7 Good Business Blogging Examples

Blogging has become one of the most valuable marketing tools that businesses have for improving SEO, building an email list, and connecting more directly with customers and leads. When done well, blogging can do a lot of good for your business.

But blogging isn’t easy to do well. It requires a lot of ongoing work to produce regular content, and making sure the content you publish is useful and entertaining to your audience is a constant challenge on top of that.

If your company struggles with business blogging and could use some inspiration, I’ve brought together a few good examples of businesses* that consistently produce solid blog content for their audiences.

1.    Care/of

business blogging example care/of

Care/of is a vitamin subscription service that customizes the vitamins they send to each customer based on their particular lifestyle and needs. The company’s blog includes articles that directly discuss the benefits of the supplements they sell, summarizing and referencing research studies that back up their claims. But they also publish posts less directly related to their products that address health-related topics that their target audience is likely to care about.

Some good posts that demonstrate this are:

  • Spice of Life: A Closer Look at the Benefits of All-Powerful Turmeric

    Turmeric is one of the supplements they sell, so this post is directly touting the benefits of a product, but the post manages not to feel overly promotional. It gets into the history of how turmeric has been used as both as a spice and a medicinal aid and references a number of research studies that have found evidence of its health benefits.

  • 5 Ways to De-Stress Over the Holidays

    During the holiday season, people get overwhelmed and stress becomes a big part of many people’s lives. This post covers a number of strategies that can help people reduce stress, including (but not limited to) taking some of the supplements the company provides. It’s another good example of a post that provides value first, but mentions their products where it’s relevant.

  • 7 Healthy Living Blogs You Need to Follow Now

    I call this a sharing-the-love post. It can feel unnatural to write a blog post that sends your readers to other blogs similar to yours, but people have room in their lives for more than one blog about a topic!

    By highlighting other blogs that cover health-related topics (most of them more about recipes or exercise rather than supplements, so not direct competitors to Care/of), this post provides something valuable to readers while also potentially starting positive relationships with influencers in the space.

2.    Media Bistro

business blogging example mediabistro Media Bistro helps play matchmaker for hiring managers in the media industry and the talented professionals they hire. Since the company has two equally important audiences, they produce two blogs: one for employers and one that offers career advice to media professionals.

The blog for employers is a good mix of posts that cover news relevant to hiring managers, answers to questions their readers are likely to have and general advice. Some recent examples worth checking out include:

  • Congress Weighs Massive Changes to 401(k) Contributions

    Employee benefits are something every hiring manager has on their minds, the benefits they offer and how competitive they are can make a big difference in the caliber of talent they attract. So when the government considers legislative changes that could affect the value of a common employee benefit like the 401(k), it’s something the Media Bistro audience needs to hear about. This post explains the proposed changes and what it would mean for the blog’s readers

  • Can You Hire or Fire Based on Political Beliefs?

    In the divisive atmosphere that’s followed the last presidential election, this is a question probably on the mind of more than a few hiring managers. This blog post provides both the technical answer (legally, yes, at least in most states), while also getting into the bigger question of whether or not you should factor politics into your personnel decisions.

    The career advice blog regularly publishes roundups of top jobs available in different cities – something that’s definitely valuable to readers looking for a job – along with posts that offer general career advice and answers to common questions. A few good examples to look at are:

  • 6 Ways to Track Down a Magazine Editor

    For many professional writers, figuring out the right person to pitch is a big part of the job. This post provides specific steps writers can take to discover the editors at publications they want to pitch. It’s a useful piece that solves a common problem readers have.

  • How to Land Higher Paying Assignments

    No matter the industry, any blog about careers should address the issue of money. It’s one of the biggest topics readers are thinking about. Media Bistro tackles the topic in this post, which provides specific advice on how to start making more money and backs it up with anecdotes from expert sources.

3.    Priceonomics

business blogging example priceonomics

Priceonomics has a business model based on data: tracking it effectively and putting it to good use. And they use their blog to effectively demonstrate the kind of good use their clients can put it to. Their blog posts all use data to answer common questions – or at least as often, questions you didn’t even know you had, but find yourself really interested in learning the answer to.

A lot of the content on their own blog serves as an example of collaborations with their clients. By showing the ways their customers use data to create great content, they make a case for their products, while also entertaining their readers.

