B2B blog writing has changed. Once thought of as filler, or a cheap SEO tactic, blogs are now a cornerstone of B2B content marketing; an efficient, flexible way for B2B marketers to self-publish content of all kinds. But with 4.4 million posts published every day, how do you make yours stand out?
We could talk about blogs all day – so when we were asked to cover the topic in our B2B Content Tuesdays, we jumped at the chance. The only problem was squeezing everything into a short webinar and Q&A. So in this blog, we’ll dive a little deeper, and give you a crash course in writing a great B2B blog post. We’ll also answer some popular blog writing questions.
B2B blog writing: four tricks of the trade
1. Know your audience
Ask yourself: Who is my reader? Or, more importantly, who is NOT my reader?
When you aim your content towards a niche audience, it’s more likely to be relevant and helpful to your target readers. And it’s easier to explain the value you’ll deliver. A broad-brush approach is tempting because it addresses a larger audience, but super-specific content makes a more direct appeal to the community you really want. As a result, it’s more likely to actually get read.
2. Provide clear value for the reader
Ask yourself: What will this audience get from reading? Why would they want to spend their time?
Ideally, every blog post should provide some kind of utility; it could be advice, information or something they can use. It might even be fun. But you need to know what that value is, so you can to make it abundantly clear to your reader too.
For example, we’ve got a blog post that provides a basic blog structure, so you can write more easily and provide that value in a clear, logical way. Pretty useful, eh?
3. Nail the voice and tone
Ask yourself: Would our audience recognise our blog posts a mile off? (Even if you covered up the branding?)
Think about how your blog sounds. If your market is crowded with similar brands saying similar things, one way to differentiate your content is to have a distinct voice – a way of handling language that’s uniquely you. Velocity Partners does a great job of this (a little profanity goes a long way).
Especially where you’re looking to establish subject matter experts within your own business, a bylined blog can allow you to show a bit more character in your writing.
4. Start strong, and prepare the ground
Ask yourself: Have I demonstrated the first three tricks in the first 30 words?
The introduction is the most important part of your blog post – it defines whether the reader will spend their time and often, in social posts, whether they’ll even click.
So, ensure the value of reading is obvious, make it obvious you know your reader inside out, and help the reader get to know your style. In doing so, you lay a solid foundation to build on.
Your B2B blog writing questions answered
Q: How do I make super-technical topics more approachable without inflating word count?
David: “Long blog posts are more common than you think – and there’s a time and place for them. So if it’s realistic that your reader will sit down and read all of it, there’s no problem with 2,000, 3,000, even 5,000-word pieces of content.
“However, I would suggest making it clearly structured and easy to navigate, with clickable links to each section so the reader can scan easily and jump to the bit they need.
“Or, if you want to break it up into accessible chunks, turn the topic into a series of blog posts. These can then be wrapped up into an eBook, so you have a longer asset built of shorter, standalone articles that can be read independently or together.
“And there’s no need to stick with PDFs – other formats can provide granular data about who actually read what. Using something like Turtl can help you break down your reader’s experience – from what, when and where they are reading, to average reading times.”
Q: What is the ‘three-act structure’ in blog writing?
David: “The three-act structure is one of the most basic aspects of storytelling; essentially, each story has to have a beginning, middle and end. Anything that follows the natural shape of a story feels familiar and satisfying.
“You’ll likely follow this structure, so the first 25% should be setting the stage. Something exciting happens, that the hero has to respond to, so about a quarter of the way through, the hero ventures out into a new world.
“In the next half (from 25% to 75%), your hero faces a series of challenges. In most stories, the stakes get higher and higher – and around the 50% mark, there’s usually an “oh shit” moment. The twist usually happens here also, and what you think is the problem turns out not to be. And at this point, it often seems like the hero won’t win.
“Three-quarters of the way through, the hero finds a new plan and fights back. In the last quarter, there’s a do or die moment, the hero usually wins out, and then you go back to see how the hero has changed now as a result of everything that’s happened.
“Although we’re not writing Hollywood movies, our multipurpose blog structure works in much the same way: set the scene and introduce a challenge, explore potential issues and obstacles, then bring it full circle to see what we’ve learned, and suggest next steps.
“I’ve actually written a whole blog post for B2B Marketing about how to use this structure in B2B content, so do check that out if you’d like to know more.”
Q: A lot of blogs I read are quite long, and often there’s very little in the way of obvious structure. Could subheadings be beneficial – and why?
David: “Absolutely. Subheadings are really important when making content scannable and thinking about SEO.
“You can also make them summarise and interpret the content underneath, so if your reader scans down, they’ll still get value – even without reading content fully.
“When writing subheadings for SEO, the questions function in Google searches can be really helpful. You can see what your audience wants to know and make the questions your subhead. Then, if you’re writing a short, pithy answer, you might end up being the first search result Google picks out.”
Q: The subject I’m writing about has so many technical terms. How do I increase or decrease readability scores?
David: “There are three aspects to complexity in content. Technical specificity is only one of them. So, you might need to think about balancing the complexity of your technical terminology by simplifying the language that surrounds it.
“The water cooler test is a great way to do this. Imagine you are standing by a water cooler, where your engineers or experts are. They’re talking about a problem – and while they’ll use very specific technical terms, the language they put it in will be simple: ‘The vintage tomographer has broken again. I thought the hazmat switch might be jammed so I tried toggling it, and it still wouldn’t work.’ The specifics are technical, but the rest is very readable.
“The vocabulary that you use is only one part of the equation – you also have to think about sentence structure, and the other words you’re using. Try to avoid nominalised verbs, long or list-heavy sentences, and any complicated words that aren’t essential. There should only be one idea per sentence, so you may want to think about splitting longer sentences into two or three smaller ones.”
Q: When I’m writing content in one language and then translating it, the translated copy isn’t always as clear and effective. Do you have any tips?
David: “This is a hard task to get right, and a lot of it depends on the company you’re working with and the budget you have.
“In some circumstances when we work with companies where the content will be delivered multi-lingually, we’re asked to leave out any figurative language, humour or idioms, because they don’t always translate well. Keeping it factual ensures it can be translated at a lower cost using tools already available – Google Translate for example, or another piece of software.
“Other times, the process is more complicated. I once worked for a company where we would write it in English; it would be translated by a specialist, then reviewed by a subject matter expert in the target language and then edited by a journalist in the target language. It’s not cheap, but the results were great, and you had a lot more freedom with the content.
“Usually, the process is somewhere in between those two extremes. A human translator will likely understand most colloquialisms and can translate them easily. But this kind of translation is often software-assisted, and chargeable by the word, so it’s more about not using too many synonyms to say the same thing, and making sure UX stays streamlined – as other languages often use more letters than English.”
Thanks again to everyone who attended the webinar, and took part in the Q&A. Here’s the full discussion: