12 Essential Business Blogging Tips for Entrepreneurs Over 50
I’ve written before about the many advantages that older entrepreneurs have when it comes to starting a business. Specifically, I argued that our empathy, connections, experience and resources make us a force to be reckoned with. At the same time, there are more tactical reasons that entrepreneurs over the age of 50 hold all the cards. As just one small example – we know how to write!
On a personal level, many of us worry about the decline in writing skills among high-school and college students. But, as entrepreneurs, the fact that our teachers put more emphasis on writing is a major advantage. One of the most effective ways to take advantage of your writing skills is to start your own business blog.
Since starting Sixty and Me, I have written hundreds of articles. My work has been featured on CNN and the Huffington Post and one of my articles received 23,000+ Facebook likes. At the same time, I don’t consider myself to be an exceptional writer (at least not by my generation’s standards). Instead, I have benefited from having a good system in place to ensure that my writing is accurate, frequent and, most of all, useful for my readers.
For now, I’ll assume that you already see the value in having a business blog. If not, I’ll cover the reasons that content marketing rocks in a future article. So, let’s get to it.
Here are 12 business blogging tips that I have learned while working on Sixty and Me and Profit After 50. I hope that you find them useful as you work on building your on dream business after 50.
Start by Giving Your Blog a Mission
Your customers don’t care about your products. They care about what you can do to solve their problems. As a result, when it comes to content marketing, one of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs can make is thinking that their business blog is primarily a promotional platform. Instead, define your blog’s mission in terms of how it will help your customers.
For example, when I started Sixty and Me, I wanted to help women over 60 to live happy, healthy and financially secure lives. This simple mission statement guided everything that I did on the website, including deciding which articles to write. Now, with Boomerly, my mission is to end loneliness among people over 50.
So, make creating a mission statement your first writing assignment. Define your target audience. Write down a list of the challenges that they face and decide which ones you want to solve. Then, draft a simple statement that you can refer to whenever you are unsure if a particular topic is a good fit for your blog.
Break the Writing Process Into Parts
One of the main reasons that people think that they “can’t write” is that they see writing as a single process. Staring at their computer screens, many bloggers expect the words to just “flow” out of them. This almost never happens!
In reality, writing is a series of separate, but, connected tasks. Even if you are a naturally gifted writer, you will benefit from breaking down the writing process into parts. For example, here’s how I approached writing the content for Sixty and Me and Profit After 50:
- Step 1: Identifying consumer needs (keyword research and asking customers)
- Step 2: Drafting prioritized list of potential topics (keyword optimized titles)
- Step 3: Conducting initial research (visiting credible sources and taking notes)
- Step 4: Creating an article outline (just section headings)
- Step 5: Writing a first draft of the article (without editing!)
- Step 6: Editing the article myself (use a checklist!)
- Step 7: Passing the article to an Editor (or two, if possible)
- Step 8: Re-editing the article myself (repeating steps 7 and 8 as necessary)
- Step 9: Adding a call to action (or question, if more appropriate)
- Step 10: Posting and promoting the article
Looking through the 10 steps above, it’s easy to see how the most successful bloggers say that they spend at least 6 hours, and sometimes considerably more, on a single blog post. There is no way to avoid the fact that building a successful business blog takes time. But, in my experience, breaking down the process into manageable steps at least makes your publishing efforts consistent and productive.
Write Content that Your Audience Wants to Read
This may sound obvious, but, don’t treat your business blog like your personal blog. It doesn’t matter how well-written your content is, unless it solves your customers’ problems. The good news is that it has never been easier to find out what your audience wants – if you care enough to try! Here are a few techniques that you can use to identify which challenges your customers need you to solve:
- Ask them on Facebook
- Set up a survey using Survey Monkey or Google Forms
- Ask them in your Aweber or Infusionsoft newsletter
- Get a list of questions from your customer service team
- Ask your customers directly at events
- Use the Google Keyword Planner or Market Samurai to analyze search terms
- Set up your own Xenforo forum to facilitate conversations
Obviously, you don’t need to use all of the above techniques to find out what your audience wants to read, but, even if you choose two or three, you will be ahead of the pack.
Build a Consistent Content Creation Strategy
Despite what you may have heard, you don’t need to write an article every day to a successful blogger. That said, you do need to make content creation a part of your company’s culture. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to create content that helps your customers. This could be as simple as creating short videos that answer the most common questions that your support team receives. Or, you could set aside 30 minutes a day to write articles that help your customers to be successful using your products.
When it comes to content creation, consistency is everything. I have seen dozens of companies launch blogs with a flurry of content, only to find their content strategy fizzle after the first month. So, be realistic about how much content your team can create without interfering with other business priorities. It’s much better to post one solid article a week than to overcommit and have your team lose interest.
Understand and Apply the Basics of SEO
SEO specialists would like us to believe that getting your blog content to appear in Google is complicated. The fact is that every single person reading this article has the ability to understand the basics of blog SEO. Since I have already written about this topic in more detail, I won’t repeat myself here. That said, if you apply the following 4 principles, you will be ahead of 90% of other bloggers, who simply post the first thing that comes into their minds.
