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Creating a successful blog: Advice from copywriting masters

Is there a secret to creating a successful blog?

Do you need to create the best content? Or is there a “right” kind of content? Maybe the successful ones were all just lucky or had a secret advantage?

Creating great content isn’t hard. It might be trickier to find the right kind. I certainly don’t believe success is about luck or secret advantages (I’ve heard too many sad to success stories).

What the best ones do, I think, is to build a strong relationship with their readers. I know people who follow or subscribe to people’s blogs because they grow to like them, even if they don’t always like the content.

Yes, content can get you noticed (via Google or social media), but developing relationships is what makes readers come back for more.

Copywriting is about relationships

As a copywriter, I know one of the primary goals in my work is to create a relationship with the reader – and do it quickly. That’s why good copy reads like a conversation. When done right, it makes you feel like the author is a great friend and he or she is just sharing something they know. Obviously there’s more to copywriting than that, but it’s a vital component. [Note: “copy” means the words written for sales or marketing purposes].

While blogging and copywriting are not the same thing, you can take some of the principles and use them to create a successful blog. But don’t worry, you don’t have to take a copywriting course. I’ve picked ten quotes from the masters of copywriting over the last century that can tell you all you need to know.

What you learn from these quotes can help you transform your blog from good into something irresistible.

Leo Burnett

“Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.”

Leo Burnett isn’t a household name, but the results of his work are. Have you heard of Tony the Tiger, the Marlboro Man, or the Maytag Repairmen? If you’re older than 35(ish) you probably have. For everyone who hasn’t, just suffice it to say he created many of the iconic 20th century advertisements and memorable characters to go with them. If you want to get noticed, I’m not sure there’s a better way to say it than he did. Follow his advice in this quote, and people will keep coming back to read your blogs.

Jay Abraham

“Make your copy straightforward to read, understand and use. Use easy words; those that are used for everyday speech. Use phrases that are not too imprecise and very understandable. Do not be too stuffy; remove pompous words and substitute them with plain words. Minimize complicated gimmicks and constructions.”

Jay Abraham is another advertising giant of the 20th century. And he’s still going strong. Many of the strategies today’s copywriters use began with him back in the 1970s.

The gist of this quote is the same as Burnett’s, but Abraham is a little more blunt about it. He makes it clear what “simple” means for example and points out “pompous” words are never good.

Shirley Polykoff

“Copy is a direct conversation with the consumer.”

Back in the Mad Men days of advertising, Shirley Polykoff was setting the example for everyone. She ranks 24th in the Advertising Age 100 Advertising People of the 20th Century. Her quote is simple, yet not always obvious.

Bloggers (as well as copywriters) need to remember they are writing to someone – the reader. The more readers feel like part of the experience, the more they will enjoy it and come back for more. When they do, you’ll have created a successful blog.

Elmore Leonard

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

Fans of Elmore Leonard, author of Get Shorty, may not know he started out as a copywriter. He mastered the art of conversational writing in those days and went on to use those skills as an author.

I see two tips in this short quote. The first echos the sentiments in the quotes above – write like you’re talking to someone. But the other tip is just as important – rewriting. Editing turns rambling or pompous words and complicated sentences into beautiful prose your readers will love.

Robert Collier

Robert Collier is a name well-known in self-help circles. But like many of the people highlighted in this post he began his career as a copywriter. It’s often said he is the most plagiarized copywriter in the world. That may sound bad, but in the copywriting world that’s a compliment – he was that good.

So it’s appropriate that I’ve chosen three quotes from him. His insight into writing and psychology is profound.

“The mind thinks in pictures, you know. One good illustration is worth a thousand words. But one clear picture built up in the reader’s mind by your words is worth a thousand drawings, for the reader colors that picture with his own imagination, which is more potent than all the brushes of all the world’s artists.”

How often do you hear the phrase “The movie wasn’t as good as the book.” Those sentiments get at the heart of what Collier is saying here. Today we’re all about using pictures and video, but words can be even more powerful. Remember to put just as much into your writing as in your image selection.

“Decide the effect you want to produce in your reader.”

Words are powerful. You know from experience you can hurt or uplift someone depending on your word choice. Think about how your readers will feel as they read. Is that what you want? If not, think about how you can use different words to get the right effect.

“We have become so accustomed to hearing everyone claim that his product is the best in the world, or the cheapest, that we take all such statements with a grain of salt.”

This advice needs to be screamed from the mountain tops! Even though Collier lived nearly 100 years ago, this type of boasting still plagues us, particularly in advertising.

But for your blog, it can be a problem too. Are you using a generic, overused words in your descriptions? Or are you carefully choosing the most appropriate words?

William Bernback

“The most powerful element in advertising is the truth.”

One of the influential techniques William Bernback pioneered is captured in his quote above. He started out as a copywriter and eventually founded an advertising agency based on the concept of telling the truth.

That may not sound strange to us, but back in the 1940s it was groundbreaking. Be truthful and authentic in everything you write. It resonates with people and just might help you get more subscribers.

Ann Handley

“Brevity doesn’t mean bare bones or stripped down. Take as long as you need to tell the story.”

Ann Handley is founder of MarketingProfs and a best-selling author. Her book *Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business* was one of the first books on creating content I purchased.

Her words contrast and expand the quotes above that tell us to use fewer words. Don’t edit so many words out that you lose the story you’re trying to tell. Use what you need, just make the words count.

Ed McCabe

“Imagination is one of the last remaining legal means you have to gain an unfair advantage over your competition.”

Purdue, Volvo and Pioneer are just a few of the companies Ed McCabe had for clients. In this quote he hits on something every blogger needs to know: imagination and creativity can help differentiate you from every one else.

For example, there are approximately 400 million blogs on the Internet as of 2018. Even if you are writing in a small niche, you’ll probably find thousands if not a million other blogs on the topic. What makes yours stand out from all the rest?

Use your imagination and make it unique!

Now, go create a successful blog!

successful blog

There’s a lot of wisdom in these quotes. So take a little time to let it all settle in your mind. Then write, and have those conversations with your readers.

What did you think about these quotes? Did you find any of them useful or insightful? Let me know in the comments.

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