Content Marketing Trainer, 5+ Years of Project Management and Digital Marketing Experience
October 9th, 2020
Business blog mistakes you can't afford to make
Focusing on yourself
Forgetting SEO best practices
Not considering user experience
Writing for too general of an audience
Using unnecessary buzzwords and jargon
Not considering next steps as a part of your strategy
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a little bit (okay, more than a little bit) of a fitness nut.
When I’m not coaching my IMPACT clients on creating revenue-driving content, I am one of those super weird people who actually enjoys working out and questioning what I’m doing with my life as my coach yells at me to do burpees at 6:00 am.
The sweat, the high — it’s just amazing. If you called me a CrossFit Kool-Aid drinker, I probably couldn’t argue with you.
But quick story: I haven't always been into CrossFit. For the longest time, I avoided trying it (as much as I secretly wanted to) because I thought it was a total waste of money.
My brain couldn’t find a way to justify shoveling out nearly $200 per month on a membership when I could just do the WOD (workout of the day) on my own at home since it’s always posted online.
“I got this down on my own,” I thought. “Who needs those CrossFit Kool-Aid ‘cool’ kids anyway?”
However, my results weren’t getting me where I wanted to be. And the excitement about working out just wasn’t there. I didn’t feel good.
One day I noticed my local gym was offering a six-week discounted membership trial and I decided to take the leap. I was so pumped. I didn’t miss a single 5:30am class, and I loved every minute of it — the community, camaraderie, the feeling of lying on the floor exhausted at the end of the workout.
Even though they were group classes, it felt like I was getting personalized attention and coaching for what I was doing wrong and what I could do better; what mistakes I was making. I was finally seeing the results I wanted.
Coaching my content clients works much the same way.
In working with dozens of clients across industries I didn’t even know existed (think, blast resistant building manufacturers), there are some mistakes that I've seen made over and over again. And the thing is, dear reader, you don’t have to make the same mistakes.
That’s exactly what we’ll dive into. Think of me as your coach — I’m not here to bash you for having bad form, because we’ve all been there, I get it. And shaming does no one any good. So let’s walk through the top mistakes, why you’re probably doing it, what the potential consequences are of it, and what proper form for your blog looks like.
1. Focusing on yourself
For the longest time, blogging and content marketing was just about chasing keywords and getting something on your blog page.
It didn’t really matter what you wrote about. You just wanted an active stream of content to show that your business is alive, show some of your personality, and maybe fun things related to your product or service.
Many of my clients formerly wrote solely about different press release/news updates about different things their business was involved in: whether an award they won, a charity challenge they participated in, a Tough Mudder their staff completed together, seasonal recipes from one of their employees, and other things related to their town like beach closings, apple picking hours, etc. (These are real examples.)
“Wait,” you may be thinking. “If my blog isn’t about us or all the great things about our products/services/team, what’s the point?”
I’m so glad you asked.
Listen, there’s nothing inherently wrong with these topics. The only part that’s wrong would be expecting that those blogs would drive positive growth for the business. When an IT company ranks well in Google for terms related to Tough Mudder, it doesn’t do much to reach their qualified prospects.
For example, my insurance client wrote an article about apple picking, and it actually got a fair amount of traffic. Could someone be looking for apple picking information who also wants to switch insurance agents and buy from my client? Sure. It’s 2020. Anything could happen.
But in all likelihood, the person who is landing on that blog is more interested in apples than insurance.
At the same time, an article about how you’re the best insurance agent in the world or won certain awards also likely won’t get you the results you’re looking for. People aren’t interested in why you think your business is great: they just want to know what’s in it for them.
What’s a better approach?
Your blog isn't meant to be a personal journal or resume either. It’s a learning center for your prospective customers. A place where they can learn how to make the best buying decision for themselves.
Focus on what your prospects want to know about, what is of value to them, even if it’s uncomfortable for you to talk about.
Instead of writing about what you want to talk about (awards, apple-picking, events, why you’re great), writing about what your prospects want to know about — what questions are they asking that need answers.
