5 Easy-To-Use Blog Post Formats

If you’re starting a new blog for your business, you probably have done a lot of research on how to write blog posts. You’ve probably come across all different kinds of posts, everything from other businesses like yours to Buzzfeed’s top 10 cat gifs of the week. It can be a bit overwhelming. Every blog post is different, and you may not know which styles and formats to emulate.

The truth is, there are countless ways to write blog posts, and many different formats you can use. In my last post, I even suggested you use multiple different formats every week or month to help you write more efficiently. Here are several different, easy to use blog post formats and how to use them.

Countdown / List

Countdown or list posts are some of the most highly shared posts on the Internet, and they are easy to read and create. Made popular by sites like Buzzfeed, the countdown post is a list of headers, broken apart by small bits of content under each header. You see this all the time: “5 tips to make you a better blogger,” “The top 10 teams in Major League Baseball,” even posts like this would fall under that format.

These sorts of posts are frequently shared because the headers make it easier for speed readers to comprehend the content of the post. They also make it and for those who may not want to read the entire post to pick and choose the content they want to read. It is easy to write because the list format allows you to gather and organize your thoughts without having to worry about those pesky and sometimes difficult-to-write transitions.

To write a countdown or list post, begin with a topic. Next think of a handful of examples. Aim for a nice round number like 5 or 10, but don’t sweat it if you can only think of 4 or 7. Next, write a little bit about each example and why it pertains to the topic. Finally, write a short intro and conclusion about the subject and why it matters to your audience. It’s as simple as that!

How-To

How-to blog posts are exactly what they sound like, a post with a step-by-step outline of how to complete a task. Here on the Duct Tape Marketing blog, Sara writes great how-to posts. These are often easy to write because you’re outlining something you already know how to do, and really helpful to your audience.

To write a how-to blog post, begin with a task and list out the steps one by one. Next, spend a bit of time explaining each step, maybe even including photos or examples of each step. Make sure these steps and explanations are broken down so your blog’s audience can understand, and avoid any industry-specific jargon. Finally, write an introduction explaining to your audience why they should learn this new skill, and maybe a conclusion encouraging your audience to practice and use the new skill.

News

News posts are editorial posts that analyze a newsworthy event and apply it to your industry. News posts get shared because there is a good chance your audience is already talking about the news story.

To write a news blog post, start by creating a listening post to keep an eye (or ear) out for news that applies to your business. This can be done by following journalists and news outlets on social media, or just checking your favorite news outlets daily. Next, find a news story that may have an impact on your industry or business in the future. Begin by writing a little bit of background on the news story, and then spend time talking about how it impacts you, your industry or your customers.

Sharing

Sharing posts are some of the easiest to write, and are a valuable tool to leverage for growing your strategic partner base. These are posts where you can share other posts or products to your audience. For example, every weekend John shares his “Weekend Favs,” three new tools that can help make running a business easier.

To write a sharing post, collect blog posts or products to share throughout the week leading to the post. Be sure to keep your strategic partners in mind, and work their products and posts in often. List each item and hyperlink each one. Next, write a little about each post or product you are sharing, specifically why your audience should click the link. That’s it!

Mailbag

Finally, the mailbag post is a great way to get your audience to write your posts for you. The only catch is that you have to build up an active audience for this to work. These posts simply consist of you answering questions directly from your audience.

To write a mailbag post, call for questions from your audience either in a post on your blog or social media. Then copy/paste the questions and write your answers. If you don’t have much of an active audience, you can always think of commonly asked questions to answer, but this can be difficult.

Blog posts shouldn’t be difficult to write. These five easy blog post formats should help you get your blog rolling with great, consistent content.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

How to Blog and Why Every Salesperson Should

I believe that art of selling has turned from outbound to inbound, just as surely as the art of marketing has.

Sales blogging

photo credit: laverrue via photopin cc

With that in mind, I believe that every marketing department and every sales manager should be teaching, encouraging and facilitating active blogging from every member of the sales team.

This idea is certainly best employed with full support and orchestration from marketing, but lacking that, the smart sales professionals needs to figure out how to get in the game on their own.

A blog is pretty much the starting place for online content these days and content is the name of the game when it comes to inbound selling. Don’t worry that nobody wants to read your great ramblings – that’s not really the point at first. The purpose of creating a consistent blogging habit is that this is how you get found by search engines, have something worth sharing in social media and begin to build a body of work to draw from in many ways.

Initially you may have very few readers, okay, maybe no readers, but the act of blogging is about producing assets, not about being a blogger. Take that mindset into this work and you won’t worry so much about why you’re putting in the time.

What’s it about?

The first thing you need to decide is an overall theme for your blog. Obviously it should relate to your industry and what you sell, but if you sell truck parts you probably don’t want to write the world’s greatest truck part blog.

