A few years back, I surveyed readers of a previous article marketing-focused blog for their thoughts on what made a great article.
Content strategy has since largely shifted to creating content for your own site – your blog – in the first instance, and only then repurposing it for publication elsewhere. I therefore thought it was a good time to revisit those responses, and update them where necessary for the current environment along with adapting them to reflect the creation of blog posts specifically. Interestingly many of the broader principles remain exactly the same.
Provide Practical And Useful Information That Improves The Life Of The Reader
Perhaps this is the most important element. At the risk of stating the obvious, your blog post must actually be of value to the reader. The more value you provide to the real human consumer of your content, the better results you will achieve for the long-term.
While giving due consideration to the search engines is important, it shouldn’t be your top priority. Such is the level of Google’s semantic search capabilities, search engine visibility is better achieved by simply focusing on providing great content to the end user – and thereby encouraging readers to stay longer and share your content – than by focusing purely on search engine consumption of your content.
While I would never minimize the importance of search, I’ve actually never taken the approach of optimizing for search engines. Instead, I optimize for the human.
John Bonini, writing about a 583% increase in organic traffic in one year
A quick note on semantic search.
If you’re wondering how semantic search works or what it actually means, take a quick look next time you’re on Google, and notice the results it returns for you.
Here’s an example for a search on how to get more blog traffic. You’ll see the results semantically relate to my search, but don’t generally include the exact phrase I was searching for:
The more authority your website or blog gains over time – through activities that naturally grow your traffic through other means as well – the higher your rankings will grow and the more search traffic you’ll naturally start to attract.
(Refer to the free “Be Everywhere” marketing blueprint for a 7-part process you can use to build your own website’s authority).
The Post Is Long Enough To Provide The Required Information
A common question is, How Long Should A Blog Post Be?
There is evidence that longer posts perform better for attracting traffic to your site, with increased search engine visibility, improved attraction of backlinks, and more social sharing. But this shouldn’t determine how long your posts actually are, or you risk dampening the real value provided to visitors and largely negating any such benefits.
Instead, your blog post should be as long as it needs to be to get the information you want to share across in a way that provides maximum value to the reader. In other words:
- It should not be too long, in terms of adding fluff content simply to reach a desired word count. Be succinct.
- Neither should it be too short, in terms of properly delivering on the title of your post. Your reader shouldn’t be left feeling short-changed.
For example, my post on how to get more blog traffic is over 5,000 words long. That’s because it provides 101 tips on the topic and needed to be this long to provide brief but adequate information on each of the traffic tips provided.
Most other posts on this blog – this one included – are somewhere between 1000 and 2000 words long.
I don’t currently do them, but a post providing an infographic would be a lot less. You would just need a few words to introduce the infographic, and the value for the visitor would be provided through the image itself.
The Writing Allows The Reader To Connect With The Writer
Blogging, at least for business purposes, is largely all about building relationships with your visitors. These visitors are, after all, potential prospects for your business.
You’re building up the know, like and trust factor. That means the reader needs to find enough in your posts to connect with you as an individual.
At first, this appears to fit more naturally with some topics than others. For example, a travel or weight loss blog focused on the writer’s own experiences provides more natural opportunities for these points of connection.
But how would you achieve the same with say a blog on mechanical engineering or computer programming tips?
Whatever the topic, connection largely comes through storytelling.
Most business content fails to engage buyers. And marketers admit they struggle to make it more compelling. The solution to this problem is something we all know and love — a good story.
Forrest Research, Inc. (source)
For example, think about Michael Gerber’s book The E-Myth. It would have been far less successful had the same information been presented without the benefit of an engaging story – including anecdotes about the author himself – that the reader could absorb themselves in. The same goes for Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad.
That often means weaving in your own personal experiences into the topic you are writing about. Rather than just providing pure unadulterated information, this allows readers to relate to your content more strongly and connect with you as an individual. It makes your content far more compelling.
Provide Clear And Explicit Instructions On How The Reader Should Apply The Information Provided
It’s one thing to provide the information. It’s often another to advise the reader how to apply it.
In reading your posts, the reader is in a constant Should I stay or go? decision-making process. In other words, they are asking how will they get value out of your post if they continue to stick around and consume your information … or would their time be better spent clicking away somewhere else?
The longer you can keep them engaged, the longer they stay, and the more likely they will be to share your content too. This means your post achieves increased visibility and better overall results.
One way to do this is by telling the reader clearly and explicitly how they can put your information to use for their own advantage. You increase their ability to relate to your information and, along with that, the chances that they’ll stick around for longer too. (And come back in future).
Your Blog Post’s Title Should Be Catchy And Clearly Identify A Topic Of Interest For The Type Of Reader You Want To Attract
To attract readers to your blog post, your title should clearly identify what your blog post is about, and do so in an interesting way that grabs their attention.
Doing this often takes a lot of practice, and is not too dissimilar to writing headlines for sales copy. Keep an eye on your metrics and see what types of title appear to perform best for you.
If you’re following the “Be Everywhere” marketing blueprint, the effectiveness of your title is important not just for your blog, but also for the other types of content you create from it. The good news is that sharing such content on social media as part of this process is a good way to check the engagement levels that different titles generate.
Based on my own experience, I’ve found the following can work well:
- How To-type titles: people are hungry for how-to information they can absorb and apply. It can be easy to overdo though, as I’ve found by checking my own blog posts for the past few weeks!
- Including parenthesis: I’m not sure how or why this works, but presume it helps break up the title, attracts more eyeballs, and works a little like the PS at the end of a sales letter
- Including a colon ‘:’ character: again, this helps to break a longer title up into more manageable, easier to scan chunks
- List-type titles: perhaps because it gives people a clear sense of what to expect from a piece of content, as well as intrigue on what the individual elements are, list-type titles invariably perform well in terms of catching attention. For example, 10 Top Tips …, 5 Steps To …, 7 Ways To …, and so on.
(Check how many of these I’m using in this post’s title!)
Find out what works well for you and your own market. You can only do that through consistent blogging and other content creation activities. (Yes, I’ll keep on about the importance of consistency!).
Of course it goes without saying that your post should then deliver on your title, and provide the information you are promising.
Well, I had to put my own advice to good use, didn’t I?! (See 4. above) Here’s some key action points to put into practice for your own business:
- With your next blog post, forget about the search engines entirely. Focus purely on providing the most value to the reader that you can on your topic of choice. While you won’t want to ignore the search engines long-term, this is a useful exercise in ensuring your actual readers are central to your content creation activities.
- Bring your personal experience into your next blog post. Tell a story.
- In considering your blog post’s title, write down ten possibles, incorporating some of the tips in (5) above. Pick what you consider to be the best one for attracting your target market.