I remember it almost five years ago. A new empty website, a blank screen.
Next I remember the terror that came over me as I began to realize that owning and running on an online insurance blog, would require me to….write. The whole idea seemed so simple to me when I though it up. Build a simple insurance website that answered common people’s questions. But translating my knowledge and know how was hard to put into a digital format. I knew what I could say, but I had trouble saying it.
After five years or writing weekly though, I have come up with some very simple rules to help any business owner start their own blog writing career.
Rule One: Don’t Fret it
Up late worrying about what you are going to write about? Seriously, it really does not matter what you write about or how great it is, especially in the beginning. Getting started is often the hardest part. Here are some ideas of what to write about:
- Answer a question a client asked .
- Correct a Common misconception.
- Write a detailed explanation about how something works.
- Refute another internet source, politely.
- Announce what you plan to do.
- Write something, really anything that is original.
Rule Two: Never Copy other People’s Work.
Although this rule may seem amazingly obvious, its not really. Many websites on the internet are basically just copies of other peoples posts. In fact there are even software platforms that allow you to copy an article and out comes a slightly different version. However, there really is no value in that. If after scouring the internet you find a topic that you love so much that you want to write about it yourself. Then read it four or five times and read a couple of other articles about the same subject, then right your own. In some situations, such as when you use quotations from that site, just link to the orginal article. This is generally considered OK in the world of the internet.
Rule Three: Just Start Already
On a new internet site, there is little reason to wait to write the perfect blog article. In the beginning, really any article is almost better than none. Obviously steer away from the obvious no nos: Porn, Terrorism, Hateful Speech, etc. If you need a full list, maybe you don’t need a blog. Just focus on family friendly topics and you will be fine.
Rule Four: Cite Sources
Without getting into all the SEO of the internet, citing sources will allow you to gain credibility with your readers. Remember the days of footnotes? Perhaps some of you don’t. Lets just say be happy its 2017 and not 1997. Citing sources really has never been easier. If you have no idea what I am talking about, just give credit where credit is due. As a general rule that just means linking back to someplace authoritative, especially if you pulled something from them. It you are dealing with details its usually helpful to reference a credible source of where the details came from. Readers are more apt to believe you if you cite a survey, but really only if their is a link from the survey.
Rule Four: Write in whatever Voice you Feel Comfortable with
Oxford vs the AP Comma rule, just write as you feel natural. Obsession with writing styles can often interfere, especially on your first attempt. Trust me when I say that my first couple of insurance articles about life insurance were about as poorly written as could be.. I overstuffed them with keywords and there were grammatical errors all over the place. Looking back on it now, I laugh that I even worried about it. Practice does indeed makes you… at least… better. For me at least, I know that my writing style will never be perfect. Its the subject matter, insurance, that needs to be hyper accurate anyways.
The exception to this rule on the internet is if you are guest posting for another site. Occasionally some guest post will require you to write in a certain tone using certain methods. If you are guest posting – please adhere to the site owner’s rules.
Rule Six: Start with a headline and Sub Categories and Fill in the Details
This is a big secret of the non writers. (It may also be a secret of full time writers, but I am not one of them.) Start off writing the general headline and add in a few sub categories. Next up – write out the end of the blog post. You will then be able to visit the sub categories and fill in the rest of the information.
Rule Seven: Write for Scanners too
Sad as it is true, a lot of people that visit your site, won’t really read your article There is a good chance that google will send them to your post where they may scan quickly through your post looking for photos, graphics, or the keywords that they are looking for. This may be anathema to pure writers, but if you are writing your blog post for business or other reasons, I would head this advice – Ignore scanners at your own peril. Scanners are everywhere. I know that is what pinterest is for. However, ignoring a sizable part of the population is often not the best business decision.
Writing for scanners involves, photos, graphics, charts, highlighted text, and bullet points. Make it easy on their eyes and they just might read your entire post.
My Final Rule: Write about Something you Care About
Sometimes you can tell when a writer could care less about a subject matter, the post will just not have that appeal. So how does an insurance guy write about something he cares about? Simple I chose an insurance subject that I feel passionate about – People getting ripped off buying an overpriced life insurance policy that they neither need nor want. Frequent visitors of my site, often tell me that they can tell that I care about the subjects that I choose to write about
“The Most Important Step to Owning a Blog is to Write.”
To Review my Rules were:
- Consider the Scanners
- Start with a Headline and Fill in the Details
- Write in whatever Voice you Want
- Cite Sources
- Just Start Already
- Don’t Copy
- Do Not Fret
- Write about Something you like
There you have it, some basic rules to apply to your very first blog post. Yes, there are more things to learn, such as changing up the fonts, but those can wait for another post. Consider that in two years time, your first blog post most likely will be most remembered as a stepping stone, not a work of art. The Most Important Step to Owning a Blog is to Write.
Scott W Johnson is an insurance broker and agent, based in Marin County California. He is the owner of several insurance websites, including Whole Vs Term Life Insurance .com His mantra with insurance related matters is “Educate the Client and Let theme Make an Informed Decision.”