Think about your TV viewing habits. Unless you’re watching live TV (as opposed to something you’ve recorded), you probably skip through the commercials. Even remote controls have the ability to skip ahead.
So the savvy business owner finds other ways to spread the message about their products. These days, it’s not uncommon to find product placements throughout TV shows and even movies. The reason? You can’t help but notice their products.
The same applies to blog posts. These days, the majority of businesses not only have their own website, but most also have a blog for their sites. But the moment those posts start reading like an advertorial, you’ve lost your audience. After all, if people are skipping through TV commercials, so why would they take even more time to read a mini-commercial on your website?
What is an Advertorial?
Advertorials are different from editorial posts. Whether it’s for a print publication or for the Internet, an advertorial essentially is a company’s “message,” meaning it has information about the company, from promoting an upcoming sale or event or the latest company news. In other words, it’s biased toward the company and is used as a way to promote a company’s brand.
Next time you read your local Sunday newspaper, thumb through all the sections. Chances are, you’ll find at least one of these “advertorials.” They’re often a full-page and appear like an actual news article – some even come with photos or graphics. But, per most newspapers’ policy, that advertorial will have the phrase “Paid advertisement” in small letters somewhere in the copy, usually at the very top.
Why Should You Stray From Advertorials?
Under30CEO recently published an article titled, “5 Reasons Nobody is Reading Your Company Blog.” The No. 1 reason? The post is too promotional.
As the article states, “seek to perform rather than to promote.” While you, the business owner, may be tempted into using the blog as another avenue for advertising, resist the temptation. Under30CEO says occasional posts about “real” company news is fine (think impact-driven news, meaning, news that effects a wide swath of your customers), but using your blog as a way to dump every sale, new product or upcoming event is just over-doing it.
In other words, treat it like an actual blog, Under30CEO suggests.
If you own a pizza restaurant, for example, what’s going to garner more page views: a 500-word blog post touting how great your restaurant is? Or a post about how to make homemade pizza dough? Of course, the latter is going to generate more buzz and potentially become viral. And within the context of those posts, you can (and should) utilize certain keywords to further drive traffic to your site.
This is true across the board, regardless of industry. A post about why your real estate company is the best likely won’t draw much interest. Again, that’s an advertorial, or a text-driven commercial. But a post about local housing trends or a post about energy savings tips for homeowners will draw far more interest. Add certain keywords to those blogs, then rack up several hundred posts over time, and now you’re driving more traffic to your site.
But that won’t happen with a bunch of commercial-like posts.
Who Are You Writing For, You or the Consumer?
CreativeFreelancerBlog covers a variety of topics for today’s freelance writer. One of those articles, “How to Get Out of the Promotional Blogging Rut,” hit the nail right on the head: Are your posts serving you or your customers?
As the article says, promotional blogging can be fatal to your blog. These advertorials will cost you readers and kill your search engine traffic. “You must blog to delight and to help your customers,” the article said.
Business2Community compares self-promotion to shopping at a clothing store. If you walk into a clothing store but can’t find anything suitable for your age or tastes, then you probably won’t stick around the store very long. The same concept applies to blogging. As B2C says, “If a visitor lands on a blog and finds that the content is nothing but self-promotional … (then) he/she will be put off and will probably avoid clicking on your blog. …”
Think tips, tutorials and opinion pieces, B2C says.
Tips for Avoiding the Self-Promotional Trap
Writing informational posts is easier than you think. Here are a few ways to avoid advertorials:
1) Study trends and the latest news in your own industry. Next, think about how it would apply to Average Joe consumer. If coffee prices are shooting up in South America, for example, and you own a local coffee shop, then your customers are going to be far more interested in that than they are in your employee of the month.
2) Remember, YOU are your first reader. So, what the heck does that mean? In other words, think about what your customers would want to read. Is it worth your readers’ time and energy? If you were the consumer, would you want to read it?
3) Have fun, and get personal. Remember, these articles should not only be informational and impact-driven, they’re blog posts. Keep them conversational and show off your personality. Generally speaking, you should try to stick with writing in the second person. But when it comes to a blog, sometimes first-person is OK, too. Going back to newspapers as an example, read over some of your favorite editorials and columns. See the style of writing. It’s not static and stale; those editorials have personality. Let yours shine through in your blog posts. However, you should try to avoid writing in the third person. Third person sometimes works for heady and hard-to-digest topics (think legal and technical writing) when writing web content or white papers. But it doesn’t work for blogs.
4) CreativeFreelancerBlog offers another must-know tip: Bloggers should pick a theme. Not only does that make it easier to come up with interesting posts, but it trains the readers to turn to your site on those days. For example, a sporting goods store could offer up a “Fitness Tuesday” blog in which it offers fitness tips every Tuesday.
5) Write use case posts. OK, this is cheating a bit. A use case post presents a problem, then offers up a solution to that problem through the use of your product or service. It’s real easy to fall into the self-promotion trap with these posts, so be careful. Say, for example, you have an inventory-tracking app in which people can keep tabs of all the stuff they own. A good post, therefore, could talk about the nightmare of dealing with insurance companies in the event of a personal disaster – and how they could use such an app to muddy through the process.
Last Tip: Be Patient, and Stick With it
Remember, no matter how great your posts are, you won’t start seeing results overnight. In fact, it might take you months before you start seeing an uptick in traffic, both to the blogs and to your website in general.
That’s why it’s absolutely vital that you stick with it. Sure, you still need to avoid the dreaded advertorial, but if you only post sporadically, you’ll lose your readers just as fast as you would by writing infomercials.