Blog: Random musings or proper content strategy?
Inspired by a query from a client this week, I’ve decided to write a blog about a blog.
So, first things first.
What’s a blog?
It’s a piece of content written for an online audience usually placed on a blog or news page of a website and/or posted out from and around social media channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook – depending on where your audience can be found. It’s an article, an insight, a musing, a piece of research, a commentary, a case study, a report, an opinion, a guide. It’s whatever you want it to be depending on its purpose.
What’s the purpose of your blog?
Anyone can blog if they want to. Some people make a living out of blogging, through establishing an authority on a subject such as travel, beauty, food or business. Really successful bloggers can earn significant revenue from advertising.
How you approach your blog, just like any website, web page or piece of content, will depend on its purpose. For example, do you just want to blog for personal enjoyment, to get a few things off your chest, to express an interest in a subject, to spout some views to anyone who’ll listen? If so, then fill your boots, get typing, no particular strategy is needed.
But… if the purpose of your blog is to entice a reaction and bring about an action by others, I’m afraid a bit of planning will be in order.
For example, the purpose might be to;
- Build awareness of a brand or cause
- Get more customers/drive up sales
- Drive traffic to a website and for SEO
- Build your personal or business brand, positioning you as a knowledgeable authority in your field.
And if you are looking to blog as a way to do these things, your blog will need to be planned and written to deliver on that purpose.
How do you measure the success of a blog?
Not all benefits of blogging are easily or directly measurable. However, you should aim for your blog to do at least some of these things and use the analytics available to measure success.
- Be read by your target audience. It doesn’t have to be huge numbers. But the right people – that’s the key.
- Drive people to sales pages of your website, or to contact you directly.
- Engagement – comments, shares and likes.
- Have a positive reception – whether one of emotion, enjoyment, controversy and thought-provoking, humour, enlightenment, education, helpfulness.
What length should a blog post be?
The answer to this has changed over the years, and you may have heard or be one of the people who says ‘but no one has a long attention span nowadays, no one wants to read long articles’.
I’m afraid the evidence doesn’t support this. After all, you’re still with me aren’t you? (she says confidently as readers close down this article in their masses).
Reports show that ‘long-form’ (the new marketing-jargon phrase for ‘long’) articles get better results than short ones. The reasons for this are;
- Long articles keep people on your page for longer
- Long articles mean anyone reading it must be really interested and engaged in the content – therefore more likely to be a higher quality ‘lead’
- Long articles are good for rankings on Search Engines.
That said, don’t get too hung up on the length if it means drawing out the content for the sake of it. But do aim for at least 300 words and don’t be afraid to create long meaty content of 2000 words + if it’s just screaming to be let out.
So…. what makes a ‘great’ blog?
It’s not a strict formula, but these five steps are a good place to start.
Step 1. Choose an eye-catching, compelling, relevant title. Not too long. Enough of an indication of what’s to come but without giving it all away. Provoke curiosity. Create a promise of the reader learning something exciting, new or useful. Base it on your understanding of what your audience need to know, read and learn.
- Thought provoking – ‘Find out what happened when….’, ‘We explore…..’
- Bold and controversial – ‘Why doing x risks y from happening’; ‘Why this kind of approach is bad news’
- Instructional or educational – ‘Top tips on how to…’, ‘the ultimate guide to’….’We compare x with y and here’s the results’
- Highlighting a risk of not reading it – ‘why you must read this if you run your own business’
- Funny and irreverent – ‘a must read if you’re into x’
- Personal – ‘Find out how I/why I…’
Step 2. Ensure your content has a good, logical structure
- A first line that explains the title, and hooks the reader in with something interesting, high impact, enticing them to read on.
- Some background on why the subject matter is important.
- Your tips, advice, thoughts, ordered in a logical way.
- A conclusion containing a strong closing statement.
- A call to action.
Step 3. Ensure the content is relevant, interesting and helpful and positions you as a knowledgeable authority in your subject
- Go back to the purpose of the blog and ensure the content meets the purpose.
- Use research, interesting facts, new industry information, reports, surveys, quotes, case studies, current trends – the key is to tell people something they may not know.
- Be keyword smart but DON’T keyword stuff. Carefully incorporate key phrases and words without turning people off reading due to excessive repetition.
- Take a new angle, a new spin on a subject. Maybe you’ve already explored the benefits of something. Now explore the risks of not doing it. Or supply a case study of where it’s been done well.
- Use Search Engines to research the questions your audiences are asking.
- Being personal and authentic is good, especially if you can link it to the problems of your audience and inspire and educate them with your story.
- Don’t be afraid to be bold and express an opinion. But do be prepared to back it up and meet any challenges.
- Think about the state of mind of your reader. Are they looking for information? Reassurance? To be entertained? To have their problem solved?
Step 4. Make sure the format is reader-friendly
Most people read content on their phones.
You have moments to grab them.
A huge block of text will be skimmed over but stand out statements will break it up and create engagement and IMPACT.
Use spaces. Use bullets. Use succinct phrases. Use sub-headings.
Be punchy. Be bold. Use humour – but with caution.
Tell a story. Show empathy with your audience. Show authority.
- Don’t forget the finishing touches
- Check it – don’t be caught out by the grammar police.
- Think about any possible challenges to your arguments, then pre-empt and address them.
- Add an image – use a free image library if necessary to source an appropriate image or use your own profile photo.
- If you’re brave, you could vlog (video) rather than blog to vary your communication style.
- Publish your blog far and wide, after all, you invested the time in writing it.
If you’re stuck and need occasional or regular help from someone who loves nothing more than to write a blog, then I’m happy to help.
Otherwise, go for it. You know your business, your audience, your subject. Don’t be afraid to show it.