If you're a writer at heart, you might think writing a great blog post means telling an unforgettable story. If you're in a marketing role though, you know a good story by itself isn't enough. You're under pressure to develop and sustain a strong brand that maintains its edge in an increasingly competitive marketplace, increase traffic to your new website and deliver more qualified leads to your sales team.
You might wonder whether writing a great blog post is even worth the time and effort when you can write one that's "good enough" a lot faster. It's true — the internet is littered with mediocre blog posts, some of which even show up at the top of search engine results pages.
Why strive for greatness in this one area when you have so many other priorities?
It's a fair question.
The truth is, a strong blogging strategy should be a core part of your brand experience. It can help you achieve your other goals, but with so many others publishing high-quality blogs, the bar is a lot higher today than it was even a few years ago. It's a lot more difficult to get found online and to keep someone's attention. The average blog post today is over 1100 words, almost twice as long as it was five years ago, according to OptinMonster. The lead generation service provider notes the average time it takes to write a blog has also gone up to three and a half hours, and 66% of bloggers are publishing only a few times a month now instead of a few times a week. They're also spending more time updating older blog posts.
When I first wrote this post several years ago, it was a breezy piece called 10 Simple Steps To Writing The Perfect Blog Post. The overall theme was to focus on solving your readers' problems, follow a basic formula and just start writing. The barrier to entry was lower then. Now, my advice is to focus on quality over quantity. Blogging is a long-term strategy. It can take several months for a single post to start ranking on a search engine results page and years for it to make it to the first page of Google. A lot of blog posts will never even make it to the first page, and the only way anyone will find them is through an email notification or a social media post.
If you just start writing, you could end up wasting a lot of time and effort on blogs that will only have a lifespan of a few days.
So before you get started, make sure you know how this blog post fits into your larger content marketing strategy. Make sure you have something to add to the conversation that's already happening. And make sure you have a plan for promoting it beyond just posting the link to your social media channels a few times. It's still possible to achieve great results with blogging, but the rules have changed. Here are some new writing tips that will help you write better blog posts today.
Before you start writing, consider your marketing goals and your buyer personas.
If your primary goal is to increase new traffic to your website, your blog will have a different focus than it would if you're primarily writing to educate existing customers.
Write with your readers in mind, always considering what will be most valuable to them. If you can't answer the question, 'Why should my readers care?' then you need to keep brainstorming.
Not sure what to say? Here are some questions to help you get started:
One of the biggest roadblocks to blogging is assuming you have to say something that's never been said before. That's not necessarily true; you just have to find a way to say it better. The fact that you're still in business should underscore the fact that you have something unique to offer. Is it your process? Your people? Your experience?
Think about what you want to say, and find out what’s already been said. Then consider what questions are left unanswered, how you can bring your own insights to the topic or make the topic easier to read.
The internet is now so saturated with content that it's no longer enough to just write a great blog post anymore. If you want people beyond your existing customers and blog subscribers to find it, it has to be well-optimized for search. That starts by identifying a keyword that has a relatively high volume but a relatively low difficulty to rank for, meaning there isn't a lot of competition for it.
It's easier said than done, especially in competitive sectors where companies have been blogging for SEO for over a decade.
If you're a technology company that offers solutions for the remote workplace, you're going to have a really hard time standing out in a crowded space.
Keyword research tools like Semrush and SurferSEO can give you a quick reality check.
If you're trying to focus broadly on the remote workplace, Semrush shows how difficult it will be, based on how many other sources have published content on this topic and how authoritative those sources are.
In addition to writing a blog post that's at least 1,000 words, you'll have to get backlinks from authoritative sources. In other words, you'll need to give sources like McKinsey, Gartner, Forbes or Harvard Business Review a good reason to link to your blog post when they've already covered the topic in detail themselves.
Generally, the only way to do that is to convince experts from these outlets to contribute to your post or publish some original data they'll be interested in sharing with their own readers.
Assuming you don't have the time or the resources to do that, a better option is to find a keyword that's more specific and less competitive.
The question, "How does technology enable remote working?" gets 70 monthly searches and has a much lower difficulty score. It's still a competitive keyword, but at least you have a chance to rank for it by following SEO best practices.
In addition to crawling your blog post to determine whether you have a specific keyword in all the right places, Google also considers the expertise, authority and trust of your content when it determines how it will appear in search results. Online sources can be a good starting point, but it's not enough to just rehash what other sources have published and give them credit with links. If you don't have a clear point of view or the ability to talk about a certain topic with authority, you need to find someone who does. Hopefully that's someone within your organization, but it could also be a partner or an industry expert who can add context or an interesting angle to a discussion that's already happening. It might also be one of your customers.
The more you can include expert opinions someone can't find anywhere else, the easier it will be for people to find it — and the more impactful it will be.
You might think you're ready to start writing after getting input from an expert, but resist the urge to jump right in. Your first idea usually isn't your most original.
"A good creative process takes that first idea and asks, 'What can I add to this,'" digital marketer Jonathan Crossfield said in a Content Marketing Institute article. To stay inspired, he reads a lot of things that aren't necessarily related to the topic he's pursuing at the moment, like Greek mythology and legends.
Often it helps to think through the direction of a piece of content and get a clear understanding of how it will be organized before you begin writing.
