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The 3 Best Pieces of Business Blogging Advice (I Almost Didn’t Get)

I’ve Googled every version of “blogging tips” known to humankind.

I’ve read thousands of blog posts and follow dozens weekly, studying the structure and strategies.

I have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication-based fields.

But the best stuff didn’t come from ANY of those places.

Where is this fountain of wisdom, you ask?

We’ll get to that later.

First, the meaty stuff – what did I learn?

Blogging Advice: Google is not your customer.

The guy in green? Not Google.

Google will never share your content, subscribe or buy anything from you.

Robert Pinto-Fernandes

As bloggers, we seem to forget this little insight. We celebrate over Google rankings, cheer over social media shares, and high-five over traffic boosts.

We often forget that as cool as it is to see our blogs on the front page of Google search results, what pays the bills (and our salaries) are the conversions.

Amidst all the number crunching, the readers who become customers are the ones that justify our job’s existence.

Certainly there are dollars to be made from advertisements in the sidebars and networking connections through members of the blogging community, but if bloggers aren’t running their own business, they need to justify their paycheck to the higher-ups.

I’d love to get paid to sit around and write about Die Hard (maybe three times), but unless I can justify that my content is driving customers to the business, I’m going to have a whole lot more time to write about Die Hard… without the “getting paid” part.

Figuring out how to measure ROI can be tricky, but it’s an important conversation that bloggers need to have with their employers. Not only do you want to be able to show concrete results for your efforts, but you also want to know what works and what doesn’t.

What I took from Robert’s advice: You can’t be accountable if you’re not counting anything.

*This piece of advice was so important to me that I even forgave Robert’s neglect of the Oxford comma.

Blogging Advice: Offer solutions, not facts.

Wanna grab a beer? I just passed my Turing test!

The role of salespeople has changed a lot since the emergence of the internet. Before they had the job to inform customers about product features and prices, but this has largely become redundant as people already know that. The information is up for everybody to see.

Instead today’s salespeople should take on the role of a consultant, finding ways to cut costs, optimize the production process or increase revenue. It’s about discovering needs and presenting tailored solutions.

Wim Wilmsen

While I firmly believe that electronic spellchecking programs are making us stupider, I believe that technology on the whole is making us smarter… customers, at least.

Whether you use a Shop Savvy app on your smart phone or simply search Google for an exact product name, price comparison is easy and immediate.

All products being equal, the lowest price wins, right?

Wim gives those who are unable to compete price-wise an opportunity to stay afloat and even thrive in their industries. In fact, his analysis of the role change for salespeople is a fantastic tenet to remember for blogging, copywriting, and all other written communication with customers.

Bottom line: Solution-based copy will trump a product or service push every time.

After all, as Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

What I took from Wim’s advice: If an online form can do your job, an online form will soon have your job.

Blogging Advice: Target your audience with your writing.

Hey, guys, can I play now? I can make lots of touchdowns!

… Good writing doesn’t make readers feel stupid. It makes them feel smarter for having read it; it finds a way to include them. That’s how you grow an audience. That’s how you make believers out of naysayers. That’s how you make more sales.

Jen Udan

Jen and I had a delightfully productive disagreement over Groupon’s ad copy. While I thought the copy was generally clever and engaging, she believed it was an excellent example of poor writing.

Our conversation evolved into the concept of taking risks in good writing. For example, a pop culture reference will make some people laugh extra hard; it will leave others in the dark. The key is making sure your target audience is in that first group.

Good writing – that is to say, well-written copy directed at an ideal audience – should be inclusive, not exclusive. Making references to sources your audience scratches their heads over means a) you picked something too obscure or – more likely – b) you don’t know your audience. Either way, you risk losing engagement.

However, that is not to say that risk-taking in writing is ALL bad. You just need to be extra broad or extra careful: the source needs to be familiar and appealing to your target audience.

For example, the hottest new “children’s” book is by newcomer Adam Mansbach and is elegantly titled, Go the F**k to Sleep.

The language in this book speaks to specific kinds of parents: the ones who are willing to admit to the aggravations of raising kids instead of getting lost in the poop-filled miracle of it all.

Mansbach wrote to his audience: other loving parents who are running on just a few hours sleep per week and need a good laugh.

The expletives will alienate some parents, but its unique take on an old trope has excited others enough to push it to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list in both Humor AND Parenting & Families.

What I took from Jen’s advice: Write to include your target audience, not the whole world.

The Secret Fountain of Business Blogging Tips

All right, you’d love to know where I got all this advice, right?

Here’s my dirty little secret, but you have to promise not to tell ANYONE.

Ready?

Blog comments.

That’s right, these gems were all provided to me in response to comments I had left on blog posts. In Robert and Wim’s cases, they were replying to my comments on their own posts, and in Jen’s case, we met in the comments section of a Copyblogger post.

