12 Things I Failed To Do In My First Blog Post

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Written by Priscilla Tan

You’d mock my first blog post if you read it.

It’s almost as bad as an amateur writer you find on Upwork.

And yet, when I sent my client the final draft, she published it the next day.

Looking back at this cringey memory, it made sense.

I was, after all, a molecular biotechnology drop out with no experience writing for the web. How could she, with her $7 budget, expected more? 🤷‍♂️

Still, that was my problem: I was doing content marketing even before I knew what it was.

And now, after being in this business for 7 years, I’m beginning to realize how common this problem is.

A ton of companies are hiring writers with zero marketing expertise to take charge of their content marketing.

And these freelance writers who are trying to write for these companies? They have no idea what content marketing is.

Outrageous, isn’t it? 

If you run a SaaS blog and work with multiple content writers, you’d know this is happening A LOT.

First Blog Post Content Marketer Specialist

Image credit: Markus Spiske

So much so that there are several blog posts talking about it.

In a blog post for Zapier, Belle Cooper explains even with the growing popularity of content marketing, finding the right person with the required skill set, experience, and culture fit is still a difficult task.

In Gregory Ciotti’s blog post, Why is hiring a great content marketing specialist so difficult? , Will Hoekenga, former copywriter at LeadPages, shares an all-too-familiar problem:

Writers are “grossly unaware of marketing… which is a damn shame.”

A damn shame indeed.

Note to self: If I could turn back time, I would skip my studies in polytechnic and spend my time and money on marketing mastermind groups instead.

Hoekenga then laments industry experts often don’t have a lot of experience writing, and writers don’t have a lot of industry experience.

First Blog Post Writer With Marketing Background

Image credit: Daria Shevtsova

Ciotti also shares his two cents: it’s rare to find marketers who were writers first, as it’s usually the other way around.

He then ends his blog post with his Content Marketing Trifecta, which you bet I’m going to refer to it now and again:

Content Marketing Trifecta

Grow and Convert Co-founder, Benji Hyam also shares his own version, though it slants towards the technical side.

To quote Hyam, “At the end of the day, you’re essentially looking for a unicorn.”

Content Strategist Unicorn by Grow & Convert

Now, I don’t have a magic formula for finding your content marketer soul mate.

What I do have is this blog post on what makes terrible content marketing.

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Alright, let’s begin. These are 12 things I failed to do when I wrote my first blog post:

1. "Content distribution?" Ha! It didn't even occur to me

“Your brand’s potential for success often lives or dies by your distribution and promotion choices,” writes Jodi Harris on Content Marketing Institute. 

When I wrote my first blog post, I thought my job was only in writing.

Imagine the betrayal I felt when I discovered content distribution matters more. 

As Paula Grochalova writes for G2 Crowd:

“The key to success when creating and distributing content is to apply the 80/20 rule.” 

📖 Key takeaway:

Spent a week (20%) writing a blog post? Be prepared to spend the next few months (80%) distributing it.

2. I neglected the 'skeleton' of my blog post

The ‘skeleton’ of a blog post (a.k.a the content brief) is an agreement between a content marketer and client.

It guides the content marketer in everything they do.

It has all the important information like the proposed headline, keywords, word count, main takeaways, and the searcher’s intent.

Without a content brief, both parties run the risk of producing content no one wants.

📖 Key takeaway:

Don’t start writing. Start with your brief, build an outline THEN write.

3. "Customer research, what? Can I take a nap instead?"

Side note: market research is different from customer research. 

When I read Ciotti’s blog post on hiring a content specialist, everything clicked.

Think about it. Content marketing is about customer success. 🌟

It’s about creating techniques and sharing tried-and-tested advice that help customers succeed.

And when you help them succeed, they start seeing you as their go-to expert. That’s when leads and sales come in.

I’d never forget what Ciotti wrote. It changed the way I write my blog posts.

Power Tip: check out Katelyn Bourgoin’s webinar on Forget The Funnel. The customer research expert shares how you can get started with just 10 minutes a day. It’s a must-watch. 

📖 Key takeaway:

Spend at least a day researching on searcher’s intent before you put your fingers to keyboard.

Content marketers, repeat after me: "I don't write for myself. I don't write for my clients. I write for my clients' customers."

4. I didn't go above and beyond on keyword research

In the beginning of my career, I was really uncomfortable with SEO.

I wish I’d gotten curious about it to learn more. Then I’d have the confidence to question the keyword my client gave me.

A second note to self: it’s a bad idea to rank for a competitive keyword when your website DA is only 2.

Power Tip: if you’re just getting into the weeds of SEO, I encourage you to check out Brendan’s 30 Day SEO Challenge. This blog post you’re reading right now? It exists because of this challenge. 😉

📖 Key takeaway:

Learn as much as you can on SEO on Backlinko, Ahrefs, Brendan Hufford, and Detailed — and test!

5. I didn't spy on the big kahunas

And by spying, I meant conducting a content gap analysis. 

Content marketers need to dive into each post (ranked on page 1) to analyze the SEO titles, word count, and topics covered. And these are just some of them, btw. 😉

As Dave Schneider explains the notion behind it: “You need to know what you’re up against and how you can win against them.”

