Content marketing is not just about producing the right content and publishing it. Behind every successful blog post is a series of optimizations that attract new people to visit the blog and encourage repeat reading.
Here are 12 ways that you can already do to improve your blog writing. Each point is merely a summary, so I suggest that you take some time to think about why every point is important to writing a successful blog post.
1. Take advantage of search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO is the practice of tweaking your writing to help you rank on the front page of Google Search.
You rank by targeting keywords that many people type on Google and writing about those keyword topics in great detail. SEO content needs to be in-depth, even if the keyword topic may seem stupidly easy to you. The age of short content is over — at least for Google. Study the top 10 articles for the keywords that you want to target to see where I am coming from.
If you have a bias against SEO, try to grow out of it. SEO writing is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Most of the SEO writing that you’ve encountered is probably helpful to those searching for it, but not for you.
If your writing is already good, applying SEO should help you increase your audience share, not bog down your content. Think about it; it’s quite hard to get 1,000 email subscribers.
What if you targeted a keyword that helps you get 300 monthly SEO visits? 300*12=3600. That is a steady traffic of 3600 readers, some of whom will convert! And you just had to do some SEO! How neat is that!
Here’s a quick guide to SEO. Aside from SEO writing, the other important bit about SEO is acquiring backlinks, which are links of your domain on other people’s websites. Backlink outreach should be an integral part of your overall outreach strategy.
Essentially, backlinks are the way Google analyzes on whether your content is being talked about. So the more backlinks that you have from reputable websites, the more authority it gets and the higher chances you have on ranking on the front page of Google.
2.Create an alluring headline
Pose a question. When you ask the right questions, you’re appealing to your audience’s curiosity, and this encourages them to read your content. Pose a pertinent question that many people already ask on Google to get clicks.
How do you find out which questions are being asked? Through Google’s free Keyword Planner and other SEO tools like Ahrefs. When your title is exactly the long-tail question being asked, you’re catering to the users’ search intent — the reason why they went on Google in the first place — and therefore you’re maximizing your chances of getting that precious click.
Otherwise, you can also use storytelling to tap into the readers’ emotions. When your headline is story-telling based, make sure to focus on one key idea or question on the headline to encourage clicks. When I don’t have an angle that’s clear enough, from my experience, I get less clicks than otherwise.
This also applies to niche topic angles that I’ve used! What I’m trying to say is that it is always better to be specific than vague. When it comes to writing SEO headlines, being specific by catering to the search intent can get you clicks.
A strong angle on a story is great for social media and also for SEO. When you can mix a strong story angle with the right keyword for your SEO title, you have a winner right there.
Use facts. Of course, everyone loves numbers and statistic. On the title, you can include the number and the meta description can become a CTA by explaining how this article explains the why and the how behind these numbers
Your titles should ideally sit between 15-45 characters. According to research, titles with this character length get the most clicks. Take this with a grain of salt, but do acknowledge it when writing your perfect article.
3. Use language that’s easy to read
Write in short sentences. Whenever you want to write a long sentence, don’t. Whenever you’ve written a long sentence, cut it into smaller ones. You can still definitely be on-brand without being wordy. Being wordy prevents your reader from fully understanding what you mean.
Instead of sounding smart, it can make you seem pompous. I’m not saying that long sentences are the devil. If your writing is meant to provide value, you should prioritize clarity, over long, winding phrases.
Write in short paragraphs. Reading print is different from reading online. Reading on a screen makes our eyes work harder.
Separate your ideas into easy-to-read paragraphs. As Yahoo! Style Guide states, two or three sentences per paragraph are enough.
Use simple allusions to describe complex concepts. Want to describe something hard in a simple way? Use metaphors and allusions. Most of the time, this will help your reader digest complex information more easily.
By describing something new and complex through familiar references, you’re helping the reader understand and imagine this complex concept into something simpler.
4. Have a clear angle
Have one idea, and expand on it. It’s the age of short attention spans. People are bombarded with information everywhere. You need to be focused with your idea or angle, and expand from there.
Those who are not interested won’t read your article. But those who are will keep reading it through the end. Why? Because you’ve succeeded into giving them the information they want, and then added some more.
