Do you blog? Feel like you're trying to reinvent the wheel time and again?
Looking for some ideas to simplify your content creation process?
What follows are 26 tips, from A-Z, to help you create optimal blog posts every time you sit down to write.
#1: Anatomically Correct
A blog post contains several areas that require our attention and care. Pamela Seiple refers to six parts of the anatomy of a lead-generating blog post:
- Eye-catching title
- In-text links to landing pages
- Sidebar/banner calls to action
- Social sharing buttons
- Call to action at the bottom
- Relevancy—making sure the post is relevant from top to bottom
#2: Blogging Platform
By knowing the ins and outs of your blogging platform, you'll ensure that your posts look as good as they can. Take the time to master the visual editor (or raw HTML, if you prefer) so that you know how to format a post, insert an image and embed a video or podcast.
Whether you're working in platforms such as WordPress, Tumblr or Posterous, it's good to stay up to date on the features and new versions.
If you're not comfortable with the more technical aspects of blogging, try to find someone who can be a resource for you to answer questions as they arise.
Whether your new blog post is a stand-alone article or part of a series you're writing, it should fit into your blog categories as well as your overall corporate content strategy. Meaning that you want to stay on topic and have your posts fit into the categories you've established.
For example, HubSpot has nine categories on their blog. Posts are written to fit in with each of these categories. Writing about category topics such as analytics, blogging, email marketing, HubSpot TV, etc., allows both readers and writers to stay focused on what they can expect to see on HubSpot's blog.
When you choose your categories, ask yourself, do they make sense, and do they fit into the objectives of my business? Having clearly defined blog categories will help you continue generating meaningful content and topics for your blog.
Most search engines will use a maximum of 160 characters for your post description on their results pages. If you don't create a meta-description (defined as a “…concise summary of your page's content”), a search engine will often take the first 160 characters it finds on your page instead.
Note too, that when you create a meta-description that is fewer than 160 characters, you'll see the full description in the search engine. Otherwise it will be cut off.
#5: Editorial Calendar
Bloggers find editorial calendars helpful for scheduling and organizing topics for posts. Some people use their calendars to track more elaborate details.
Michele Linn suggests using specific tabs in a spreadsheet to track info for each post such as: post date, author, tentative title, keywords, categories, tags, call to action and status. She says “By tracking more than topic and date it will help to make sure the key elements you need for SEO, digital optimization and conversion are accounted for.”
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Download a sample editorial calendar worksheet.
#6: Fine-Tune and Revise
Like other forms of writing, a blog post is rarely completed in one draft. Many writers find it helpful to take a post through several revisions and fine-tune the post as you go along. Check grammar, spelling and punctuation, and make certain that all of your links are working.
#7: Guidelines for Writing for Search Engines
By following a few tips and best practices, you can increase the chance that your blog post will be found by search engines—by Google in particular.
The State University of New York at Plattsburgh offers these helpful writing tips:
- Google likes text
- Google likes formatting
- Google likes freshness
- Google likes accessibility
- Google likes outbound hyperlinks
- Googlebot isn't psychic, so remember to link your pages
- Google likes you to tell it where you are
- Google likes experts
Joost de Valk offers some good suggestions regarding blog headings. He writes, “The heading structure of your pages is one of the very important aspects of on-page SEO. It defines which parts of your content are important, and how they're interconnected. Because they have different goals, a single post needs another heading structure than your blog's homepage or your category archives.”
He offers five basic principles about heading structure:
- The most important heading on the page should be the H1
- There is usually only one H1 on any page
- Subheadings should be H2s, sub-subheadings should be H3s, etc.
- Each heading should contain valuable keywords; if not, it's a wasted heading
- For longer pieces of content, a heading is what helps a reader skip to the parts that he/she finds interesting
Blog posts are made up of more than words and headings.
Judy Dunn recommends five ways the right photo can increase readership and blog views:
- Convey the overall feeling or emotion of your post
- Illustrate a metaphor or analogy that is part of your main idea
- Evoke surprise or curiosity
- Complement your headline
- Make your reader smile
Judy points out too that readers are visual learners and images can help people take in and retain information better.
#10: Journalistic Approach
Bloggers can learn a lot from traditional journalists and the ways that they approach their news stories.
Mickie Kennedy offers five things that bloggers can learn from journalists:
- Get your facts straight
- Trust has to be earned
- Give credit to your sources
- The inverted pyramid works (basic overview in first paragraph and then delve into more details in subsequent paragraphs)
- Editing and proofreading are essential
#11: Killer SEO and Blog Design
Cyrus Shepard makes an important case for having a beautiful blog. He says, “…the overall design of your site is the first thing visitors see and it significantly influences bounce rate, page views and conversions.”
