Blogging is a great way to increase your brand’s exposure. It’s integral to successful content marketing. But almost 60% of marketers admit they’re not effective.
So the tips you’ve been reading and implementing could be doing more harm than good.
By offering consumers engaging, entertaining, and educational blog posts, you’re establishing yourself as an authority in their eyes.
But with growing competition, you need more than a well-written article to experience success.
By definition, a blog is:
“a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.” ( Google Dictionary )
The concise definition of blogging may trick you into believing that it’s simple. Maybe writing comes naturally to you.
It did to me.
Writing is not inherently difficult. Writer’s block and burnout are annoying, to say the least, but the right techniques and preventative measures can keep you typing.
Writing is not as physically demanding as other jobs either, aside from the lack of sleep most of us experience.
It’s mentally draining at times, of course. But there are techniques that can alleviate some of those pains as well.
In reality, writing is not that hard.
But creating a post that’s engaging, educational, and entertaining, and that converts readers into a loyal following, and ultimately into loyal customers, is accomplished with much more than a natural ability to write well.
1. Conduct market & competition research.
Markets are saturated.
There’s an endless sea of content online. (Growing by the second.)
A plan to appeal to as many people as possible sounds great. And it’s a great idea at the top of the funnel.
But the only way to boost conversions is to put your content in front of the readers that want your content.
The quality of your copy means nothing if it’s not getting read, and conversions won’t go up unless the audience is receptive.
Make sure the audience is receptive by conducting market research.
Observe your competitors.
It’s likely that your competition has already spent a considerable portion of their marketing budget on target research.
Check their social media pages, posts, blogs, and websites.
Note the keywords they use most often as well as the format (text, video, audio, etc) they tend to focus on. This will give you an idea of how effective written content may be with your target audience.
Check Google for mentions of your competitors.
It’s all useful.
Content marketing levels the playing field, in my opinion. It allows small brands to connect with consumers on a personal level.
Utilize Google scholar.
Using Google Scholar, you can research case studies, psycho-analyses, sociology, and other results related to your industry. This includes analyses of consumers and competitors.
Even without using Google scholar, you can use Google to find a wealth of information.
You have to be willing to read through thousands of words to gain insight.
With insight comes advantage.
Create an audience persona.
We’ve all heard of customer personas.
It’s applicable here because you’re offering a product, essentially, and hoping for a profitable R.O.I.
The return may not be monetary directly, but it’s value all the same in the form of conversions.
I’ve added the persona at step three because it’s accepted that you’re going to have to make a few assumptions. These assumptions will be justified or clarified soon. But for now, use the knowledge you’ve gained from steps one and two and this nifty persona creator from HubSpot.
Add a survey to your site.
Adding a survey to your site is a great way to gauge the audience you’ve already built.
What’s more, it’s a great way to confirm the assumptions you made in step three.
It should be obvious, but ensure that your surveys include brand-related questions.
I recommend using the persona creator from HubSpot linked above as a guide for what questions you should include on your survey.
Observe other bloggers.
Observing other bloggers in the same niche is beneficial because a) they’re part of your competition, and b) like your industry competitors, the other bloggers have probably done substantial research as well.
Use a keyword scraper to compile a list of the keywords used most often. Moreover, pay attention to the topics they cover.
Make sure you do it better.
2. Document blogging goals.
It’s important to document what you hope to accomplish with your blog.
For most small brands, this will include increased exposure and a jump in conversion rates.
Whatever your goals are for your blog, document them.
It’s necessary to document your “blogging goals” because it’s necessary to document all of your goals.
The biggest advantage of documenting goals is that you’re more likely to stay committed and consistent if you have to read it every day.
I personally use sticky notes on the mirror. I force myself to read short-and-long-term goals on a daily basis.
A documented goal is tangible. It’s not just a concept that we can turn off when we don’t feel like working. Written goals are consistently there.
It’s motivating. Short-term “day goals” should be treated like checklists. Every time you get to check a box, it gives you the motivation to push through to the next task and bust through the next obstacle.
Long-term goals should be reviewed every morning so you refresh your mind and body and remind yourself why all the work and “stress” is necessary.
Documented goals build confidence and confidence leads to greatness.
3. Create engaging headlines.
An engaging headline is critical. It’s one of the most important points in this list.
If your headline doesn’t pop out and grab the reader’s attention, nothing else matters.
The only point that precedes an engaging headline is strategic publishing and posting. The where is crucial, but the headline is just as important.
A lot of blogs like to make a long list of steps for creating the perfect headline.
In truth, previous research has taught us enough to knock this one out of the park.
And it’s not that difficult.
Use odd numbers. Seven, 13, 15, 19, and so on.
I can’t explain why, but it works.
