Content Marketing

The five elements of a perfect blog post

“How do I create the perfect blog post?”

That question by a young student stopped me in my tracks. After all, is there such a thing?  I had to dig deep on this question and turned to the qualities of my favorite bloggers to find some common themes.  They seem to fit for me — leave a comment and let me know how they land on you!

1. Hoist a hearty headline. Your title is the first thing people see in their blog readers and it may very well determine whether somebody reads your post or not. Headlines can be painful to write — it’s like ad copy. It has to be short and impactful. Try to use an action word that grabs attention. Jay Baer is a master of this on his Convince and Convert Blog. His headlines grab you, shake you, and demand your attention.  I can almost visualize Jay thinking up an active verb to draw you in!

2. Offer an original (personal) view. There is really only one way to differentiate yourself as a blogger.  Challenge yourself to write a post that ONLY you could write. Don’t pontificate about what’s “out there.” How does the subject relate to YOU, your observations, your experiences, your life, your stories? This isn’t narcissism — it’s the soul of originality.  I love the way Danny Brown accomplishes this. He writes about how his life is going in the social media context. He finds a way to connect with us every week because he shares what is unique to him — a discovery, a victory, a disappointment.  It is uniquely Danny every time.

3. Have the courage to be real. When you are creating a work for the world to see, it is frightening to be imperfect.  And yet, how can you be original WITHOUT being imperfect?  The best bloggers are real. Human. Less cautious than the average author.  A role model for me in this respect is Gini Dietrich, especially when she uses her video blogs to connect with readers in a highly personal way. Gini lets us know when she’s stressed, disappointed, worried, mad — basically what is happening with her in the moment. For heaven’s sake, she even had a video of her Thanksgiving dinner!  I think there is awesome power in that authenticity.

4. Don’t just write, re-write. People will spend more time with you if they enjoy your writing.  And to demonstrate a best practice, I’d like to introduce you to the sweetest writer on the social web: Stanford Smith of the Pushing Social blog. This man is an artist and I can guarantee you that he sweats over every phrase and challenges himself to discover new and exciting ways to tell his story.  A blogger can’t hit it out of the park every time, but when they do, it’s probably because they found a way to make the words sing. A trick — read your post aloud to see if it has a natural, conversational tone.

5. Entertain me. “Entertainment value” is not a phrase commonly used in business classes or journalism schools. And yet with the cacophony of voices vying for your attention, isn’t entertainment paramount today?  Are you more likely to enjoy and remember a post titled “An analysis of SEO implications for blogging” or one titled, “How to be a Google Whore” — which used humor to illustrate a dead-serious issue in our field? Mix it up. Add video, photos, interviews, reviews, humor. Be surprising.  I think Joey Strawn is a great example of an entertaining and slightly off-kilter blogger. He is even drawing cartoons to go along with his blogs.

Now you might find it odd that I haven’t mentioned anything in here about the actual subject you are writing about!  Does it matter?  If you create a post with 1) a captivating headline, 2) a unique personal view 3) a personal risk, 4) an entertaining spin through 5) words that sing, won’t that be a joy to read? Of course it would because you’ve crafted a perfect blog post!

What do you enjoy about your favorite blogs and bloggers?  I would love to hear about what makes a post memorable for you …

Ten reasons to blog – even if nobody reads it

Building an engaged community through a business blog can be extremely difficult — sometimes impossible. Look at companies like General Electric who do an amazing job with their blog and yet have almost no “community” or comments at all. There must be some good business reason they do it, right?

There better be. Every corporate marketing activity must somehow be tied to creating shareholder value and blogging is no different. Let’s look at ten legitimate business reasons why your company should be blogging — even if you can’t seem to build a community of active readers.

1) Search engine benefits — This may be the most obvious business benefit of blogging. Search engines give preference to websites that have fresh, relevant content. Hubspot research shows that sites with blogs get 55% more traffic than sites without blogs — even if there are no readers!

2) Marketing differentiation — Finding a way to stand-out may be the most difficult chore a business faces. Do your competitors have a blog? If not, this might be an opportunity to establish the voice of authority in your industry and enhance your brand image with customers.

3) Infinite search life — A few weeks ago I received a call from a potential new customer in the Middle East looking to me as a possible marketing consultant.I had to wonder how in the world they found me! Turns out they were looking for somebody who could help explain where the future of social media was going and when they entered this into Google, a blog post I wrote a year ago popped up!  Your content keeps working for you month after month!

4) A cost-effective sales call — You might not be able to visit your customer every week or every month but a blog is an excellent way to provide a constant drip-drip-drip of communication to remind them of your products, services, and why you’re special.  If they don’t read your blog, re-purpose the content in customer newsletters and sales materials.

5) Your content engine — Your investment in a consistent stream of quality content can be leveraged in many ways to support a content marketing strategy. I use links from blog posts to answer customer questions, as the basis for speeches, newsletter content, and as reading assignments for workshops.

6) Direct sales — Sure, you can sell through your blog!  SAP does a great job advertising training services in a sidebar on its blog. This is valuable real estate! Why not use it?  Wegman’s grocery store employees blog about seasonal recipes and show how to use their food products in new ways.

7) Indirect sales — Featuring blog-only promotions and offers or opt-in content can expose new sales leads.

8) PR – Blog posts have the opportunity for massive reach. When one of my posts gets picked up by an aggregation service like, my message has a chance to be heard by hundreds of thousands of people. That opportunity would not occur with a press release or status update.

9) New product development — Many companies use blogs as a way to engage customers to solve problems and create new ideas. Caterpllar has blogs dedicated to each major product line. Starbucks blogs about customer ideas as a way to crowd-source new product innovation.

10) Crisis management — A blog is an essential channel to explain the facts amid chaos. In less than an hour after the earthquake hit Haiti, The Red Cross blog had news of their activities and information on how to donate.  Company responses through blogs are often quoted by mainstream news sources.

So when your company has seemingly unrealistic expectations about building an online blog community, pull this blog post out as a reminder that there are many solid business reasons to have a blog, even if the crickets are chirping in the comment section!   Is a commenting community important to you and your company or do some of these benefits make sense?

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