In today’s online world, blogging has taken on increased importance as everyone from Fortune 500 companies to small-town mom-and-pop shops seek to expand their digital reach and ultimately improve their bottom line. After initially serving as an online venue for folks to share their feelings, thoughts and opinions to their followers, blogging has grown immensely and its simplicity has afforded almost anyone the ability to launch a blog. Blogs — originally referred to as web logs — have grown into a platform used by millions, everyone from individuals to businesses.
Because one of the most important media channels for any organization is their own website, if your organization’s website doesn’t have a regularly updated blog section, then you are missing a significant opportunity to stand out among your competitors, increase your visibility, expand your customer base and add to your bottom line.
Today, blogging is vital to your online content marketing strategy. In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute, efficiently creating high-quality content is the number one factor for success. An effective blog not only drives traffic to your website, it positions you as a thought leader and allows you to develop better customer relationships. Best of all, when done right, blogging can improve your website’s SEO (search engine optimization), allowing Google and other search engines to display your site higher in their search results.
Now that you know why blogging is important, the rest of this post will discuss a process for writing effective blog posts.
While many company blogs have a different look and feel, each blog shares similarities, and there is structure and a set of rules to follow when writing an effective blog post. Blogging isn’t nearly as difficult when you have a well-defined process. Break down the exact steps you take to write a post into smaller, manageable components.
One of the biggest challenges of blogging is not actually writing the blog but coming up with an idea to blog about. Here at MAPR, we develop blog posts for clients across a broad range of industries, and our goal is to ensure our clients are establishing industry credibility as thought leaders on a particular topic. However, it can begin to feel like everything has already been covered and keeping content fresh remains a challenge.
To come up with new and interesting ideas for your blog, consider reading old blog posts or other relevant blogs for ideas. Ask your colleagues for ideas or see if there are questions they are frequently answering. You could also host a brainstorming session to come up with a list of keywords that content creators can easily turn into blog posts.
Speaking of keywords, don’t forget to consider SEO and do some keyword research before drafting your post. Find keywords that relate to your industry and determine user intent to help you decide what to write about and who you’re writing for.
Understanding the goals for writing a post is vital to a post’s success. If you aren’t sure what it is that you’re delivering, why the content is right for your site, why you need it, what it’s for, what goals you’re aiming to achieve and why they’re important, it will be impossible to craft an effective blog post. Ask questions up front. If you can’t answer one of the questions above, how can you reach the desired end result?
Your goals could include selling more products, reaching a broader audience, expanding your email subscription list, ranking higher in search engine results pages, growing your social media following or some other business objective, but without a detailed understanding of goals to be met, your post won’t accomplish anything at all.
Research, Research, Research
For many industry blog posts, backing up your points with relevant, timely and industry-specific research adds a layer of credibility to your post. Unfortunately, there’s no secret sauce or magic button to press when it comes to the researching process though. It takes time and effort.
Take the time to find the information you need, and dig into your topic to learn everything you can. Start with a simple Google search. Set up Google Alerts to send you research papers or studies on a particular topic, and follow authors or other relevant blogs, reading them as often as possible. Interview an expert or check out the library for additional resources. Save all of the research you find and organize it by topic to make it easier to find when writing. While there may be a lot of great research out there, you don’t need to squeeze everything into your post. If it doesn’t fit, cut it! To ensure the effectiveness of your post, take time and put in the effort to do the proper research to ensure your post is full of the best information.
To this point, you’ve put in a lot of work and haven’t even started writing yet. Now, for the fun part — writing your post! Whether you prefer to hammer it all out in one session or gradually piece it together over a longer period of time, the writing process also takes time and effort.
In fact, according to recent blogging research, the average blog post takes about three hours and 20 minutes to write, and the average time spent writing a blog post has increased every year since 2014.
Develop an outline for your content and follow it to ensure your posts follows a logical flow from start to finish. Because brevity is the soul of wit, paragraphs in a blog post should be short, concise and to the point. Don’t worry about getting it “right” or making it “perfect” during the drafting process, you can always go back and edit your post later.
Creating effective content forces you to spend a bit more time polishing everything and making sure that there aren’t any silly mistakes (like typos) and that your content has the best possible chance to meet the objective set for it. When copyediting, focus on making sure your words are perfect, readable and clear.
Wait a couple of hours to a day to begin editing. When self-editing immediately after writing, your mind is oftentimes clouded, and you may be blind to the mistakes you’ve made. When editing, make sure your post is structured appropriately and organized in a clear manner (more details on how to organize your blog post will be laid out in an upcoming post, so stay tuned!).
Check for spelling or grammar errors, but don’t put all of your faith in a spell-check tool. While tools like Grammarly can check the post for flagged spelling and grammar issues, many issues often fall through the cracks. If your organization uses a style guide, refer to it. For example, here at MAPR, we utilize the AP Stylebook because that is what many media organizations use, and we are oftentimes writing with them in mind. Finally, fact-check your blog post. Nothing is worse than going live with an inaccurate claim or opinion that isn’t backed up by a supported source.
Optimize for Best Results
Search engine optimization is incredibly important for your blog posts. With the right process and a bit of patience, optimizing an effective blog post is always possible. Consider what the primary thrust of your blog post is, and find three to five keyword phrases to target. Think about them as the primary keyword phrase that you’re targeting. Also think about secondary keywords that you want to try to insert into the meta description, image alt tags and the body of the content. Intelligently use these keywords in places like the page’s title, its URL, its meta description, its headline, its body copy and its images.
Ensure the URL is readable, and that the title, meta description and heading tags are in place before posting. Optimizing your post is helpful to search engines to find, index and rank your new content. Fortunately, there are many metrics you can track on a daily, weekly or monthly basis to keep your SEO plan on track, identify areas of opportunity and measure your ongoing success.
In the end, blogging has come a long way since its 1990s beginning. No longer simply an individual’s hobby, blogging is an influential tool for modern businesses looking to stand out among their competitors, increase their online visibility, expand their customer base and improve their bottom line. Organizations don’t have to spend millions of dollars to operate a blog, they simply need to trust the blogging process.
Everyone’s blogging process is a little bit different from mine, and it takes time to figure out what works best for you. Hopefully, walking through my process can help make blogging seem slightly less arduous for you and your organization, and it has opened the door for you to begin writing effective blog posts that meet all of your organization’s goals.
Stay tuned for more on the importance of blogging and how to organize an effective blog post in the coming weeks!