However, there are a couple of key points to keep in mind that will help you gain an audience. And unless you want to run an online diary, you should think about ways you can make your content appealing to your intended audience! After all, how good is a blog no one reads?!
These are my 3 guiding things to keep in mind when writing blog posts:
1) Writing blog posts isn’t like writing an essay
When you write a webpage or blog, design for it to be skimmed by a time pressed reader unless you are doing educational format blogs.
Also treat your blog post as something that needs to grab attention in a 5 second window, especially if it talks about stuff a lot of writers cover.
The harder it is to read, the less likely it is for people to hang around.
Beyond format, here are a few things to keep in mind to make a pleasing 5 second impression:
- Use headers and titles that allow for quick glances. It’s great to use off the wall titles, but just remember you need to explain what the article is about so people will understand it relates to what they are looking to in cyberspace. So “Harold eats penguins” may be fun, but “Harold eats penguins: Acid effects on the brain” helps attracts medical care professionals as opposed to angry animal lovers.
- Make use of the bold, italics and header features. It will make it easier for people to read your blog, and also help with your SEO too. Treat Google like a near sighted reader, and really highlight those key points!
- Try and have your photos next to your text wherever possible, unless it’s a step by step presentation or chart that you want readers to pay particular attention to. Otherwise it simply sends the message you don’t know how to design.
- Hyperlink over the top of the words and create the sentence around it. Instead of saying “Polly shares her take on film in Asia here <link>” or the link under the “here”, it’s better for your readers and for Google if you use “Polly discusses Asian film and the…” as though it’s naturally flowing and they can dive into that article if the reader chooses. Incidentally, remember that you’re promoting leaving your post for someone else’s with the whole “read this here” format. That’s counter intuitive because you want them to keep reading your blog posts, right? So let them read yours through and open the other stuff for additional reading once they’re done.
- Focus on what you do. Sharing something you find interesting that it outside your field is great because it helps humanises you. However if you start writing blog posts about a bunch of stuff that doesn’t match what people tune in for on a regular basis, pretty soon you’ll lose your audience. Be like the cake shop down the road you love- sell cakes of all shapes and sizes as your main stay. Throw in daily bread and lunch time pastries because it fits with the cake lovers. Experiment with the odd new sample and test whether it’s a good addition to the baked goods, but don’t stop cooking cakes! Or as Brook from Yoga Reach puts it “focus, focus, focus!”
- Random capitalisation shouldn’t be used. Headings Don’t Need a Capital on each word, nor do non branded words in body copy. Instead, write as a title and reserve your capitals for pro-nouns specific to your business. You want the reader to be enraptured in conversational language, not wondering if you’ve made a mistake with the caps lock button.
Writing blog posts can be really fun- and so can having people respond to them and read them! So “write to be read” when considering your blog posts.
2) Evergreen content creation is clever blogging
You need blog posts that work to help people on a regular basis and don’t date easily- this is called evergreen content because it doesn’t change with the seasons or date.
Here are a couple of points to keep in mind for evergreen content creation:
- Avoid time limiting phrases like “last week”, “yesterday” and anything that has an extremely short time span attached to it. It gives a very small window of life to your content. It’s better to say “In October” or avoid it completely.
- Give news a format. If you do want to have news that has a short shelf life, you can standardise the format (July’s news, The July Release) so people can spot it and find it when they search. Keep it separate from content that you will want to share again.
- Plan beyond news. Add extra bite to your blogging efforts by including stuff that is topical, sure, but don’t make it the whole ball game. Ensure you have stuff that is timeless, along with things that have a longer shelf life along with your news.
- Use top 5 tips or short lists. You can add to these as second layers, ask the audience to comment and add to it so you can create another blog piece and update lists easily through using strike through for things that are out of date, and appending to them in updates as you go for things that are not.
- It’s OK to talk about behind the scenes. Your audience loves it when you lift the hood. So it’s OK to talk about failure, learning, progression and wins. You can talk about anything from keeping your motivation high through to challenges you face. People dig this because it humanises your company and brand. Look at it this way, we all face hard times, days we don’t want to go to work, moments where we knock the ball right out of the park and admire the quiet happiness of a well earned cup of tea. So use these moments to relate you as a person to the people who follow you!
