What gives me any right to choose a title like that? Well, while I’ve been very lazy with my own blog, I’m Managing Editor in a multi-award winning content agency who blogs for a living.
Does that still count as a humblebrag? (#relatable)
Look, this guide is theoretical for a reason. Buckle up, buttercups!
1. Focus on being an idea-generating factory.
The hardest part of any creative endeavour is generating ideas. Especially if you’re a content marketer like me and you have to switch between several industries and styles. There are days where a drought sets in and your brain is positively Saharan. For those days, you’ll need to work at it. How? Like so:
- If you have a fledging thought for a piece, don’t let it escape you. Write it down.
- Carry a notebook or have the note app on your phone ready to go. Ideas come at the strangest of times. Before I go to sleep and when I’m in the shower are great idea-generating times for me.
- Read widely. Read what industry leaders are doing. Read what your competitors are doing. Pick them apart and use their ideas as a base for yours. Don’t copy–borrow and respond.
- Set an hour aside to brainstorm. Write down your keywords or words relevant to your industry. Apply the fractions of storytelling: Who, What, Where, When, and How. There’s a minefield of info behind every keyword. Ask questions. Use your blog to answer them.
- Observe. Watch people around you. Not in a creepy way, mind. How do they interact with the world? How could your product or service apply to them?
- Chase mad ideas. Even it sounds silly, there might be a kernel of genius in the idea.
- Ask people around you. Annoy your friends and family until they help you come up with ideas. Likely, they’ll choose something obvious and simple, but from little acorns big trees grow!
2. Set time aside.
We don’t mean twenty minutes on your lunch break. Two hours a week, minimum.
3. Don’t be afraid to suck.
Especially at the start. Give it time. Don’t be disappointed if you get a slow response or no real response at all. Just keep swimming.
4. Remember the golden rule of copywriting: AIDA.
Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. A four step process to take over the world. And/or increase your blog traffic. One or the other.
- Attention. Use a snappy title and good first paragraph to catch your reader’s attention. Reel them in and do not let them go. Tip: Use your Google Analytics to see the average time spent on a blog post to roughly gauge how far people read it.
- Interest. Be interesting. Be daring. Use images and vary your content to maintain interest. Make sure your content is skimmable too, by highlighting the main points in bold. Lazy readers are sometimes useful readers, so cater to them as well.
- Desire. If you’re using your blog to market, you need to instil desire. They need to want what you’re selling.
- Action. You need to decide what response to want readers to have to your blog. Do you want someone to buy something, RT you, or click through to a landing page? Know your end goal. Make that your call-to-action.
5. Appeal to the narcissistic nature of your readers.
We’ve all got an ego. Ego and the id, it’s a tale as old as time. The reason quizzes telling you which Hogwarts House You Should Be In or Who Should Be Your Celebrity Boyfriend (if I don’t get Ryan Gosling, there will be war) are so popular is because they appeal to our narcissism. Everyone is at least a little bit narcissistic.
Focus on YOU — not you, the blogger, but YOU, the mythical reader. What can your reader get from your content? What makes the content engaging? Why should they take time out of their day to share your content? Tell them a story or a truth about themselves and you’ve done everything you need to.
Be informative, be actionable, be an ego-maniac. Be something!
6. There’s nothing wrong with writing for SEO every now and again.
Nope. If your rankings slip, there’s no harm in dedicating a couple of posts to SEO. It’s not the devil. Do it in moderation and do it fairly, and you’re fine. For more on SEO, take a look at any of our guides:
7. Give your blog time to grow.
It takes a baby eighteen years to become an adult. Your blog is fledgling and in its baby stage. While it might not take 18 years, it will take time to start ranking, finding traffic, and gaining an audience.
Everyone starts somewhere. No one wakes up and just is. Moz didn’t suddenly appear. Buzzfeed didn’t explode overnight. No writer or blogger has ever gotten to a stage where they are pretty good by sitting round, twiddling their thumbs, and daydreaming about filters for their Instagram.
Blogging, like just about anything, takes time to be good at. You need to practice and hone your skills. If you’re not too great at grammar, read up on it. Learn. If your syntax is odd, read your work out loud and see how it sounds. Better yet, get someone you know to read your blog post back out to you. Once you’re done cringing, you’ll be aware of a whole slew of bad habits you never even knew you had.
8. The power of psychology isn’t just corporate buzz.
Consumer buying habits and persuasive language are very much a real thing. I was at an event called Digital Biscuit in January and they had a presentation from Carlos Velsaco, a neuroscientist at Oxford. He and his business partner introduced an interesting concept and talked about how the brain is wired to react and perceive smell, sight, and sound within buying patterns. It all came down to reception: for example, what feeling would we relate to this shape?
Most of us would say anger or frustration. In the same way that colour emotes, our senses are tied to connotation too. The brain is a strange beast and marketing to it as well as people is a huge avenue for the future. Neuro-marketing is fledgling, but in years to come it’ll be so much more visceral. How does that relate to blogging?
At its simplest, think of blogging as mixed media. It’s not just text. It’s UI. It’s design. It’s layout. It’s the media you use too. If you’re a food blogger, the onus is on you to make your food look gorgeous. Appeal to the sense of taste, and your blog post will pack serious clout. To see the basics of perceptionary marketing (I call dibs on the term!) done right, take a look at M&S’s recent TV ad.
I want what they’re selling. Mission accomplished.
9. Being brilliant won’t get you noticed. Distributing your content will.
So many people are blogging or creating content that getting noticed is a little like shouting into the void. Going viral, by its nature, is accidental. You can’t make something go viral. There’s a mantra bandied around the digital marketing world that isn’t actually true: create great content, they say, and the crowd will come.
Nope. You could be creating the greatest content in the world, but if no one is reading and sharing it, then the quality doesn’t matter. Building an audience is hard. It is, trust us we know. Online visibility is difficult. You could read blog posts of inspirational advice all day long but that won’t get you noticed.
At the beginning in particular, you need to be a one-man band. Share your content across all social media, multiple times. Share it on aggregation sites, RSS feeds, and in places like Reddit and BizSugar. It’s absolutely time-consuming, but you need to commit to it. Check out our list of awesome content marketing tools to get a feel for what we use.
10. Write to your passion.
Write with passion. Find something you love and share it with the world. It’s an awful lots easier to blog with style and humour when you’re writing about something you actually enjoy. Remember: be human in all your blog posts. Make connections. Leave your readers wanting more.
Follow me on Twitter if you want more. More of what? Well that depends on the proposition… :p