Why should you be blogging in the first place?
The evolution of the common blog and how it has come to be utilised is quite fascinating. As the internet took the world by storm in the 90s and more and more platforms became available people spotted an opportunity to get their voices heard in a way that was previously unthinkable. By the early noughties rudimentary blogging sites such as Open Diary and Live Journal were gaining popularity. However, it was the arrival of the likes of WordPress and soon after Tumblr that really heralded the arrival of the modern-day blogger and at the last count (2013) there were an estimated 152 million blogs sitting proudly in the cyberspace menagerie. Originally used as online diaries and platforms from which people could share knowledge and views about their own personal interests, the business opportunities blogging provided soon caught the attention of industry. It’s not difficult to see why. The statistics surrounding commercial blogging are simply breath-taking. The purpose of this paper is how to write great blogs but it very much worth looking at why you should first.
Search Engine Optimisation
In the digital space SEO is everything. It’s no good your site occupying its own little corner of the world-wide web if no-one gets to see it. TrafficGenerationCafe discovered that by adding at least 52 blog posts, traffic to your site increases by 77%. 59% of SEO professionals rate blogging as one of their top inbound marketing activities, and have subsequently created a blog or increased their blogging efforts (Moz 2012 SEO Industry Survey) and it has been found that companies that blog receive 97% more inbound links. Those in the know about SEO certainly rate blogging as a key part of positioning a website as high as possible in the Google search results. Volume is important: a repository of at least 52 blog posts (that’s just one a week for a year) doesn’t just result in an incremental increase in traffic: it leads to a big spike.
That brings us on to the next point; how often should you blog? HubSpot’s 2013 Marketing Benchmarks survey of more than 7,000 businesses provided some revealing answers. Small businesses with 1-10 employees receive the biggest benefit of blogging more frequently: they can double their sales leads by increasing their number of blog posts from 3-5 to 6-8 per month. Businesses that blog more than 20 times a month generate 5 times more traffic than those who blog fewer than 4 times a month and 82% of marketers who blog daily have converted readers into customers. As opposed to 57% of marketers who blog monthly.
It’s not just traffic though, blogging regularly has been proven to not just attract visitors but actual custom as well. In fact, small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than small businesses that do not (ThinkCreative). 79% of companies who have a blog reported a positive ROI for inbound marketing in 2013, compared with just 20% of businesses without a blog (Hubspot) and B2B marketers who blog generate 67% more leads than their non-blogging competitors (InsideView).
So, as we can see, blogging is a serious business that can lead to serious business so the next step is looking at how we can make ours stand out in a bustling crowd.
Putting it all together
Know your audience
This might seem obvious but it’s amazing how many fall at this first hurdle. Build a picture of what your customers and prospective customers are interested in and what products they use and rely on. If your client base are predominantly young, entrepreneurial types it’s no good blogging about how to set up the right email. Chances are good to excellent they’ll know already. But you could blog about innovative ways to use emails more effectively. It’s these seemingly minor tweaks that will either keep your readers reading or have them looking elsewhere for content.
Choosing the right title is important in refining your writing and maintaining a trajectory for the blog. A title such as ‘How to use the internet effectively’ is way too broad and in attempting to provide the answer you are liable to go off on tangents. Also, the broader the topic the more diluted the information becomes in order to keep the blog at a manageable length. No-one’s going to sit down and read a dissertation and frankly, unless things aren’t going great, you don’t have time to write one. So, keep the title specific, you’ll be able to provide more quality information and by only ever dealing in specifics you’ll also rarely have a shortage of things to blog about in the first place.
Arguably the most important part of your blog. It’s here you hook the reader and if you get it wrong it doesn’t matter how good the main copy is, few will be sticking around to read it. Keep it brief, keep the language accessible and don’t try and answer the question the blog poses, else what’s the point in reading on? To start with consider using a joke or an impressive statistic to immediately grab them and from there move into the main part of the intro. A good device is to contextualise what it is you’re blogging about. If you’re writing about the benefits of Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony, start by giving some historical context as to how VoIP came into being and where it came from. Doing this familiarises the reader with the product and prepares them for what’s coming. Alternatively, you could highlight a problem with legacy telephony that they may have (or be) experiencing themselves, this will resonate and provides a connection to their business that will make them eager to continue reading.
