“What should I blog about?”
JAMES WEST OF CLEAN SLATE WEBSITES HAS BEEN A JOURNALIST FOR MORE THAN 20 YEARS. HERE HE EXPLAINS HOW TO APPLY A PROFESSIONAL WRITING APPROACH TO YOUR BLOG.
The common mistake businesses make when blogging is assuming it’s a type of diary: “Today I did XYZ and had a jolly nice time”. While this style of blogging suits certain lifestyle writers, it is unlikely to work for the majority of businesses.
And that idea is our introduction to the topic of what you should blog about.
Write for your audience
Think about your best customer. And your ideal customer. What are they interested in? What challenges do they have? This is what you write about. So, if you’re a food blogger, tell them about the exciting dish you tried to today. Or the innovative new method for making pizza you spotted at an event.
Always be mindful of your audience. If you’re an accountant, sorry, but people aren’t interested in the fine details of your experience reading the latest HMRC briefing document.
If you don’t know your audience/readership, you must spend time thinking about this. Not only is this important for your blogging, knowledge of audience/customers is vital to all marketing and indeed how you position your business.
If you succeed in writing content that your ideal customer wants to read, you’ll be a successful blogger. In fact, I would argue that this is far more important than the quality of writing. People will be forgiving if you give them some useful or entertaining information.
Answer your top five questions
Following on from the previous rule, here’s a great tip for thinking about blogging topics. You’re a business professional or subject expert and therefore you have knowledge that others don’t. Your knowledge and experience can solve a problem for someone else. To tap into that, consider this: what are the five questions you are asked most frequently in a professional capacity? Refine these questions and answers and blog about that.
We bashed our poor accountant earlier for blogging about his boring afternoon. So let’s use him as an example of how this works. Our accountant is probably asked by business owners whether they should be VAT registered. Sole trader or Limited company? Have a company car or buy one privately? And so on.
People ask these questions face-to-face, but they increasingly type them into Google. If you successfully answer these commonly asked questions on your blog, you deliver value to the people who already follow you. But a fortunate byproduct of your effort is this will also boost your online ranking, e.g. how high you appear in Google searches. This is called content marketing and I’ll be explaining more about how this works in subsequent blogs.
However, at this level, the logic is clear to see. Answer the questions online that you’re most commonly asked in person because if people who meet you want to know the answer, you can bet people online will too.
“But hold on. Why would I give away all my professional knowledge for free?”
I’m often asked this question, so following my own advice, I’ll answer it. While your knowledge is precious, protecting it won’t help you. Because if you don’t answer these questions online, one or more of your competitors will.
Beyond the futility of hoarding your knowledge, there are other critical reasons why you should use your blog to answer commonly asked questions.
The purpose of a blog is to educate and attract people to learn more about your business. If you give some knowledge for free, you build trust. And if you keep doing it, when people do require your services, they come to you. It’s an approach I’ve been using for years and it works.
The networking analogy
I’ll explain the concept of trust and knowledge sharing with an analogy. Have you ever been to a networking meeting? Did you encounter that person who only talked about themselves because they were determined to sell their product to you?
You may well have been that person yourself. It’s understandable. We go to networking to drum up business right? Therefore, we talk about our products. However, I bet you actively avoided the pushy sales person for the rest of the meeting (or were avoided if you were the guilty party).
All businesses have something to sell. We all accept that and therefore we will entertain any sales advance to a certain level. But when it’s clearly one sided, with the other person in the conversation clearly having no interest in us, we switch off.
If however we listen, ask questions and take an interest - whether we have any buying intention or not - people will be far more receptive when we sell ourselves. And if we give some useful knowledge away for free, we stop being the “salesperson” in the room. We become trusted and even liked. People are more receptive. They relax. And crucially, they listen because they know the hard sell isn’t coming.
Back to blogging
This psychology is identical online. You give some knowledge away for free. This builds trust. And people will read your words and engage with you. This approach builds the relationships. It builds your influence as a blogger. And it builds your business.
Blogging is about helping people. But it’s important that you don’t give everything away. The art is answering the question, but leaving enough unanswered. This encourages people to engage with you long term. Also, you’ll often find that by answering one question, it leads to new questions. You can either blog about these at a later date or invite readers to contact you for more info.
If you understand your customers or audience, blogging becomes a lot easier. You don’t have to be an award-winning writer. But you do need to offer value and offering some of your knowledge freely is a great way of doing this.