Of the many content marketing formats out there, the blog post remains one of the most popular. It’s a tried and tested content format that’s been around since the early years of the Internet, and it’s one that more and more companies are using to help get their message across. There are at least 173 million blogs on the Internet, according to Statista.com, and business blogs have been consistently rated among the most effective content formats with the one of the highest ROIs. However, for every great blog out there, there’s perhaps a hundred junk blogs that exist for no other reason than to manipulate a company’s visibility in the search engines.
Maintaining a great blog requires one major investment, and that is time. Of course, it may also be more economical to outsource your content creation to a professional individual or a team of experts, in which case you’ll be looking at a substantial, but worthwhile, financial investment too. While setting up a blog is generally a quick and easy process thanks to modern content management systems, crafting the perfect blog post and then being able to do it consistently several times per week isn’t always easy. However, the following steps will help to clarify what constitutes a great blog post that will be genuinely interesting to its intended audience:
Coming Up with an Idea
Perhaps the hardest part of all is coming up for an idea in the first place. Even the most experienced of professional writers face the dreaded writer’s block on occasion. Of course, every piece of online content starts with an idea, and a great idea provides the crucial foundation for a great piece of content. Your idea should be distinctive in its intended marketplace and tailored to meet the interests and requirements of a specific audience. While content covering broader topics can also be useful, the best content is often highly targeted and relevant to a very specific audience and, as such, is less likely to be overshadowed by the competition.
Developing a Compelling Headline
As far as a potential reader is concerned, the headline will ultimately be the deciding factor between continuing and leaving. A great headline should be concise, short and relevant above all. It should never be keyword-optimized at the expense of these critical factors. In other words, a headline should tell the reader what’s in store for them, and it should address a problem while also raising questions or inspiring emotions. You should also refer back to your headline as you formulate the rest of the content. For SEO purposes, it’s also wise to keep your headlines under 65 characters long so that they will be displayed properly in search engine results.
Writing an Introduction
A blog post typically has two introductions, one in the form of a meta description tag for the search engines and another on the page itself. The meta description can be any length, although you should keep it under 160 characters, since most search engines won’t display any most than that. The contents of the tag should be a brief, concise and optimized elaboration of the title but, again, it must prioritize the human reader rather than the targeted keywords. With the on-page introduction, you won’t be subject to any technical limitations, but it’s also wise to keep it reasonably short while making sure it addresses the problem and briefly summarizes the content to come. A great introduction should ultimately tell the reader why they should proceed.
Using Subheadings to Highlight Key Points
The online audience loves scannable content that’s broken up into lots of short sections separated by numbers and/or subheadings. People digest online content quite differently to how they digest printed media in that they are more likely to want short, concise answers to their questions without having to wade through walls of text. As such, even a great blog post will often get skimmed over rather than read in depth. This fact can be unnerving for any skilled writer, who might feel that their work isn’t being appreciated if it’s just being scanned over, but that is how people tend to read online. That being said, it’s still wise to provide long-form content by working with a base of around 1,000-2,000 words.
Carrying Out Research
No writer, no matter how experienced and professional, can ever hope to write a great blog post purely off the top of their heads. It doesn’t matter how well you think you know a particular subject: you’ll still need to check your facts on occasion and seek out some inspiration when you find yourself lacking in the ability to turn your ideas into words. Good research is essential for good writing, and it should also be reflected in your blog post. If, for example, you quote a statistic, it looks a lot more credible if you can back it up with a reliable source. On this note, you should be wary of using websites like Wikipedia for serious research and instead focus on original source material from renowned websites, companies, individuals and institutions.
Adding Extra Material
Adding bonus material doesn’t mean padding out your content just to reach some arbitrary and irrelevant word count. It means presenting your written content in an easily readable and informative way. Once you’ve written the base of your blog post, you might want to add in additional paragraphs such as a conclusion, summary or list of references. You may also want to embed tweets and quotes from leading influencers in relevant sections of the article to provide proof of your research and expertise. Another often-overlooked step involves linking to your own posts within the article to help people get more out of your blog.
While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with purely textual content, it’s generally not best-suited to the Internet. Ideally, you’ll need one image at minimum, even if it only exists as an eye-catching way to illustrate the subject matter of a particular blog post. Of course, some topics are inherently more visual than others, in which case you might want to provide some additional material. If you can embed or link to a relevant image, infographic or video at any point in your blog post, then you should do so. The main photo, however, is the most important, since first impressions are everything when it comes to branding. Most importantly, you should avoid clichéd and often irrelevant stock photos.
Wrapping It Up
While it’s generally best to finish a blog post with a conclusion that briefly summarizes the key points made in the rest of the content, you should always leave some room for discussion. Blogging is, in many ways, just another area of social media marketing in that it has its important social elements, mainly in the form of comments. By posing a question at the end of the article that encourages people to leave feedback, you’ll be able to create a conversation and start building a community around it. After all, all of the world’s most successful blogs have developed highly active communities, and their posts attract hundreds of comments.
Getting the Timing Right
The final step to creating a blog post is, of course, to publish it. While you might be tempted to get your work out there in front of the masses as soon as possible, doing so might be a mistake. In social media marketing, timing plays an important role, and the same is true of blogging as well, albeit to a lesser extent. Once you’ve given your work a thorough reading over to correct any errors, you’ll ideally be best off putting it aside until a peak time. The optimal timing will depend on your target audience and industry, so some experimentation can only be expected. For many businesses, the best time to publish new content is weekday mornings. More importantly, however, your timing and post frequency should be consistent.
Although it usually takes quite a few months of consistent effort to build up an engaged community, business blogging presents many important advantages. By crafting excellent content, you’ll be able to start selling yourself as a thought leader and your brand as an important and respected influencer in its industry. It’s not always easy to get it just right, but great content is at the heart of any successful digital marketing strategy.
Justin Soenke is a trend-based serial entrepreneur and thought leader in the areas of cyber-security, web design, SEO, social media, eCommerce and managed IT. Justin has overseen the creation and success of over a dozen companies in the technology, security and media sectors, and is the contributing source for his SB Design Blog, SB Tech Blog and SB SEO Blog among regular contributions to many outside blogs and websites, all for our clients.
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