When I started HubSpot, I was a trained engineer with little writing experience. In the early days of the company, I could not create software. Instead, I spent a lot of time writing articles for our Marketing Blog. As an inexperienced writer, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it performed. Today, the blog has over 500,000 subscribers and over 10M new visitors each month.
The success of the blog convinced me that I suppressed brilliant writing skills for the last 20 years! My excitement led me to send a Thank You note to my eighth-grade teacher, Tom Brown, who helped me learn to write.
Emboldened with my newfound writing confidence, I wrote the Inbound Marketing Book with my co-founder Dharmesh Shah. When we submitted the final draft to a professional editor, I was confident she would send it back with minimal edits and high praise. Wrong. The document she returned had more red lines than anything I had ever seen in my life.
After many weeks of language crafting, we got it close to perfect. Upon its release in 2014, it was ranked #200 out of the 8 million books currently available on Amazon — a list led by notable writers such as Dan Brown and Stephen King.
I learned that you do not have to be a great writer to have a great book. The same goes for blogs. Non-writers can develop new skills and practices that turn your words and message from mediocre to excellent, and in this post, I’ll tell you how.
Blogging Tips for Non-Writers
Non-writers and great blogs are not mutually exclusive. If you have no formal writing education or experience, join the club. English is not the most popular Bachelor’s degree. There has been a 26% decrease in English degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions since 2011 while blogging has seen a 12% growth since 2015.
With the number of professional writers decreasing and the number of blogs increasing, we can deduce that the number of non-writers who blog is likely increasing.
Formal education, or the lack thereof, won’t stop you from running a successful blog. You’ll just need a few skills in your toolbelt.
When writing your blog, you need to:
- Select your audience and topics.
- Have a conversation.
- Include links to reputable websites (including your own).
- Make your content easy to digest.
- Use online writing assistants.
Let’s cover each of these in-depth.
1. Select your audience and topics.
Who is your audience? It is significantly easier to speak to someone when you know who they are, but it's impossible to know every person who reads your blog posts. This is where your buyer persona comes in. A buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer. Once you establish your audience and their needs, you can figure out your topics of conversation.
Keyword research should determine the content you share with your readers. Keywords are words and phrases people type or speak into search engines. There are multiple ways to conduct keyword research, but a typical place to start is by evaluating monthly search volume (MSV) for industry-related terms.
Monthly search volume is the total number of searches performed for a particular keyword in a month. An easy example could be the keyword research of a greeting card store. November searches would unsurprisingly tell you that the search volume for the keyword “Thanksgiving cards” is higher than the keyword “Easter cards.” These results, combined with research on keyword difficulty, will lead you to your target keywords for the month.
Once you establish your buyer persona and keywords, you can begin a conversation with our audience.
2. Have a conversation.
Your blog is not an opportunity to bring your high school English term paper to life. Trust me, you do not need to reference a thesaurus and pull out the longest words in the dictionary to get your point across. Been there, done that. Instead, imagine you are talking to a friend when you write a post. Be knowledgeable yet personable. Be authoritative yet relatable. Your readers don’t want to be talked down to. They want quality information they can understand from a credible source, and it is you've been granted the responsibility to provide it.
3. Include links to reputable websites (including your own).
As you can tell, there's no one rule for writing a great blog. Most of the rules about blogging aren’t even associated with writing. One example of this is link building.
Link building can boost the quality of your content and the credibility of your blog. Focus on interlinks and backlinks.
Interlinks are links that guide readers back to the content on your website. This gives your other content more exposure in a relevant way, plus it helps search engine site crawlers index more pages on your site. That's great news for your SEO efforts! Another rewarding benefit is extending the time readers spend on your website. When you use interlinks, you provide your readers with relevant resources to increase their knowledge on the subject. It boosts your credibility as a source, and the more credible your visitors find your blog, the more successful it will be.
There are endless amounts of information on the internet, but not all of it is credible and accurate. You can help readers find other great content by giving backlinks to reputable sites.
A backlink is a link from one website to another. If your blog links to another website, they have a backlink from you. If a website links to your content, you have one from them. But you might be wondering, why would you want to take traffic away from your blog?
In short, search engines like to see websites giving credit where it's due. Backlinks are a great way to substantiate your blog article so that the reader can learn more about your point of view.
The key to a strong backlink strategy is to prioritize quality over quantity. Build your content around information from reliable sources. Getting backlinks from other websites is not guaranteed, but you can increase your chances by creating quality content with the tips on this page.
4. Make your content easy to digest.
What you write is valuable — we know that. You also need to pay attention to how you write and present your information. No one wants to open a webpage to a sea of never-ending words trickling down the page. The important information will easily get lost. So will your reader. The amount of time spent on your blog is limited. Your goal is to keep their attention while giving them the information they want as easily as possible. To accomplish this, use:
Headings and Subheadings
Many readers do a visual scan of a webpage before they decide to dive deeper into the content. Here is where you will see the importance of headings and subheadings. Treat them as an outline or summary of your blog post. Use them to make your most significant points so readers can quickly determine the value of your information.
When presenting information to your readers, use lists wherever possible. Elaborate on your main points, and break up your text to make your content easier to comprehend and retain. Vary between using numbered lists and bullet points. Use numbered lists to prioritize the order and bullet points when there is no order of importance.
If your content allows it, use tables and charts. There are reasons for commonly adding these visuals to presentations. One, you can present the same information in a different, more exciting way. Two, you’re able to accommodate visual learners. Hundreds of words could be necessary to build your point, but a table will either supplement or summarize your information and break up the monotony of your text.
5. Use online writing assistants.
Fifteen years ago, the most writing assistance we received was from the red and green lines appearing in a Microsoft Word document. Now, there are plenty of tools to help improve your writing. Available options for free writing assistant software include Writefull, 1Checker, and Grammarly.
Grammarly, a popular spelling and grammar check tool, offers suggestions based on correctness, clarity, engagement, and delivery. The platform breaks your writing down into overall performance, readability, and vocabulary. Are you constantly confusing ‘than’ with ‘then?’ Do you need to double-check your use of ‘affect’ and ‘effect?’ Tools like Grammarly easily catch these minor mistakes to elevate your content.
The content written on your blog is not the only help you might need. Your blog content is strategic but so is optimizing your blog for SEO. While SEO is a long conversation that needs to take place for all content you put on the internet, another aspect where you can get help with your writing is your SEO title tag. The title tag appears as the name of your webpage on a search engine results page (SERPs) and is clickable to the link destination. CoSchedule, a marketing resource, offers its Headline Analyzer as a tool for creating better headlines that can result in increased SEO value, traffic, and social shares.
Great blogs don’t need great writers.
You don’t need a degree in English or creative writing to have a successful blog. You need identity and value. Establish who you’re writing to and what you have to say. Identify yourself as a knowledgeable and reliable source who brings value with your content and relevant content on the internet. Boost your blogs with visuals when necessary, and if you can’t proofread your content, have someone (or something) else do it for you.
Blogs need to be written with strategy. Use these tips to create yours.