17 Essential Blog Writing Skills for Blog Writers in Any Niche
The power of blogging is endless.This feeling is particularly true for SMBs, which typically do not have the financial support of major companies that can provide endless flow of attractive video or podcast content.
A company blog has an overall goal resulting in increased revenue: creating energy around what I call “TAR”–a concept I’ve blogged about before, TAR standing for Trust, Authority, and Reputation.
Upon establishing these three elements, the ROI of the blogging effort over time will far outweigh that of any paid marketing campaign.
Unfortunately, the true power of blogging is not experienced by companies and digital marketing agencies.
Either they are unbelievers who don’t understand that a blog is TAR’s ultimate builder, or they believe but struggle constantly to find the perfect writer.
Companies can source a blog writer in three ways: a digital marketing agency, a freelancer, or in-house.
The typical digital marketing agency has some in-house writers who might have to blog about different unrelated topics. Here the result is never optimal.
Think of creating content for a finance customer for one moment, followed by a pet supply company for the next moment, then a business aftermarket auto accessories. This will cause burnout soon unless the writers are magically skilled and passionate about all these subjects.
17 Blog Writing Skills for Blog Writers in Any Business
The search is much easier when you are looking for a freelancer or in-house writer; you are searching through numerous websites or placing a hiring ad. But with some problems, this situation also arrives.
Renowned freelancers and a dedicated in-house blogger can become expensive, and unlike in most agency situations, the blogger may not have a SEO expert to improve his or her work.
How about publishers? The majority of freelancers have no editors.
These issues have helped develop the business model of my agency, which is based on freelance bloggers with different passions. I find writers and match them with clients.
The client receives triple the value because they not only get a skilled writer in their industry / niche but also get all the SEO enhancements and a unique process of editing seven layers.
Whether you’re running an agency that offers blogs or a company looking for a freelancer or in-house blogger, the following 17 essential blog writing skills are critical to acquiring and retaining quality talent, and increasing business revenue through one of the strongest forms of content marketing.
1. Passion & Proficiency
The quality of work increases dramatically when blog writers have a passion for the subject and are both skilled in the writing skills and the subject itself. This provides both the writer and business with a stress-free environment.
Typically, those who are passionate about a topic are more knowledgeable, which keeps the material factual and confident. And within a few sentences, you can tell a passionate writer from a fake.
Certainly, some of the best writers may be experts on topics with zero passion for them, but the quality will never match that of someone who has skill and passion for the topic.
This is the first criteria when my agency is searching for new writers to cover a subject.
Don’t get me wrong –there are some of what I call “factotum” writers who can just do it all because they’re so passionate about writing that they’re willing to spend extra time learning about it and eventually become super passionate about it.
But it’s hard to find these writers –and if you find them, hold onto them.
In his latest book, “Free to Focus,” Leadership Mentor Michael Hyatt supports this concept. Hyatt says you need to find your true north on the “Freedom Compass” for true success in life and careers–a productivity tool he created that helps evaluate tasks, activities, and opportunities.
The true north of this compass is called “The Desire Zone.” This is where passion and skill intersect, and people can make their most important contributions to “business, family, community… and perhaps the world.” The same goes for a passionate and skilled blogger for both the subject and writing.
Ask a few simple questions first when hiring an agency that will offer blogging, or a freelance / in-house blogger.
If you’re using an agency, ask for details about their writers.
- Are they in-house?
- What industries do they blog about now?
- What do they know about my industry?
- And are they passionate about it?
- What work can I see that they previously completed?
If you hire a freelance or in-house blogger, just search for writers who are interested in your industry. Then ask questions such as above.
If reputability is an industry factor, simply use Google News in quotations with the author’s name.
I’m a 10-year-old motorcycle industry veteran, for example, and have written thousands of blogs. A quick “Ron Lieback” Google News search and you will find over 4,200 blogs–mostly from the motorcycle industry.
2. Meets Deadlines
The success of a blog thrives on frequent and consistent delivery, meaning writers have to meet deadlines. Smart leadership takes over here.
