Let’s talk about blogging tips. One of the most commonly recommended tips when you are looking at branding/ grassroots marketing/ creating an inbound lead list or really any digital marketing. While many are moving away from blogs to focus on e-mail marketing (nothing wrong with that.) it is still the top of most inbound sales funnels and is certainly a great way to create content that establishes you as an expert, allows you to build trust with potential customers (leading them to welcome you into their email inbox), and allows search engines to feed your content to potential customers based on their searches and needs. In my humble opinion, while you may not need to create content every day or even every week, you still want some killer blog posts that can constantly be re-shared and used to drive traffic, engagement, awareness of your brand, and guide people into your sales funnel. Here are 10 tips on how to blog, if you have a blog that isn’t really driving traffic or if you are considering adding it to your arsenal.
1. Know Your Purpose/ Know Your Audience’s Purpose
This goes beyond “everyone says I need to blog.” That may be why you are picking up blogging, but blogging for the sake of blogging is a futile effort in madness. You need to take some time and really think about why you want to blog. The next obvious answer is to make sales.
Making sales is a great reason to blog. The approach you take to blogging will depend on the type of sales you are looking for. If you are new in your industry, then you may want to focus on posts that let consumers know what sets you apart from your competitors, why your products are the best for your target audience, how your product solves their problems, and of course, any PR content that is relevant (such as when you get in with a new distributor, if you host events, any volunteer work you’re doing, etc.)
If you’ve been in business for a bit and are getting into blogging now, while any of the content that applies to a new business will also apply to you, you also want to look at how you are currently drawing your leads and content that you could use for your top of the sales funnels to help close the gap.
For example, I provide editing services. I wrote a post about the different levels of editing. I also wrote a post about the hottest tool in the book market for self-editing, ProwritingAid. As you can see, any time I do a post around editing, I include a call to action inviting them to contact me to get a free quote.
I know my audience. Their first pain point is how to better self-edit so that they can save on the cost of an editor. Books are expensive to produce and if you just one and done your drafts to an editor it can get very expensive very fast. Especially for a quality final pass. I also refer to a great tool for those who aren’t completely broke but still get sticker shock at the thought of a 75K word document running $1,500. Then I offer a free 5-page quote. Those who’ve made it that far are either aware enough of how extensive the process is that $1,500 is not a big deal or have already done several passes and the quality of the work won’t warrant such a high editing cost.
When I send that quote, I will also invite them to sign up for my newsletter for other awesome free tips on writing. Once they are in my newsletter, that gives me tons of cross-promotional opportunities.
What if you are wanting to start a blog, but you don’t currently sell anything? Consider your target audience and your interest in your blog. Are you wanting to become an influencer? Target a specific niche. If you want to do a book and makeup blog, target book genres that tend to have a heavy female readership. That was one of the big mistakes I made early on was reviewing all the books and genres I read, instead of keeping my audience tight. I knew I planned to write across multiple genres so I figured building multi-genre readers was a good call. Learned quickly that there are not a ton of readers like me who straddle so many different genres. Be intentional about building your audience now, and it will make it easier to leverage them later and to build out a clear sales funnel like my example above.
2. Create a Detailed List of Topic Ideas
There is nothing worse than a looming blog deadline and no topics to write about. Trust me, you can go back and look at my earlier content and go “Yeah, she was just going off script!” Some of that was testing what would target the right audiences (like when I added film and TV reviews to my lineup.) and others, I was just writing about a random item because I had not kept up with my content ideas list and Newsjacking wasn’t the easy content source it is now. If you are struggling with topic ideas, try using Google Trends. It is such a handy tool. (it’s also great for tweaking headlines, and planning SEO, which we will get into more detail within the next sections). You can also crowdsource your existing audience. I also love putting up polls on social media to get feedback on topics. Always have 1 option be “Other- please list in comments”. This is a goldmine for content ideas.
Consider creating content clusters to help not only with your content ideas but also with linking internally. Looking back at the earlier example of my articles on editing, not only do I link to my services, but I also link to other articles I’ve written on tangential topics (The ProWritingAid article, for example.) I do this a lot to keep a nice balance of long and short-form content and to prevent reader fatigue. I store topic ideas in my editorial calendar and then plan out my topics as needed, sometimes bumping up topics that fit trends or that I see coming up in forums often.
Forums are another great content idea resource. If there are places where you can eavesdrop on your customers, listen to what they are saying they need/ want/ are interested in. Your topics don’t have to be exclusively tied to what you sell, as long as they appeal to your audience. (Hence why I experimented with doing film and TV reviews. Alas, I found that while a lot of readers love talking about TV, it didn’t do anything to boost my subscriber rate, build my audience, and was the lowest viewed and engaged with content I had. It was not worth my time to try to get enough tv in to add that to my reviews and I would rather spend that time reading instead!)
