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If you’re going to take the time to write out blog posts—particularly as part of your business strategy—you should be sure people are going to read them.
I’ve been blogging for close to 10 years (oh, my; has it been that long?), but it wasn’t until the last 2-3 years that people really started reading my content. And not only reading my content, but subscribing to it. And not only subscribing to it, but setting aside time to read it. And not only setting side time to read it, but looking forward to the content I would produce next.
So… what changed?
Well, a number of things. And they probably would have changed a lot sooner if I hadn’t been so egotistically sure I was a good enough writer to gain respect and attention writing about whatever I wanted, however and whenever I was inspired to write it! Every pivotal shift came from either the epiphany that I was doing something wrong, or hearing someone explain a blogging concept that made me go, “Ohhh. I wish I’d thought of that/done that before…”
If you’re here, you’re probably a lot less prideful than I was, which is the first step. The next 9 steps are these!
Step #1 - Make sure your blog is about something.
There are two kinds of bloggers: Hobby bloggers, and pro bloggers. The difference between them is not whether or not they understand Google Ads, or even whether they coded their sites from scratch. The difference is a matter of content.
Blogs that gain traction are blogs that speak to a need or interest in a larger community. A Beautiful Mess is a blog that helps a community, mostly comprised of women in the U.S. between the ages of 25 and 45, live out the belief that “the best things in life are homemade.” TechCrunch is a blog that focuses on newsworthy technology and gadgets, and caters to a male and entrepreneurial community.
When you write your blog posts, if you want to be “pro,” you need to write about something that matters to a community that matters to you. And unless you are at Joanna Gaines or Martha Stewart level, you probably shouldn’t bounce from category to category (i.e., recipes to interior design to business), but stick to 1-3 topics that all directly relate to one another.
Step #2 - Know what you want your blog to do for you.
One of the mistakes I made early on in my blogging career was not setting clear goals. I had multiple blogs, but let’s use one in particular as an example.
At the time, I’d recently discovered that some people actually make their entire incomes from blogging. I was interested in that idea, but I didn’t know how to do it. I figured if I just wrote interesting content about local people and events and tagged them on social media, then other people would discover my ability to write and photograph, and they’d hire me to write about them, or to photograph their products.
I hesitate to say this obviously didn’t work, because I suspect there are many others out there who, like I did, still believe “if you build it, they will come.” Spoiler: They won’t.
If you want your blog to do something magical for you, you need to get super clear on what that magical thing is, and then you need to reverse-engineer that outcome until you know what steps you can realistically take to make it happen.
For example: If you want your blog to get people to inquire about working in person with you, you need to demonstrate in your blog post why you’re an expert or professional; then you need a Call to Action and/or link so that interested people can get in touch with you; and then you’ve got to figure out how to send targeted traffic (i.e., the kind of people you want to hire you) directly to your posts, so that they can discover you exist, how pro you are, and the steps you laid out for how to hire you.
Step #3 - Write blog post titles you’d actually want to click on.
I don’t want to sound like everyone else out there, but we live in an era of information and instant gratification, and those two things have really altered the marketing landscape.
No one wants to read about you until you’re famous and/or done something truly interesting in your life. Your blog post titles have to tell people right there in just a few words what they can expect to get out of reading the entire post… and that always has to do with them, not with you.
For example, the blog post title, “My European Adventure” is not likely to do nearly as well as a blog post entitled, “Travel Hacks: 5 Things I Wish I’d Known on My First Trip to Europe.”
While both of them seem at first to be about you, the first is asking the reader to indulge you while you flip through an undisclosed number of photos from your trip that they might find boring. The second is offering the reader the chance at hearing some harrowing stories, as well as learning 5 distinctive tips that will make their next European adventure much smoother.
Step #4 - Build your site for S.E.O.
Don’t groan! This might actually be easier than you think.
When I say SEO, I mean “search engine optimization,” and basically it means be sure your site contains the words people are searching for in your niche, and includes them in a variety of places.
If your site doesn’t contain words that people are searching for, then your site can’t come up in search results, whether that’s on Google or Pinterest or any other search engine. And if your site doesn’t come up in search engines, then it’s going to be a real uphill battle, trying to get people onto your blog to read your content.
If you’re writing the kinds of blog post titles that people will actually want to click on, you’re already headed in the right direction. Some other measures you might want to take are to make sure your images have titles and alt tags that contain searchable words, and to be sure when you write hyperlinks that they contain real words and don’t simply say things like, “Click here.”
You can also make sure that your URL slugs (everything that appears after “.com/” in your address bar) are short and telling about what visitors can expect to read on that page, and section important content with headings that contain searchable keywords.
