Financial blog post test–do YOU pass?

Do your posts pass the financial blog post test? If they do, you raise your odds of attracting clients and prospects. Aim to put “yes” in the check-boxes below.

TOPIC

___ Does your post solve a problem for the reader? Most people who search online are looking for a solution to a problem.

___ Is your topic narrow enough? The people who are searching for solutions want answers specific to their circumstances. If you tackle budgeting tips for everybody, you’ll satisfy nobody. Instead, target people who share characteristics such as age, income, and other characteristics that are important to the challenges they face.

___ Are you addressing a topic that your target audience cares about? Of course, you have to identify your target audience before you can answer this question. Here’s an example of what not to do. Don’t write a blog post about Social Security claiming strategies for an audience of twenty-something teachers who work in a state where teachers aren’t covered by Social Security. It’s wrong in two ways because of your audience’s age and lack of Social Security coverage.

TITLE

___ Does your title attract readers by appealing to their WIIFM (or by intriguing them in some other way)?

WRITING

___ After reading your first paragraph, will the reader know the main point that you’re making?

___ Is your post well organized? For example, does it pass the first-sentence-check test?

___ Have you avoided jargon? When you’re writing for professionals, a little jargon may help. If you’re not targeting institutional investors, check my list in “Words to avoid in your investment communications with regular folks.”

___ Have you avoided common grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors? Mistakes undermine your credibility. Style guidelines can help you avoid some mistakes, as I explain in “Style guidelines for financial services firms.

___ Is your writing reader-friendly? Your writing should be compelling, clear, and concise. You’ll find tips for achieving this in my financial blogging class.

FORMATTING

___ Does your post use headings? Headings help to break up your post into manageable chunks. Another way to break up your text and introduce more white space is to keep your paragraphs short. White space makes your posts easier to read, especially for people using mobile devices.

___ Does your post use images, as appropriate? Especially when you share your posts via social media, images help to attract more views.

PROMOTION

___ Do you have a plan for promoting your blog post? If you write a great blog post that nobody sees, it does you no good. Plan to promote your blog posts via email, social media, and more.

 

If your writing passes this financial blog post test, you’re in good shape. Congratulations!

If you think you could improve your financial blogging skills, check out my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, and my financial blogging class, available on-demand.

Do your blog posts have laugh lines?

A fashion magazine article praising laugh lines surprised me. What about all those years of magazines slamming “laugh lines” as “crow’s feet”? And, what can this reversal tell you about your blog posts?

Here’s part of a crow’s feet apology in “For the love of laugh lines” in Allure (sorry, it’s not freely available online).

We shouldn’t have called them “scary crevices.” But we did, in 2006, and then we doubled down with: “The most evil eye skin problems can be combated–without voodoo.” So bonus points for being creepy and weird! Then we just got personal (in the same story): “You don’t have to be a chronic squinter like George W. to end up with crow’s-feet.”

Oh my! It wasn’t very nice what they said in 2006, was it?

In 2018, Allure has seen the light. The author quotes dermatologist Ranella Hirsch saying, “More than any other wrinkle, crow’s-feet are expressive. I often say, ‘Trying to emote without facial expressions is like trying to text without emojis.'”

Later, the article quotes psychologist Alexander Todorov “…we tend to believe genuine smiles are accompanied by crow’s-feet.”

What does this have to do with blogging? I believe that, just as an imperfect facial surface can make your smile seem more genuine, less-than-totally-polished writing can make you seem more real and approachable. That’s an asset. A few imperfections act as “laugh lines.” Showing personality in your blog posts helps as I discussed in How to add personality and warmth to your financial writing–Part one.

Do your blog posts have laugh lines?

Audio slideshow: What can bloggers learn from a vacation stroll?

You can learn blogging lessons in some of the strangest places. Hit the arrow on the image below to play the slides and hear the audio.

Some of you know that I’m not a big fan of audiocasts and video. However, I’m doing my best to learn how to accommodate the members of my audience who enjoy those forms.

 

 

Top posts from 2018’s first quarter

Check out my top posts from the last quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on proofreading (#1), punctuation (#2), white papers (#3), writing (#4, #5, #7, #8, #9), marketing (#6), and blogging (#10).

