Whether you’re creating blog posts yourself or you outsource your content creation to a freelance copywriter or content marketing agency, chances are that at some point you’ve asked yourself, how long does it actually take to write a blog post?
You might not think there would be a definitive answer but thanks to the latest research from Orbit Media, there is: 4 hours, 10 minutes. Interestingly, that figure has been increasing year on year since Orbit first began their survey in 2014, when the average length of time people took to write a blog was just 2 hours 24 minutes. That’s an increase of 74% in 8 years.
Of course, an average can only ever be that – an average. There is likely to have been a fairly broad range of answers in the 1,000 plus that they received, with some people being able to bash out a post in much less time and others labouring over theirs for far longer.
In this article, we’re going to dive into why those variations might occur so that you can begin to understand either a) how much time to set aside in your calendar for blog writing or b) how much work your chosen freelancer or agency is – or should be – dedicating to your account.
First, let’s look at what impacts the length of the actual writing process itself. There are other elements of blogging as a whole that need to be considered, but we’ll come to them later.
Although it’s not true to say that more words inevitably means more time (after all, a six word strapline might take weeks or even months to perfect), there is a degree of correlation when it comes to writing a blog post.
The Orbit research backs this up – the average blog post today is 1,376 words long compared to 808 in 2014, which may in some ways account for the amount of writing time increasing.
In a sense this links with complexity, as more involved subjects need both more ‘column inches’, as it were, to explore all the issues, and more thinking time to grapple with how those complexities are expressed.
Also, getting people to stick around for 3,000 compared to 800 words takes effort. You can’t just write more words and expect people to stick with you; you need to spend more time building your narrative framework to keep them engaged to the end.
Not all blog posts are made equal. A listicle (‘5 easy ways to stop your dev project going off the rails’ or ‘7 reasons why we think open source publishing is the future’) is far easier to write than a well-reasoned, carefully-researched piece of thought leadership.
This is partly because, even if they’re the same length, with a listicle you don’t need to create a narrative in the same way. You’re essentially creating 5 or 7 smaller chunks of copy, sandwiched between an intro and an outro. Much quicker to pull together.
If your blog post is styled like a journalistic article and incorporates quotes from one or more interviewees, you might find that it increases the time that it takes to write the post.
This is because there’s an art to deciding which bits of speech should be quoted vs reported, and how best to use those quotes to support the article’s narrative. The more contributors there are, the trickier it becomes to create a smooth narrative, especially if you’re trying to give each person fair representation through the article.
Making difficult concepts easy to grasp is an art and takes time.
This isn’t as straightforward as ‘the more sophisticated your audience, the longer it will take to write a blog post for them’.
On the one hand, this might be true. With a sophisticated audience, you won’t be able to get away with just bashing out a ‘sort of okay’ blog. You might need to do more research, source better data, be a bit clever or more original with your arguments.
That said, if you’re a subject matter expert and your audience is made up of complete newbies, you’ll have to work hard to explain the complexities of your thoughts without dumbing everything down too much. Making difficult concepts easy to grasp is an art and takes time.
This is where we go beyond the time it takes to sit at a keyboard, tapping away at a 800 or 1,200 or 3,000 word post. There’s plenty that needs to come before that happens, and a little that happens after that stage.
When deciding how much of your 9-5 should be dedicated to creating content – or whether your freelancer or agency is worth the money you’re paying them – it’s really important to factor these next points in.
To make your blog successful, you need to create a thorough strategy before you make a start on the writing part. This involves having a deep understanding of your audience and working out everything from the problems you’re trying to solve for them in your blog, to the actions you want them to take once they’ve finished reading.
You’ll also need to spend time generating ideas for topics and titles for the blog. This might include plotting possible titles along the customer buying journey to ensure you’ve covered each stage, as well as researching the keywords and phrases you can realistically aim to rank well for.
Although most bloggers spend just over 4 hours on each post, those that spend more than 6 hours “are 50% more likely to report strong results”.
We touched on research in the first section about writing time because there’s a good chance that during the writing process, you’re going to have to stop and verify a fact or find a study to back up an assertion. But there’s also that initial, foundational research period where you’re getting to grips with the subject.
Even if you’re a subject matter expert, you’ll need to see what other people are saying, so you can ensure you’re adding to the conversation rather than replicating what’s out there. If you’re a marketing lead with other subject matter experts to interview, this will take time too, especially if they’re hard to pin down.
Blogging is great for SEO but for it to be truly effective, you need to put the time into optimising your content. Even if we bypass activities like keyword research or creation of an SEO strategy, you’ll still need to think about how and where you can insert the right keywords, something which we find is best to do after you’ve written an audience-focused first draft.
Adding internal links is another win (note we didn’t say quick win) for optimisation. Wherever your new blog touches on another piece of content you’ve written, make sure to find that link and insert it. It can take a little bit of time but it’s worth it for the SEO points.
Once you’ve done all of this, you’ve still got a bunch of other stuff to factor in. Uploading the copy to your CRM. Adding imagery. Doing a final proofread to catch those errant typos. All pretty simple tasks but they add up, and they need to be on someone’s to do list.
So let’s recap. Writing a blog post takes an average of 4 hour, 10 minutes. If you assume that someone works a 9-5 day with an hour for lunch, that’s 59% of their day creating that one blog post. Add on all the other influencing factors, from creating an effective content strategy to optimising those posts, you can see that blogging isn’t something you can fit into someone’s schedule as an afterthought.
Blogging isn’t a low level task you can ask the admin person to do. Your subject matter experts can’t just rustle up a bit of thought leadership at a day’s notice. If you’re going to blog for your business you need to do it consistently, with a strategy in place, and you have to give it the time it deserves.
