Blog Best Practices and Tips

I want to share here best practices for writing a blog that attract your ideal clients, patients, customers and work and exudes powerfully your personal brand.  I want your blog to be a hit and establish you as “THE” authority in your area of specialty.   Also, checkout the personal branding resources as some of those apply to writing for attracting your ideal target market.

Blog Best PracticesI use WordPress.org as my website and blog foundation.  I will do my best to keep you updated of valuable changes and improvements to the blog component of WordPress.org that will help in optimizing and attracting new visitors.

Check-back frequently and follow me on Twitter and like me on Facebook to keep abreast of updates to this best practice page.

WHY BLOG?

What are the benefits of blogging?  Is it a good time investment?  Glad you are asking.

1.  Trust – consumers are increasingly putting their trust in blogs versus traditional media. Blogging is a great way to build the trust part of know-like-trust factor in the conversion of consumers to customers. To more powerfully leverage this develop a brand advocacy program (see below for more details). Of all social media platforms, research finds consumers trust information they receive through blogs more than Facebook or Twitter. So blogs are big on building the trust component of your brand.

2.  Sharing – one of the top items shared across social media area blog posts.  Research finds consumers are most likely to share information they find on blogs through email and Facebook with Twitter being the third most likely.  Bottom-line: maximize your blog posts sharing potential by cross posting on Facebook and Twitter.

3.  Shelf-life – blogs have the longest shelf-life of any of the social media.  That works well since most often they take the longest time investment to create.  Spending time creating content worth viewing in 6 months or 2 years to leverage this benefit.

4.  Reach Target Market – when writing a blog your aim is to get through to your target market.  Blog posts allow you to find ways to communicate key messages in what you do for your target market.  You may have to try several times before you find the story, quote, metaphor or simple straight forward message that your target market connects with.  I often use messages I created in blog posts in person when talking to my target market trying to get a key point across to them.  Over time, you will refine your skills on connecting with and imprinting key messages with your target market.

5.  What Really Matters – the statistics: clicks, shares, downloads, retweets, and comments that come from a blog post give clues and some times send off fireworks on what is really on the minds of your target market.  It may surprise you which ones they are clicking and sharing.

WHO ARE YOUR WRITING FOR

Most bloggers blog to attract more clients, customers or work.  If you want your blog to do just this, then you need to put yourself in the shoes of your audience.  Who are they and better yet who do they think of themselves as?  Often target markets are defined like: women between 30 and 36 with one child, married and working full time in a professional job, living in the suburbs.  Sure, that describes them but doesn’t really get into who they view themselves as.  If you put yourself in their shoes you begin to understand what is important to this person.  I find creating an avatar, even a poster board with photos of how they see themselves help me target what I am writing.

Once you do this, your target market description may look something like:

in charge of her life married women in the first half of her career juggling family and career.  She is a great multi-tasker and optimistic about her life and career.  She is looking at schools for her child and wants the very best for him/her.  On weekends she cleans the house, goes to yoga, goes to children birthday parties and loves to take time to unwind on the couch watching a romantic comedy in the evening with a glass of white wine. Her worries consist of finding the best school for her child, paying off school loans, managing the high-energy of her child, visits to grandma and grandpa, and is thinking of starting a business of her own once her child is in school full time.  She is worried about all the time a new business will take and if she can attract enough business to go full-time eventually.  She wants to buy a larger house and have another child, but not sure they can afford it.  Her desire is to express herself creatively through her new business and work around her child’s activities.

Know all their their worries, their problems – and explain how your product or service fixes one of them.  You’ll be compelling because you know who your reader really is, what that person is worried about, and why this matters to them. You’ll be compelling because you’ll be focused on how you can help a person, not focused on how you can sell a product. And your reader will sense it.

 

WRITING YOUR BLOG POSTS

Here are some tips from top blog websites.  First, use simple words that are easy for visitors for to understand.  A good guide is write for a 5th grade vocabulary.  Of course, if you are writing for health professionals, you can bump this up a bit.  🙂  You want to use the word “you” to give the sense that the post is written for YOU, your readers.  The post comes across much more personal when it is written as if it is a letter between me and you – being your audience.