Cyrus suggests that certain elements on the page will add to a blog's success:
- Search box
- RSS feed
- Breadcrumbs (helping users navigate),
- Flat site architecture by minimizing the number of clicks it takes to reach your content
- Keep your best content above the fold
- Link to your best content
- Don't overdo links
- Watch ad space
- Encourage comments
- Add sharing buttons
- Test the blog for speed
- Check your blog in different browsers
- Pick a powerhouse blogging platform (e.g., WordPress, Posterous, Tumblr)
For a resource that will help remind you of these killer SEO suggestions, check out Cyrus' infographic, Blog Design for Killer Search Engine Optimization.
Lists have become a very popular type of blog post.
Nate Riggs offers three types for bloggers to consider: brief, detailed and hybrid lists.
The brief list has little description but can entice readers to bookmark the post to use the list as a resource down the road or to share it across their own networks.
In a detailed list, each bullet is a complete thought and serves as a good way to communicate complex information.
The hybrid list combines the elements of short and detailed lists, often with descriptive narratives or explanations in paragraphs between the actual lists.
Nate's post has a lot of useful information about lists as a powerful content marketing tactic and is a good example of a hybrid list.
#13: Metrics for Blogging
Magdalena Georgieva identifies five metrics to keep an eye on to know how your blogging is going: visitors, leads, subscribers, inbound links and social media shares.
As Magdalena says, “Measure the performance of your business blog regularly to identify weaknesses in the content you're producing, what topics your audience truly cares about, and what blogging tactics work for you.”
When you find topics and approaches that work particularly well, try to replicate those efforts and be willing to let go of features that aren't performing well. Magdalena recommends looking at your five most successful blog posts and asking, “What do they have in common?”
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#14: Names, Titles and Bio
Not only are readers interested in the content in your blog post, they also want to know who wrote the post and their role at your organization.
Sometimes you'll come across a thoroughly researched and well-written post only to find an attribution of “admin.” Even if the blog is only written by you and you're the administrator of the blog, be sure to include your name, title and a way for readers to contact you.
#15: Original vs. Curated Content
The type of post you write can contain completely original content or can consist of content that you've curated.
Pamela Seiple addresses the issue of curated content and makes an important point when she says, “There's a misconception among marketers that curated content is lazy and unoriginal, but we think it's the complete opposite. It takes time and careful evaluation to create quality curated content and the result is oftentimes a very valuable piece of content that helps people seeking information on a given topic to cut through the clutter on the web and save time.”
The 26 tips series here on Social Media Examiner is an example of curated posts, pulling in the expertise of others who have written on the topic. As a curator of this kind of post, I love the journey of the research and find it especially rewarding to see the content pulled together in a way that hadn't been previously available. Curated posts can be incredibly gratifying!
#16: Publish and Promote
Kristi Hines speaks about the publishing and promoting stages of creating a successful blog post. Kristi says that one thing you want to do during the publishing stage is to ensure that your post has some kind of call to action. “Think about what you want people to do once they've read the post….”
Promoting a blog post can involve a fair amount of thought and strategy, as you'll see from Kristi's approach. She has a different plan in place for “averagely awesome posts, awesome posts and killer awesome posts.”
What differs for the three types of posts is how many social networks she shares the posts with, whether she includes the post in her writing portfolio and whether it's included in her custom RSS feed or utilizes blog commenting promotion and direct messaging partners in social media to see if they'll help spread the word.
Kristi describes promotion as taking from a few minutes to a few hours, and recommends taking the time to build a good foundation before you expect to execute a successful blog promotion.
What are you going to write about post after post, week after week, year after year? Sometimes thinking about content for your blog can seem daunting.
Lee Odden offers a great piece of advice: “One particularly effective way to get content ideas for blogging comes from reviewing web analytics for the kinds of questions people type into search engines like Google or Bing that deliver visitors.”
In one example, Lee said that he noticed that numerous visitors each month were typing in the question “What does a community manger do?” and search engines were sending them to one of his posts about that topic. He used it as an opportunity to explore other related questions about social community managers and providing content in the form of answers.
What questions are your web visitors asking before they arrive on your pages? How can you maximize your content to answer readers' questions?
Well-researched blog posts can differentiate your content from your competitors'. Being known as a go-to source in your industry will help make your blog stand out. Where do you go to research posts?
I find that utilizing a variety of sources helps me gather the information I'm seeking.
For example, while I can often find a lot of useful content via web-based searches, sometimes there's nothing like a visit to the library or a bookstore where I often will discover a helpful book on the shelf that I wouldn't have known existed if I hadn't been standing there physically eyeballing them.
