1. Create blog posts that serve your larger company goals.
Mistake: You think of ideas that only interest you.
As much as you might read and re-read your blog posts after you publish them, you’re not the only reader, or the intended reader.
When you start blogging, ideas will come to you at random times — in the shower, on a run, while on the phone with your mom. While the ideas may come at random moments, the ideas themselves should never be random. Just because it’s a good idea in general — or something that interests you personally — doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for your company.
Solution: Align your blog posts with company growth goals.
The reason you’re blogging is to solve problems for your audience and, ultimately, to grow your business. So, all of your blog post ideas should help serve those growth goals. They should have natural tie-ins to issues in your industry and address specific questions and concerns your prospects have.
Need help figuring out what those goals are and how to address them? Chat with your manager about the larger company goals, and then schedule a meeting with someone on the sales team to hear what questions they get asked most often. After both meetings, you should know which goals you need to achieve and have some ideas on how to achieve them.
2. Write like you talk.
Mistake: Your writing is too stiff.
Writing a blog post is much different than writing a term paper. But when bloggers first start out, they usually only have experience with the latter. The problem? The style of writing from a term paper is not the style of writing people enjoy reading.
Let’s be honest: Most of the people who see your post aren’t going to read the whole thing. If you want to keep them interested, you have to compel them to keep reading by writing in a style that’s effortless to read.
Solution: Try to write blogs that feel personable.
It’s okay to be more conversational in your writing — in fact, we encourage it. The more approachable your writing is, the more people will enjoy reading it. People want to feel like they’re doing business with real people, not robots.
So loosen up your writing. Throw in contractions. Get rid of the jargon. Make a pun or two. That’s how real people talk — and that’s what real people like to read.
3. Show your personality; don’t tell it.
Mistake: You think people care about you as a writer.
It sounds harsh, but it’s the truth: When people first start out blogging, they think that their audience will be inherently interested in their stories and their interests … but that’s not the case. It’s no knock against them as a person — it’s just that when you’re new, no one is interested in you and your experiences. People care way more about what you can teach them.
Solution: Infuse your personality without eclipsing the topic.
Even though people don’t really care that it’s you that’s writing the post, you can infuse parts of your personality in your writing to make them feel more comfortable with you. How you do that is entirely up to you. Some people like to crack jokes, some like to make pop culture references, and others have a way with vivid descriptions.
HubSpot’s Director of Content Corey Wainwright is particularly good at this. Here’s an example from the introduction of one of her posts:
To infuse personality into your own writing, try looking for ways to relate to your readers on the topic you’re writing about — then write in the first person as if you’re hanging out with them and chatting about it. Make your tone personal, approachable, and engaging, just like you would in a face-to-face conversation.
4. Make your point again and again.
Mistake: You digress.
Although you are encouraged to let your own personality shine through in your writing, don’t abuse the privilege. It’s one thing to be yourself in the topic you’re covering, but it’s another thing to bring up too many personal experiences that bury the point you’re trying to make.
Don’t digress into these personal anecdotes and analogies too much — your readers aren’t sitting in front of you, which means you can’t guarantee that you have their undivided attention. They can (and will) bounce from your article if they lose patience.
Solution: Repeatedly assert your argument.
To prevent your writing from losing its audience, restate your point in every section of the article. The best blog posts commit to an overarching message and then deliver it gradually, expressing it multiple times in small ways from beginning to end.
If you’re writing about how much water a potted plant needs, for example, don’t spend three paragraphs telling a story of how you came home to a dead fern after returning from a two-week vacation. This story offers real evidence of your point, but what is your point? Certain plants can’t go without water for more than 14 days. That’s one possible point, and it should be stated upfront.
5. Start with a very specific working title.
Mistake: Your topics are too broad.
When people start blogging, they generally want to write on really big topics like:
- “How to Do Social Media Marketing”
- “Business Best Practices”
- “How to Make Money on the Internet”
Topics like these are far too broad. Because there are so many details and nuances in these topics, it’s really hard to do a good job answering them. Plus, more specific topics tend to attract smaller, more targeted audiences, which tend to be higher quality and more likely to convert into leads and customers.
So, to get the most short-term and long-term benefits of blogging, you’ll need to get way more specific.
Solution: Begin with a clear, concise idea.
Nailing really specific blog topics is crucial to knocking your first few posts out of the park. Let us help you brainstorm with our Blog Ideas Generator. This tool allows you to enter basic terms you know you want to cover, and then produces five sample blog titles that work for business blogs.
Keep in mind that a working title isn’t final — it’s just a concrete angle you can use to keep your writing on track. Once you nail this stage of the ideation process, it’s much easier to write your blog posts.
6. Use a specific post type, create an outline, and use headers.
Mistake: Your writing is a brain dump.
Sometimes when I get a great idea I’m excited about, it’s really tempting to just sit down and let it flow out of me. But what I get is usually a sub-par blog post.
Why? The stream-of-consciousness style of writing isn’t really a good style for blog posts. Most people are going to scan your blog posts, not read them, so it needs to be organized really well for that to happen.
Solution: Structure your blog with a template, outline, and section headers.
The first thing you should do is choose what type of blog post you’re going to write. Is it a how-to post? A list-based post? A curated collection post? A SlideShare presentation? For help on this, download our free templates for creating five different types of blog posts. Once you have a template down, it’ll be easier to write your outline.
Writing an outline makes a big difference. If you put in the time up front to organize your thoughts and create a logical flow in your post, the rest becomes easy — you’re basically just filling in the blanks.
To write a blog post outline, first come up with a list of the top takeaways you want your readers to get from your post. Then, break up those takeaways into larger section headers. When you put in a section header every few paragraphs, your blog post becomes easier and more enjoyable to read. (And plus, header text with keywords is good for SEO.) When you finally get to writing, all you’ll have to do is fill in those sections.
7. Use data and research to back up the claims you make in your posts.
Mistake: You don’t use data as evidence.
Let’s say I’m writing a blog post about why businesses should consider using Instagram for marketing. When I’m making that argument, which is more convincing?
- “It seems like more people are using Instagram nowadays.”
- “Instagram’s user base is growing far faster than social network usage in general in the U.S. Instagram will grow 15.1% this year, compared to just 3.1% growth for the social network sector as a whole.”
The second, of course. Arguments and claims are much more compelling when rooted in data and research. As marketers, we don’t just have to convince people to be on our side about an issue — we need to convince them to take action. Data-driven content catches people’s attention in a way that fluffy arguments do not.
Solution: Use data to support your arguments.
In any good story, you’ll offer a main argument, establish proof, and then end with a takeaway for the audience. You can use data in blog posts to introduce your main argument and show why it’s relevant to your readers, or as proof of it throughout the body of the post.
8. When drawing from others’ ideas, cite them.
Mistake: Your content borders on plagiarism.
Plagiarism didn’t work in school, and it certainly doesn’t work on your company’s blog. But for some reason, many beginner bloggers think they can get away with the old copy-and-paste technique.
You can’t. Editors and readers can usually tell when something’s been copied from somewhere else. Your voice suddenly doesn’t sound like you, or maybe there are a few words in there that are incorrectly used. It just sounds … off.
Plus, if you get caught stealing other people’s content, you could get your site penalized by Google — which could be a big blow to your company blog’s organic growth.
Solution: Give credit where credit is due.
Instead, take a few minutes to understand how to cite other people’s content in your blog posts. It’s not super complicated, but it’s an essential thing to learn when you’re first starting out.