Bloggers are an interesting bunch. Some of us do it just because we need an outlet for the millions of ideas and thoughts in our heads. Others are blogging to build relationships and have meaningful discussion. You will find those who are marketing a business product or services, and those who are simply looking to build a personal brand.
All of these bloggers hold one thing in common, though… they all want to promote something. Thoughts, ideas, services, themselves, or a business.
If you are new to blogging, the following list is a great starting point for considering how to approach blogging. If you are an experienced blogger, perhaps one or more of these 10 tips will help improve at least a little bit. Or maybe it will serve as a reminder of something you already know, but may forget to apply when authoring new posts.
No matter which you are, I hope this helps you shine. Now, on to the list.
1. Tell Stories
Stories are a wonderful tool to use for any sort of written blog or presentation. People respond to stories both overtly and subconsciously. Most sales trainings and manuals will advise you to use stories to build common ground and engage with prospects. If you have ever read one of my favorite business books, Neuromarketing, you’ve seen that they view stories as methods to connect to the primal part of the brain, where gut feel and instinct help us make decisions.
Stories are wonderful things. When we hear stories, more of our brain is active in interpreting the story than with standard data or facts. If you want to appeal to emotional or other stimuli, stories are the secret sauce.
How can you use narratives / stories to better hammer home a point? Think about this the next time you sit down to blog. Sometimes, a story is all it takes to connect with people. Try it; you’ll like it.
2. Always Include an ImageImages are often overlooked for blog content, particularly on corporate blogs. I understand why corporate bloggers might skip over it, because adding an image might delay go-live for yet another internal approval of the image.
Images are crucial to blogging success. They provide many benefits, including:
- Creates a richer experience for the reader
- Shows up with social shares and RSS feeds (if set to do so)
- Provides an additional opportunity to rank the page for SEO
- Can help further illustrate your key point, particularly when paired with a story
- Some bloggers have seen better engagement and more commenting when including an image
3. Blow Us Away With Your Headlines
You’ve seen it a million times by now – “Use Compelling Headlines”. Yawn, we get it. If everyone is trying to use a compelling headline, why is yours any better?
It’s more than that. You have to slice through the noise. Compelling is tablestakes now. You have to floor us, to utterly blow us away, to garner the type of attention you want. Hoping for your post to go viral? Make sure the headline is provocative. Otherwise, it remains a huge challenge to rise above the din. How will you get there?
4. Break It Up With Subheads
All too often, we are hired for SEO and content strategy by companies who just don’t understand the value of “scannability” for the web. What does that mean?
The average internet reader will spend between 10 and 30 seconds deciding whether to read your content. You have that flash of time to convince them that investing the next 10+ minutes of their valuable time absorbing what you have to say / write.
Essentially, almost none of us take the time to really read and absorb every single word. Your content has to be not only optimized for search engines, but it must also be tuned to be as scannable as possible. The best way to achieve both goals is by using subheads, typically via an H3 / H4 / H5 or similar tagging in your CMS.
Include keywords, tell what the content will say, and make it interesting. If they only scan, at least they’ll get the gist of what you are saying. For those who do take the time to read, you will have convinced them to sacrifice their most precious resource, time, because your content is worth it.
5. Include Compelling Statistics
Stories are the best for hitting on the emotional triggers and bonding with the audience. At the end of the day, many of us still will not buy into something completely until we see data that hammers home the point.
If you can include statistics supporting your assertion / key topic in each post, you will be able to engage with logical as well as emotional responses. Be sure to appeal to all types of thinkers and your content will grow more arms and legs.
6. Ask Questions
Blogs are about sharing information, yes. But that’s not all. They are also about connecting with a readership, building a following, and having stimulating discussion.
We often find that new blogs have great engagement and commenting, only to watch the volume and frequency decrease over time. There are a number of reasons why this happens, too many to go into here. What happens then?
While it is not always effective at generating comments, most of our clients find that asking open ended questions helps influence sharing as well as discussion. The most obvious place to do this is at the end of the post, when readers are more likely to immediately take you up on it. Don’t just put it there – feel free to ask questions anywhere in the post. I’ve found that mid-post questions often drive more engagement than just ending with a question, right when they are ready to leave or share the post.
7. Don’t Provide ALL Of the Answers
Some of the best blog posts I’ve ever read were imperfect. They analyzed an issue and speculated on possible causes, but did not provide an exhaustive list.
Sure, it is great to know your space and provide cutting edge information that web users will want to find, especially if that information is unique or you have rare expertise. But you can’t make every post an epiphany if you want discussion.
Be one of us, the readers. You need to be part of the community if you want a thriving blog. If you are a pundit with no tolerance for criticism, don’t expect the readers to take you on within the confines of your own website. They’ll stop reading or visiting unless your information is better than everyone else’s out there.
8. Engage and Respond
So what happens when readers take you up on the invitation to engage or comment on the blog? Do they submit the comment and watch as no one responds? Of course not! You need to get on there and talk to them, answer questions, even debate about the possibilities of their feedback.
Remember that every reader is valuable. Respect their questions and thoughts, and have an open discussion. Sometimes the discussion is over on social media instead, so also be willing to talk to them when, where, and how they prefer. I’ve had some of my best post-related conversations on LinkedIn and Facebook, among other sites.
9. Write for the Readers
Who is your ideal reader or customer? Have you built a persona of whom they are? Do you write in language they use? Would a typical professional in your field easily understand the way you present your thoughts?
Google keeps saying this and it is very important, particularly for bloggers – write for the readers. If they don’t like it, there’s no SEO trickery or anything else you can do to make up for shoddy content. Proceed accordingly.
10. Don’t Overlook SEO
You had to see this one coming, right? When working to tee up topics for your blog, you should always consider SEO before putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard in this case).
I have a scratch file of target keywords that are high volume (or will be when I write the post, for seasonal topics), low competition, and more likely to rank well for me. When I am at a loss for a topic to cover, I go back to the file and analyze where I can get a SERP win, then consider related topics. In most cases, there is a hot topic already under discussion that I can tie it to.
The other piece of this is that you MUST understand on-page SEO to get this right. It does no good to target a keyword unless you can tell search engines that the content is relevant to that keyword. Practice until you can write the post and optimize it without thinking, and you’ll be good to go moving forward.
What Did I Miss?
Calling all bloggers out there – are there any glaring omissions on this list? What have you found to be critical tips for bloggers to keep in mind when just starting out?