Their posts are a mix of fun, useful, and just interesting information. Here are a few good examples:

  • Is There a Connection Between Bad Grammar and Bad Reviews?

    This post is a good example of a collaboration with a client, Datafiniti, a company that has a large database of products and their reviews. Once you hear the question, you probably think back to the large number of badly written negative reviews you’ve read – many of them with lots of unnecessary capital letters or confusing typos. It’s a good example of the kind of question you didn’t know you had until you heard it, and now you kind of want to know the answer, don’t you?

    The post not only answers this question (the answer is yes, if you’re wondering), but also includes a lot of interesting insights on the average length of reviews (apparently one-word reviews are quite common) and how length and spelling errors both correlate to whether a review is positive or negative. It’s a thorough and interesting analysis that does a good job of demonstrating the value Priceonomics provides to customers.

  • Ranking the Most (and Least) Nutritious Meals for Your Dollar

    This is a good example of a really useful post. If you’re someone who cares about your health (most of us) and also cares about spending your money well (also most of us), then this is the kind of information you need to make better decisions when choosing your meals. This is another collaboration with a customer – this time a company with software that helps people plan and track healthy eating.

    It tests the common supposition that healthy eating costs more (spoiler: it does). But it follows up that depressing finding with a list of healthy foods and recipes people can eat that pack a lot of nutrition for the cost. In short, it’s super useful.

4.    Grammarly

business blogging example grammarly

Grammarly sells subscription software that automatically checks customers’ writing against a number of rules and best practices to help them improve. Obviously, their audience is anyone that writes often – from students, to professional writers, to professionals who want to write better emails. Their blog posts therefore often delve into common problems and questions writers have, but they also sometimes explore fun history or weird information that curious learners (something most writers are likely to be) will find interesting.

Some good examples to check out include:

  • Want to Stop Procrastinating at Work and Get Stuff Done? Here’s How

    If I wasn’t currently hard at work on this blog post as I type, I might feel personally called out by this post. Like a lot of creative professionals and well, probably everybody else, writers often deal with procrastination. Staring at a blank Word document has a way of reminding writers about other things we could be doing.

    This post therefore addresses an issue that Grammarly’s target audience definitely cares about. It provides actionable advice that can really make a difference for a common problem.

  • Mexican Novels to Help You Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

    You know something all good writers like to do? Read! In fact, I’ve long considered reading one of the most essential tips for being a good writer. This post makes use of a timely reference (it went up on May 5) to provide Grammarly’s audience with information they’re likely to care about: recommendations for good books.

    This post technically doesn’t have anything to do with the company’s product, but that doesn’t matter. It keeps their target audience interested in the blog and more likely to come back for more.

5.    Threadless

threadless

Threadless mostly sells t-shirts, along with home décor, art, and accessories. People can buy t-shirts anywhere, so what makes Threadless really stand out is the hip and artsy personality they pack into their products. The blog continues that branding with posts that are fun, interesting, and highlight original art (including the art they put on their t-shirts and other products).

Here are a few posts that will give you a good taste of the fun personality they present:

  • No Context Needed: Overheard at Threadless

    This is a funny post that says a lot about the brand as it mixes design (each of the quotes are displayed with original illustrations) and humor. The quotes from employees around the office show the kind of light and goofy atmosphere that defines the company’s work culture and make it easy for readers to feel a connection to the brand.

  • The Cute Meets Creepy Creations of Comic Artist, Maria Ahokoivu

    This post features one of the artists whose work shows up on Threadless products. It humanizes the artist behind the work – she talks about favorite movies and pizza toppings, along with her work as an artist. And the post includes examples of her work, along with some links to specific Threadless products readers can buy. With artist interviews like this, they’ve found a human, personal way to sell.

  • 6 Tips for Making it as an Artist (And Making Money)

    Some of the people most likely to love and buy the products Threadless sells are other struggling artists trying to figure out how to get their own designs out in the world. This post provides advice for how to start profiting off your art and includes quotes from artists that have actually pulled it off. It’s valuable advice that speaks to a common struggle of the kind of people who follow and buy from Threadless.

  1. Intercom

intercom2

Intercom sells customer management software that helps businesses better organize and improve their relationship with customers and leads. As a result, they have three main audiences: marketers, sales reps, and customer support professionals. Their blog addresses topics relevant to each audience, as well as tackling issues important to anyone helping run an SaaS company. They often use their own experiences working at Intercom to provide useful advice to readers likely to face similar challenges.