Popular blog posts start with a strong headline.  Here are some best practices for writing a great headline:

  • “How To” headline is for a post that focuses around giving step by step directions on how to solve a problem your ideal target audience has.
  • A “Question” headline must do more than simply ask a question, it must be a question that the reader can empathize with or would like to see answered.
  • The “Command” headline boldly tells the prospect what he needs to do, such as Exxon’s old Put a Tiger in Your Tank campaign. Bly indicates that the first word should be a strong verb demanding action, such as Subscribe to Copyblogger Today!
  • The “Reason Why” headline is a easy formula for a headline if your body text consists of a numbered list of product features or tips, which you then incorporate into the headline, such as 5 Reasons Why Wellness Now Beats Weight Watchers. It’s not even necessary to include the words “reasons why.” This technique is actually the underlying strategy behind the ubiquitous blogger “list” posts, such as 8 Ways to Make It Through Holidays without Weight Gain.
  • Use power or emotional anchor words in your headline. These are words that pop out and grab our attention.  Examples of words are: lust, lies, smart, brilliant, dying, mother, fight, underpants (yes, this one you need to be creative with), errors, dumb, crippling, penniless, mirrored, mediocre, dangerous, threat, ice, hot, pain, mistakes, grave – and here are two more resources for most words that add zing to your headlines: 50 Trigger Words and Phrases, and Action and Emotional Power Words
  • For more great tips checkout Copyblogger’s How to Write Magnetic Headlines

After the headline hook readers in your first sentence with an unusual statement, quote, statistic or question.  Then break your post into pieces with subheadings.  This way a reader can scan your post and get a good sense of what it is about.

Lastly, show you are an authority not just by what you write about but by your proof points. What awards or results have you accomplished that are relevant to your post?  Include them in and examples from your real work to illustrate how you are a doer and not just talker.

One last one I don’t want to forget is thank others for their help in your posts, anyone along the way that has taught you things, done extra special things, mention them.  It shows you care to your readers and helps these people that helped you achieve their goals.

7 Writing Tips for Small Business Owners
Article has great core writing tips for anyone, the focus is on small business owners because of the many hats you wear and challenges in writing for a blog.

The Perfect Blog Post
Great visual for what a mouthwatering blog post looks like.   Great overview of what a highly read post needs to include and sequence.

Content Marketing Boot Camp: Everything You Wanted To Know In One Post
Very long post with great information, links and free download on content writing.

Copyright, Fair Use for Online Images

Using Images on Flickr
Images found here are not public domain but have one of 6 different type of copyright license.  Read the different uses. These are free, so that is worth becoming familiar with the different licenses.

 

KEEPING PEOPLE ON YOUR BLOG

You want people to stay around and read other blog posts, check out other things in your site.  There are some tried and true techniques that achieve this.

A blog’s navigation is of utmost importance in attracting first time visitors to stick around.  A blog’s navigation ideally includes topics that are meant to entice visitors to stay and read more.  What are your most popular blog posts?  Even if they are a year old, include your top ones in a drop down topical menu called.  You can call the drop down “Popular Posts” or “Popular Articles”.  People will be intrigued, they don’t want to miss out on anything that has earned the label popular.

Also, if you have a collection of resources (also called a content bucket), devote a drop down menu to these valuable Resources and break them out into tips or internet sites or break them into specific topics of resources on their own pages and list their titles in the menu drop down.  People love resources.  The word resources implies value thus receives extra attention from visitors.

Blogs have a consistent and familiar look for visitors.  Visitors expect and look for certain items when looking at a blog for the first time.  Do you know what they are?  After reading a blog post the most common pages visited are About and Home pages.  People are trying to figure out what the site is about and what it offers.

It is key you have these page links easy to find on blog post pages and the content on the Home and About pages are geared for conversions  – meaning they have call to actions built into the content and they convey benefits or results of working with the company or buying their product and strongly convey your personal brand.  Be careful to avoid the trap of descriptions only, it is critical About and Home pages be convincing and communicate the impact or results the company brings to clients or customers.

Features/widgets to consider that most the serious top blogs have in common are search box, social media sharing buttons and slider, related posts, call to action at the end of post, opt-in on side bar (email sign-up and RSS feed icon), most popular posts and social media profile buttons, promote their products or services on sidebar, and category or other links in blog pages’ footer.

For social media sharing buttons, most themes have some options.  Some other possibilities to consider that are popular to use on blogs are LikeEasy Twitter ButtonWordPress Google +1 Button, and LinkedIn Share Button plugins. A Sharebar  plugin puts a scrolling social slider on the left side of your content.

The related posts is where at the end of each blog post you have a list of other blog posts on a similar topic.  You can either manually add in these links or add a WordPress plugin to do it for you. I recommend Rob Marsh’s Similar Posts plugin if you want it done automatically. You’ll also need the Post-Plugin Library plugin to get his series of plugins to work on your site.  Rob Marsh also has a plugin for popular posts that displays your most clicked on post called Popular Post.  Visitors love to check out popular posts.  It is a great sidebar widget to include to keep visitors interested and reading your best content.

For call to action, usually it is to subscribe, purchase, or encouragement to share or comment. .  Research finds that you get more results if you state clearly what you want readers to do – your call to action.

