We know that creating a blog is a great strategy for developing a positive online reputation. It gives you a chance to speak for yourself, create positive content associated with your name, and can help you to become established as an expert authority in your industry. But are you really working on a blog that truly supports your reputation, or just trudging along with a few ineffective posts thrown up now and then?
While it’s better to have a blog than not have one, it’s far better to develop one that can really serve your interests. Your blog is a window into your brand, and it should be an excellent representation of what you have to offer — and it can help you to better control what’s found about you online.
“In an era when anyone can research you whenever he or she wishes, it’s important to do everything you can to curate and cultivate what people discover about you,” says freelance writer Danny Groner. “Most people need not worry about what others will uncover about them — unless they have a criminal record or want to hide some embarrassing columns they wrote for the college paper — but it’s still worth considering what a simple Google search reveals about you and how it illustrates you.”
That’s why it’s so important to place great emphasis on the quality and effectiveness of your blog. Use it to establish yourself as an expert — and really underline why you should be a trusted authority in your field.
And while there are many facets to building a great blog, the basic ideas behind a reputation boosting blog are simple: write great content, get connected with others, and make sure your content can be found. We asked several experts in the blogging, public relations, and SEO community to share their best tips for building a better blog. Read on to find out exactly how you can take your blog — and your reputation — to the next level.
Write Great Content
The first step to building a better blog for your reputation is writing content that readers actually want to see. It sounds obvious, but creating a blog with compelling information is often more difficult than it sounds.
“Be a source that offers unparalleled expertise and value to your readers,” encourages GetVoIP founder Reuben Yonatan. “Keep in mind that they have many other publications to read. Why should they read yours?”
How can you offer expertise and value? The secret is to solve a problem for your target audience, says John Hayes. And if you don’t know what their problems are, don’t be afraid to ask! “Pick up the phone and speak to a trusted client and ask them what makes their working life difficult,” says Hayes. “They will probably give you a list of items. Solve just one of these problems and you will have found the inspiration for a great piece of content for a much wider audience.”
Liz Carroll, content creator and public relations specialist with Goedeker’s agrees that writing helpful content is the way to go. “Become a resource that customers can turn to in a time of need,” she says. She suggests “how-to” and “top 10” articles that are easy to digest and helpful for anyone looking for quick tips.
It also helps to speak plain English, says Hayes, who suggests avoiding avoiding confusing, industry related jargon and tech speak. “Your potential clients will hire you or buy your products or services because you can demonstrate how you can help them, not because you hide behind complex language,” he says. “Remember, you are not selling to your industry peers, you are selling to individuals with other skills who shouldn’t have to learn the complexities of your area of expertise to work with you.”
But perhaps most important is to remember that you’re writing for people, says Alan Brymer. It’s tempting to put your focus on keywords and SEO to make your blog rank higher, but the content that really earns positive attention and helps to build your reputation is genuinely helpful and useful for real people, not search engines.
Brymer also looks for consistency in messaging and values, and says that this will help you maintain your credibility. “If people see one You in one post and another You in another post,
they are going to suspect you of flip-flopping,” he says.
Write What Your Readers are Looking For
While your blog should be a reflection of your expertise and values, remember that you’re not writing it for you: you’re writing it for your customers, industry contacts, and other interested parties. Do you know what they’re looking for?
“One of the most important things to keep in mind when developing and writing a blog is to focus the writing on the needs/wants of your target consumer,” says Lauren Witte, associate director of marketing at Jackson White. “Think from the side of the reader: what do they want to learn about? What topics interest them? You want to be considered an expert in the field, the first source they turn to for advice or information.”
To find out what your audience wants to know about, you can take Hayes’ approach and simply ask your trusted clients what they need help with. But there are other options. Andrew Herrault, lead strategist at Connective Insights recommends using Buzzsumo to find out what’s being shared in your industry. But don’t stop there: Herrault says it’s important to not only write on those topics, but also improve on what’s already out there by using better writing techniques, better images or video, or performing deeper research.