As for the kind of topics that you should tackle? It depends. Not satisfied? The only definite response that I can give here is this: be part of the discussion in your industry. Interact with industry bloggers and make sure they read what you write.
Imagine your ideal reader. And then write for them. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it becomes to flesh out your angle if you actually have one type of reader in mind when writing the blog post.
This practice will allow you to effectively figure out the reader’s key concerns, and what the reader want from you. Writing is worse when it has so many interesting things but nothing to tie them together.
Make sure you contain valuable information within the angle. Forget what everyone tells you, creating valuable content is not enough. Because people are drowning in information, great facts are getting lost in the shuffle.
This is why you need to help the reader understand the value you give. You do this by introducing valuable information within the main angle you’re describing. This will help your reader create the links between why you made this angle and how this angle makes sense.
And, well, this will ensure that your reader doesn’t get lost and forget what they’re reading in the first place.
Don't sell your voice like Ariel to get your business running
5. Develop a strong voice and identity
Put a bit of sass in your writing! Branding for blogs is all about engaging your reader through your wit and humor. It’s all about adding a tiny bit of something, alongside the value that you give to your readers.
Remember your brand personality. Is your brand all about being young and hip? Or is it serious and formal? Whatever it is, think about how you can reflect these personality traits into your writing.
Write quickly, edit slowly. The secret to writing with character is to simply write quickly and edit it afterwards. We all have a tendency to let our real selves out when it comes to performing under high-stress situations. Writing is no different.
But there’s another point to this: stop worrying about that darn sentence and carry on writing the rest of your blog! When you think about every single word, you’ll get too anxious to get anything done.
Writing quickly relieves you of that anxiety, because you are telling yourself that the editing bit will come later. Right now, it’s time to put your thoughts…on keyboard.
6. Use captivating videos and images
Use infographics that summarize your key takeaways. People remember information more efficiently, if it’s presented visually. In fact, the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text.Amazing, right?
I know that it’s time-inducing, but if you can afford to do it, try to add infographics in your blog post. Even an infographic that mostly includes text in different fonts and sizes allow people to process information faster. And a blog post is always more appealing when there are images. Otherwise, it looks too boring.
Try to customize your cover photos. Most of the time, when you have a personal or even a corporate blog, it pays to customize your cover photos. Stock photos are sufficient in most cases, but customizing your cover photos by doing some edits or including your face may lead to more engagement.
Ultimately, you need visual media to not only make the process of knowledge acquisition much more efficient, but to also compel your readers to stay on the page. Here are some pointers:
- Embed videos, even if they’re not yours. This is because Google most probably considers Time on Page as a ranking factor, so when there’s a video, people just generally stay longer on the page. Try to include it in the middle part of the article, and not in the beginning, because you want readers to scroll through the article.
- Making your own infographics is a quick hack to get to the top page of Google Search Images. It can also serve as a way to get backlinks.
- Turn your tables into images, so that Google can index it as an image. Tables compartmentalize information and render them simpler to understand. For some information-based keywords, people actively go on Google Images to find tables.
7. Write long-form articles
In terms of SEO, expertise matters more than ever. And you build expertise by creating seriously great content. This is content that is in-depth and really answers many of the searchers’ pressing questions relating to the topic.
When writing for SEO, you have to realize one important thing: Google is not in the business of content curation. It’s a search engine that endlessly aims to provide relevant answers to people’s search queries. As such, the logic of Google Search will always revolve around this one simple fact. The more you can make your content more in-depth towards a particular keyword topic, the higher chances you have of ranking on the front page of Google Search.
To rank, try to write at least over 1000 words and ideally over 2000 words. My reason behind this is there is already a ton of great SEO content, so in order to get above the competition you need to get even more in-depth than they are. While word count doesn’t necessarily indicate depth, I think that you can pack in more information in 150 words, as opposed to 10 words.
Long-form content positively correlates with depth. When you’re a content manager or editor managing a team of writers, you always need to keep this high-level perspective in mind.
8. Create the right content structure
When structuring your blog post, structure it in a way that makes sense. How do you structure a blog? Well, most of the time, a blog post has this structure:
- Defining your topic(s)
- Point #1….