And here’s the thing – keep scrolling through the Orbit research and you’ll come to a very compelling statistic. Although most bloggers spend just over 4 hours on each post, those that spend more than 6 hours “are 50% more likely to report strong results”. Putting in the time to write great quality content is well worth it.
As a founder or in-house marketer, choosing which marketing tactics to focus on is no doubt something of a challenge. There are so many options! Each one has its merits. But will it be the right choice for your business?
In today’s post we’re looking at blogging and trying to answer the question, “When is blogging most effective for business?” Because although there are many benefits of blogging for virtually any business, there are some situations that will benefit from a blog in particular.
If you’re buying a pint of milk, there’s a good chance you won’t think all that hard about it. You’ll nip into the nearest shop, decide between skimmed, semi skimmed or whole milk, pick the bottle size you want and that’s that.
If, however, you’re thinking about buying a new laptop – or car seat for your newborn, or choosing a building company for an extension – you’re likely to spend much more time on the decision-making process.
“The more considered a purchase someone is making, the more effective a blog can be in providing the information they need to make a good decision.”
Ditto in the B2B world. As a marketing manager, you might spend a couple of hundred pounds on merch for an event without worrying too much about it. But if you’re taking on a new copywriting agency (or design agency or SEO agency), you’ll want to do a lot more research.
The more expensive a purchase is, or the more critical it is to get that decision right (remember the newborn’s car seat), the more considered it will be. And the more considered a purchase someone is making, the more effective a blog can be in providing the information they need to make a good decision.
If a product or service is complex, your audience is likely to need more information in order to make a good buying decision than they would if the purchase were simpler. Blogging can be a useful way to deliver this information in bite size chunks that lead the reader along the buying journey from being stuck to making a purchase decision.
The important factor here is being clear about anything that your reader won’t understand. Explain the jargon. Explore the benefits. Look at options – which one would best suit which type of person or business? Remember, you need to be honest and provide as unbiased a view as possible in order to add genuine value.
Don’t be afraid to explain why your type of product or service may not be a good fit for someone. If they leave your blog post with a sense that you have provided good information, they may well recommend you to someone who is a good fit. The alternative is that you somehow twist their arm into choosing you and they end up unhappy, causing you more problems than the sale was worth.
If you’re in sales in a business that has a long sales cycle, you’ll know how tricky it can be to get the balance of staying on your prospect’s radar without bugging them. The longer that sales cycle is, the easier it is for them to get distracted somewhere along the way.
A blog can not only help lead those prospects from one stage of the buyer journey to the next but can give you an excuse to proactively get in touch.
Imagine you’ve met someone at a conference. They seemed interested in one of your products or services. You chatted, exchanged business cards and connected on LinkedIn. This is not the time to go in with a hard sell. Instead, sharing a relevant blog post – perhaps one that you know will help them with a challenge they mentioned – will demonstrate both your expertise and your desire to help them.
Ideally, you’ll want to create a blog post for each stage of the buying process so that you have a series you can send at appropriate times. A good place to start if you’re looking to equip your sales team is comparison posts that weigh your product or service against competing options, and objection busters that answer key questions your prospects are likely to have.
Blogging can take anywhere from 9 to 18 months to demonstrate a real return on investment, so you need to know that you’re not going to give up or have your budget pulled after three months.
Even in industries such as fashion and lifestyle, where products may be fairly simple, relatively low cost and purchased more on a whim than through serious consideration, blogging can still be used to build a brand community. A number of brands do this very well, for example Fat Face, Fjallraven and our clients Tom & Teddy.
Community building blogs usually feel a bit more like lifestyle magazine articles. They build atmosphere, inspire their readers, make them feel that they are part of something bigger. You can also include posts that showcase how to use your product or service to full effect, or case study based articles that demonstrate how others have benefited from them.
If you’re still reading, it’s probably because you’ve recognised one or more of the scenarios above and you’re feeling broadly more confident that blogging could add genuine value for your business. Now it’s time to look more closely at the specifics. Because to make blogging work, you have to put in the effort.
So ask yourself…
There’s no point bashing out a few hundred words and hoping they’ll stick. A blog needs to sit within a clear strategy, with a well defined audience and at least some idea of the outcomes you want it to deliver. You need to understand what part of the funnel you’re writing to, how you’re going to track results and plenty more besides.
Whether you’ll be in charge of writing the blog yourself or you’ll be managing the process – for example with the support of an internal copywriter or an external freelancer or copywriting agency – you’ll probably need support from other people in your organisation.
For example, if you’re creating bottom of funnel (BOFU) blog posts that are fairly sales oriented, you’ll want input from your sales team. If you’re heading down the thought leadership route, you’ll want to talk to your subject matter experts. After all, thought leadership needs more than good writing, it needs good thinking.
If these people aren’t likely to help, you’re going to be struggling from the start.
Blogging can absolutely be a great lead generation tool. But it tends not to generate instant results in the way that, for example, a Google Ads campaign might. Blogging can take anywhere from 9 to 18 months to demonstrate a real return on investment, so you need to know that you’re not going to give up or have your budget pulled after three months.
As with any marketing tactic, there’s no guarantee that a blog will generate the results you hope for. We don’t believe in promising a 10x on leads because there are just too many factors involved. But we do know that with the right strategy, blogging can make a huge impact.
Tom Riglar, Co-founder of app development agency, Morrow, has been working with us to produce thought leadership and sales blogs for the last year.
He says: “As experts, we really know our stuff but struggle to communicate that expertise to the outside world. Rin and her team have transformed the way we tell our story.
“Content marketing is a long term strategy but we’re already benefiting from an increase in the quantity and quality of leads, better brand awareness and a clearer focus on who our prospects are.”