Evergreen content is great for social media sharing because it never goes out of style. It also means that you’ve always got a baseline of content you can draw on to keep readers of your site entertained.
AND done well, it will usually stand as a building block for daisy chained article series, so when you’re feeling a little flat in the idea department, you have something to draw on.
3) You’re a bit silly if you ignore SEO
Writing blog posts without thinking about SEO and keyword placement is a wasted opportunity. Getting the basics right can even make the difference between a blog no-one ever finds when using search to actually having an audience.
A little tip that a lot of startups don’t seem to realise is:
To improve SEO performance for your website, the blog should be attached to the main site itself. If you have it running off a different URL or on another form of non integrated blogging provider (e.g. a website with a Tumblr attached, or a shopping site with WordPress for a blog), you’ll probably find Google Analytics (and therefore Google Search) will see them as two separate things. Using approved API and not using things like blog.sitename.com can make a huge difference.
Anyway, for the purpose of this exercise, let’s assume your blog is snugly attached to your website.
It should be regularly updated (weekly is a good standard). Aim for quality over quantity though, because relevant info is what attracts your audience. You also need to be able to stick to a regular timetable. The key is to regularly make time for producing and posting content so it becomes a natural part of the flow.
Tips for Blog SEO Performance:
- Choose strong headlines- try to incorporate search friendly titles where possible
- Post on a regular basis- all search engines love fresh content.
- Always make sure that a blog is shared within 24 hours of going live on Twitter and Facebook. When you share your content out via social media, use a link shortener so you can monitor the click through rates.
- Photos that catch the eye are funny or sum up your business work really well. Naming them something better than “left hand image1” is going to give you SEO juice too. Name them according to the article name and of course what it is.
- Identify dates that could be leveraged. These can be seasonal holidays, things that are tied to your business milestones or even quirky events. And then milk the #tag happiness on Twitter to help get it social search elevation, and more eyeballs.
- Australians consume the majority of their social media between 6pm to 10pm their local time, so if you want your blog to be read, ensure it is promoted during these hours at least once on Twitter and Facebook. The more social activity you get, the more hits you receive, and the more Google will like the post because it seems popular. There’s also the question of whether actual likes, tweets, +1’s and the rest add something to SEO. The jury is still out whether it’s factored by Google BUT from a human perspective, it definitely helps as it encourages more people to accept your blog (peer approval and all that lah de dah!).
If you are on WordPress, you’re in luck. Your best friend with all of this is my latest SEO copywriting crush, a plug in called Yoast.
Go install it and have a play!
4) The unofficial guide to writing blog posts
The final and unofficial point with blogging- don’t make it too hard to do! A lot of potentially good bloggers care too much about getting the rules right and tie themselves in (boring) knots. Or they ignore all the rules, get frustrated when no one reads the posts, and gives up on blogging (usually blaming blogging for being a flash in the pan or whatever).
The thing is, we humans are a little perverse- we both respect and reject rules in equal measure. Your readers will feel the same.
So if that keyword is going to suck being used in your title, don’t do it. Or if “top 5 ways to make monkey puke without bananas” style descriptions make you want to give yourself an uppercut, don’t use them.
Chances are if it clangs like a bad cymbal to you, your audience will probably feel worse if you try to use it. Your lack of confidence in a rule or technique will shine through.
But ignoring good advice and pouring out your guts without any form or structure is not going to get you discovered, or make you easy to find. Besides, when you write, you need to think about other people other than yourself, otherwise you’ll sound…well, self indulgent and teenager-ish.
Having structure when you’re writing blog posts works because it challenges you to think through what you are producing.
But it’s not like a “you must do this or you’ll perish” situation.
Remember your audience, enjoy reading what you write, and be authentic is number 1- you can treat the rest of what is here as a buffet to pick and choose what you need, when you need it.
Have I missed anything?