This week I’m sorting through some of my business blogging pet peeves. From my experience, this list details all of the blog booby traps that businesses face. If you run a business blog, read this list to avoid things like:
- Trying to sound smart instead of being smart (This one really gets under my skin)
- Believing that using anonymous authors or catch-all labels like “The XYX team” is a good idea
- Allowing your agency to create your editorial calendar and other outsourcing no-no’
- The one tactic that works like “my momma’s fried chicken on a Sunday afternoon”
- The boneheaded mistake that will turn your blog into a ghost town.
...And about 15 other choice nuggets of wisdom for my corporate cousins. Here we go...
Writing for the wrong audience
Your executive management team isn’t your audience. The mythical perfect prospect isn’t your reader either. Your blog should target people who look and act like your current customers. Many business blogs are stuck in neutral because someone wants to write articles that “look smart” rather than meeting the needs of real readers.
Cut and Paste Content
Resist the urge to “repurpose” press releases and marketing literature for your blog. Passing this information off as useful, relevant, and timely content will permanently lose readers. Always write content that is customized for your blog audience.
Blogs are supposed to show the personable, conversational, and open side of your brand. Readers are looking for personality and life when they visit. Don’t disappoint them with boring website graphic hand-me-downs. Use a custom design that shows the people behind the logos.
Skittish and unpredictable publishing is the sucking chest wound of business blogging. Nothing says “I don’t care” like leaving your blog dormant for weeks at a time. Set a publishing frequency (i.e. once a week) and stick to it no matter what. Tie incentives to publishing quality content on time.
“Me, Me, Me” Content
Disguising product pitches as blog posts won’t work. Your readers have evolved state-of-the-art advertising radars. They can sniff out ham-handed attempts at stealth marketing like a pig sniffing for truffles. Help, celebrate, and share interesting information. Sales will come once you’ve built trust.
Outsourcing Your Editorial Calendar
In my experience, 80% of blogging missteps are traced back to bad editorial calendars. Who is writing your editorial calendar? Is it your agency? If so you are making a potentially expensive mistake.Your editorial calendar is the command-center for your blog. Your calendar reflects your priorities and sets the editorial tone for the year. Developing an effective editorial calendar should be the FIRST skill your organization masters.
Writing too little
I’m not a fan of “epic”, 1,000+ word, posts. I don’t think they get read. Tiny posts (200 words or less) are equally pointless. Blog readers want the complete story delivered efficiently. It’s hard to be “complete” when you only use 175 words. If your writing resources are stretched for time then write "Blog Shorts" that are quick, focused, and easy to write.
Writing about the wrong topic
Crawl inside your reader’s head and be brutally honest about what they want. Remember that your content is competing with facebook updates, boingboing, YouTube, and other other “bored at work” content. Don’t get bullied into writing about the 35 types of machine lubricant when you know that no one will read it.
Turning off Comments
Imagine if you came to my office and I said, “I’ll do the talking. I’m not interested in what you have to say.” Wouldn’t work right? This is the exact message you are sending when you turn off comments.
Not Answering Comments
Answer every comment that requires a response, this includes: questions, different points of view, and thoughtful responses from readers.
Not Tracking Performance
What’s the point of investing time and money in your blog and not tracking its performance? Trick question - there is no point. On day one your blog should be equipped with tracking tags from your favorite web analytics software. Decide which goals are most important and what metrics are the best indicator of performance - before you write a single post.
Writing with a Pole Up Your Butt
Unfortunately I’ve known to many marketing types who believe that making something sound complicated is a smart strategy. No. It’s dumb. Clear and concise communication is smart. Trust me.
(Seriously, I was once criticized for making something sound too simple).
Ignoring photos, videos, and illustrations
Accenting your text with well-chosen photos, video, and illustrations will heighten interest in your blog post. Select graphics that feel authentic to your readers. Stock photography is “corporate safe” but also “corporate boring”. Use tools like PhotoPin to find graphics that are fresh and free to use.
The search engines matter. Brian Clark tweeted that Content + Social + Search = Content Marketing. He’s right. Use a solid search engine keyword tool and see what words your audience is using to research your product. Create helpful content around those keywords. This works like my momma’s fried chicken on a summer sunday.
Publishing too much
Publish as much quality content as you can. The key word is quality. For 99% of businesses this means publishing 1-2 posts a week. This isn’t too much for your readers and won’t strain your internal resources. Publishing 10x a day makes sense if you are a media company (like Mashable), or a War of Warcraft addict.
Separating Your Blog From Your Website
There are some excellent search engine optimization reasons for having your blog and website share the same domain. I love SEO but I don’t want to bore you to tears so read this excellent article from Nick Stamoulis. The short version is put your blog and website on the same domain. Tuck your blog into a folder to get maximum search engine love.
Not promoting your posts
Let everyone know when you have a new post. Waiting for customers and prospects to find your posts will turn your blog into a ghost town. Promote your blog on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and send an email to your customers. Great content shines when everyone can see it.
Associate your blog posts with real people. If Pam wrote it, give Pam credit for writing it. Don’t outthink yourself by attributing it to the “XYZ Team”. I understand why some businesses would prefer not giving credit to individual authors.They wonder if they are creating a ego-driven monster that will outshine their brand. If this is the case then you’ve got a bigger problem that won’t be solved by your blog. Others wonder what to do when a prolific author leaves the company. In that case, attribute the articles to someone who will take over comment responses.
Depending on Feedburner for Email
Feedburner provided an easy way to contact RSS subscribers via email when a new post was published. The problem is that Feedburner is a low-end, basic tool with very little flexibility. Instead, use Aweber, Mailchimp to handle sending your new blog post by email. With these services you can add your business branding to the emails and get good tracking information.
Blogging without a framework
Telling someone to write a blog post without clear guidance on structure is cruel and unusual punishment. A quick scan of corporate blogs proves that many writers are being thrown assignments without any advice on best practices. You can immediately increase blog post quality by laying out a simple step-by-step template for writing a good blog post. (Here’s an example).