Part 2: Formatting and Creating Your Awesome Content
When we last left off in Part 1, I discussed three simple blogging basics given in a free video here from The Blogcademy. The Blogcademy is run by bloggers Gala Darling, Shauna Haider, and Kat Williams, who have taught thousands of entrepreneurs the secrets to running a successful blog. While these three are primarily in the business of blogging, they are also writers, photographers, graphic designers, travel gurus, and style icons, and combined they have over two decades of experience in the professional blogging world.
In this post, we’ll examine the formatting you need to use to make your blog entries pop, and we’ll also delve into some of The Blogcademy founders’ expert advice on content creation.
4. Formatting Your Blog Posts for Easy Readability
“When it comes to formatting your blog posts,” Shauna explains in the “Blogging Basics” video, “pictures are worth a thousand words.” For businesses, especially, a blog post is an excellent opportunity to share pictures of your products or images that might be related to your services or industry. If you don’t have any pictures to share, a great infographic can also do the trick to engage readers. The reason for this simple: text alone throughout an entire blog post can be tedious for readers, so it’s good to break it up if you can. (If you can’t, for some reason, try using headings and lists to divide the big blocks of text.)
Adding images to your blog offers you a chance to embrace other social media apps, such as Instagram. And if you’ve already been using this platform to edit photographs of your products or business, why not also include them in your blog?
But just make sure the pictures aren’t all the same, they warn. Kat and Gala call out fashion bloggers who use slightly different poses or angles to show off the same outfit, accessories, or pair of shoes in a dozen or more photos. They advise to keep those extra shots on Twitter, Instagram, or a photo sharing site like Flickr. Choose just one or two of your favorites for your blog. If you’re showing off pictures of your company’s latest products on your blog, for instance, just displaying one photo can entice customers to head to your shop to see the real thing! (Speaking of Flickr, you can also access their Creative Commons here for photos that are free to use. Just make sure to give attribution and pay attention to whether or not the photos can be used for commercial purposes or not.)
Ideally, Shauna says, you should “Tell your story in as few images as absolutely possible.” For formatting purposes, mixing photograph heights is fine, but they should all be the same width (preferably as wide as the column for the blog entry text). Keep text left-aligned and only use center-aligned text as a caption or quote made to stand out; otherwise it can be too jarring for a reader’s eyes to adjust to the change.
If you're using advertising on your blog, Kat recommends keeping it in one designated area. Ideally, you won’t be advertising on your company blog unless you’re really desperate for the extra cash, but if you want to link to affiliates or other local businesses, keep it in one spot or widget in the sidebar rather than scattered all over the place.
5. Planning Your Content (and Actually Taking the Time to Create It!)
Finally, there’s content. The “Blogging Basics” video doesn’t cover content creation much beyond layout and photography -- ideally so you’ll check out their video on “Creating Killer Content” or attend one of the in-person sessions yourself. However, there are a few ways you can think about the content you want to produce, so you know exactly what to deliver to your audience.
Kat goes into some of these basics in a video for the just-launched “Blogcademy Online” classes here, entitled, “10 Lessons All Bloggers Should Learn” (another freebie if you log in with Facebook!). I won’t go into all 10 lessons -- you’ll have to watch for yourself -- but here are three points she makes regarding content that I found especially helpful:
- Be different: You want to set yourself apart from your competition, not try to imitate it. If you’re not being genuine, then you don’t have anything unique to offer to your customers.
- Be consistent: Make sure you set a schedule for yourself, whether it’s several times each week, once a week, or just twice a month. But stick to that schedule, so your readers will know when to look for more and keep coming back.
- Be focused on content creation above all else: Kat also mentions the cliche of “Content is king” (a phrase I find about as nauseating as “YOLO” or “jeggings”), but as repetitive as it may sound, it’s true. Content should be your #1 concern. The most beautiful blog in the world is nothing without content, so stop tweaking that layout and get writing!
If you’re struggling with ways to come up with post topics, Kat recommends using your blog to help people. Give them how-tos, information on your products and services, or other details that they can use in their daily lives. For instance, Kat mentioned that she had posted about her travels with The Blogcademy on Rock ‘n’ Roll Bride, but they had been more “look at me in this fabulous place”-style entries. When she realized that her readers weren’t too engaged by it, she figured out how to turn her travel adventures into useful advice for others (e.g. what to do or where to dine in certain parts of the world). The change led to greater interest from her readers and fans.
Another great way to keep your blog content fresh is to use a strategy called newsjacking. Newsjacking is where you find a news story that is popular and/or relevant to your industry and put your own spin on it. Use a news story to start a discussion in your comments section, and take advantage of trending hashtags on Twitter and Facebook to promote your blog (and business). As a word of caution, though, use this strategy with care. To stay on the safe side, keep the news as closely related to your industry as possible or else you could wind up with a PR disaster on your hands.
The third of the “Blogcademy Online” preview videos shows footage from an in-person Blogcademy lesson hosted by Shauna. She covers advice on developing your own blogging business plan, which goes along with Kat’s lesson regarding standing out from the competition.
Shauna’s advice is also very useful for planning your content creation and can help you identify the niche markets you serve. She refers to the business plan as an “elevator pitch,” or a short and sweet statement that will define exactly what you want to do online and how you will fill in certain gaps in the marketplace. (Again, something that intersects well with Kat’s message of using your blog to help others.) Check out her video on The Blogcademy site for a breakdown on creating your blogging business plan, whether you’re interested in blogging full-time or not.
Lastly, don’t forget to tie in your fabulous blog entries with your social media presence. Adding a link on Facebook, Twitter, or even Instagram is a fantastic way to boost your readership and perhaps even attract some new customers thanks to social sharing.
While this guide may sound a bit intimidating (who knew there was so much to running a blog?), it should give you some idea of where to begin. Above all, keep at it. Success doesn’t happen overnight, whether with writing your company’s blog or running your business itself. Give it time to find your stride, and don’t forget to engage with customers on social media. With persistence you can come away with an excellent resource your client base will return to again and again and set yourself apart from your competition, as well.