Camiel Roex, their Head of Growth, said: “Organic visits are the most stable part of Blueheart’s acquisition funnel… RH&Co helped us generate massive results over a span of a few weeks, and that’s just from the increase in traffic on the blog.
“We can run a full content marketer’s job in one hour a week instead of 20 hours. And we don’t have to hire someone full-time, which is important for a startup.”
If you’d like to talk more about whether blogging is right for your business – and what type of blog will generate the best results – get in touch with us today.
As a marketing manager, you know that creating and maintaining a good, effective blog for a business isn’t easy. It takes time, thought, skill and budget. You also know that the business benefits of blogging absolutely outweigh the costs – but getting your boss on board is another matter.
Here’s a refresher to help you state your case – with metrics you can track to help demonstrate the return your blog will be able to generate for the business.
There are many places we can create and host content these days, from social media to publishing platforms like Medium. These all have their advantages but there’s a key problem – you’re not in control of those platforms. As Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, says: “Don’t build your content on rented land.”
Because your blog sits on your website, you’re in control. It also makes it a great tool for attracting visitors. This can be done in different ways (e.g. via search, social media, or direct outreach) and is useful for a number of reasons, not least of which is that the more people you attract to your site, the more people you are likely to convert in some way.
What to track: Look at which page your website visitors land on first. If the percentage arriving through your blog increases, you know it’s doing its job attracting people to your site. You can also set up Google Search Console to show you which blogs are attracting the most visits from different keywords.
Even if your primary means of attracting people to your blog is via social media, publishing blog content on your website will improve your site’s SEO in a number of ways:
What to track: There are lots of ways to judge how successful your content is for SEO, from where you rank for a given keyword to the volume of organic traffic you get.
A blog is foundational content, giving you something you can share and repurpose to engage with your audience across your social channels.
Think about this article, for example. It wouldn’t take all that much work to turn it into a series of social posts, each featuring one benefit. This could take the form of a visual carousel on Instagram, for example.
You can draw out and share a single quote or statistic, use the premise of the blog to pose a question for your audience, or link it to a sales message. And you can mix up the formatting too, recording the key message in audio or video form.
What to track: To showcase how your blog supports your social strategy, you could track how much time you spend creating social content, as well as engagement levels.
“Blogging isn’t just about generating lots of attention at the top of the funnel – it’s also about helping to close the deal once your audience is further along their buyer journey.”
According to DemandMetric, companies that blog get an average of 67% more leads than those that don’t. Wherever a particular blog post is positioned in terms of the buyer journey, it can help your audience move one step along with an appropriate call to action.
If your audience is still unclear about their problem – what the RH&Co blogging framework calls ‘in the dark’ – you would start with softer CTAs encouraging them to read another post, sign up to a newsletter or follow you on social media.
Later, you might suggest that they download a piece of even more valuable content in return for their email address. And by the time you get to the ‘almost ready’ stage, you can step your CTA up and recommend that your reader books a demo, contacts your team or buys your product.
What to track: Think about which metrics are most important to you. This could include newsletter sign ups, lead magnet downloads, demos booked and so one.
Blogging isn’t just about generating lots of attention at the top of the funnel – it’s also about helping to close the deal once your audience is further along their buyer journey.
Bottom of funnel content includes objection busters and process posts. As an example, we have a post titled How can you blog for my business if you’re not an expert in my subject?. We know this has helped several marketing managers get buy-in from their boss in order to bring us in to work with them.
Bottom of the funnel content can be shared on social media but it’s particularly effective when used proactively by your sales team to help convert leads into sales.
What to track: It’s rare that a blog post will close a deal in isolation so your best bet here is to get qualitative feedback from your sales team. They’ll be able to tell you whether they’re getting good results from the content they’re sharing.
The best way to convince someone of a business’s expertise is to demonstrate it. A blog is a platform on which to showcase the knowledge your subject matter experts have.
Blogs that help establish expertise include educational and problem-solving ‘how to’ posts – backed by real life examples and insights from subject matter experts that add weight to your writing – and opinion-filled thought leadership. Over time, creating this kind of original blog content will establish your brand’s expert reputation, building trust with your audience.
What to track: This is a much harder one as a) it’s just not that easy to quantify expertise and b) it’s a longer term strategy. Some indicators of expertise, however, could include press coverage, invitations for speaking engagements, and backlinks (which in turn is great for SEO).
This one might not be on your radar but it’s a super powerful benefit, especially in competitive employment markets like tech.
If you’re on a recruitment drive, your blog can be a great tool for broadcasting your company culture and values – and how they play out in real terms. This not only makes you more attractive to the right people, but can weed out the wrong ones before you get started on the CV sifting.
What to track: This is another tricky one to get definitive numbers for but, if you link culture posts to CTAs directing the reader to a careers page or job advert, you can set click throughs as a KPI. That said, don’t dismiss the qualitative data – several of our clients have had candidates referencing the blogs we’ve created for them in interviews, so listen out for that.
The great thing about blogging is that it has a cumulative effect. It won’t quickly go out of date like a social post, or need to have more money ploughed into it to keep it generating results like PPC.
Once you’ve pressed publish, it’s there for good. And as you publish your 10th blog, you will still be getting traffic from your first, with no additional effort.
Of course, generating this kind of value does rest on being committed to blogging as a long term strategy. You may get some results from publishing a handful of posts and then stopping but blogging isn’t a quick fix.
Online marketing guru Neil Patel says you need to give it at least 6 to 9 months, while Joe Pulizzi – who founded the Content Marketing Institute – writes in his book, Content Inc, that it’s more like 12 to 18 months.
So when you’re presenting your marketing strategy and looking for sign off on a budget for blogging, be sure to set the right expectations. But have confidence too. Blogging is a hugely powerful tool that will generate demonstrable results in time.
