How to successfully blog your expertise

successfully-blog-expertise.jpg

I’ve been blogging for over 10 years and I’ve written thousands of blog posts across multiple sites, not all of them under my byline. I’ve spoken with dozens of clients and even colleagues about blogging and I get the same questions and concerns over and over again, which means lots of people have similar things that hold them back.

Blogging about your expertise can be intimidating and it can also feel like you’re giving away what you do for free. Will you give away a lot of your expertise? Absolutely. Will it impact the business you get? Highly unlikely.

  1. The person who will only ever read your blog and book a free consult with you without signing a contract isn’t in your target market. There are ways to filter this person out.

  2. You can blog everything you know about what you do and it will never equate to you providing the experience that backs up your expertise for that person/business.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to share some of my blogging expertise with you that I’ve gained over the last 10 years in a couple of posts that I hope will help you gain more comfort and confidence in the process. Today, I want you to write down a single topic you can write about and I’ll break down a process you can use to craft a blog post on the topic you’ve chosen.

1) Write down 3-5 key points you want to make in your post

This doesn’t have to be a well-crafted outline. By writing out the points you want to make before you start filling in your post, you’ll stay focused on the most important things you want to say and you’ll be able to decide how you want to organize the content.

One option is to have a free-flowing narrative (I don’t recommend this for readability reasons). Or you might lay it out with headers breaking up the different points you’re making. Another option is to make an orderly numbered list (or “listicle” = list + article). This post is a step-by-step how-to, which is another option.

2) Draft your first paragraph to hook the reader in

This paragraph is critical. It needs to have enough information help the reader determine whether to keep reading. Not everyone will and that’s okay. But you don’t want people to stop because the first paragraph is rambly or vague.

Give them a clue about what value you’re going to provide in the rest of the post that makes it worth their time. There are too many things competing for our attention in the world right now to waste time on a blog (or any other content) you don’t need to read.

3) Fill out the rest of your post with more detail

Take those 3-5 points you wrote down and expand on them:

  • Why are they important?

  • How will they help your reader?

  • What practical action can they take with them?

When you’re fleshing out your content, the 5 Ws+H (who, what, when, where, why, and how) can be a useful way for you to get into the mind of your reader to help them.

4) Make your post easy to scan

I mentioned readability up above because it’s one more way you can help your readers digest your content quickly in today’s fast-paced world. And it’s easy to do:

  • Add headings to break up longer blocks of text.

  • Use bullets or numbered lists to further break up your copy.

  • Keep paragraphs short - 2-3 sentences max.

  • Avoid using all caps. (IT’S TOO SCREAMY!)

The headings and bullet lists are also good for search engine bots that scan your website. They’ll index your post to include in search results and good headings that include the right keywords and rich media (see #5) give you a boost and put your post in the right context for search engines.

5) Add pictures, videos, and links that support your content

Pictures add visual interest and illustrations can can help you explain more complex concepts. They also help make the post more scannable for the reader. (You should also learn how to add images and videos using accessible methods, but that’s a post for another day.)

Videos and links to content that support your points are valuable validation, even if it comes from another source. I just wouldn’t advise using your competitors as a source. External sources do add credibility to your thoughts and ideas by showing you stay up-to-date with what’s going on and you know what you’re talking about.

6) Reiterate the most important points in your conclusion

I avoid using “conclusion” as a heading and I don’t open the concluding paragraph with “in conclusion.” These are both fairly formal practices that don’t fit as well in the blogging world. However, you don’t have to reiterate all of your points. You can stick to a key takeaway based on applying the whole of your post.

7) Indicate the next step for your audience

Figure out what you want your reader to do next and ask them to do it. Every post should have a call to action (CTA), whether it’s directing them to a resource, offering up your time for a call, or asking a question for them to respond to in the comments.

Just avoid salesy CTAs and your audience will be more likely to take action.

8) Finalize your headline

You can write your headline anytime in this process. If you know what you want it to be before you start writing your post, that’s fine.

No matter when you decide the headline, always revisit it after reading through the entire post again. That gives you the chance to ensure it’s still relevant and fitting to the content of your post.

9) Read it one more time

I’m writing this post roughly three weeks before it’s going to be published. I’ll mark it “needs review” and come back to it for another read-through in a day or two. This gives me some time and space between writing and reading so I’m able to catch errors and refine anything I think is unclear.

