Did you know a blog post can be un-professional? It can. Picture a paragraph with some words randomly larger than others. Where colored text runs riot and each paragraph is separated by 20 blank lines and a fuzzy picture. Or an article with several irate comments and a correction for the author. And no response, ever.
These are easy problems to have, like having your shirt come un-tucked after bending to tie your shoe. But you wouldn’t leave your shirt tails out at a networking event. That would be sloppy. So why would you leave a sloppy blog post on your website?
There are three roots of an un-professional looking blog post: inconsistency, mess and silence. You must avoid these problems or negate the value of writing a small business blog at all. Take these steps to make sure your blog posts are all tucked in:
Prepare For Consistency
First you must choose which computer program you’ll do your writing in. I prefer to type directly into WordPress, which is the software powering roundpeg.biz. WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that makes it easy for non-programmers to manage their website and write blog posts. I’ll be referring to WordPress and giving tips for WordPress users throughout this article.
You don’t have to write your blog posts in WordPress. Feel free to write using Microsoft Word or another word processor. Some people even use a note-taking app like Evernote. It doesn’t matter, as long as it works for you. There’s just one catch.
In order to achieve a consistently clean, professional look to your blog post, you must, must, must restrain yourself from formatting the text during the writing phase. Do not bold things, do not change font size, do not add “wordart,” special effects, or any images at all. Don’t whine, there’ll be time for formatting later.
When you’re happy with your written draft, it’s time to prepare it for publishing. Create a new post in WordPress and type in your title. If you wrote outside of WordPress, copy the text and paste it in using the special Paste as Plain Text function. This button is generally found in the second row of your formatting toolbar.
- Select all of the blog post text in your writing program and copy it to your computer’s clipboard. Don’t know how to copy and paste? Follow these instructions.
- Paste this text into the Paste as Plain Text dialogue box in WordPress.
- Make sure the “Keep linebreaks” box is checked.
- Click “Insert.”
You should see your text inserted into the WordPress Post without any formatting. The system typically adds an extra space between each paragraph. Delete that extra space and get ready to format!
The thing to remember about formatting text in WordPress is that you can’t always get what you want. In fact, your formatting options are extremely limited compared to Microsoft Word. This is a good thing. Focus on using bold, italic and the pre-designed paragraph styles to emphasize certain words and indicate headings and sub-headings. Restrain your inner graphic designer. You aren’t creating a flyer for your business, you’re writing a professionally published article.
There are additional formatting tools (lists, alignment, text color, etc.) you can read more about here.
Once you’ve formatted your text, it’s time to pick out a good picture. Visual content is essential to a successful blog post these days. Not only does it improve the overall look of your page, but the image will attract more attention on social media when you promote your blog post and others start sharing it. Read through your post to brainstorm ideas for the picture. Are there any metaphors with a visual aspect? How can your topic be represented visually?
Browse a stock photo vendor to purchase an image or use a free resource like Stock.XCHNG to find an image you can use legally. Then crop and resize the image so it’s just the right size for your website. Use these instructions to add pictures like a boss in WordPress. Once you’ve got your blog post formatted and prettied up with a nice image, don’t publish it just yet.
Instead, use WordPress’ built-in scheduling tool to pick a day and time in the future for your post to automatically publish. By scheduling posts ahead of time, you can better manage your editorial calendar and establish a standard time for all of your posts. Learn more about using a blogging calendar.
So, your blog post looks great. It’s correctly formatted and complemented by a gorgeous image. Good job! Nothing can go wrong, right? Well, there’s still plenty of time to look like an idiot.
The worst thing you can do to your blog post is let it sit and never talk about it. No one will ever read your awesome content if you don’t tell them about it. Give your post some love by sharing it on Google+. Think about who would appreciate your post and share it on the social media networks where those people gather.
Post on LinkedIn to reach your professional network with industry-specific news and tips. More general interest posts will do better with your business’ social following on Facebook and Twitter. Social sharing will help drive website traffic and contribute to better performance in search engine rankings.
The second worst thing you can do to your post is ignore the comment section. Most of your blog posts will not attract any comments at all unless you’re a public figure or an Internet-famous cat. Still, watch for comments and respond to every one you can. When you get a compliment, say thanks. When someone corrects you, apologize and edit your blog post to correct the mistake.
Part of being a professional is caring about the details. Carefully write your content, craft a consistent look for the text and carefully manage the conversation after the post is published. These posts represent you on the Internet every day. You’re professional. Shouldn’t your blog posts be too?