- Evidence of point #1
- Explaining point #1
- Repeat steps 3-5
This structure helps the reader get through the article without getting lost within the finer details. When you don’t define some of the topics in the beginning, you’re in danger of losing your readers who might know less about your subject matter. Losing any type of reader is bad, and this will show in your metrics.
Carefully measure your page metrics. Indicators like average time on page and bounce rate are good indicators as to whether your content is compelling and relevant enough to your readers. A great blog post that is well-structured leads to great results, and there are no two around it.
If you’re still a bit lost and need some concrete examples of content structures that work, visit Wikipedia and study how its articles are structured. Each section is clearly defined and there is a clear flow of information.
9. Have an internal linking strategy
This is probably one of the most important, yet easiest, aspects of a successful blog post, but one that many people neglect. Include links to your previous content pieces! Some pointers:
- It indicates to Google that you’ve already written about the same topic and signals topical authority. Therefore, you’ll have higher chances of ranking for similar topics.
- It backs up your claims you’re placing forth.
- Have2-6 internal links per 1000 words.
- It decreases the chances of the reader bouncing, because they might click on the link.
Having an internal linking strategy is so important for SEO, so please don’t skimp on this. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article on topic clusters, by simply creating an internal linking structure, NinjaOutreach increased their traffic by 40% in two months!
10. Have an external linking strategy
On the other side of the coin, it’s also important to have an external linking strategy, for roughly the same reasons. Of course, there are some things to keep in mind when linking:
- If you’re competing on a certain keyword, it might be best to think twice about linking any of the top 10 pages.
- Have 2-4 outbound links per 1000 words
- Link infographics and other visual media that encourages the readers to stay on your page
- Don’t include external links in the introduction. Just don’t! It’s an open invitation for people to leave your page and not come back. I seriously get triggered whenever people do this in their own blogs, because it can hurt your metrics and cause you to not capture relevant traffic. It’s a very easy mistake that can easily cause huge damages.
11. Proofread and edit
Finally, make sure that your grammar is correct and that you’ve fixed the silly mistakes throughout the blog post.
Depending on the industry, bad grammar can really make your readers groan…and stop reading. At its worst, they might think that your website is spammy and not consider you as a reliable source of information.
Editing also has another important function:highlight what’s important. Throughout your blog, you need to make sure that your angle is clearly defined across your arguments. Editing helps you make your voice strangers and your arguments pop out.
When you’re cutting or adding words, make sure that you get the voice right. Cutting down on words is important, but you need to make sure that you don’t remove your personality in the process.
Most of the time, a funny story is just that, but included well in your blog post, it can add a bit of character to your writing. Remember that your voice is what makes you different. Everybody can bring in some value to the discussion. But having a vision, personality and a clear angle makes you stand out.
12. Have an outreach and repurposing strategy
Last but not least, you need to have an outreach and repurposing strategy. This bit requires a whole article on its own, but if you don’t put in the marketing efforts, your target users will not come.
You need to have an outreach strategy and see how you can market your writing in different formats and different channels. When you’ve published your blog post, you can organize a webinar on the topic or transform the content into smaller slides.
This is when repurposing becomes important. Repurposing your blog post into different content formats will allow you to effectively disseminate your content in different channels and optimize them for those channels.
As I’ve mentioned, you also need to have a backlink outreach strategy. You can write guest blog posts, scour for broken links (I’ll write a guide on this soon) to replace with your content, get into link roundups, use forums that issue a dofollow link for popular posts, or do a PR campaign to get backlinks from reputable publications.
Backlink outreach is arguably the hardest bit about search engine optimization and content promotion, and it’s also something that you’re going to have a bit of inventiveness to achieve.
Conclusion: successful blog writing is not just placing words on a .doc file
A great blog post is the perfect mixture of actually good writing, providing value, having an angle, developing a strong voice and content promotion. The best thing about writing is that it feels natural enough that most people can do it, but there’s always room for improvement that will put your writing above the rest.
Did I miss anything? What do you think creates a great blog post? Let me know what you think.