I didn’t go around asking for advice, but simply engaging a blog author provided me with content specific to my feedback almost immediately! It’s like getting your own personal little blog post from anyone you want, and I highly recommend getting out there and starting to comment.

Why not start now? Tell me what you think of blog commenting as a strategy for getting valuable advice and share some advice you’ve received through your writing career, either through commenting or in other unlikely places.

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!



Jana Quinn

An old ‘G’ that’s been working for QLP since it was in Bret’s basement – Jana has been writing since she made up a story about a Jana-Tiger that liked rocky road ice cream and got straight A’s. She enjoys writing about marketing and pop culture, posting a ‘Die Hard’ article as often as she’s allowed. She is inspired by the articles at Cracked and frequently wears a Snuggie in the office. You can also connect with Jana on Google+.

Comments

  1. Robert

    Wow Jana,

    I’m truly honoured for the “shout out”! Thanks :)

    This entire post shows that there is no substitute for engagement. We learn some of the best lessons from engaging with people. I’m really glad you took the advice, and Wim and Jen gave some awesome tips as well.

    It is hard to measure ROI in Social and blogging. My two strongest arguments for employing the use of Social Media and Blogging is that it gives your company a longevity that competitor’s who don’t embrace these strategies will not share. It shows that your business is human, and that it cares. What more ROI do you need than that?

    Reaching out in the community for genuine reasons is the best way to grow a brand and gain exposure. Sure, we have a blogging relationship not a business relationship, but exposure means that some potential customers will be exposed to what you have to offer.

    Keep engaging and connecting with some of the awesome bloggers you have connected with in our network, and you’ll undoubtedly see growth and exposure in your company. Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint.

    A little word of advice, in most cases I would strongly advise against putting your own links in a blog comment, an insightful comment will normally be enough to initiate interest in you and your personal/company blog.

    Thanks for the shout out, and I love what you’re doing. You clearly “get” this whole blogging thing, and you write very well. Hope I didn’t forget any commas! ;)

    • Jana Quinn

      Robert, thanks for stopping by and retweeting the post. It was actually your comment that lit the first flame of inspiration for this post, and the rest fell into place.

      You said:
      “It is hard to measure ROI in Social and blogging. My two strongest arguments for employing the use of Social Media and Blogging is that it gives your company a longevity that competitor’s who don’t embrace these strategies will not share. It shows that your business is human, and that it cares. What more ROI do you need than that?”

      I think these are all excellent points, and I agree with them, but my concern is convincing people who DON’T necessarily see the return on investment (and may hold the purse strings, so to speak) of hanging out Facebook and Twitter and reading and commenting on blogs. If there’s a way to show increased backlinks or social shares or the redemption of social media promoted coupon codes or increased traffic to the main site following a highly-shared post, these hard numbers can go a long way to making that community engagement a little more concrete for the “numbers” folks.

      Thanks for the tip on putting your own links in blog comments. I agree… to an extent. If you have a particularly relevant post, including the link can help build you own credibility as well as provide an additional resource should the original blog’s author look to write on the same topic. If it’s an irrelevant link shoehorned in there to get a backlink (and blog comments are generally nofollow anyway), that’ll set off the B.S. alarms pretty quickly.

      I do need to throw in my support for Comment Luv, which lets me check out the work of commenters whose remarks are value-added and not just a generic “nice post!”

      Thanks for the kind words and taking my sense of grammatical humor in stride! ;)

      • Robert

        Thank you Jana I’m honoured and extremely flattered, and apologies for the late reply.

        How I see it is the people holding the business purses need to be explained to in detail the importance of Social. If they “get” it they will spend the money, if they don’t they won’t. I think that’s the biggest problem. Everyone wants to see solid, measurable data, but it’s not that easy to show. Social is like a completely transparent form of word-of-mouth marketing, many of the principles are the same. So you make a great point there. I think that business owners are so used to seeing hard data that most of them are struggling to grasp the key concepts of Social.

        With links, you also make a good point, I just seem to think the fewer the better, but in the odd situation it’s probably ideal. Yeah, I sacrificed CommentLuv for Disqus, it’s a shame those two bits of software can’t interact.

        Once again thanks for the feature, means alot :)

  2. Bret Bonnet

    Wim Wilmsen is a mother f**king GENIUS!

    When I read this line:

    “… Instead today’s salespeople should take on the role of a consultant, finding ways to cut costs, optimize the production process or increase revenue. It’s about discovering needs and presenting tailored solutions.”