Also a possibility? Surveying your customers and audience for their opinion. That’s exactly what Taylor Aldredge, ambassador of buzz at Grasshopper did — and it really paid off.
“We surveyed our customers and audience to see what they wanted,” says Aldredge. “After the survey, we concluded that we would focus Grasshopper’s blog on marketing insights for entrepreneurs. That renewed focus has led to a humongous improvement in traffic. We’ve had a 937% increase in Twitter referral traffic and 1,433% increase in LinkedIn referral traffic since we overhauled the blog.”
And the blog isn’t just enjoying better traffic and interaction, Grasshopper is seeing a real improvement in reputation and relationships as well: “Our reputation has improved because of our renewed focus on the blog,” says Aldredge. “The social referral traffic points to it. People trust our site, content, and blog enough that they’re willing to recommend us to their followers and social circle way more than before we changed things up.”
Why did it work so well? “You need to understand your audience through and through,” says Aldredge. “It’s basic, but you need to TALK to them to find out what they’re seeking out when they visit your blog.”
Write About What You Know
Yes, it’s important to discuss what your readers are interested in, but let’s not forget: you’re the expert here. Share something they need to hear about, but maybe don’t realize it yet! Branching out and sharing information that you know well, but others may not, is a great way to establish your reputation as a knowledgeable expert.
“The content on your blog should be relevant to your area of expertise,” says Netrepid marketing manager Jonathan Bentz. “Create content in whatever way you are most comfortable, but keep it relevant to your professional endeavors.”
You should always keep in mind that blogging to enhance your online reputation means building your profile as an expert in your field. That’s why Jeremy Gregg encourages bloggers to focus on demonstrating subject matter expertise (SME) in the areas where you want to be known as the “go to” person.
Also, don’t be afraid to talk about yourself. Sure, there’s a line — and it’s definitely easy to make your blog too self centered, but remember that your readers probably want to know more about you and what makes you and your brand tick. So, open up a bit!
“When writing your blog, don’t be afraid to pull back the curtain on your business, says CreativeCali‘s Josh Rubin. “Most professionals like to hoard their knowledge as to give themselves a perceived value when customers contact them. This is the wrong way to go about things. If you offer sound information and advice, even if it seems like you’re giving away your business secrets, people will see you as an expert and you’ll gain a reputation as being a leader in your field. They’re not looking to do the work you’d otherwise do for them, they’re looking to see if you know your stuff.”
Carroll encourages bloggers to make blogging more personal by sharing positive stories, including customer testimonials and reviews. “Every now and then, there will be a customer who is so impressed with your services they rave about you on review sites and their social media outlets,” she says. “Capture that by writing about it. Reach out to the customer and ask for an interview. It will make them feel special and give you an interesting blog post.”
Avoid Making Your Posts a Sales Pitch
Though it’s important to offer insight into your brand and share what you know, there is always the possibility of sharing too much. Often, this happens when bloggers turn their posts into a sales platform — and that’s a big mistake.
“Don’t just sell, sell, sell,” says Supply.com blogger Rachael Nichol. “No one wants to read a blog article full of links and sales pitches from one company.”
Instead, Nichol suggests focusing on giving information first, and then adding in a small sales pitch if it’s appropriate. Sharing the latest trends, regulations, and installation tips are great ways to engage your audience while working in small sales pitches,” she says.
Share Original Thoughts and Content
If you’re writing what you know, chances are you’re creating unique content. And if you’re not, you really should be. The Internet is a platform for millions of bloggers to share their writing: are you just echoing what everyone else is posting, or are you offering something new and different?
Let’s get real: you’re not CNN. Chances are, you’re not anyone’s main news source, so you really shouldn’t try to be. Thoughtlessly sharing industry news updates might be useful, but it’s not going to do your reputation any favors. Rather than basic reporting, try offering your take on new developments.
