While the trends and developments in inbound marketing mean the industry is constantly changing as regards best practices and strategies, one element of the mix has remained a constant: organic content. Your blog is as important as ever when it comes to attracting visitors to your site and proving your authority and expertise, but producing great content continuously can be a difficult task, and we don’t always get those lightbulb moments of inspiration.
Preparation is key, so for those starting out in the world of online content, or those who have been at it a while and need to take a step back to reassess their approach, here’s a blog writing checklist to make sure you take the right approach to producing the type of blogs that will generate more leads for your business.
Make a list of questions you could receive from real or potential customers
Good content is that which gives something of value to the people who have been good enough to give you their attention. Your audience should leave the blog with a useful takeaway, but in order for this to happen, you need to know what it is they want answered, what challenges they have that they need to find a solution to.
In other words, know the audience. To do this, talk to the people within your business or agency who are at the coalface and who engage with customers, clients and potential leads every day: your sales and support teams. In particular, the role of the salesperson has changed and they are now an integral part of the inbound marketing mix, so ask for their insights. What questions do they face regularly? What are the major customer or lead concerns? What are their challenges?
Armed with this knowledge, you can start to base your blog ideas around the issues at hand, the solutions and helpful information you can provide, and meet your audience where they stand in the buying process.
While you want to position yourself as an authority and expert, it is also ok to consider writing about the issues you can’t offer a solution to. This honest approach will not only allow you to stand out from those who tend to bluff, it will also prove that you have nothing to hide, and that yours is a ‘what you see is what you get’ service.
Get Inspiration from Recent Business or Industry Events
Another good source of inspiration is your peers. By subscribing to newsletters, and engaging and interacting with others within your industry on social media, you can find out what the hot topics of the day are, and base blogs around them.
Think about your own views on topics, what input you can provide, and whether you can add something new to the conversation.
Our name says as much. When writing blogs, there’s no point in just creating content for the sake of it. It’s got to be interesting, and it’s got to be helpful. Telling people that you are the greatest inbound agency in the world won’t interest anybody but your boss. What the audience wants are solutions, and in order to provide solutions, you need to know their challenges, who they are, what they are looking for. Again, it’s about knowing your audience, so understand your personas, and write for them, not for Google. Sure, you want to rank well in search (and more of that later), but you also need to rank well with the reader.
There’s no point being the first result in a search engine if the reader opens your blog and finds it is drivel, or presents something that is too far down the conversion path for them. Give the right information to the right people, at the right time.
Use long-tail keywords
Keywords are important for SEO, but given the volume of content being produced on a daily basis, it is almost impossible to compete using short terms such as ‘inbound marketing’ or ‘blog writing’. In their efforts to deliver the best possible results to users, search engines acknowledge this and have become smarter. They can now identify the context and intent behind a search, recognising the more specific use of long-tail keywords to offer as close a result as possible for the user.
When writing your blogs, you should therefore incorporate those long-tail keywords into your content to help the search engines identify exactly what it is you are writing about. For example, instead of using the keyword ‘inbound marketing’, use ‘inbound marketing tips for SMEs’. This will help to attract not just those interested in inbound marketing, who will be too broad an audience, but those specifically interested in finding ways to improve their inbound marketing efforts for start-ups or small companies. That smaller, more specific pool, will produce more qualified potential leads.
Optimise everything with your long-tail keywords
Your long-tail keywords should zoom in on a certain element of what you have to offer, but you should really focus on being even more specific, and highlighting your subject matter across every element of your blog. Getting a huge number of visitors to your website, drawn in by the shiny, dangling keywords you have used, is great, but if it’s too generic, chances are that none of those visitors are the right ones.
You want to make sure that you attract those visitors who are looking for exactly what you are offering, so remove all doubt by optimising your content based on the most valuable and relevant long-tail keyword for each blog. That means including the long-tail keyword in your blog title, headers, body, URL, image alt-text and meta descriptions. This will help the search engines understand exactly what your blog is about, so they can offer it as the most relevant result to those you want to attract.
Format your blog the right way
You want your blog to look good and be readable, because that’s what the reader wants too. The user experience is important, so if your blog is all over the place, or too condensed and hard to follow, chances are the audience will quickly exit it. Remember that spacing is your friend, so use it well to break up text. You should also use subtitles, images and lists to give it a more appealing look.
How it looks is also very important to the search engines, because they want the results they offer to be not just pleasing to the eye, but helpful straight off the bat and at a glance. Keep your blog titles below 55 characters if possible, and your meta descriptions under 155, so that they fit in the parameters of a search result.
Studies and new trends show that longer blog posts are now attracting more visitors, so try to get your blog content to around the 2,250-2,500 word mark. This is, at the moment, the sweet spot. Those tasked with writing blogs may groan at the prospect of having to reach that word count, but it is best practice to write one or two blogs per week at this length, rather than four of just 500 words each.
This shouldn’t mean writing and writing for the sake of it. Instead, it offers you the chance to go deeper into a subject, to discuss various elements of it, so that by the end, all questions are answered and nothing is unclear.
It also has the advantage of offering you lots of tasty snippets you can extract for use in your social media messaging or email marketing to promote the blog itself.
Links build credibility, because they show that you have researched the subject at hand, and can offer alternative sources and views to those interested in reading further. Add links to other relevant content on your own website, such as more blogs, service pages or landing pages that offer a more extensive read, and to external sources that have given you an insight into what you are writing about.
By doing this, you are helping the reader find exactly what they want, so that they are more informed and better able to make a purchasing decision. And if you are the one giving them the information they need, chances are, they will turn to you when they are ready to make that decision.
Writing great content that nobody is likely to see is as useful as shouting into a big, dark cave. Unless your audience has subscribed to new blog notifications, they will be unaware that you have just written a great article that answers all the questions they have, so spread the word by using your social media platforms to direct people to it.
Use snappy messaging to sum up what your new blog discusses, and encourage readers to share it too, to expand your audience reach.
You should also consider using paid for promotion such as Facebook or LinkedIn ads, which enables you to segment your messaging towards a specific audience that will find your content helpful and interesting, but may not yet know you exist.
There’s no point in just writing blogs the same way and hoping they are a hit with your audience. You should analyse each piece of content to see what is working, what is not, and why. Are your images strong enough to catch the eye? How about your title and headings? Is your CTA enticing enough? Did anybody click on it? If not, change things up a bit, and see what the results are.
If results improve, then you know what works for the future.
Reuse and repurpose
Once written, a blog is out there forever, but you can always go back in and make changes as and when you want to. A popular blog should be updated with new information or better links, while quotes from new customers who found your content helpful can show others just how reliable and informative you are.
Blog writing can be hard, so use the content you already have to your advantage, and repurpose it to fit a specific need, rather than trying to come up with an endless supply of fresh ideas. That way, you can continue to generate new leads for your business or agency, even when you are stuck for new topics to discuss.
Blogs are a great way to generate leads, but it is important to get them right, in order to provide relevant and useful information to the reader, and to rank well in search engines. The steps above should help you in the process, so to recap:
- Write for your audience
- Optimise with long-tail keywords
- Format for user experience
- Go long
- Use links
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