Long-Form Blog Posting

One of the more exciting trends on the Internet of 2014 is a shift from short blog posts to long-form posting. Readers are tired of the same generic, rehashed content that pops up on dozens of blogs at the same time. They want unique information, and often that requires going in-depth.

Obviously, writing a 1,000-word (or longer) post is a rather different beast than coming up with a few 300-500 word articles. Here are five things to keep in mind:

  • Break It Up: If your readers wanted a massive, unbroken block of text, they’d curl up with a Kindle – or even an old-school book. For the most part, readers on the Internet want small, easily digestible chunks of content. If your post is longer than about 300 words, use subheadings, bullet points and images along with the text. If your blog is powered by WordPress, consider using the Pagination feature to break up very long posts into multiple pages. (I do this all the time on my other blog.)
  • Use Your Words Efficiently: Believe it or not, the word concise doesn’t have to mean short. A long-form blog post can still be concise if it uses words efficiently. Don’t waste space by rehashing the same points over and over again, and don’t use needlessly wordy constructions like “in my own personal opinion.” Every word you write needs to be carefully selected to inform and delight your readers.
  • Incorporate Multiple Sources: Likely the worst possible way to write a long-form blog post is to take a single shorter post and just spin it out over more words. A good rule of thumb is to do three times as much research as writing; that is, if you’re writing a 1,000-word post, plan on reading at least 3,000 words’ worth of sources. Bring only the most salient points from each into your post, and don’t forget to add your own spin on the ideas.
  • Do Original Research: This doesn’t apply to every single post, of course, but whenever possible you’ll want to give your readers a fresh perspective. Conduct an interview, cite the results of a little-known study or otherwise bring in information that hasn’t been recycled elsewhere.
  • Keep It Light: Here, I don’t mean light on content, I mean light in tone. The last thing anyone wants to do is trudge through yet another boring, point-by-point, no-nonsense article. Don’t be afraid to be conversational, casual, even witty. Use personal anecdotes and off-the-wall ideas. Believe me, your readers will appreciate it.

Writing a long-form blog post may seem like a monumental task, but if done well, it’s worth the effort. Plan ahead, do your homework and keep these tips in mind to make your content fresh and engaging.

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Writing an About Us Page

No matter what industry you’re in, there’s one component of your website that’s absolutely critical: your ‘About Us’ page. Search engines love to see them, and readers love to connect with the people on your team. Here’s what you need to include:

  • A Little History: If your company is fairly new, play up your fresh ideas and cutting-edge techniques. If you’ve been around a while, talk about your experience and legions of satisfied customers. Either way, let us know where your company came from, but don’t overdo it. A paragraph is plenty.
  • Your Services: There’s no need to go into great detail on an About Us page – that’s what a Services page is for – but don’t forget to talk about your business in at least some detail. Your readers will start to think of you as an expert in your field.
  • Motto or Slogan: Your company is more than just a service provider. There’s some unique philosophy that guides your business, and this is a perfect place to share it. Just keep it short: no more than a sentence or two.
  • Area Keywords: For SEO purposes, it’s always good to include your service area as a key phrase. Moreover, you’ll connect more directly with your likely customers and establish yourself as a local expert.
  • First- and Second-Person: It’s called an About Us page, not an About (Company Name) page, and for good reason.  Use “we,” “us” and “our” to describe your company and “you” and “your” when addressing your readers. Inclusive language helps to build relationships with your customers.

Do all that in about 300 words, and you have another tool to help your company bring in and connect with customers.

