Charles Owen-Jackson

Independent Freelance Writer | Blogger | Content Marketer | Digital Marketing and Tech Writer

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Category: Content Marketing

9 Steps to Crafting the Perfect Blog Post

Of the many content marketing formats out there, the blog post remains one of the most popular. It’s a tried and tested content format that’s been around since the early years of the Internet, and it’s one that more and more companies are using to help get their messages across. There are at least 173 million blogs on the Internet, according to Statista.com, and business blogs have been consistently rated among the most effective content formats with the one of the highest ROIs. However, for every great blog out there, there’s perhaps a hundred junk blogs that exist for no other reason than to manipulate a company’s visibility in the search engines.

Maintaining a great blog requires one major investment, and that is time. Of course, it may also be more economical to outsource your content creation to a professional individual or a team of experts, in which case you’ll be looking at a substantial, but worthwhile, financial investment too. While setting up a blog is generally a quick and easy process thanks to modern content management systems, crafting the perfect blog post and then being able to do it consistently several times per week isn’t always easy. However, the following steps will help to clarify what constitutes a great blog post that will be genuinely interesting to its intended audience:

 

#1. Coming Up an Idea

Perhaps the hardest part of all is coming up for an idea in the first place. Even the most experienced of professional writers face the dreaded writer’s block on occasion. Of course, every piece of online content starts with an idea, and a great idea provides the crucial foundation for a great piece of content. Your idea should be distinctive in its intended marketplace and tailored to meet the interests and requirements of a specific audience. While content covering broader topics can also be useful, the best content is often highly targeted and relevant to a very specific audience and, as such, is less likely to be overshadowed by the competition.

 

#2. Developing a Compelling Headline

As far as a potential reader is concerned, the headline will ultimately be the deciding factor between continuing and leaving. A great headline should be concise, short and relevant above all. It should never be keyword-optimized at the expense of these critical factors. In other words, a headline should tell the reader what’s in store for them, and it should address a problem while also raising questions or inspiring emotions. You should also refer back to your headline as you formulate the rest of the content. For SEO purposes, it’s also wise to keep your headlines under 65 characters long so that they will be displayed properly in search engine results.

 

#3. Writing an Introduction

A blog post typically has two introductions, one in the form of a meta description tag for the search engines and another on the page itself. The meta description can be any length, although you should keep it under 160 characters, since most search engines won’t display any most than that. The contents of the tag should be a brief, concise and optimized elaboration of the title but, again, it must prioritize the human reader rather than the targeted keywords. With the on-page introduction, you won’t be subject to any technical limitations, but it’s also wise to keep it reasonably short while making sure it addresses the problem and briefly summarizes the content to come. A great introduction should ultimately tell the reader why they should proceed.

 

#4. Using Subheadings to Highlight Key Points

The online audience loves scannable content that’s broken up into lots of short sections separated by numbers and/or subheadings. People digest online content quite differently to how they digest printed media in that they are more likely to want short, concise answers to their questions without having to wade through walls of text. As such, even a great blog post will often get skimmed over rather than read in depth. This fact can be unnerving for any skilled writer, who might feel that their work isn’t being appreciated if it’s just being scanned over, but that is how people tend to read online. That being said, it’s still wise to provide long-form content by working with a base of around 1,000-2,000 words.

 

#5. Carrying Out Research

No writer, no matter how experienced and professional, can ever hope to write a great blog post purely off the top of their heads. It doesn’t matter how well you think you know a particular subject: you’ll still need to check your facts on occasion and seek out some inspiration when you find yourself lacking in the ability to turn your ideas into words. Good research is essential for good writing, and it should also be reflected in your blog post. If, for example, you quote a statistic, it looks a lot more credible if you can back it up with a reliable source. On this note, you should be wary of using websites like Wikipedia for serious research and instead focus on original source material from renowned websites, companies, individuals and institutions.

