Long gone are the days where you could bash out a 500-word blog post spread across three paragraphs and see success - with more than two million blog posts being published every day, it’s more important than ever to create something amazing, and which, ideally, exceeds reader expectations.
Consumers' time is becoming more and more precious as they try and spread themselves across multiple social platforms and everywhere else. Even getting their attention is one thing, but keeping it is something else entirely.
Compelling readers to stick around for an entire blog post is an uphill struggle - but there is a way that you can increase that all-important time spent on page.
Think of Your Blog Post Like a Research Paper
Remember at school or college, when writing a research paper was a huge undertaking? You’d carry out tons of research, gather together loads of resources, then carefully start crafting your argument.
You should consider taking a similar approach when creating a blog post.
Your content doesn’t necessarily have to be a mammoth event that takes weeks, but coming at it in a structured way will make it easier for you to create something immersive, and valuable for your audience.
What Exactly is a Research Paper?
Research papers are in-depth, researched works on a specific subject which aim to definitively answer a key question, or questions. More often than not, research pieces will refer to a number of different studies and reports from reputable sources to back up each point.
Of course, most of us aren’t established experts in our fields, so presenting a sense of authority can be difficult - if you don’t have the credentials to back you up.
It was the same at college, right? Our professors wouldn’t accept anything less than a good old smattering of relevant information, from credible sources in our papers.
With your content, you can kind of pretend that Google is your new college professor.
Because creating high-quality, well-researched content will keep people around on your website for longer - and the longer they spend with your content, the more that can help boost your SEO performance.
By integrating relevant information from other sources, citing data and facts, and creating an “argument” that’s more than just your own opinion (just like you would in a research paper), you’re essentially showing Google that you’re pumping out the good stuff through its various measures, including backlinks, time spent on page, bounce rate, etc.
Here’s how you can go about it.
1. Write Your Thesis
In the dictionary, a thesis is defined as “a statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved.”
This is essentially your content strategy - or more specifically, the purpose of each and every blog post you're looking to create.
Before you even put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the primary topic of this blog post?
- Why is this blog post important?
- What are the main things readers will take away from this post?
- How will I get my point across?
Once you're able to answer these questions, you can start to structure your piece in a way that’s concise and flows well.
2. Create an Outline
Before you start your hunt for facts, figures, data, and relevant quotes, you should have a general idea of how your blog post is going to be structured.
In the academic world, you'd have your professor check that you’re on track before you start writing, but in the case of a blog post, it’s down to you to figure out how you’re going to put together your argument.
Again, this ties in with your thesis. One of the best ways to plan a blog post is to highlight the key points you want to make in bullet point form, then move them around until they fit into a good flow.
When you’ve got your agenda in place, go through each bullet point and ask yourself whether it supports your main thesis (or blog post plan).
3. Find Credible Sources
Remember how your professors would emphasize finding credible sources? Even if you had a perfectly written paper, if you used non-credible sources (like Wikipedia), they would fail the paper, or make you redo it. This same warning applies to finding sources for a blog post.
When you’re researching sources to back up the points you’re making, it’s important to ensure that the sources are credible. The easiest way to do this is to check the domain authority of the site.
There are plenty of SEO tools out there that you can use to quickly check the domain authority (DA) of a site - just type in the domain you want to check and go:
Here’s the page/domain authority of Forbes as an example:
You also need to consider the density and length of the content you produce - there's no definitive word count you should aim for, but you do need to ensure you've covered the topic in enough depth to answer reader questions.
According to research by Medium, posts which take around seven minutes to read get the most eyeballs to the bottom of the post.
As noted, that doesn't definitively mean you need more words, but the length here points to the fact that in-depth pieces, which take some time to read through tend to be more compelling that short grabs. That means readers will stick around, if you give them reason to - ie. by answering their questions thoroughly.
4. Data Matters
In a hugely saturated industry like marketing, for example, everyone and their dog is claiming to be a 'ninja' or a 'guru'. These self-proclaimed influencers tend to boats big, but often don’t back up their words.
But let’s go back to research papers for a moment - every time you made a big claim, you had to back it up, right?
Your blog posts should be no different - every time you inject a statistic or a piece of data which solidifies the point you’re making, you build a little more trust with your readers.
The key thing to remember here is that consumers don’t buy from businesses, they buy from people they trust, and building trust starts by not making wild claims without backing them up.
Extra Credit: Make it Interesting
Just think for a moment about how many research papers professors have to read in one sitting. They're often overwhelmed by the number of papers they need to sift through - and that’s exactly what your audience can feel like with online content.
Keeping your readers engaged is the most important thing for building relationships, so consider just how you’re going to do that.
Ask yourself this: "What makes this particular blog post better or more interesting than something similar on another site?"
This is key - conduct a search for your focus topic and see what else is already ranking, then consider what you can add to make yours better, more definitive.
Putting together a blog post is no longer a case of writing a few hundred words, hitting publish, and hoping for the best. These days, blog content is a key element in the path to purchase, with some 78% of consumers indicating that they would rather learn more about a company through a blog post than ads - while a further 70% think that brands publishing custom content want to build relationships.
This is why we can liken writing a blog post to writing a research paper, despite them essentially being two completely different mediums.
Both processes serve the same purpose - to lay out an argument.
Start by highlighting your thesis to determine what you want readers to get out of your piece, and then work on filling it in with key points and research references that will form up your argument. From there, you can pepper data, statistics, and credible sources throughout those key points to solidify them and back up the claims your making.
As a result, you’ll be able to further boost your authority in your field, build trust with your readers, and generate more conversions as people start to see you as the go-to source in your industry.