Step #5 - Lead off with every post with a picture.
No one, not even you, likes to land on a webpage and discover it’s nothing but one big long page of just text.
Lead off each of your blog posts with an image, so that when people land on that page, there’s someplace for their eyes to settle immediately. This is is sort of like greeting a guest with a flute of champagne and asking them to have a seat. Once they’re parked, they’re more likely to stay.
If you don’t have or can’t afford unique pictures for every post, you have a few options:
You can create graphics using a free program like Canva. This is less than ideal, since technically many graphics aren’t images so much as colorful text and charts, but it will help.
You can download free images from a royalty-free stock photography site like UnSplash. It will be difficult to maintain a distinct brand identity by using a variety of photo styles from different photographers, but to get your blog off the ground, it can be helpful.
As soon as you can afford to hire a photographer, you really should write out a comprehensive list of photos you know you’ll be able to use and reuse in your business (or at least use on multiple platforms), and start building a photo bank you can draw from that will help solidify your brand. If you want to know more about how I help my own clients with this, check out the details of my social photography subscription.
Step #6 - Share your content.
This probably sounds like a no-brainer, but seriously, there are so many writers out there who are afraid their mother will read what they’ve read, so they keep their posts secret, irrationally hoping everyone in the world will discover their amazing blog content except for their relatives.
If you have an email list, social accounts, membership to a club or community that would love to hear about your content—get it out there. People have to know you’re creating content to make a call on whether they like it or not. And you won’t know if you’re on the right track if you can’t get a response.
You can also pin your content to Pinterest, a visual search engine. If you’re optimized for SEO, it’s likely that you’re also a good way toward being optimized for Pinterest, since Pinterest displays images based on the keywords people are searching on their platform. Just make sure you’re pinning to boards that contain a lot of relevant and related content to what you write about—including content from other bloggers—so that more people are likely to see what you share.
Step #7 - Link to related posts that you’ve written.
Statistically, it takes 3 visits to an online store before a person actually commits to buying something. Similarly, just because someone lands on your site once doesn’t mean they’re going to subscribe, contact you, or even come back. It’s going to take a few visits.
There are a few ways to help ensure you don’t lose all those new visitors forever, though. One way is having a pop-up opt-in so that you can follow up with visitors later. But another way is to include cross-promotional links for other blog posts you’ve written.
Link early, and link often—that’s a mantra for you to memorize! I can tell you from experience that some of the best blogs I’ve returned to linked to supplemental content in the first few paragraphs of the content I came to read—I opened the other links in their own tabs to come back to later, and what do you know, even if I closed that first article, I was still on their site.
You also want to link in a variety of ways, if you can. Different people are inclined to click on different kinds of links, and have different motivations for clicking. I include cross-promotional links in the body of my content, in newsletter blocks in my sidebar, and in the form of thumbnails at the end of every post. Just take a look!
A few tips for doing this well:
Always be sure your links will open in a new tab. There’s usually a checkbox for this feature that will appear when you create a link in the body of your content, and a way to enable this feature when you create links in other places.
Don’t overdo it with links in any category. If text links appear as a different color from your normal text, for example (and they should), if the color is significantly different, it can be distracting to have too many of these links, and it can cause people to leave your site.
Only link to places you’d naturally reference, anyway. If your visitor came to your site because they were interested in hair coloring tips, don’t link to a makeup tutorial; link to other hair articles that will help them get the results they want in the article they came to read.
Step #8 - Post consistently.
A friend of mine who blogs posts one time a month, usually near the end of the month. That’s what’s feasible for her right now, since she runs her own acupuncture practice that has two locations, as well as teaches yoga and lives a full life.
I tend to post 6-8 times per month, because it’s built into my business model and because writing is one of my strengths. It doesn’t take me long to produce a post, and it leads to Know, Like, and Trust for me in my business, so I do it as often as possible.
But we’re both successful at marketing with our blogs because our audiences know they can count on us to show up consistently. There’s nothing like falling in love with a personality or brand, binging on all her content, and then not getting to read anything new for 3 or 4 months. Don’t be that blogger. Post consistently, and keep building a relationship with your audience.
Step #9 - Let go of perfectionism.
I just wrote out about 2000 words of advice for getting your blog off the ground, and now I’m ending with, “But you don’t have to be perfect”? Seriously?
Here’s the deal. Even if you do everything perfectly on the first go, your blog is not going to become famous or a main stream of income overnight. It’s not going to bring in thousands of email subscribers or land you an interview at an A-List magazine.
So ease into the process. Grow and expand organically and as it makes sense. If you don’t have a ton of images to work with right now, at least post your content—you don’t know who might find it and be totally changed because of your words. If SEO completely freaks you out, work on posting consistently. You’ll get there when you’re ready.
