What is a blog?
Businesses the country-over are being advised to blog, blog, blog and make sure they have a ‘Content Marketing Strategy’. Well I would say yes to that, but if the shoe fits.
According to The Guardian, a ‘web log*’ is a "log" of the web - a diary-style site, in which the author (a "blogger") links to other web pages he or she finds interesting.
Another definition of a blog might be something is more like: ‘A regularly updated website or web page, typically run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style’.
Why do people blog?
Reasons are many, but for a small businesses, it’s a way of continuing your story and offering helpful information at a particular stage of the customer buying journey. It should be just the right amount of content served at just the right time, and short enough for your audience to be able to read in the time they are willing to give you (about 5 minutes).
What’s the purpose of a bog?
A blog’s ‘purpose’ could simply be to inform or qualify what you do. Or, it could be to encourage the reader to find out more or do something next (like read another article, signpost a product page, or attend an event). But it should never, never be salesy.
Blogs are also useful to address buying objections and answer any reoccurring questions that a typical buyer may have. They need an objective and they should be written with a specific persona in mind (customer, influencer, the trade or journalist for example).
What other types of content are there?
‘Content’ could be defined as a landing page on your website, a blog or a news article, an FAQ (frequently asked question), a ‘How To’ guide or checklist, a download, a press release, a magazine article, a brochure, a catalogue and even your stationery for example.
Content and frequency plan
Having a structured content and frequency plan for regular blogging will build a bank of useful information that any reader may come across. It will also serve useful to help your brand be visible to search engines. Your content plan should also include all kinds of content, not just blogs. It should be themed, usually on a quarterly basis around the topics that are of interest to your reader, and that address their needs. It can be themed seasonally around your business and/or the buyer's buying patterns.
How do you structure a blog?
Use these tips for structuring, writing and optimising your blog for search engines. Before you start, ensure you have a detailed customer profile or ‘persona’ in order to focus your article on their wants and needs. Then, subject to your strategy, your article should be in the region of 500 words. Include an introduction, some sub headings, some numbered or bullet points and a strong call to action (CTA).
- Who is the target audience?: Define the persona / Avatar this article is aimed at.
- What's the purpose of the page?: Define the value proposition and any pain points / objections you are trying to address in this article.
- Focus keyword(s): This requires research, but Pick a word or phrase that that is associated with the theme or ‘purpose’ of your article. It should be unique to this article and you should avoid using it elsewhere on your site. Try and use your key focus word near the top of the article, and once near the end. Avoid using it more than 3 or 4 times.
- Desired URL: Most CMS systems (content management systems) allow you to tailor your page URL to be more ‘logical’ and social-media ready. Try and include your focus keyword for maximum optimisation.
SEO Title (Page Title or Meta Title): This needs to be 70 characters max and include your keywords at the beginning if possible. Separate keyword phrases with pipes (keyword | keyword).
- Page Description (Meta description): Length should be 150 characters max and include your keywords and short sentence.
Headings: Every article needs a main heading and at least 2 sub headings. These are defined as ‘H1’ and ‘H2’s and are searchable by search engines, and scannable by readers (real people scan first and may decide to read an article on the strength of the headings/sub headings). The title s probably the hardest part of the article, so take your time in getting it right.
- Links: Link to external sites where you can. Search engines love it and it shows we are not ‘all about us’.
- Call to action (CTA): Always include a call to action – ideally you should be pointing them at a product page or further read on a problem you have solved. Pointing them at a case study would also be a good idea.
Lists: Use bullet points or numbered lists in places if you can to break up the text. List with odd numbers stand out over the boring ’10 things…’.
- Imagery: Consider title imagery and secondary imagery, charts, tables, infographics etc. Don't forget copyright.
- Hashtags: Hashtags are a chosen words or term (no spaces) that are used across the web as a search term. They primarily were used on Twitter, but are now used commonly across many other platforms.
SEO and 'Metainfo'
I’m not a great fan of pre-meditated SEO (search engine optimisation). I believe you can get great engagement and find ways of people to find your brand without big investment in expensive SEO techniques and ‘key word stuffing’. The trick is placing your content where your audience hangs out and be helpful and relevant. Think ratio not volume. A website that gets 10,000 unique views a month can achieve the same results as one that gets 50,000 with the right content strategy.
My top tips:
It’s worth noting that people tend to scan articles first and make a decision on whether they will actually read the article based on the image, headings and bulleted/numbered lists. Write like you, but bear in mind the web is awash with content and yours needs to ‘sound’ like you. Be as unique as possible to engage our audience. Think ‘why would they read it?’ and ‘what insight would they get?’.
Also, readers love practical tips and advice that they can take away and implement today, if you can include some in your article, even better.
If you are sending your article out to guest on someone else’s website or publication don't forget it's is already somewhere else and credit the right people.
- Tell don’t sell – write to be helpful and give tips and advice.
- Speak plainly – don’t use elaborate language or acronyms.
- Remember your audience – write for their needs at all times and don’t give in to the SEO monkey.
- The next step – always include a strong call to action.
- The first step – Always write as if this is the first piece of content someone has ever seen from you.
And finally, I'm working on a whole FAQ section just for blogging, so please look out for that coming soon.
You might also like my article on 'How to structure a case study'. Many of my thoughts here apply to there too.
*If you ask Google ‘what is a blog?’ you will probably get a Wikipedia definition that says: ‘The term "weblog" (web log) was coined by Jorn Barger on 17 December 1997. The short form, "blog", was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase we blog in the sidebar of his blog Peterme.com in April or May 1999.’