A recipe for success: how to write a great blog
By Catherine McFarland • 14 Apr 2015
Ultimately, the purpose of a blog is to drive traffic to our website (where we publish all our blogs). It should inspire web visitors to continue on their journey and have a good look around. The cherry on the top is when we drive them to do something – like download an eBook or get in touch.
There are no hard and fast rules for blog writing. There are, however, a few simple guidelines outlined in this recipe that can help make a blog more entertaining, relevant and useful to your audience. The recipe should make it easier for you to write your blog, while helping us stay at the top of search engine rankings.
This is the thinking part. Before you put finger to key, make sure you have a clear idea in your head of what you want to communicate and why.
Then do your research. Take a look around at what other people have written on the subject. Check out competitors, journalists, analysts and other industry experts. Are there any interesting points/facts or stats you can draw from them?
Make sure you set yourself deadlines. Set one for your first draft. Draft it. Then leave it. Ideally overnight, so you can review it with fresh eyes the next day. This stops your blog becoming stale.
Number of portions
More important than the length of the blog is that the content is of high quality, clear and concise. That said, a good blog length is anything from 700 – 1,400 words.
Make sure you signpost your blog. You want to make it as navigable and as easy to read as possible. Break it up. As you can see here, there are clear headings for each section, so it’s easy for the reader to scan quickly, and work out where they want to go.
Use bullet points and numbering to help break it up.
Keep your sentences short. They’re much, much easier to read.
Eight essential ingredients of a great blog
- A theme: it isn’t necessary, but developing a theme for your blog can help bring it to life for your reader. For example, this blog uses the ‘recipe’ theme. But don’t force it if you’re not feeling it. It’s better to write clearly and simply than get tied up in a complicated analogy.
- A problem: one approach for a blog is to consider the problems our customers face and how we can solve them. A good start is to think about/find out the most common questions our customers are asking. This demonstrates our empathy and usefulness. It shows we understand our customers’ pains and we can actively help solve them.
- Insight: another approach is a thought-leadership piece. It positions us as experts in our industry, with a true, holistic understanding of industry issues. For example, you might want to write about how government red tape and poor tax breaks are hampering business growth.
- Topicality: if there’s something going on in the world with a wide audience appeal, use it to hook your audience in. For example, you might want to introduce your blog with a reference to the Rosetta comet landing or the Nobel Peace prizes, when they’re announced.
It could go something like this:
“How to collaborate effectively and securely in a fast-expanding universe
The Nobel Prize in Physics this year went to three astronomers who discovered that the universe is expanding at an even more accelerated pace than we thought. They saw distant stars that appeared to be swallowed by frozen nothingness long before their time.
Such breakneck speed is being mimicked here on earth. While the world is shrinking - with global communications bringing us all closer than ever - time is speeding up. We can operate 24/7 from wherever we are - on a massively growing selection of mobile devices. With ever growing and changing security risks.
So the challenge for a business is this: how do you keep your people productive and secure in such an environment?”
- A quote: inserting a relevant quote can add another dimensions to your blog. Be daring: use historical figures, great thinkers or politicians. They can help tell your story by reinforcing your point. Quotes pique the readers’ interest and encourages them to read another sentence.
For those of you who regularly read the Cloud Direct blog, you can probably tell I’m going through a bit of a Dr Seuss phase at the minute.
- Facts and stats: using third party sources can bring real credibility to your article. Plus, if it’s on-topic for your reader, they may well whisk it away for their own use.
For example, you might include a government statistic such as:
“According to the BIS, in 2013 87% of small businesses were victims of a cyber-attack”.
A reader might then present this statistic to their own organisation’s decision-maker if they want to convince them of the urgent need to sort out their business continuity / disaster recovery.
*Good sources are PwC, the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS), Gartner, Bloor and the FSB amongst many, many more. Check out relevant media or user groups on LinkedIn.
- Hyperlinks: include links to your sources and to relevant pages on the Cloud Direct website. Include no more than one link for every 100 words or Google will drop your blog ranking.
- A strong call to action: this is marketing jargon for finishing your blog with a clear indication of what you want your reader to do next. We use it to drive traffic to the website so we get them going on that journey I mentioned in the introduction.
If you aren’t sure about this part, don’t worry – your marketing team can easily work out the best place to take your readers.
“Always make the audience suffer as much as possible…” ~ Alfred Hitchcock
… is not what you want to achieve with your blog. Instead, you want to go more along the lines that John Henrik Clarke suggests when he says:
“A good teacher, like a good entertainer first must hold his audience's attention, then he can teach his lesson.”
Think of your audience while you’re planning and writing your blog. Who are you talking to? What makes them tick? In this case, our audience is our customers, so write with our customers in mind.
Your tone of voice
Write as if you’re talking to someone. Hear your own voice. Keep your tone professional yet lively. Authoritative yet questioning. Knowledgeable yet human.
(Ah, there’s our old friend Dr Seuss again).
Headlines and titles
To help SEO, make sure your titles are spot-on in terms of relevancy to your content. Google ranks title copy (words) more highly than body copy, so think about what search terms your audience will use when Googling. Include them in your title. This doesn’t have to impede with your theme.
Say you’ve chosen a fishing theme; you could write:
“A cloud vendor: choose your bait carefully”.
Throw away the recipe book!
If this all sounds a bit much, don’t worry. Your marketing team can take your draft and play around with it to shape it to standard. We can even work with your blog if you send us an outline with bullet points.
Content suggestions for your Cloud Direct blog
We’ll consider – and will be very grateful for – all ideas. Here are a few ideas that would work well:
For example: ‘10 easy steps to migrate your Exchange Server to the cloud’ or ‘A Tale of Two Cities: how IT can survive a merger’
For example: ‘The Heartbleed Bug: why you should care’
For example: ‘How to choose a cloud vendor’
What to do if you have a blog idea
If you’ve read this far, chances are you’re exactly the right person to jump into the blog-writing mix. Excellent.
So, if you have a blog idea, don’t delay! Instead:
Talk to someone in Marketing
Provide a synopsis for review of your blog in no more than 100 words. I’d suggest a couple of introductory sentences outlining your idea and why it is of interest. Then bullet three points that cover your proposed content.
Share this post