SMALL BIZ BLOGGING 101: FORMAT & FREQUENCY

Oh, blogging. We all know we should be doing it for our businesses, but for so many of us (yes, including me) the struggle is real.
 
It can be hard to carve out – or justify spending – the time when there are a million other things that need to get done.

Then there’s the challenge of figuring out what will provide your audience with value – and how to make it interesting and keep ‘em reading.
 
I totally get it. Believe it or not, I find it really hard to stay consistent and inspired when it comes to my own biz blogging (thankfully not when it comes to my clients’, though. That would be bad.)

No matter who you are, it’s hard to put yourself out there, and find the time to do it consistently, week-in and week-out.

So today, I’m going to make it a little easier for you. This is the first in a series of three posts about how to tackle business blogging. This one covers the foundational stuff – how often you should be blogging, how long those posts should be, what format to use, and what kinds of headlines get people to click.
 
In part two, I’ve covered topic ideas – where to find ’em and what makes for a good one – and in part three, I’ve given you a strategy that breaks down the task of blogging into three manageable chunks so you can execute without getting bogged down or overwhelmed. I’ve also consolidated ALL of it for you in one handy-dandy PDF document for reference, which you’re welcome to grab here.

Alright, with that out of the way, let’s get to it!

HOW OFTEN DO I REALLY NEED TO BLOG?

There are all kinds of good reasons to blog frequently. Shareable content. Credibility. And, of course, our friend Google, which favours sites that post fresh content regularly.
 
My advice to you is to nail consistency first. If you’ve been blogging infrequently (or not at all) up until now and have little time, two posts per week isn’t going to be realistic for you, and you’ll burn out after a few weeks or a month.
 
A good place to start is once or twice a month (which is my own goal, currently). Once you’ve consistently met this objective for a few months, you can think about adding more, working your way to once per week.
 
For most small businesses, a weekly post is a great long-term goal that will pay-off big-time for your biz.

LENGTH

Google favours long posts. But most of us don’t have time to write 2000+ word masterpieces – and the pressure to create that much content on a topic can be paralyzing.
 
So I recommend you aim for 350 to 500 words for most of your posts (that’s about – or a little more than – a typed page in Word), with a longer post every so-often.
 
When you write those long posts, be sure to break up that copy or your reader is going to feel overwhelmed. Use bullets, lists and sub-heads wherever you can, and lots of images sprinkled throughout. (This advice applies to shorter posts too!)

FORMAT

People respond well to neatly-organized information, and like to know what they’re in for. Here are three formats that work well because they tick both these boxes:

  1. Numbered lists (Top 5 …)
  2. DOs and DON’Ts
  3. Instructions (How to….)

 Bonus points: combining 1 and 3 (5 ways to…).
 
It’s important to note that you don’t have to decide how you’re going to organize your info before writing your first draft. If it works better for you, create that first quick-and-dirty draft, and then look at how you can best organize it when you edit.

And, finally, only do this if it makes sense. If it doesn’t, that’s ok. But be extra careful to stick to the golden rules of formatting: use sub-heads, bullets and lists when you can, and images where it makes sense.

HEADLINES 101

Fact: you have 2.6 seconds to win over a visitor and, most of the time, it’s the headline that makes or breaks it. Let’s think about that for a minute. No matter how good your post is, if you drop the ball on your headline, it doesn’t matter because nobody’s going to read it.

Gulp. No pressure, right? This is why I’m going to dive deep on this one, starting with some numbers.

Headlines by the numbers

A large part of the challenge with headlines is that you have very little space to work with. Studies show…

  • Headlines with 55 characters get the highest number of clicks
  • Six to seven words typically get the best results
  • People often read the beginning and end of headline and skip the middle. Keep this in mind when writing yours!

Also, it’s important to know that email subject lines get cut-off at about the 20-character mark (so front-load important words – or, if you’re re-purposing a blog as a newsletter, consider a shorter, catchier title for email)

Four ways to make your headline irresistibly clickable:

Now that you know what you’re aiming for in terms of length and word placement, here’s how to make those words irresistibly clickable:

  • Include a number. If your post has a numbered list, mention it in the headline.
  • Use the ‘How to [BENEFIT]’ formula. The key here is to state the benefit, in addition to (or instead of) exactly what you’ll teach them. The book title ‘How to win friends and influence people’ is a great example.
  • Imply tons of value. If appropriate, terms like ‘guide’ and ‘system’ suggest that the reader will get lots of value and typically do very well.
  • Create mystery. You can do this by asking a question, and implying the answer lies within (Disclaimer: don’t let your post go on toooo long before you address the question – or at least tease the answer – or you’ll lose people.), or through a statement like the example below. 
SEO bonus points:
SEO is a topic for another post but, if you identify keywords/phrases for your posts (which you should!), you get bonus points if you can work them into your headlines WITHOUT being awkward about it, of course. In my books, SEO never trumps compelling, readable content.
 
Handy tool alert: CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
If you want to see how your headline measures up, there’s a handy tool online called the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer, which will analyze and grade your headline based on how we’ll you’ve used uncommon, emotional, and power words – all for free.

HOMEWORK

Does blogging feel a tiny bit more doable now? I hope so. My challenge to you is to think about how many posts per month you’re SURE you can realistically tackle. That’s your goal for Q1 of 2017 (or the next three months).

Click below for the other posts in this series, or here to grab the consolidated PDF if you haven’t already!