Blogging is much like podcasting. Many, many marketers think they can write blog content and produce podcasts. And many of those folks are wrong. Maybe not about doing those things, but about doing them well. Because those of us marketing are gaining greater insight into how effective good blog content (and podcasts!) is to market a business, establish thought leadership and drive traffic to a website, we thought a brush up on best practices would be helpful. This won’t serve as a textbook on blogging. For that, we recommend starting with “Everybody Writes” by Ann Handley, but for a fast and substantial snack on building an effective blog, read on:
And we do mean organize and formulate the heck out of your blog. Often we hear, “pick a topic” as the first step, but don’t begin with choosing a topic. Begin with why you want to blog and what your goals (marketing, business or other) are for the effort. Is it to generate business leads? Maybe your goal is to begin building thought leadership in your industry. Maybe it’s to build content for your email marketing or increase domain authority. You decide what the goals are for your blog and share them with your team, if there’s more than just you working on the blog effort.
One of the best reasons to set goals is, as you grow in posts and content, you can always use your goals as the touchstone on new topics and posting cadence. Does the topic or time you’re posting directly align with what you want to accomplish? If it doesn’t, it’s going to take your blog into uncertain territory—and possibly kill its value.
Once you establish your goals, prep to begin your topic ideation and create content guidelines. Topics should spring from your expertise or experience. You might be in a specialty niche that others know little about, or you might have been in your industry for a long time and weathered changes well. Your English teacher’s advice to “write about what you know” has come back around. Listen to that wisdom.
Focus on topics your readers care about—or should know. What information are they searching for? What concepts and ideas can they use to help them in their jobs overall or specific tasks? Think about it from their perspective and create posts that answer questions and help with decision-making or provide thoughtful introspection. But, again, focus on areas where you can provide real insights. No one wants to read content by someone pretending to be an expert about a topic. Your readers want the real deal. Provide the distinctive understandings, awareness and experiences only you can provide.
Oh, and create a content/topic calendar so you’re not winging it and you can post consistently.
The consistency of your posts will be one of your content guidelines to prepare. How often to post and where to post. Keyword use, including how often they should be used (no stuffing!) and where in the text. For keyword research, HubSpot recommends using either Ahrefs or Moz. We like Semrush, Ubersuggest and Wordtracker.
How many, or what kind of external links will help to add credibility and connection to your content? You probably won’t link to your competitors’ websites and content, but where will you link? Use credible sites with relevant content. Limit the number of internal links to avoid cannibalizing your content in SEO, but also to avoid promoting yourself too much. Decide how long you want your blog posts to be. According to Wix, an effective blog post is between 1,500 to 2,500 words. But it depends. Longer posts can be effective SEO tools, but your decision on the length of your blog post should primarily depend on the search intent, according to Semrush.
“You should provide the blog post length that best serves your audience’s needs,” Semrush writes in its blog.
“Your main objective is to answer your audience’s questions. This means investing time to understand them and the amount of information they need.”
And go back to your goal. Does a shorter blog or a longer blog connect to your goal? If you’re building thought leadership, you may use deeper analysis and provide more examples or information from a case study, which could mean a longer post.
You may have brand guidelines that you need to meet, such as voice, word choice, tone and style of writing. As part of your preparation, research the tone and styles in other blogs that you find compelling, particularly if they’re written by your competitors. Learn what you can from what works for them, but don’t try to be a twin. (One of you won’t look good in the matching outfit and neither of you will stand out.) Include the voice, tone and writing style in your prep work, or think of them in the next step: The writing.
This tip is short because it can be summarized in quality over quantity. Once you’ve established your content guidelines, put your effort into quality for the content you’ve chosen. Spell words, particularly names and places, correctly. Proofread. Have someone else proofread. (Everyone needs an editor.) Vary your sentence length. Punctuate properly.
In your prep stage, you’ll have decided whether to use that pesky Oxford comma. Use good grammar. You don’t need to know the differences among prescriptive, descriptive, and transformational grammar, but have a good source of grammar knowledge to help you, such as one of these.
Be a good blog citizen and attribute your sources through quotes, links and credits. Other bloggers appreciate that you think their work is relevant and important, so link to their insights to support yours. If your content is quality, a backlink connection is a gift for them also.
Headline advice is everywhere, but generally keep it less than 60 characters and keep it catchy, but not weird. Readers tend to like “Everything You Need to Know About____” or “Guide to___” and “Mistakes to Avoid.” But, again, consider your goal. Your title has to deliver. For more, go to this excellent headline style guide.
Remember to write your bio, too. You can be a little promotional there, but still maintain good language use.
Yes, presentation matters. A blog filled with quality copy and killer images is a treasure—and difficult to resist. Ariel and Georgia typeface are easy to read. Avoid type that’s too heavy or slabbed. Your font size should be no smaller than 16, for readability. The federal government has some universally good recommendations for accessibility.
Chunk your content, so it’s easily scannable. Sometimes bullets work, but they can quickly become gunfire in a basement and everybody dies. Use them judiciously. (Good idea to plan format in your content guidelines.)
Write short sections and avoid long and large blocks of text. Break up text with images and headers and organize sections by headers and sub-headers, or numbers.
Re-optimize and re-purpose blog content
Successful bloggers are aware of the content they have created and how it can be repurposed to give it new life. “Best of” posts allow you to gather quality posts together to put your best information on a topic in one place for readers to easily find. Old posts can also be re-optimized with different keywords and new information, so you continue to give your readers the best possible guidance.
Research for posts can be added to different formats, such as slideshows, videos or infographics. When referencing previously covered topics, include links to them. Consider creating an eBook by bundling several blogs about related topics together, adapting the content, and adding an introduction and conclusion. Use your blog content for podcast topics. Use snippets from your blog in social posts that link to your blog.
Re-optimizing and re-purposing your content not only helps with the efficiency of your marketing effort, but it also keeps readers coming back for more. And if that’s not one of your goals, it should be.
For deeper insights into blogging best practices, give us a call or email us. Let’s start a conversation about how we can help.
Focus on areas where you can provide real insights and answer readers’ questions.
The frequency of posting should align with your goals, but consistency is key.
Aim for posts between 1,500 to 2,500 words, but it should serve your audience’s needs.
Quality matters more than quantity; focus on spelling, grammar, and proper punctuation.
Keep it under 60 characters, catchy but not weird, and ensure it aligns with your content.