You’ll find thousands of guides online about how to write a blog. Many will include tidbits like “write as you would speak” or “just put pen to paper” which, although comforting, aren’t really telling you exactly what you need to know.
In this FINALLY guide on how to write a blog, we answer the questions businesses have about starting – and keeping – a blog. From writing and uploading to effectively marketing your content , we’ve got you covered.
For more advice about blogging that’s tailored to your business, get in touch with the FINALLY team.
Why is blogging important in business?
Blogging is one of the most effective routes to market. It’s estimated that there are more than 500 million blogs currently online, with 77% of internet users regularly turning to blogs for information.
It doesn’t matter if your business is big or small, if you have an online presence, you should almost certainly keep a blog. Not only will this improve your chances of your website being found via search engines (more on that later), it’ll give you an excuse to regularly engage with your customer-base via Social Media, RSS feeds or e-newsletters.
How do you begin a blog?
Even seasoned copywriters will struggle over this. Of course, we all want to craft that perfect opening line that’s clever and insightful, but in the grand scheme of things, how much does this really matter?
If you’re struggling with how to begin writing your blog, focus on something else first. Work out what your sub-headings will be and which points you want to include. If you have a bee in your bonnet about something, just start typing and see where that takes you. Remember, blogging is as much about editing as it is about writing.
Keep to a few online copywriting principles…
1. Keep your paragraphs short – no more than two-three sentences and six lines, please. Also, make sure that each sentence focuses on a single topic and is fairly short. Online readers typically have short attention spans so it’s important that content is broken down into small, easily digestible chunks.
2. Long copy is great! For blog posts, keep to 500 words or more for maximum impact but remember to…
3. Divide copy up with subheadings – if you think a paragraph refers to something other than what its original subheading suggests, pop another one in.
4. Maintain an active voice throughout – online readers engage better with upbeat copy that’s written in the present tense. So, instead of including lines written in the past tense (e.g. “This article is about…”), change them to the present tense (e.g. “Here are some tips…”)
5. Speak to your readers – use lots of “you” or “your” in the copy. Ask questions throughout. Engage with your audience.
6. Add a call-to-action link after the first or second paragraph – no matter how compelling your copy is, online readers normally lose interest early on in an article. Add a link after the first paragraph or section to another related page on your website – perhaps another blog article with a similar topic or a link to an associated product.
7. Dashes and hyphens shouldn’t be mixed up. Dashes (–) are usually used in place of a comma, to divide sentences up. Hyphens (-) are used to connect words. Some CMS’ don’t understand the difference, so if you want to use a dash, you can use the html entity – in the source code section of the text editor. Dashes are a great way to divide longer sentences up in online copy – far better than commas (as this last line shows). Use them!
8. Unless told otherwise, use non-title case for your blog title – So: ‘How to change a lightbulb’ instead of ‘How To Change A Lightbulb’.
9. Write numbers 0-10 as words (i.e. one, two, three…). When including numbers over ten, use the digit (11, 12, 13 and so on…).
The nuts and bolts of uploading content…
If your website is using WordPress, HubSpot or any number of the clever Content Management Systems (CMS) available these days, you can probably ignore this part because, by and large, they do most of the hard work for you. However, if your CMS is either fairly old or custom-made, there are some pitfalls which can be avoided, providing you:
1. Always paste into the CMS from Notepad
This strips out any formatting rules appended to the copy from Microsoft Word (or wherever it was written) which may conflict with the styling of the website. Some CMS’ allow you to post straight from Word or Google Docs but, to be safe, it’s always better to copy and paste into notepad first.
2. Be careful when using the CMS’ bullet point or numbered list tools
Ever uploaded content which looks a bit.... well, odd? Sometimes the style rules for ordered lists (1,2,3 etc) and unordered lists (bullet points) haven’t been established in the CSS. If this ever occurs, you can insert a bullet point symbol in the source code section of the text editor, like so:
• This is item one <br>
• This is item two <br>
On the webpage, this should appear like:
· This is item one
· This is item two
This is also a useful trick when building emails as ordered and unordered lists render differently across different email clients (gmail, Hotmail etc). Bear in mind, however, that by using this short-cut, you may affect your chances of being ranked as a featured snippet on Google.