You can never run out of good ideas, especially if you always make sure to do content idea planning once a month, or before you get too low on your list.
3. Have Killer Headlines
Headlines are the first thing that most people will see as you share across social media. If that headline doesn’t grab the reader then they will not click and read. Headlines should be tight, tell what your topic is using power words, and identify your audience. One of my favorite tools for creating headlines is CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer
Your goal should be to achieve the highest score possible while also having the title make sense for your topic. I require a score of 70 or higher for myself to achieve the best rankings possible.
This article started out titled Top 10 Blogging Tips for Entrepreneurs. That only had a score of 68. I spent about 5 minutes playing with power words and came up with Top 10 Blogging Tips to Teach Entrepreneurs to Drive Business which has a score of 85. Much better.
Usually, I won’t figure out my killer headline until I am writing up the article. It takes so little time. But if you are coordinating for a team of writers, it may be worth your time to spend a couple of hours a month managing this so that you don’t end up with too many articles sounding the same because they used the same power words or a million top 5 lists. People love them, but they get old real quick.
4. Plan your SEO
SEO is the lifeblood of the internet, to the point where people pay sometimes thousands of dollars to professionals each month to manage their SEO strategy for their site. If you could afford that, I’m not sure you’d be here reading my articles.
I have some fantastic resources that I use when prepping for my own articles. I will warn you, SEO is not for the faint of heart. I often spend more time on the SEO and headline for an article than I do on writing the article itself. The first step is I scan through my article and pick out keywords around the content. The first tool I use is Google Keyword planner to select keywords that are similar to the ones I pulled from my content (If you don’t use google AdWords, then you can just plug your keywords into a google search and scroll to the section that has other recommended search terms, but this is very time-consuming). Then I will use Yoast SEO premium, plugin each of those keywords and see if any new suggestions pop up. From there, I will hit up The Hoth and use the same process.
After adding those into my Yoast, I will put them aside for helping me find the best hashtags for social media sharing.
5. Write for Your Audience
The more specific and niche you can be, the better your results. I had originally planned on writing this post specifically targeting authors and using examples that directly impact an author’s needs. But I also work with a lot of SMBs (small and medium businesses) and this content is relevant to all small business owners. While it is considerably more difficult trying to target examples for all SMBs, authors included, I felt that the value you would all get from the content was worth it. But my tips would be a bit different for a larger business that had the budget to hire an SEO company or a niche business that solved a problem people don’t even know they’re having.
6. Break the Content into Easy-to-Read Segments.
People love top 5 and top 10 lists. I’ve even seen some top 100 lists (but those are typically reserved for cornerstone content or are built by companies who are just all about link building/ affiliate marketing.) Lists are a handy tool to help break content up into easy-to-read segments. What are some other options? Well, for my book reviews, I always break the review up into sections using heading one for Genre, Synopsis, and My Take.
It is clean, consistent for my readers, and makes it easy for them to scan and decide if they are interested in learning more about the book.
There are lots of other options:
- Using different heading sizes.
- Creating bullet points- great for list resources, especially.
- Inserting infographics- a great way to distill the key elements.
- Adding images – especially if that picture can capture your thousand words.
- Adding video- video content is king on every platform right now.
- Add pull-quotes- especially if they are in bold or a different colored font.
Anything you can do to make it easy for someone to scan the article and see if you are providing the solution they need is essential. Following the tips in Elements of Style is also very beneficial.
7. Include Links to Reputable Sources
This is commonly referred to as an outbound link campaign. You will notice that in all of my content I typically have at least 3 links. My goal is to have 1 internal link to other content that you might enjoy. The other 2 (minimum, often in my long content, like this piece, there are far more than 2) are aimed at top sites for that topic. For book reviews, that would be a link to Goodreads, Amazon, D2D or Smashwords for purchasing the book, but would also include a link to the author’s website, or one of their social media pages.
How do you determine the quality of the source? Well, that can be tricky. It’s tempting to just include those who showed up on the first page of Google, right? That doesn’t necessarily mean they are quality sites. There are still a lot of sites practicing black hat SEO who can show up at the top of the search this week, but could get flagged next week. And anyone linking to them also gets flagged.
A good bet is to target content by industry leaders, but sometimes those individuals are your direct competition. You don’t want to be driving business to their sites, right?
There are some handy tools that you can use to calculate. 10 Little-Known Ways to See How Much Traffic a Website Gets
By Nicholas Tart shares some of my favorites. This also comes in handy for your bonus tip below.
