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image to support article about where to hire a content writer

When should you hire a content writer?

By A Helping Hand, Marketing Performance, Marketing Plan, Small Business Marketing, Strategic Planning

Four questions before you hire a content writer.

If you have clicked on this blog, chances are you’re already deliberating whether to hire a content writer. Choosing the right time and service, however, can be a mental barrier too many. Hire someone too early and you risk maxing out on overheads before your company can sustain it. Too late and apart from exhausting yourself, you will also hinder your business as it takes up too much of your time.

So let’s break it down and find out if you’re ready to hire a content writer..

How much content do you need to put out?

There are lots of factors, but small and growing businesses need to put out several types of content. There is:

  • Your blog – Potentially once a week
  • Your website – Needs constant updates
  • Social media posts – Twice a week
  • Sales copy – Hopefully often
  • Email campaigns – Once a week
  • Applications for grants – As and when

This adds up to a lot of time writing. Content plans can help with this, allocating time and resources and mapping out exactly what you are going to produce.

If you feel as though you can manage this with your existing team (that might just be you) then it is probably too early to employ a marketing agency or writer. If you don’t think you can handle that all on your own, then think about bringing in some help.

What is the quality of your current content?

So you’ve been doing your own marketing and now thanks to your efforts the business is growing. That’s great, but the more you grow, the more competition you will encounter. Your marketing and content will have to upgrade, as your business does to compete. A good way to test your content quality is through your number of readers. Be sure to set up Google Analytics in order to track how often your pieces are being viewed and compare it to your industry’s average.

Can you consistently produce content in ever greater amounts and quality? If not, think about hiring a marketing agency. They can produce professional content that represents the standard of quality you want associated with your business.

How valuable is your time?

Opportunity costs can sneak up on you, especially your own. Make sure your time isn’t worth more than it costs to hire a writer. Writing can take up an awful lot of your day, so be sure that your time wouldn’t be more valuable elsewhere. Failing to delegate can be detrimental both for your business and your health. If you find yourself still up planning and writing content outside of even business owners hours, maybe it’s time to bring in some help. Avoid the feast and famine trap.

What is your budget?

Agencies and employees cost money but don’t let that put you off. When looking for a marketing agency, find one that specialises in your size of business. This helps get the exact support you need with people who understand your budget.

There are also online content tools to help you out. Tools like Mailchimp and Hootsuite can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, with automated responses, ques of content and much more. They are not a substitute for a person, but if your content demands are just outstretching your available time, make sure you have taken all the help you can get.

Still not sure? Give us a call today and let’s talk about what would work best for you.

Tel: 020 8634 5911

women writing a blog on her laptop - image supporting blog on how often should I write blogs

How often should I write blogs

By A Helping Hand, Small Business Marketing, Strategic Planning

women writing a blog on her laptopAll good articles end with an ‘it depends’. So I will put mine at the beginning so you can make the right inferences for your company as you read through. Rather than giving you a prescriptive answer to the question “How often should I write blogs?”, let’s break it down into 6 questions that will give you an answer.

Question 1. Who do I want to read my blog?

Writing a blog is one thing, writing a purpose-filled blog is another. If you want your blog to bring in new people then the goal is reaching as many people as possible within your target market. This creates a need for more blog postings as growing an audience requires many blogs on different subjects and aspects of business.

If instead, you are writing for a group of people who you think will read most of the content you put out then you want to avoid ‘bombarding’ them with content and keep the blogs less frequent but in greater depth about specifics.

Question 2. How are they going to find my blog?

There are many ways people can find your blogs, but a search engine algorithm is the most common for new traffic. Assuming you want yours to be found by those most likely to possess a sympathetic ear, it is important to know how to make your work appear before your competitors. SEO (search engine optimization) is greatly helped by blogs and their content. New content is favoured as most people looking for information want the most recent accounts possible, this favours a high output of blog posts to always have something new.

Depending on the length of time your business has been releasing blogs however it may be that you have an awful lot of content already out there, but it is ageing and becoming obsolete. Updating your posts can be just as important and if you are a smaller team a lot more viable than writing new ones every day.

