The internet is a cool place… well, sometimes… if you use it in the right way it can be a great way of helping your business to grow. Over the past few years we have seen an increase in the number of blogs which are a means towards this end, and in fact it seems now that everyone and their nan has a blog. You don’t even need to have anything interesting to say and you certainly don’t need a good grasp of grammar to have one - At least from the state of some of the blogs that I’ve seen.
With the rise in online coaching, everyone now wants to expand into the realm of online services, online marketing, online coaching and so on. So, with all that in mind, seeing as I’ve written a fair few blogs myself and seem to have a reasonable grasp of what it takes to make one worth reading (at least I hope I do) I thought I would pass on my limited knowledge to you, the budding blogger and online coaching superstar. With all that in mind here are some basic tips on how not to be shite at writing on the internet.
1. Only do it if you enjoy it
If you hate writing then what’s the point in putting your effort into creating a blog? Just because Ben has one and Lyle McDonald made his name that way, that doesn’t mean that you have to emulate them because there are a multitude of different options including YouTube, Instagram and other similar areas of the web which aren’t based around longform text.
In fact there’s an argument that time spent struggling to write is time that could be spent concentrating on the physical side of your business, work on memorising people’s names, smiling and greeting people, telling everyone you meet what you do and asking for referrals. It’s still entirely possible to successful in the fitness industry without having a blog, but if you really enjoy writing and have something to say, keep reading.
2. Learn to spell
If your spelling, punctuation and grammar is appalling then either go to night school and learn to write like an adult, or read some books. There’s nothing more infuriating than reading a blog where the author doesn’t know how to use where, were or we’re. Not only will this evoke the wrath of the internet pedant who is only too willing to point out your mistakes, it’s also the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit.
Grammar doesn’t have to be perfect – you’re not expected to be some kind of fitness Tolkein, but learning how to make sentences flow and in which order your ideas should be laid out is a must.
3. Forget about making money off it
Yes, you can monetize a blog and earn passive income but it’s not likely that you will. There are so many blogs on the internet now and people are more likely to read yours to be informed not sold to. Use it to raise awareness for your services or, if you have developed a really good online product you can link to that but don’t expect to become a millionaire off the back of an ebook and some affiliate links (trust me I know).
4. Be good, rather than quirky
There are so many gurus around who spout so much BS that it’s easy for people to be misled. As interesting as it is to be controversial and different, if you aren’t basing your writings on fact you will be found out. Do your research and cite your findings because there’s enough fake news in the world as it is without you adding to it. Too many so-called experts attempt to reinvent the wheel with convoluted hypothesis and controversial viewpoints; this is fine if you are simply trying to provoke discussion but if you dogmatically believe that coal is the new superfood I will find you and I will kill you.
5. Know how to use references
This is important, especially as you will get trolled by other fit pros who have too much time on their hands if you don’t: The kind of guys who are rubbish at interacting with actual human beings and therefore work in call centres because they weren’t making any money from their personal training business. These people do a lot of reading because they have nothing better to do and they want you to know how clever they think they are because their lives are empty - but, I digress. It goes without saying that if you are citing a research paper that you should read the whole thing and not just the abstract, if you don’t know how to really read primary research (That’s 99% of us) then stick to meta analyses, textbooks and positional stands, or simply take from the website of a governing body or university (Harvard for example). If you quote a book, then cite the title and the author. A common way of representing this is to add the citation at the end under ‘references’ and write it like so:
- The author's name or names
- The year in which the journal was published
- The title of the article
- The title of the journal
- The page number/s of the article in the journal
As much other information as you can find about the journal, for example the volume and issue numbers.
6. Avoid the dreaded wall of words
Most people will read your blog on their mobile phone while they sit on the toilet, train or while pretending to enjoy X-Factor with the missus (or mister) so try to imagine how it will look on a mobile screen. If your paragraphs are too long people simply aren’t going to keep scrolling down.
Be very wary of writing a blog that looks like a Facebook post – you know the kind, every sentence is it’s own paragraph and there’s more white space than black text. This looks great on the correct platform but in a blog it just looks like you don’t know how to write a coherent paragraph, or your thoughts are so simple that they can be summed up in little more than a headline. A proper blog has flow, so aim for at least 5-6 lines per paragraph as a very basic rule of thumb.
7. Use headers
Blogs rely on headers and keywords to increase click rates; it’s something to do with search engine optimisation or SEO or some other boring stuff like that. If you are using a blog site like Word Press this is all built into the software but do use your headers. The main title will be header 1 and then after that you’ll use header 2 and header 3 onwards. You can go from header 2 to header 3 to header 4 and then back to header 2 again but don’t skip one. Here’s an example:
"One last thing, prepare to fail".
8. Don’t get shafted for copyright
Blogs need images, ideally, because they just make it look more engaging. However, some images that you might source from t’internet are copyrighted and you may get an email one day demanding hundreds or even thousands of pounds from you for copyright infringement, which isn’t nice. If you are able to, use your own images if they are high resolution enough, but otherwise get a stock images account. Stock images tend to be pretty generic and sanitised so you might want to edit them and/or add captions to make them a little more unique, though. Canva is a great online resource for image editing.
9. Share guest blogs
A great way of getting in some business to business marketing is to write a guest blog for another person/company in the same industry as you. Ideally, they will be someone who runs a complementary service to yourself so you can then invite them to do the same for you – you might be a strength and conditioning coach who writes a blog for a physiotherapist for example. This way you have access to their subscribers and a great way to spread the word about your own services which is much easier than cycling up and down the high street with a megaphone in hand.
10. Don’t lower yourself to their standard
Who’s standard? The troll of course. I touched on this earlier but the internet is full of horrible people with narrow minds and fragile egos who think that it’s acceptable to hijack your feed by being somewhat of a dick. You have two choices here, ignore or engage. If it’s possible to engage them to provide evidence in countenance to their attack then do so, but don’t expect them to leave without having the final say. The final word is important to them, it compensates for their impotence and makes them feel more important. My advice is to ignore them and simply go about your day, this way the fire of hatred and self-pity that burns inside them stays there and is unable to singe your mojo. Retaliation is only playing into their hands, like the saying goes - never argue with an idiot because you can’t win and they drag you down to their level – Thanks Oscar Wilde.
If you really do have to engage and reply, do so only once. Explain that you understand their position, refute their position completely along with evidence, re-state and clarify your position with evidence and then unfollow the thread. You can’t do anything more than that, and any further comments just show you have broken to their will – if you were correct in the first place then everyone will see that, and that’s what matters. Engaging with an online troll isn’t about convincing them or the other biased and narrow-minded turds that enjoy their company, it’s about showing the silent third party who only read the discussion who’s actually in the right. Convince the third party and then go about your day.
As a final thought here, never be closed-minded to the point of assuming the troll is always wrong. If they have a point, accept they have a point and alter your position. There’s no use in being wrong for longer than you need to be just because you don’t want to ‘give in’ and be ‘beaten’.
That’s it, I genuinely hope that this gives you something to think about and helps you to become a better writer and business person in the process. One last thing, prepare to fail. Why? Because you only get good at writing by writing a lot and your first few blogs will be shite, no matter how cool you think they are now when you look back in 2-years-time you’ll probably be ashamed.
But that’s fine, we all have to start somewhere.