“Don’t simply repost the news, offer your own take on the news,” insists Bentz. “There are 1000s of sites out there that post news and updates on almost every story in every industry. Your readers most likely are not coming to you to read the news – instead, they want your expert analysis of the news they just read about on Huffington Post or the New York Times.”
Bentz encourages bloggers to share expert opinion and analysis of hot industry news. That way, he says, your readers will find far more value than they would by simply stumbling across another site telling them the news.
A great way to offer your unique take is to offer analysis that includes examples and experiences from your own past, says MoneyCrashers blogging expert David Bakke. This is the kind of content that people won’t be able to find by perusing a more general advice-type blog, he says.
But don’t stop there: go deeper into your analysis with top notch research. “The more insight you can provide, the better off you’ll be,” says Bakke. “Citing statistics or other research can also help bolster your pieces. For example, if you’re writing an article about job search tips, finding a study which states that employers plan on doing more hiring this year would fit in nicely.”
Write Your Blog with Purpose
Creating quality content means not writing because you have to, but because there’s a need to be met. What’s your blog’s purpose? Consider your goals, the message you want to send, and how you want what you write to contribute to your industry.
“Many brands will begin a blog because they think they should have one,” says Nichol. But this is a mistake: blogging just to blog isn’t really worth it — you need a good reason and compelling content to really make a difference.
Nichols suggests making sure you have a few clear objectices for blogging. These can be informing customers on your latest product offerings, industry insights, or building links for SEO — but every brand’s objectives may be different.
The need to create a clear purpose and focus is especially true if you’re building a personal brand with your blog. “Make sure your blog has a focus, and the focus aligns with that of your personal brand,” says eZanga.com digital content supervisor Brittany Berger. “Every reputation building activity you do should take you closer to your goal for personal branding. That includes blogging.”
Keep in mind that if you’re writing with focus to meet your objectives, that might mean you won’t be able to write about every idea that pops in your head to share on your blog: they won’t all be relevant, and getting off track can dilute your brand.
“You may have a ton of great ideas about a variety of blog topics, but if your personal brand has a narrow focus, not all of those post ideas will support it,” insists Berger. “Keep your blog focused to earn a focused reputation.”
Berger offers the following example:
“Let’s say your goal for personal branding is to be seen as knowledgeable about human resources. In that case, the focus of your blog should be about human resources, even if you also like writing about current events. You should try to find another outlet, like guest posting, for other topics to make it clear what your blog is about.”
You should always ensure that your blog is a good representative extension of your brand. “The blog should look and feel similar to your website and have the same tone in copy,” says Nichol. “If you are a serious financial institution, you wouldn’t suddenly write Buzzfeed-esque lists on your blog. The same customers that are looking for your website will look for your blog. Make sure you meet their expectations.”
Carroll agrees, adding that your brand cohesion plays a large part in building reputation and trust — so your blog’s design and content should be consistent with your website and services.
Write Like a Real Person
Developing a genuine, relatable voice and style for your blog is essential to your reputation. Your blog content should be a reflection of yourself and your brand — and offer a sense of authentic personality.
“A blog is first and foremost a diary of sorts,” says Royce Leather marketing director Billy Bauer. “The human element is so important. By sharing stories about your life and making connections in this way you make readers feel like you are a real person and not a machine just cranking out content.”
Sharing content in your real voice is essential to success, and Bauer says that forming connections with your readers is a great way to help them to want to continue reading and coming back. “Think of your site as your living room,” he suggests. “Be a good dinner host for the visitors of your site.”
You can show personality in a number of ways. Doitwiser marketing specialist Juan Velasquez encourages bloggers to incorporate humor whenever possible. “Don’t take yourself too seriously!,” he says. “Show readers that you’re a real person; make sure your posts have personality.”
Another important element of writing like a real person: keeping your content readable. Avoid overwhelming your readers with technical mumbo jumbo or concepts that aren’t clear. And while it’s great to share high-level thinking, remember that you’ll need to maintain a writing style that your average reader can still follow.