There comes a time as a business when you look back on your blog and realise that you’ve created an awful lot of content. Dozens, maybe even hundreds of posts. And you find yourself wondering whether you still need them all. Are they relevant? Do people read them? Have they become outdated?
That’s when it’s time to do an audit. A blog audit is a kind of spring clean that allows you to look at what you’ve got, assess it against set criteria, and – in a nutshell – figure out what’s working, what isn’t, and what you can do about it.
Here’s how we go about it.
Although there are overlaps between them, there are actually quite distinct reasons why you might be performing a blog audit.
For example, if you have a very SEO driven strategy then you may want to audit your content against the keywords that are currently important to your business. This should, among other things, identify where you can update posts to help them perform better.
Sustainability is an increasingly important consideration for businesses and content adds a surprising chunk to your carbon footprint. For this reason, you might set a goal of reducing your content by a certain percentage, which means that the goal of your audit is to identify the least useful posts so that they can be culled.
What we’re focusing on in today’s blog, however, is the process we use with our expert-led clients. Their content strategy is usually centred on high quality content that builds authority and supports the customer journey, with SEO playing more of a supporting role.
In this case, the content audit process is more about being able to:
You’ll want to include performance metrics to help you in your assessment. But in this post we’re going to be going beyond that and looking at some of the more subjective factors you need to consider in your decision-making process, especially when it comes to future opportunities.
Ultimately what we’re aiming for is a Keep, Cut, Combine / Correct and Create list that allows us to action our content audit in the most effective way.
“Consider what ‘performing well’ means to you. For example, a bottom of funnel post might not be generating loads of organic search traffic but your sales team might find it invaluable during their nurture, follow up or closing process. ”
Hopefully you have an editorial calendar where you’ve been logging your blog posts as you go. This could be as simple as a spreadsheet of titles and publication dates. If not, you’ll need to start by creating one.
This Hubspot guide goes into details about how to pull page data using a web crawler. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that complex, especially since most of us aren’t dealing with that many thousands of posts. And even if you do automatically generate your starting point, you’ll want to add subjective insights of your own.
If you blog across a number of key categories, make sure you include these details in the log. For example, we write posts about Blogging, Websites, Copywriting, Marketing & Strategy, and Behind The Scenes.
You might have other labels you want to include in your list too, such as the author of each post or the audience you’re aiming at, if you have distinct ones. For example, if you’re a recruitment agency, you might have client focused posts and candidate focused ones.
Adding these layers of information means you can begin to spot patterns and gaps. If you compare this sort of information to your performance metrics (e.g. visitor numbers, dwell time or conversion), you might notice that you get high traffic to certain blog types, or great engagement and conversions from others.
BUT don’t go overboard on detail here until you’ve had a look at the next step…
The first thing to do once you’ve created your log is to discard any blog posts that simply aren’t necessary anymore, marking them as Cut. Perhaps you no longer offer a service you once used to, so you don’t need any posts that are focused on that particular offering.
These posts might still be performing well in terms of generating traffic. But if they’re drawing the wrong crowd, then you’re skewing your numbers and clouding the truth of how well your blog is performing. And content pruning can actually be great for your website’s overall SEO, so you won’t lose out.
Before you hit delete though, press pause. The content that you’re ditching may not be worthy of a space on your blog but are there any elements you can salvage? Much like an old dress that can be repurposed into a child’s T-shirt, your soon-to-be-discarded blog might have nuggets you can still use across social media.
This sifting process will take time, it’s true – but less time than it takes to create original content.
Posts that aren’t performing well can potentially also be added to the Cut list. For many businesses, blog performance will be about organic search traffic. This will require you to consult your analytics to see what’s driving the most visitors, what has the most backlinks and so on.
Social engagement metrics can be helpful here too. For example, thought leadership may not perform well from a search perspective but could generate a huge amount of engagement on LinkedIn or Instagram. Pull this information from Google Analytics and add it to your log.
But remember that it’s not just about quantity, it’s also about quality, so consider what ‘performing well’ means to you. For example, a bottom of funnel post might not be generating loads of organic search traffic but your sales team might find it invaluable during their nurture, follow up or closing process.
Again, pause before you dismiss a post entirely. Just because it’s not performing well, doesn’t mean it’s terminal. Could the post be nursed back to health? More on this in the next step.
By now you should have a list of blog posts that are either still relevant and useful or could be with an update. The next step is to identify any gaps you might have, and we’ve found that the best way to do this is to map each post against your customer journey.
The RH&Co content marketing framework is designed to help you do just that and is a tool we use with all of our clients. It looks at key stages in the customer journey from your reader’s perspective, helping you to understand what type of content to produce and what the goal should be.
What you might find when you do this mapping exercise is that you have plenty of top of funnel content but you’re a bit sparse in the middle. Or you’ve got loads of educational middle of funnel content but nothing at the bottom to actually drive conversion or support your sales team.
It’s worth noting that you may need to create a buyer journey for each distinct product or service that you offer. We call these strands of content ‘Buyer journey blog chains’.
As we mentioned above, there may also be some posts that fit well into your customer journey but need work before they can be considered truly valuable. It may be that your audience has shifted so you now want to be talking to HRDs rather than CEOs. Or legislation has changed, making certain references out of date but easily fixable. Mark these as Combine / Correct.
This customer mapping process should highlight which of your current blog posts are serving a valuable purpose and can be labelled Keep. You should also be able to see which need to be Combined or Corrected in order to strengthen them or bring them up to date.
From here you’ll be able to see where your gaps are, giving you an excellent starting point for deciding what topics and titles you can schedule for the future. If there are lots of gaps, plug the most important ones first. This will differ depending on your business and priorities.
A good place to start the prioritisation process is to look back at what’s working and see whether this can be replicated in some way. Which posts drive the highest number of visitors? Which are the strongest when it comes to converting?