Here are a couple of good examples of how they do that:

  • Motivate Your Star Performers with Meaningful Career Conversations

    For all three of the main audiences Intercom targets – sales, marketing, and customer support – one of the most important parts of success is finding and keeping good employees. This post provides specific steps that companies can take to make sure good employees want to stick around and uses examples of how Intercom does things to illustrate how the recommended process works and why it’s valuable.

  • Why Your Privacy Ecosystem is Crucial in the Age of GDPR

    This post addresses head on the biggest issue many tech companies are worried about right now: GDPR legislation. It provides useful advice on how to approach your own product and those it integrates with in order to better protect your customers’ privacy and stay on the right side of GDPR.

  1. HelpScout

good business blogging example helpscout

To promote their customer support software, the HelpScout blog provides a lot of information on providing great customer service, along with posts that more generally address how to run a business well. They regularly publish fairly long posts that include helpful tips coupled with examples that help illustrate the tips.

For an idea of what their posts often look like, here are a couple of good ones to read:

  • 22 Customer Retention Strategies that Work

    One of the many good reasons to provide great customer service is that it convinces happy customers to keep coming back – which is good for your bottom line. This post provides a lengthy list of good ways to keep customers happy once you’ve earned that first sale and backs up the recommended strategies with research and statistics.

  • Writing Support Emails: A Style Guide

    Style guides are a valuable tool for businesses that want to be consistent in the way they communicate across different channels, but they’re not commonly associated with support emails. This post provides a corrective to that. It gives specific and useful advice on how to structure emails to better provide your customers with what they need and accomplish your support goals. And it uses specific examples to illustrate the suggestions throughout.

Hopefully spending some time with good examples of business blog posts will give you the inspiration you need to get fired up writing for your own blog. Even though blogging requires a lot of work, it really can be worth it if you keep up with it and make sure you provide great blog posts that are helpful to your audience.

If you’re struggling with staying on top of all the writing that a blog requires, it’s ok to ask for help. Writing blog posts for businesses is a big part of what I do. I can take some of the load off for you. Just contact me to see if we might be a good fit.

 

*While I think all the blogs I write for are pretty great examples of good business blogging as well, I left them off the list here to avoid personal bias. Lucky for you, that means you can see even more examples of good business blogging over on my writing samples page. Enjoy.

 

How to Give Good Content Writing Feedback

We’ve all had the experience before – someone says words in a way that makes it clear that they think you’ll know exactlygood content writing feedback what they mean, but you’re stumped. You are just not following what they’re saying to you at all.

This is one of the quirks of communication that everyone deals with at some point. Something can be so clear and obvious in your own head that you think expressing that to the person in front of you (or on the other side of that email) is easy, but what’s clear to you is confusing and muddy to them.

Writers know the feeling of being on the other end of that email well. Most of us have had multiple experiences of hearing feedback from clients that just doesn’t tell us what we need to hear in order to understand what the client means. It’s tricky providing feedback well, but having a good relationship with any writer you hire depends on it. And giving good feedback early on in the relationship will usually help them learn what you’re looking for, so you won’t have to do as much work later on.

To help you more effectively get what you’re wanting from a content writer’s work and keep the relationship positive between you, here are some tips on how to give good content writing feedback.

Read the whole thing.

To start, you want to make sure your feedback is accurate and that means taking the time to read over the entire piece of content they’ve submitted. And really read here – don’t skim.

It’s embarrassing for you and awkward for the writer if they have to point out that you’ve asked them to add a section that actually already exists further down the page or with a heading you didn’t recognize. On top of being awkward, it wastes everyone’s time and you both have better things to do.

Get to it quickly.

I know you’re busy, but if you sit on a blog post or white paper for weeks, or worse, months before sending your feedback, that particular piece won’t be fresh in you content writer’s memory. It’s both harder and less efficient to make good updates if they barely remember the piece by that point and the research they did for it. And some freelance content writers (this one included) will even put feedback deadlines in the contract, so you may miss your chance to get updates altogether if you wait too long.

So give yourself a deadline. Commit to reading over the piece and sending your feedback within a week of receiving it, and get it on your to do list even sooner if possible.

Be specific.

While it’s so obvious to you why the wording in that third paragraph just doesn’t sound right or the overall tone of the piece doesn’t work – your content writer can’t see into your head. You have to explain what you’re seeing to them in terms that make it clear to them how to make the changes you want.