8. Create a Mix of Long and Shortform Content
You want a mix of content on your site, ideally, that builds into one another. As mentioned earlier, content clusters are a great way to do this. One of the main focuses I’ve been working on is developing more cornerstone content that utilizes my short-form content better. For example, I am working on creating “best XYZ Books” and pulling all my reviews for that genre that scored 4 stars or higher. I’m also creating some long-form lists with links to content for the other topics on my blog, including the editing examples I provided above, developing a Martech (marketing tech tools) recommendation list linking all the reviews of my favorite Martech, and how to use it for an SMB.
You will find that creating this mix of content that feeds into one another will lead to longer times people are spending on your site.
9. Have a Strong Call To Action
A CTA (call to action) should be included on every piece of copy you write, whether it is a blog post, a social media post, an event sign, or a video. It tells the audience what they should do. Some generic examples:
- Buy now
- Leave a comment
- Learn more
- Join us at …
- Don’t miss ….
- Add to your calendar….
- Have you read…?
- Share your thoughts
- Share with a friend
- RT (retweet)
- Like, comment, share
Of course, whenever possible you want to make your CTA as personal as possible and take advantage of the power words in the headliner list. They are fantastic for creating feelings and feelings are what sell products. Even those of us *hi* who pride ourselves on being very analytical buyers, those data points make us feel more confident in our purchase.
10. Share it Everywhere
The more you can customize your content shares to fit the platform, the better it will be recieved on that platform. Keep in mind that leading with video content is a big push as more platforms embrace video content. It is worth taking a small clip from your longer video and making it work for IG stories or to follow TikTok trends and use a call to action to drive traffic back to your post. Take time to size images for each platform appropriately. I love PromoRepublic and Canva because they both make it so easy to create the right content to easily share while remaining consistent.
As I mentioned above, you want to make sure that you are using the best tools for searching hashtags. I pull the SEO words and plug them in and see if any other suggestions pop up on Instagram. Sproutsocial shares some great tips on Twitter Hashtag Research
You also do not have to limit yourself to sharing content only once. I typically share a new post across all my platforms a few times in the first month. If it is evergreen content, I will continue to share it every 90 days to 6 months, giving it an update as needed to make sure that the content is still relevant, the keywords are still strong, etc.
I also love using social listening to share content. When I see a Twitter search asking about formatting a book, I love to direct the person asking for help to my blog post 5 Manuscript Formatting Secrets to Win a Reader’s Love
When I find a Reddit that is appropriate, I will share my posts. Keep in mind that this strategy only works if you are active in those communities and if you are careful to curate appropriately. If all you do is scan for social listening opportunities to drop your links that is spamming. Better spamming than just randomly dropping your links at the end of someone’s blog posts, but only barely.
Bonus Tip- You Don’t Have to Blog Just on Your Own Site
Guest posting is a strong tool. Combining a strong inbound linking strategy (guest posting, which drives links to your site.) with a strong outbound linking strategy will help you show the search engines that your site is a key site for your type of content. How do you do this? Pick your top keywords that you are aiming to be seen as an expert on and then go find the sites that your audience is already using and pitch articles to them. Provide a great informational article that fits that site’s needs and audience. Be sure to include at least one link in the body that goes back to your content on your own site, and then include a link to your home page in your bio.
For example, an author would find a book blogger in their genre that welcomes guest posts. If that blog also talks a lot about music, and you have a playlist that you used to write your book then you could pitch an article around that. A fantasy book blogger who also has music posts might find “Top 5 Songs on your Quest playlist” as an appealing guest post topic. Then you can list your top 5 songs with a brief explanation of the feels it gives, then say “To find more great fantasy songs, check out my playlist recs” and link to your own blog post on your site explaining why certain songs are key to your writing playlist for your series.
You don’t have to limit your inbound linking strategy to blog posts. I love participating on podcasts and panels. Almost all of them will provide a “here’s how to find our guest” section in their content feed. Those are also great ways to build your inbound links.
On my site, author interviews and character spotlights are quite popular. I am always down to accept those. It’s surprising how many authors never include a link to their site or to their book even when they do these types of interviews. I used to spend hours hunting down appropriate content but now I refer them to this post and hope they follow best practices. If they don’t, I don’t plug it in. I just don’t have time to coddle others for a free service.
I always recommend looking at the blog to get a sense of the format and try to copy their style while allowing your unique voice to flow through. This is common practice with native advertising. When in doubt, check their requirements page. Most have a requirements page and many even have a list of preferred topics.
Want to pitch a guest post on my site? The rules are easy.
Please email me with the subject line “Guest post for An Angell’s Life”