Remember that conversion will mean different things at different stages of the buyer journey – you’re unlikely to get a ‘book demo’ action from a top of funnel post but you might get a sign up for your newsletter.
You can even go as far as finding out what these high performing posts have in common, such as word count or post structure – perhaps your audience is really into long form content or numbered lists of tips. This will give you even more direction when it comes to creating new blog content.
As you can see, doing a blog audit isn’t a quick or an easy job. So use the experience to create a process you can follow in the future, noting what works and what doesn’t. Then make sure you come back to it from time to time – how often will usually depend on how frequently you’re posting – and do a little refresh.
By keeping on top of your maintenance schedule, you’ll ensure that your blog is always as valuable and effective as it can be. You’ll know what content still needs to be created and you’ll be able to quickly see when anything needs updating.
You’ll also be able to rest easy knowing that the time, effort and budget you’ve dedicated to the blog is well invested and continuing to give you the return on investment you need.
If you’re stuck and need some support to get your back catalogue of blogs in order and create a plan for the future. Get in touch to find out more about our blog auditing services.
If there’s one thing we can pretty much all agree on it’s the fact that expert-led businesses need to produce written content. Blogging may have been around for years, but it’s still an incredibly powerful tool in your marketing kit.
There are endless studies and stats to back this up. For example, Hubspot reports that marketers who prioritise blogging see three times the return on investment (ROI) of those that don’t. And according to DemandMetric, companies with blogs produce an average of 67% more leads monthly than companies that don’t blog.
What isn’t always clear to marketing teams is whether a blog should – or can – be outsourced, or whether it’s best written in house. There are naturally arguments both for and against. Let’s look at some of the benefits of outsourcing your blog first.
A lack of time is one of the key issues many of our clients have. Which means blogging – if it happens at all – is sporadic. As a result, the channel never really gains traction, those who write or promote the posts become discouraged and, at worst, blogging is abandoned because it “doesn’t work”.
Using a professional blogging partner brings that additional level of resource needed to keep things moving consistently. There’s also a degree of accountability in having to attend diarised briefing sessions, not to mention strategy support, reporting and general encouragement to keep going.
One regular piece of feedback we get from clients is how much they appreciate having an outside perspective. Subject matter experts are often so close to their own knowledge that they struggle to see the wood for the trees.
What we bring during the strategy and briefing stages of a blogging project is a fresh perspective and the important “So what?” pushback that is often needed. And being outsiders, we usually find that the experts pay that little bit more attention to our direction than they might to their internal marketing manager, making us that manager’s secret weapon!
“By bouncing ideas around – especially with an outside party who bring a different set of expertise (in this case marketing) – our clients often find they join the dots in new ways.”
Subject matter experts fall into two camps. Either they have no idea what to write about or they’re buzzing with ideas. The problem is, even when they have ideas, they aren’t always ones that will deliver results. It’s important to think from the reader’s perspective, which can be hard to do when you’ve got a business agenda or even just loads of personal passion.
A good copywriter will be able to put themselves in your audience’s shoes and understand what adds the most value. We look at everything from the persona a blog is targeting to where that person is likely to be on their buyer journey – not to mention how the blog fits into the wider marketing strategy – to ensure there’s a return on the investment.
Writing can be a lonely venture. Whereas a briefing with a copywriter can – and should – be a collaborative affair. The interview-style briefing method we use, which is designed to draw out the right knowledge from those subject matter experts, isn’t just a way to ensure that the reader gets what they want. It’s also an opportunity to deep dive into a subject and create something that is greater than one person alone might produce.
Two heads, as they say, are better than one. And by bouncing ideas around – especially with an outside party who bring a different set of expertise (in this case marketing) – our clients often find they join the dots in new ways. Blogging, when done properly, doesn’t just showcase expertise, it builds it.
Knowing how to write is one thing. Being able to write in a way that captures busy people’s attention, engages them throughout, and gets them to think or act differently by the end is quite another.
While many of our clients are perfectly capable of writing an articulate email, they come to us for something that goes a little bit further. A good copywriter will be able to consistently produce the kind of targeted writing that gets a blog to actually deliver results.
Having listed all the benefits of outsourcing your blog, there are some circumstances in which trying to work with a copywriter or copywriting agency just isn’t going to work.
1) If you can’t let go of control: It’s understandable. You’re the expert. Perhaps it’s even your business. You want to make sure every last word, phrase, comma and full stop is exactly where you think it should be. But if you can’t step back and allow your copywriter to do their part of the job, you’re going to struggle with outsourcing your blog.
2) You don’t have the budget*: You’ve heard the saying that you can’t have good, cheap and fast at the same time. Working with a decent copywriter or copywriting agency is an investment. We’ve had clients come to us after trying marketplaces such as Fiverr and finding out the hard way that unrealistic budgets won’t get quality results.
*We’re absolutely not criticising businesses with small budgets here. Everyone starts somewhere! But be realistic about what that budget can achieve. If you haven’t got money to spend, you’re probably better off going down a DIY or ‘done with you’ route.
3) You’re not committed to the process: Blogging isn’t an overnight miracle cure. It takes time and consistent effort to get real results – usually at least 6 months. It will also take a degree of input from you, even if you’re outsourcing. Attending a briefing without having done any prep is a surefire way to ensure your copywriter fails to deliver the goods. If you’re not going to stick to the plan, there’s no point throwing money at it.
App developers, financial modellers, commercial mathematicians – all examples of clients we’ve worked with. And yet we’re not experts in any of these subjects. So how do we do it? The answer is as much about the nature of blogging as it is about our own skills and experience.
Our founder, Rin, started her career as a journalist. Cutting her teeth on a daily paper meant having to very quickly get up to speed about all sorts of subjects, doing research and interviewing experts in order to put together a compelling story – all to a tight deadline.