If people are coming across your content regularly then it is fair to assume they are interested in your business and have looked at your website (which you should link in your blogs). Make sure to have an obvious opt-in for email updates that will allow you to collect data on your readership and produce much more targeted marketing. Email campaigns are a sure way to reach people that have already found you, but for maximum exposure, it’s a good idea to diversify your content platforms. Social media is a real powerhouse when it comes to locating information, insure any posts about your blogs have the relevant hashtags to your sector and interests. This gives people the most chance of finding you.

Question 3. What should be in my blog?

When deciding what to write in your blog posts keep in mind that it is not what you want to write about but rather what your audience will want to read about. What sector you’re in, how you’ve segmented your market and what you are trying to achieve with your blog are large determining factors. If you are trying to entice your reader to purchase a product or service then the blog should lean towards the shortcomings of life without it. Avoid making sales to obvious, readers are aware there might be underlying reasons for the blog’s existence but it should remain an enjoyable and informative read none-the-less. ‘Bigging up’ your company and achievements is important just ensure it doesn’t sound like bragging or like you are overtly trying to sell something.

Question 4. What do I want my audience to do with the information?

So you have people reading your blogs – great, now what? It might be that your objective is complete already, they read it.  Releasing lots of blog posts can help accelerate brand awareness as the more content available the more chance of people finding it and remembering your brand. Interested readers alone often aren’t enough for small business though, they must create sales leads. This is the tricky part, if you create content on too large a variety of topics it might look like your business isn’t specialised enough, too little and you look unprofessional.  

 

Question 5. What does my content strategy say?

Blogs fall under the marketing umbrella and so it is a good idea to include them in your marketing strategy. This should be an in-detail plan of what is going where and when. Getting inspired by a blog on how often you should post and sticking to it, are very different. Remember when it comes to blog writing, consistency is key. Small businesses are often advised to release 16 blogs a month. This keeps them relevant while not taking up too much time (and budget) for the value they provide. Only you know how much of your business is dependent on blog generated leads so only you can know how much time to dedicate to them. 

Keep in mind all content strategies differ based on a few guiding factors, the size of your company being the first. Larger companies are likely to have better and longer relationships with clients and customers, this means their focus shifts towards fewer blogs in much greater detail. Your sector matters as well, some companies are a lot less dependent on a consistent stream of leads. One or two large clients may be all a small firm can provide for, reducing the amount of content they need to put out. 

Your content strategy should also outline whether you have an inbound (people coming to you) or outbound (you going to others) strategy. Inbound strategies require a greater amount of content as you will need to capture the most amount of interested people as possible. Outbound strategies require less content to avoid a ‘spam’ look and therefore require more careful drafting and a greater sense of quality.

Quality and quantity are often seen as an either-or, but for blog writing each company needs to strike its own balance. No matter what company you are, producing such high-level blogs that mean they are always in development, running overtime or missing the boat on time-sensitive topics are no good. Quantity is of course no good either without sufficient quality. As I said previously each company must find its own balance but a good test is to have someone else read your blog and tell you if what they think of it. If they report what you intended, the blog is finished.

Question 6. What are my resources?

The danger for lots of small businesses is picking a number of blogs to write a week while the pipeline is relatively quiet and then being overwhelmed by work the next week and therefore no content is released. If you are a small or even solo team then overpromising or overstretching yourself/s will only see your level of stress go up and eventually productivity will go down. 

The simple answer to the question “how often should I write blogs” is: the correct number of blogs to put out is the number that you can sustain over a long period. If you are too busy to do this, outsourcing your content creation as you grow is a great way to make sure your content strategy doesn’t fall by the wayside during busy periods.

 

At SME Needs, we’ve been crafting bespoke content strategies for our clients for years. If you’re one of the many businesses with too little time or knowledge to create your own, and without the budget to hire a full-time marketing executive, give us, your virtual marketing director, a call on 020 8634 5911 or click here.

If you would like to discuss your marketing budgets and plans, give us a call and let’s talk.