Avoid general language.

Feedback like “this section doesn’t really work” or “this just isn’t clicking” only tells someone that you don’t like what you’re looking at. It doesn’t tell them why. Sure, your writer could re-write that section to be all new wording, but if they don’t understand what you don’t like about it, there’s a good chance they’ll end up just repeating the problem you didn’t like about it the first time.

Saying instead something like “the tone in this section is too formal” or “this sentence is too long, which makes it hard to follow” actually gives us something to work with when making changes.

Make notes and changes in the text itself.

This makes it possible for you to comment directly on specific wording or sections that demonstrate the issue you’re addressing. If you think some of the wording is muddy or confusing, point out specifically where you see that happening rather than expecting the writer to be able to figure it out. If you think there are claims in the piece that need to be better backed up with sources, point out which ones.

Being able to match your feedback with the particular parts of the content piece you’re talking about will help the writer see clearly what you mean so they know both the sort of changes you’re looking for now and how to avoid making those same mistakes in the future.

Provide examples of what you’re looking for.

Particularly when it comes to issues of tone and style, it can be hard to communicate exactly what you want with descriptive terms. If you can point to other blog posts or content pieces – either on your own website or elsewhere – that have the kind of style you’re looking for (or even better, if you have a style guide), it can go a long way to help a writer figure out the right approach to take.

Be respectful.

Clarity is a big part of the good feedback equation, but respect is just as important. When you hire a professional content writer, you need to treat them with professionalism.

Negative feedback is ok, but tone matters.

That doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to provide criticisms. Anyone working in a creative field should have enough of a thick skin to take (respectful) criticism of their work. The line between constructive criticism and being insulting or mean should be clear to you. If it’s not, let someone else in your company be in charge of providing feedback and maybe consider therapy or communication classes to learn the difference, because it’s a pretty important life skill to have. I don’t mean that as shade, but as genuine advice.

Saying “this writing is awful” or “don’t you know anything?” isn’t helpful, but saying “this piece could really use some more work, could you take some time to do a little more research and find some data or case studies to back up your points?” is perfectly reasonable.

Keep things professional.

This relates to tone, but is worth saying on its own. Don’t yell at a content writer because you don’t like their work. Don’t insult their intelligence or use vulgar language to describe what you think of it. For the love of all that matters in this world, do NOT use racial, sexist, or ableist slurs in your response.

Every content writer you hire, whether they’re a freelancer or employee, is someone with a career and their own professional contacts. Know that if you’re the client or boss from hell, their other contacts will hear about it and it will come back to haunt you.

Remember: writing is subjective.

One of the really cool things about language is that there are a lot of right ways to say the same thing. Someone can have a writing style that doesn’t work for you, but is still perfectly good writing. Remember that your opinion on this subject is not the objectively correct opinion.

When you’re paying for someone to write for you, you’re allowed to have an opinion on the writing – of course you are. But don’t frame your feedback as though you know the right way to say things and your writer is clearly wrong for not choosing the wording you would have. If you do, you’ll come off as arrogant and patronizing.

Instead, approach your feedback as an exercise in helping your writer understand how to come around to your preferences for style and tone – or better yet, the preferences you believe your audience has for style and tone. After all, you may be the client, but they’re not actually writing for you.

 

A good working relationship with a freelance content writer can be extremely beneficial to your company and your content marketing program. Good feedback is an important part of being able to keep the writers you hire for the long term and get them to a place where they know how to deliver the kind of content you’re looking for. It’s worth spending a little bit of time, especially early in your relationship, to provide specific and respectful feedback to any writer you work with.

 

6 Great Content Writing Examples

Anyone who works in content marketing is used to encountering bad examples. You get better at noticing the stuff that doesn’t work when it’s your job to make stuff that does. Because we’re so used to seeing bad examples, it feels really good to encounter examples of content writing done right.

It can give is some inspiration in our work and, if we’re the target audience, be directly useful to us as well. To provide some of you with that feeling today, I’ve collected a few examples of great content writing I’ve encountered. Enjoy.

Great Business Blogging Examples

For most companies that do content marketing, blogging is the biggest part of the job. Blogs give you the opportunity to provide fresh, useful content to your audience on a regular basis and they’re one of the best tools you’ve got for SEO.