I’m only listing one Mistake Monday post, although more were among the most viewed. Thank you, readers! However, one Mistake Monday post is much like the others, so I’ll only list one per quarter. Check out my Mistake Monday posts if you’d like to improve your proofreading skills!

White papers (#3) were the focus of my meatiest popular post. Many challenges prevent financial professionals from creating compelling white papers. In this post I describe some of the challenges and how to overcome them.

The popular post in the #2 slot proves that popularity isn’t the only thing that matters for your blog. I imagine that the traffic came from people doing online searches for “U.S. or US for United States?” I imagine that few of those people are likely to become my clients—or even to be interested in many of the other posts on my blog.

My posts that attracted the most views during 2018’s first quarter

  1. MISTAKE MONDAY for Feb. 19: Can YOU spot what’s wrong?
  2. Abbreviation: U.S. or US for United States?
  3. The compelling investment white paper that wasn’t 
  4. What if your article has 5 points, but 1 is a digression?
  5. Avoid long introductory clauses, or lose readers
  6. Marketing wealth management to women with Charlotte Beyer
  7. 7 tips to help you write more and be a better person
  8. Write your book on multiple devices
  9. 7 factors that affect reading ease
  10. Financial blog topic: write a letter

Financial blog topic: write a letter

A letter can be a great format for your financial blog. Writing a letter can help you tackle difficult topics or get a new perspective on an old topic.

I’m not thinking about the kinds of letter you usually write. I don’t mean prospecting letters, quarterly reports, or requests for documentation.

Instead, I am thinking about letters that tackle topics that you feel strongly about. Sure, you can write about those topics in a regular blog post. However, there’s something about a letter that makes it more personal.

Different letter recipients, different content

Imagine, for example, that you write a letter to one of the following people:

  • Your mom, whom you are grateful to for teaching you the value of saving and investing
  • Your son, who just started his first job with a 401(k) plan
  • Your client who holds no stocks in her retirement plan
  • Ted Benna, father of the 401(k) plan

Each of these letters might discuss retirement. However, your choice of recipient will affect the opinions you express, your tone, and the details you use to make your point.

Letter-writing benefits

The details that you use in a letter—especially a letter to your mom or son—are likely to deepen the reader’s sense of who you are. Are you a person like them? A person they can relate to? Your letter to a client will show if you can empathize, or you’re coldly logical. Your letter to Ted Benna may display your technical expertise.

I think that showing your personality, which I’ve written about in “How to add personality and warmth to your financial writing—part one”  is one of the strengths of a letter.

Another reason to use the letter format is to make your language more reader-friendly. I remember struggling with a topic in my essay-writing class at Radcliffe Seminars many years ago. To end my stilted language, my teacher suggested I write a letter to a classmate, telling her what I wanted to say. He hoped that would pull more conversational language out of me. Visualizing your ultimate reader always helps, as I discussed in “Your mother and the ‘fiscal cliff.’

Have YOU ever written a blog post in the form of a letter? If so, please share a link in the comments.

By the way, this post was inspired by a book, Karen Tei Yamashita’s Letters to Memory, which takes the form of letters to historical figures and other people. It’s a provocative read about Japanese-American history that brings in Greek and Indian mythology and other diverse topics, thanks to her choice of letter recipients.

Early Bird registration for financial blogging class

Learn more about my financial blogging class!

Bloggers, honor your influencers

Totally original content doesn’t exist. Everyone is influenced by others. Your work is not diminished by giving credit to them.

As Jeff Goins says in Real Artists Don’t Starve:

…cite your sources, giving credit where credit is due. This won’t discredit you. It will likely endear you to your influences and your audience.

What might citing your sources mean for a financial blogger? It could mean naming and linking to the website of a person, article, or blog that inspired you. Or, linking to a resource for further information. One advantage of sharing your sources is that it gives insight into you as a person. It shows what you read and the resources that you trust. It also shows that you are ethical, in terms of giving credit where credit is due.

Goins also stressed the need to bring something original to what you take from others. He says, “When you steal, don’t just copy and paste the work of your predecessors,…bring those influences together in a new way.”

