Many businesses start blogging simply to appear current - after all, no one wants to be the industry laggard, and you certainly don't want to miss out on attracting customers if all the hype about content turns out to be true.
So, you decide on a schedule and divide the work among your subject matter experts. The only requirement is to choose topics related to your business and produce quality articles that show off your brilliant team. Easy.
After some time, however, you might notice that the blog is working, but not at a level that's worth the effort. This can be particularly frustrating when your peers are reporting amazing success. Grrrrr.
At this point, you have two choices.
- Give up and be ok with looking like a dinosaur.
- Figure out how to become a better blogger.
Well, you wouldn't be here if you were ready to give up, so below are 10 tips that can help you improve your blogging game.
1. Always Ask Why You're Creating Each Blog Post
The only reason to produce more content is because you genuinely believe it will drive value for your business, your customers or - ideally - both. So, if you find yourself feverishly creating content simply because it's the next item on your to-do list, stop.
If your heart isn't in it, it will show, and the world already has plenty of heartless content.
Always ask how a particular piece of content fits into your overall content strategy, and how you'll measure its success. The answer to this question will help you design and promote your content with intention so you can ensure it drives results.
2. Research Your Topic and Competition Before You Write
Even if you already know your subject inside-and-out, this step is important - to create content that gets noticed you need to research what already exists, and find a way to create something better.
Use content research tools to examine the keyword/s you intend to target with each piece. Is there enough search volume to warrant your investment? If not, perhaps there's a similar term you can target instead.
Take a look at the sites that are already ranking for the term/s - how did they approach the topic? How was the content received? How fierce is the competition for that term? Is there an opportunity to add a unique perspective?
This is how the pros design content that rises above the crowd.
3. Invest in Crafting a Compelling Title
Never underestimate the importance of your title - it's often the only thing people see before deciding whether to invest their precious time consuming your content.
Create a title that clearly states what the article is about, and the value your reader will receive. I typically come up with 10 or 20 possible titles, then I use a headline analyzer, like CoSchedule, to develop more ideas and determine the best configuration.
If you're lucky enough to emerge from this process with a handful of great titles, put them to work - use them when you're promoting your new content on social media and pay attention to the response. If one performs better than the others, you can always go back and adjust the official title of your article later.
Once you've decided on a title, be sure to deliver on your promise. Nobody likes clickbait. Deliver what you promised to build trust among your reader, and over time, they'll begin to associate your name with useful content and look forward to your posts.
4. Commit to Discussing Just One Key Idea
It's easy to get carried away when you're passionate about a topic, but decide what one thing you would like your reader to learn and focus on achieving that goal.
For example, the purpose of this article is to provide readers with tips that will help them become better bloggers. Each of these tips could be an article of its own, but if I were to go deep on each point you would lose interest by tip two. As such, I'm providing just enough information to explain each point and leaving the in-depth information for a later date.
5. Structure Your Posts for Readability
Your readers are in a hurry. Keep your paragraphs short, your words simple and be sure to include plenty of images to break up the text
Readers often skim an article first, then go back to read the sections they find most interesting. Why not make it easy for them?
Tell your reader what they can expect to learn from the article within the first paragraph or two, then break your key points into sections with sub-headers.
Finally, re-state the key takeaways in your conclusion to drill the point home.
6. Write Your First Draft Like No One Is Watching
If you've done your research, you know what you need to say. Schedule a couple of uninterrupted hours, put aside your inhibitions and knock out your first draft from start to finish. Don't stop to make corrections or to re-read your work, it'll only slow you down and inhibit your creativity.
Go ahead and get up on your soapbox. Use all the swear words you want and allow yourself to get emotional, sassy, opinionated or even inappropriate. Just put it all out there - you will have plenty of time to edit your work later.
7. Edit Ruthlessly
After writing your first draft, put it aside for a day or two to give yourself a mental break - it'll look much different when you come back to it.
Sometimes the first draft is terrible. It happens - I've thrown out entire pieces because they just weren't worth the editorial effort. Learn from it and move on.
Most of the time, however, you can edit your work into compliance. Just be sure to be critical.
Reorganize, rephrase and remove entire sections if you need to. The final result should be crisp and concise. You're going to put your name on this article - make it something to be proud of.
8. Scrutinize Your Writing for Simplicity
Once you think you've completed your article, it's time to put it to the test. Using an app like Hemingway, check your writing for simplicity.
Tools can help you spot things you might otherwise overlook, like passive voice, complex words or long sentences. Believe it, or not, the goal is for your writing to be readable by someone at a 6th or 7th grade reading level. Anything more complicated can be tedious.
Then, before you hit publish, read the final result out loud. It sounds a little crazy, I know, but this is the best way to ensure the entire piece flows. If you stumble over your words, there's room for improvement.
9. Leave Plenty of Time for Promotion
You can create the most articulate, insightful article ever and still experience failure if all you do is publish it and walk away.
If your website has an SEO tool installed, take the time to review its suggestions and make any necessary adjustments. At the very least, make sure the title includes your target keyword and customize the meta description that appears in search engine results.
Then, plan out your social media promotion schedule. Each social network has unique norms for sharing articles, so you'll want to customize your message for each one. And, don't be afraid to share your article more than once - especially on Twitter where social posts have a short shelf life.
Finally, if you mentioned anyone in your article, this would be a good time to bring it to their attention.
10. Track, Analyze and Learn from Your Results
If you haven't already, be sure to develop a system for tracking the success of your posts.
Naturally, you should capture metrics like traffic, bounce rate and social shares for all your content, but, as mentioned earlier, each piece of content should have a purpose so you may need to add or adjust your system accordingly.
Some content will perform famously, while other posts will disappoint. This is frustrating, but normal - just remember that content marketing is a long-term game.
Treat each attempt as an opportunity to learn. Over time you can adjust and refine your methods.
Successful blogs don't typically happen overnight or by accident, those who are successful invest significant time into planning and craft each post with intention. These same bloggers view publication not as the end, but the beginning of the next phase, which is to promote the post like crazy, track the results and look for ways to improve.
If this sounds like a lot of work, that's because it is, but in a world of ad blockers and suspicious buyers, carefully designed content is one of the best and most rewarding ways to rise above the noise.