Blogging Best Practices

Why Are You Doing A Blog?

Your blog needs a strategy. The better the strategy, the better the blog. There are many goals for blogging for business, such as: promoting website usage, building links to your website, sharing insight into your company with customers, promoting new products or services, increasing brand awareness, promoting upcoming promotions or events, providing information and news, reducing customer service calls and more.

Your blog should tie into your overall marketing strategy. Develop a target audience for your blog so you know what to write about and the writing style that will be most appealing to your audience.  Are you writing your blog to users that are very familiar with your business or do you need to educate them? Are they going to come back to your blog for updates on current events or because it was fun?

You do not want to make your blog overtly into a sales pitch, but you do want to be aware of how it can increase the effectiveness of other marketing. Work to create a community around your business by supporting your website content, business offerings, customer support and client interaction.

You need to decide how your blog is going to convey its message. Will employees be allowed to blog? If so, will employees blog about work-related topics only or can they include their personal lives?  Will you hire contract bloggers? If so, how do you direct their writing and the topics they discuss? Will they know enough about your business to reinforce the quality of your business? Are there any topics that are off limits or proprietary?

What Is Your Voice?

You need to develop a clear idea about the writing style and tone of your blog. Because you may have several bloggers working together, a clear understanding of business goals and editorial policy is important. Depending on your target audience, a tone that is too informal (or too formal) can reduce readership. You can’t please all readers, but how do you catch the ones that are most important to your business?

The overall tone of your blog will convey a lot about your business culture and how you interact with customers. You have options to make your tone informal or professional, informative or fun, topical or personal. Discuss writing styles with bloggers to make sure that you have shared goals for the blog. It can be disquieting to read a blog that has widely different tones depending on which blogger you are reading. Each blogger should be unique, but share similar goals to achieve a coordinated final product.

Why Is Editorial Policy Important?

You should have an editorial policy to guard the company trade secrets from being public and to define what is OK to write about and what is not. Sharing personal experiences is fine, but unless monitored, can lead to possible embarrassment if things get “too personal.”

DOs and DON’Ts

A clear editorial policy tells your readers what to expect and what is not acceptable for either bloggers or users. A clear policy will give you something to point to if you do have to remove comments or kick a user out of the community. For example, abusive and threatening language is never okay, but some use of bad language might be (depending on your audience). Will bloggers write under their real names or pseudonyms? What off-topic content will be allowed? Can users include links in comments to outside content? What are the restrictions?

Mission Statement

A Mission Statement is important for any business because it can let both customers and employees know why the business exists, what is most important, and how business is conducted. A blog Mission Statement serves the same purpose. Boil down your blog into a few well-written sentences. You can also use the creation of the Mission Statement to develop a catchy tagline that entices someone to read what you have to say.

5 Reasons Your Blog Should Have An Editorial Policy:

Spelling and Grammar

Grammar, punctuation and spelling errors can kill a blog. Nothing shows lack of quality more than bad spelling. Informal voice is fine, just spell it right. Aside from the standard human editing, blogs should be passed through an application that can check for grammatical and spelling errors.

Show Your Expertise With Your Experts

Senior management should be involved. They first should be educated like any other blogger as to how blogging might affect the business. Their support and voice added to the blog will often be what makes the blog a success. Great blog writing is useless without the business expertise.

Do Not Use Your Blog For Direct Marketing

No one likes a salesman. Your customers are looking for real information and/or honest answers or opinions about your business and areas of expertise. Be as transparent as your policies allow – this is your moment to truly connect and relate to your customers. Please don’t ruin it with empty advertisements.  Once you have gained the trust of your readers and developed prestige, then you can tap that through promoting your business and offers.

Keep Your Blog Fresh and New

Your user base will keep coming back and reading more if you give them a reason. Post job opportunities, press releases, new products, funny operational stories, thoughts from the owner, etc. It should be impossible to run out of content.

Do You Have A Personality? Your Blog Should . . .

Your blog should have a rabble of voices and content. Even if many writers collaborate, a clear voice should emerge. Understanding your target audience will help you find this voice. Most blogging is done in a very informal, conversational manner. While this is great for most readers, it may not work well if your blogging to aerospace engineers about highly-complex topics. Do not write like you have a dictionary and thesaurus in hand – create an approachable dialog.

Content Is King

Create content that relates to your audience and taps your specific areas of knowledge. Always think about your content from the perspective of your audience. Will this help them? Will they learn from this? Does this provide any value to them?

Regular Posting Keeps Your Blog Alive

I don’t know how many times I have stumbled upon a blog with a “current” post that is months (or years) old. I will probably never come back, because I think it is likely I will see the same stale content again. Plan your content ahead of time.

