Online content comes in many forms. But four times out of five, at least for most startup owners, the most popular type comes in the form of blog posts. Why’s that? Because static pages rarely change and more advanced forms of content (like case studies, infographics or videos) take time and resources that entrepreneurs rarely have.
Great content should be generated often. It’s one of the best inbound marketing techniques business owners can do to drive people to their sites.
You’ve heard this one before.
Of course you have. We all have. It’s all marketers have been talking about for the past three years. “Content is king.” “Get blogging.” “Make sure it’s high quality.” “Do it.” “Do it now!”
This quote graphic was floating around the web last year. Ever see it?
Source: Simon Kemp (@eskimon)
Now, I don’t disagree with the concept of quality trumping quantity, or quality content being one of the most significant factors in driving new, qualified visitors to your site. It makes perfect sense from a marketing perspective. Because no one wants to be talked at. They want to be talked with. And they want to learn.
Blog content is a great way to introduce products and services to a potential customer base, but with a much softer sell. And it gets people talking about you and your brand. It’s so important for startups to be engaging in content marketing and blogging because the brand recognition just isn’t there yet.
But where I have a problem is making a recommendation around the creation of high quality content without giving writers (many times, the business owners and their teams) an indication as to how to arrive there. Because to be frank, it’s easier said than done. So I’m going to give you the low down…
Yes, you should be blogging. Yes, it should be high quality. And here’s what quality actually means.
When writing blog posts online, it’s important that you take search engine optimization (SEO) into considering. SEO is the practice of improving a website (or web page) to help grow traffic levels, both in terms of quantity and quality. This includes a number of different efforts, both on-page and off-page. Generating new, relevant, rich content is one of the most important factors. Always begin with keyword research. Each post should try to focus on a few different keywords that are important to your business. I usually target two to three per post. Use some tools to help determine these – weigh in relevance, traffic volumes, competition and more. Once you’ve decided on the words you’d like to target, you can then begin to flush out your post. Take time to write a catchy post title too, which incorporates a keyword.
I’ve seen marketers make recommendations around content length. “The longer, the better,” some say. Kevan Lee, one of my favorite bloggers who writes over at Buffer, noted that the ideal length for a blog post is 1,600 words. I won’t disagree that long posts fair better in search, but you need to understand why. Long post feature more information. There’s stats, evidence, research. It’s more resourceful. Google wants to be an answer engine. It wants to help its users solve problems. Don’t keep checking the word count or write lengthy just for the sake of writing lengthy. Focus on helping out your readers. If you do that, it will be the perfect length. (In case you’re wondering how long a 1,600 word post is, the post you’re reading now is about 1,500 words.)
Write for the reader instead of the search engines. Writing should be natural and free flowing. SEO has changed dramatically compared to that of 10 years ago. The search engines are smarter. Try not to be overly focused on working in those keywords. It’s better to leave a keyword out of a sentence than to have the content sound odd or awkward. One technique is to write the content freely first and then go back and try to work the keywords in where they fit best. This approach allows you to focus more on readability than on keyword integration. Also, use headlines (usually H2s) and bulleted lists when possible. This makes posts easier to read and breaks the content down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Consider numbered posts, like “Top 5 Ways,” or “The Best 10 Products,” etc. Those are often well received.
Incorporate multiple pictures into every post. Images give visual verification to visitors (I love alliteration!) that they are indeed looking at the content they want. Consider graphs, charts, photos of people, stock photos, memes, screenshots, call-outs, quote images, etc. All of these things will visually enhance your piece. If using pictures, be sure you attribute the source or photographer (if necessary) and include appropriate alt tags based on the image and possibly the keywords for that page. If you have a smartphone or camera, try to take your own photos. And don’t forget about other media too which can also enhance your piece. Consider embedded podcasts or radio shows as well as videos or animated gifs!
Meta data consists of the title tag and description. You should have appropriate meta data for each blog post that you publish. Write and upload these with the keywords in mind that you’ve selected. Titles should be no longer than 60 characters and descriptions no more than 160 characters. Any more than this and it’s likely your words will get cut off in the search engines. Write naturally without any added punctuations like pipes or dashes, and avoid keyword stuffing. Use a plugin like SEO Yoast (if your blog/website is in WordPress) to add these with ease. Don’t forget to override the URL slug if you want to incorporate a keyword there too.
And don’t forget about other SEO stuff…
- It’s important that your site is technically sound so Google respects you and each new post. Be sure that there is no duplicate content on any of your pages. When writing, make sure you do not copy and paste content from other pages to your new blog post (you’d be surprised how prevalent this is). Write unique content. If you have similar language somewhere else, try to paraphrase and use different language. If you are required to have similar or even the same content on two or more pages, use canonical tags to let Google know.
- Try to write like an educator rather than a marketer. With Google’s Hummingbird update, they are looking for information-rich content that will help answer questions and fulfill the needs of web users. Try to ensure that the content answers a question(s) that the reader might have. It wouldn’t even hurt to explicitly state that question within the post. Write conversationally. By writing with a tone that reads less bias and more informational, it will have a stronger impact in search and be better received among your target audience.
- Be sure to exercise linking within your content – both internal and external. If you are referencing material that is found on a different page of your site, hyperlink the reference to that page using internal linking structure. Likewise, if you have cited material or can send users to a trusted third party resource for more information, be sure to add a link. Don’t forget to go into old posts on your website and add links to the new posts you are creating. Be cautious of too many links and/or including links to untrustworthy sites. Both can negatively impact your efforts.
If you prepare great content on your site, finally, you’ll want to market those articles well with sharing techniques. Share on your social media channels. Utilize in your lead nurturing programs or email marketing campaigns. Advertise them. Publish as long-form posts on LinkedIn or share within your LinkedIn Groups and Google+ Communities. Ask partners, vendors or friends to share on their social media channels or to link to the post from their online content. And consider featuring the post on a guest blog or in a relevant trade publication (just make sure you use canonical tags so the search engines do not see these as duplicate pieces).
If you prepare quality content, you will reap the rewards over time. These benefits can come in a variety of ways. Here are just a few:
- Develop a voice and brand personality
- Increase awareness for your brand, its products and services
- Generate new links and referral traffic
- Gain respect by the search engines and be rewarded by boosts in rankings
- See growth in organic traffic
- Give past visitors a reason to come back
- Give yourself custom content to share on your social media sites
Quality content takes time to prepare. Just from experience, I’ve found that, when taking the above points into consideration, a blog post usually takes 3 to 4x longer than a normal, “blah” piece. Budget your time accordingly. It will be well worth the extra effort.
This post was originally published in Steamfeed. To view the original article, please click here.