July 19, 2017 | Emily Winsauer

Behind the Scenes: Our Staff Blogging Guidelines

Whatever your business, it's really freaking hard to write and/or record all the pieces of content you needIf you aren't working with an inbound agency like VIEO to produce it all (and, frankly, even if you are), it's nearly impossible to get the best results without involving the subject matter experts on your team.
It's surprisingly common for the quality of a company's content to be much lower than their level of expertise, and part of the reason is that no one outside the marketing department is involved in creating it. 
 
You can get started by interviewing your coworkers or asking them for feedback on existing content, but the jackpot is actually getting them to draft blog posts, white papers, video scripts, or whatever else you need. Naturally, everything must be edited by the content team, but the information and (when appropriate to your company voice) the personality come from the subject matter expert.
 
giphy-downsized (4).gifHowever, once you recruit people to create drafts of content, they may feel a little at sea about the actual writing process.
 
I've certainly come across this working with our team here at VIEO, so about a year ago I created a set of blogging guidelines to help people out and give them a little confidence. Last week, it occurred to me—why haven't I shared this with our blog readers?
 
So, without further ado, here they are!
 

VIEO Staff Blogging Guidelines

First, I want to be clear that all of this advice should help you express your personality, not get rid of it! You're so valuable to our team (and our blog!) not only because of your skill set, but because of who you are.
 

1. Developing Your Idea

Target Your Topic to a Persona

First, consider our buyer personas. How can you frame your idea in a way that will appeal to them? One way to do this is to ask yourself what about your topic affects or interests them most, and then make that the lens through which you view your topic.

Define Your Scope

Next, bite off a manageable chunk of your topic. Pick one main point and focus on supporting it. Give readers a neat little content present, and they’ll keep coming back for more.
 
If you have lots of other related points that aren’t in support of your main point, those would make great posts in themselves; you may even have the makings of a good series. However, if it doesn’t support your main point, cut it out. Except jokes. Leave those in.
 
Finally, before you start writing, ask yourself—is this truly interesting? Is this actually helping someone? Who? If you can’t answer, go back and look at the “lens” discussed above. Keep it hyper-relevant and/or specific; our most-read and most shared-posts have answered a very specific question or addressed an important pain point of our personas.
 

Pick a Target Keyword/Phrase/Topic

Talk to someone with SEO experience about keyword selection if you need to, but the goal of choosing keywords at this stage is to help YOU keep your writing focused on your topic. It also helps the project manager as they enter the page into the CMS. For now, don’t think about the technical side of keywords. What 3-7 words describe your topic? Now, write about that.
 

2. Planning Your Post

Outline, at least a little!

Rambling, aimless posts are not only unappealing, they’re unprofessional. One simple tip, courtesy of your high school English teacher—outline!
 
You don’t have to be overly formal, just jot down the points you need to hit along the way to support your main point. Use these to guide you as you write, and keep it tight! Good web copy tends to be clear, concise, and well-structured.
 

Write a Compelling Title

Most importantly, the title should accurately describe the content. A snazzy title may get clicks, but if the content isn’t what people expect, the bounce rate will rise.
Keep titles brief, specific, actionable, and keyword conscious.
 
Here are some tips:
  • Ask a question
  • Rephrase your topic starting with how/why/what/when
  • Use numbers—6 reasons, 4 steps, 5 best, etc.
  • Add urgency (but don't be threatening)
  • Establish authority (but without being cheesy)
  • Is it boring? Humor and personality are a plus

3. Writing Your Intro

Your intro is really important, though it’s often an afterthought. It’s the first thing people read, and it’s a big part of whether they keep reading.
 
It needs to ease your reader into your topic. You can start with an example, a common situation or pain point, a funny story, a question, or some other entrée into your topic, ideally one that demonstrates why your post is relevant.
 
One trick I use is to write the intro and conclusion last—often, when you start, the topic hasn’t “gelled” for you yet. There’s nothing wrong with finding a great intro after you’ve finished the rest of your post; I do it all the time.
 

4. Formatting Your Post

Big blocks of text are intimidating to everyone. Alternating your formats is a great way to keep readers engaged online. Try breaking your body copy into sections with section headings or using bullet points, highlighting main ideas with bold, or using graphics, tables, and charts (well, interesting ones), to keep your reader interested and help them find the information they’re looking for.
 
Remember, people don’t read the same way on the Internet that they do on paper. Because we are so inundated by information on the web, attention spans are shorter and people look for cues about what’s important. That’s why images, headings, lists, and different forms of emphasis help kick your blog posts up a notch.
 

5. Adding Value

Sources

If you include any facts or figures in you post (or use any points or arguments directly from another source), include links to them. “Common knowledge” is the exception—you wouldn’t need to cite a source for something that is widely available from a variety of sources, unless you think it would help your reader.
 

Media

We’re lucky to have a design team to make great blog images for us, but media is a part of content, too. Is there a video or GIF you can embed? What supporting images might make the post more interesting? 
 

6. Before You Submit It…

Proofread

For our purposes (i.e. because you have an editor), rereading what you have written and doing a basic spell check in Word should be enough. But seriously, please do that! It saves a lot of time and accidental errors.
 

Tighten It Up

The best writing advice I have ever heard is this: don’t use any words you don’t need.
 
Did you use 2 sentences to say something you could have said in one (note: adding a semicolon doesn’t fix this problem)? Did you include a paragraph making a minor point that isn’t related to you topic? Cut it out!
 
If it’s valuable content, save it for later and write another post based on it. But if it doesn’t help you make your point, or if it’s just extra fluff, lose it.
 

Pretend You’re the Reader

It’s likely that you’ve chosen a blog post topic that you’re pretty familiar with, so it’s important to remember that you’re not writing for yourself, but for your reader.
  • Check your post for industry shorthand, abbreviations, terms, and references that your readers may not understand, and be sure to explain as needed.
  • Along those lines, do a quick read-through with a critical eye to make sure that your metaphors, examples, illustrations, and concepts translate well for everyone else. We all get a little “in our own heads” sometimes while we’re writing, and it can get in the way of communicating your ideas well.
  • You know how to get in touch with your company, but your reader doesn’t. If you’re blogging for business, don’t make your potential customers go searching for your contact information, or any other essentials that may have slipped your mind. 

 

Lastly, make sure that the calls to action in your post follow logically from the topic of the post. if you want people to click, call, or submit forms, you need to be offering them something they want and will benefit from. 

Something, say, a little bit like this....

Mapping the Buyer's JourneyMake sure your blog topics will actually drive results by mapping your content to the buyer's journey! No GPS needed—our mapping worksheet is free to download.

Emily Winsauer

Emily Winsauer

As VIEO's content director, Emily Winsauer is responsible for content strategy for VIEO and our clients. She works with the content team to create a wide range of compelling content designed to help our clients better connect with their customers.

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