Tel: 020 8634 5911

image to support article on how to avoid the biggest errors made when blog writing

How to avoid the biggest errors made when blog writing

By A Helping Hand, Small Business Marketing

More than 10 million blog posts are published every day! When do you next plan to add to the mountain of content out there?  As we spend a lot of time either writing content, getting content written, or checking the writing of others, we thought we would pick the brains of a number of experts we know. The aim: to help you avoid the biggest errors made in blog writing.

Our panel come from various parts of the writing world:

  • Professional content writers
  • Journalists
  • Authors
  • Public relations specialists

Between them, they’ve written millions of words, putting them in the right order to make people want to read more. Let’s now look at what they have to say…

1. Don’t forget who your audience isimage of Dr Claire Trevien

Dr Claire Trevien, a content specialist, says a common error she sees is people forgetting who their audience is. All too often she sees content that is focused on making the company look good or on details that aren’t really of interest to anyone external to the company.

You have to remember “what’s in it for them?” and make the content useful, or entertaining, or inspiring. Otherwise, why would anyone bother reading it?

2. Write what your audience wants to readimage of Chantal Cooke, PR specialist

Along a similar thread, Chantal Cooke,  from Panpathic PR, says from a PR perspective the biggest mistake she sees (again and again) is businesses focusing on what they want to say, not what journalists (or their audience) want to hear.  Yes, of course, the point of PR and creating content is to get your message out to a wider audience, but it needs to be framed and delivered in a way that people want to engage with it. Otherwise, at best, you’re wasting your time and at worst you’re irritating people and damaging your reputation. So before creating any content make sure it passes the ‘so what?’ test. In other words, if your audience will read it, shrug, and go ‘so what?’ – you’ve failed the test.

Whenever you are creating content, for any reason, about any message, ask yourself ‘what’s in it for the reader/listener/viewer? Why would they care?’ If you can answer that question, you’re well on your way to creating great content.

3. Remember the search engines too

Whilst we agree completely with both Chantal and Claire, it would be remiss of us to not mention the search engines at this point. You are producing content because you want to be found by your target audience and get them engaging with you. To do that, you have to be ranked in the search engines, so you do have to follow their guidelines too. by writing for your audience, you will meet many of their guidelines, but remember your meta descriptions, sentence length and keywords. If you have a WordPress website, Yoast is a great plugin that will really help.

Think of Google, et al, as a secondary audience, but one you do have to at least nod towards.

4. Remove the formalityimage of Nicole Johnston

Nicole Johnston is a ghost writer and writing coach. She thinks that people think that to come across ‘professional’ they need to write in formal language and use technical phrases for credibility. Nicole says the best approach with content is to write as you speak.  There are two advantages to this:

  • it builds connection and trust.  People feel as though they get to know us through our content and are therefore more likely to buy from us.
  • No-one wants to read formal or technical language.  Simple, ‘down to earth’ language will not only communicate our point better but will make us seem more accessible.

Nicole suggests that we almost need to ‘unlearn’ the academic and ‘correct’ way of writing to communicate effectively with real people.  Einstein said ‘If you can’t explain it simply, then you don’t understand it well enough.’ Nicole agrees with him.

Author and journalist, Emma Bamford,  agrees with this and says people try too hard. A lot of the time, when non-professional or less experienced writers write content, they get so worried about sounding good that they go a bit over the top and/or formal.

Emma recommends following George Orwell’s advice. In his 1946 essay “Politics in the English Language”, wrote: “Never use a long word when a short one will do.” Clarity is key; ditch the thesaurus and write in a similar way to how you would speak (but with better grammar).

Emma gave us three more errors she sees regularly:

5. Stop overusing adjectives and adverbsimage of Emma Bamford

When people write marketing copy, they often think that if they pile on the superlative adjectives, it’ll make their product seem amazing and people will be clicking the ‘Buy’ button like there’s no tomorrow. In truth, it can easily become too much, and have a ring of falsity.

Emma recommends that you:

  • Cut the adjectives and adverbs (the describing words),
  • Let the actual facts and features of the product or service do the selling.
  • Avoid overdone, meaningless descriptors such as ‘sumptuous’ like the plague. You might have used that word in copy/content, but have you ever said it out loud in conversation? I’m betting not…

Gary Adams, a financial journalist, also highlighted the use of additional, and unnecessary words. He gave a few examples:

  • Nobody has ever risen ‘down’ so why rise ‘up’?
  • You could just swap something rather than swap it ‘out’.
  • ‘Interestingly’, if you prefix a point with that word, it probably describes the exact opposite.
  • Do you expand ‘inwards’?

