How to write a killer blog headline

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Newspaper headline writing is an art, taught to sub-editors over many years. A great headline can make you smile, think, stop in your tracks.

Your headline is the thing which will be shared on social media. Get it right, and it could be the reason hundreds, or thousands, of people read on.

The reason news media do headlines so well is simple: they write it at the end of the process, not the beginning. They know the story.

In the same vein, your blog headline should never be written until you have typed the last full stop on your post. It should not be written until you have re-read that post at least three times.

Here are the basic rules:

Use short, active words – A punchy headline grabs the attention. Cut out unnecessary words, especially adverbs, in a headline.

It must contain a verb – Making the headline active means using a verb, even if that verb’s ‘is’, or ‘are’.

Use figures – Don’t write them out as words. Studies have also shown that using figures in a headline makes it more attractive to the reader. Round monetary figures up, or down, to the nearest hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand, half million.

Make it accurate – Don’t write a sensational but inaccurate headline to suck readers into the post. They’ll feel cheated.

Reflect your content – Throwing in a celebrity name to the headline, for example, without backing that up in the post will backfire on you. Again, your readers will feel cheated.

Don’t use tortuous puns – No matter how tempted you feel, just don’t do it. This isn’t about showing how cleverly you can write, it’s about communicating with your target audience. That kind of pun can be a real turn-off to some readers.

Don’t over-use exclamation marks – In newspapers, we call them ‘screamers’ because they are often over-used to scream out content to the reader. Most of the time, the content really doesn’t deserve an exclamation mark.

Read it aloud – If it sounds convoluted, or ridiculous, delete and start again. If it can’t be said easily, it can’t be read easily.

Will it appeal to your target audience? – Ask yourself how, and why they would read on. Think about their problems, how they like to spend their time when you’re making this decision.

You’ve probably seen a thousand social media posts offering you the perfect formula for blog headline writing. Some of them offer useful tips.

However, beware.

If you’re seeing these social media posts, so are a million other bloggers. It’s all too easy to spot a formula headline.

While those tips are great, don’t follow them slavishly. The other thing to remember is that those formula headlines weren’t written with your target audience in mind. They’re written to appeal to the widest audience possible.

For you, that’s not the aim. Your aim is to speak directly to your ideal customers.

Think about this: your ideal customer is Yvonne, a married small business owner in her 50s whose time is precious, who has two grandchildren and cares about their future. She has an income of between £35,000 and £45,000 a year, likes to travel to Italy and eat out regularly.

Is this headline going to speak to her?: “Discover 50 awesome nightclubs within 50 miles of you”.

You already know the answer, don’t you?

Don’t forget SEO: Search engine optimisation is still very important when it comes to writing blog headlines. Your keyword research should help you – which words appeal to your ideal customers? How can you incorporate them in an organic way?

Some headline power words: There are some words which people find innately attractive. “Discover”, “Find”, and “Secrets” arouse our curiosity and make us want to find out more.

“Powerful”, “effective”, and “hacks” make us feel the content we’re about to read is hitting our usefulness sweet spot. So does the word “useful”.

If you have great images, don’t be afraid to use “beautiful”, “gorgeous”, and “stunning”.

If you’re writing in the first person, use “my” to make that clear in the headline – people like personal content.

Too busy to blog yourself? Drop me an email on maria@wordsyoucanuse.co.uk.

 

 

Why businesses need to search for Mr and Ms Right

 

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Sometimes, we feel like there’s a deluge of information on the internet. It can be off-putting, confusing.

There’s so much content out there right now. The thing you have to remember is that most of it isn’t useful to your target audience.

You need to be different. You need to speak directly to them.

You need to find your Mr and Ms Right.

Building a profile of your ideal customer/s is the starting point.

It all starts with data.

Your data will show you who is buying your products or services, and who is interacting with your social media posts. That’s not to say all of them are your ideal customers, but it must be your starting point.

Here are your sources of data:

Google Analytics – if you haven’t got this activated on your website, activate it now. It’s still the gold standard when it comes to seeing website visitor numbers and the levels of engagement. Its demographics function also gives you a great deal of information about your website visitors. Please be aware, though, that a cookies warning may well be necessary for those activating the demographics part of the service.

Twitter Analytics – Twitter gives you a great deal of information about those who view and interact with your posts. It tells you what interests your followers (business, news, sport, comedy, etc), the age range and gender breakdown, what sort of devices they use, and even which mobile phone/broadband service they use. Twitter has shown me that a growing number of people are viewing my tweets via iPhones and iPads, and Android phones, continuing the trend towards mobile.

