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Writing Effective Blog Posts
A Complete Guide to Composing Blog Posts
July 03, 2013
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Being asked to write a blog post can be a daunting task, particularly if you are not sure where to begin. This guide was created with the intention of providing you with the required guidelines to construct a blog post that will be effective and perform within search, thus increasing traffic and improving the authors authority on a given subject.
This is by no means an exhaustive checklist, more an outline to follow. This guide will provide you with detailed information on the following subject matter;
Identify A Need - Picturing a problem you have encountered in the past, one that your reader may yet encounter is a good start. This is particularly useful if you have already identified a solution to the problem.
A New Spin – If the topic you are covering has already been covered time and time again, look for a new spin or angle to come in at. A unique take on something makes for a compelling read.
What Matters Most - When something matters to you it shines through in the way you communicate it and this has a way of engaging others who also think it matters.
What’s Trending – Identify hot topics by referring to Google Trends. It is worth noting that as they are HOT topics, they are only worth considering if you can find a new angle or spin.
One Topic per Post – Probably the most important tip; keep your post to one topic. It is very easy to veer off topic, particularly when ranting. Most readers scan through posts, so it is best to hone in on one topic to keep them interested. If your post requires that you cover several topics, consider doing a series of posts.
Automation – Regardless of the work you are in or the topic you are covering, if you have come across a better way of doing something, regardless of how small or insignificant it may seem to you, the likelihood is that a first time reader will find it useful. Anything that makes our lives that little bit easier is always appreciated; these types of posts tend to consistently perform well.
Keep it Short – Most research indicates that the most effective titles are short, simple and easy to digest. Shorter titles are great for search engines such as Google; keep the title under 40 characters to ensure the whole title appears within the search results.
Attention Grabbing – Nothing drives interest like controversy, however, this can also be dangerous. Getting a user to click on your post because of a controversial title is fine, but if you cannot live up to your title in the rest of the post, you will have one annoyed reader who will not return. Instead of controversy, try imposing a question.
Meet a Need – An effective title will draw people into reading more because they feel you’ve got something they NEED to hear. There is a reason why ‘How To..’ and ‘Tutorial type’ articles out perform all others. If you are stating that you are providing a solution, interest will peak – just ensure you actually provide some sort of actual solution!
Be Descriptive – Being descriptive yet short can be challenging. However, it is important to remember that if a user is browsing through lots of titles trying to decide which one is most relevant to them, the concise title will get the majority of clicks and prove most effective.
Use Keywords – Titles are the single most important ranking factor of any post, ensure that you use the main keywords you think users might use to find your article. If you are unsure of the most popular keyword for your title, try doing some keyword research by using Google’s Keyword Tool.
Ask a Question – By asking a question whereby the answer is yes, is an old but effective technique. Anyone reading and answering ‘yes’ to the question asked, already know that by reading on they will find the answer to their own questions – this ‘buy in’ keeps the user engaged. Don’t limit yourself to one ‘yes’ question. Scatter them throughout your post and you can take the reader on a journey that leads them to your call to action.
Make a Promise – Stating a claim or making a promise tells your reader what they’ll get from reading the post. Claims or promises are short, to the point and very effective. The only thing to remember is that you must be able to back up the claim or promise in the post itself or you will have some very annoyed readers who may not return.
Use a Quote - Using the words of someone other than yourself can bring authority and credibility to your post. When using a quote, try and link out to the person who originally made the quote – be it a Wikipedia page or their own page. Linking out to a source of authority that is higher than your own can yield great results in Google, who reward external linking to higher quality sites. Also, the right quote can be a real attention grabber to the reader.
Use Facts/Statistics – Only 1 in 10 readers will have read this far in this article therefore only 1 in 10 readers will create an effective post after reading this article. Statistics are a great way to reassure the reader that you have done your homework. They will also get the immediate sense that they will learn something valuable from reading further.
Every article should have a purpose, a point that makes it ‘matter’ to the reader. Try to remind yourself of this during the start, middle and end of your post. It is also be a good idea to remind the reader, all too often the main point can be forgotten by the time the reader comes to the end of the post. When constructing the topic and title, try writing down the point or purpose of the post based on those two elements.
One of the most popular complaints from regular bloggers is that there is little to no user engagement with the articles they post. They write a fantastic post with expert opinion, reference other material, serve a purpose and supply a solution. So why are readers not getting involved? No comments, no subscriptions, no likes or shares.
Readers, in general, are passive. Unless told to do something or offered some sort of incentive to complete an action, most users will simply move on to the next article and never return.
Implementing a call to action will improve user engagement and provide your post with some much needed traction.
It’s all very simple, if you want a user to comment on the post then ask them to. If you want users to subscribe to your blog, ask them to by offering them some sort of incentive – more quality posts on the subjects that matter most to them. Again, if you want the piece to be shared and liked, ask the question!
Improving Authority – When writing articles it is often wise to reference other articles or persons who have an authority in the subject matter you have chosen. This has several benefits;
• Indicates to the user that you have researched the matter thoroughly.
• Tells the user you are unbiased and open to other people’s opinions.
• Shows Google that your content has value, outside of your own opinion.
Further Research – Offering further reading and other opinions at the end of your article provides the reader with a better user experience. It also has the added benefit of showing Google that not only do you have a different opinion than others within the same niche, but you are willing to link out to those opinions (some of a higher authority than your own).
After all, Google is all about linking and shared information. By linking out to other sites, you are improving the flow of information and increasing the amount of pages that they can index and serve to their users.
The importance of linking out to other sites cannot be stressed enough. Every post you write should link out to other opinions or further research. Improving the user experience is paramount to improved rankings and increased traffic.
Spelling & Grammar – This seems very obvious, but relying on spell checkers or Microsoft word for grammar leaves you open to all sorts of errors and interrupted reading. Ensure you are using the correct spell checker (a US spell checker on a UK English article will leave the user with a poor experience), but don’t rely solely on that.
Once finished with the article, read over it slowly, and paying particular attention to the spelling of each word and the use of grammar throughout the article.
Content Flow – Be prepared to read over the article several times to ensure that the flow is right. Ask the person sitting beside you to run through it too, the more eyes you can get on the article prior to publishing, the better.
* Every spelling error that you correct and every awkward sentence structure that you improve, removes yet another barrier to readers engaging with your content.
SEO Product Manager
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Steven's home page: www.stevenforsyth.com