3. Ensure your URL and Title aren’t too long – ideally no more than 75 characters. This will help with shares on Social Media as well as your SEO. While we’re on the topic, avoid keyword stuffing for SEO – only one or two keywords per URL and title, please. Which brings us to…
Get your SEO right
It stands to reason that you’ll want people to find your blog and search engines are perhaps the best way for you to manage this. Get your SEO right and your blog can bring hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors to your website, a portion of which may even stick around to make a purchase.
So, how can you stand the best chance of indexing on the likes of Google and Bing? Well, SEO is a multi-faceted beast, which is why specialist SEO help can give you the best chance of your content being seen by exactly who needs to see it. However, for the time being, there are a few SEO quick-fixes which can help:
1. Do your keyword research. Use Google’s Adwords tool to find out what your target customers are searching for and create content around these keywords or phrases.
2. Include your keywords in the following places:
· URL e.g. /how-to-change-a-lightbulb
· H1 or article title e.g. “How to change a lightbulb”
· First paragraph and meta description of the article e.g. “Here’s some advice on how to change a lightbulb quickly and effectively.”
3. Pepper the rest of your copy with related keywords – For instance: “lightbulb changing tips” and “how often to change lightbulbs”. Need inspiration? Here’s a useful tip: type the title of your article into Google and scroll to the bottom of the search engine results page (SERP). You should find a section which looks a little bit like this:
If you can, use some of these searches in your sub-titles and write content around each, which brings us on to….
4. Select Heading 2 (h2s) or Heading 3 (h3s) in the text editor for your subheadings – this will maximise the impact that the keywords which you include here will have.
5. Ensure you include any relevant links to other pages on your website – but keep it to fewer than 100 (including the links in your top navigation bar and your footer).
6. ...and also link to external websites, but with caution. Linking to high-authority, known websites like Wikipedia is a good thing but never link to websites which look unfinished or those which you’re unsure about. Also, when you link to an external website, always select “Target – New Window” in your CMS, otherwise you’ll send your reader away from your website, contributing to your Bounce Rate.
7. Think about your anchor text. Your anchor text is the phrase you are using in your link. For instance: FINALLY are the best marketing agency in Kent – here, the anchor text is ‘FINALLY are the best marketing agency in Kent’ (come on, you know it's true).
By including a meaningful phrase within your link, you'll ultimately help to improve the SEO ranking of the page that you’re linking to. For instance, “Need more help? Try out our tools for changing lightbulbs” will tell the search engines that the landing page you’re linking to includes “tools for changing lightbulbs” which would help it to index for this keyword.
And once your blog is posted, don’t forget to:
1. Post a link to your Social Media channels
Blog content can breathe new life to your Social Media pages. It assures your followers that you’re active, interested and, most importantly, interest-ing. What’s more, it’ll help your company’s page to appear on your follower’s news feed. Who doesn’t love a bit of free marketing, eh?
2. Like, Like, LIKE
The more ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ your post gets, the more likely it is to appear on news feeds and index on search engines. A quick win for this will be to 'like' and share your company's post on your personal Social Media account, and to ask others in your company (as well as your followers) to do the same.
If you’ve more time on your hands, tag other relevant Social Media accounts (such as others in your industry or news outlets) in your post or send them a link to your blog directly and ask them to add it to their Social Media calendar. Webinars can be a great medium for this. If you attend a Webinar which covers a topic that you've also written about, add a link to your blog in the comments section.
3. Keep tabs on your blog’s success
In the days, weeks and months after your blog goes live, keep track of how it's performing via Google Analytics or other tracking platforms. This will tell you how many visits you blog has had, where these visits came from (a direct link, a search engine results page or Social Media, for instance) and, perhaps most importantly, what your reader did next.
Your learnings from analytics can help to shape your content strategy going forward. If you reader simply hit the back button after reading your blog, perhaps you need to include more interesting links to other pages on your website? Analytics can furnish you with a whole host of insights which will ultimately turn you into the best blogger you can be.
Recap: How to write a blog?
Think about your SEO. Keywords, Titles, URLs and links – it all adds up.
Stick to best practice principles for online copywriting – short sentences and paragraphs and lots of sub-headings to break up longer-form content.
Adopt an active voice throughout. Keep things upbeat and interesting.
Remember to market your blog – post it to Social Media, shout about it on Webinars… be proud of what you’ve written, and spread the word.
Want to learn more about how to keep a blog? Get in touch with our content team at FINALLY for advice that’s tailored to your own business.