Some 350 million people tweet messages condensed into 140 characters or less every day. Social networking has given voice to pretty much anyone who wants to say anything to millions of potential readers. My point is that getting your message out to millions of readers has never been easier, nor has it ever been as critical to the marketing success of the businesses or publications who hired you to write and SEO their blogs.
But there are some guidelines if you want your blogs to succeed.
Although we all know blogs are marketing tools, when you’re blogging for business the best approach is a journalistic one. Why is that you ask? Because a journalistic approach is informative; people read blogs to get useful information. Blog readers don’t go there to be hoodwinked into buying your product or services under the guise of “informational article.” They’re reading your blog because they want to learn something they don’t already know; give them something illuminating and helpful they can use, and you will be remembered as credible. Hyper-linking keywords to your website within the blog should be as close as it gets to selling your readers anything.
Choosing your blogging voice will depend on your audience. Short, sweet and unpretentious is a safe way to deliver a message that people will read. Most folks tend to read on the fly, on their smart phones, so economy is important. They want to absorb the message in three minutes or less. They usually know in 10 seconds if it’s worth reading all the way through. If you are blogging about a new product or a time-sensitive happening, keep it informational, limited to 300-400 words max, and hyperlink a keyword to the associated website page where they can get the full-on skinny and while they’re at it, find the stuff you’re selling. For example:
Finding a professional press release writer who is as adept with SEO as they are with AP Style writing guidelines is often easier said than done. In order to compete, you have to remember that an effective press release must be search engine optimized, or your audience won’t find it.
Notice I never name my company in the blog? I simply hyperlink keywords to the site and let the magic begin. I call it credibility marketing because my readers are being totally aroused by my expertise, and not being turned off with obvious sales pitches. I also make sure my blogs are enlightening, fresh, and timely.
If you’re writing a personal blog, you have a lot more freedom to play than you have writing corporate blogs; you can have fun with the content, choose your words with less hesitation, but still you must consider your audience if you want to actually be read. If you’re blogging about, say, Nancy Grace or dashboard bobble heads, try to stick with one- or two-syllable words and short paragraphs. If your personal blog is focused on Bayes’ Rules or the final season of “Six Feet Under,” you can indulge your passion for waxing cerebral.
I used to have an editor who always forced me to dummy down my copy, and although I do admit to occasional bouts of Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness (only when it’s fittin’), it’s a no-no in news and business writing. So she was right, sort of. But when she started telling me to find simpler words for terms like “habitat” and “prestigious”, I argued; our readers were intelligent and could be trusted with most words, I’d tell her.
So then I would go ahead and replace the words called into question with simpler words, all the while giving her the invisible finger. Bright side, it did force me to tighten my writing style for general audiences, which really is a gift.
But personal blogging is different. There is no better opportunity–-at least no better readily available, instantly publishable opportunity–-to talk up a topic creatively and in your own voice. Your audience may not be looking for you to dummy down the message, especially if your blog focuses on a specialized topic that resonates with a specific audience. I’d bet money that most specialized blog readers want content written in their specialized language (Star Trek fans for instance, or French wine aficionados,) and are hoping to actually learn something they didn’t already know before they read your blog; and hey, who doesn’t love to learn a new word on any given day, amiright?
OK, so there is something to the old adage, know your audience. Don’t go choosing a fancy word because you think it makes you look smart (but use it if it makes you look thin, natch). If a simpler word packs the same punch, use it unless the fancy word is more appropriate to the tone of your blog (see: sesquipedalian loquaciousness). If the fancy word really summarizes a point better than any other, go for it provided you are absolutely sure you are using it correctly. Let your readers look it up if they have to (or hyperlink to the dictionary definition if the word is particularly obscure). Give your reader the benefit of the doubt. In fact, if the sentence is structured properly, most likely the word’s meaning will be self-evident.
For instance, “the wedding was held at a tony club in one of Napa’s oldest family owned vineyards.”
Sure, I could say the wedding was held at the high-class club or the elegant club, or even the exclusive club, but tony tells the reader that this club has an aristocratic, highbrow quality. Lindsey Lohan wouldn’t be invited, but if she showed up, she would be treated impeccably. You won’t get those subtle references from elegant or exclusive.
Be bold, trust your instincts, and challenge your readers a bit if it feels right. Although the rule of thumb for bloggers should be to keep it simple so your readers can focus on the message and not the vocabulary, sometimes a well-chosen idiom does trump its bland counterpart. Just remember it’s a very fine line between ‘meaningfulness’ and mere pretension.
Keep honing your craft, and eventually your instincts will help develop the great blogger in you.