Starting a Business Blog, Part Three: Content

The next important piece of your blog is the actual content. Now that you’ve thought about developing your strategy and finding your voice, it’s time to do some actual writing. As I’ve already mentioned, the most important rule of managing a business blog is to STOP SELLING. This is a place to build trust with current and potential customers, and to prove to them that you have things to offer like relevant information, entertainment, etc.

Think about why you’re writing. What is your niche? What makes your blog more interesting than what your competitors might have? As an example, pretend you’re a cupcake business. There are already many of these, most of which are small, independently owned businesses. How are you different? Maybe you have vegan and gluten free options. Maybe you buy primarily local ingredients and put an effort on being environmentally friendly or supporting other local businesses. Maybe you have a unique start-up story that will develop interest and help customers connect with you. This is exactly what you want to write about. If your business doesn’t have anything that seems as obvious as the imaginary cupcake company, look directly at your competition to figure out how to set yourself apart.

A great way to find your competition (other than using a search engine like Google) is to use a blog directory site or blog specific search engine like Technorati, Quora or Google Blog Search. Search within your industry for inspiration and don’t be afraid to narrow the search. What are companies in your area doing? What are companies halfway around the world doing? Get inspired by your competitors, but try to avoid rehashing what they are already writing about.

You want to provide value for your readers. Posting about industry news and research is a good place to start. Is there some way you can educate them about your products and your industry at the same time? Going back to the cupcake shop example, give them a recipe for gluten free cupcakes and explain what makes it gluten free and why this would be desirable or necessary for some people. Posts like these can help readers (aka potential customers) associate your brand or company identity with usefulness. Sharing quality information with your customers without the immediate expectation of them paying for it in some way will go a long way.

You want to leave an impression of being useful and honest. If you do research, (which you should, because you want to seem like an industry expert) acknowledge when you quote someone else’s work. It may seem counter-intuitive to link to another company or blog, but this could be beneficial and result in links or followers from the other blog/company. You also want to educate your customers about your brand in subtle, but informative ways. DON’T TELL them you are better than your competitors. Give them the information and allow them to come to that conclusion on their own.

As a final note, don’t neglect writing style, which is different than both voice and content. Strive for a simple style with clear, direct language. If you use industry-specific terms, explain them. Chances are your customers won’t take the time to look them up and will start to get confused or lose interest. These terms are important for SEO, but remember that isn’t everything. This also applies to colloquialisms and internet slang. Think about who your customers are and whether or not they would all understand the terms you are using.

Be personable and informative, but get to the point fairly quickly. Don’t write a novel, but also keep in mind that this isn’t Facebook or Twitter and you can actually post something of substance. If you have to, make use of sub-headings, lists and bullet points to break up your article. If you can find a stylistically attractive way to highlight important words or phrases, feel free to do this. Your customers are probably as busy as you are and will want to first scan the article to make sure it is something they want to read before they take the time to really dive in.

And whatever you do, PROOFREAD. Use a spell-checking tool, but actually RE-READ the article for obvious mistakes like “its” vs. “it’s” and other things that divide professional and unprofessional. If you are confused about grammar rules, Google is a wealth of information. If you prefer a more tangible resource, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is a great place to start.


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