This step is most important because you can’t reach great heights if you don’t try—if you don’t start blogging and allow yourself to learn as you go. Hopefully it doesn’t take you as long as it took me, but it’s okay to learn the way we are naturally programmed to learn, by experience.
Was this helpful? If so, leave a link to your blog below so I can go check it out! Let me know the step that you think is going to make the biggest difference for you. And as always, if you never want to lose track of this article, make sure you pin it to a Pinterest board where you’ll be able to find it fast!
How many times has your day been dampened by a dry, abrupt, or impersonal email?
Apart from the customer service emails I get from giant companies, where all support is outsourced to call centers in Bangladesh and I expect it to be terrible, I have a high standard for email correspondence. This holds doubly true when I write to any personality-based brand.
When I say “personality-based,” I mean a coach, nutritionist, copywriter, photographer, podcaster, blogger, designer, stylist, or any other person whose face is their brand. If I know there’s a real person on the other end of an email, someone who built a business from the ground up with just scrappiness and passion, then I expect to gauge what it’s going to be like to work with that person from the quality of our email interaction.
In the last 20 years, we’ve seen business email communication go from a place of complete professionalism—emails written in full sentences, opened and closed with salutations, double-checked for spelling and punctuation—to a place where emails and text messages can work together, one-word emails are often commonplace, and even serious e-documents like pitch letters can contain emojis.
This transition has created a gray area on what’s acceptable when it comes to responding to inquiries, establishing relationships, and building collaborations. No one seems to be educating new business owners on how this one pocket of their business can provide a real leg up when it comes to client acquisition, if done well, or become one of the biggest holes in a company for hemorrhaging money.
So I’m taking up the baton. I’ve carefully whittled my list down to 7 ways to provide a great email correspondence experience, all of which I currently use in my business. (And for the record, I have nearly a 100% success rate of turning inquiries into paying clients.) As a bonus, I’ve also crafted 3 email templates you can download and customize for your own business, attached to the bottom of this post.
Ready to change the way you do business for the better? Read on.
Tip #1 - Show sincere interest in the person you’re writing to.
Many of my clients come to me via the contact form here on my website. They run a search, find my site, want to know more, and take 30 seconds to fill out a super standard form to get in touch.
When I say “standard,” I mean that the fields of the form are pretty basic: Name, email, subject, message. But these four fields are all I need to extrapolate enough information to write a highly personalized response.
For example, when someone writes to me about wanting photos for a photography subscription, they’re likely to be writing me from a business email address (email@example.com). This means I can see what domain they own (businessname.com). In just 2-3 minutes, I can pop that address into my search bar and browse the website enough to get an idea of what the business is like.
I always do this! Why? Because I can use that information to guide my response to the potential client: “I visited your site. Wow! Your business seems really cool. I especially like…”
This does two things: One, it saves the other human being from having to answer the question, “Can you tell me a bit more about your business?” Two, it makes that person feel like we already know each other—because I’ve shown interest in them enough to go out and learn about something they’ve poured their heart and soul into.
Now, you may not work with businesses, like I do, but you can probably find one thing in every email inquiry that you can turn into a conversation piece, something that centers on the other person. And you want to do this to establish relationship from the very beginning. Relationship shifts the conversation out of whether or not to hire you, and into what happens next in the process.
Tip #2 - Keep your emails brief… but not too brief.
When it comes to email, you can safely assume that a lot of people who correspond with you are viewing your messages from their phone or work tablet, and that they might be in a hurry or distracted by the many other browser tabs they have open; and therefore you don’t want to give them too much to process, or they’ll just tune you out.
However, this is strangely why taking the time to craft an email that sounds like a real person talking is imperative.
You can keep an email brief and still speak to the person you’re talking to as though they’re standing right across from you. Remember, the people you write to are in a hurry and distracted because everyone around them is yelling for their attention. If you can provide a calm, steady, courteous tone in your conversation, you’re going to be the person they want to give their time to, because you make them feel like they matter and someone is actually happy to be talking to them.
Take the extra few seconds to say something pleasant at the start of every email, and to write in full sentences, even if those sentences are short. “Info attached” is a lot colder than, “In case I missed anything, I’m attaching our package options and FAQ sheet. You’ll find the most helpful information on the second page of the package options.”
My rule of thumb? It should take longer to drink a good cup of coffee than read an email, but it should be just as pleasant!
Tip #3 - Remember that the other person can’t see your facial expressions, so you have to communicate enthusiasm (and all emotions) in other ways.
I can’t tell you how often I receive emails from established professionals that don’t include any question marks, exclamation points, or other indicators that the other person is fully engaged in the topic at hand.
