Blogging | 08/17/2016
7 Tips for Writing Content-Rich Blogs Your Readers Will Love You For
I was talking to a client recently whose website we are redesigning. His firm has had the same site for seven or eight years, so they realized it’s time for an update. Pretty early on in the process, I asked him how much of their current site’s copy he wanted to keep and how much of it he wanted to kill in the redesign.
“I probably only want to keep around 30%,” he responded.
Most clients are a little more content than that with their old site—they just want to give it a new look and update the content, often keeping 50% or more. I asked him why he disliked so much of his current site’s content.
“It doesn’t actually say anything,” he said. “There’s no meat to it.”
I read through his site and found that he was right. The site described his firm’s services in broad terms that failed to give the reader a clear picture of what they did. As an editor, I’ve run into this kind of writing before. It usually means the person who wrote it didn’t know enough about the subject at hand, so they tried to avoid specifics as much as possible, resulting in copy that basically says nothing.
After reading through his website, I could tell that his company was an advisory firm, but I couldn’t tell you much beyond that.
That got me thinking. I read and write a lot of blogs, and I’ve read (and written) plenty of less-than-great ones in my day.
So how can you make sure your blogs actually say something? How can you keep them meaty? Here are seven ways:
1. Make Sure You Understand the Subject You’re Writing About
I have never personally transferred a Roth IRA to a 401k, so I am definitely not the person to write a how-to. I try to stay a little more within my wheelhouse. If you aren’t sure how to write out your thoughts, get some help.
This one can be tough to abide by. I’ve caught myself halfway through a couple blogs writing vague descriptions about things I don’t have any business explaining to other people. The best solution at that point is to either put it on pause and do some research or trash it and write about something you know a little better.
2. Do a Second Pass for Content
Once you’ve finished going back over your blog posts to check for grammar and spelling mistakes (which you do, right?), go back through your writing and do The Meat Test. Make sure you’re conveying actionable information that your readers will find interesting.
Consider the following excerpt: “When you transfer a Roth IRA over to a 401k, it’s important that you have everything in order. If something is out of order, then things will not go well.”
Do you know more after reading that than you did before? No. Of course “things” won’t go well if “something” is out of order. That’s true of everything. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Avoid Empty Words
I used to teach sixth grade and I saw the words “things” and “stuff” in writing all the time. Both words basically mean the writer doesn’t know the technical word for what they’re talking about, so they are using broad, empty words. Writers who find themselves using those two words a lot should probably learn a little more about the subject at hand.
But empty words for advisors extend beyond that. The following words are okay when used every now and then, but I have seen blogs and websites that rely so heavily on these words that they don’t actually convey any concrete meaning.
- Solutions: “We offer solutions for your financial planning needs…”
- Approach: “Through our dedicated approach to retirement-minded investors…”
- Resources: “We provide you with the resources you need…”
Instead of using these empty words, get specific. What form do those solutions come in? What is so special about your approach? What kind of resources do you provide?
4. Tell a Specific Story
The difference between a specific story and a broad story is the difference between a memorable passage and a forgettable one. Consider my story from the beginning of this blog. If I had just said, “A lot of our clients come to us complaining about fluffy website copy,” it wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable. By zeroing in on one specific story that happened recently, I was able to present a single narrative, which sticks with readers longer than broad-speak.
5. Don’t Waste Time Explaining the Obvious
My cousin is a high school teacher and is currently working toward a master’s degree in something education-y. He shared an excerpt from one of his textbooks with me the other day where the author had taken an entire page to explain how much teenagers use cell phones these days. It had statistics on text messages, pictures, and social media. All that to say that teenagers are fans of cell phones.
My cousin was pretty unimpressed that his graduate-level textbook was wasting his time like that. Did they think the students in this class lived under a rock? If they had considered their audience, the authors would have realized how silly it was to include that information.
Try to keep that rule in mind with your blog: If what you’re talking about is common knowledge, you probably don’t need to explain it. It’s just fluff that gets in the way of real content.
6. Don’t Write for Writing’s Sake
Yes, websites with regularly updated blogs get considerably more hits. Yes, you want to get more hits on your website. But if you’re just writing for the sake of having a regularly updated blog, it will show. And when it shows, your readers will either call you out or just not come back.
Before you sit down to write, plan out what you are going to say using a content calendar. Your content will be more focused and your readers will thank you.
7. Ask Yourself Three Questions
- Is it actionable?
- Is it useful?
- Is it worth saying?
If the answer to all three questions is something other than yes, then you’re better off spending your time writing something else.
Want help with your blogging strategy? Drop us a line.
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