You’ll want to think in terms of a narrower focus – Something that can encompass a narrow but important content theme. If you want blogging to pay off over the long haul (and that’s why we’re doing this) then you must resist the urge to view your blog as a place to journal and veer off topic like you might see many bloggers.

This is a sales tool pure and simple, this is how people are going to start to differentiate you from the pack – treat it as such.

But I’m not a writer

I can hear the gears in your head turning with this idea, but here’s the deal, it doesn’t matter. You’re not writing the next great novel, you’re explaining stuff, you’re taking questions that prospects ask and putting the answers in plain English for anyone to understand. (More on the benefits of writing and how to be a more productive writer)

Sure, you need it to be clear, easy to understand and free of obvious grammar disasters, but write like you teach and sell and it’s going to be just fine.

Think in terms of 300-500 word posts at the most, unless you have something highly technical that needs much greater explanation. As you get in the habit of posting to your blog you’ll probably find that this gets easier over time and the occasional 1000 word or more post actually gets the most traffic.

At first, aim for at least three blog posts a week. You’re not a news media site so you don’t need more than that, but you do need total volume, so three a week over a year will give you the pages to compete in search over time.

The easiest way to think about these shorter blog posts is to think about a benefit laden headline such as – 7 Ridiculously Practical Ways to Use Social Media in Your Sales Job.

From there you simply need an opening that sums up why this post is important, your seven points make up the outline of the post and then wrap it up by restating why this is important. It’s not much more complicated than that. Start with your main point, add four or five subheading that act as the outline and fill in the blanks.

Get the tech part done

The first order of business after giving some thought to the primary focus of your blog is to get the thing set-up so you can start using it.

As I tell everyone that will listen, my blogging tool of choice is the self hosted WordPress. You can find it for free at WordPress.org.

Other options include the hosted version at WordPress.com and micro blog tools like Tumblr.

A self-hosted site using WordPress.org’s version gives you the most flexibility and control as you simply get web hosting, install the software and blog away on any domain that you personally own.

The trade-off is that there is a little more to do from a technical standpoint. The good news is that there is plenty of information available that will walk even the most tech nervous creature on the planet through the process. I suggest you start by visiting wpbeginner.com.

Owning your own domain name (perhaps your full name.com) and the content you produce is the ultimate option when it comes to your own reputation and platform building so I urge you to consider this option first.

Many hosting companies such as HostGator and BlueHost have one button WordPress install so the technical aspect isn’t really that big of a hurdle.

Theme of a different kind

So far we’ve been talking a lot about themes in terms of content, but WordPress uses the term theme to describe the template for the look and feel of the blog.

Once you have the blog installed you’ll want to own the look and feel. You can go out and hire a WordPress designer to create or customize one, but chances are you can find a nice fit from one of the premium theme sites like StudioPress or WooThemes.

When you purchase a theme from a theme designer you simply upload the files to your domain and in most cases edit for things like color, font and header graphics. Every theme is a little different, but theme sites like StudioPress generally provide instruction for how to customize your templates. Again, wpbeginner has some great information on this topic as well.

Add more content themes

Okay, now that we covered the look and feel theme, let’s go back to your content themes. In previous post I outlined what I call the Total Content System. In it I suggest that you come up with a topic or theme for each month based on the important keyword phrases for your industry. I call these your foundational content themes and them basically act as you your editorial calendar.

That’s right, in a way your entire year of blogging is mapped out. Now that’s not to say that you’ll take it month by month in the beginning. After all you need to get round one of your content created before you can slip into an annual plan.

But, for your first twelve posts you should cover something specifically related to your twelve themes so that you have something to lean on as you then come back and revisit each theme moving forward.

Now for some extensions

One of the reasons so many people use WordPress run their entire site, myself included, is that the platform is open in such a way that anyone with some coding skills can create what are called plugins that extend the functionality of the core WordPress platform.

Initially this won’t be overly important, but there are three plugins that I recommend for every business blog. Don’t worry adding plugins is very simple and sites like wpbeginner as well as the plugin creators offer advice on how to add and configure plugins.

The three I recommend are: WordPress SEO by Yoast, Contextually Related Posts and Sociable.

1. WordPress SEO by Yoast gives you to the ability to make each and every post a little more optimized for the keywords you are trying to show up in search for. (More on using WordPress SEO here)

2. Contextually Related Posts takes your current post and automatically adds five posts that are related. Obviously this gets better as you add more posts, but this can really help people go deeper into your content.

3. Sociable allows you to add sharing buttons for most of the major social and content networks so that people can easily Tweet, Like and +1 your content to their networks.

That’s it, simple huh? Well, easy, maybe, simple, not so much, but get started today and in few months you’ll begin to enjoy some of the benefits of building your authority and expertise as a sales professional.

Building a Consistent Blog Readership

Many bloggers dream of writing that epic blog post. One that drives so much traffic, links and shares that the front page of Reddit is a foregone conclusion. Common wisdom suggests that to write anything even kind of like that…

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