Originally published in The Startup.
It’s the year 2020 and the internet is full.
It’s bursting at the seams.
Seriously, there’s no more room at the Inn.
It doesn’t need any more listicles. It doesn’t need any more “5 steps to guaranteed success”. It doesn’t need any more bloated “thought leadership” pieces crammed with buzzwords but devoid of meaning.
And it certainly doesn’t need any more tips on how to “hack” your morning routine to “maximise” your productivity.
Don’t bother writing any more, it’s a waste of your precious time.
It wasn’t always a waste of time
Before senior management teams the world over finally got on board with content marketing as a legitimate thing — it took them long enough — business blogging was easy.
You could publish a weekly post on something vaguely relevant to your field, stuff it full of keywords, share it around social media and watch your growth curves rise.
But that was prior to the coronation of content as King. Back in the good old days when peoples’ attention wasn’t pulled in a hundred different directions and they had spare damns to give.
Those days are over.
70 million blog posts are published on WordPress alone each month and people are exposed to thousands of adverts a day. They’re bombarded with “content” from all sides and, quite frankly, have had enough of everyone’s nonsense.
So, is business blogging still worth it?
Not if you’re going to stick to the same old tactics, recycle the same old rubbish and join the same old conversations.
It doesn’t work like that anymore.
Now, in order to succeed, you need to respect people’s attention.
And that means elevating existing conversations with original ideas or starting brand new ones. Seeking to entertain, educate and inspire. And, above all, always providing value.
The value of insight
Real value comes from insight gained out there in the big bad world. Not shallow, unsubstantiated “tips for guaranteed success” from someone who hasn’t achieved what they’re promising.
This insight falls into two broad categories: evidence/data from research and lessons learned from personal experience. Make it your mission to include one or both of these in every blog post you publish from now on.
Then your business blog might start delivering tangible returns.
Authority = Success
Copyhackers dominate the copywriting space online. Every article they publish spreads through social media like wildfire and they have a several-hundred-thousand strong mailing list of loyal fans at their fingertips.
They didn’t build their empire by publishing wishy-washy, good for nothing blog posts. They built it by publishing the most in-depth, useful copywriting blog posts on the Internet. Each one packed full of personal insight and actionable advice backed up by research and data to prove they’re not bullshitting.
Take a look at their guest post guidelines — do your blog posts pass muster?
While it’s probably unrealistic to fulfil all of those requirements every time, you should be aiming to hit as many as possible if you want to mirror their success or achieve a percentage of it.
It takes a huge amount of effort — more on that later — but the payback is worth it. Thanks to the authority they’ve built up over years of putting out incredibly valuable content, the Copyhackers team are able to launch 6-figure courses, multiple times a year, with relative ease.
If that isn’t the dream, I don’t know what it is.
Ego = Failure
There are a few ways this strategy can go wrong, however, and failing to get your ego under control is top of the list.
That’s because there’s a fine line between original thinking and brazen contrariness, which provides little value. In a quest to entertain, inspire and spark new conversations, it’s easy to stray into look how clever I am territory.
Copyblogger hits the nail on the head:
“…it isn’t for you or about you, this writing that you’re doing. It’s for your client. (Or if you’re building a business with your blog, it’s about your audience and prospective customers.)
It’s about them. Always. They really don’t care about you.”
Nobody likes a show-off. Keep your ego in check and a laser focus on providing value for your readers.
The best blog posts are hard to write
Now it’s time to address the elephant in the room: valuable blog posts are hard to write.
Those filled with data take time and energy to research, and skill to piece together in an engaging and meaningful way. Those sharing anecdotes of personal learning experiences require vulnerability and openness from the writer to share their mistakes, and equal skill to do so in a way their readers can learn from.
The most popular post on my own blog falls into the latter category. It’s personal, exposing and was bloody hard to set the right tone. I needed to turn what could have easily been a bitter sob story or angry rant into something positive, thought-provoking and, ultimately, useful.
At the time of writing it’s had over 300% more unique page views than the second most popular post on my blog and has been widely shared and engaged with on social media. It’s done more for raising my profile than all my other blog posts put together.
Totally worth the effort, I’d say.
Don’t aim for average
According to Orbit Media’s 2019 Annual Blogging Survey, the average blog post takes 3 hours and 57 minutes to write.
I know what you’re thinking — how on earth am I supposed to write The World’s Most Valuable Blog Post in just under 4 hours?
Relax, you’re not.
While the average blog post might take around 4 hours to write, it also gets lost amongst the noise created by the tens of millions of other blog posts released into the wild each month.
Don’t aim for average, aim for exceptional.
Brian Dean’s magnum opus, Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List (2019), took more than 20 hours to write, but it’s regarded as one of the best and most comprehensive SEO resources out there.
If it takes you 10, 20 or 30 hours to write a blog post, don’t beat yourself up. You can’t put a time limit on excellence.
Invest in content writing expertise
I’m aware this advice might feel overwhelming. So many things, so little time — am I right?
Luckily for you, help is at hand. There’s an army of experts out there with the skills to propel your business blog from obscurity to infinity, and beyond.
Now more than ever, investing in content writing expertise, either in-house or outsourced, is a savvy business move. The pickings are still rich for those doing it right — see Copyhackers et al — while those half-assing it will continue to fall by the wayside.
In 2020, aim to do content writing properly.
Be the signal. Don’t get lost in the noise.