Emoticons and emojis were invented because when we communicate electronically all the time, two big parts of normal conversation goes missing—tone, and body language. While we may not all feel comfortable using these handy little tools in our businesses, the fact remains the same that written language, when formed carelessly, can feel cold and impersonal, which can put our clients and potential clients in a state of unease.
In order to demonstrate to your potential clients that you care, you want to be cognizant of what it will feel like to read your message for the first time. Which of the following responses “sounds” better on the screen?
“That time works.”
“Works for me! Really looking forward to it.”
Notice that I didn’t have to use any emojis in the second example to convey a positive response. It’s also not that much longer, and it builds a sense of eagerness for the upcoming interaction, rather than letting the event fall flat.
Another tip here: Avoid negative language like the plague. Rather than using phrases like, “That won’t work,” “I can’t,” or “Not on my end,” steer instead toward things like, “I’m booked up at that time but I could do the afternoon,” and “Since I’m not available on Sundays, I’ll need to work with you to find an alternate time; how about Tuesday?”
Tip #4 - Always greet the other person by name.
This one is so simple, I’m shocked that more people don’t do it.
Nearly every client email I send starts or ends with me addressing the opposite person by name: “Hey, Stephanie! Thanks for getting back so quickly,” or, “Morning, Tom!” or, “You’re the best, Kate. See you Thursday!”
I look at every email, unless I’m going back and forth many times in the same day with a single person, as a fresh correspondence. I intentionally re-establish the positive tone I set in previous emails in order to calibrate the current message to my usual standard. I never know what kind of day my client is having, and I want to be a beam of light no matter what.
Using the other person’s name is a fast, personal, simple way to do this. In the words of Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People, “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” By acknowledging your client, or potential client, by name, you’re reminding them that they have your full and complete attention—that you “see them”—and that you’re an important person in your business.
Try to address your clients and potential clients by name in every email you write.
Tip #5 - Tell the recipient exactly what you want them to do next.
When it comes to “what’s next,” never leave any room for ambiguity in your emails, either with clients or prospective clients. Keep the conversation flowing, and encourage the other person to respond to whatever information you’ve sent by action—either so you can secure them as a client, or so that the project you’re already working on together continues to move along swimmingly.
To do this, always slip a Call to Action in at the end of every email. A Call to Action is a sentence or phrase that instructs the other person and gives them confidence that you’re in control. Examples include, “Send me your answer,” “Add your comments to the Pinterest board,” “Sign the attached agreement,” and so on.
Usually, if someone has hired you as a professional, on some level they assume you have a process, and they’re deferring to you to lead in your relationship once they’ve hired you. They’re waiting for you to tell them what happens next, including what you want from them—so do it!
Tip #6 - Try to have the final word. Never leave the other person hanging.
Sometimes clients will send you feedback you don’t like; they’ll send you information or content you don’t need yet in your process; or they’ll send you exactly what you need and both of you know it, so there doesn’t seem to be any reason to respond.
Contrary to the sensation you may have that you don’t need to respond, almost always it is a good idea to respond, anyway. I’ve sent many an email that read, “Just acknowledging that I received this. Thank you for sending it over!” This leaves nothing to the other party’s imagination, including just whether or not you’ve opened their email yet.
By responding to all your emails, you send the subconscious message that you’re not too busy for your clients (or prospective clients), and that you’re reliable in the communication area. This will put your clients at ease for more of the process of working with you, which in turn leads to a better feeling overall, which can translate to referrals and positive reviews down the line.
I will say that if you’re getting inundated with emails from a particular client, restricting the times of day you respond (not responding on weekends or in the evening) can be wise. Just let your client know you only respond to emails during “office hours.” Side benefit: This also gives you time to cool down if you get an email that makes you hot under the collar, so that you don’t respond emotionally.
Tip #7 - Follow up. Follow up. Follow up.
My client base is a 70/30 split of people who respond to all my emails swiftly, and people who see my emails, have the best intentions to respond later, and then totally forget to email me back.
For those 30% who don’t email me back right away (and this includes prospective clients), I’ve gotten really, really comfortable sending cheerful follow-up emails. Usually I don’t wait more than 2 business days to send them.
It is never my intention to pressure anyone with a follow-up email—only to keep our conversation top of mind. My messages always start by addressing the person by name, and then stating right away, “Just following up on our most recent conversation…”
Almost always, the other person responds by thanking me for reminding them, and then they take the action I’ve asked them to take.
Was this article helpful? If so, make sure to pin it so that you don’t lose it! And as always, I love when you share the best piece if insight you gleaned by leaving a comment below the article. I can’t wait to chat with you!