Your Blog Stinks!

Your blog stinks!

“Roses are red, violets are blue

Mushrooms stink

And so do you”

I once received this ditty in a Valentine’s card at junior school. Fortunately for me, it was meant in jest, but it did at least capture my attention. It’s not clear why humans prefer to pay attention to negative and controversial stories, but there we are. Bad news sells. Sure, I could have used the more conventional: “Using Controversial Titles to Engage Prospects in a Business Blog”, but I bet more of you have got to this point after reading  the headline, “Your Blog Stinks”…

Improving your blogging, content, style – And results

If you have been running a blog for a while and you have made number of posts that you think are relevant to your audience but you are not getting comments or other signs of engagement (you will know this through your blog’s analytic tool if you have set it up correctly), then perhaps you need to think about changing your blogging style.

The first place to look if you are not getting engagement is to check that you are writing for your audience (and not just for your own business interest). It is good practice to try and create a mental image of your different types of prospects and customer. These are called your “persona”. Your persona will each have their particular set of concerns and interests and it is your job to address these needs – without overtly selling – as you build your community. If you don’t know your persona’s concerns, find out fast. Ask them! And then make sure that your product or service does satisfy their need.

The next item on your list should be titles. Some say that this is 70% of the battle. Right now in Hollywood, all films titles seem to have just two or three words:  “Cowboys and Aliens”. Says it all doesn’t it? Could your subject titles need attention? If you work with a partner or colleague it can be good fun to brainstorm a number of titles that might attract the attention of your prospects and customers. Above all, be original.

Of course, good search engine optimisation (SEO) practice will require you to include keywords in your title that your prospects might use, but beyond that, short, slightly provocative and even controversial titles will work wonders.

Then think about content and style. Writing a blog is not like writing an advertisement – at all!  Your content should answer a specific question. Try not to cover too much ground and instead use a new blog post for each question. Ideally, each blog post should feature a different keyword phrase or two to give you the most chance of being found in a search request.

Have an opinion

Blogs are meant to personal and opinionated. You are meant to have a point of view.  The best blogs, like the best stories, appeal to quite basic human emotions: At their most basic this means comedy or drama.  In fact, writers from William Shakespeare to George Lucas knew that the best stories contain four or five easy to follow acts with a dramatic set up, an obvious need or goal, a quest to achieve that goal undertaken by some well defined characters (good and evil) and a final resolution- perhaps with some comedy along the way to break up the tension.

So when writing a business blog, try and introduce some drama (and comedy). Explain the set up: explain how your targets have a problem or dilemma that needs to be solved. How other methods have been tried but failed and how your company or service can provide a fix. Work in some comedy and characters into your story- if you can, so much the better. And when you have had a bit of practice, go for the controversial or opinionated headline. Just be sure that you can back it up with some statistics or other unrecognised home truths!

An example of a good controversial headline is provided by Avinash Kaushik in his excellent book called Web Analytics 2.0. He has a very good way of explaining what “Bounce Rate” means when applied to a website that is visited once by an individual, but who then takes no further action, not even one click. He uses this phrase, to describe this customer behaviour: “I came, I pucked, I left”.  I bet you won’t forget what Bounce Rate is ever again?

If you write your blog in a dull corporate, impersonal, third person style; “The XYZ Company makes good green Widgets as well as Blue”, you have just missed the whole advantage and purpose of a blog.  Try instead:

 “I am not saying our green widgets are the best in the business, but we are in the top one*”.

There. Direct, personal, opinionated- funny!  Your prospects want to know about you, who you are, what you think.  Why should they do business with you?  People buy from people they know and like!

Finally, mix it up a little. Some longer blogs, some short, some with images and video and even a few slightly off topic. It is all grist to the mill.

If you can put all this together, and above all practice, then there is every reason that you will start to see improved engagement – and be less stinky!

* Parody of a quote from the late and legendary Brian Clough, who when asked whether he was the best manager in football said: “I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business, but I was in the top one”