But they’re also hungry beasts that demand lots of work and never let you take a break. That’s caused far too many businesses to try to settle for lazy, cheap content on their blogs – or give up on them entirely within a few months of not seeing immediate results.

The brands that stick with it and provide consistently helpful and high-quality content are therefore in the minority.

HomeAdvisor

Homeowners tend to have a lot of ideas for projects they want to try and questions about how to handle everyday fixes. The Home Advisor blog HomeSource is packed full of answers and tips. The blog is a mix of practical tips like how to hire a good contractor or pack for a move, along with more fun topics like decorating your home and yard.

Probably the most common questions homeowners have are those about cost. Many people – especially new homeowners – simply don’t know what’s normal to expect a home repair or update to cost. In addition to the blog itself, HomeAdvisor therefore offers a True Cost guide to give you an idea of what your budget should be before you start a project, and help you rule out any contractors that charge outside of the norm. And since the company’s business model is based on matching homeowners with the people who do those sorts of projects, they of course offer a handy CTA on the same page to help you find relevant professionals in your area.

content marketing example

Rover

Rover’s got a bit of advantage over most businesses when it comes to their content. The company is all about pets (mostly dogs) – and we all know pet pictures are one of the most popular things on the internet. But in addition to taking advantage of the love people have for pictures of cute animals, the Rover blog Daily Treat also provides a lot of useful information on topics important to pet owners, such as training and safety tips and answers to pressing questions like “do dogs recognize us on a phone screen?” (if you have a dog, you’ve probably wondered).

blogging example
They’re one of the companies that can most successfully get me to click on a link in an email, because they do a great job of figuring out the things pet owners really do want to know.

Ehrlich

If you’re thinking “sure, their content’s good, but Rover has it so much easier than those of us doing marketing in areas less compelling than the cute dog industry,” here’s an example for you. The pest control company Ehrlich has a great blog, deBugged that provides lots of useful information about bugs and other creepy crawly-adjacent subjects.

Bugs aren’t a subject most of us go out of our way to do some reading on each day, but when you need to know how concerned you should really be about Zika virus or what to do about bed bugs, those posts will come in handy. And the rest of the time, you may find posts on topics like how long wasps live to be interesting as well. Like Home Advisor, they include CTAs at the end of their content where relevant so that person trying to figure out what to do about bed bugs knows who to call to help.

blogging example

 Great Examples of Longform Content

As content marketing is adopted by more and more businesses in all sorts of industries, finding a way to stand out is a challenge. One route many businesses are taking is creating content that goes more in depth. It takes more work, but if you can pack more of the information your prospects need into one longform piece rather than spreading it over a number of shorter pieces, many people will find that more helpful.

Freshbooks

Freshbooks’ target audience for their accounting software is small businesses and freelancers. That’s a group of people that thinks a lot about pricing – figuring out how to charge for your services in a way that works for you and your customers is a fraught subject.

In order to provide them information so useful it could stand out in the marketing crowd, they put together an ebook that tackled the subject of how to switch from charging hourly to project-based pricing. The 70-page book is structured like a conversation between two relatable professionals and lays out the case for a different approach to pricing that can help service-based small business owners make more.

The book got reviewed around the web and collected positive testimonials from a number of key influencers. Not bad in our world of content saturation.

longform content writing example

Moz

I mentioned content saturation before, but arguably the industry that has it the worst is marketing. Many of the earliest adopters of content marketing were marketing agencies and marketing software companies. Producing content about marketing that doesn’t repeat what’s been said before and manages to provide something truly useful is a huge challenge businesses face. But Moz is consistently good at it.

Any time I encounter someone looking to learn the basics of SEO, I send them over to the The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz. It’s thorough, but manageable. It’s written in a way to be accessible to people new to the concept and it’s organized to make it easy to focus in on specific sections when you just need a refresher on, say, keyword research.

The guide was produced several years ago, but is updated regularly to make sure the information stays accurate. It’s been read over 3 million times and continues to generate new traffic for the site.

longform content writing example

Rodale’s

For people just getting started, gardening is both exciting and overwhelming. There’s a lot you need to know and figuring out both the answers to your questions and even what questions you should have can be challenging.

In addition to their usual helpful blog content, Rodale’s also provides some longform guides that help the people in their target audience – gardeners that care about the environment – learn all the most important basics to start out with.