“Keep it simple,” says Yonatan. “Simplicity isn’t about dumbing down, it’s about prioritizing. Communicate the core of your message in a relevant or high-concept pitch.”
Rubin also encourages clarity and simple, but appropriate language — and he says it can really make a difference in the quality of your blog. “I’ve seen a change in writing style have a noticeable difference in website bounce rates and engagement,” he says.
Emphasize Quality Over Quantity
Sure, writing great content that’s useful, interesting, and exactly what your readers need to hear will help you build your reputation. But it’s also hard work, and it simply takes time to create that kind of content — maybe more time than you have if you want to keep up with your publishing schedule. That’s why it’s important to place value on quality over quantity. While readers like to see an active blog, make sure you’re not mindlessly churning out blog posts. It’s much better to slow down your post frequency if you need to in order to produce posts that really pack a punch.
“There are so many mediocre and good articles online that you have to write something truly excellent to stand out,” says John Rhodes. “It is worth taking your time and writing one brilliant article rather than 10 average or even good ones. Resist the urge to finish a piece so that you can write another one. Keep going until you produce something amazing. You will get far more positive publicity from that one amazing piece than you could hope to get for 10 ordinary ones, so it’s worth the time.”
Jonathan Sandling says this advice worked really well for him: “I used to blog about anything and everything and focused mostly on getting as much information out as possible,” he says. “I had relative success but no real loyal following. I currently blog less frequently, but when I go I try to ensure the content focuses on a consistent topic and what I write is of a high standard.”
Write Consistently on a Schedule
Though it’s important not to sacrifice quality for quantity, readers do expect to see an updated blog, so make sure you’re checking in on a regular basis — even if regular for you is once or twice a month. A blog is great for your reputation, but not if it appears to be abandoned.
“A reputation is built on consistency and so is any good blog,” says Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau interactive marketing manager Dan Fuoco. “Keeping your audience informed on a regular basis is an important part of creating a routine and a reputation.”
Fuoco suggests starting with a weekly posting schedule and increasing the quantity of posts when your number of followers grows as well.
Planning ahead can help you stay on top of your posts, says Fuoco — who encourages bloggers to consider the editorial calendar your new BFF. “Having your topics arranged by date and organized ahead of time will save you oodles of stress in the production and planning periods,” he says.
Build Trust with Reliable, Honest Posts
Let’s not forget that quality writing doesn’t just mean posting thoughtful information, it means shooting straight and being sure to check facts. This is especially important to your reputation, as you want to always appear truthful and trustworthy.
“The most importance aspect to creating blog content that will assist in building your online reputation is trust,” says Scott Chow. “The goal of your blog should be to gain the trust of your readers. This is best done by creating content that demonstrates a knowledge and passion for your industry.”
Building trust is as simple as being honest: “If you’re posting on your own blog (or anywhere, really) then you’ll obviously want to tell the truth,” says Brymer. “This applies to not deceiving people and avoiding hyperbole, but it also includes checking your facts. If there’s something demonstrably false in your post, then people will notice it and will often accuse you of deliberately misinforming people. So avoid even the appearance of evil.”
You can build trust by only sharing truthful information and avoiding embellishment, but that’s not enough. You’ll also need to make sure everything you’re sharing and recommending is trustworthy as well. “If you post links or recommendations of other products and services, make sure you have tested them yourself and wholeheartedly believe in them anyway,” encourages Brymer.
Give Away Your Best Content for Free
If you’re blogging for profit as well as reputation, you may be tempted to hide your best work behind a paywall, membership, or subscription of some sort. But experts say this is a bad idea for marketing and reputation.
“Put your absolute best content in your blog,” says Nik Parks. It’s tempting to think, “If I give away my best content for
free, I won’t have anything to sell. I should water it down and offer the “good stuff” as an up-sell at the end.” That won’t work.”
People do business with people they know, like, and trust, explains Parks. When you consistently release quality content, you win the trust of your readers/potential customers and you establish yourself as an authority within your niche.