- Use the Google Keyword Planner to write about what people are searching for
- Make sure that your article title, text and headings are keyword rich
- Spend as much time promoting your content as you spend writing it
- Make sure that your blog is “responsive” and loads quickly
Make Sure Your Content is Easy to Read
People have short attention spans – and it seems like they are getting shorter every year! If you want people to read and engage with your content, you need to make it easy to consume. This means using section headings, short paragraphs, questions and plenty of images. This step is so important that I have it on my editing checklist.
Use Compelling Visuals to Tell Your Story
I often spend as much time looking for compelling visuals as I spend editing my articles. This may seem like a waste of time, but, if you consider the fact that articles with pictures are shared 2X as often, looking for powerful images is one of the best things you can do to make your blog stand out.
Here’s an example of an article that I recently posted to Sixty and Me with and without images. Which version would you be more willing to share? Which one do you think will hold my audience’s attention until the end of the article?
Many people avoid adding images to their blog posts because they don’t want to sign up for a service like Shutterstock. The truth is that, while paid services offer many benefits, adding compelling imagery to your website doesn’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of services that offer free images. Here are a few of the most popular:
- Dreamstime (paid and free images)
- Freeimages.com (free images)
- Flickr (some are free – check for “Creative Commons Attribution license”)
- DeviantArt (some are free – check for “Creative Commons” license)
- Wikipedia (check their “Creative Commons” section for usable free images)
Always Have an Editor, Even if it’s Yourself
I always try to have my articles reviewed by at least one other person. In my experience, this is, by far, the best way to ensure that my articles are easy to read, focused and mistake-free. However, there are still times when I can’t find someone to give me a second opinion. When this happens, I find that it helps to put on my “editor’s hat” – literally.
I’m a big believe in the power of “frames”. When I put on my editor’s hat (a pink beret), I am able to slip into the role of Editor in Chief and review my work dispassionately. In this frame of mind, I am more willing to cut out redundant content, rework sentences and fact-check. Try it! It actually works!
If there is someone on your team that can act as your editor, use them! If not, the next best option is to be your own editor. Just make sure that you have a checklist (and a hat!)
Engage in a Dialogue with Your Audience
Writing may be a lonely process, but, your content should be social by design. In my case, I always end my articles with a question that encourages users to join the discussion. If you have a WordPress blog, there are several options for allowing users to leave comments.
WordPress comes with its own comments system. Unfortunately, it is fairly “basic” and, in my experience, it can be difficult to prevent unwanted spam comments from building up.
Two other options are Disqus and Facebook comments. The Disqus comments system is attractive and easy to set up. However, I prefer to use the Facebook Comments Box because I want to know each of my customers as individuals. When someone posts a comment on one of my articles, I can be fairly confident that they are who they say they are. I also already have a strong Facebook following, so my community members feel comfortable engaging this way.
The only downside to using the Facebook comments system is that it requires a bit of configuration. As a result, you may need to pay for 30 minutes of a developer’s time to set up a Facebook app, which is a prerequisite for using the system. This is a small price to pay for giving your customers an opportunity to interact with you and your content directly.
No matter which system you use, encourage your users to engage in conversations – with you and each other. This will give your blog an “organic” feel and will help you to build important connections. Here’s what Disqus looks like:
Make it Easy for People to Share Your Content
If you want people to share your content, you need to do two things. First, you need to create useful content that also creates an emotional response. Second, you must make it as easy as possible for people to share your articles.
One of the best ways to accomplish the latter is to add a social bookmarking bar to your posts. This will allow your visitors to quickly share or “like” your content with just the click of a button. There are plenty of options out there for WordPress. The one that I use is Slick Social Share Buttons, but, feel free to choose the one that works best on your blog.
Spend As Much Time Promoting Your Content As You Spend Writing It
Writing epic content takes a lot of time. After spending 6 or more hours writing and editing your post, the last thing you want to think about is how to promote it – but, this is exactly what you need to do!
Now, I’m not saying that you literally need to spend 6 hours promoting your content. But, if you don’t have a plan for getting the word out, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Here are a few steps that you can take to ensure that your content is discovered:
- Tell your fans on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and other social networks
- Tag and @message any companies or people mentioned in the article
- Reach out to other bloggers or influentials (especially on Twitter)
- Link to your new article from similar posts on your site
- Share your article with your newsletter list (you do have an email list, right?)
- Reshare your article every few months, with new text and a different image
Build Your Reputation with Google Author
As content marketing becomes more competitive, it is becoming increasingly important to build your reputation with Google. By convincing Google that you are a credible source of information, your articles will get a boost and your blog will get more traffic. The best way to tell Google who you are is to set up Google Authorship on your site. Getting started is easy. First, complete your Google+ profile. Then follow these instructions to link it to your content.
Once you connect your blog posts to your Google Author profile, your picture should start to appear next to your content in Google’s search results. For example, here’s what my articles look like in Google:
Building a successful business blog takes planning, effort, and, most of all patience. Having met many of the older entrepreneurs in our community, I’m confident that we are up to the challenge. I look forward to hearing about your blogging success!
Do you already have a blog for your business? Which of the tips in this article are you already using? What additional blogging tips would you offer to the other members of our community? Please join the discussion below and “like” and share this article to keep the conversation going.