A few weeks ago, a marketing company wrote an article which appeared on social media. It contained some less than scrupulous comments about how freelancers can be risky to work with because they are often overloaded and are not the best choice for long-term partnerships. The crux of the article was that working with a larger organisation, clients would get more committed service; which naturally they would say, they were trying to sell their own services.
Now as a freelancer who has only ever received glowing compliments about the level of service provided to my long-term clients over the past five years, and who has even been called in by the author of the said article to write emergency content website for a client who they “forgot about”, I was mildly put out by what the blog suggested. In my experience, the freelancers of this world get things done – because our livelihoods depend on it. I stomped around for an hour or so, raging at the injustice of the allegations, then I stopped and thought – “Why am I worrying? Chances are less than 10 people will ever read that blog”.
The internet and social media are awash with content, most of it rubbish. But to make their business models work, tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn need an abundance of content uploaded every minute to keep people locked into the digital vortex which we now all live.
For businesses to survive in 2018, they must play the game. The more content you add to your website in terms of blogs, case studies, and landing pages, the greater your chance of appearing on the first page of Google for your chosen search terms. And the greater your presence on social media, the more customers you can attract from a wider geographical area.
But how do you make your content stand out? Professional services such as law, accounting, engineering, and architecture can be mighty dry to a lay-person. To get people to read and share a blog post requires not only a knowledge of your field (which you already have), but an ability to write engagingly and think of creative angles that will grab a reader’s attention, and more importantly, hold on to it.
Here are a couple of ideas of how to achieve this, and be warned, many common myths of blog writing are about to be dispelled.
Write long posts
Almost without exception, every new client who calls me says they only want blogs of 300-500 words as “no one will read anything longer”. I am here to tell you they can, and they will. “The more you tell, the more you sell” – that is the classic copywriting mantra.
People love a long, informative, interesting article. What they hate is a boring treatise which talks about the author’s virtues rather than homing in on the reader’s problem and how to solve it.
And what can you say of any value in 300 or so words? Not much. And if you do manage to make a great point, you will simply frustrate the reader because they will want to know more, and it is not there in front of them.
Try and aim for a minimum of 800 words per blog post. This gives you the space to create an introduction, three paragraphs to support your argument or hypothesis, and a conclusion. It also keeps your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) people happy, as you have the breadth of content to include those long-tail keywords that send digital marketing experts’ hearts a-fluttering.
Now, how to make those 800+ words engaging.
Look for a hook
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
– Stephen King
I own thousands of books. They pile up on my floor, by my bed, and overflow in my groaning bookcases. I also read every newspaper, every day, and I don’t own a smartphone, so I can spend my downtime observing people and catching snippets of their conversation.
I know that all sounds creepy and dull, and I probably am. But it is my job to constantly be on the look-out for interesting stuff I can put in an article about law. Because law is not very interesting to ordinary folk and they only time they ever encounter a lawyer is a) if they have done something bad, or b) if someone has done something bad to them (buying a house and making a Will aside. You have made a Will right?).
To make an article interesting, engaging, and even funny, you must link it to something that is in everyone’s mind at the moment. Sometimes that may involve a tragedy; the terrible Genoa bridge collapse provides a terrible example of what can happen when crucial infrastructure works are not carried out. But there are also more light-hearted examples; take the divorcee who was awarded £13,000 in damages from an elite dating agency after it failed to introduce her to the match she hoped would be “possibly the man of my dreams, the father of my child”. Terrific fodder for a legal blog.
But even the best hook will not make up for dull, bad writing.
Write for your audience, not for you
Before you begin a blog, you must think about who your audience is. How well educated are they? What is their socio-economic status? Read any general advice on blog writing and it will say you must write in short paragraphs, and at the reading level of a 13-year-old. That advice will work for some articles, for example, a post on personal injury is usually aimed at the general population; therefore, should be free of technical legal terms and use simple language. But if you are trying to grow your mergers and acquisition’s department, trying to showcase your law or accountancy firm’s expertise in cross-border finance and deal-making by writing at the level of a Year 7 reader won’t do much to enhance your credibility.
People read blogs to provide them with value. Content marketing is never about saying how great your business is; its purpose is to provide useful information to the reader. When you finish your article, ask yourself, “does this provide an answer to a reader’s question? Does it tell them about a new development in their field of interest? And is interesting – to them”?
There are tons of other tips on how to write interesting content. Writing directly to the reader is one (notice how I have addressed you personally in this post). Don’t use the same word in a sentence (a thesaurus is your friend). But if you think about the reader as you are penning your words and write authentically, rather than trying to imitate another’s style, you will be on to a winner.
But be careful what you say, as I guarantee, people will read and share your posts.
Corinne McKenna is the founder of The Legal Copywriting Company. www.thelegalcopywritingcompany.co.uk.