Do not iron fist and demand deadlines; rather, by making them know they are part of the success story, influence the blog writers.
When revenue increases and a customer can attribute it directly to blogging, the writer should feel a sense of pride. They don’t sometimes, and you have to reinforce that.
The deadline for writers is always bumped up by a few days. For some, I’m going ahead up to a week. Whether the writer gets sick or something else happens in life.
Make sure you and them have a buffer zone. This saved me a couple of times; a writer became extremely sick in one situation. I was able to redelegate the work to another author and continue to fulfill the content calendar of the client.
3. Timely Communication
In addition to meeting deadlines, writers also need to communicate promptly.
I don’t mean immediately by timely, but for emails within at least 24 hours and for calls / texts within three hours.
There is no need for reactive actions when the blog-creation process is proactive, including immediate email response.
I am a strong believer and a practitioner who only responds three times a day to emails. To stay in the “Deep Focus” mode of à la Cal Newport, I also keep all notifications off when working and silence calls.
Explain the importance of prompt communication with your bloggers in advance, along with the criteria of when to expect an answer.
Explain how this timeliness creates less stress in both work and personal situations, which is equivalent to happiness.
4. Clean Spelling & Grammar
There is an enormous difference between “colon” and “cologne.” For sure, you want to smell like the latter.
Always check all spell, and make sure that someone else edits apart from the blogger.
The world’s best writers are created by the best publishers. There will always be mistakes–the objective is to correct them before anybody sees them.
This also applies to good grammar. I’m not just talking about punctuating and using adjectives properly, I’m also talking about using words.
For example, it is commonly misused further and further. The first is used for time references, while the second is used for distance references.
Another is less and less; use less to describe plural words and less to describe singular words: Ducati used has fewer miles, but less beauty.
Send your bloggers two essential texts on grammar – the iconic “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White, and also “The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need”, by Susan Thurman.
Also, have them use the free version of Grammarly.
5. Organization is Vital
The unorganized writer’s days have passed–at least by consistent and frequent blogging to deliver value to a client.
All modern writers should learn about the art of self-organization, whether that means blocking certain hours for blog work every day or writing down weekly assignments across a whiteboard.
Whatever works–as long as there is an organized system.
You want to know that you have confidence in your bloggers, and you don’t have to worry about slacking or forgetting an assignment here or there. It is also the job of the leader to explain the importance of organization, whether the manager of an agency or company.
Have bloggers write in a daily planner the tasks of their week. Provide one if one is not available to them.
I’m not going to explain the psychology behind it, but writing down stuff physically helps me better organize than any digital planner. Writers will probably still appreciate the handwriting.
6. Understands the Audience
They must understand the target audience for writers to blog effectively.
To an audience close to retirement versus a teenager, you will explain things differently. Again, leaders of the agency / company will need to provide the blogger with this education.
There is a need to share marketing materials, and CEOs need to engage with the blogger or agency. Also, due to where a prospect is in the sales funnel (more in point 16 below), there are sometimes different target audiences, so it’s the duty of a leader to explain this.
Bloggers should be in constant conversation with the sales team, which is usually closest to the customer and understands the needs and questions of the customer.
This will help the blogger to expand on topics and give readers more value.
7. Consistent with the Delivery of Voice & Style
Once bloggers understand the target audience, the voice and style of the company must either be continued or developed. There should be a consistent voice in all blogs.
One day don’t be funny, the next satirical, and a week later serious. Keep consistency in the front line.
In the same style, always create content, whether we’re talking about style guides or how you create your content.
I like phrases that are short, choppy and short. I think it’s easier on the eyes and fast digesting allows readers.
Others like longer phrases and chunky paragraphs.
Stick with it whatever you choose.
In regards to style, some like Associated Press (AP), and others like the American Psychology Association (APA). Again, whatever you choose, stick with it.
Most of the web copies are written in AP styling, which is what most magazines and newspapers use. Send the latest AP Stylebook PDF or, even better, the book version to your blogger so they can always refer to it.
