Writing blog articles is never easy, but in some ways it is easier at the beginning of a content marketing campaign. You’re excited for the opportunities your content will bring, eager to get your voice out there, and perhaps most importantly, you have a ton of ideas for articles.
Inevitably, however, your enthusiasm will fade. You will start finding things to work on that are more important than writing content. You will run out of things to write about.
For some businesses, this is when the blog dries up completely, inbound marketing efforts grinding to a premature halt before getting a fair chance to produce results.
For other businesses, blogging continues, but stagnation sets in. A stagnated blogging project is one that continues to produce content but it’s merely content for content’s sake. The content rolls on but it doesn’t really say anything—not anything new, anyway.
A stagnated blog is:
- Repetitive. The same topics are covered the same way, over, and over, and over, again, ad infinitum.
- Out of touch. Current events—even ones connected to your industry—go by without mention. Articles written years apart could be substituted for each other without anyone noticing.
- Soulless. Written without passion, humor, or any trace of a human personality.
None of this is any good for inbound marketing. While a stagnant blog might reel in a steady trickle of visitors thanks to SEO and dumb luck, it’s unlikely to keep them reading or inspire them to make a return visit—both necessary if you want to convert visitors to qualified leads to paying customers.
What they may not have told you when you started blogging was this: If bogging is really going to work, you’re going to have to keep it up pretty much forever. In other words, you better come up with some ways of keeping your content fresh.
Here are four ideas for doing that:
1. Don’t Give Up
The last thing you want to hear at the outset of a blogging project is that blogging can be demoralizing and arduous, but that’s the truth. Unless you’re already a celebrity or recognized industry leader (and sometimes even then) your business blog isn’t going to take off right away. It takes some time to build up an audience. During that time, it’s extremely important you don’t get discouraged and give up. And by give up, I don’t just mean stop blogging entirely (although, I mean that, too). I mean don’t give up trying to write engaging articles that draw from your expertise and experience to appeal to readers and help them solve their problems. Don’t allow yourself to fall into a rut of lame, uninspired articles just to get something out there.
You never know when an article’s going to catch someone’s attention. Even if your audience averages somewhere around zero, write as if you had a large group of loyal readers. If you keep at it, someday you just might.
2. Don’t Hand It Off
When blogging gets tedious, it’s tempting to hand the job off to someone who doesn’t have anything better to do, by which I mean a freelance writer. Most of my job involves managing a stable of freelance writers, so I know better than most the high quality work some freelance writers are capable of—provided you give them the appropriate amount of direction (see point #3 below). Still, I believe that if you have the time to write blog articles for your business yourself (and here are some ways to help you find the time), you should.
Distancing yourself from the content creation process means distancing your unique voice and personality from it, as well. This is a surefire path to stagnant content. Freelance writers can do a lot of great things, but they’re never going to care about your business as much as you do (this is not a failing on their part; no one will). They don’t have the direct experiences working with customers and prospective customers that you have. Their understanding of your industry is merely theoretical, while yours is real.
3. If You Do Hand it Off, Hand it Off Right
Sometimes, of course, you just need professional help. That’s ok. Despite what I said above, I still think outsourced blog content is better than no blog content. So if you’re determined to outsource your blog articles, do it the right way. Your goal should be to provide your outsourced writers with what they need to emulate your voice and represent your ideas as accurately as possible.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Ask your writer to interview you. Businesspeople who have trouble writing often have no trouble talking, especially when the topic is their own experiences. Find a writer who is confident conducting an interview and have him or her pick your brain on a regular basis. Make sure you record it. (Anyone looking for tips on conducting fruitful content interviews can find them here.)
- Give your writer the best instructions you can. As I discussed in this previous blog post, professional writers will only do as well as the instructions you give them. At the very least, make sure the writers know, for every article, who the article is for, what question the article is helping them answer, how the article should answer that question, and what resources they should draw upon to write the article. It’s also a good idea to have a conversation with your writer about voice and tone. How do you want your articles to sound? Academic? Irreverent? Professional? Make sure you writer understands how you want to represent your business to potential customers.
- Consider bringing your writer into the office. The more time a writer spends with you and your team, the better they’ll understand your industry and how to talk to prospective customers. Have your writer come by the office for a few hours every so often to chat with the team and hear about their experiences. Try a biweekly “content lunch.”
4. Write About Something Else
Just because you absolutely don’t have anything new to say that’s relevant to your industry and your customers (and I don’t believe for a minute that you don’t, but let’s pretend I do), doesn’t mean you should stop producing fresh content. Try giving yourself a break by writing about something that interests you and that (at first) doesn’t seem to have anything to do with your business: sports, TV, tech news—whatever you follow online.
Mind you, don’t let your blog drift too far from your business. This is just an exercise to get your creative juices flowing again; I’m not giving you permission to transform your accounting blog into a Game of Thrones fan site. After you write your seemingly unrelated article, read through it and see if there’s anywhere you can relate it back to your industry or link to your previous articles.
You’d be surprised the parallels you can draw if you put your mind to it: “5 Things Game of Thrones Taught Me About Accounting.” Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but you get the idea.
“On Content” is an ongoing blog series by IMR content manager Matthew Cook that confronts the difficulties and celebrates the pleasures of writing online content.