This journalistic approach underpins the way that we write content here at RH&Co. We don’t profess to be experts on embedded banking or leadership development or clinical psychotherapy. But we are experts at drawing out a story. Give us a few hours and access to an expert and we can get ourselves up to speed enough to write a convincing blog post on literally anything.
But that’s only part of the story. Because whether or not someone can blog about a subject they’re not an expert in might not actually be the most important question. Perhaps it’s more important to think, “How can I blog for my business if I’m not an expert at blogging?”
The problem with being an expert is that you’re usually too close to your own subject. You know so much that it’s hard to tease out what your audience might be interested in and what is unnecessary detail that’s just going to distract them from what’s important.
A lot of experts try to cram too much into one blog post, not thinking of content in a holistic way. They don’t think strategically about what details might suit someone who is just thinking about a service versus someone who is getting ready to buy.
Experts often use overly complex language and too much jargon. They don’t always have the right understanding of tone and personality when it comes to writing, falling back on formal or even academic writing.
And on top of all of that, experts are usually very, very busy. Which means blogging falls down the to do list and becomes inconsistent at best. And that, as any marketer will tell you, is not going to deliver real results.
“A good copywriter knows how to get people’s attention in just a few words while also hitting SEO targets.”
As well as helping you to tease out the details of your expertise that will add the most value to a specific blog post, a copywriter will add a bunch of other important marketing elements.
Let’s start with the title, since that’s where – as David Ogilvy once said – you spend “80 cents of your dollar”. If your title isn’t 100% engaging, no one is going to read any further. A good copywriter knows how to get people’s attention in just a few words while also hitting SEO targets.
Then there’s structure. A copywriter knows to use page formatting tools such as subheads, bullet points, pull quotes and more to stop the ‘off-putting wall of text’ phenomenon that so many expert blogs suffer with.
They’ll also be able to craft a call to action that suits the post. Whether that’s a gentle and directional ‘read more posts in this area’ on a top-of-funnel post, or a firmer and clearer ‘get in touch for a quote’ on a sales-driven post.
And that’s all without even mentioning the content strategy that should come well before any briefing or writing even starts. If you’re going to work with a copywriter to create expert-led content, it’s essential that the work is guided by a clear strategy.
Our blogging projects all start with a discovery stage where we get to know our new client. Who they are, what they do, what makes them special. The core messages they’re hoping to communicate and the goals they have for their content.
We talk about their audience too, of course, looking for the value that our client might be able to add at every stage of the customer or client journey. From this we can create a strategy with a rough editorial calendar that will direct future briefings.
From here, we set out a monthly briefing schedule. In these meetings we interview their experts, drawing out the stories in the data, the emotional connection in the list of facts, stripping out any needless jargon to leave only what supports the core messaging.
Ultimately our job is to take a client’s expertise and make it more succinct, punchy and powerful than it would otherwise be. We don’t need to be experts because that’s your job. Our job is to draw out your expertise and then package it up using precisely the right words to establish that expertise within the minds of your audience.
Actual Experience is a B2B tech business providing human experience management for service providers and their enterprise clients. Their unique analytics capabilities pinpoint the causes of variability and poor experience within the digital ecosystem, enabling digital leaders to prioritise investment in an evidence-based way.
Yes, we were baffled by that at first too. But as we worked with their founder, their marketing manager and their technical lead, we began to build up a solid picture of their expertise.
Marketing Manager Vaq Hussain said: “We’re in a complex and technical industry. With no prior experience of our expertise, Rin and her team quickly took on board what we do and how it helps our customers add value.”
Over the course of the project, we created a number of white papers, supplemented with blog posts and social sharing copy – all of which met the client’s high standards in terms of both expertise and readability.
“The process of developing a white paper with Rin and her team was simple and painless,” Vaq said. “They delivered a really fast turnaround following interviews and research, and the final copy required minimal amends.
“I would say Rin Hamburgh & Co’s strengths are not just in their writing. Rin and her team are excellent listeners. Finding the important details in what we were telling them, understanding the relevance to our audience and converting it to a usable content piece is what impressed me the most.”
I’ve written many times about the fact there are no silver bullets when it comes to marketing and blogging is no exception. Even a blog that is well targeted, well planned and well written will take a while to gain traction as you build up your bank of posts and word starts to spread.
However, if you’ve been plugging away at your business blog for months and months and still aren’t seeing results, it could be you’re missing something. Here are some common problems we’ve identified that could be holding you back.
This might sound obvious but how can you know whether your blog is generating results if you haven’t actually set any targets? Whether you want to increase brand awareness, establish your authority as an expert or generate leads, it’s important to be clear about what you’re aiming for and how you’ll measure your progress. By keeping these goals in mind, you’ll also find it easier to know what content to include and what’s merely a time consuming distraction.
In this time poor age we live in, no one is going to read something they don’t actively want to (or have to) read. So your starting point for your blog needs to be your target audience. What subjects interest them? What problems could you help them solve? What stories could you tell that would resonate with them? What insights could you share that will benefit them? If you have your own agenda at the forefront of your mind rather than theirs, you won’t get very far.
If you don’t have a call to action at the end of your blog post, you’re leaving your reader at a dead end and they’re likely to click away from your site. You need to guide people to take further action, whether that’s emailing for a quote, sharing the link with their network, or simply reading another post.
We don’t pretend to be SEO experts but we do know that there are some very simple things you can do to improve your search engine rankings. Most important is to do your keyword research and then make sure you’re including those words and phrases in your blog posts – especially titles. Remember that you need to use H1 tags for your main title and H2 for your subheads because this is how search engines rank page content for importance.
