There are two types of blogs in this world; personal blogs and business blogs.
Writing the former is like driving down Mad Max’s Fury Road — anything goes. You can write about whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want for one reason: A personal blog is for the writer, not the customer. In fact, there is no customer.
Not the case with professional blogs. Professional blogs, blogs for business, blogs like this one, have clear marketing objectives.
- Drive traffic
- Lead conversion
- Establish ‘authority’
Unlike personal blogs, business blogs are customer-centric. That means it’s not just about how well you write. It’s about how well your blog reads. That means it’s all about what your blog will do for them.
So what will this blog do for you?
The bad news is that if you’re not following the proven, up-to-date writing practices optimized for blogging, your blog probably sucks.
The good news? Here are the 10 writing habits that are killing your business blog — and how you fix them.
Bad habit #1: Keeping it too short
Writing short is selling yourself short.
If your blog lacks in length, it’ll underperform for two main reasons:
- Readers (and Google) classify long-form content as more valuable. If people don’t get in-depth, engaging content, they won’t read or share you — and Google won’t rank you.
- Your competition is ‘going long’. Even if you’re going for ‘short and sweet’, you might come off as lazy when compared to your fellow bloggers.
- Every post should aim to be approx. 2000 words
- 1000 word minimum of quality content
Bad habit #2: Chunky paragraphs
No one can be bothered to read them.
Would you rather jump through hurdles or skip around them? The same goes for big paragraph blocks. Readers take the path of least resistance and when they see large blocks of words, they skip them.
- Break those bad boys up with bullet points or lists
- Write ‘bite-sized’, digestible paragraphs and sentences
- Format your piece of writing to be ‘scannable’
“A sandwich is a food typically consisting of vegetables, sliced cheese or meat, placed on or between slices of bread, or more generally any dish wherein two or more pieces of bread serve as a container or wrapper for another food type. The sandwich began as portable finger food in the Western world, though over time it has become prevalent worldwide.” (Wikipedia)
Layer food between 2+ pieces of bread and you’ve made a sandwich. They’re typically made with sliced:
The sandwich — the portable finger food of the West that won the world over. (Wikipedia). Which format encourages you to read the whole thing?
Bad habit #3: Talking about yourself too much
Less you you you, more them them them.
Your blog isn’t there for you to gloat. It’s there for you to give. The second your writing stops resonating with your reader is the moment you lose them. Save the self-indulgence for your own personal channels.
- Position your writing around WIIFM (‘What’s in it for me?’)
- Feature pronouns such as ‘you’ and ‘you’re’ more
“The effects of the drought on the global economy”
“How the drought affects your weekly grocery bill”
Which blog headline is more likely to offer you more value?
Bad habit #4: Big fancy words
Readers shouldn’t need the dictionary open in another tab.
Unless you’re writing a blog on behalf of your astrophysics department, ditch the big words. Too many grandiose, technical and/or multisyllabic (lots of syllables) can make your writing unreadable and often unbearable.
- Write conversationally
- Accompany big words with simple definitions
- Make the thesaurus your friend
- Know thy audience and speak to them accordingly
Bad habit #5: Too many exclamation marks
Have you missed the mark?
When you highlight lines in a textbook, you highlight one or two key phrases. Highlighting every sentence would defeat the whole purpose, right? Similarly, exclamation marks are used to emphasise key emotions e.g. anger. If you try to emphasise everything, you negate all emphasis entirely.
- Exercise restraint — use exclamation marks sparingly
- Deliver more punch with less or different punctuation
“Don’t use exclamation marks! They’re doing you more harm than good!!!”
“Exclamation marks — more harmful to your writing than you think.”
Which leaves a better impression of the writer/business?
Bad habit #6: SEO Paranoia
SEO-friendly doesn’t equate to reader-friendly.
If you follow the latest SEO best practices, your ranking should get boosted? Right? Wrong. You don’t earn traffic or boosted rankings through keywords or meta tags — or even blog posts.
You earn those through writing amazing, amazing stuff. Stuff so amazing people are more than happy to read and share.
- Write as you talk
- Take it easy on the SEO and avoid ‘keyword stuffing’
- Write first, optimise later
Bad habit #7: Playing it safe
No risk, no reward.
What’s the point if your blog sounds like everybody else’s? Safe copy doesn’t get read, shared or talked about.
- Use humour to your advantage
- Address something topical
- Ruffle some feathers (brand allowing)
- Tackle a left-of-field topic
- Tackle a common topic in a left-of-field way
“ How to persuade non-voters to vote”
“How to get Republicans to vote Hillary”
Which version engages better? Which one would you click on?
Bad habit #8: Overly-clever copy
Using clever copy isn’t always a smart move.
Clear vs clever. There are arguments for and against. As a writer, you should enjoy the freedom of being able to flex your wordsmith talents and have a little fun with it. After all, we just told you not to play it safe, right?
Clever copy only becomes an issue when it’s, well, not clever. If it’s not done ‘right’ clever copy has the tendency to:
- Alienate certain audience members
- Confuse/distract people
- Force them to scan or skip past your work
- Overly-clever copy runs the risk of you losing readers, or worse, your credibility.
Don’t forget: Readers are in a rush. If you make them work too hard to figure something out, they’ll go elsewhere for their fix.
- When in doubt, choose clear over clever
- Split test your work
- Ask others to assess your ‘readability score’
“Obi-Want: Are these the Androids you’re looking for?”
“The latest must-have Android phones”
What if you haven’t seen Star Wars? would you bother trying to understand it?
Bad habit #9: Topics that lack depth
Blog articles that don’t scratch the surface don’t leave a mark.
Readers seek valuable insights. A blog article that covers a topic too broadly won’t hold the attention of your reader which means it won’t get any attention for Google. Why? People have probably read it already.
- Get ultra-specific with your topic
- Thoroughly explore a niche subject
- Hit that 1000+ word count
“In today’s post, I’m going to share my thoughts on why bread tastes good.”
“In today’s post, I’m diving into the science behind why bread tastes good.”
At a glance, which lede already promises more value?
Bad habit #10: Poor proofreading
Your credibility is on the line.
We proofread this blog at least twenty times before we hit publish. Imagine reading this article and it was littered with spelling mistakes? What would that say about our competence and capabilities? A lot.
- Proofread then proofread again
- Get a fresh pair of eyes on your work
- Run your work through spellcheck or Grammarly
Guilty of any of these bad writing habits? Don’t be too hard on yourself. Make 2019 the year you break them.