I’ve experienced some success going below seven, but I think it’s less-effective because consumers feel like the article won’t be worth their time if it’s not at least seven points.
Use strong adjectives.
Depending on your industry, there’s an almost endless supply of powerful adjectives to choose from.
For those of you who don’t know what an adjective is, don’t leave the page just to Google it. It’s a word that describes something else.
The reason I say use strong or powerful adjectives is that these nouns tend to produce emotional reactions from readers.
You get the point.
If you’re creating a list-article, AKA: Listicle, you start with an odd number, then add a power-adjective.
Sell the results, not the process.
Instead of stuffing the headline with the service or process you’re covering, sell them on the amazing results they’ll experience if they listen to you.
For instance, instead of naming this article “13 Steps To Proper Blogging,” I’m inclined to sell you on the great success you’ll experience if you implement the 13 steps to proper blogging.
You don’t want to read a blog about blogging. But you do want to increase your brand’s name-recognition, exposure, and revenue, right?
Utilize the “How-to”
How-to articles are popular.
A how-to isn’t quite as effective as a list-post, for whatever reason, but it’s not far off.
How-to articles promise education. They promise to teach the reader something they don’t already know.
The trick here is to tag on a unique benefit to the end of the headline. For instance, you may know of a special trick that allows people to whistle like pros in under three minutes. Your unique benefit would be: “… in under three minutes.”
Anyone can teach a person to whistle with enough time, but you can teach someone to whistle in 180 seconds or less!
(If you can actually do this, please contact me asap. I’ve been left out my whole life and I’m tired of it, quite frankly. Even my eight-year-old whistles. I think I even taught him how, but for some reason am unable to perform the feat.)
Harness the power of “mistakes”
By using the “# Common Mistakes Dog Groomers Make” formula, you’re actually piquing the reader’s curiosity.
It’s possible they know a few dog groomers and would love to throw this in their face. Or maybe a segment of your readers groom dogs for a living. Either way, you’ve taken advantage of the human need to know what’s behind the curtain.
By using this formula and turning it onto the readers, it’s even more effective.
No one wants to be “the last to know.”
So if there’s a new trick or technique to do something, makeup for girls, for instance, they’re not going to skip over your article promising to reveal the three common mistakes they’ve been making.
At the end of the day, the highest-performing headlines are those that stir up emotional reactions within consumers.
Many financial decisions are made based solely on emotional reactions.
Typing that out, it seems ridiculous to do. But the truth is, we all do it.
Convincing a reader to make a conscious decision to click on your headline isn’t the most difficult part.
It’s one of the most important parts… but it’s not the hardest.
4. Optimize your openers.
Article openers, as I call them, are important for all the same reasons headlines are important.
If your headline isn’t on point, no one is going to click on it. And if your opener isn’t on point, no one is going to stay longer than two or three seconds.
The goal is to get the reader to stay on your website for at least 30 seconds.
Most visitors leave after two.
Your opening paragraph is what persuades the reader to continue on to the next. This process continues until they reach the “meat” of your article, which is the proposition you promised in your headline.
Storytelling is powerful. Starting a paragraph with a scene is great for sinking your hooks into readers. Create prompts or scenes that they need to read. Let their imagination do some of the work by leaving out small details. Make them want to know what’s next.
Use Google to learn more about powerful storytelling techniques and tricks used by the experts.
Entrepreneur has a piece, for example, entitled 7 Tips for Storytelling That Dazzles Audiences.
Research the topic thoroughly. It’s worth the effort.
5. Write with consistency in tone and style, using active language as often as possible.
Approximately two websites are launched every second worldwide.
Consumers have an endless stream of information. They don’t have to read your posts to stay up-to-date. And they don’t owe it to you to keep up with your content.
We make decisions based on emotional triggers.
When we come across a really useful blog post, we react emotionally. We actually feel joy.
When we see a trend of quality and consistency coming from a specific blog or website, we begin to favor it. We put our confidence in the authority of the blogger who releases that content.
You and I both do this, even when we don’t realize it.
Why would other consumers act any differently?
Consistency doesn’t just apply to frequency. It applies to just about every attribute of a website or blog.
Frequency is certainly important. But style and voice are equally important.
A checklist is a great way to stay consistent. It provides a repeatable method you can follow for each post you publish.
Shareaholic published a great checklist you can implement right away. It consists of 20 things you should double check prior to publishing every post.
6. Break up paragraphs into bite-sized chunks of two or three sentences max.
Easy readability separates your educational and informal blog posts from related case-studies on Google Scholar. If your reader wanted to read an 8,000-word research paper, they would find one.
But they ended up at a niche-specific blog. This means they’re looking for information they can use now.
