By Laura Haight
What makes some blog posts successful, while others fall flat? Why do some blogs act as magnets bringing thousands of eyes to the company website, while others struggle to get noticed?
The amount of content that assaults us every day is inconceivable. Marketers will tell you that all content is created equal and having something is what matters. But communicators will tell you that readers are careful curators and they want something more than just words - they want the right words.
What difference does content make if a thousand people read an article on your blog but never look at another page on your site? (Do you know what your bounce rate is telling you?).
There are a few common mistakes that small businesses make in the development of articles and blog posts.
Buying into the tyranny of the list
"5 Things Brilliant People Eat for Breakfast", "4 Ways You're Neglecting Your Teeth - and Why They'll Bite Back!", "5 Things to Ask Your Next Divorce Attorney First!".
Listicles are not new; newspapers have used them for years as a way to summarize points to keep readers hanging on through a longer article. Listicles aren't all bad, and there are neurological reasons why lists work. But they can also be lazy and shallow and deceptive. Too many of these list-based articles promise keys to success, beauty, health, weight loss (how many of you have clicked at least once on the "5 Foods You Should Never Eat if You Want to Lose Belly Fat"?), but deliver little more than platitudes.
Lists, however, aren't inherently bad. It's the writing, editing and overuse of them that falls short. If you blog as a way to elevate your business footprint, to gain recognition as a thought-leader in your industry or community, or to bring clients/customers to your website you'll need to put some depth and insight out there. That means real information. Many businesses - and some marketers - will advise that you not "give away" too much information. I think differently. Giving real information to people will not make them run out and decide to be a personal coach, an architect, a web designer or a widget manufacturer. It will, however, give them a trusted advisor, an expert, to go to when they need one.
Content Mills: You get what you pay for
Freelance writing is a price-sensitive industry where it's often not the quality of the words but the quantity and the price per word metric that makes the sale.
In some industries (medical, dental, accounting, legal) there are turnkey content packages that offer websites, blogs, social media posts, all with no intervention from you. It sounds like a good deal until you realize that there's nothing to separate you from every other doctor, dentist, accountant or lawyer in the neighborhood who bought the same package. Some internet searches will come up with the same story, the same headline, the same description listed over and over for hundreds of competing local businesses.
Online freelance bidding sites where content can be purchased for as little as $5 a post, leave out one important ingredient. You.
Business content online fails when you are disengaged from it. Your experiences - the situations you faced, the mistakes you made, the people who helped you, the employees you taught, the employees who taught you - these are all the meat on the bones of the story of your business. You have stories in you that you don't even realize. A good interviewer can help you find them, develop them and tailor them to dovetail with current events, hot business topics, and local developments.
That level of content has authenticity that is the bedrock the kinds of stories you share and talk about. That kind of engagement is what can turn readers into potential clients, who come to you looking for more of the same.
A good story deserves to be heard - over and over
If I write it, readers will come. Right? Not so much. The single biggest reason that business content fails to pull readers in is that they don't know it's there. A good blog post needs a strong image, compelling Facebook post, intriguing Tweet, and publicizing on other social and business networks. And doing it once is not enough.
You need to treat an article or blog post similar to a product launch. Define your audiences, develop appropriate promotion, set up a release calendar, monitor results and adapt as warranted. If you start to get comments, you may work those ideas into future posts.
I assisted a client with a series covering the basics of intellectual property law. It was informative, understandable to a layman and had great resources linked to it. That's content that company can use over and over again.
Great content can live forever, as long as you keep talking about it and finding ways to lead readers to it.
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