At IMPACT, we’ve summed up this approach as They Ask, You Answer, and we’ve summarized these top questions into five categories called The Big 5:
Cost and pricing
Problems (theirs and yours)
Comparisons and versus
Best of lists (best in class, best practices)
Instead of focusing on yourself, treat your business blog as a place to write about and educate your prospects about the topics that are related to your business. And yes, do show personality while you do it, but do that in talking about the things that matter to your prospects.
The thing is, though, you can write about the right topic and not focus on yourself, but still mess up terribly. This is where the next irresponsible thing of breaking trust comes in.
(This is the equivalent of when you learn the Olympic power snatch and realize that nailing the snatch grip on the barbell is just the first thing in a long list of things to keep in mind.)
2. Being salesy
“Okay Jolie, you Kool-Aid drinking fitness nut,” some may be thinking. “No problem. I’ll ditch writing about all the apple-picking spots and banana bread recipes and instead I’ll write about my business. I’ll write ALL ABOUT MY BUSINESS and ME and why we’re great. Is that what you want?”
Well, first what I’d want is to get you some chamomile tea and do some quick breathing exercises with you. I know tensions are high, but we’re in this together.
But no, that’s not what I’m saying. It's normal to think in black and white terms though, so let me help you find the balance.
It’s normal to think that writing about The Big 5 buyer-focused topics means that you need to find a way to make yourself look like the best option for everyone, better than all your competitors, and with no problems.
However, today’s buyer can see right through that. They’re not looking for a magic pill that works for everyone, but just something that fits them. That means, you can’t be afraid to talk about who your business isn’t a good fit for, the honest problems with your product/service, and cases where an alternative makes more sense.
You need to show that you’re not just out to steal their money. You’re not trying to sell them something that isn’t right for them. You’re there to help. When they realize you’re not just out to sell them, they begin to trust you.
If you approach your articles in a way that’s meant to convince people you’re better than every option out there, that doesn’t build trust.
As Marcus Sheridan explains it, “If people don’t trust you, they won’t feel like you have their best interest in mind or that you will actually deliver on your promises. They won’t trust you to solve their problems.
To put it simply, if people don't trust you they won’t want to buy from you.”
So if you break trust in your content, you’re alienating yourself from potential customers who can see through your rose-colored picture of what your business is all about.
What’s a better approach?
It sounds simple, but the better approach is to just be honest.
It means writing about potential problems with your offering and it means not trying to brand yourself as a solution for everyone. Don’t be afraid to say who you’re not a good fit for.
If you’re writing about a topic you’re obviously biased about, make sure you call out your bias, and try to be as objective as possible.
That’s what will build trust and confidence in your business.
At the end of the day, people aren’t dumb. Just be real with them. It doesn't look bad on your or your product or service to admit that you’re not the best fit for everyone. It makes you mature, upfront, and practical —so you don't need to waste time in the sales process dealing with prospects who just aren't a good fit anyway
Also, don't try to convince. Instead, educate. Give them all the facts and let them make their decision. And don't stack up their decision as if “It’s either the crappy option, or us, you’re choice.”
Be real. Pretend that if I was to read your blog and smell bias and call BS, that you’d be forced to do 20 burpees on the spot.
No one likes burpees. No one likes salesy content either.
3. Forgetting about SEO best practices
Sometimes, it’s easy to get so into writing a blog that you forget about the SEO elements that are needed for that blog to be successful in attracting an organic audience.
Today, buyers aren’t going to their friends as much (of course they still are, but not as much) for word of mouth suggestions, instead, guess who their ever-present, never failing friend with really great suggestions is? It starts with a G. (No, it’s not Greg.)
It’s Google, my friends! People may not know what company or product they’re looking for, but they can type a search into Google and then organically find the best solution for them. If you’re lucky (actually, it’s not so much luck as intentional effort!) they’ll find you when they’re searching for a solution to the problem they’re facing.