Another major reference book covering AP and other styles such as APA is June Casagrande’s “Best Punctuation Book, Period.”
These two books should always be on the length of the arm.
8. Open to Edits
This is vital, particularly when working with a new customer or business.
In the beginning, the blogger must focus entirely on learning everything from the style / tone to the target audience about that business.
In an agency situation, explaining this process to the client is a leader’s duty. During the first few blog edits, I ask my bloggers to be ruthless–not just for factual information, but for voice and style.
Be careful; the business contact point may want to write for itself or herself rather than the target audience of the company. This is something that should also be discussed before the completion of any writing.
At least, after they’re written, have two extra eye sets on the blogs.
Even those with zero editing abilities may pick up a missed fact or error in spelling.
The better; after a writer’s hands in a blog, I ask for three separate sets of eyes at my agency, and sometimes we still find mistakes.
9. Creates 110% Original Content
Yeah–that’s 110 %. In theory, it is impossible to do anything over 100 percent, but using 110 stresses that blog writers should strive for complete originality.
I have read many articles on the same subject, and sometimes they sound so similar as if they all had different titles. In the world of digital marketing, this happens all the time, and more so in the world of journalism in power sports / motorsports.
This is the quantity over quality factor, and some writers are simply trying to pump endless blogs out in hopes of having a positive impact on search engines. But one original article will overcome 10 worthless ones that pukes originality.
Do yourself a favor when you first hire a blogger and copy / paste the first couple of paragraphs into Google. Only once did I find a writer plagiarizing, but I probably would have lost a client because of it.
Make sure you explain that plagiarism has no mercy. Only for the first or second blogs do I do this–after that I know that I can trust writers because I only work with those who share my values for honesty and confidence.
Plagiarism–even the least version of it–will sever the relationship immediately (not severely!).
10. Content Lacks Fluff
This is blogging–not the cheesy copywriting that is found in the copy of the product or category.
Keep in mind that all blog efforts should support TAR’s overall mission: trust, authority and respect.
Kill the copy of the fluff and forward sales. This is a blogging designed to set up TAR.
Bloggers are never expected to overuse adjectives or adverbs. Most of them are useless, although some might be a great help.
Read Hemmingway, your bloggers–the master of simplicity.
11. Understands SEO Basics
The better a blogger knows, the more SEO. But again, as stated in point #1, it’s better to have passion for the subject and writing skills over SEO.
They should understand keyword research and the use of related keywords–and learn, if necessary.
Bloggers should also understand the importance of header tags and how titles and meta descriptions (character count, keywords, etc.) can be effectively written.
Expert Tip Some of SEO’s best bloggers around know squat.
That’s why I created a system in my agency that provides “SEO Content Guidelines” for every blog to writers. It includes things like the following:
- The optimized title.
- Related keywords.
- Recommended word count.
- The top URLs ranking for the topic we’re after.
I tell bloggers not to mimic the competition, but rather understand what the competition is doing, and do it better. These are best created by an SEO with some creative blog writing skills.
Always ask the writer if they can create a better headline – and maybe ask for two so you can A/B test it.
12. Knows & Strengthens Company USPs Through Blogging
One of the unique selling positions of my agency (USP) is that it is a content marketing agency driven by SEO with a focus on written content that helps refine a business and strengthen its USPs.
So when my writers are building blogs for the website of my agency, this USP will be strengthened. The same applies to the content of my client.
Every blogger should know and reinforce the USPs of the company or their client by blogging.
Again, this is on the leadership team to ensure that the blogger knows what distinguishes the client from the rest of the business or agency, and that’s why USPs are so vital to success.
Typical companies are transforming over time, either pulling them out of an old USP or developing new ones.
Review older blogs and either refresh them with the new USPs or rewrite / delete them if they exploit an older USP to really gain an edge with blogging.
13. Competitive Landscape Knowledge
Bloggers should be deeply familiar with the competitive landscape of the business. This will educate them further, enabling them to witness and, even better, predict future trends.