Especially when you’re first getting started (and in our experience, for as long as you blog for your business), you will need to get active on social media. It’s the best way to get your posts under the noses of the right people. You need to share every single one. Do this more than once, on different days, across as many channels as you can. Test different calls to action. Use images. Create graphics. Basically grab people’s attention any which way you can and make sure they end up clicking through to your website.
Gosh, that sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? But sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. And there’s no point in you wasting your valuable time creating post after post after post no one is ever going to read. Writing well isn’t just about being able to spell and punctuate properly. It’s about inspiring and educating and entertaining and provoking your reader. It’s a complicated blend of art and science, as much about psychology as it is linguistics. There’s a reason why people get paid to write – it takes skill, experience and a lot of practice to do well.
There’s no shame in admitting that writing isn’t your strong suit. If you can’t write – or you don’t enjoy it, or you simply don’t have the time – then why not let us help? Contact us today to find out more about our blogging packages, which start at two posts a month.
As a copywriting agency, a big part of what we do is provide ‘done for you’ blog writing services. Which sounds relatively straightforward but is actually quite an intricate process. After all, our expert clients need the work we produce to read like they wrote it – only better.
And they need it to deliver real results, adding value for their audience, building trust and loyalty, and ultimately moving people along the buyer journey towards a place where they are ready to, well, buy.
Over the last four and a half years, we’ve written over 1,000 blog posts for dozens of businesses ranging from local Bristol-based startups to SMEs operating out of a dozen countries around the world. And we’ve learned a lot about what it takes to consistently create high-quality posts that deliver results.
Before we begin work with a new client we always hold an onboarding and strategy session. This allows us to get clear on the processes that will define the way we work. But more importantly it’s a chance to get to know our clients inside out.
We need to know not just what they do or sell but the benefits their services or products add for their clients and customers. We need to understand what makes them different, what their brand personality is, what their goals are and so much more besides.
We also need to understand the audience they’re speaking to. What are they looking for? What are their pain points and their aspirations? Are they aware of the product or service on offer or do they need educating? What might stop them from engaging with our client?
Only then can we begin to formulate a strategy for their blog. Do we need to focus on one particular audience group e.g. the decision maker rather than the user? Are we trying to engage people early in their awareness journey or those ready to make a purchase? What objections can we handle with a blog post? Where can we add the most value?
“The clients we work with are, without a doubt, experts in their fields. But experts usually have such depth of knowledge that they can find it difficult to see the wood for the trees.”
“How can you write for us, if you aren’t experts in what we do?” That’s a question we often hear from prospective clients. And it’s a fair point. We don’t profess to be experts in financial modelling, men’s skincare, app development, Spanish property or leadership development – all subjects we’ve written blog posts about.
That’s why the briefing session is so important. It’s where we use a journalistic approach to draw out the information we need to create credible and engaging posts. This isn’t always the information the client thinks is the most important but the information that their audience is interested in. Our job is to put ourselves in the shoes of the reader, using what we’ve gathered about them in the strategy session to ask “Would I read this? Would I care? What’s in it for me?”
The clients we work with are, without a doubt, experts in their fields. But experts usually have such depth of knowledge that they can find it difficult to see the wood for the trees. They try to pack too much into each post, making it hard for readers to navigate. Or they pitch too high, assuming everyone has the same base knowledge as them rather than explaining important concepts.
As an agency, one of our core skills lies in picking up new subjects quickly, pulling out the most enticing, useful, informative nuggets and packaging these up in a way that makes each and every post engaging and valuable for our client’s audience.
Once we’ve extracted the information we need from our client, the writing team gets to work. There’s no formula here, as each post needs to be bespoke to the client, showcasing their expertise clearly and authentically in their brand voice.
One thing that is common to all the posts we write is that they combine the client’s expertise with our understanding of what makes a blog post engaging. From the title to the opening paragraph, the structure and the subheads, and the call to action at the end, we do a lot more than string a few grammatically correct sentences together.
Although content marketing is all about adding value for the reader, it also has to deliver a business benefit. Our clients may be experts at what they do but they’d be the first to admit they’re not copywriting experts. Our job in writing blog posts for them is to balance the needs of the reader with the needs of the business, keeping strategy at the heart of all we do.
Once a batch of posts has been written, it is edited and proofread by another member of the team before being shared with the client. We use Google Docs to make the process simple, allowing more than one member of the client’s team to add their comments. Once this is done we get the amends done ready for the client to start publishing.
The thing about blog posts is that they’re only useful if people are reading them. While some of our clients have a well defined SEO strategy, which we use to inform the way we write, others rely on social media engagement. This means they need to be using social media consistently, which many simply don’t have time to do.
Our ‘social sharing copy’ uplift gives our clients three short pieces of copy for each blog post, which they can copy and paste onto their LinkedIn or Facebook feed with a link to the post. They don’t need to think about what to write – it can be trickier than you think to come up with a couple of catchy lines to introduce a piece of content – and they can share each post multiple times without sounding repetitive.
We can also create lead magnets related to the blog posts we are writing – downloads that allow our clients to capture email data and nurture a relationship with potential customers and clients. These include checklists, ebooks, guides and more.
Blogging is a powerful tool for any business. According to DemandMetric, companies that blog produce an average of 67% more leads each month compared to those that don’t. But just bashing out 1,000 words every now and then isn’t enough in a world where over 4 million blog posts are published each day. That’s where we come in.
If you’re ready to transform your blog into a tool that helps you establish your expertise and grow your reputation online, get in touch for a quote today.
Blogging can be an incredibly powerful tool for any business. From adding value for your clients to boosting your website’s SEO, showcasing your expertise and more, there are many reasons why it pays to invest in this aspect of your content marketing. But how do you come up with ideas for your business blog in the first place?