 

#6. Adding Extra Material

Adding bonus material doesn’t mean padding out your content just to reach some arbitrary and irrelevant word count. It means presenting your written content in an easily readable and informative way. Once you’ve written the base of your blog post, you might want to add in additional paragraphs such as a conclusion, summary or list of references. You may also want to embed tweets and quotes from leading influencers in relevant sections of the article to provide proof of your research and expertize. Another often-overlooked step involves linking to your own posts within the article to help people get more out of your blog.

 

#7. Selecting Visuals

While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with purely textual content, it’s generally not best-suited to the Internet. Ideally, you’ll need one image at minimum, even if it only exists as an eye-catching way to illustrate the subject matter of a particular blog post. Of course, some topics are inherently more visual than others, in which case you might want to provide some additional material. If you can embed or link to a relevant image, infographic or video at any point in your blog post, then you should do so. The main photo, however, is the most important, since first impressions are everything when it comes to branding. Most importantly, you should avoid clichéd and often irrelevant stock photos.

 

#8. Wrapping It Up

While it’s generally best to finish a blog post with a conclusion that briefly summarizes the key points made in the rest of the content, you should always leave some room for discussion. Blogging is, in many ways, just another area of social media marketing in that it has its important social elements, mainly in the form of comments. By posing a question at the end of the article that encourages people to leave feedback, you’ll be able to create a conversation and start building a community around it. After all, all of the world’s most successful blogs have developed highly active communities, and their posts attract hundreds of comments.

 

#9. Getting the Timing Right

The final step to creating a blog post is, of course, to publish it. While you might be tempted to get your work out there in front of the masses as soon as possible, doing so might be a mistake. In social media marketing, timing plays an important role, and the same is true of blogging as well, albeit to a lesser extent. Once you’ve given your work a thorough reading over to correct any errors, you’ll ideally be best off putting it aside until a peak time. The optimal timing will depend on your target audience and industry, so some experimentation can only be expected. For many businesses, the best time to publish new content is weekday mornings. More importantly, however, your timing and post frequency should be consistent.

 

Final Words

Although it usually takes quite a few months of consistent effort to build up an engaged community, business blogging presents many important advantages. By crafting excellent content, you’ll be able to start selling yourself as a thought leader and your brand as an important and respected influencer in its industry. It’s not always easy to get it just right, but great content is at the heart of any successful digital marketing strategy.

How Much Content Do You Need to Build a Successful Website?

Promoting a modern business revolves around inbound marketing, content and search engine optimisation being its two most important elements. Every marketer knows that having a high degree of visibility in the search engines is of utmost importance, even in the case of local businesses, which have traditionally been slow to adopt digital marketing.

Since the search engines function by crawling and indexing content, the more content you have, the better. After all, content is the ‘meat’ of any website and, without it, the search engine crawlers have nothing to categorise and index. There’s no doubt that, the more content you have on your website, the more visibility, at least in theory, it will receive in the search engines. However, there’s much more to building an effective marketing strategy than simply publishing as much content as you can.

 

Quality vs. Quantity

There are still impatient marketers out there who will pay next to nothing for vast quantities of content, often stuff that’s written by someone with a less than adequate command of the English language. Although there’s no doubting the fact that, the more content you have, the better, it would perhaps be better to refer to quality content instead. Spam will get you nowhere, and will likely end up with your website being deindexed altogether.

Google is getting better and better at determining the quality of content, and that’s exactly why search engine optimisation should no longer revolve around keywords alone. A few years back, marketers used to commission content, such as blog posts, that targeted specific keywords and phrases. Entire websites would be built around a specific set of key phrases, and all content written for them would be written with the main goal of ranking highly in the search engines when someone searched for the phrase concerned. The human audience was often of secondary importance.

Content mills, such as online e-zines, article directories and guest-blogging networks, are a perfect example of the prioritisation of quantity over quality. Every day, they would churn out countless thousands of words written for practically no other reason than to give yet more fodder for the search engines to rank and display in the results. However, Google’s Panda algorithm, first launched in 2011, spelled the death of these websites, and they’ve virtually since disappeared from the search results. What can marketers learn from this? Quantity means nothing without quality.