    I almost jumped out of my chair and danced on top of my desk with joy. Finally… FINALLY – someone gets it! Seriously… Thanks to Google and smart phones, information is EVERYWHERE and ALWAYS available. This doesn’t mean people understand it though or can put it to use. I mean, I can probably download the blue prints to build my own Delorean from the internet, but it doesn’t mean I’ll be able to UNDERSTAND the directions and build the Flux Capacitor properly needed to travel back in time so I can rescue the girl of my dreams from the horrible T-Rex monster that is chasing her.

    Google and other systems, while they are getting smarter, are really only great for discovering information, but they will NEVER be able to understand it and present tailored solutions to people. This is where salespeople (aka. blogs) come into play. The ability to consume COMPLEX ideas and share them in a structured, easily digestible, and simple fashion is what will separate company A from company B looking to the future.

    GREAT POST!

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks, Bret!

      The bit of Wim’s advice I included is just the tip of the iceberg of what he has to offer in advice. He truly gets the relationship/community-building aspect of business and is light years ahead of those stuck in the salesperson = order taker mindset.

  3. Jill Tooley

    Wonderful advice, Jana. Your sources are rock solid! I wish I’d had this advice when I first started blogging.

    I’ve met so many fascinating people because I took the time to respond with comments. It’s easy to hop onto a site and soak in the information, but it’s a bit harder to comment on each post if time is a concern; that’s why so many people neglect to leave feedback. Many don’t realize that a few minutes of their time could lead to a great relationship (and FRIENDSHIP) with another blogger! I adore the friends I’ve made through comments and I’ll continue to network as much as I can. :)

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks, Jill! If I hadn’t had your nudge to look into other posts and investigate guest posting, I never would have stumbled across this mine of excellent tips. :)

  4. Kristin

    Great advice. I especially like the bit about writing for your target audience — not least because it acknowledges that there IS a target audience, even on this giant, intercontinental catch-all of the world wide web. It’s been my experience that when a company jumps online, the #1 consideration they put on the back burner is audience. They hear people shouting about the importance of being “Web 2.0,” whatever that means, and therefore leap with reckless abandon onto the internet, making some major mistakes along the way. Once upon a time, that meant putting embarrassing photos of yourself somewhere your mom could find them, but today it means spending huge amounts of money and time cramming content into internet tubes (there are tubes, right?) without any thought as to who will read it, what they’ll learn from it, or, most importantly, what they’ll think of you after they digest it.

    Anyway, terrific post, as always.

    • Jana Quinn

      Kristin, thanks for stopping by! It’s been a while! :-)

      You’re right on when you highlight the neglect of companies who are establishing an online presence to consider an audience and instead get wrapped up in buzzwords like “Web 2.0″ (Is that a buzzphrase?) that doesn’t even have a universal definition.

      The takeaway: Clogging the tubes is bad. Cruising through them and picking up friends along the way is good. :)

  5. Linda

    Thank you for the advice. I have just started blogging and appreciate your tips. It is great to know that advice can come from blog comments. Thank you for the tip!

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks, Linda! I’ve been blogging for a while, and I’m still stumbling across fantastic pockets of resources like this. You’re lucky that you’re stumbling upon it early in your career. :)

      Have you found blog commenting to introduce you to any good strategies yet?

  6. amy

    Great post Jana! As someone who is still learning the ropes, these are great tips!! I really liked your quote, “Amidst all the number crunching, the readers who become customers are the ones that justify our job’s existence”. It’s such an easy, simple way to sum up why blogging is so important! Thanks!!

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks! Although I’m an “old G,” this type of blogging is still new to me, and I’m really finding my job a lot easier when I can work on both community-building AND content generation. It makes me feel more like I’m contributing to a larger community rather than pimping out promotional products.

  7. Joseph Giorgi

    This might be one of my favorite blogs of yours, Jana. There’s a lot of amazing advice jam-packed into this post!

    For one reason or another, this bit stood out to me:

    “While I firmly believe that electronic spellchecking programs are making us stupider, I believe that technology on the whole is making us smarter… customers, at least.”

    Very true. To be honest, it would be fun to do an entire blog on that subject matter. Consumers have become exceedingly savvy, and business leaders know it. They have to perpetually outdo themselves in order to keep our attention. The landscape is becoming fiercely competitive, and this is probably both a good and a bad thing.

    In any case, Wim’s advice is spot-on. Business owners and reps need to offer something of genuine value to customers, not simply coerce them into buying a product or service. Consumers can see right through a sales pitch anyhow.

    As far as blog commenting:

    Everyone should do it! I’ve made it a point for years now to peruse and leave feedback in “comment sections.” Not only is it a great way to network, it’s also an opportunity to hear different perspectives on a topic. Of course, the usefulness of comments depends largely on the site.

    • Jana Quinn

      Aww, thanks. Note to self: the fewer Jana’s unique opinions are in a blog post, the more Joe likes it. ;)

      Great idea on the blog post! Maybe it can be an old versus new customer approach combined with a running commentary on the evolution of salesperson/order-taker to consultant. I could even write a part 2 post with the inspiration I got from the blog comments on THIS post… or would that be too meta?

