To my great delight, I present you with part 2 of the Master Your Content Marketing series about blogging. If you missed part one, tough luck. Just kidding!! You can read it right here.
I often wonder if people blog for their business because they “must”, but actually hate doing it. Or, maybe they love writing and blogging came after the fact. (Or possibly they realized writing was their calling after they started blogging — did I confuse you yet?).
For me, I always loved writing. When I was a youngster (no, not last week) I used to make up silly reasons to write. People’s Exhibit Number One: I often read the Encyclopedia Britannica. Worse yet, I wrote what I felt was vital commentary about the various topics. TOTAL NERD – I know, but you can’t help what you are. I would also write random short books about things that interested me. NOW APPROACHING GEEKDOM.
I never kept a diary or journal though, which seems strange to me (as if those other things weren’t strange enough). But over the years I realized that what I really loved was writing nonfiction. Journals seemed like an exercise in creative writing, which I never excelled at. And diaries, well, I couldn’t risk written evidence of my misdeeds and evil thoughts.
Blogging seemed like a natural outlet for my love of nonfiction and it offered me the chance to help people. And with that in mind, I’d love to give you some more pointers on blogging.
Consistency is Queen
I write about consistency in my content marketing framework. Next to the actual writing of material (The King), doing it consistently is the next important factor.
Being a prolific writer, although amazing, is not as important as being a predictable writer. Your audience wants to know when to expect your blog posts and newsletters, and you risk disappointing them if you’re not consistent.Being a prolific writer, although amazing, is not as important as being a predictable writer. Click To Tweet
Think about your favorite TV series. You know it’s on a certain day at a certain time and you look forward to watching it. If for some reason the network decides to skip a week, you get really disappointed. And if the network decides to randomly air shows every 2 or 3 weeks, you would get frustrated and question the professionalism of the company.
Don’t lose readers due to poor planning. No matter when you publish, whether it be every week or every other week, do it consistently. Remember you can write material in advance and schedule it for a later date. And if you find you can’t keep up with a certain schedule, it’s fine to change your calendar. Publish weekly or biweekly if that fits better with your lifestyle.
Is Length Important? (For blog posts obviously – what were you thinking?)
Article length has got to be one of the most debated items in blogging. Is there an optimum length for a blog post? Different theories abound, so let’s look at some stats and see for ourselves.
In a totally unscientific study, I used BuzzSumo to look at the top ten “Content Marketing” articles over the past year and discovered:
Longest Article = 3,291 words
Shortest Article = 563 words
With these two outliers removed, the average length of an article was 1,390 words.
Then for comparison, I decided to look at the top ten “Social Media Advertising” articles. This time I found:
Longest Article = 5,035 words
Shortest Article = 343 words
With these two outliers removed, the average length of an article was 1,286 words.
I will write a lengthier post with more data about this in the future, but just this tiny glance at the figures is interesting. Both searches averaged very similar word counts. This could lead you to suppose that 1200 to 1400 words is a pretty good guess for word length.
Spend Way More Time Promoting Than Writing
We talk a lot about writing blog posts because, well, you’ve got to have something published first. But there’s something more important than writing and that’s promoting. Unless you’re blogging for yourself as a hobby, you need eyes on your writing in order to make money.
You can decide how much you’ll make according to how much time and effort you spend on promotion. Here’s a less than complex formula for you:
All promotion comes down to monetization, unless you’re just in it to become famous. If you’re a blogger, promotion is an essential part of your job.
However, I’m not suggesting you throw any old thing on your blog and then promote the heck out of it. The writing has to be good…really good…hopefully epic. You need things like a tantalizing headline or eye-catching graphics. And don’t forget optimizing your article for SEO. All of these tactics assist your promotion efforts.
I won’t go into all the methods of promotion because there are lots of them, organic and paid. What I can suggest though, is that you familiarize yourself with the different types of blog promotion. Then, choose the methods that work best for you. You can even make a post-publication checklist containing the promotion steps you will take for each article.
Remember, even though some types of promotion can make you feel icky or annoying, they will usually pay off in the end. Major Hint: Be consistent, pleasant, helpful and pay it forward.
Reel Them In
How can we talk about blogging without discussing headlines? They are the first words to appear on the screen and the one chance you have to capture your reader’s attention. Did you know that 80% of readers never make it past the headline? It’s sometimes frustrating to think that one sentence can dictate whether or not someone reads your blog post.
Don’t write one headline and stick with it. Spend the time to write at least 20-25 different titles. Within those titles, use these well-known techniques to get your articles read:
- Be clear and direct with the reader
- Use a number or statistic
- Ask a question
- Create a curiosity gap (tease your reader about what will be in an article)
- Use powerful and emotional words
Another way to help you create a great headline is to use a tried and true formula. Many, many formulas are available on the web, just don’t get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of choices. Here are a few lists for you:
If possible, if you have a large enough audience, split test your headlines. Create two different headlines for the same article and send each to a different segment of people. Analyze which headline is more successful (more click-throughs and shares) and you have a winner.
Don’t Forget About Design
Design is very important for your blog. It’s one of the things that keeps readers on your site. When I talk about design, I’m not saying you have to plaster your pages with graffiti or exquisite artwork. In most cases, simple is best.
Please don’t cover your website pages with multiple ads and messages. It becomes confusing for the reader. This is where white space comes in (it just sounds relaxing, doesn’t it?). White space helps the reader focus on your words and it’s much easier on the eyes.
