Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of calls from people who want help attracting visitors to their companies’ websites. Can I write a blog post or two every week for them?
Plans to publish a gigantic list of blog posts like this always give me pause.
Often, the folks who call have heard from a search engine optimization expert that they need to publish frequently to generate web traffic. But generally, I’ve learned, putting up a bunch of quickie posts isn’t the best way to do it. Frequent publishing may raise your Google ranking and pull in visitors–but if what you’re writing isn’t inviting (Read: entertaining and/or useful), it won’t be “sticky.” It may ultimately repel the types of visitors you’re trying to attract in the longer term. If what you’re really after is higher web traffic, it’s often smarter to invest in a web-based advertising campaign.
Here are some thoughts that I hope will be helpful to organizations that want to add a blog — and the writers who assist them. For some context, I am basing this on my past experience running a small business website with millions of page views a month and in working with private clients on blogs as a freelancer.
It makes sense to blog only if you’re trying to start a real conversation with your target audience–whether that means colleagues or potential customers. This takes time and effort, even if you hire a professional writer to help you. It may be simple to publish on today’s blogging platforms, but it is not easy to conceive and write high quality blog posts that really mean something to readers. Delivering quality, not quantity — in both your thoughts and your writing — is what matters.
Have you ever gotten cornered at a party by someone who talks at you nonstop about anything that pops into his head, without caring who you are, how you’re reacting or what you may have to say? Your instinct, of course, will be to flee. How you felt in that situation is similar to what visitors to your site will feel if you bombard them with so-so blog posts.
Contrast that to running into an intriguing new acquaintance who brings up something really interesting or funny, asks you about yourself and really listens to your answers. He draws you into a conversation that changes the way you feel about something important–to the point that you’re still thinking about the conversation a month later. If you hear he’s coming to the next party, you’ll make an effort to show up and hang out with him. When you’re blogging, you want this party guest to be your model.
Before you embark on a blogging program, think about what you have to say that will be meaningful or useful to the people you want to reach. In what areas are you an expert? What topics are you passionate about as a professional? These are good sources of material for the blog of a company or organization. While every blog should be fun to read, keep in mind that if people want to read sports commentary or political ideas, they’re generally going to look to their favorite news sites, not the blog of, say, a tech company CEO.
To find the right writer to help you, look for someone who will help you brainstorm topics, focus your message and come up with a publishing schedule based on the best ideas you have to express. It could be that instead of two fast blog posts a week, you’d be better off with a great monthly blog that reflects your best ideas as a leader. In other cases, you may need to blog more frequently. Say you’re planning a giant conference and you’re adding great new speakers every couple of days. You might want to publish your blog each time you have a new speaker to announce. The best writers will be willing to help you match your publishing schedule to your ultimate goal, even if that means less paid work for themselves.
Don’t waste money hiring writers to deliver a series of blog posts without your involvement, based on news or information they’ve found on the web. Why bother posting generic material like this? Unless someone in your organization is willing to lend insight and expertise to the posts, this type of writing won’t help you make meaningful connections with anyone you’re trying to reach. It looks canned and insincere and, in the worst cases I’ve seen, unprofessional.
A great writing partner for your blog won’t behave like a dictation service. The relationship will be collaborative. Look for a writer who listens well to your ideas for a blog post but has the backbone to push back when you need it. The best writers will question you if your ideas aren’t clear or your words might backfire and hurt your reputation. They’ll lean on you to deliver quality–to the point that you may occasionally want to scream at them–because they will want your work to shine as much as you do. They’ll be willing to revise and polish. This type of help isn’t cheap. But you’re better off writing one post that really means something and goes viral than 100 posts that only two people read.