Prompt, engaging and powerful, blogs are a tool those in the hospitality trade or any business ignore at their peril. Our main copywriter and published author Dominic Garnett provides some timely food for thought, along with some handy hotel and business blogging tips.
Whether you are an avid online writer or simply don’t understand what all the fuss is about, blogging is now a key tool in the marketing game. Hence this month, I thought I would pass on some hospitality blogging tips and perhaps answer one or two questions you were afraid to ask.
Blogging is a quick and accessible way to get quality content to your customers. So why are so many venues still reluctant to capitalise on this versatile medium? The plain truth is that many hoteliers and business owners are still in the dark about blogging. Some are still unsure what makes a good blog, or perhaps don’t understand the nature of the digital copywriting game.
Others are sceptics who wonder what the world of blogging is all about.I should know, because I was once one of these cynics. Cutting my teeth in the old school world of books and traditional print journalism, I struggled to see how a blog would help me or anyone else. At first I wondered if the format could even be considered as “serious” writing of any kind. But ten years after starting my own I am something of a blogging addict, having used them to successfully promote everything from holiday resorts to Amazon bestsellers.
What is a blog?
To start right from the beginning, a blog is simply a digital written article that can tackle any subject. They are an accessible way of sharing ideas, news or even advice, like the blog you are reading right now. Individuals often use them to tell a personal story or share a popular interest, rather like an online diary. Businesses can use them for many different functions to great effect.
How long should a blog be?
There is no set word count for a blog, but they tend to be best suited to shorter form writing. This is not to say that in-depth blogs don’t have their place, particularly on specialist subjects. But often the most effective blog is something short, sharp and entertaining that can be read easily in the space of five minutes.
It does depend on the topic too, though. The blog you are reading, for example, is a lengthier affair because the subject matter demands more content than a quick summary of points. The final choice is yours and waffle should be avoided at all costs, but I’m with Einstein on this one: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
What can a blog be about?
Absolutely anything! However, this doesn’t mean that topics are random; on the contrary, part of the art is in sussing out what is relevant, interesting and useful to any given business or venue. My blogs for Clockwork Marketing are just as varied as the businesses we support. Some are news pieces perhaps covering a seasonal event or highlight. Others represent points of interest to get venues showcasing what makes them unique or different. Others are used to spread the word on special offers or simply get readers talking.
The breadth of subject matter is vast, but for hotels in particular they are fantastic for selling guests an experience rather than simply a bed for the night. By covering local activities and places to visit they are also invaluable for broadening SEO and generating extra site visits. For example, an urban hotel might blog about local entertainment or where to find the best street food. A rural hotel could profit by covering local heritage sites and recommended walking or cycling routes.
Here are just a handful of examples from hundreds of my Clockwork blogs:
Great Welsh Castles
For Penally Abbey, a beautiful heritage hotel in Pembrokeshire. A blog with great places to visit and some eye-opening local history.
Classic Old School Pubs and Craft Beers
For Milkbere Holiday Cottages, based on the Jurassic Coast. This piece gave a juicy local perspective on old school boozers and great ales. A subject close to my
Famous Manchester Architecture
For The Place Aparthotel. This was predominantly a visual blog looking at intriguing local landmarks from ancient to modern.
Money Saving Wedding Tips
A practical advice blog, aimed at giving couples some useful tips while also showcasing Devon's Bickley Mill as a quality affordable wedding venue.
Blogging Tips for Hotels, Businesses (and just about everyone else!)
Can any fool write a blog? The short answer is yes. But there is a world of difference between a slapdash affair and a focussed, eloquently-written blog. So, to give you some final thoughts and blogging advice, here are my top tips to make your own blog sing, rather than stink:
Grab them early
As any cynic will tell you, digital readers have short attention spans (often less than a goldfish, if the psychological studies are correct). This doesn’t mean people don’t want to read; but it does mean you have to grab their attention, pronto! Your opening sentence or two are critical. Whether it’s something something to tempt or amuse the reader, or the promise of advice they don’t want to miss, go for the jugular early. Another great tip to engage the reader is to start with a question, because this is an instant prompt for a response.
Be easy on the eye
Even as a diehard wordsmith I have to confess that it is often an arresting image, rather than my words, which first draws the reader in. Most blogs should start with a suitable image. We have a huge archive of great shots here at Clockwork, but all bloggers can benefit by developing their photography skills. I would strongly invest any business to invest in a quality camera and encourage staff to use it!
Mind the gap!
Online readers can be fickle creatures these days. They demand visual impact and are easily put off by dense blocks of text, so give them space! Images help to break things up and add interest, while I would also advise keeping paragraphs fairly short, with clear daylight between each, rather than following traditional rules. My old English lecturers might be shaking their heads at this point, but we live in an age where readers need space and careful handling. The audience can be scared or put off by large, unbroken blocks of text.;
Use the best writers in your team (and check your work!)
I might be biased here as an old fashioned writer, but the current standard of writing for so many businesses is poor. Being seen as a "quick" or short form way to write, many bloggers cut corners or lack sound written English. If it's an informal blog for a few friends, this isn't the end of the world. But for business, quality is crucial. You wouldn't use terrible pictures on your site or not bother with essential maintenance, so why do the same rules not apply with written text? Find out who are the best writers in your organisation and, even more importantly, get into the habit of checking and rereading each blog before you publish.
Use well-targeted titles, terms and phrases
If you can cut to the chase and use words and phrases that people actually search for, this is a big advantage. SEO knowledge is another kettle of fish entirely, but even if things like key-wording and search criteria sound like perfect Russian to you, do try to be direct and think about what others will look for and the questions they will ask Uncle Google.
For example, I could have called this piece “Adventures in Blogging from Craft Beer to Castles.” But I know full well that most of you are reading this because you want to improve your blogging. Hence online readers are far more likely to search for things like “blogging tips” or “blogging for hotels” or perhaps even ask questions such as “how long should a blog be?”
This conversational style of searching is becoming more and more common. Internet surfers are increasingly talking to their technology as they might when questioning another human, whether the enquiry is “where is the best curry house in Manchester?” or “how can I write better blogs?” You don't need to be a technical expert to make SEO gains; just find out what people are searching for and write content that interests them and half the battle is often won.
Don’t just sell, inspire
These days many of us are increasingly bullet proof when it comes to the hard sell. Do I want to read something that is basically just an advertisement? Probably not. But if you can offer me something funny, engaging or useful I am far more likely to switch on and, in the longer term, make a personal connection and use that service or product. Engagement is everything, so keep it fresh.
Share as much as possible
These days blogging is about so much more than simply posting something and hoping it will be read. The more you can share and get the word out, the better. Whether you use Facebook, Twitter or any other source, spread your news and get others to link up. Swap links with other bloggers and always alert friends and connected sources when you post. Other businesses love it when you mention their products and services, so let them know. It’s a win-win scenario and the more shares and views you get the better.
About our blogger: Dominic Garnett is our dedicated copywriter at Clockwork Marketing. His decidedly Catholic tastes include the great outdoors, craft beer and British heritage, although he is best known for his popular books on angling, including Fishing For Dummies and his current collection of tales Crooked Lines. His own blog of the same name can be found at www.dgfishing.co.uk