The Good, the Bad and the Blog-ly: How to Write Half-Decent Content Without Embarrassing Yourself
Do you remember receiving these types of handouts during your secondary and post-
secondary school years? I do, and I remember the knot my stomach would make when I received one. Teachers expected you to follow a magic composition formula, the result of which would earn you an A on that upcoming paper (eh, okay, a solid B anyway).
We were taught that if you follow the process and adhere rigidly to the formula, you would become a good writer. Well, I’m here today to tell you the truth: that’s bologna (not the uber-tasty Lebanon county style bologna from Gro.Haus's hometown but the three-week-old, ripe-with-sour-juices kind you find at the back of the deli case inside your local Super Kmart). Writing should not follow such a hard and fast formula. That's not to say there aren’t rules of thumb to follow when it comes to writing. Everyone needs thumbs. But, Mad Lib style, fill in the blank writing prompts are not going to win you any Pulitzers, or any customers for that matter.
As business owners, we have a unique responsibility to create engaging content laced with valuable, well-researched information. But, if you follow standard blogging formulas, your blog will fall to the wayside, forever doomed to become an unclickable search result on Google.
Bad Blog, Tsk Tsk
You’ve been accepted into blogging school. Congratulations! See that kid over there in the corner? He's in the time-out chair, wearing the marketing dunce cap because of his cardinal blogging sins. Here are the tried and true ways to end up on that uncomfortable stool.
All forms of writing require titles and blogs are no exception. There are two sure-fire ways to fail at titling blogs. And here they are, in no particular order.
All That Glitters
Since headlines are the first thing your potential leads will read, you want to hook them sharply through the lip.
According to HubSpot, the first way you can fail as a writer is to write a dull, lifeless headline. You want to create enticing headlines that stop readers in their tracks and demand to be clicked, while still giving prospective readers a clue as to what the blog content is centered around.
Let’s play a game. It’s called Spot the Catchy Headline. Here are three blog headlines. One of them is an actual blog headline that leads to conversions on a prominent company’s website. The other two are wearing drab garb. Time starts now!
“The Dangers of Store Discount Programs”
“Why is Corned Beef and Cabbage More Popular than Department Stores”
“The Poor Marketing Strategies of Big Box Retailers “
Did you guess B) Why Is Corned Beef and Cabbage More Popular than Department Stores? If so, you won the game! Oh, you are good. From this title, we know that the blog will focus on department stores and their dwindling popularity. We are interested to read on because we would have never guessed that an unappetizing Irish dish has more acclaim than a department store. It’s insightful and engaging, which are two words you want to describe your blog headline.
Hook, Line, and Sinker
Another no-no is to pull the ole’ bait and switch. Yes, you want to put tempting bait
on your blogging fishing line, but make sure the bait lines up with what the fish was promised to eat. It will unhook itself otherwise, which means no fish and chips for dinner.
In the example above, we were promised a blog post about JCPenney and corned beef and cabbage and the blog delivered. Imagine if the blog only mentioned those two topics in the opening few sentences and then went on to a sales pitch for the company? We would feel betrayed, and, tears rolling down our cheeks, we would swiftly hit the X-button on the browser window.
Don’t be X-ed. Make sure your blog headline is nice and pointing but still on topic.
The Meat and Potatoes
No, don’t worry, this is not another point about Irish dishes. I am rather talking about the idiom, the meat and potatoes of something.
The meat and potatoes: The Most Important or Basic Parts of Something
The most important part of a blog is the content you provide. And, man oh man, there are doozies out there when it comes to the meat and potatoes of bad blogs.
Bad Potatoes: The Garden-Variety Blog
I promise I know more than just food-related idioms, but this one fits perfectly with blog content that is unremarkable and commonplace. How would you like it if someone described your blog as “just the garden-variety of…”? It doesn’t feel good and there are no pills to cure feelings of inadequacies.
If you don’t have anything valuable to say on a topic, don’t write on that topic! It’s that simple.
The best of the worst aimless content I can think of lies in the world of food blogs.
How many times have you had to read through a lengthy anecdote or laundry list of steps before getting to the traditional, straightforward recipe you wanted when you clicked on the link? Let’s take the recipe for Crisp Baked Tofu (about as far away from Irish cuisine as you can get). I legit read and suffered through 825 words of tangentially-related foodie hoopla before I got to the recipe and, even then, the blogger continued to preface (a 150-word preface) about how to marinate tofu. Yawn and stretch.
The long story about his cookbook author friend Joe (sorry if you are friends with this guy, Joe) was not in the least bit helpful to the reader. The reader wanted the recipe! Give the readers what they want when they want it. Don’t write because you like the sound of your own writer’s voice. Write for the people you are trying to convert.
Bad Beef: The Over Sell
Let’s be honest. The real motivation for blogging is so readers make the jump from bystander to customer. You want your content to be so value-packed that readers get whiplash from how much they are nodding along with your words of wisdom. What you want to avoid, however, is the eye roll. Ugh, I hate the eye roll. And it happens when you over-sell your business.
Don’t get so focused on conversions that you overly promote your brand. According to the American Marketing Association, overselling can “alienate the customer and damage the brand loyalty.” Ouch. That’s an unfortunate situation that can best be avoided if you stop sounding like a telemarketer and start reaching people through industry-driven, impactful content.
Having said that, don’t forget to include CTAs where appropriate as well as at the end of the blog. It’s lead generation 101.