If Goins doesn’t convince you to credit others, remember that violating copyright can land you in legal trouble. I’ve written about copyright in “Financial bloggers’ posts may violate copyright law.”

Is Real Artists a good resource for writers?

Goins attracted my attention after I read something he wrote about building his career as a writer and blogger.

If you’re in the early stages of building a career as a writer, you may find inspiration and practical tips in this book.

Disclosure:  If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I link only to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

Early Bird registration for financial blogging class

Learn more about my financial blogging class!

Top posts from 2017’s fourth quarter

Top posts on InvestmentWriting.comCheck out my top posts from the last quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on grammar (#1), writing (#2, #9, #10), investment commentary (#3), client communication (#4 & #5), newsletters (#6), and blogging (#7, #8).

Post #1 sparked a lot of reader feedback when it headlined one of my monthly newsletters. My readers tend to care about topics like this.

I’m surprised that #4 made it on the top posts lists. Published late in December, it got a strong response from readers.

If you’re a blogger, check out #7 and #8, along with my financial blogging class.

My posts that attracted the most views during 2017’s fourth quarter

  1. Shall vs. will—which is best?
  2. My 2017 reading with book recommendations for you
  3. Bond market commentary rewrite
  4. Writing about the new tax legislation in your client letters
  5. Communicate with your clients about their legacy—This post features advice from Kathleen Burns Kingsbury
  6. Canned newsletters can hurt your marketing
  7. Blog post headings vs. no headings for your financial blog
  8. 4 financial blog post ideas from a writing teacher
  9. Don’t wait for perfection
  10. Red tulip writing exercise

Early Bird registration for financial blogging class

Learn more about my financial blogging class!

4 financial blog post ideas from a writing teacher

Writing teacher Roger Rosenblatt’s essay assignments inspired me with ideas for your blog posts. He has had students write essays in each of the formats listed below, as he wrote in Unless It Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing.

1. Menu

How could you adopt a menu to a blog post? For starters, you could riff on the idea of “pick one from column A and two from column B” to discuss essentials portfolios.

Or, you might discuss your financial planning process in terms of appetizer, main course, and dessert.

2. School song

I never learned the school songs for my high school, college, or grad school. I don’t know if Oberlin College even had a school song. That makes this assignment hard for me.

But I think of school songs as very “rah rah.” Is there a topic that makes you excited in a rah-rah way? If so, then perhaps you can write a song about it. Look at the structure of your own school’s song to give your writing the feeling of a song.

 

Or, perhaps you can broaden your scope beyond school songs. Is there another type of song that better suits your personality? Start there.

Another idea is to start with the opening line of a famous song, and then go wild from there.

3. Stand-up comic routine

I can’t crack a joke so I admire the gifts of you comedians.

You can tackle what’s truly funny about your financial field. That could help break down your readers’ fears about tackling their finances. It could also help them to relate to you as a person.

Many comedy routines have an edge to them. You can use comedy to address topics that disturb you, such as inadequate retirement savings or fraudulent investments.

4. Kiss off letter

Have you ever told anyone to “kiss off”? The emotion associated with such letters can be powerful. I can see the advantage of sharing your passions with your readers.

On the other hand, you don’t want to scare readers into viewing you as volatile. Tread carefully.

I can imagine an effective letter that rails against bad financial products or services. Or, maybe you’d take on bad decisions.

If you try one…

If you try one of these approaches, please share your work in the comments. I’d love to see it.

If you liked this post, you may also like “20 topics for your financial blog.”

 

 

Disclosure: If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

Blog post headings vs. no headings for your financial blog

Should you use blog post headings when you write? One of my readers asked me this recently as he worked on his financial firm’s blog.

Reasons to use blog post headings

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably guessed that I like headings.

For starters, headings make blog posts easier to scan by dividing your content into distinct blocks. When the headings capture the focus of each of your blog post’s sections, they make it easy for your reader to decide if your blog post is worth reading. They also add visual appeal.

Here’s what one of readers told me about why he likes headings:

Blog post headings help me to:

  • Quickly scan the content of an article – beyond just reading the title
  • Zero in on the action steps that the writer is recommending.