But take warning–nothing should be replicated unless you are in the breaking news sector where stories will naturally repeat themselves.
Have your blogger follow a news blog and follow the top ranking blogs in the vertical he or she is writing about.
Simply google “(industry term) news” is the easiest way. A good example is “SEO news,” which creates a reputable SEO publication.
14. Willing to Promote & Share Personally
If writers are dedicated to their work, they won’t have any problems sharing the blogs they created across their personal social media platforms. This also applies without their bylines to the blogs–most companies blog under the name of the company.
Everyone knows the power of social sharing and having bloggers pitch in will help the mission of the blog to set up the TAR of the company.
It also shows that the blogger values the business for which he or she writes–and that helps reinforce the relationship between blogger and business, or blogger and agency and business.
However, be warned; some clients sign non-disclosures with respect. Sharing simply can not happen if an NDA is present.
If you have multiple bloggers, provide incentives over a period of time to those who receive the most shares.
An example for the blogger who gets the most shares over a quarter or so will be a $50 gift card.
15. Bring Possible Solutions with Problems
For the leadership team, this point has been created.
Writers may have a problem with the direction of a blog, or with the criticism of voice or style by some businesses. Don’t just let them whine about these kinds of problems.
If there’s a problem, make sure bloggers know that complaints need to come up with a possible solution. This will smoother, and less stressful, the future workflow.
And both of these concepts go hand in hand with higher quality writing, and ultimately blogging services retention.
Have a problem for bloggers to “sleep on” before they present it. We are caught in the moment as human beings and let our emotions guide the conversation.
The problem is usually much smaller than first assumed after some time and dissolves itself. This applies to writers in particular; I know from experience.
Two decades ago, my emotions on a piece of writing would always get the best out of me. Now, after leaving the situation and subconsciously letting my mind make some thinking, most criticism is justified.
16. Understands the Basic Sales Process
The more blog writers know about sales, the more intimate they can get with the audience of the businesses.
With this information, talking to the sales team will help. The sales process, including the sales funnel, should also be known to bloggers.
Sales funnel knowledge will add more granular details about the target audience, enabling the blogger to expand further on the content and make the business a more authoritative voice in its industry.
At my agency, I think in terms of where prospects are at within the sales funnel in regards to the content I produce. Most blog campaigns fall into the following model:
- 50% written for newbies: they don’t know much about your business or industry but are learning.
- 25% for intermediate: they are educated, but need that extra bit of incentive to become a client.
- 25% for experts: they are extremely knowledgeable about your industry/business, and are just looking for the right partner that will help scale their business. These blogs also speak to the existing clients through use in newsletters; this shows your clients that your business thrives to stay current and remain authoritative in the vertical.
I can use a quick example from my agency’s blog:
- 50% of the blogs are for those just learning about content creation and SEO.
- 25% are for those who understand content creation and SEO but are searching for reputable help.
- 25% for the experts, who are typically CMOs or SEO managers that are looking for immediate partners.
This is based on the current sales model, but that model is fluid and can change within weeks.
17. Constant Flow of Education
From career development to personal happiness, I can never stress enough about the constant need for ongoing education.
This is especially true for writers who, if they always write about the same things, can quickly stagnate. The more a writer reads, the better he becomes a writer. This is not discussed.
Send two essential texts to each blogger about writing: William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” and Roy Peter Clark’s “Writing Tools.” And have them spend at least half an hour each day reading the latest blogs discussing SEO writing.
Final words about blog writing skills
A blog’s point is to establish the TAR–Trust, Authority, and Respect of a company. But you can’t just hire a blogger or an agency; you need to find one that aligns with the core values of your business and delivers the highest possible ROI.
The blog writing skills above are an absolute must through two decades of writing professionally and owning an agency that makes about 80% of its revenue from blogging.
Remember, however, that everyone can acquire their skills and build on them. Once you’ve got a blogger that stands out in all of the above 17, that’s when you can get them on autopilot and use more of your time to do your best.