Liz Dexter explains that you’ll build a better reputation by giving it all away: “Don’t tell people they can only find the answer if they
buy your $20 resource,” she says. “Give them information. They won’t take it away and never use you: they’ll see you as the expert and come to you if they need help.”
Encourage Interaction with Your Audience
Want to really build a great reputation with your blog? You’ll need to build a loyal audience. And the best way to do that is to encourage interaction and engagement by keeping readers coming back again and again.
Chow says it’s incredibly important to give your audience a way to interact with your blog. It can be as easy as blog comments and social media interactions such as “Likes” on Facebook. And of course, remember to respond to blog comments so that you can interact directly.
Why is this important? Chow explains that interaction blog comments and social sharing offer powerful social proof to future readers: evidence that your blog is popular and people trust you.
But, getting social isn’t the only way to encourage interaction: writing content that sparks conversation, developing partnerships, creating easy to digest information, and encouraging subscriptions are all great ways to encourage readers to come back time and time again — and build more trust in you and your reputation.
Create Interactive Content
A great way to encourage interaction is with your content: make your posts reach out to your audience. Ask questions, spur comment conversations, and encourage readers to contribute.
UrbanBound inbound marketing coordinator Aria Solar has found that interactive posts often get the most traction. She encourages interaction with question and answer posts, posts with images including “click to tweet” links at the end of each blurb, or other interactive content that breaks up the paragraphs. Doing this has caused hits to nearly double, she says.
“The audience wants to feel like they are engaging with you, not just reading a block of straight copy which probably won’t resonate with them for long,” she explains.
Velasquez suggests spurring conversations in the comment section by asking a question or encouraging readers to share their opinion or story. “If you don’t do this, you’d be surprised how few people will take the time to comment,” he says.
And make it easy for readers to comment, he says: Don’t make them sign in or jump through other hoops. Most of the time, they’ll just skip it.
Another great way to encourage interaction? Get controversial, says Velasquez. “Many people shy away from it,” he recommends. “Writing things with which people are sure to disagree can be scary! But controversy draws people out of their shell and encourages dialogue, and often can increase the level of reader engagement on your blog. It can also get you more “shares” and more traffic.”
Write for the Web
Often, the most interactive content is simply easy to read, understand, and share with others. That’s why it’s essential you write for the web, specifically with online readers in mind. Remember that blog readers may have a short attention span and require constant pushes to help things along with photos, paragraph breaks, and interactive elements.
Velasquez offers the following tips for writing with online readers in mind:
- Make sure every post contains a single main idea. It can be supported by related ideas, but do not ramble. One idea.
- Keep your posts brief. As little as 300 words can make a good blog post. Try not to go over 500 words, occasionally 600 but don’t do longer posts too often.
- Make use of bold fonts and subheads for emphasis whenever possible (without overdoing it and becoming annoying). Your goal is to create a user-friendly reading experience. Your reader must be able to scan your post for important thoughts and key words to determine whether they want to pay more attention and read carefully.
- Use bullet points or numbered lists when it makes sense. This is just another way to create a simple and positive reading experience.
- Use at least one image in every post. It’s best to acquire them legitimately through stock photo websites.
Photos and other media especially can help readers stay engaged and interactive. Dorit Sasson suggests using powerful, relevant photos, videos, polls, contests and sound-clips to increase interaction from your viewers. You should make sure photos tell an instant story or pique curiosity. and choose photos that are lively, dynamic, eye-catching and relevant to your topic.
Encourage Social Connections
Social connections can help develop your authority and reputation. That’s why it’s important to build your audience and social proof by making it easy for readers to share and connect with your blog socially.
“Offering easy ways for people to share your content on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites is an additional opportunity for you to get your blog content to a wider audience,” says Chow.
You can get started by linking to your social media profiles, says Bentz. He suggests starting with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. And if you niche has a specialized social network, like Untappd for homebrewers, Soundcloud for DJs, or Kaboodle for personal shoppers, be sure to include a link to that profile, too.