Plan Your Content Ahead

I recommend that you brainstorm a big list of blog topics and organize them in a spreadsheet. Try spreadsheets on Google Docs if you are working with multiple people. A shared spreadsheet will allow all of your bloggers and employees to post ideas at their leisure. Write notes about topics and you can provide a choice of topics to write about as opposed to having to come up with a blog completely from scratch. Set deadlines and work to be a couple of blogs ahead. It’s also not a bad idea to have a pool of “filler” blogs which you can pull from as a last resort.

Respond To Comments

It really makes a difference to your audience when they see a blog author responding to their comments, especially if they posed a question. Your audience has come to your blog to communicate, not just to read and be ignored.

Blogs Are Like Diamonds

Diamonds are forever – so are blogs. When writing a blog, ask yourself, “What happens if someone stumbles across this in a few years?” Not all of your blogs will be a historical document left for future generations, but it doesn’t hurt to think that they will be.

Words Need Pictures – Pictures Need Words

Your audience will respond better to your blogs if they contain both text and images. Huge blocks of text are sure to turn off your readers. Think of your blog as a billboard. Readers need to be able to scan a blog for content. Pictures can make your writing a lot more fun and interesting. If you don’t have pictures ready to insert, buy pictures at an inexpensive stock photography website such as iStock Photos.

Your Blog Isn’t Just Words – It’s Keywords

Search engines love blogs, but they need keywords to understand the relevance of the content. Keyword-rich content will increase your chances of coming up in Google and other search engines for searches related to the topic of your blog. Create a list of keywords that your blog posts will revolve around. Introduce your blog post with a header that includes keywords. Review your blog before publishing and compare it to your list of keyword targets.  Tweak your content if you can use those keywords more times in the copy.

Titles Are Important

You only have a moment or two to catch a reader’s eye. Catchy, shocking, emotion-wrenching controversial titles will always draw in a reader. Of course, your title should reflect your blog’s concept as well as be keyword-rich.

Introduce Your Topic Quickly

Your point should be made in the first 200 or so words. As stated above, you only have a moment to grab your reader’s attention. If they don’t relate or get your blog in the first few sentences, they will move on.

Be Concise

Don’t waste your words. Get to the point. Keep it simple (KISS – keep it simple, stupid).

Explain Yourself

If you use technical terms, jargon or slang, it should be explained. Not everyone who reads your blog will be from the same world or share your expertise. It doesn’t need to be a paragraph worth of explanation, just a few words to keep everyone on the same track. A glossary and/or FAQ is a good idea to move most of the explanation off of individual blog posts.

How Long Is Your Embedded Multimedia?

If you are going to post a blog with a video or audio clip, let the user know what they’re in for. Introducing multimedia with details like length and a caption will allow users to make an informed choice before they start streaming the files. The longer the content, the more likely it is that a user will navigate away if they aren’t informed.

Build Opinions Based On Facts

Blogs are different than traditional journalism, because they involve much more personal experience and opinion. Building opinions based on facts and first-hand experience will make them resonate much better with your readers. Keep to the facts as much as possible in order to make your conclusions persuasive and well-reasoned. Keep away from accusations or wild suggestions, because you can lose the trust of your audience. Be ready to back up whatever you have blogged about with facts, quotes, references and citations.

Create Focused Blog Posts

Blogs should be about a single topic. You may have several points to make about that topic, but be careful not to stray too far from your main topic.

Write With Authority

Display your expertise with a strong active voice. If you want your reader to do something, tell them. Don’t ask or plead. Inspire action with strong action words.

Use Your Nouns

Generally, when we write, we address a noun in the beginning of the content and then refer to that noun as “it” or “they.” This is great for traditional writing, but we aren’t doing that, we are blogging. Your audience wants to read your blog without thinking about what “it” was and who “they” are. It will also help with your keyword saturation.

Comments From Your Audience Will Be Read By Your Audience

That being said, you should take the time to edit these comments for basic spelling, grammar and obvious mistakes. Your commentators will thank you for it as long as the original intent remains intact. Also, remove spam and inappropriate comments ASAP. Your policy about editing comments should be stated in your editorial policy so you have something to refer to if users complain about you changing what they wrote.

Old Posts Are Not Dead Posts

They still can generate traffic and loyal readers. As time passes, new information or facts may shed new light on those old posts. Keep them updated and the search engines will keep sending you new readers. If you come across new content or other blogs that relate to an old post, write a comment on the blog referring to the recently discovered information.

Other good references

Copy writing for blogs and online marketing

Advertising Age’s list of top marketing blogs

21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic

Use Blog Commenting to Increase PageRank

5 Reasons your blog should have an editorial policy