Headings may also improve the SEO (search engine optimization) of your blog post. According to “Headings and why you should use them” on the Yoast blog:

…headings still help Google to grasp the main topics of a long post. …Google might scan your post…and why not make that as easy as possible?

When to skip blog post headings

Skip headings when your blog posts are too short or unfocused.

How short is too short? This post has fewer than 300 words, but I still think the headings are helpful. If I didn’t use headings, could you grasp at a quick glance that I discuss when to skip headings?

On the other hand, I don’t think headings would have added anything to my post, “Writers, do you know when something’s wrong?” There wasn’t enough content there.

YOUR thoughts

I’m curious to know how you use headings in your blog posts. Please comment.

Art and mindfulness and blogging

“I love your drawing. And I liked the one you did last time, too.” This statement by a fellow student in an “Art and Mindfulness” class stunned me. It also reminded me of what I believe about blog posts that reflect the real you. Mindfulness and financial blogging can work together.

1. There are many ways to interpret the same instructions (or topic)

The art class teacher’s instructions were simple. First, choose a pastel and draw lines, changing direction each time you switch from inhaling to exhaling. Do that 10 times, then add to your drawing however you wish.

The illustrations show the drawings I made following these instructions in the two sessions of this class. I see similarities between the two. Do you? I think there’s something that makes them distinctively mine.

The drawings that other students made were nothing like mine or one another’s drawings. One person drew a huge, bright smiley face. Another did delicate swirls. Yet another created a minimalist fish.

The lesson for financial bloggers? You may think that writers have exhausted what can be said about your topic. But no one will say it exactly like you. Embrace your differences to make your topic distinctively yours. You have more leeway to do this in blog posts than in other forms of financial writing. Especially if you are a solopreneur or work for a small firm, you’re less likely to be constrained by the idea of a “brand voice” or corporate style guidelines. You can show your personality.

2. People respond differently to your work

I looked at my classmates’ drawings and thought “I wish I could draw like them.” Amazingly, that wasn’t the response of the person who said, “I love your drawing.”

People respond differently to your creativity, whether it takes the form of a drawing or a blog post. I know my drawings aren’t great art, but something in them spoke to my classmate. The same thing can happen to you when you blog about investments, wealth management, or other financial topics.

3. Be open to what your heart and mind tell you

The mindfulness exercise made me tune in to what I was thinking and feeling. I’d like to think that helped me to achieve what the”Art and Mindfulness” instructor called the “Wise Mind” at the intersection of the “Reasonable Mind” and the “Emotion Mind.”

Merging those two in your blog posts can help you to appeal to readers with emotions, while persuading them with your reasoning.

Your openness can also uncover blog post topics. The “Art and Mindfulness” teacher told us to think about the feelings and patterns that come up with mindfulness. They need to be addressed, she said. Looking at my drawings made me think about how I like to analyze messy situations to bring order to them. That led to me thinking about the lessons for bloggers from my mindful art experiences.

4. Have compassion for people whose minds don’t work like yours

In addition to the drawing project, during the second session of the art class we worked on creating a mini-book, making a cover out of a piece of bubble painting that we’d created in the first session. I am not good at following instructions for folding and gluing paper. While I love the cover of my mini-book, the innards are an ugly mess.

The ugliness reminded me to feel compassion for my readers and students. What comes easily to me may not come easily to them. I strive to appeal to different types of learners.

Having compassion for your readers should inspire you to write in a reader-friendly way on your blog. Tailor your content to your readers. Write clearly and concisely.

5. It feels great to work in the moment

It can feel good to be totally immersed in what you’re doing. I experienced that for moments during the drawing exercise. (Yes, I still have a way to go in becoming mindful.) At a minimum, I forgot about my daily stresses. I was also impressed by several participants sharing how mindfulness has helped them to manage chronic pain.

Writing blog posts is one of the times that I feel immersed in an experience. That’s especially true of blog posts like this, which involve exploring my personal reactions. It also happens when I research a question that interests me.

I hope that you can experience some of the same sense of flow in your blogging.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy “What Marilyn Monroe taught me about writing.” My art plays a role in that post, too.