📖 Key takeaway:

Always conduct content gap analysis, so you know where competitors are lacking and how you can fill in the gap.

6. I didn't bring my A-game for my headline

“The more you know about your audience, the more effective your headlines become.”⁠ — Hello Bar

Noticed how the importance of customer research keeps popping up? 

I really do think this is the No.1 villain behind weak headlines: the lack of research.

There are several tactics on writing a great headline. Like formulas, generators (use them wisely), and the good ol’ swipe file.

Nick Marquet offers great advice on this: look for inspiration whenever you can.

📖 Key takeaway:

Look through your swipe file when stuck.

7. My first sentence stank like a skunk

My first sentence was pregnant with boring stats.

It’s trivial and it doesn’t serve any purpose.

The next time you write your first sentence, take a leaf out of the King of Horror‘s book:

“An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.”

Kevan Lee’s blog post illustrates this tip beautifully:

First Blog Post First Sentence

Image credit: Buffer

📖 Key takeaway: 

Use what you learned in customer research to shape your first sentence. 

If your first sentence doesn't jolts you awake, scrap it and try again.

8. I failed to put my empathy cap on

What’s the most powerful skill a content marketer can have?

Empathy.

Now that your audience has read past the headline and first sentence, you have one more job left to do in your intro.

And that is to show you understand your readers, by showing them specific examples and using the words they use.

Run a health-tech startup and writing a blog post on migraine?

Show you get the pain of migraine sufferers. What symptoms do they have? How does it affect their lives? What happens after a migraine?

Henneke Duistermaat explains this brilliantly.

“Readers want to be comforted. They’re looking for connections, for like-minded spirits. They want to feel understood.”

📖 Key takeaway:

Forums and Facebook groups are your BFFs. Observe the type of words used. Take note of the specific examples. Flesh them out in your blog post.

9. I didn't show TLC for my subheads

Painful truth:

Readers often don’t finish reading blog posts. 

So, how do you entice them to stay?

You seduce them with irresistible subheads by using these 4 ingredients: Curiosity, Surprise, Personality, and Emotion.

Let’s see how this plays out:

Curiosity: “Spread stories that SELL” (example)

Surprise:Your vitamin pills are useless”

Personality: “Roll out your digital welcome mat & watch it converts” (example)

Emotion: “The advice that tears your heart out”

📖 Key takeaway:

Write and rewrite till you find a subhead that touches on one of the ingredients above. Better yet, do a combo.

10. I gave up even when I'm already 90% done

In my first blog post, I invested a ton of work in my intro and middle, but not my conclusion.

I wrote a two-liner summarizing my post and immediately sent it to my client.

🤦‍♀️

A conclusion should paint a picture of the reader’s future.

How will they feel when they accomplish the tactics in your post? Show it to them.

As Braveen Kumar wrote for the Uberflip blog:

The end of your post is your last chance to convince them to stay.

You don’t want them to click the X button after they finish reading. You want them to do something, which brings me to…

11. I didn't "push" my readers enough

I wish I read Pamela Wilson’s Master Content Marketing early in my career.

Then I would know it’s perfectly okay to get my readers to do something. After all, isn’t that what our blog posts are about? To help AND sell.

A Call-to-Action (CTA) can be a small and big ask.

A small ask could be a comment or social media share.

A big ask could be a free trial sign-up.

See how workflow management product Process Street does it:

First Blog Post Call to Action (CTA) Tip

Image credit: Process Street

📖 Key takeaways for #10 & #11: 

Don’t leave readers hanging. Paint them a future and give them clear instructions in your CTA.

12. I didn't think big enough

Do you re-purpose your content for multiple channels?

Because that’s a big part of content marketing. 

I certainly didn’t understand this early on. My first blog post was just that — a blog post.

I didn’t re-purpose it into social media graphics, videos, not even a simple tweet.

Here’s what I should have done:

  • Reuse the H2 subheads for my tweets and turn it into a video using Lumen5.
  • Answer questions on Quora and include certain paragraphs with a link back to the blog post.
  • Create an infographic and pitch it to relevant publications for a link back to the website.

So, so silly of me.

📖 Key takeaway:

Ashley Hockney says it best: “I promise I won’t use my content once.”

It takes an empathetic unicorn to write epic blog posts 🦄

Hiring a wordsmith with a BA in English doesn’t guarantee you a blog post that converts.

You need to hire a content marketer who’s obsessed with customer research and using the right words to target those customers. She needs to be comfortable with SEO and have an eagle eye for long-term strategy.

And, of course, all the remaining skills mentioned above. ☝

If your content marketer understands and implements all these without you bringing it up, you got a really good one on your team. 🙂

You’re several steps ahead of your competition!

 

What’s your No.1 pain when writing blog posts for your SaaS blog or when working with a content marketer?

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Priscilla Tan

Priscilla Tan

I write customer-driven blog posts for SaaS & WordPress companies focusing on MRR.

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📍 Born, bred, and based in Singapore.
I work with clients spread across the world.

📧 priscilla@contentkapow.com

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