The Essential Guide to Blogging for Non-Writers
By Sandra Manzanares
About Inbound Marketing
You’ve put off creating content for your website because writing isn’t your “thing.” Or maybe you have “no time.” Or maybe you have no idea what you’re doing and each time you sit down to blog, you are intimidated by the idea of it and can’t figure out what to write. Even the most prolific writers and content creators experience periods of writer’s block, but if writing isn’t your forte, a block can make you feel completely uncompelled to blog at all. Sound familiar?
But the reality is, if you’re hoping to grow your audience and develop a personal brand, as well as enhance your PageRank score and attract leads, you’re going to need to snap out of it and blog!Studies indicate that 15 blogs per month can generate 1,200 new leads, gather twice the inbound links, and enhance social media engagement. If you’re still convinced blogging isn’t your “thing,” here are some content marketing stats that prove it should be:
- Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates 3 times as many leads.
- 82% of marketers who blog see positive ROI.
- Website conversion rate is almost 6 times higher for those who use content marketing as a tactic.
The good news? Writing consistently like the pros can be learned. And you don’t have to be a great writer: Wonderful content is produced by folks of varying skills and interests. A lack of interest or confidence in writing shouldn’t stop you from creating wonderful content that can ultimately impact your business growth.
Ready to put down the excuses and dive into blogging territory?
How to make blogging work for you (and your schedule).
So you know you have to create something, right? The next thing you might be concerned with is the time commitment. Many people feel that online ads are a quick and easy way to generate leads. But 78 percent of online consumers prefer getting to know a company through articles rather than ads, and 70 percent believe that brands offering special content are interested in building relationships with consumers. This means that even a few hours a week dedicated to blogging can seriously jumpstart engagement, awareness and sales. Here, we offer some tips to make blogging easier:
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
— C. S. Lewis
Start with a strategy.
Setting some standards for your blogging and content marketing will keep you accountable. (Remember: You’ve been thinking about blogging for awhile but haven’t actually pushed yourself.) Set up time in your calendar. Write notes into your planner. And document each step of your blogging process:
Know your customers. Creating customer and audience personas is an important first step in figuring out the range of people who will be viewing your content. Once you’ve identified the range of your readers, consider all of the possible problems and questions they may face. Use your expertise to generate topics that offer solutions and guidance. Keep these personas close — they frame the types of content you include on your site.
Create your content strategy. You can start elements of your content strategy even before you know exactly what you’re going to write. Start by setting goals:
- How often you’ll write and distribute content
- Whether you’re hoping to sell a specific product, get folks to an event, or simply build brand awareness
- The types of subjects that your customers will be most interested in.
This sets the framework that you can easily fill in once you’re on the brainstorm track.
Get a content calendar. We’ve stressed the use of a content calendar so much because it is the most helpful tool to keep your ideas in one place and helps you stay on track with a consistent publishing schedule. Trello offers a great structure where you can see everything at-a-glance and allows you to place links, checklists and color-coding into an assignment so you can easily chart its progress.
Source content inspiration.
One of the best ways to create great content is to indulge in great content. It inspires great ideas and lets you see how other content is done well (or not so well). If you’re feeling stuck about what to create for your website, there are some habits that will help cure that:
Become an expert. The only way you’ll enjoy allotting time to create killer content for your blog is to become a subject matter expert in a topic you already know a lot about, or something you’re excited to spend a lot of time learning. (This should be something you enjoy so your enthusiasm jumps out at the reader!)
Read more. Whether it’s blogs you love, thought leaders in your industry or a funny comic, reading helps to inspire and guide your writing process. Create time in your day to read topics that are relevant to you and your blog. Pressed for time? Set up tools like newsletters or RSS feeds to have expert blog content sent directly to your inbox so you never miss it.
Use technology to your advantage. Set up some accounts to make inspiration gathering easy. Twitter lists, Pocket, Prismatic, Evernote, email newsletters — there are so many applications that you can use to keep track of published content that will spark some brainstorm ideas. As you read other blog posts from your favorite sources, you’ll start to see how easy it is to generate and spin topics for your needs. Many sites now offer blog topic generators, which are great when you’re in a pinch. Go for one that lets you put in your subject matter and audience. Try to take these generated ideas and tweak them slightly so it’s specific to your needs.
Seek out tutorials. Guides are great resources to learn from bloggers who are in the trenches creating every day. There are loads of quality tutorials and guides on the Internet that will help you through the process, from brainstorm to publication. We host many of blogging tips on our Real Estate Marketing Academy. There are also many local and online courses that provide great blogging techniques.
Develop a unique content voice.
Content comes in many forms. Writing is obviously a large part of blogging, but based on your skills and the time you have to devote to content creation, you may have to reconsider how you’re going to approach your blogging so it reflects your best traits. Let’s consider some options:
Be unpredictable with content types. A great way to get around writing long posts is to switch up the style and variety of blog formats. This keeps your audience guessing and gets them excited to revisit. Some ideas:
Cheat sheets and checklists
To-do, must-see and must-have lists
Interviews and reviews
Controversial entries (offering a striking opinion)
Series of posts (good way to break up a large topic)
Weekly roundups and ranked lists
Personal tales offering expertise and tips
Reuse content. Your audience is looking for similar things within the same topic area, so find ways to revamp and reuse your old content. If a reader is clicking “how to organize your house search,” they’ll probably also be interested in topics like “quick search tips for a new home buyer” or “the best neighborhoods for young home buyers.” The first post may be more editorial with advice, where the second post may be a checklist they can print and the third may be a “pinnable” photo album that includes interesting area-specific details. See how they’re all related but still offer unique information that’s digested differently? Try that.