Uncooked Chicken: The Red Pen
Your English teacher’s favorite grading weapon, the red pen has become synonymous with poorly-written and poorly-edited composition. From homonyms to capitalization, passive voice to dangling modifiers, commas to semicolons, the list of common grammar errors is extensive and the damage they do to blogs is great. If you are looking for a way to lose respect and gain ugly feedback, then write a blog a red pen would love.
Just ask Valley Newss.
Don’t feel silly with blog mistakes. Clean it up, people! Need some help with that? Check out our list of star-studded FREE marketing tools. Don’t make the news like Valley Newss.
Since I inadvertently created a whole food vibe for this blog, why not continue it?
You know how Michelin star chefs love to plate their food, with drizzles of a balsamic vinaigrette reduction delicately swirled around brightly-colored, aromatic food? Then there are short-order cooks at little diners across the country who dump large piles of monochromatic food on a too-small plate (so everything touches and oozes together) and call it a day.
Well, a great way to create a bad blog is to emulate short-order cooks by information dumping and calling it a day. Your blog must have an aesthetic presence or no one will eat that information up. And nothing is worse than an untouched plate of food you worked hard to prepare. Avoid these common organizational disasters when you go to cook your blog.
The Chunky Monkey
You would think this would go without saying, but because I’m saying it, you can bet your bottom dollar (not really, keep that for prosperity’s sake) that it happens more than you think. No one likes to click on a blog only to be redirected to a page with a huge word mass staring back at them. Talk about an eyesore! Chunky text is ugly to look at and no one will read it. Insert frowny face.
Case in Point:
Don’t chunky-monkey your blog (like the one to the left) and lose out on new clients. Format with headers, bolded text, or bullet-points to make information easier to read. It makes for a more palatable, digestible plate of information. Yummy.
A “Gruel-ing” Read
The last thing a reader wants to see when they open your blog is an endless scroll of text punctuated every so often with some white space. Good on you for making your monkey lose some weight but let's add some color with pictures, illustrations, videos, and infographics every 350 words to break up your information. It gives readers a chance to rest their eyes and look at the pretty colors. Everyone likes to look at pretty colors.
I see pink, blue, green, gray, white...ah, that’s better. Eyes refreshed and renewed for more blog consumption.
As the saying goes, we eat with our eyes first. Channel your inner Michelin star chef and plate your blog with pizzazz. It’ll keep readers coming back for seconds.
Good Blog, Pat Pat
You know what bad blogs look like; now it’s time to flip to the other side of the coin: the good. Here are our favorite blogs to read on a rainy day (or sunny or any day really). They have all of the blogging chops-- great headlines, great content, and a great aesthetic.
1. Russel’s Blog
Co-founder of ClickFunnels and well-known marketing author, Russel Brunson has made a name for himself in the small business world. We are talking about a following of more than one million entrepreneurs! His blog is unique in that they are essentially transcripts of his podcast, though you can also listen to the original podcasts themselves. With such blogs as “Untangling Your Value Maze,” and “Attract Your Dream Customer Right Now,” small business owners would be remiss not to check out what Russel has to say about selling a brand and promoting a business. Also can we talk about how smart his content strategy is? He records a podcast, transcribes it, does a five minute edit and boom Blog. Two pieces of content for the time cost of one. We’ll just say it...we are fanboying over here.
To stay competitive in any industry, knowledge is key. Thefutur has adopted a different approach to unlocking one’s knowledge potential in the form of an unconventional classroom. From lessons on creativity to lessons on business, or even to lessons on personal lifestyle choices, this company boasts an extensive library of educational resources created by the common layman. Everyone is a teacher, as their blogs clearly showcase. Chris Do, one of the founders of Futur you will 100% recognized from his numerous videos all over social media helping business owner better position themselves for success.
Boasting an extensive blog library, Hubspot is one of the go-to resources for business bloggers. The blogs cover the how-tos (with templates) and the whats and whos of the marketing landscape. With quality e-books and free courses and certifications to boot, HubSpot is one value-packed place to find entrepreneurial wisdom. *bows down to the ultimate business info-guru*
Described as “the most readable...blog in the universe,” Freakonomics provides interesting and accessible information about the world of economics. Their blog format is unusual, too; in presenting the information as a script (from podcasts or radio episodes), the blog reads like a conversation. Conversations are fluid and organic, two words that describe Freakonomics and make it stand apart from other economic blogs.
5. Everyone Hates Marketers
A flippant name for a clever marketing company, Everyone Hates Marketers was created by Louis Grenier as a way for small business owners to “radically stand out” in an otherwise crowded marketing landscape. His blogs are laced with valuable information, ingenious hypotheticals, and engaging graphics, all of which serve to entice readers to either take an eight-week workshop (“Stand the F*ck Out”), subscribe to his newsletter or email, or become an actual client. It’s a backward approach to forward-thinking that makes this blog one of our favs.
Gro.Haus: Speaking of Favorites
So, we happen to be fans of one more blog out there: the Gro.Haus blog! From marketing strategies to lead generation, marketing trends to customer happiness, email marketing to inbound marketing, marketing metrics to content marketing, conversational marketing to marketing messaging, the Gro.Haus blog is truly a modern business information powerhouse. With our trademark good humor woven into our blog tapestry, we like to think we offer a distinctly different, valuable blog experience.
Distinct. Different. Valuable. These are concepts we embrace in all aspects of our business vision, not just in our content pieces. Just like writing shouldn’t follow a script, we believe that marketing support shouldn’t be universal. It should be personal. So, we offer our distinct, different, valuable clients personalized marketing guidance, provided by a dedicated marketing specialist that humanizes the process of building a business. Join today and see for yourself how your business thrives. See for yourself what all the crackle is about.
(And we won’t use red pens. Seriously, we burn them.)
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