Top of the Page

If you’re looking to hook visitors to your website, you’ll quickly run into a pretty serious issue: They have short attention spans. Amazingly, a high percentage of Web users don’t even bother scrolling down when they first visit a page. The only way to catch their attention is to make the words ‘above the fold’ count.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Attention-Grabbing Titles: This may be a question, a surprising statement or just a catchy phrase, but do something to set your content apart from the rest of the Internet.
  • Lists: Try sneaking the first item or two of a list above the fold. Once visitors see the beginning of a list, they’ll want to read to the end.
  • No Fluff: Avoid filler phrases such as “for all intents and purposes.” Trim down wordy constructions: “In our opinion” becomes “we believe.”
  • Informative Content: Since you’re not using filler, you’ll need to fill the top of the page with actual information. This isn’t the place for in-depth descriptions, though: Hit each point quickly and move on to the next one.
  • Make it Perfect: It’s cliche, but you really don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Those first words your customers read need to ooze professionalism, so make sure they’re well-written and error-free.

Filling your website with high-quality content is great, but it’s meaningless if your visitors never actually see that content. Pay extra attention to the top of the page, and you’ll encourage as many as possible to keep reading.

Content Ideas for a Company Blog

There’s no better way to get your website noticed than by filling it with great content, and one of the best ways to add more to your online presence is with a great company blog. Of course, to reap the benefits of that blog, it needs to be updated and updated often. In my experience, the toughest thing about maintaining a blog isn’t the actual writing; it’s coming up with things to write about. Here are five great ways to come up with content for your blog.

Frequently Asked Questions: If you’ve been in your field for a while, odds are good that people already look to you as an resource. Whether they’re clients, professional associates or friends and family, they come to you whenever they have questions about topics related to your business. Look to every question as an opportunity; make a mental (or physical) note and turn the answer into a blog post.

Industry News: Remember, you’re an expert in your field. When there’s a change in regulations, a new product hitting the market or any other major development, it’s your job to explain to your readers how that change will affect their lives. Cut through as much of the industry jargon as possible to make the news understandable to lay readers.

How-To Articles: There’s no better way to build relationships with your customers than to teach them something valuable.  Clear, step-by-step instructions are good; pictures and diagrams to make the content come alive are even better. Don’t forget to remind your readers that they can always contact you for more information.

Employee Spotlights: Your website isn’t just a way to find new customers; it’s a tool to help you build and maintain relationships with your existing customers. People can’t build relationships with text on a screen; they need to meet other people! Highlight one of your employees and his or her contributions to the company; include both a photo and a brief bio. Potential and returning customers alike will feel as though they’re really getting to know your team.

Local Connections: Not everything on your blog has to be directly related to your business. Writing about your community or service area is a great way to connect with your customers; as a bonus, it’s an opportunity to slip in location-specific keywords. Just be sure to include a paragraph or two about your company at the end.

Writing Great Instructions

When you’re hiring a copywriter, one of the things you’ll need to provide is a set of instructions. Those instructions don’t need to be overly formal; just saying “I need a blog post on the health benefits of brushing your teeth” works. A detailed, point-by-point explanation of exactly what you want in the article also works. It all depends on how stringent your requirements are and how you best communicate said requirements.

Whether you prefer short or long instructions, though, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

Do tell me what to write.  That’s the obvious one: I can’t give you the content you need if I don’t understand your content needs. Be specific; there’s no such thing as too much information.

Don’t tell me how to write. This isn’t an issue with most clients, but now and again I’ll run into someone who feels the need to, for instance, explain how to write a paragraph. That level of micromanagement really isn’t necessary.

Do give me style information. My default is AP (Associated Press) style, which is the standard for most online content writing. If you want me to deviate from AP (for instance, to add serial commas), let me know. If you’d like me to use a different style guide, let me know. If you have your own style guide, share it with me!

Do give me examples. If you have an established website, blog or publication with plenty of existing content, I can match the style and tone. If you don’t, see if you can find another site with the sort of content you’d like. I can work without examples, but it’s easier to stay on the same page if we start off looking at the same thing.

Don’t be afraid to add more as you go. Instructions aren’t a “fire and forget” measure; they’re the start of ongoing communication between an author and a client. If you think of something that wasn’t in the original instructions, let me know and I’l add it in. If I miss something in the instructions, let me know and I’ll fix the issue. It’s really okay.