According to Ignite Spot, 77% of Internet users read blogs, 6.7 million people blog on blogging sites, and 12 million people blog via social networks.
Blogging is clearly here to stay.
As marketers, blogging is essential to our jobs -- but it isn't easy. We have to come up with a topic, write something engaging, optimize it for SEO, and take a ton of other steps to make sure we are writing the best possible post that stands out from other similar topics online. There are 6.7 million people blogging, yet we have to stay original.
Though we cannot explain blogging to a science, there are certain steps you can follow to make sure it has the essential components necessary to perform well. Here are 10 steps that can get you on the write path to blogging like a pro.
Step 1: Understand your audience.
Before you start to write, have a clear understanding of your audience. What do they want to know about? What will resonate with them? This is where creating your buyer personas comes in. Consider what you know about your buyer personas and their interests while you're coming up with a topic for the blog post.
For instance, if your readers are Millennials looking to start their own business, you probably don't need to give them information on getting started on social media -- most of them already have that down. You might, however, want to give them information on how to adjust their approach to social media from a more casual, personal one to a more business-savvy, networking-focused approach. That tweak is what separates you from blogging about generic stuff to the stuff your audience really wants (and needs) to hear.
Step 2: Start with a topic and working title.
Before you do anything, you need to pick a topic for your blog post. The topic can be pretty general, but it is essential to come up with a few topic ideas to get you started. After you choose one to run with, you need to create a working title. What's the difference? A topic is general, while a working title is specific and will guide your post so you can start writing.
As an example, let's take the post, "How to Choose a Solid Topic for Your Next Blog Post." Appropriate, right? The topic, in this case, is probably "blog content." The working title may have been something like "The Process for Selecting a Blog Post Topic." And the final title ended up being "How to Choose a Solid Topic for Your Next Blog Post."
See that evolution from topic, to working title, to final title? Even though the working title didn't end up being the final title, it still provides enough information so you can write your post around something more specific than a generic topic.
Step 3: Write an intro (and make it captivating).
We spoke about this in the post, "How to Write an Introduction [Quick Tip]," but let's review.
First, grab the reader's attention. If you lose the reader in the first few paragraphs of the introduction, they will stop reading even though they haven't given your post a fair chance. Then, show the purpose of the post and explain how it will address a problem the reader may be having.
This will give the reader a reason to keep reading and give them a connection to how it will help them improve their work.
Step 4: Organize your content.
Sometimes, blog posts can have an overwhelming amount of information -- for the reader and the writer. The trick is to organize the info so readers are not intimidated by the length or amount of content. The organization can take multiple forms -- sections, lists, tips, whatever's most appropriate. But it must be organized!
Let's take a look at the post, "Productivity Tools and Techniques to Stop Wasting Away Your Workday." There is a lot of content in this post, so we broke it into 4 sections: Checking Email; Blocking Distractions; Sourcing Content; and Meetings, Collaboration, and Brainstorming. The sections are then separated into sub-sections that to go into more detail, but also make the content easier to read and less intimidating.
To complete this step, all you really need to do is outline your post. That way, before you start writing, you know which points you want to cover, and the best order in which to do it.
Step 5: Write the content.
The next step -- but not the last -- is actually writing the content. We couldn't forget about that, of course.
Now that you have your outline, you're ready to fill in the blanks. Use your outline as the guide and be sure to expand on all of your points as needed. Write about what you feel comfortable talking about, and do additional research, if necessary, to gather more information.
Step 6: Fix your formatting.
No one likes an ugly blog post. Pictures don't make a post visually appealing -- the formatting and organization of the post does.
You may notice that the titles and subtitles in the post are consistent. The pictures always have a similar border. The style stays consistent from post to post. There is always an image at the top to not only make the post look prettier, but also so it's included in social when the post is shared. Having this consistency allows people to recognize your company and brand at first glance while also keeping the post easier on the eyes.
Meta descriptions give searchers the ability to read a short summary of the post before clicking into it. They are ideally between 150-160 characters and start with an action verb, such as "Learn," "Read," or "Discover." It gives the searcher a snapshot of what they will get by reading the longer post.
Tags are specific keywords that describe the post. They allow the readers to search for more content in the same category on your blog.
Step 7: Include a CTA at the end.
At the end of every blog post, you should have a CTA. Typically, you think about the CTA being beneficial for the marketer. Your visitors read your blog post, they click on the CTA, and, eventually, you get a lead. But the CTA is also a valuable resource for the person reading your blog post -- they're going to click on the CTA if they enjoyed your blog post and want more information on that particular topic.
In the blog post "How to Strategically Promote SlideShare Presentations on Your Blog," for instance, readers were given tactical ways to promote their SlideShare presentations on a blog without giving away the entire presentation. At the end of the presentation was a CTA referring readers to a PowerPoint template for SlideShare presentations.
See how that's a win-win for everyone? Readers that want to learn more have the opportunity to do so, and the business receives a lead they can nurture ... that may become a customer!
Step 8: Optimize for on-page SEO.
After you finish writing, go back and optimize your post for SEO.
As you're doing this, you may be thinking, "Is my post too long? Or perhaps too short?" Don't worry about it. Google doesn't care about the length of your post.
You might also be wondering if you've put in enough keywords. Again, don't worry about it. If there are opportunities to incorporate keywords, and it won't impact reader experience, do it. If you can make your URL shorter and more keyword-friendly, go for it. But don't cram keywords, or shoot for some arbitrary keyword density -- Google's smarter than that!
Here's a little reminder of what you can and should look for -- if you want a really detailed explanation, read this blog post.
Anchor text is the word or words that link to another page -- either on your website or on another website. Carefully select which keywords you want to link to other pages, because search engines take that into consideration when ranking your page for certain keywords.
It's also important to consider which pages you link to. Link to pages that rank well for that keyword. You could end up having it rank first instead of second. That ain't small potatoes.
More and more, social media is playing a bigger role in search engine optimization. When a piece of content is shared on social media, it's prioritized in the ranking results. Because of this, you'll want to encourage your readers to tweet out parts of your post.
You should also encourage your writers to update their Google+ accounts with their social networks and pictures. Google will often prioritize posts with an author's picture, and they also stand out more in search engines to someone who is searching for a topic you've written about.
Optimize for Mobile
Having a website that is responsive or designed for mobile has become more and more important. According to a report by Google, "What Users Want Most From Mobile Sites Today," 74% of users say they're also more likely to return to a site in the future if it's mobile-friendly. As a result of information like this and other similar statistics, Google is now prioritizing websites that are optimized for mobile.
Step 9: Pick a catchy title.
We have a simple formula for writing catchy titles that will grab the attention of your reader. Here's what to consider:
- Start with your working title.
- As you start to edit your title, keep in mind that it's important to keep the title accurate and clear.
- Then, work on making your title sexy -- whether it's through strong language, alliteration, or another literary tactic.
- If you can, optimize for SEO by sneaking some keywords in there (only if it's natural, though!)
- Finally, see if you can shorten it up at all. No one likes a long, overwhelming title.
If you've mastered the steps above, here are two things you can do to take it to the next level.
- Put additional visuals to complement the different sections of your post.
- See if there is any data or statistics to back up some of the claims you made in your post.
What other steps do you take to refine your blog posts?
Photo Credit: Annie Mole