 

Defining Quality Content – Long-Form vs. Short-Form

Quality content may be defined as that which offers genuine value to human readers through originality and good research skills. However, one of the most debated topics among content marketers is whether long- or short-form content is better. In other words, it’s not just about how much content you have, but also about how long each piece of content is. Although there’s no clear definition of where short-form content ends and long-form content begins, the latter may be broadly defined as more in-depth content formats, such as guides and whitepapers and blog posts in excess of 1,000 words. Short-form content, on the other hand, typically refers to the everyday social media fodder, such as 400- to 500-word blog posts.

You may have heard of the so-called ‘golden rule’ that around 500 words is the optimal length for typical Web content, such as your average blog post. However, studies have consistently shown that even the average blog post should be around 800-1,000 words in length, since it will generally enjoy greater exposure in the search results. The case for longer pieces of content makes sense from a reader’s perspective – it’s difficult to say much of value in as little as 400 to 500 words, although it does, of course, depend on the topic. On the other hand, content that’s too long can end up boring readers with its superfluity.

So what is the perfect length for a piece of content? It depends. The optimal length for any given blog post or any other written content format is however many words it takes to explain the subject, without deviating and without including a lot of so-called ‘fluff’. As such, is generally better to aim for slightly longer pieces, but avoid putting any strict limits on word counts. By using only as many words as you need to convey your message, you’ll end up with content of various lengths, which ultimately means you’ll be in a better position to accommodate all of your readers.

 

To Promote or Not to Promote – Sales Copy vs. Genuine Value

There’s a fine line between content marketing and native advertising (also known as sponsored content). Content marketing is, of course, promotional at its core, but it’s also intended to offer real value to readers, whereas sponsored content is nothing more than a lengthy written advertisement disguised as genuinely useful content. In other words, one can be relatively open and honest, while the other is deliberately devious and misleading. That being said, the ultimate goal of your content marketing is also to increase sales.

To cite a horribly overused cliché, it’s wise to follow the 80/20 rule here, whereby sales copy is no more than 20 percent promotional in nature. The rest of the content, however, should not be based around the hope or expectation that the reader is going to become a customer. In other words, it should offer something genuinely useful and interesting to the reader, rather than being pure advertising. This kind of value-adding content is also what tends to do well in the search engines, whereas sponsored clickbait content tends not to even get a look in beyond the spammy native advertising networks. Finally, you should not try to hide the fact that you are advertising something, lest you fall into the mire that is clickbait spam.

 

Final Words

In conclusion, the belief that you can never have too much content to market your business only represents half the answer. The deciding factor, however, is undoubtedly quality over quantity whereby you focus on building value before focussing purely on sales. If you can give your readers content that will be genuinely interesting or helpful to them, they’ll be thankful for it, and your reputation will grow.

How Frequently Should You Publish Content on Your Business Blog?

Every brand knows that content has become the lifeblood of any modern marketing strategy, and there are few better ways to get your point across and provide real value than by running a business blog. According to HubSpot, over two thirds of businesses saw substantially increased profits once they launched blogs. The great thing about the blogging platform is that it presents an excellent opportunity to build authority and brand recognition by offering the sort of genuine value that today’s consumers have come to expect. Nowadays, businesses large and small are maintaining blogs spanning just about every niche imaginable.

Blogging certainly isn’t the easiest way to increase your brand’s reach and, if you’re outsourcing the work, as most companies do, it can also get quite expensive. As such, it’s crucial that you don’t simply jump in without a solid plan. Your plan should consider one of the most important but overlooked factors of all, that being the frequency and timing of your posts. Given the hard work and money involved in building a successful blog, you’re going to need to be sure that your content receives maximum exposure. After all, a bad posting schedule can quickly kill the effectiveness of any business blogging strategy.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer regarding the frequency of posting. Businesses are told over and over that they can never have too much content, but this oft-repeated mantra doesn’t consider that quality is by far the most important factor. There’s absolutely no point, for example, in publishing what Google describes as ‘thin content’ just to meet your weekly blog article quota. In other words, you should only write if you have something to say and never just to fill up space on a page. That being said, there is a minimum, and even if you are publishing top-quality content, only doing so once or twice per week is not likely to achieve much.