Facebook and other social media – Facebook can show you a great deal about those who engage with your posts including locality, age range, friendship networks, interests (via your followers’ likes), and other social media you use regularly can also give you good insights into who is interacting with you.

Your sales records – It’s amazing how many people overlook this. Your own records have great insights into who is buying your products or services, and how they are using them. It’s an excellent starting point. If you don’t know how old they are, what brought them to you, etc, why not consider a customer questionnaire to help you improve your service?

Take a few days to plough through all of this information. Pick out the age range, gender balance, locality, their interests, where they ‘hang out’ on social media, whether they are professionals.

Now, you have a basic profile. You should know whether you are targeting women in their 40s or professional 20-somethings.

Most people would stop there. Don’t. Your ideal customer profile has to be very detailed. Now, you have to take a look at marketing data about your specific age range and gender group.

A good place to start would be marketing studies carried out by academics, professional bodies, or marketing media.

It’s as simple as Googling “marketing to women in their 40s”, for example, and seeing what comes up. You’ll soon find information which is highly useful. Did you know that 96 per cent of women in their 40s make all or most of the major spending decisions for their households? Neither did I until I started profiling a customer’s ideal clients.

From all of this data and information you’ve gathered, you should now have a feel for where you’re going with your profile. At some point, the data has to be supplemented by your intuition about those who will buy from your business, and why.

How will your target audience find you on the web?

What kind of keywords could you use? There are a number of keyword finder tools – both paid for and free – which you could use in your research.

Google has shut down its free keyword search tool and now you have to access its keyword searcher via Adwords here: https://adwords.google.co.uk/KeywordPlanner.

There are plenty of other keyword research tools you could use, including these:

http://keywordtool.io/

http://www.wordstream.com/keyword-tools

http://www.internetmarketingninjas.com/search/

http://tools.seobook.com/keyword-tools/seobook/

http://www.keyworddiscovery.com/search.html

http://ubersuggest.org/

http://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster/

Need help with blogging for your business? Email maria@wordsyoucanuse.co.uk. Check out what my company does here

 

3 reasons to join the blogging revolution

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Are you wondering why so many small business owners are blogging? Don’t really understand the benefits?

Here are three great reasons why you should join the blogging revolution:

  1. Blogs help you convert your page viewers into customers.

They educate your potential customers about your products or services and how you answer their problems.

If your ideal customers are time-poor, cash-rich small business owners, you need to show them how you can alleviate their pain and take away some of their burdens.

Notice the word used – show. You can tell someone you’re what they need until you’re blue in the face, it won’t make half the impact of someone else in a similar position to them saying the same thing.

Case studies are king. Testimonials from real people – preferably with pictures – give you gravitas.

Educate your potential customers in a fun way, engage them, and they become part of your team.

Be authentic, and they’ll choose to stay within that team and you’ll build goodwill.

Once they’re in your tribe, they’re more likely to make the leap towards purchasing what you offer.

  1. They help your SEO.

Regular blogging on your website, and sharing on social media, drives more people to your site.

That helps your SEO and the way you rank in search engine results.

It becomes a virtuous circle.

Use clever links between your blog and key, relevant pages on your site and you’ll help keep your bounce rate (the number of visitors who go to one page and ‘bounce’ straight back off the site) down to a healthy level too.

  1. They build your brand.

Being visible on social media helps you to spread your brand values. Blogs give you content which you can sculpt to those values to share regularly on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Pinterest.

You can embed video, images, or audio to make your blogs a rich experience.

Blogs are useful as part of your overall brand marketing including promotional products, visual branding like logos, your website, and even branded car wraps.

Too busy to blog?

If you need help with your blogging, give us a call on 07790 654274 or email maria@wordsyoucanuse.co.uk

4 of the best on Brexit, Euro 2016, and small businesses

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Brexit, Euro 2016, and the day-to-day challenges of running a small business have been on the minds of our blogging customers this summer.

In case you missed them, here are four  of the blogs we’ve written for some of our clients in the past few weeks:

3 compelling reasons you should buy silver now – read more.

The 10 commandments of business networking – read more.

7 ways to find the right finance for your business – read more.

How your business can survive a summer of sport – read more.

Need someone to bring expertise and creativity to your blog? Call us on 07790 654274. Check out our affordable blogging packages here.

5 effective tips for anyone outsourcing their blog

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When you decide to outsource your blog, you do it for very good reasons.