So, you’ve got your title locked down and you’ve written a killer intro, now to actually write the thing. The likelihood is you’ll know what you want to say but there does need to be an order to it. Think about what you want to start with and what next piece of information neatly follows on from it. If it’s going to be a long piece, break the text up with headings and sub-headings. Consider using tips, bullet points and lists when and if appropriate. It makes the blog less intimidating for the reader and makes writing it a lot easier for you.
This is the trickiest part. The uncomfortable truth is that, in the same way not everyone has a natural affinity to mechanics, or not everyone can draw; not everyone can write naturally. It’s a skill like any other but don’t be put off if you feel it’s not an innate strength. If you’re worried about the writing, the better your plan, the easier you’ll find it. Beyond that stick to the common-sense basics. Don’t have your sentences too long, avoid repeating the same words and phrases and whatever you do, don’t write in text message abbreviations. If you make a joke that you don’t think is obvious stick ONE exclamation on the end, for the love of God don’t put ‘lol’. Keep an eye on your word count as well, Google will ignore anything under 200 words. Longer articles succeed not necessarily because of the number of words they contain, but the amount of insight, data and research they contain. Put simply, if you want likes and retweets, your content needs to be helpful – and a longer article gives you the space to go into detail. If a blog post is greater than 1,500 words, on average it receives 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more Facebook likes (Quick Sprout). The best piece of advice though is simply to enjoy it. Writing can be a lot of fun and the beauty of blogs is they’re supposed to be casual and relaxed in their approach and style. You’re not writing a whitepaper or a manual, that’s a whole different ball game.
Call to Action
This goes at the end of your blog and is critical if you want it to generate leads, which obviously you do. Assuming the reader has made it this far you can safely assume you have educated and entertained them sufficiently enough that they will be hungry for more. So, feed them! Your blog most likely covers an issue you can help them with so add links to your website if you’ve posted it on social media and vice versa. Provide links to other related blogs if you have any or to more detailed whitepapers and manuals. The point is you don’t want them to finish reading and then leave. The more contact they have with you digitally, the more contact they are likely to have with you financially.
This is the boring bit unfortunately but if you duck out of going through your blog with a fine tooth-comb, you can undo all your great work. You must always keep in mind that your blog is an advert for your company. If your writing is littered with spelling mistakes, incorrectly deployed punctuation, words used out of context and sentences that simply don’t make sense, you must appreciate how this reflects on your business. Once you’re happy the blog is error free see if you can find some images to incorporate. As social networks treat content with images more prominently, visuals are now more responsible than ever for the success of your blog content in social media. In fact, it's been shown that content with relevant images receives 94% more views than content without relevant images.
Search Engine Optimisation
The final step before posting your blog is to do what you can to make sure it appears as near to the top of Google searches as possible. The trick here is to use ‘keywords’ that people are likely to search for. Don't obsess over how many keywords to include. If there are opportunities to incorporate keywords you're targeting and it won't impact reader experience, do it. Here's a little reminder of what you can and should look for:
Page Title and Headers
Most blogging platforms use your post title as your page title, which is the most important on-page SEO element. If you’ve been specific, as discussed earlier, your title should have the requisite number of keywords. Don't over-complicate your title by trying to fit keywords where they don't naturally belong, remember the reader experience comes first. Also, try to keep your title and headers short, under 65 characters is a good rule of thumb and prevents them getting truncated in search engine results.
Anchored text is the word or words that link to another page either on your website or to another website. Carefully select which keywords you want to link to other pages on your site, search engines take that into consideration when ranking your page for certain keywords. It's also important to consider which pages you link to. Try linking to pages that you want to rank well for that keyword. You could end up getting it to rank on Google's first page of results instead of its second page, a veritable blogger’s nirvana.
Over 60% of online time is now spent on mobile devices so having a website optimised for mobile viewing is essential. Not only does it radically improve user experience but it also racks up valuable SEO points as well. In fact, in 2015 Google made a change to its algorithm that now penalises sites that aren't mobile optimized. This year (2016), Google rolled out their second version of the mobile-friendly algorithm update, putting added pressure on those businesses forcing their online visitors to squint at their mobile screens and clumsily expand and contract pages with their fingers and thumbs.
Hopefully this paper has helped in understanding not just how to write a good blog but the importance of doing it in the first place. As so much of our business is done online now our websites aren’t just a shop front, they’re the actual shop. Think of your blogs as helpful and friendly shop assistants answering the questions your customers have and pointing them in the direction of the products and services they need, that you provide. Maybe create a plan or timetable with dates agreed for when blogs will be uploaded so it becomes part and parcel of the running of your business.
Good luck and happy blogging!