When you don’t consider SEO elements in your blog post, you’re missing out on reaching a broader audience who can eventually stumble across this article and read it. Sure, you may share it on social media or on an email campaign, but that only gets it out to people who already know about you.
When you don’t focus on SEO, you’re limiting the ability of your blog to reach new people, and when you limit yourself there, you’re also limiting your opportunities to get new customers.
What’s a better approach?
Learn the best practices for optimizing your blog for search engines, and make sure you’re incorporating them into each of your blogs.
There’s a laundry list of things to keep in mind, from short paragraphs to internal links to structure and header formatting and technical elements as well. Check out this course on SEO for best practices to include in your blogs.
4. Not considering user experience
At the end of the day, though, Google is trying to become more and more sophisticated so it can think like a human person. What this means is that over time, there is a fair amount of overlap between optimizing for SEO and optimizing for user experience. Typically, what’s good for one is also good for another.
(Example: It’s hard on my eyes to read or scan through a huge block of text. Google agrees and “sees” it the same way, meaning optimizing my blog for the user to most easily digest it is also great for SEO.)
It’s not enough to just get the information you need on the digital page, it also needs to look good, be accessible, and be easy to read.
Think of it like a fine dining dish at a restaurant that has all the right ingredients, but the presentation of it on your plate is kind of haphazard and sloppy. Chances are that that can diminish your entire experience, even though the right “ingredients” are all there.
Or it’s like those dryer sheet commercials of a first date with someone who has a wrinkled shirt — first impressions matter!
Same goes for your blog. If you’re not considering the experience of the human reader on that page, what flows and makes sense, what will help them retain and get through your content, you’re missing out on an opportunity to leave a great and lasting impression on them.
What’s a better approach?
Think about all the users who may be viewing your site. Ask yourself these questions:
What device might they be using? Is your site optimized for desktop and mobile? iOS and Android?
Is your site speed slow?
Are you including imagery, graphics, and tables when appropriate to help your reader retain the information?
Are you making it easy to engage on your site and find what they're looking for, like with a link to related content?
Also, are you talking like a person, or like a computer? Are you showing your personality and building a connection?
Make sure you consider these points, some of which apply more broadly to your entire website, when gauging the success of your blog.
It doesn’t matter how great your content is if it’s too difficult or unpleasant for people to consume.
5. Writing for too general of an audience
Ah yes, this is a mistake I see all too often. It’s writing a blog as if it’s for anyone or everyone to read.
For instance, I have a very technical manufacturing client dealing with particle analysis.
For the longest time, their introductions would look like this: “Particle analysis is important for everyone. From driving to work, to the food we eat, particle analysis is what makes the world go round.”
When you write so generally like that, the person the article IS intended for, the technical engineer looking for the best particle analysis equipment, may quickly doubt whether they’re in the right place in landing on your site because it feels like you’re talking to the masses, not them in particular.
There needs to be resonance early on in a blog so that the person you’re writing for feels understood. That, in turn, builds trust.
What’s a better approach?
Whenever my clients are writing an article, I have them to fill out a cover sheet to strategize who the ideal reader is for the piece, tell me about them, etc.
Then, write for them in particular.
As Liz Moorehead says, “Write with one person in mind, and write it for them.”
This lets them know they’re in the right place, and they know you understand them and what they’re looking for and dealing with.
No, you don’t need to do crazy intense buyer-persona research and find out how many kids your target persona has and what shoe size they wear. But you should know some basics about what’s important to them in their role, and what their concerns or challenges are that are bringing them to your article in the first place.
Then, make sure you address those in a specific way.
Will ordinary non-technical engineer Joe Smith be turned off from that? Yes! But the thing is, you’re not trying to reach him anyway. Remember, when it comes to prospects coming to your site, it’s quality over quantity.
“The goal of every content marketing professional is to speak to their ideal audience.
But we're failing to do this. And we're standing in our own way.
I've reviewed hundreds of articles as a content marketing coach, and one easy win stands out that can help you speak to your audience. Write simply - that's it.
Instead of speaking in industry jargon, using unnecessarily difficult words, and trying to sound smart...focus on being easily understood.