Oli Gardner makes a good case for using social media research for your blog posts. He suggests ten social media research strategies:
- Twitter real-time searches
- Facebook events
- Experts who are using LinkedIn
- Uncovering quotes with Delicious
- Letting users tell you within the comments section of your blog and others
- Creating roundup mega-lists with Delicious and StumbleUpon
- Apps on Facebook
- Delicious and Google Marketplace
- YouTube and the UrbanDictionary
#19: Stand Out
When you've been blogging in a competitive marketplace for a while, chances are good that you'll see other bloggers writing on topics similar to yours. It doesn't mean that you have to stay away from the topic completely; rather you can use it as an opportunity to see what worked and didn't work in their post and write yours in a way that will help you to stand out in the topic area.
By reading the comments on similar blog posts, you will get a great view of what questions and thoughts people had after reading the post and you can take a slightly different angle by making sure you cover those areas in your article.
How important is the title of your blog post? Simply put, very important!
Brian Clark writes that the title is the first, and perhaps only, impression you make on a prospective reader.
He says, “Without a headline or post title that turns a browser into a reader, the rest of your words may as well not even exist.
But a headline can do more than simply grab attention. A great headline can also communicate a full message to its intended audience, and it absolutely must lure the reader into your body text.”
#21: User-Centered Content
Possibly one of the worst mistakes a blog post can make is missing the mark of its readers, forgetting who they are and their needs and interests.
Georgy Cohen goes as far as to say that content can serve as customer service and that to be helpful, content should be user-focused (asking what our users' problems and priorities are), communicated clearly and presented in succinct language.
#22: Valuable Content
In the perfect blogging world, creating valuable content would be at the top of every blogger's list for their post objectives.
While our definitions about valuable content may vary, Ahava Leibtag has created a very helpful step-by-step checklist that reminds us to ask five questions:
- Can the user find the content
- Can the user read the content
- Can the user understand the content
- Will the user want to take action
- Will the user share the content
- Findable content includes: an H1 tag; at least two H2 tags; metadata including title, descriptors and keywords; links to other related content; alt tags for images.
- Readable content includes: an inverted-pyramid writing style, chunking, bullets, numbered lists, following the style guide.
- Understandable content includes: an appropriate content type (text, video), indication that you considered the users' persona, context, respect for the users' reading level, articulating an old idea in a new way.
- Actionable content includes: a call to action, a place to comment, an invitation to share, links to related content, a direct summary of what to do.
- Shareable content includes: something to provoke an emotional response, a reason to share, a request to share, an easy way to share, personalization.
Download the checklist for future reference.
#23: Word Count
How many words should you have in your blog post? Some blogs have set parameters for optimal length and put a value on whether a post is short or long.
Corey Eridon has an interesting perspective on word count and suggests that focusing on blog word count might not be as important as you think it is. “Some topics take 100 words to explain, some take 1,000, and that's okay.”
Corey suggests that writers focus instead on whether posts are optimized for mobile, use effective formatting, communicate in a clear manner and that outlining the points you want to cover may ultimately be a better use of your time and energy.
If you're restricted to shorter posts by the parameters set up in advance for your blog, then you could also follow Corey's advice to link to longer-form content you've developed around the topic.
Bottom line: Don't let the quantity of words dictate the quality of your post.
On the heels of our discussion about blog word count, a shorter blog post can also be an excerpt or summary of what readers will find in your longer-form content—e.g., eBook or white paper—but it needn't be restricted to words.
You can also use an excerpt of the transcript or a brief description to demonstrate what information the users will learn if they watch your video or listen to your podcast.
#25: Your Story
Readers like to get to know how writers tick and often appreciate hearing a few personal details and insights from the person who has taken them on a journey through a post. While business blogs shouldn't be thought of as personal journal entries, you can tell your readers a little bit about how you operate.
For example, I stated above that writing curated posts like the 26 tips series here on Social Media Examiner is one of my favorite types of posts to write. (Truth be told, curated posts are also some of my favorite types to read.)
In the description of “research” above, I also shared how research is one of my favorite parts of blogging and how I enjoy researching both online and offline by doing the footwork of visiting libraries and bookstores in search of materials.
What parts of yourself are you willing and able to share with your readers?
#26: Zone for Writing
Ideas for blog posts come at all times—when you're driving in your car, sitting at your desk, and yes, even in the middle of the night!
Chances are good though that the actual writing of the post will happen in multiple drafts and revisions, and depending on how you work, it may take place over a period of days.
What can be helpful is to create a time and place where you can get into the zone for writing and allow yourself to go with it, with as few interruptions as possible.
What do you think? How do you keep your blog posts consistent and dynamic? What tips would you add? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.
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