No one expects absolute perfection in grammar, sentence structure, and spelling. But the more errors you can eliminate (if you don’t have an editor at your disposal), the better for your readers.

Your blogging challenge for this week

I challenge you to try it out. You don’t have to publish it. Just go through the nine steps in a document. You can even send it to me; I’d love to read it!

And next week, I’ll show you how to use a content map to keep a steady stream of content. That way, you can do this over and over as you grow your blog!

The right way to demonstrate expertise

Earlier this year I decided I wanted to really start using my considerable time in my car to get through many books that I don't make enough time to read at other times during my day. Thank goodness for Audible. I started out getting just one credit a month with my membership, but I upgraded to two because I can definitely go through more than one book in a month. I'm officially addicted to listening to audio books. 

Except the not-so-good ones.

I'm pretty picky about which audio books I agree to buy. For one, I check out a lot of books at the library, but the ones I buy are not available in my library, or I'm one of hundreds waiting in the queue so it'll be years before I can read it. (I'm kind of impatient on occasion.) Therefore, it's a little frustrating when I start listening to a book I've vetted thoroughly and find that it's mostly just a way for the author to stroke their ego repeatedly to the captive audience of poor souls who bought the book.

One good thing I've gotten out of these books is some good advice I can give for those of you out there who are looking to grow an audience and exhibit the knowledge you have in your industry. 

People listen to voices they trust.

People listen to voices they trust.

If you want to build a platform based on your expertise, no matter where you create, no matter where you choose to share wisdom, no matter the medium in which it exists, these tips apply. 

1) Show, don't tell.

This is an old, but tried and true, adage about writing. It isn't just for fiction writers setting a scene they want the reader to become immersed in.

How do you show expertise in your field, though? 

Usually, you tell stories. One of my clients, Whole Therapy Ottawa, is doing a phenomenal job of telling the story of their clinic every day. The staff share personal experiences, and challenges. They're drawing their audience in with a challenge to #ChangeOneThing, and they're leading by example

For someone like me, who is offering services around using tools that are very visible, I show my expertise by practicing what I preach and then sharing with clients and prospects the various ways that my efforts have impacted my work. 

I'm often suspicious of people who have to tell and re-tell their qualifications. Who are they trying to convince? Me or themselves?

2) Tell stories to make a point, not stroke your ego.

One of the books I was reading included a story about a training that the author had gone through. They included copious details about the training program and the level of difficulty around it. By the time the author finally got around to making the point, I felt as if I'd been beaten over the head with this impressive history for so long that the point of the story - a pretty obvious point to begin with - was anticlimactic. 

This is the second book I've read that the author has chosen to repeatedly bring up the same major facts about their life to illustrate different points. It comes across as a humble brag rather than a way to illustrate a point.

I love a good story that makes a valid point. I love when the point is made easier to remember through the story. Your readers will know the difference between life situations that taught you a lesson and lessons you apply to stories you think make you cool or inspiring.

3) Repetition is a valuable way to learn.

Ask yourself, though, whether you want the reader to learn about your really cool story and life history, or do you want them to learn about the point you're trying to make, or the product you want so badly to sell.

One of the books I read that has actually helped me make major changes over this past summer is also one that I have a really hard time recommending. The author has a smart concept, but (for me) ruins the delivery through constant mentions of the program they've developed and various ways you can use the program to make the changes they suggest, usually tied in to a couple of major events in the writer's life. It's like listening to a 5-hour long infomercial at times. 

Deliver value first. Give concrete information that readers can use help accomplish something in their lives or business before you start trying to sell them on your genius programs. Just like the ego stroking stories, repeatedly mentioning your programs and how life-changing they are makes one wonder who you're trying to convince.

Bonus tip: "Expert" status requires continuous work

I've been called an "expert" or "guru" about various different things, which is both flattering and a little uncomfortable. You see, I know that there's a lot I don't know yet. There's a ton of ideas I haven't ever tried yet. I may never get to all of them, but I love the learning process and I will continue learning.

Showing your audience that willingness to keep learning and growing in your field is one more way you can show, not tell. Every word you say and action you take sends a message. Take time to examine the message you're sending and determine whether it's about you or about your audience. If you're even a little bit unsure, ask someone you trust how it comes across.

What are some ways you've seen others effectively show their expertise?