HubSpot found that B2B business bloggers posting upwards of 16 articles per month received around 3.5 times more traffic than those who posted less than four per month. In the case of B2C companies, the difference was even more pronounced. However, it’s also important to remember that there’s much more to measuring business-blogging success than traffic alone. It’s whether your posts actually drive conversions or not that really matters. Nonetheless, there’s no doubt that the more quality content you post, the better. There’s not any upper limit either, since engaged blog followers always want more.

It is crucial that you do regularly update your business blog frequently enough that your audience remains engaged with your content. By posting four or five times per week, you’ll be in a much better position to attract repeat visitors. Consistency is even more important, since your repeat readers will come to expect regular updates throughout the week but, if you disappoint them, they’ll probably start looking elsewhere. However, just because you have a regular posting schedule doesn’t mean you need to think up new topics and have new content written at specific times. To manage the workflow more effectively, it’s often a good idea to have a backlog of evergreen content ready for publication.

When it comes to business blogging, the most important thing to do is set a realistic schedule that your writing team can stick to. There’s nothing wrong with starting small with just one or two posts per week but, once your readership starts growing, it’s wise to aim for four or five posts per week.

Why Your Brand Should Invest in Long-Form Content

Every marketer knows that content is important, but there’s still an ongoing debate between the value of short- and long-form content. You’ll likely get quite different opinions from different marketers, but studies have consistently shown that longer pieces of content tend to do better in the search engines and are more interesting to readers. However, the reality is a bit more complicated. After all, most marketers also know that attention spans are notoriously short when it comes to Internet users.

To further complicate matters, there’s not really a clear definition of what constitutes long-form content, despite the fact that it might seem obvious. While the average 400- to 600-word blog post would usually be classed as short-form content or fodder for social media sharing, long-form content typically refers to more in-depth content formats, such as case studies, reports, whitepapers, eBooks and blog posts in excess of 1,000 words.

The rise in popularity of long-form content might sound counter-intuitive, given that more and more people are browsing on tiny mobile screens and have attention spans lasting mere moments. However, according to best-selling author and inbound marketing guru, Neil Patel, longer pieces of content tend to perform better on every level. He backs up his claim with data from Google’s own search results as well as data gathered from various studies conducted by HubSpot.

 

So Why Does Long-Form Content Work?

To understand why your brand needs to invest in long-form content, it helps to use some real-world examples. Let’s say you want to write a guide on how to start a travel blog with a view to making a healthy income from it. There is simply no way you can write such a guide over the course of 500 or even 1,000 words if you want it to be even the slightest bit useful to actual human readers. By contrast, an impatient marketer (or, shall we say, a spammer) may be more interested in paying someone peanuts to write a 400-word article on the subject for no reason other than to attract search engine traffic using a specific key phrase. This kind of marketer, however, is not likely to achieve anything, since that’s not actually how the search engines work.

An actual in-depth guide that explains, from start to finish to a complete novice, how to start a travel blog, build up an audience and then monetise it, is not likely to be much shorter than 4 to 5 thousand words. In-depth content has a lot more ‘meat’ to it, to such an extent that it offers far more value to the reader. It’s also encouraged by Google’s own webmaster guidelines as well as most of the world’s best-known bloggers.

 

It’s Not Just about Length

There’s also a case against prioritising long-form content. However, it’s also one that misses a defining characteristic of quality content. What really matters is that you use as few words as possible to explain the subject and get your message across. After all, long-form content shouldn’t consist of unnecessary fluff just to meet a word count. In fact, it’s probably better not to pay any attention to word count at all. Ultimately, if you’re writing long-form content for the sole purpose of improving your visibility in the search results, you’ll likely end up achieving the opposite. Taking this approach is no different to taking the approach that quantity is everything and quality is of secondary importance.