Write as if you are speaking to a novice. Assuming that your audience understands the ins and outs of your industry/product/service is a dangerous game. And if you make that assumption and you're wrong, they're gone and not coming back.
In addition to the indirect SEO benefits of content with good readability (lower bounce rate and exit rates that are good for SEO), your reader will understand and relate to you. And at the end of the day, understanding and relatability form trust - and trust wins sales.”
When you use too many buzzwords or jargon, it’s easy to lose your audience. They know you said something, but they might not really know what. There’s nothing inherently wrong with jargon, but make sure you also follow it up with an explanation of what you’re saying.
At the end of the day, your job is to help people know more about what you know; to understand the benefits and shortcomings of your product or service and the whys behind them.
It’s about being a great teacher. If you think back to your favorite teacher growing up, they probably had a way of explaining things in such a simple, creative way that you could always understand.
With that in mind for your prospects, you’re the teacher. Wouldn’t it be better for them to actually understand what you’re trying to say?
What’s a better approach?
When you’re writing, remember point #5 to keep in mind who you are writing for, and then, write simply. Write to educate, not to impress with all your fancy language and jargon. If jargon and industry-specific terms are used, great, but make sure you explain and don’t just assume people know what you mean. Slow down and educate the reader where they’re at.
I encourage my clients to check their blogs in a free app like Hemingway to see where their reading level score is at.
Ideally, when you’re writing content that’ll live on your site’s blog, you’re going to want to aim for between a 5-9th grade reading level. Even if your prospects are likely college educated professionals, it’s important to keep in mind that they’re likely reading on their phone, and even if they are on a desktop, attention spans are short these days.
Write simply. Write plainly. And chances are you can always explain something a bit better to make sure everyone reading is on the same page.
7. Not considering next steps as part of your strategy
Just as every blog should have a buyer-focused topic and specific reader in mind, it should also have a fully-baked strategy planned for it.
What’s the goal of this piece? What’s a reasonable next step here? What else would they likely want to know before making their buying decision?
Listen, I get it. With everything we’ve already gone through in this article, it’s obvious that there’s a lot more to writing a successful blog than just throwing words on the page on a regular basis, but when you write a great blog and don't consider next steps for the reader to take, it’s like leaving the football at the 10-yard line instead of getting a touchdown. You need to close the deal!
Don’t leave a potentially engaged prospect on your site wondering what next step they should take. When you’re not guiding them, you risk losing them. They might bounce off your site, or they may just never convert for that first touchpoint.
What’s a better approach?
First off, have a next step in mind when strategizing your piece. After they are educated on this topic, what’s the next question they may have in their buyer’s journey? What’s something else they should consider or think about?
That may be another blog article, or another resource or download on your site. Make sure that’s linked in your conclusion and/or align with a call-to-action button below it.
Also, a key part of your conclusion needs to be a smooth moving towards that next step. What that means, is please don’t make your conclusion subheader something like “In conclusion” “Final thoughts” or “Wrapping things up”-- instead, take that opportunity to tie into what that next step is by making your conclusion header more specific too. For an example of what I mean, check out the header below!
Ready to get your blog content back on track?
The thing with blogs (and fitness, and really anything in life), is it’s typically hard to spot some mistakes on your own. Sometimes you need someone to show you where you’re going wrong so you can hone in and get better. We all have blind spots.
After reading through these mistakes and why they’re actually hurting you, my hope is that a lightbulb will go off for you that’ll be hard to ever flick back off again, and that none of these mistakes will be blindspots for you any longer.
So get out there, create a content strategy, educate yourself on the best practices (IMPACT has plenty of free resources on this), and get someone to hold you accountable to creating content that’s going to make a difference for your business given the points we listed above.
Don’t let me catch you with these mistakes on your blog, now! If I do, that’s 20 burpees on the spot! But even more painful (yes, there somehow is greater pain out there), is that if you are making these mistakes, you’re likely turning away potential customers at the door. And no one wants that.
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