and start to type. I find it easier to write when I have laid out my paragraphs before I start.
What is key is to understand that you need to make a blog easy to read. If someone clicks through and is confronted with a wall of text they are less likely to read on. Here’s some tips for making it less daunting:
- Use subheadings to break up the text
- Write short paragraphs and sentences
- Break up your text with bullet points or numbered lists
- Break up your text with images
- Bold any important sentences or phrases
How do I Get People To Read My Blog?
1. Always think about SEO
I use WordPress.org and there’s a really good plugin called Yoast that forces you to think about keywords. It will assist you in knowing that you have optimised for the keywords you want to be found for. I always find it easier to write the post first and add extra references to my keywords in editing. Trying to force them into text as you write can make your post seem stilted.
2. Google Keyword research tool
It’s all very well using Yoast but before you start blogging it’s worth using Google’s keyword research tool to identify the keywords you should be using. Here’s a great post on how to use the Google Keyword Tool from Write On Track.
3. Add yourself to blogging directories
I honestly don’t know how effective this is but it can be a great way to discover blogs. At the very least make sure you are listed on Technorati and any directories you can find specific to your industry.
4. Share on social media
If you don’t share your blog posts don’t expect anyone else to. I find at the moment that Facebook sharing is bringing the best results although Pinterest, Google+, Linkedin and Twitter all drive traffic too. Don’t overwhelm people by posting too often but do make sure you are sharing at least once to each network (and more frequently to Twitter).
Make a habit of sharing your blog post to all networks as soon as you have completed it. It will soon become second nature.
5. Make it easy for other people to share your blog
Adding sharing buttons to the bottom of each blog post encourages others to share your content. I use the Digg Digg plugin for this blog although there are lots of alternatives out there.
6. Comment on other blogs
When you comment on other blogs, and comment well you will attract the attention of those blog owners and start to build relationships with them. You will see that after a while they will return the favour by commenting on yours too.
Before you start commenting read the section below on best practice.
What Is Commenting & How Should I Use It?
Leaving good constructive comments on blog posts is a great way to build relationships with other bloggers. It’s worth doing a search for blogs that compliment what you do and making a habit of commenting on them from time to time. The bloggers will begin to get to know you and return the favour. Here’s my tips for commenting:
- Make a constructive comment that shows you have read the blog post you are commenting on.
- Don’t include a link or promote your own product or service unless it’s 100% relevant to your comment and the post you are commenting on. (you will be asked for a link when you comment but this is usually just visible to the blog owner)
- Read the previous comments on the blog and make sure you are adding something new. If someone else has beaten it to you join the conversation rather than replicating their comment.
- Consider leaving a question as part of your comment to encourage conversation with both the blog owner and other blog commentators.
You should now have enough information to get started with blogging. If you want to learn more take a look at the blogging courses we are offering at We Teach Social.