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April 15, 2014

8 Things That Trip You Up in Blogging (And How to Get Back on Your Feet)

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trip-fall-stumble-shoelaces-resizedA lot goes into a blog post -- which is also why there's a lot that can trip you up when you're writing one. Am I right, or am I right?

To keep you on your feet, we've compiled some of the most common things that can make you stumble during the blogging process ... and ways to maintain your balance. 

I have nothing against standing desks, but sitting down while you blog also helps ;-)

8 Things That Can Trip You Up When You're Blogging

1) Idea Generation/Writer's Block: "What Should I Blog About?"

This is often the most challenging hurdle to overcome, and yet even when you do decide on a topic for your next blog post, the topic itself can be the biggest trigger for the dreaded writer's block. The key to coming up with the right idea and preventing it from giving you writer's block is to choose a topic that is A) relevant and interesting to your target audience, and B) comfortable for you to write about.

To make this easier on you, we've even created a free tool -- our Blog Topic Generator. Just enter a few keywords that are both relevant for your particular target audience and within your comfort zone, and the tool will spit out a week's worth of relevant blog post ideas in a matter of seconds for you to choose from. 

2) Pleasing Stakeholders: "Can I Even Blog About This?"

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Writing for a company publication is hard. Damn hard. In fact, even when you choose a topic you're passionate about writing (take that, writer's block!), you might actually find that the post is off-limits for one of the following reasons:

  • The content might rub stakeholders -- value-added resellers, customers, co-marketing partners, influencers, investors, etc. -- the wrong way.
  • The content is slightly off-brand. It conflicts with the company's brand messaging.
  • The content might open up the business for unnecessary criticism.
  • The content highlights weaknesses in the company's products/services/vision/mission.
  • The content's topic is controversial and will reflect back on the company -- not just the writer.

Unfortunately, there is no magical solution to this trip-up. The important thing is to be aware of the topics that are off-limits for your particular company, and steer clear of or approach them with sensitivity when you're writing. There's nothing worse than spending the time writing a full post only to have it preemptively shot down by your boss -- or getting you sent to the doghouse once it's already been published.

3) Incorporating Data: "Is This Stat Good Enough? Am I Attributing it Properly?"

Incorporating relevant data can really spice up your content: It adds credibility to the points you make, increases your content's quality and authority, and can even make your writing more interesting to the reader. That said, the process of finding the right data (and properly attributing it), can be quite a pain in the butt, so here are a few tips ...

  • Be critical about your sources. Is the source credible/authoritative? How was the data compiled? What's the sample size like? If it seems sub-par, look for something else.
  • Make sure it's relevant. Does it adequately support the points you're trying to make? Don't stretch it. When was the research conducted? The more recent, the better.
  • Attribute the original source. In other words, the source reporting the data isn't necessarily the source that generated the data. Mashable may be reporting it, but chances are Mashable didn't conduct the study. Do your due diligence to identify and properly credit the original source. This guide can help you with that.

4) Formatting: "Is This Reader Friendly?"

You'd be surprised how often formatting gets overlooked in blogging. We often receive guest contributions with little to no formatting. But if you've ever clicked on a blog post and been greeted but a big honkin' block of text, you probably "get" how uninviting an unformatted post is. It may have even been so uninviting that you moved on to something else on the web without bothering to read it. 

Don't let that be your posts' fate. To make your blog content considerably more reader friendly, break up your copy with headers, paragraph breaks, bulleted lists, bolded text, and when relevant -- images. Which leads me to numero cinco ... 

5) Image Selection: "Can I Use This Image?" 

Choosing a relevant yet compelling image for your blog post can go one of two ways: It can be a lot of fun (i.e. it's like the casual shopping equivalent of the blogging world), or it can be extremely agonizing (i.e. it's like the last minute, "I need an appropriate dress for my 'meet my boyfriend's parents for the first time' dinner tonight and all I'm finding are formal gowns or mini dresses" equivalent of the blogging world). Add on the train wreck that is copyright on the internet right now, and things get even more difficult. 

Don't panic. This blog post covers everything you need to consider when choosing blog post images -- from quality and relevancy, to sizing and optimization, to copyright infringement. 

6) Title Selection: "Is This Title Accurate/Catchy Enough?" 

I cannot stress this more: The title you choose for your post is extremely critical. It's your post's first impression on potential readers in practically every distribution channel -- email, social media, search. As a result, choosing something that not only entices people to click but also delivers on the content it promises is vitally important. 

That's also probably why it can be so tricky -- making sure your title is sexy enough to garner clickthroughs but also accurate enough to reflect the content within is no small feat. To help you overcome this hurdle, check out this formula for writing kick-ass blog titles. There are also some great takeaways in this post featuring 11 revealing title tests

7) Call-to-Action (CTA) Selection: "Which CTA Should I Use?"

If you're blogging for business, every post you publish should come with a next step: a call-to-action for the reader to do something, whether it be to download an ebook for lead generation, register for an upcoming event, sign up for a product webinar for lead qualification, etc. If you're drinking the inbound marketing Kool-Aid, chances are you have a variety of different offers to promote to your blog readers. But which should it be?

As it turns out, there are a few things to consider when it comes to blog CTA selection -- the stages of the marketing and sales funnel, the target persona of the content, the post's subject matter, the skill level of the target reader, clickthrough and conversion rates of your offers. To understand how these different variables should factor into your decision, we've published this guide to picking the perfect CTA for every blog post. Check it out.

8) Style, Grammar, Punctuation, Usage, Editing: "Is This Written Well?"

While a catchy title can help you drive that initial traffic to your post, the only way you'll get readers to stick around is through the content itself. Produce a poorly written piece of crap, and all the work you've done to get people there in the first place will go down the drain. Here are some helpful resources to prevent you from creating crappy content: 

What else trips you up when you're blogging? How do you stay (or get back up) on your feet?

free guide: marketer's guide to writing well

                                     

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