This doesn’t mean you can’t be successful publishing 8,000-word blog posts. In fact, long-form posts consistently outperform 500-word pieces because of the perceived value.
But you’re not writing a chapter book. You’re creating an informal blog post.
Many of the rules we learned in high school go out the window.
Break up your content in small chunks to make it easier for consumers to scan it.
Not only do readers prefer bite-sized pieces, but Google bots are also aware of the importance of scannability and readability.
7. Include images, graphs, diagrams, bullet-lists, numbered-lists, quotes, and infographics to help break up text and improve readability & scannability.
Images and graphics attract a younger audience.
Instagram and Twitter promote image-heavy posts with very little text. Readers like images.
They also like data to back up certain claims. As a rule of thumb, if the point you’re making isn’t universally known, it’s a good idea to include a visual chart. This improves retention among readers.
They’ll absorb the data and retain it better. This will improve your name recognition as readers will retain more data from your post than from competition posts lacking visual charts.
There are, however, certain segments of a specific market that rather enjoy text-heavy posts.
This is another area in which target research vastly improves engagement.
8. Include at least one Call-to-action (CTA) in every post.
Even though your audience is full of readers, they’re not mind readers. If you don’t include a CTA, they might like, comment, or even share, but they won’t take the next step to become a customer on their own.
You’ve got to nudge them.
It’s not rude. It’s a friendly nudge.
After all, they need your products or services. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be writing to them, right?
A CTA is a message that tells readers what they should do next.
Effective CTA’s are useful in organic campaigns as well as in conjunction with paid campaigns.
The more specific and clear your message, the more effective your CTA, and the more rewarding your efforts.
Use strong verbs to begin CTA.
Use verbs like:
- Fill out
- Find out
- Call now (for mobile readers.)
You get the idea.
The term you use depends on the action you want the reader to take, obviously.
Use emotion provoking terms.
Enthusiasm is contagious. If your CTA includes enthusiastic language, it’ll provoke the reader to become enthusiastic and emotionally driven.
Emotionally driven readers make decisions right then and there.
Solve a problem.
If your content and CTA doesn’t promise to solve a problem, it’s worthless.
If it promises to solve a problem your reader isn’t dealing with, it’s worthless.
This is yet another testament to the importance of target research.
If you don’t understand your audience on an intimate level, you’re not going to be able to determine their main problems.
If you call a prospect right now and ask them two or three of their biggest problems, the majority of them would notice you’re a salesman right away and would shut down.
Even if they stayed on the phone, they would be emotionally withdrawn from the conversation.
Your problem-solving proposition is your unique selling point (USP). It’s where you tell the reader what’s in it for them.
Create a sense of urgency.
Most people suffer from a condition labeled Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).
FOMO represents motivation for your reader to take action as soon as possible. Businesses that get this right do so by creating a sense of urgency.
If you’ve done everything else right, your reader is in an emotional state at this point. When you tell them that they only have five minutes to act, things get real, so to speak.
If your target research is on point and your content is good enough, the reader will act, if for no other reason than to ensure they don’t miss out on a great deal.
9. Proofread articles at least twice, reading aloud to reveal cadence.
Most of us learn about proofreading and editing in school.
When I said that many of the conventional writing rules given during high school and college are useless in blogging, I was not talking about proofreading.
Proofreading is one of the most important and overlooked steps to take.
I can’t think of anything that damages your brand image more than content that is full of errors. And I’m not just talking about spelling and punctuation.
Fluff and flab are two frequently used terms in the writing world.
Fluff consists of content that is either irrelevant or unnecessary. If the content doesn’t help back up a claim, or if it doesn’t help deliver your message, it’s useless.
There are small exceptions for style, in my opinion.
Flab consists of inaccurate data and claims that are made to increase the value of your content.
Not only will Google penalize your ranking for this, but readers will also know. If they don’t recognize the error(s) right away, they’ll eventually find out. And when they do, you’ll lose all authority and credibility in their eyes.
Proofreading out loud gives you control over the cadence of your post. It allows you to gauge how good it sounds in your head.
Face it, whenever we read, we’re speaking the words in our own minds. It’s natural.
Optimizing for cadence is just another way to separate your content from that of your competitors.
10. Find a remarkable cover image.
In my experience, Pexels is one of the best sites to grab high-quality images and short videos for free.
Google Images is another viable option, but the quality is not as universally sound here as it is with a site like Pexels.
Other sites that are frequently used include:
- Stock Snap
Alternatively, paid services from sites like Adobe Stock and Getty Images are used frequently as well.
I use Pexels for cover images and for photos to be used within the post itself.
The right image can be all the difference when targeting younger generations who rely so heavily upon flashy gifs and graphics.