Font choice is also key for readers. Did you ever try to read an article with funky lettering? Not only is it difficult, but it takes away from your message. Stay with 2-3 easily readable fonts and use sizes that are comfortable to read. A common combination includes a body font, a headline font and a decorative font. Test them to make sure they work together.
Unfortunately, we can’t all afford top-notch photography for our blogs, but there are ways to work with free or inexpensive photos. To create interest you can crop a photo to include just one or two of the elements on it. You can also use filters, transparency, text and icons to change the feel of your graphics. Try a graphics tool like Canva to help you step up your creativity.People will judge your work based on the design and professionalism of your website. It doesn't matter how good your writing is...if they navigate far enough to read it. Click To Tweet
These are just a few tips for your designing pleasure. I feel the most important thing to remember, fair or not, is people WILL judge your work based on the design and professionalism of your website. It doesn’t matter how good your writing is…if they navigate far enough to read it. So, do your research and don’t skimp on this one.
“Doers” Hold on to Your Seats
If you want a cohesive blog that flows naturally to selling your services or products, you’ve got to plan it in advance. I love Doers, because, well, they get a lot of stuff done. But sometimes it’s worth it to sit back and form a plan. Some bloggers like to plan out their entire year, which is fantastic, but even if you plan quarterly or monthly you are more likely to keep readers and make sales.
As an example, let’s take a look at a short planning process. We’re going to work backwards because when you set a goal, you can better support it with your content. In this instance, your goal is to sell your course on writing and selling ebooks. You may create a plan like this:
Goal: Sell 50 “How to Write and Sell an Ebook” courses
Email 5: Last call email with timer
Email 4: Fear of missing out email
Webinar: Workshop on structuring an ebook with special buyer’s bonus
Blog Post 2: Ebook Topic
Email 3: Introduction to course and early-bird pricing
Email 2: How to research material for an ebook; How to price an ebook
Blog Post 1: Ebook Topic
Email 1: Benefits to writing an ebook; personal experience writing ebooks
This is a short and simplified example, but I’m sure you can grasp the idea of how your content can set a direction that leads to a sale. It’s very hard to do this without planning, especially if you are running multiple campaigns.
You Want Me to Buy What?
Advertising! I’m a big proponent of social media advertising. It’s inexpensive and you can often narrow your target right down to your ideal customer. The main social media platforms offer different types of promotional tactics. They have product carousels, calls-to-action, links to your website or landing page and video ads.
The different platforms have some slick features. For instance, you can choose how much you’ll spend, have the ability to turn your ad on and off, or can target your competitor’s followers.
If you have a larger audience you can split test your ad to discover the best headlines, graphics and message. In fact, Facebook has a built-in option for split testing. With most of the campaign objectives you can start by just selecting the split test checkbox. (I don’t mean to simplify the process – it does have a learning curve.)
Platforms that have custom audience features are fantastic. They allow you to target readers based on demographics, interests, behaviors and who else they follow. Some even let you use pixels (code that you install on your website) to monitor your readers’ visits and actions so you can retarget them.
Please Read Your Writing Over and Over Again
How many times? At least 3, maybe more. That’s because you MUST edit your blog post before you publish it. Spelling errors and grammar mistakes make you look uneducated and unprofessional. Reviewing your work is so important that you should break it down to at least three steps:
Edit: When you edit your work you focus on cleaning up that messy first draft you wrote. You want to look at sentence structure, the flow of the article and ensure the body of your article supports your premise.
Proofread: This step can be easier than editing, but it’s also where many mistakes go unchecked. Carefully review your spelling, punctuation and grammar during this stage. Don’t rely on computer spell-checking or grammar programs. You should definitely use them, but keep in mind they don’t and can’t catch everything.
Other Eyes: Always try to get someone else to read your writing. Ask them to please (be polite) check for spelling and grammar mistakes. You can also ask them if they understood your message and how to take action after reading the article. The more information you can get the better, but be aware of patience limits or the person may run and hide the next time you come near them with a piece of paper.
Don’t Leave Them Floundering
As always, you want to end your article with a clear and strong call-to-action. Think about your goal for the article. Do you want to create awareness? Ask readers to share your writing on social media. Do you want to build your list? Remind them to join your newsletter or direct them toward a gated freebie. Do you want to add value for readers? Tell them what they should do next to implement what you’ve written about.Do you want to add value for readers? Tell them what they should do next to implement what you've written about. Click To Tweet
Your readers should always know what they should do after finishing your article. If they click away from your article without taking action, you lose free publicity, a list building opportunity or a chance to delight your reader with extra value.
You’ve may have heard marketers refer to asking for “one action.” This means you should only ask your reader to do one thing after consuming your article. If you give them the choice of too many actions, there’s a good chance they will choose to do nothing. This is based on the paradox of choice. Some marketers think it’s great to offer an endless supply of choices. But, multiple choices can actually paralyze people and lead them to do nothing, which allows them to avoid the pressure of making a choice. So, remember, “one action.”
Well, here we are at the end of the article. That makes me sad because it feels like you’re ending our conversation and leaving me all alone. But, that’s my issue to deal with, not yours.
In the future, I plan on publishing several other articles about writing blog posts. They’re fun to write and write about!
I will end this post wisely, as I taught, and ask you for a single action. Please share my article with lots and lots of people. This will also help me feel better about you leaving me all alone (…wink wink…).