Long-form content tends to make sense when tackling more complex subjects and trying to make them more accessible to a wider audience. However, you’ll also need to make sure that writing skills and knowledge in the subject are up to scratch. Some audiences are also more receptive to long-form content than others. For example, readers of gossip sites or other sites with very general audiences tend to prefer shorter content that they can quickly skim though. It’s also important to present long-form content in easily digestible chunks, and that means using plenty of paragraphs and subheadings and, where appropriate, bulleted lists. After all, regardless of its length, pretty much all Web content should be scannable.

 

Final Words

Long-form content is undoubtedly here to stay, but it’s not the be all and end all. What’s most important is adding value through content quality, and quality doesn’t have a clearly defined length. Shorter content also has its place, particularly when you want to briefly introduce a subject matter or talk about something very specific to an audience that’s already familiar with the background to it. Ultimately, it’s not so much the content format that leads to success; it’s the quality of writing and research and its uniqueness. As it so happens, this inevitably leads to long-form content in most cases.

How Much Should Content Marketing Cost?

I clearly remember the first content writing jobs that I was offered when I started writing for a living back in 2005. I started out trawling through the online outsourcing directories, such as Freelancer and Elance, in search of jobs that paid something at least remotely respectable. It was not easy. Take a quick look at any of these outsourcing platforms, and you’ll see that little has changed even ten years later. Among the hundreds of jobs available, most people are still paying at most around one cent per word, making a typical 500-word blog post cost about $5.00.

$5.00 for an article might sound like a bargain, particularly considering that content marketing of any kind should be a long-term strategy. But let’s take a look at what you’re likely to get for your money:

• Rewritten or duplicate content or even that which is outright plagiarized
• Written by a non-native English speaker
• Poorly researched to the extent that it offers nothing of value
• Mass-produced for a very general audience
• Littered with spelling, grammar and punctuation errors
• Short, uninspiring content that nobody will read

What you actually get for your $5 is likely to be completely counterproductive to the extent that it will hurt your business and your website’s standing in the search engine results. In other words, if you are serious about content marketing, it pays to be very wary of outsourcing through directories such as those mentioned above.

So How Much Should You Pay for Web Content?

Unfortunately, it is impossible to provide an exact figure, since it depends on a multitude of factors. I personally charge ten cents per word, which I consider to be in the lower end for quality content. However, I also have lower costs of living than most, and this allows me to offer a more competitive rate.

Rather than trying to be promotional, I speak from my own experience as a freelance writer for ten years. I will honestly say that, when I was first starting out, I didn’t exactly go to great lengths to create quality content for the occasional low-paid job I scored on the likes of Freelancer.com. I don’t suspect any other writer would either. On the other hand, being prepared to pay a bare minimum of $50 for a typical blog post, you should typically expect the following:

• Completely original content that will get the attention of the search engines
• Written by a native speaker or someone who is proficient in the language
• Carefully researched, in which case sources may be cited if required
• Produced with a specific audience in mind
• Free of any spelling, grammar or punctuation errors
• Inspiring enough to readers to the extent that it encourages sharing

The prices I am quoting here are a general guideline, taking a typical blog post or other similar article into account. For more in-depth content, such as whitepapers, case studies and eBooks, rates per word will, of course, be significantly higher. The subject matter and nature of the content will also determine the optimal price range. For example, more technical or academic content will typically cost significantly more than that which caters to a larger, less specialized niche.

In conclusion, quality Web content does not come particularly cheap, but if you are only willing to pay rock bottom, you’ll achieve nothing more than damaging your reputation. You can, of course, spend a lot more on online content, and there are some writers who charge as much as 25 cents per word or even more. However, as is the case with any other product or service, it is all about finding the sweet spot where you get exactly what you require for your specific needs for a rate that ultimately ends up paying for itself through increased brand awareness and lead generation.

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