It’s easy to talk yourself out of blogging, but when you hear that Hubspot rate short articles the 3rd most effective content asset, you can start to see why taking finger to keyboard can really work for you.
The hardest part of any blog is getting started, so here are our 8 steps to writing a great blog to get you going.
1. Choose a topic your customer cares about
Sometimes we are so close to our subject matter that we get writers block, so the best place to start is in your readers’ shoes. Think of topics that are interesting and useful to them and talk to those topics, as opposed to stressing about finding something novel to say.
Great sources of inspiration are :
- What has taken up a lot of your time recently?
- What questions are you being asked by contacts, prospects and clients?
- What hot topics are being discussed in your industry that you can add an angle to?
2. Do your homework
There are millions of papers, articles, blogs etc out there to draw inspiration or data points from, and a great blog delivers your perspective on what you are sharing. When you are researching, consider :
- What length should your blog be? Check out the competition. 600 words is standard, but different industries have different best practices.
- Are there complex topics which you can summarize and simplify so they are more digestible to your reader?
- Are there topics being over-simplified, where you can demonstrate your expertise?
- Is there analysis or insights to which you can add your personal thoughts or experience?
- Which keywords (search phrases) are being used that you’d like to rank in Google for?
- Never plagiarise – Google cross references enormous amounts of data and will mark you down for content it doesn’t see as an original angle on a subject.
3. Create your plan
Hold back from the temptation to bash something out on your keyboard when you’ve had an idea for a great blog. Stand back for 15 minutes and document the following :
- What is the intention of the blog? (e.g. improve local search volumes, showcase a recent success, education piece, or demonstrate thought leadership)
- Which persona are you talking to? Sometimes you want to talk to people who are discovering you, and others to re-enforce your expertise with people who know your industry well.
- What are your calls to action?
- What is the main keyword you want to rank for? From your research, which other keywords should be included in your copy?
- Most businesses don’t optimise their blogs for snippets (Google’s “people also ask”) – which questions would you like Google to refer to you for the answer to?
4. Craft an intriguing headline and an attention grabbing intro
It’s widely understood that the typical attention span for internet readers is about 8 seconds, so your headline and intro are critical. The Washington Post recently reported that 60% of readers don’t read past the headlines, so how do you get your readers to stick with you and scroll down to read what you have to say?
Your headline should be no more than 60 characters long, and offer just enough information that your reader wants to know more – here are some Dos and Don’ts as a guide :
Do let them know that you are going to resolve one of their problems
Don’t use jargon
Do talk about results after they have implemented your advice
Don’t waffle – get to the point
Do pose a question
Don’t use your Brand name – they are already on your site if they are reading it!
Do have a little fun – Numbers, Alliteration, Puns, Rhymes etc all catch the reader’s eye
Your intro is a 1-4 sentence opener bridging your headline and your body text. Think of it like a trailer for a movie – it should grab attention! You are drawing people in so that they can’t wait for the main event.
Here is a good example from Aja Frost, Staff Writer for Hubspot, leaving us on a cliffhanger :
How to Become an Entrepreneur With no Money or Experience
By : Aja Frost
Being your own boss, calling all the shots, hustling to hit your goals – for many people, entrepreneurship is the ultimate career goal.
But as awesome as running your own business sounds, it’s also incredibly difficult.
5. Use impactful images
“A picture speaks a thousand words” remains as true today as ever. If you are presenting data, then a great graph summarises brilliantly. If you are describing a process, a diagram helps visualise it. If you are telling a story, a photograph helps bring it alive.
If you want to use stock photos, always check that they are available for commercial use. The safest way to do this is through Canva, Unsplash, Picography, Death to the Stock Photo or similar. These are occasionally free, but are usually subscription services – it’s only fair the photographer gets paid after all. If you know who the photographer is, credit them too.
Also, don’t forget that Google can’t read photos (yet), so you have to give your photos a title and description for Google to use. Use the “alt text” field to describe the image using your target keywords. Use the “description” field to describe the content of the image for people with sight impairment using website readers.
Last but not least, size matters!
If your image is too big, it will slow down your website, so double check image sizes preferred by your website platform. (Use 72dpi as a guide if you don’t know)
6. Build Links
Linking is a great way to get your readers exploring your site, or looking at previous blogs / landing pages on related subject matter. Use the landing page or blog title you are linking to as the link copy so that you reader knows they’ve ended up in the right place. 2 internal links per blog is current considered best practise.
Where you have referenced information from other websites, and that website gives a deeper / more technical insight into the point you are making, link to that external site too – this gives your reader greater depth, demonstrates how well read you are on your subject matter, and gives the other site a precious “backlink”, which they may even see fit to return if they like your content.
7. Create a strong Conclusion
I have always disliked pieces of analysis that show you what is going on, but don’t answer the “so what?” question.
For a great blog conclusion, always tie your comments together with a summary that re-confirms the main message behind the post, refers to the promise in the headline and the intro, and reminds the reader of how your content will benefit them.
8. Check your Meta Data, Proof Read, Publish and Share
Your website may well have content optimisation software, which helps you check you have ticked all the right boxes for SEO, but as an outline, these are the top tips for checking that you have everything covered :
- Check you have used the keywords in your plan in your main copy, (including in your image names), but without over-use, so that your text reads naturally.
- Write your post title (under 60 characters) and meta description (under 150 characters) which must include your primary keyword phrase. Your title and description are what Google reads when it’s deciding if your blog is relevant to a search and is what it shows in response to a search. As an example, here is the meta data for our blog page :
When it comes to proof-reading, nothing beats a person reading your blog to check it against your plan, and for flow, accuracy and grammar – it’s worth taking the time! Nothing disrupts credibility as much as a piece which doesn’t meet the promise in the headline, or that doesn’t read well.
You are now ready to Publish your blog!
It doesn’t end there though, you need to tell people that you have published new content through your newsletter and / or social media posts and shares. Don’t be tempted to precis your blog – think of these communication channels as teasers to persuade people to come to your site to find out more.
Blogs are a great way to build regular fresh, relevant content for your website, building authority and trust for your business, whilst engaging your target audience.
Also, from a technical perspective, each blog has it’s own URL which is read by Google, increasing your chances of being found for search.
Yes, it takes time to write a great blog, but done well, the results will be worth it!
If you want to create blogs, and want support in creating a framework to get you going, or you simply don’t have the time and want someone to take it blogging off your hands, we can help. Please just contact us for a preliminary chat about what you’d like to achieve through your content marketing.