I said I wouldn’t have ice cream this week.
Yet there I was, leaning over the freezer door surveying my options like the indecisive person in front of you at Starbucks. It wasn’t until I was two spoonfuls into a mint chocolate chip sundae that I realized my oversight.
I tried to justify it. It’s Sunday. I always have ice cream before Game of Thrones.
Old habits die hard. Unfortunately, so can your goals if those habits aren’t identified and corrected.
I often hear the question, “how can I generate more interest and traffic to my blog?” Good question, but it’s often the wrong one as it’s usually reflected outward as if the one thing that’s been holding them back is some secret of distribution.
There is no distribution secret — at least not one that I’ve discovered. Instead, the problem is usually rooted in some bad, hard-to-break writing habits. Unlike my affinity for ice cream, however, you can get a handle on these.
So let’s identify a few of these habits so you can start breaking them.
Let’s get this out of the way early: You care about your product, but your prospects are concerned with solving their problems. Contrary to just about all of your content efforts, solving your customer’s needs isn’t about highlighting your company, but rather giving them the right information.
Think of your blog as the instruction manual that comes with most products. Grounded in action, manuals not only tell us how things work, but they even show us how to do it visually. This is exactly what the modern consumer is looking for in a company blog. They don’t need to be sold on you yet — instruction before seduction.
Breaking the Habit
Identify the challenges that eventually lead people to need a product like yours — then blog about those challenges. If you’re selling fertilizer, you could post about controlling weeds and protecting against ticks. Focus on addressing the actual challenges your audience has, and by extension, you’ll position your product as the logical solution.
You Overcomplicate It
Readers shouldn’t need a doctorate in business jargon in order to understand your blog posts. In fact, jargon kills any sign of empathy you may be trying to convey. If people can’t understand it, they certainly can’t relate to it.
This habit becomes more pronounced the higher up the executive chain you go, as the more expertise you have on a subject, the harder it is for you to articulate the solution on an intermediate level. This is often referred to as the “curse of knowledge,” a cognitive bias that makes it difficult for those “in the know” to think from the perspective of those who are not.
It’s also a curse on your readership, as people only read what they can both understand and pull actionable value from.
Breaking the Habit
If you don’t already have a content style guide, work together with your team to put one together. This covers everything from grammar to specific industry terms and should completely align with your ideal persona and how they communicate their challenges. If there is a simpler way of writing something, use it. As Ann Handley says, “No one will ever complain that you made things too simple to understand.”
While this may be more of a lack of a habit, it’s still a habit nonetheless.
Asking how frequently you should be blogging is the wrong question. Instead, ask yourself how many questions and challenges your audience has. The answer should be infinite and constantly evolving — and you should be blogging as often as you can to answer all of those questions.
Sadly, this isn’t how most companies view blogging. It’s more of a chore to be checked off as completed at the end of the month. And if nothing comes of it then, “Hey, at least we gave it a shot.”
Just know there are other companies, possibly even competitors, blogging more frequently and effectively, and still managing to catch a few winks. You can, too.
Breaking the Habit
Increasing consistency may sound idealistic when you’re lacking resources, but aligning content efforts with overall company goals should get more people involved. Internally, everyone on your team offers a unique perspective. Set company-wide blog post quotas and keep a detailed editorial calendar to stay organized.
You’re Riding the Bandwagon
The benefits of following the crowd seemingly outweigh the negatives.
It’s less of a time commitment, requires less effort, and ensures you’re aligned with what other successful companies in the space are doing.
Just remember that whenever you’re riding the bandwagon, you can’t be driving it.
This habit plagues many companies having trouble filling their editorial calendar.
“What’s [insert competitor] doing on their blog?”
This practice doesn’t ensure success. Instead, it positions your company as one-step behind — you’re always trying to play catch-up. Why compete for the same attention? If others are already writing about it, why will your post be any different? There’s only so many readers to go around, and while you can’t be sure that they’ll read your post over someone elses, they’re much more likely to choose your blog if what you’re writing about can’t be found everywhere else.
Breaking the Habit
The ground is always more fertile ahead of the pack, so instead of filling your editorial calendar with whatever is trending, try putting a unique spin on the topics your audience is interested in.
Remember, your success lies in your ability to create contrast between your blog and everyone elses. But before you do that, you’ll have to break these bad habits.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a bowl of half-melted ice cream to get rid of.