Updated: Apr 20, 2019
Stilted and boring corporate speak on a company website is always an immediate turn-off. The lack of emotion brings a cold hard feel to business proceedings rather than the warm, empathetic embrace it should be.
Companies that insist on placing financial reports and chairman's annual statements on the front pages think more of pleasing investors and their self serving importance than they do of you, the lowly customer. Or at least that is how it seems.
So that you don't make the same mistake as them or try to be something you are not I've helped you out with my secret sauce guide to supercharge your writing and creating an outstanding blog.
1. Define Your Reader
Buyer personas are what marketing people create to help visualise the target audience for a product or service. If it sounds like a marketing step too far for you, then it needn't be, pick one of your best customers as the buyer persona and write for them. Write as if you are talking to them directly in your voice and keep them in mind whenever you write content for your website.
For whom am I writing? You! You are the person I have in mind when I am writing this blog post.
Male or female, a small business owner aged 45-55. Perhaps you started the business on the side, but now it's grown to a £100k – 500k business (or on its way) and now you are looking for ways to get more clients and present a more professional face to the world.
"A new website would be great, and that logo is a bit dated."
If I could start blogging and get over my fear of writing, then I'd have all the customers I could handle. How much is it going to cost? Can I do it without a massive cash investment? Can I get someone to write the blog? I'm not up with all this IT stuff, and I don't have much time, can I get someone to do it all for me?
Is That You? Of Course, It Is!
I'm not Mystic Meg though. To practise my magic I keep the vision of one of my best customers in my mind's eye and write as if I was speaking to directly to them. Because I understand the buyer persona, I know the pain points that need to be addressed, and hence I know what to write.
2. Use Consistent Layout
Using a consistent layout for your blog speaks subconsciously to your reader that you are organised and diligent in your work. When headings are different sizes, font styles are varied or mismatched, and text is poorly laid out it tells your reader that you don't care about your work or you're sloppy.
Fixing this is easy. Create a single article page and then apply all the elements to that page that you'll need in your writing like page headings, headings and paragraph styles. Use this page as a template for all your future writing.
3. Use Grammarly
I came across the Grammarly app several years ago now, and it is one of the best investments any aspiring writer can make. Not only does Grammarly correct simple spelling mistakes and grammatical errors but it also teaches you to compose sentences with better structure. After a few months of use, you'll notice that you present fewer errors at proof time. Grammarly is a writing assistant rather than a simple grammar checker.
I like to write my piece in one go with Grammarly turned off and then present it whole for correction when it is semi-complete rather than keep being interrupted with mistakes as I write, but you might like to offer up paragraphs at a time, to start. This way you can stay focused on your subject and maintain a better writing flow
4. I, We, You And Those Other People
You write blogs in first and second person. Using “I” makes a stronger personal connection with the reader and conveys more emotion. You can use “we” for company blogs.
“You” is the most important word you can use in your blog because it involves the reader in your writing.
Here are some examples:
It's me writing this blog. I'm the one thinking the thoughts, tapping the keys, writing the sentences and making the paragraphs. I like to write in silence, and I won't put my Spotify tunes back on until I've finished my work.
We produce websites. We build many websites. They are terrific websites, we are the best website design Telford agency there is!
Would you like to buy one of our pay monthly websites? They are custom made for you.
5. Familiarity Uses Contractions
Use contractions just like you would as if you were talking to someone in front of you:
I’m – I am
Can’t – cannot
We’ve – we have
She’ll – she will
He’s – he is
Won’t – will not
Weren’t – were not
Wasn’t – was not
Isn’t – is not
Using contractions is not a permanent rule, and sometimes I like to remove it for emphasis or to convey stronger action, particularly if I feel the reader is not paying attention. Yes that's you over there!
6. Do Not Forget The Imperatives!
Bring authority to your writing and write like you are the expert you want to be. If you don't do this, you'll sound like you barely know your subject.
Imperatives are words that command authority and urge action.
Why would anybody waste their time reading your copy infested with “perhaps”, maybe”, “might” and “could” when they can read my “certain”, “definite”, “unquestionable” and “final” word on the matter.
Use my advice to become a successful writer and inherit the earth! Alternatively, an awful blog, sure anonymity and acquiescent poverty will all be yours.
7. Practice Writing Irresistible Headlines
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.
Fantastic headlines don't write themselves and learning how to write them is a necessary skill for bloggers. Not only does an eye-catching headline set the expectation for your reader but it also has an essential function in SEO (search engine optimisation) and CRO (conversion rate optimisation).
If that wasn't enough onus on the overworked headline writer to produce, then add in that a social post or social media campaign can succeed or fail on a single headline's “clickability”, and it's no wonder they can break out in a deadline fop sweat!
8. Update Your Old Posts
Most bloggers never revisit their old posts once they are published and this is a big mistake. Not only does returning to them allow you to update the copy with a better version of your writing, but also you can add more internal links to your newer articles.
I have a routine where I update two of the oldest posts on my blogs first thing every morning. I use a Chrome browser add on to check and fix broken links on the page as I go. Broken links can occur without you knowing when you move a page, rename it or delete it.
Checking two pages a day would keep a 700+ page blog in good shape over a calendar year, so it is an excellent habit to cultivate.
9. Keep An Editorial Calendar
An effective content strategy requires an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar is a list of content to produce and distribute through your blog, social media and other marketing channels.
You will need to keep two types of records, low level and high level.
The low-level stuff is the article idea, copy, headline, keywords and anything else that goes into making that piece of content complete. I like to use Trello to manage my low-level stuff (you can get it free here), and we also use it to manage customer projects.
In the left column is my “new idea tree” which is a list of article ideas. I add them as I come up with them in the shower or taking the dogs for a walk using Trello for a smartphone.
In the following columns are my draft blog posts complete with any links to further reading or sources so that I always have a steady stream of new article ideas. Here is what it looks like:
The high-level stuff is your publishing calendar. You could also use the Trello date feature if you wanted to, but I like to see what I'm supposed to be working on in my Google calendar so that it gives me an overview of timeframes. There is plenty of dog walking and thinking time built into my schedule:
Using this system when it's time to write I look in the calendar to see what I'm supposed to be writing and I look in the project board for the subject.
10. Read Lots Of Books
You improve as a writer by writing, and you develop your style by reading books. In thirty years I've gone from barely picking up a book to becoming an avid consumer of kindle classics;- Les Miserables, The Count of Monte Cristo and Dracula, are three that I've read in the past few weeks. I also dip into the Yoga and self-improvement categories when the mood takes me. I'm currently reading “The Last Hillwalker” by John D Burns, and I fancy some time away in the hills with his beautiful descriptions of the lake district.
My new reading habit has led me to start replacing some of my favourites with the real book version, and I've started a new hobby of visiting old bookstores to see what classics I can find.
11. Develop Your Superpowers
Eating healthily and taking plenty of exercise are both excellent for the mind and body but the most significant change for me came when I decided to stop drinking alcohol. Once the fog had lifted, I had a level of clarity that I don't previously remember experiencing. Yoga and meditation have both helped to relieve stress and purify the mind.
12. Learn To Touch Type
After twenty years of two-fingered typing and developing a style all of my own I decided to learn to do it properly. Better late than never! I found a fantastic website here where you can practice and see your progress over time. It's not easy, but once you get to around the ten-hour mark, you start to see the improvements coming quickly.
That's my writing secret sauce and I've given you everything you need to know to create a quality blog. Practise writing everyday and remember you can always go back and edit content years after you have first published it. No one says that it has to remain that way forever.
If you'd like help with your blog or other writing please contact us.