6. Cut out the jargonimage of Gary Adams

You spend your whole day using the jargon of your industry. You know it, you love it and your team knows exactly what you are talking about. That doesn’t mean your target audience does, however. Using too much jargon is highly likely to confuse your audience, so cut it out.  Your target audience wants to know how you can help them, not how many big words you know. For more on this topic, you should read one of last year’s blogs.

Gary supports this point and adds that the social media world has created a new type of jargon. Witness the change from investment ‘baskets’ to investment ‘buckets’ and from ‘embracing’ something to ‘leaning in’ for an example of how quickly pointless change is taken up on a global scale and how something descriptive quickly becomes a slogan, something used thoughtlessly. Endless repetition of ever-more refined phrases will steal your identity. It also dates your work.

7. Using the active voice is best

“I’m telling you – avoid the passive voice.”

“You’re being told by me to avoid the passive voice.”

Which sounds better to you? Both sentences mean the same thing, but the first version is in the active voice, and the second is in the passive. Passive adds distance between writer and reader. If you find it tricky working out if you’re writing in the passive voice, look out for tell-tale words like “being” and “by”. Check that the subject (the doer) in the sentence comes before the verb (the doing word), rather than after it.

8. Use the right wordimage of Maia Morris, journalist and sub-editor

The English language doesn’t always make this easy, with many words being very similar, but Maia Morris, a journalist and sub-editor, lists this as one of her biggest bugbears. You will be able to think of many different examples, but this is the one Maia gave:

  • To complement is to complete something, supplement it, enhance it, or bring it to perfection. For example, your accessories may complement your dress.
  • To compliment is to give praise. For example, if I were to say that you have a very nice turtle, this would be a compliment to both you and your turtle.

The mixing up of to, too and two, as well as your and you’re are frequently seen too.

9. Missing the possessive apostrophe

Maia also gave us this one. Saying it is one of Maia’s bugbears will keep her happy. If you said it was one of Maias bugbears, you would expect to face her wrath!

10. Over-use of punctuation

Maia also really hates it when she sees people over-using exclamation marks!!!!!!

11. Don’t go on too long

Shorter is almost always better, when it comes to content length. Get in, say what you want to say (clearly, cleanly and in active voice), and get out.

Brian McGee has a journalist background, is a qualified teacher and over 20 years’ experience in creating content. He gave us three tips to look out for

12. Never Deleteimage of Brian McGee

Brian says just keep writing, however much the words don’t seem right for now. You can go back and improve it in the next draft: delete, polish and craft then. Not before…

13. Remember the three sections

Brian says there is always a beginning, middle, end. It’s better still if your conclusion links back to the start of your writing, even if it’s a discreet nod. That doesn’t mean you need to draft in a linear way. You have more ideas about the conclusion after that bracing walk? Ignore the introduction and get (happily, here’s hoping) drafting.

14. Think flow

Brian’s final tip is that if the transition from one idea to another jars, record that in the draft. Seeing the shortcomings of the current version is progress too.

What have we missed?

If there are any key blogging errors we’ve missed in this list (we’re sure there are), add them as a comment below. In the same manner, if you disagree, tell us why…

To conclude

If you can avoid the biggest errors made in blog writing, it can make the difference between you wasting your time and you attracting your next big client. Writing styles and best practice changes over time, so these points may well be redundant in a few year’s time, as Gary points out above. When you’re next planning a content piece for your business, why not try some of these points. See how much of a difference it makes to the flow of the article. More importantly, look at your performance metrics in a few weeks’ time and see if there is a difference.

We hope the tips provided here will help you to improve your content generation and improve the performance of your content marketing. However, if you find that you simply don’t have time to produce the quality content you want, or you want someone to review what you have written, get in touch. Call us on 020 8634 5911 or email us on SMEgrowth@smeneeds.co.uk