Bentz adds that including a blogroll of must read sites on your blog is helpful as well. And if you regularly read some of the most trustworthy content sources in your area of expertise, tell people, he says. They probably read many of the same sites and will be more likely to find your content likeable if you share common sites in your feeds.
“A company blog should be designed to make social sharing options easy and apparent,” says Scott Benson. “I’d recommend stand-alone social sharing icons at the top and bottom of post content, as well as a floating bar on the left. The sidebar of the blog should also be used to keep a company’s social profile links ever-present.”
Benson also suggests tracking the social engagement on your blog posts for analysis on what works with your audience vs. want doesn’t result in social amplification.
Be careful, though, warns Yonatan: if you have little to no shares, don’t display social share metrics, as it will instantly discredit your blog.
Offer Subscriptions for a Sticky Audience
In addition to social sharing, it’s a good idea to develop your audience with subscriptions. Fuoco suggests creating a subscribership with an email capture field in the top right portion of your blog’s home page.
“The human eye naturally gravitates to this spot after reading the headline or first couple lines of the article,” says Fuoco. “If you’ve lured your audience in with your great content, you’ll want to make sure they come back to read it again and again. The email capture field will help make that happen.”
Develop Strategic Partnerships with Other Bloggers and Brands
Believe it or not, blogging can be a pretty solitary affair. But if you encourage partnerships, expert opinions, and guest posts, you’ll have the opportunity to become more interactive, expand your audience, align your brand with others who are respected in your industry, and build a better reputation.
One great way to partner up is to seek out experts and thought leadership outside of your company, suggests Computer Market Research communications manager Jesse Ignell. “This provides your blog with more credibility and a greater chance to reach a larger audience,” he says. He suggests developing Q&A posts with industry experts and consultants.
Another method of reaching out: become a guest poster or even a regular contributor, says Brymer. But be careful to make sure you’re aligning yourself with blogs that have a reputation that will support your own.
“If you are posting on another blog as a guest or regular contributor, then consider their reputation first, as you will be grouped together with them for better or for worse,” says Brymer. “How credible is the website itself? How does it look? How accurate and helpful is the content? What about the other authors posting there? You don’t want to get a bad rep being seen with the wrong crowd.”
And of course, remember to support others as they support you. Gregg suggests focusing on building other people’s reputations: “Give positive reviews on Yelp, Google+ and other sites for the companies whose services you appreciate,” he says. “Write endorsements on Avvo and LinkedIn for the professionals whom you would recommend. Include links to other experts, share articles written by others, and cite other sources in the blogs that you write.”
Don’t Neglect Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) may be a big concept if you’re just starting out with your blog — or if you’ve never looked into it before, but making sure that your content is easy to find on search engines means that you’ll have a better chance of building your reputation the way you want it to be seen. Creating a blog that’s prominent in search engines can help you stay on top of your search results and push down any other results you’d rather not see.
Writing great content that readers enjoy and like to share is the first step of SEO: ultimately, search engines are always more likely to support thoughtful, well written content that offers value — and so are readers. But in addition to quality writing, there are a number of ways to nudge search engines in the right direction.
“If copy is created to enhance a brand, but the search engines can’t find it, it’s useless,” says Markelle Harden, director of content and business development for getacopywriter.com. She encourages bloggers to use custom title tags and description tags to ensure that posts will show up appropriately in search engine results.
In these custom tags, you’ll want to use keywords effectively. Consider the words and phrases that are important not just to your post, but to your industry. They should be present in your content as well as titles and descriptions.
Velasquez encourages bloggers to think carefully about post titles. He often prefers boring, but informative titles that are likely to draw in readers from a Google search. And, he adds, if you can word your post title in a way that exactly matches how people might search on Google, you’re likely to draw in more readers.
Also, keep in mind that certain types of posts are particularly well suited for search engine results. Gregg suggests that top ten lists and Q&A blogs often do well because many online searches are in the form of a question.