One of the fastest ways to jumpstart the content creation process is to use a proven framework or type of blog post and apply it to your business. Here are ten time-tested blog post formats that can easily be adapted to your industry or focus area:
- Other Blogs: No matter how obscure your niche might be, it’s highly probably that someone’s already written about it. This is especially true if you operate a local business in a niche that’s very common in other cities. One of the quickest paths to finding your voice and getting into the groove of blogging is to use the work of others for inspiration. If you want to create the leading organic gardening blog in Phoenix, you’ll probably find similar sites in other cities to get ideas from.
- BLOGGING RESOURCE: Use Technorati and Google Blog Search to Find Similar Blogs
- Technorati is a great tool for finding content-rich blogs in your niche. Simply go to http://technorati.com and search for blogs within any topic area. After clicking on the search icon, you’ll see a list of relevant results, along with their “Technorati Rank” (a ranking of all blogs on Technorati) and “Authority Score,” which is Technorati’s own method of measuring the relative authority of listed blogs.
- Content Curation: Curation is simply collecting content related to your niche, summarizing it, and delivering it to your audience with your own twist. Content curation is a shortcut when compared with generating your own content from scratch. Nonetheless, your audience will greatly appreciate the work you’ve done in “filtering” and condensing information for them. Many of the Web’s largest media sites, bloggers, and companies use content curation (also called aggregation) as their prime source of new content. When you think about it, most news companies don’t write the news, they simply present the information with their own unique voice and perspective that resonates with their audience.
- If you’re a new blogger or content writer, use content curation as your starting point. You already have passion and expertise in your niche. Now all you need to do is stay abreast of industry trends and new content (using Google alerts, and your RSS reader—covered in Chapter 14) and report the “key takeaways” to your audience. Your readers will care less about the original source of the valuable content than they’ll remember they got it from you.
- Customer Profiles: There are few easier or more effective forms of content than real-life examples of customers using your products or services. This applies to any form of business, from pizza shops to podiatrists. Within your editorial calendar, be sure to add one or more case studies or customer profile articles. The simplest way to generate customer-focused content is to interview the customer(s) about their business/family, the challenges or needs they faced, and how your company met those needs. Customer profile articles resonate on many psychological levels, establishing social proof, authority, and trust at the same time.
- Expert Interviews: What better way to present highly valuable content focused on a topic your readers find important than to interview an expert? Regardless of your business niche, there are likely several categories of topics you could be writing about. Interviewing an expert allows you to “go deep” and examine nuances of your subject matter that you might not know. Most experts will gladly do interviews, as they love the additional exposure (be sure to include a link to experts’ sites as a “thank you”).
- There’s no category of business where expert interviews wouldn’t apply. For example, a pizza shop owner could interview a wine expert on the best wines to pair with Italian pies. A divorce lawyer could interview a relationship or family counselor, and a real estate agent could interview a home decorator or feng shui specialist. When you present valuable content from an expert, you share a bit of their expertise by proxy in the eyes of your audience.
- How To’s: Instructional content is the cornerstone of education-based content marketing. You can come up with five, ten or even twenty “how to” questions that you commonly hear from customers. Simply add them to your Content Road Map and create your first great “step-by-step” blog today. Your audience will naturally reciprocate by sharing and recommending your content and, often, even frequenting your business.
- Top 10 Lists: Seeing content presented in lists gives readers a sense of value and focus, piquing their curiosity in the process. A few months ago, I created a simple video, which I converted into a Slideshare Presentation entitled “Top 10 Small Business Web Design Mistakes“. This presentation made the front page of Slideshare, gaining over 3,100 views right off the bat. Had I titled the presentation “Several Web Design Mistakes,” the impact would have been notably smaller.
- Leveraging Pop Culture: We’re all more aware of celebrities, reality stars, and media goings-on than we’d care to admit. Your audience will likely respond to content that relates your niche to pop culture and hot topics in the media. To paraphrase the great Frank Kern, “Great marketing is about entering the conversation that’s already going on in the client’s mind.” Imagine the impact of articles titled “10 Affordable Ways to Dress Better Than Kim Kardashian,” for a women’s clothing retailer, or, “The Top 10 Celebrity Getaways You Can Afford,” for a travel agent.
- Ratings and Reviews: One of the by-products of becoming an authority in your niche is that your audience will value your opinion. Publishing ratings and reviews is one of the most effective ways to leverage your expertise and add value to your audience. All you need to do is consider which purchases your audience is likely to make and help them by providing insights into popular options. An auto mechanic can review tires, a barbershop shampoo, and a dog trainer flea meds. Make a list of the top “corollary” decisions made by your customers and create your first “2013 ___________Reviews” article.
- Company Info: Giving your readers a glimpse into your company can go a long way toward converting visitors into buyers. Whether focused on the key ingredients of your products, unique processes, or even key members of your team, company-focused articles are a theme you should draw from. Start with a “Behind the Scenes” or “How We Make _________” article and go from there.
- KEY CONCEPT: Babies and Kittens Aren’t Just for Politicians Anymore
- One of the best ways to engage, connect, and build trust with your audience is by incorporating your personal life into your content. This can include hobbies, interests, and even family, as long as you are comfortable with it.
- At the end of the day, we’re people: brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers, and pet owners. For most of us, these roles play a larger role in our lives than our jobs do. Instead of limiting your content to the subject matter at hand, throw in some personal details, photos, or anecdotes. By establishing a connection on a personal level, your content will certainly STAND OUT from all your competitors’ “business-only” websites and blogs.
- Industry News: Gathering and reporting events and news related to your niche market is a great way to stay in contact with your readers. Close cousins to curated content, industry news posts require little more than staying abreast of and creating content covering newsworthy happenings that your audience finds interesting and useful (videos work great for this).
Once you’ve written a handful of blog posts, you’ll find your own voice and never look back. The key is to just get started. One thing we producers of content have in common is that our first stuff usually stinks, at least in our own eyes. But without these first few “ducks,” you’ll never grow into the confident and prolific swan of a blogger you aim to be. The key to blogging is to write engaging content that addresses the questions and needs of your target audience. Your articles should be focused on them and written in a conversational and personal tone, allowing your engaging personality to shine through and establish a connection.
Recently I went surfing for the first time. I felt and looked like an injured turtle in a washing machine. But after hitting the waves just a few more times, I began to see that one day, I might actually stand up and ride a wave. The same goes for writing. Just as watching surfing videos on YouTube won’t suddenly give me the skills to hang ten, reading all the copywriting books in the world can’t replace a few hours of placing pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and bringing your message to life. Take action.
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