Their Beginner’s Guide to Organic Gardening covers using seeds, using transplants, weeds, pest control, and basic gardening vocabulary. It ensures readers can go into their local nursery with all the 101-information covered.

longform content writing example

Content marketing is hard to do well, but seeing how other brands are pulling it off can help you to revisit your own strategy to consider ways to do better.

Hopefully these examples will provide some inspiration for your own content. And if you could use some extra help with content writing for your business, that’s what I do. Get in touch to see if we might be a good fit.

Want more examples of great content writing to check out? I collected 7 great examples of business blogs in a recent post and I’ve got a whole page of content writing links by me over on my writing samples page.

7 Tricks to Always Have a Blog Topic Handy

blog topic ideas

If you have a blog, at some point you’ve hit up against the challenge of coming up with topics to write about. While you know that there’s no way you’ve covered every subject possible that’s related to your industry, sometimes you just can’t seem to think of anything new.

A successful blog strategy requires staying on top of this issue. Your aim should be to always have a list of topics you can turn to when it’s time to update the content calendar. And you definitely never want to find yourself scrambling for a topic with no good ideas right before it’s time for a new post to go up.

You can do better than that. Developing a few good habits can ensure you’re always prepared with an ongoing list of relevant topic ideas. These seven tips are a good start.

  1. Have a central place to keep a list of ideas and resources.

For every other step on this list to pay off, you have to take a second to jot down all the ideas you have as you go. And at least as importantly, you have to get them down somewhere that you’ll think to return to at the moment when you’re planning out your content calendar.

The place you choose to do that is up to you, but make sure you find somewhere consistent to regularly record your ideas where it’s easy to add to the list and make notes in the moment while the idea is fresh in your memory. This could be something as simple as a Word or Google document, or your list could live in a tool more designed for the purpose like Evernote or Trello.

Treat this as your central repository for ideas. Don’t be particular about what goes in. As with a brainstorming session, there are no bad ideas. An idea that you’re not sure is strong enough on its own for a blog post could later inspire you to think of a related topic that makes for great content. Any idea you have, throw in there. You can refine the ideas later when it comes time to put actual topics on the calendar.

  1. Always be researching.

This is good advice for life in general – we should all strive to be learning more as we go. When it comes to keeping your blog running smoothly though, research can play a key role in helping you generate topic ideas regularly.

Most good ideas in history have been built off of other ideas. What you read in another industry blog (or maybe even in the news or a magazine) can be the seed to a great blog post you write later.

Make research a part of your daily to-do list and always be on the lookout for ideas buried in the articles you read, videos you watch, and podcasts you listen to that you can build off of in your own content. You can save articles you see shared on social media for later with an app like Pocket, and you can add blogs and publications that consistently provide information you find valuable to an app like Feedly so discovering good articles on the regular is simplified.

The tools we have available should make it easy for you to always find new research materials to consume, which will in turn help you keep your list of ideas growing.

  1. Use keyword research to see what people are interested in learning.

Keyword research is one of the early steps in any SEO strategy, but it’s also an important resource for figuring out what people are talking and thinking about. A number of keyword research tools exist, including Google’s free Keyword Planner.

All of them can help you grow your list of topic ideas with the confidence that every idea you add to the list is something your audience cares about.

  1. Subscribe to relevant email lists.

Seek out every important and successful blog in your industry and sign up for their email list. The emails they send out will point you toward their content, which will keep you abreast of what your competitors are doing. Seeing what topics they focus on can serve as inspiration to help you come up with (different, but related) topics for your blog.

  1. Pay attention to Google Trends.

Wonder what people around the world are thinking about right now? Google doesn’t have to wonder, they know. Every search someone does in the search engine turns into data that they share with Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 4.29.02 PMmarketers in a number of different forms. One of those is Google Trends.

You can see generally what people are thinking about. You can see the subjects that are most popular in different categories. And you can search specific terms to narrow down the data and see how popular that particular term is, along with a list of related terms people are searching for.

The more you explore in Google Trends, the more you gain a snapshot into what people are thinking about and looking for more information on. Not every trending topic will be relevant to your own blog, but finding those that are can give you great ideas that you know people are interested in.

  1. Hang out in relevant forums and social media groups.

The best way to find out what your audience cares about to is to hear it from them. That means hanging out wherever they are online. Look for forums, LinkedIn Groups, Twitter chats, and Facebook communities your audience is a part of. Follow relevant topics in Quora and pay attention to the questions people commonly ask.