Because the truth is that there are millions of blog posts published every day. Which means that if you want yours to grab the attention of your intended audience, you need to make sure each title is a winner.
Over the years we’ve written hundreds of blog posts for a huge range of clients, from software developers to mental health clinicians, graphic designers to leadership coaches. All very different subjects but the fundamentals of helping their blog succeed was the same.
In each case, the value we were able to add beyond crafting well-written, engaging content was actually helping them to set a strategy and come up with sharp, well-angled titles to get people reading in the first place.
Most business owners, on sitting down to think about what they can blog about next, will look inwards. What do I want to write about? What’s happening in my business? What do I want my audience to know about, believe, understand?
There’s nothing at all wrong with this. But once all that’s down on paper, you also need to think about what your audience wants to read about. What are they struggling with? What do they aspire to? What’s confusing them? What will make them laugh? Or nod along in complete understanding?
Now look at those two lists and imagine a Venn diagram – you know the one with the two circles that overlap? Whatever is in that overlapping bit is your sweet spot. This is where you will engage your audience.
The truth is, you don’t need to come up with entirely original ideas. Ideas are all around you:
And that’s just a few examples. Once you start looking, you’ll find inspiration everywhere. Then it’s just about going back to that list you made and working out which ones fit within that Venn diagram. Which ones will your audience be interested in while also serving your needs as a business.
If you Google “where can I get ideas for my business blog?” you’ll find thousands of posts offering much the same advice as we’ve summarised above. But don’t you find that sometimes you can know the theory and still find it tricky to put it into practice?
That’s where tools can be really effective. Sadly, we haven’t found many really effective ones. There are quite a few ‘Blog title generators’ online, where you stick in a few key words and an algorithm spits out a list of titles you might want to consider for your blog.
These can be fun to play with but in isolation they really aren’t going to help you get your blog generating real results for your business. That’s why we decided we should create our own tools. And once we started, we couldn’t stop!
Here’s what we came up with:
Now we’ve packaged these 5 tools up into the Business Owner’s Blog Title Toolkit, which is packed with example titles that will help you generate ideas for your business blog today, tomorrow and long into the future.
Why have we done this? Because we believe every business should have access to the tools they need to create a blog that generates results, even if they don’t have the budget to hire a professional copywriter.
If you’re struggling to blog consistently and you know that having a stream of engaging ideas and eye-catching titles would help, we know you’ll benefit from the Business Owner’s Blog Title Toolkit, which is available in our new shop for £27+VAT.
Blogging is a powerful tool in itself. But only if it stands out from the crowd. And it all starts with getting the right ideas and crafting effective titles – titles that will not only communicate what you want to share with the world, but connect directly with your audience so that they can’t help but click on them.
Before we created our Blog Surgery service, we conducted a small research project. We wanted to know whether it was something people would be interested in, how useful they’d find it, and whether we could tweak our initial ideas in some way to make it even more beneficial.
The idea of the Blog Surgery is simple. A business owner sends in a blog post plus a completed mini brand questionnaire so we understand things like their audience and their goals. Then we provide feedback and advice to help them improve their content writing skills.
We chose six individuals from those who applied to take part in the trial, covering a wide range of businesses – a photographer, a health and fitness coach, a growing consultancy practice. The funny thing was that despite the businesses being so different and despite them writing such different styles of post, there were some common themes that crept up a lot.
Here are the most common blogging mistakes we saw and how you can fix them.
It’s natural that when you approach writing a blog for your business, you have an end goal in mind. But if you only consider what you want to promote then you’ll most likely find yourself entirely without readers.
The phrase to bear in mind is WIIFM: “What’s in it for me?” We’re all tight on time and if you’re asking someone to spend several minutes giving their attention to your blog, you need to be able to reward them with something.
That could be tips and tricks to help them do their job better, or the secret to dropping a dress size in a week, or a good giggle or a bit of therapy… The “what” will depend on your audience. And that’s why it’s so important that with everything you create, you bear your client personas in mind.
When you brainstorm ideas for your blog, you’ll probably start with fairly broad subject areas. For example, I might think, “I can write something about blogging.” Which is great but it’s not specific enough.
To really catch someone’s interest, you have to narrow it down a bit. For example, we have posts such as Blogging – how long, how often and other important questions, How to maximise the ROI of your business blog, and How to blog consistently.
Here’s another example which I used in some blogging training I did with the marketing team at the Bath Fashion Museum.
By spending that little bit more time honing your angle, you get something much more engaging and clickable.
If you’re stuck into your favourite novel, you probably won’t mind ploughing your way through a long sentence or a chunky paragraph. The trouble is that when it comes to reading online, a big block of text feels intimidating and off putting.
If a sentence gets beyond 25 or so words, you need to start thinking about whether you can split it. Likewise a paragraph that gets to more than about five lines can start to make your page feel heavy.
As important as individual sentence and paragraph length is the overall structure of your blog. Use subheads to break up your text and make it easier to scan and navigate. Use bullet points for lists, images, pull quotes, infographics. Anything to break up an endless stream of text.
The Blog Surgery has generated some lovely client feedback from business owners who finally have more than theory to go on when it comes to improving their blog.
When Giles Male, director of Excel specialists Clarity Consulting, first read his feedback he emailed us to say, “I’ve just read your feedback for the first time… my mind is blown! Thanks so much for this.”
And Victoria Williams, founder of Terptree, a consultancy specialising in improving customer experience for deaf people, said, “The blog feedback proved super useful, as Rin gave constructive feedback. This enabled me to understand the areas of my blog that needed improving and directed me to how I could make these changes.It allowed me to put together a well written article which made the point I set out to in the first place.”
If you’d like detailed feedback on your blog writing as well as actionable advice to help you level up your blogging skills, check out the Blog Surgery today.