Usually, saving time is top of the list. Often, you take the decision to bring in an expert writer who can craft your blog posts because they have both the time and experience to do so.

Finding a great professional blogger is a major boost for your marketing campaign. A good blogger will be able to understand your company, know the style in which you’d like them to write, and do their research about your ideal customers.

They can write you social media headlines to maximise your SEO when sharing your posts, and emails to help you share your new post with your database.

If you’ve never used a professional blogger before, here are some tips to get the most from that relationship:

Be specific.

If you want something done a certain way, be as specific as possible with your blogger. They want to give you copy you’ll love, and which gives you a great return on investment. The more detail you give them the better. If you want a headline with a figure in it and a post based closely on data you’ve collected, tell them. Don’t assume they’ll know exactly what you’re thinking, even if they are on your wavelength.

Embrace their creativity.

If you’re not sure what to do with a post, ask your blogger. They may have tried and tested ways of delivering something great which you hadn’t thought about. A good blogger will be able to come to you with ideas, and you can agree with them what you’d like them to work on. Part of the time-saving in hiring a professional blogger is that it frees you from having to come up with all the ideas yourself. That can be a real headache after a few months of consistent blogging.

Copy them in on your calendar.

That helps them spark off ideas for new posts around events you’re attending, sales, product launches, or new directions you’re taking in the business. Blogging calendars will also contain major events like film launches and holidays such as Easter and Christmas, but the more relevant the blogger can make it to your individual business, the better.

Let them mix it up when it comes to length.

Statistically, posts which are between 1,200 and 1,700 words get the best engagement. Shorter posts, however, are also excellent ways of getting information across quickly, especially if you’re blogging every week, and longer posts tend to be more expensive. The best way forward for your business could be having a longer read every month or two, helping to build engagement with your blogging audience.

Images are important.

Most bloggers have good sources of stock images. The best ones have good contacts among freelance photographers. If they offer you free stock images, take a look at them. If they’re relevant and good images, why not use them? Most social media platforms have far better engagement when pictures or video is used, so take any opportunity you can to embed them into your blog. Would it be worth getting  a new image taken for your post? Could you use it elsewhere in brochures or flyers, or on an advert? It’s worth thinking about that, too.

Here’s to a fruitful relationship between you and your pro blogger!

Maria Williams is a professional blogger, copywriter, and PR for small business at Words You Can Use Limited.

 

Why every business blog should start with a detailed profile of your ideal customer

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Samantha is 41. She has two children, aged 17 and 12. She has run her own business for the past four years, and between work and a busy family life, a lack of time is her biggest problem.

She’s married, holidays in France, and sometimes Italy. She’s tech savvy, no fool when it comes to managing her money, and takes the reins when it comes to the household spending.

She wrote her own website copy four years ago, but her analytics and her own intuition and experience are telling her it could be doing so much more for her company. She likes blogging, but doesn’t have the time.

Samantha’s my ideal customer. I could tell you more about her, but I think you already get the point. When it comes to writing blogs to promote my own business, Samantha’s the woman I have in mind when I sit down at a blinking cursor. You might think she’s just my imaginary friend, I can’t possibly comment…

Why do I need to spend so much time on her? It’s all about cutting through content fatigue.

Sometimes, we feel like there’s a deluge of information on the internet. It can be off-putting, confusing.

There’s so much content out there right now. The thing you as a business blogger have to remember is that most of it isn’t useful to your target audience.

You need to be different. You need to speak directly to them.

Building a profile of your ideal customer/s is the starting point.

It all starts with data.

Your data will show you who is buying your products or services, and who is interacting with your social media posts. That’s not to say all of them are your ideal customers, but it must be your starting point.

Here are your sources of data:

Google Analytics – if you haven’t got this activated on your website, activate it now. It’s still the gold standard when it comes to seeing website visitor numbers and the levels of engagement. Its demographics function also gives you a great deal of information about your website visitors. Please be aware, though, that a cookies warning may well be necessary for those activating the demographics part of the service.

Twitter Analytics – Twitter gives you a great deal of information about those who view and interact with your posts. It tells you what interests your followers (business, news, sport, comedy, etc), the age range and gender breakdown, what sort of devices they use, and even which mobile phone/broadband service they use. Twitter has shown me that a growing number of people are viewing my tweets via iPhones and iPads, and Android phones, continuing the trend towards mobile.