Visit popular blogs with comment sections and read through them. When discussions get going, you’ll often find hidden gems of questions and comments that point you toward topics people want to know more about. The internet provides you with different opportunities and ways to listen, find and take advantage of them.

  1. Look for examples.

Is there something you’ve written about before that can be demonstrated with examples? For a lot of topics, it’s easy to find general advice and harder to find specific examples or case studies of how that advice plays out in real life. If you can fill in that gap, a lot of people will find it valuable.

Examples lend weight to what you’re saying and thus provide real, tangible value to your readers. It takes some work to put together blog posts that highlight specific examples of good advice in practice, but it’s a worthy topic category to tackle.

 

This list should keep the topics coming over time and ensure you consistently have a steady store of them to turn to whenever needed. When you have a long list of topic ideas to work with, your blog planning will run more efficiently and you’ll be able to consistently publish content that people are actually interested in.

 

8 Ways to Lose a Link

Content marketing means creating content with a purpose. For every piece of how to lose linkscontent you create, you should have a specific goal (or usually, several) in mind that you want it to achieve.

If you care at all about SEO – and I’m not sure I’ve met a content marketer that doesn’t – then one important goal you should have for blog posts is earning links. While the factors Google uses to determine search rankings are complicated, backlinks (quality ones, in particular) are still arguably the most important factor.

And one of the biggest factors involved in earning links is appealing to writers. We’re the ones who do most of that linking.

Let me assure you that we’re not spending our days considering whether or not we’ll make or break brands in our decisions about what to link to in our articles. We’re just trying to write the best, most useful content for our clients and their readers.

We’re not thinking about you, but you can benefit from thinking about us and understanding what goes through our heads when we decide whether or not a piece of content we come across is worthy of that link.

Just like anyone, we have our standards and pet peeves – sins that will make us immediately click off a page and refuse to consider it a worthy authority for our readers. To help you avoid inadvertently losing out on a link, I surveyed a few colleagues to better understand what makes all of us tick and decide a link is not worthy of our love.

8 Sins to Avoid if You Care About Building Links

1.    A bad website design

If your website looks like it was built in 1999 and hasn’t had an update since, it won’t look authoritative to me (or any of your other visitors). I’m not the only one who feels this way, Content Strategist and Author Leah Levy told me “I wouldn’t link to a piece if the site looks spammy — that is, it has an outdated design.”

“Spammy” is about the last word you want people to use to describe your website or content. The quality of the content itself won’t matter much if it lives on a website that looks so cheap and old that no one can get past the design.

As Linda Dessau, the founder of Content Mastery Guide, put it “Since a link is an endorsement, I steer clear of sites that look outdated or unprofessional. I want to be associated with people and businesses that have a polished and professional image.”

2.    Sloppy writing

Part of our job is paying attention to things like spelling, word choice, and sentence structure. When we encounter something that’s sloppily written or riddled with typos, you can bet we notice.

Linking to something that clearly no one bothered to proofread would make me look bad. If you can’t be bothered to take the time to read over your blog posts (or hire someone to do so) to make sure they make sense and don’t include any embarrassing errors, then writers won’t bother to share or link to them.

And it’s not just about writers nitpicking, sloppy writing makes you look untrustworthy. Leah agrees, she told me, “I wouldn’t link to anything with clear spelling or grammatical errors (nor would I trust it).”

3.    Bad UX

A good website design isn’t just about making sure you don’t look stuck in the 90’s, you also want to make sure people find your site easy to navigate and pleasant to be on.

Unfortunately, many businesses are callously sacrificing good UX in attempts to get more email sign ups and clicks. Pretty much anyone you talk to will have their opinions on what makes for bad UX (although not everyone would know to call it that).

For me it includes pop ups that block out the text and blog posts split needlessly between several pages when they could all be on one (slideshow posts are notorious offenders). I’ll put up with a certain amount of that on sites that are established enough or if the content is really useful. Normally though, I click away and find something else.

Freelance writer Susan Johnston Taylor has her own list of UX dislikes: ““If a site is littered with Google ads, broken links or typos, it doesn’t seem very credible.

As does writer and editor Christine Moline of Jane Doe Ink, who told me, “I wouldn’t link to a poorly organized post or any pages cluttered with ads.”