Provide commentary. Many readers are coming to your site looking for your guidance and expertise. In fact, they crave it. Especially if readers are in the midst of making important decisions about their home search, it’s up to you to give them some honest advice. Injecting your unique opinion through commentary about industry news or trends shows that you’re “in the know” and an expert in your field. This is especially relevant in the real estate industry because often industry news directly impacts buying and selling decisions.
“Quality is not an act, it is a habit.” — Aristotle CLICK TO TWEET
When in doubt, go visual. Photos. Videos. Infographics. Slideshows. GIFs. Webinars. Whichever you choose, you’ll be striking chords with readers: 40 percent of people respond better to visuals than plain text, making them amazing for content that will capture your readers’ attention. Often visuals offer ample emotion for your post, so use your visuals as a springboard for discussion but don’t overwhelm these posts with lots of text. Make sure your visuals are high-quality and have exciting elements worthy of being shared.
Create videos. While any visual content type can yield lots of positive engagement, I have to mention the power of video. Site visitors spend 100 percent more time on pages with videos, and increases visitors’ understanding of your product or service by 74 percent. If you’re not a wordsmith but love to entertain readers with storytelling, a video can get you the biggest return on your efforts, whether that’s a viral social media short or a professional cut.
Offer a guest post. Promising a guest post to another website is a great way to hold yourself accountable to blogging. You’ll want to pick a source that has fairly high traffic and whose customers can also benefit from your content (ideally they should have similar customers and more of them). Then set a date. Once you have a date promised to another person, it’s much easier making blogging a priority.
Share other content. As you’re sourcing content for inspiration, you’ll come across those posts that are oh-so-perfect, you’d rather share them then try to reconfigure them. This is a great option for blogging without the heavy lifting. But do write some commentary for your readers about why you love it and how it is useful to them, along with a shoutout (and link) to the original creator.
Host guest content on your site. Commissioning guest bloggers for your site helps you provide your readers with content while helping you meet your own blog goals. Just make sure that the content they create will be useful for your readers and that their voice is in-line with your brand. Give concrete deadlines and iron out the agreement ahead of time so there are no surprises. If someone was pleased with using you for their home buying or selling experience, ask for a customer testimonials that will highlight your great work.
Qualify content for search results. Optimizing content is especially important when the format isn’t a typical long-form text post. Use an enticing title to draw readers in. Insert your target keywords and topical keywords appropriately into your metadata, headers and image ‘alt text’ fields. Make sure that your words are strategically used to support your subject.
Refocus your writing style for better execution.
As you keep your strategy and topics in mind, also know that how you feel about blogging will determine how much anxiety and stress you form around the idea of creating content (and how productive you’ll be at blogging). Take some of the stress out of the experience with these tips:
Set up a system. The best way to tackle content creation is developing a clear system that’s scheduled and timed. It’s important not to approach things from a perspective of perfection, though. Start with a brainstorm, outline relentlessly and then generate your title. Then, approach the freewriting stage (writing in a continuous stream without editing your work), do some research and then go back to edit. At each stage, set a timer (one to two hours per stage) and then see how much you’ve accomplished. Don’t forget to ditch distractions during your creating process.
Create for “non-readers.” Well, technically people are reading your post, but there are many people who are avid skimmers. Whether you’re writing long or short posts, you’re well-equipped to reach offer direct content that’s not masked in flowery language. And while there’s evidence to suggest that long-form posts offer great SEO, consistent and quality blogging is much more important in the long run than forcing yourself to always push past 1,000 words. If this is the case, adjust to using your content calendar to offer blog posts of varying lengths a few times a week and you’ll be a dependable resource for your readers. Just pack as much of your personality in those lines (or visuals)!
Get editing help. As you get better at creating content quickly, you may need that critical eye to proof your work and make sure it looks good. This is where you can either proofread on your own, hire a proofreader or copy editor, or implement editing software. Any combination of the those can help you to identify errors prior to publication. If you plan to hone your proofreading skills, grab some style guides and reading your piece out loud and backwards.
Keep at it. Really, the only way you will get better at blogging is continually doing it. It is a skill that’s developed through practice. The more you release content, the better you will be. If you find yourself stuck, just remember it’s your blog: Change the title, the topic, the focus or the medium. Just don’t get so stuck your blogs stay in your “drafts” pile for life.
What other easy blogging tips help you create? Let us know in the comments!
Published on May 13, 2014
Written by Sandra Manzanares
Writer, editor, and marketing manager with a passion for helping brands enhance their content marketing strategy. I'm a firm believer that creative storytelling is an essential part of the way we communicate. Constantly striving to fill my head with as much creative and analytical information as possible.