If you have an active Facebook page, this is a great Facebook Like plugin. If you have other social media accounts, your WordPress theme or a search online can locate different options for cross promoting your social media accounts on your blog.

PLANNING

Editorial Calendar WordPress Plugin
This is calendar view of ALL your posts, both published and draft.  This gives you a visual option of planning out when to release future blog posts.

GUEST BLOGGING

This is a great way to build new followers on your blog.  Write a valuable post on someone who targets a simliar audience to you.  Be sure that your unique voice shines through.  You will over time gain followers to your own blog.  Specific benefits include:

Search engine optimization – guest blogging will give you lots of high quality links and high quality content. This will increase your brand value and will generate quality traffic to your blog.

Visibility – if your article gains a lot of recognition, then you will direct traffic to your own blog and website.

Credibility – guest blogging generates believability in your area of specialty.  If other blogs trust you with their audience, then you must be credible.

As part of a marketing strategy, you want to guest blog on sites that have high traffic and large followings. This increases your chances of directing others to your blog and getting your brand known. As a tip, target media sites and associations, find blogs who you like and would like to know.

If you want to ask a blogger to guest at your site, start building a relationship with the blog by commenting on their articles or sharing links to your site to let them know that you share their interest or that they might find something of the same nature in your blog. Connect with other blogs by promoting them on social media sites. Get them to guest blog for you by asking them politely.

BRAND ADVOCACY

Find a complimentary business and develop a brand advocacy program where you build alliances with professionals in your niche that your audience trusts.  These professionals are not competitors but serving the same or very similar market. You may even offer the same services but you realize you are not competitors because your personalities and processes are very different and will fit well with different people.   If you are outstanding at what you do, which I know you are, then these professionals will want to check you out and give careful thought to teaming up with you on an advocacy program where you all agree on some guest blogging over a time period, say six months, and each offer to write a blog post on your own blog advocating each other’s services and even creating a handout with valuable content from each other’s specialty and one page bio intro from each person.  Everyone wins because each participant in the advocacy program is appreciated for their uniqueness in front of the larger audience you all bring together.

 

HELP WITH SPAM

A common practice for people trying to gain promotion for their site or product is to post a comment on a blog that contains information about or a link to their products.  These comments are usually recognizable because the statement is very vague and contains no specific mention of the blog posting topic.  An example is “I agree totally” followed by a link to their website.   This is considered spam and you want to avoid approving any comments similar to this.  The easiest way to do this is to install or activate the plugin called Akismet.

This plugin has been around for years and does a great job of identifying and deleting spam comments. When you first install WordPress.org the plugin Askinet typically is a default part of your WordPress.org setup, you simply need to activate it.  To do this, in your WordPress.org blog go to your plugins area. Click on ‘Installed Plugins.’ Your blog plugins will be listed in alphabetical order.  Look for Akismet near the top.  Under that, if you see a link ‘Activate’ that means you have NOT activated the plugin.  If you see ‘Deactivate’ that means it is activated and you are ready to roll with getting rid of spammer comments.  If you do not see Akismet in your list of plugins you will need to install it.

To install, on the plugins page at the top find “Add New” button and click.  Then enter into the search box “Akismet.”  The first result should be the Akismet plugin.  Click on link “Install Now.” You are now ready to activate your newly installed plugin. Click link “return to plugins page.”

To activate, you first need an account and a special identifier called API key.

To setup an account, under the description for Akismet, you will see a signup link.  Click there. The website is http://akismet.com/wordpress/.  Click on the button “Get an Akismet API key.’  You will need to enter in your email address. You will then be sent your Akismet API key via the email address you entered.  It will be a long letter and number combination. Return to the plugin area for your WordPress.org blog.  Now you can activate the plugin.  Click on the ‘Activate’ link under Akismet.  Look near the top of the page and a message will appear that indicates you need to enter in your API key.  Click there and enter in the long API key you were emailed.  Save and you are set. Last thing is using the spam comment plugin.  Note: these instructions may be slightly different as plugin installations are always improving.

It will not automatically delete spam comments, you must periodically when comments for approval build up run the plugin.  The plugin will then go through all your comments and delete those that are spam and leave those for you to approve that are not spam. To do this, go to your blog admin comments area.  Near the top there are drop down menus in a row containing ‘Bulk Actions’ and ‘Show all comment types.’  At the end of the row is a button called ‘Check for Spam.’  Press this and this initiates your spam plugins, one of which is the Akismet plugin.  You will then see all the spam comments disappear.  Use this regularly to save time going through nonvaluable comments posted by people aiming to cleverly gain PR for their website and products.