Linda added a couple more issues to the list: “I screen for overly aggressive or annoying pop-ups, sites that are slow to load or aren’t mobile-friendly.”

All told, different descriptions of bad user experience accounted for the most common answer I received from writers.

Just to reiterate, the final list of UX issues that will make writers click away comes to:

  • Annoying pop ups
  • Articles split into too many pages
  • Lots of ads
  • Broken links
  • Slow loading times
  • Sites that aren’t mobile friendly

If you’re prioritizing getting email sign ups or ad money over the experience visitors will have on your website, know that may be costing you links.

4.    Overly promotional content

When you’re paying for content (or investing a lot of time in it), it’s hard to set aside the idea of promoting yourself. I get it. You want a direct payoff for what you put into it.

When you make your content all about you though, it makes it come off as less trustworthy.

I head from multiple writers that overly promotional content was a no-no in their linking choices, but writer and content maven Phaedra Hise had the most to say on the subject: “I don’t link to anything that’s too promotional. I’m really picky about that – if it’s too promotional I might even link to it as an example of what NOT to do, but usually I don’t even like to give that kind of publicity.”

I mean, links are nice, but you don’t want to get one by becoming a writer’s example of what not to do.

5.    A statistic without a link or citation

None of the other writers mentioned it, but this is one of my personal rules. If your article mentions a statistic without telling me where it’s from, you will immediately lose my trust.

The thing is, many of us think we know statistics we don’t. I’ve come across the same statistic casually mentioned in article after article that I’ve never been able to track down to a source.

Sometimes the source is a research report that costs hundreds of dollars, so I understand if not every statistic can be easily linked to. But make sure you let me know which report that costs hundreds of dollars it’s from so I’m willing to at least take your word that it’s real.

I can only speak for myself on this one, but if you ever want a link from me, make sure you cite your sources.

6.    Outdated information

A lot of industries move fast. If your blog post from three years ago says something that’s no longer true, then it’s losing value in the link economy.

Says Susan, “If a post is several years old or clearly references outdated information, I’d try to find a more recent post to make sure I’m linking to something that’s still current.”

That doesn’t mean your old posts are useless, just that you should make a project out of updating them now and then. In particular, any posts you have that are popular and bringing in traffic now should be revisited so you can see if there’s a good opportunity to update any of them for accuracy.

7.    Lack of authenticity

This relates somewhat back to overly promotional content, if you come off like you’re trying too hard or acting like something you’re not, people will notice.

Barry Feldman, founder of Feldman Creative put it at the top of his list of things he won’t link to: “Posts lacking personality. I think you can offer a lot of knowledge, but I’d rather not align my brand with yours if it’s boring. And that represents 90% of content marketers, sorry to say.“

The good news is that if 90% of marketers are doing it wrong, then bringing some real personality to your writing is a good way to differentiate yourself.

On a related note, Carol Tice, author of the recent ebook Small Blog Big Income and the blog Make a Living Writing , cited one of her biggest dealbreakers as when “the blog author is pretending to be an authority when they really just started doing the thing they write about.”

There’s a definite value to positioning yourself as a thought leader or expert – but only if you have the knowledge and experience to back it up.

8.    Moral reputation

Carol had another big sin that she mentioned: “I won’t link to posts on the Huffington Post due to its policy of not paying writers, since I am an advocate for fair writer pay.”

She’s the only one of the writers I talked to that mentioned this particular point, but I suspect we’ve all shied away from visiting or linking to a website if we know the brand represents something we disagree with.

Be careful what you stand for and how you treat your employees and contractors. If you gain a reputation for being about something that many writers don’t agree with, they’ll be quick to find another resource to go with instead.

Conclusion

To summarize, the eight deadly sins that will lose you links are:

  • An outdated website
  • Sloppy writing and typos
  • A bad user experience
  • Being overly promotional
  • Not citing your sources
  • Letting your content become outdated
  • Not being authentic
  • A bad brand reputation

Avoiding these things obviously doesn’t guarantee you links. We’re still going to seek out the resources that are most valuable to our readers and relevant to the subject we’re talking about. That may be your links; it may be those of another business or publication. But if you’re guilty of one of these eight sins, then even if your content is useful, there’s a good chance we’ll look for another resource to use instead.

If you want to appeal to the people doing the writing, then take heed. Producing valuable content is one part of the puzzle, avoiding the errors on this list is another.