11. Optimize with SEO best-practices.
If you’ve been in this game any length of time, you’ve probably heard the acronym “SEO” thrown around quite a bit.
Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing your content and website in a way that will increase your ranking on Google’s search engine results pages (SERP’s).
There are other search engines, obviously. But none that really hold a candle to Google.
Google basically controls internet marketing. That may be a controversial statement, but it’s one I believe wholeheartedly.
I don’t believe in writing for Google, and plenty of bloggers and consultants have published articles and posts that discuss the issue of “writing for Google” instead of for consumers.
The truth of the matter is that Google’s bots are incredibly smart. They know what consumers and readers desire. Writing for the reader is writing for Google, and writing for Google is writing for the reader.
Utilize Google Search Console.
Google Search Console is free and provides invaluable metrics and stats concerning the performance of your website or blog.
It assists with:
- Keyword research
- Submitting sitemaps
- Detecting and correcting errors within your website or blog
It’s also a great idea to integrate Bing Webmasters Tools into your overall dashboard as well.
Bing isn’t as popular as Google, but it makes up for around 1/3 of all internet searches.
Conduct Keyword Research.
It would take an entire article to give Keyword Research the attention it deserves as a topic.
A keyword is a term used in a search engine to find out about a specific topic. They’re important because Google ranks websites on its SERP’s based on a number of factors, keywords being one of the main ones.
Neil Patel discusses Long-tail Keywords quite frequently, and they’re worth the effort because they don’t come with as much competition.
You can rank for a long-tail keyphrase much easier.
The easiest way to come up with profitable long-tails is to enter in a keyword in Google and study the “Google Suggest” phrases that automatically appear below the search bar.
Another useful tool for keyword research can be found here.
Alternatively, Google Keyword Planner can be used to research the effectiveness, popularity, and competition of keywords. It’s just as valuable for organic campaigns as it is for AdWords.
If you’re just starting out, or if you’re not well established, it’s best to find keywords that have low competition. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t include keywords that are competitive. But the keyword(s) you focus your article around should be of low competition.
Utilize an on-page SEO checklist.
Briefly, your checklist should include the following questions:
- Is your keyword used in your post’s URL?
- Is your URL short and easy to read?
- Is your keyword used in your title?
- Have you utilized title tag modifiers?
- Is your keyword used at least once in the first paragraph?
- Is your keyword used in H1, H2, or H3 tags?
- Are your images optimized?
- Have you utilized LSI keywords?
- Have you included external links to other helpful, high-quality sites?
- Have you included internal links to other relevant posts you’ve published?
Utilize technical SEO checklist.
Briefly, your checklist should include the following questions:
- Have you identified “crawl errors?”
- Have you checked on Google Search Console for errors?
- Is your site responsive and “mobile friendly?”
- Are there any broken links on your site?
- Is your site encrypted with HTTPS?
- Is your site’s page speed up-to-par?
12. Publish strategically.
There are plenty of SEO “experts” who exclaim the doom that awaits anyone who posts duplicate content.
In reality, Google understands.
A strategic publishing strategy ensures that your posts get the maximum exposure possible.
The first step is to host your own content.
Your post should be published on your own hosted blog or website prior to being uploaded to any other sites. This includes social media.
After you’ve published a copy on your own website, it’s recommended that you wait several days.
To be honest, I don’t wait.
I go directly to social media and begin sharing links across all channels.
If the channel has a dedicated publishing platform, like LinkedIn or Facebook, I publish the article there as well.
After I’ve covered social media, I move on to external blogging sites (covered below in tip #13).
The trick to increasing exposure on social media is to post each link multiple times throughout the day.
Your audience most likely covers multiple time-zones. What’s more, some of them don’t check social media at work. In short, different people check social media at different times throughout the day.
Hootsuite allows you to manage posts across all social media channels. It allows you to schedule posts. You can “set it and forget it.”
13. Utilize external blogging platforms.
It depends on your goals.
If you already have a website, there’s not much added value using a CMS.
Hosting content on your own site is more important now than ever as social media shares begin to fall off.
Check out this list of popular sites that can help you increase exposure and brand-name-recognition:
- WordPress (Free & Paid)
- Blogger (Free)
- Tumblr (Free)
- Medium (Free)
- Squarespace (Paid)
- Ghost (Paid)
- Drupal (Free)
- Joomla (Free)
- Weebly (Free & Paid)
- Wix (Free & Paid)
- TypePad (Paid)
Don’t give up when engagement doesn’t go up overnight. It’s the same in the world SEO: it takes time.
Changes made in SEO strategies usually take 4–6 months to deliver.
Stay motivated by staying up-to-date. This will help you maintain passion and drive and both are necessary.
Connect with me at Method to Market.