Consider your audience and what you want to offer them:
Look for common themes as you research the topic can help you figure out 3-7 main bullet points. These will be your subheads. If you can, write these first. Then you can fill in each main point with supporting details, sources, anecdotes and quotes.
If you get stuck before you get started because you're trying to think of the most amazing intro ever written, it might help to write the body of your blog post first and save this for lat.
When I think about writing a great blog intro, I remember a journalism professor who taught me to be diligent about eliminating 'throat clearing' ledes. You've seen them plenty of times: the three-sentence intros that state the obvious without telling the reader why they invest any more time hearing what you have to say.
Here's an example:
"With millions of people now working remotely, it's important for companies to have the right technology to support them."
No surprise here.
Most of us knew this even before the pandemic.
A better way to start this blog post would be to paint a picture of what's at stake for an IT leader who hasn't invested in whatever technology we're talking about here. Or tell us why most HR directors think they have the right technology in place, but they're forgetting this one crucial element.
Maybe they have invested in new technology, but employees aren't using it consistently because it doesn't connect well to the solutions they already use or support the processes they already have in place. It should also be specific to your audience and acknowledge you understand their struggle is real. A post about technology could apply to anyone. A post about how you're missing opportunities to create a better onboarding experience with technology hits on a common pain point for HR leaders.
A blog post without a call to action (CTA) is a dead end. You want to make it clear to the reader what they should do next in a way that's intriguing and obvious. This depends on the focus of your blog post and where it fits into the buyer's journey. If the goal of the post is to entertain or educate, it might be too soon to ask them to schedule a demo. They just met you; they're not ready for a long-term commitment to anything. Asking them to subscribe to your blog or newsletter (and telling them what they'll miss if they don't) is a good first step.
Blogs that are geared toward someone who is weighing their options or potentially more ready to buy can be more direct.
Other CTA examples might be:
Don't wait until the end of your blog post to drop in that CTA. You should include at least two internal links in your post that direct people back to a webpage describing the solution you want them to know more about. Consider including one of those links within the first paragraph of your post and adding another related link later. A well-designed CTA will often perform better than a link alone. Testing different types of CTAs and designs can help you learn more about what your readers are most likely to click.
Here's a reality check for you: 8 out of 10 readers will never read past your headline. That means it better be exceptional.
Think of the topic you’ve chosen and the keyword phrase that makes the most sense to describe it. (Ex., “manufacturing marketing strategy”)
Use the following formula as a guideline: Number + Trigger Word + Adjective + Promise
Ex., 6 Ways To Kick Your Manufacturing Marketing Strategy Into High Gear
Your headline should be no longer than 70 characters. For more tips on writing a successful headline, check out this blog post.
To make your blog stand out, you’ll need a strong feature image. Avoid something with words or a lot of distractions, since the title of your post will appear over this image. Here are some good sites to find free stock photo
If you use someone’s photo from another site, check to make sure it’s free and available for commercial use. Don’t forget to give credit where credit is due. Next, look for a few photos to use throughout your post.
Think screenshots, quotes, stats or relevant images that illustrate a process. A good rule of thumb: Aim for one image for every 300 words. Make sure you save it with a file name that includes your keyword phrase and give it alt text that's good for both accessibility and SEO. You can achieve this with a sentence or phrase that describes what's happening in the photo and why it's relevant.
For instance, "A doctor takes a patient's blood pressure to illustrate a good patient experience."
Finally, size and format it appropriately. The dimensions will depend on the formatting of your blog, but if it's too large, it will impact the load time of your page. Ideally, your image should be 72 dpi. We recommend optimizing all images and using a lossless format like PNG.
If you're using a good content management system (CMS), this part should be a breeze. The HubSpot CMS is particularly helpful because it tells you exactly what you need to do to optimize your post for search and for the user experience. Finally, be proud of what you post and share it with the world. Don't just tweet it out once and forget about it. Share it on LinkedIn, Facebook, and any other social network you use, remembering to customize your post for each one. If you use Hootsuite or another social media management tool, you can even autoschedule a batch of posts over the next few months.
Include it in the lineup of content you post from now on, rotating it in with newer pieces from time to time. Link back to it from other posts when you can. Revisit it a year from now and consider updating it with new information.
Although the time you spend writing your blog may be fleeting compared to everything else you do, the best thing about a blog is its long lifespan. By writing a great blog, you've created a new indexed page for your website that will continue to drive traffic for years to come.
This blog post is a good example. When I first published it in 2015, it was barely a blip on the radar.
A few years later, I updated it to better optimize it for search and it began to rank for a number of keywords related to writing a great blog post and blog writing tips. The traffic continued to build, peaking a full two years after I updated and republished it.
Since then, it has gotten over 15,000 views and continues to be a top-performing blog for us.
Writing a high-performing blog post takes much more time and effort today, but if you have patience and the right partnerships in place, the payoff is like compounding interest. It just keeps growing long after you've made the initial investment.
Many marketing leaders are being pulled in so many different directions that they don't have the time to research the best keyword opportunities, interview their own in-house experts to develop a unique point of view, write posts that are engaging, attractive and optimized for search, much less put together a plan for promoting them.
That's why they hire us.
We have a full team of experts in SEO, content marketing, design and paid media to support you in your efforts. If you're ready to start seeing better returns from your blogging, schedule a time to talk with us.