      You’ve been commenting on blogs for years – why didn’t you tell me to do that sooner?! Way to drop the ball there, colleague! ;)

      I would say the usefulness of comments depends a lot more on the readers themselves rather than the site content (unless you meant site-to-site comparison). I see far too many people just saying “great post!” or “I liked these tips!” who don’t include additional commentary… and then wonder why no one engages or follows them back to their own blog.

      If you want to get “paid,” you gotta do the “work!”

  8. Kyle

    “While I firmly believe that electronic spellchecking programs are making us stupider, I believe that technology on the whole is making us smarter… customers, at least.”

    This is so true. Actually it’s so true that I even typed “stupider” into Microsoft Word and it didn’t even mark it as a typo. I hope that’s some cruel joke on Microsoft’s part or I’ve just been unaware that “stupider” is now an acceptable word in the English language.

    These are some great tips that any bloggers would be foolish to ignore. Keep up the excellent posts!

    • Jana Quinn

      The American Heritage Dictionary gave it the thumbs up, so I went with it. I’m not thrilled about it, but I’ve become a bit more of a descriptivist in my old age.

      Thanks, Kyle!

      • Kyle

        Yeah I did some digging around and still haven’t found a concrete answer. I’ve seen a couple dictionaries with it listed and other people swear that “stupider” isn’t a word at all and that “more stupid” should be used.

        I guess it’s just a matter of opinion. I actually thought you were cleverly poking fun at spellchecking programs by using the word when I initially read it, but now I just have myself all confused. Oh how the English language never ceases to surprise me in the worst possible ways…

        To look at the glass half full I suppose I learned a kinda new-ish word today! :)

        • Jana Quinn

          Umm, yes, that was exactly what I meant. Totally poking fun. How clever of me. ;)

          I’ve seen a few rules based on how many syllables the word has but then someone comes up with an exception and the whole thing is screwed up. Let’s go back to the “I’m super clever” theory.

  9. Amanda

    This is a great post Jana! I love your first two points most. I think a lot of people forget that popularity doesn’t always show you the best of something. And by saying that Google will never buy anything from you, is so smart! It may seem obvious to some, but it’s one of those things we need to be reminded of. Google is not who we should be writing for….and I’m happy to say that I think our blogsquad does a great job at tailoring our writing to our customers and industry as a whole.

    And for your second point, that’s also great advice! I love what you added in here: (After all, as Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”) What a great quote! It’s so true! People buy things because they help them solve problems and get things done, not just to look at them shine on a shelf, well most of the time anyway.

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks, Amanda!

      I’m actually working on a follow-up post with business quotations. I wanted to keep that one close to the vest, but it was too perfect, so I used it.

  10. Wim @ Sales Sells

    Hi Jana, I’m sorry it took me a while to respond to this. I’m setting up with a new client, which I actually met through blogging! Awesome, isn’t it? :)

    I’m very honored to be mentioned here among great people like Robert and Jen. I’ve been reading Robert’s blog for a while now and am now in the process of discovering Jen’s. I’m well-impressed!

    I also wanted to add that I truly enjoy your comments Jana, as they are always insightful. You take the time to actually read the post, think it through and formulate your thoughts in a bright way. You truly add to the conversation and it’s in these conversations that our best ideas are born!

    Thanks a lot,
    Wim

    • Jana Quinn

      No worries, Wim! Thanks for stopping by, and congratulations on the new client. Talk about walking the walk!

      Thank you for your kind words on my comments. If someone gave me something of value, I always at least attempt to respond in kind. A “great post!” or “nice tips!” is a nice little pat on the back but ultimately forgettable. That doesn’t inspire engagement. That doesn’t create a relationship.

      Specific commentary, disagreements (with explanations, not the F-word), and follow-up questions are help. I try to “walk the walk” as much as I can, too!

      Thanks again for stopping by and talk soon!

  11. Susan Oakes

    Good advice here Jana and I often find you can get a lot out of just reading comments on blogs. One thing about ROI especially regarding social media I think you can measure it. What stumps people is how to measure when there are a number of activities happening at once. When I worked in the corporate world in consumer products we had a similar situation with implementing a number of activities such as TV advertising, print, in store promotions. We were able to track results and I think this could be done with blogging and social media.

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks for stopping by, Susan, and adding to the discussion! :) I’ve definitely gotten a lot out of reading comments on various blog posts, including yours! It’s like a secret little treasure trove too few people take advantage of. :)

      Getting hard numbers for ROI is definitely tricky, but I’m happy to hear you were able to find a way to measure it.

      What did you find to be the most useful measurement (in that it reflected transactions instead of merely traffic or shares)?

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