Facebook and other social media – Facebook can show you a great deal about those who engage with your posts including locality, age range, friendship networks, interests (via your followers’ likes), and other social media you use regularly can also give you good insights into who is interacting with you.

Your sales records – It’s amazing how many people overlook this. Your own records have great insights into who is buying your products or services, and how they are using them. It’s an excellent starting point. If you don’t know how old they are, what brought them to you, etc, why not consider a customer questionnaire to help you improve your service?

Take a few days to plough through all of this information. Pick out the age range, gender balance, locality, their interests, where they ‘hang out’ on social media, whether they are professionals.

Now, you have a basic profile. You should know whether you are targeting women in their 40s or professional 20-somethings.

Most people would stop there. Don’t. Your ideal customer profile has to be very detailed. Now, you have to take a look at marketing data about your specific age range and gender group.

A good place to start would be marketing studies carried out by academics, professional bodies, or marketing media.

It’s as simple as Googling “marketing to women in their 40s”, for example, and seeing what comes up. You’ll soon find information which is highly useful. Did you know that 96 per cent of women in their 40s make all or most of the major spending decisions for their households? Neither did I until I started profiling a customer’s ideal clients.

From all of this data and information you’ve gathered, you should now have a feel for where you’re going with your profile. At some point, the data has to be supplemented by your intuition about those who will buy from your business, and why.

Get more in our free, 16-page guide to boosting your small business blog by signing up for our mailing list. It has more about profiling your ideal customer, how to headline and structure your blogs, how to use images and sound, and how to boost its profile using social media and influencers.

Sign up for the Words You Can Use Limited mailing list here: http://www.wordsyoucanuse.co.uk/contact-us/4590570178

Don’t worry about being inundated with spam. We will only send you free guides, and links to our latest blogs. We won’t release your mailing list details to third parties.

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How to get the fish biting with content marketing

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We live in a world full of big data, conflicting sets of analytics, and ever-changing technology.

Sometimes, it’s enough to make your head spin. Sometimes, it means we lose sight of important home truths about how we connect with people.

Getting on the front page with your keyword search in Google is great.

Business, however, is about more than fishing for passing trout in a fast-flowing river.

It’s about building a dam, and creating your own pond.

To do that, we have to never forget what it’s all about – relationships and trust.

Our customers won’t forget it. Their decisions aren’t often made using big data. Their purchases don’t usually come down to using analytics.

They buy from the people they know and trust, whether they are people on their local High Street, or those they’ve met on social media or through other business contacts.

JK Rowling’s Mr Weasley put it quite succinctly in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”

The best way to build that relationship and create that trust is by content marketing.

Let your would-be customers know where you keep your brain, and what makes your business tick.

Blogging regularly allows you to create content – or outsource its creation – and share it with your ideal customers. The fish you want to come and live in your pond.

A great blog which speaks to their needs is the starting point for your content marketing journey, tickling those fish through the stages of awareness of your business, contemplation of what you could do for them, and into the funnel of your website and your call to action.

Words matter. They cement your relationships with your customers.

That doesn’t mean, however, that visuals are unimportant. Impactful pictures, strong graphics, and engaging videos can all be embedded into your blog posts to give them a multi-platform appeal. Podcasts are also an excellent way of building that trust.

Build in some interactivity – create a quiz your customers can share, for example. Get them to post their results on Facebook or Twitter.

Get your blogs shared by the right people, influencers in your area or industry, groups of people whose social media posts have a powerful reach.

You’ll soon discover some of the fish will swim the way you want them to right away.

Others, however, need more love and attention, more persuasion.

As Lemony Snicket said in The Penultimate Peril: “Deciding whether or not to trust a person is like deciding whether or not to climb a tree because you might get a wonderful view from the highest branch or you might simply get covered in sap, and for this reason many people choose to spend their time alone and indoors where it is harder to get a splinter.”
Those cautious fish are worth the effort, though. There’s nothing more loyal than a cautious customer who finally bites, and gets a great product or service.

These are the customers whose recommendations will carry the most weight with their peers. If old Cautious Fish likes it, it must be good.

There’s something else which is important in building that trust: reciprocity. Offer your customers something useful to them free, asking for their email addresses so that you can build your database.

When we accept something free, we feel that duty to reciprocate. That builds your bond even further. It enhances your chance of a future sale even further.

It also gives you the chance to send out more links to your blogs in the future in direct emails, and make your pond a little larger.

 

Maria Williams is a copywriter, blogger, and PR for small businesses at Words You Can Use Limited. Visit www.wordsyoucanuse.co.uk

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