Before landing my maiden content marketing role, I was involved in the management of a spectacularly unsuccessful music blog for all of about 6 months.
With a wafer thin audience and a meagre number of shares on social it’s pretty easy to become disillusioned with the whole idea of blogging. Especially once the honeymoon period has been and gone.
So I took the easy route out and slacked off big time.
In hindsight, there’s a million and one reasons why the blog failed to gain momentum...
...and why it’s now gathering pixelated dust, in the recesses of the internet’s immense landfill - where all started-with-good-intentions blogs go to die.
The path to blogging enlightenment
Don’t get me wrong, blogging for business is an altogether different beast. But the same principles still stand if you want to make it.
Hard work, commitment, quality, best practices.
Easier said than done!
But getting fully acquainted with the do-or-die basics of what makes a successful blog, will definitely help to set the wheels in motion.
It’s important not to underestimate the long term undertaking of running a business blog.
Because after all...
Starting out on the right foot will put you in good stead for the future. Strategy sits at the forefront of successful blogging, so be prepared to create a publishing plan and stick to it...
The first step to better blogging
Yeah, you got it. Consistency.
This is 101 Inbound Marketing stuff, and probably the most important blogging fundamental you’ll ever come across. If you’re not producing content on a regular basis and sharing it on the daily, you should probably jack it in now - or at least take a step back and reconsider.
There’s so much more involved in the development and deliverance of a successful business blog - but this is one universal principle that everyone should take onboard.
From lifestyle writers to self-proclaimed food critics - keep the content coming thick and fast or your audience will go elsewhere. Don’t let them grow old waiting for your next post.
Nine business blog essentials you need to know...
Now, when it comes to getting eyeballs on page, capturing leads and driving conversions, it doesn’t matter who you are - you’re going to struggle if you aren’t implementing the essentials.
Don’t piss into the wind. You’re better than that.
Become the master of your business blog and nail down the must-haves - or risk doing it all for nothing. Zip. Nada. Zilch.
The Punchy Headline
The headline or title is the first thing the reader will see when they come across your blog post (wherever that might be) - and the words that count the most!
The optimal word count for a blog headline is 6 words. Now that’s not a lot of words with which to woo potential readers… but don’t agonize over length too much.
Your headline should be impactful and memorable - and should answer a question your buyer persona might have about their pain point. Focus on How to's, listicles and step by step guides and some serious effort into the language you use.
Out of 80% of those people who’ll read your headline, only 20% will read your post (Moz). When it comes to content, humans are fickle, judgemental creatures. Don’t judge a book by its cover? Your audience will judge your blog post by its headline. So do it well.
If you want to up that 20% figure, manipulate your words well and make it meaningful.
The Storytelling Hook
Storytelling is an integral part of Inbound Marketing. Contextually appropriate stories will humanise the blog post and grab the reader hook, line and sinker.
When implemented effectively this practice can lead to a 300% increase in readers (Buffer).
Set the scene with an introductory narrative that calls upon your own personal experiences, anecdotes, recent realisations or conversations. Use relevant fictional stories to grab your audience’s attention and/or anchor your opening to a well-known story that most people are already familiar with.
The idea is to paint a picture for the reader. To make the content more accessible by relating to the senses and using metaphors to rationalise complex concepts.
The Compelling Content
Now let’s talk about the meat and bones of your business blog. The beating heart of your inbound marketing strategy. The content.
While quantity matters, quality is King. As you craft your next epic piece of content, there are a number of things to mull over and execute if you want to optimise and maximise its success.
- Content should always be educational, entertaining and inspirational.
- Tone of voice should always align with your brand's personality.
Keep it conversational, but authoritative (you’re supposed to be the expert after all!).
According to this Medium study the perfect blog post is a 7 minute read - or in other words, 1,600 words is your sweet spot. Google loves long form content. So make sure yours goes the distance. A minimum of 700 words is a solid benchmark to go by when you first set out.
But don’t write words for words sake. Say what you have to say - nothing more, nothing less.
And when it does come to formatting that epic, wannabe novella you’ve been crafting for weeks - make sure the content is easily scannable.
Most visitors will only read 50% of your article, if that! (Chartbeat) Instead of presenting your writing in large blocks of texts, break up your blog post with short paragraphs, subheads, bullet points and emboldening.
The Carefully Considered Keywords
There’s a lot to be said for keywords.
One thing’s for certain - they’re crucial to the overall success of your blog. Use them correctly and they’ll influence your Google rankings and the overall discoverability of the post.
Long gone are the dark days of SEO where spamming random, even irrelevant blog posts with keywords would boost your search engine ranking.These days Google is much more sophisticated and selective in the way it crawls and ranks content.
Researching relevant keywords is part of the fabric of any digital inbound strategy.
Seek out the long-tail, low difficulty keywords that apply directly to your post. You may want to refer to your headline for this or, alternatively, what you find may help to shape your headline.
Once you’ve settled on your golden keyword, you can set about using it (and its variations) naturally throughout your content.
Avoid overkill though. Google knows a spammer when it sees one!
Important to remember: Your keyword should also feature in the post’s meta-description and URL slug to optimise potential reach.
The Eye-Catching Hero Image
A blog post’s featured image is the first picture - and the first thing - the reader sees after the headline. It appears at the top of the page and is the image most likely to be pulled through in social sharing software like HubSpot.
There are two distinct contexts for the use of imagery:
- Editorial - relating directly to the story at hand, often the photo is the story
- Conceptual - images intended to play off a theme or idea (usually stock photos)
Whichever you go for, make sure the headline and the hero image compliment each other—and make it distinct. Don’t risk misleading the reader or you could lose them forever!
While there may be opportunities to use your own photos, it’s likely you’ll have to rely on stock images at least some of the time. When that time comes - avoid pictures with that cringey, staged feel.
This recent article from HubSpot offers up some advice on how to ‘un-stock’ your photography and achieve that awesome first impression.
The Shareworthy Soundbites
Inspirational, motivational, educational. People love to share all manner of quotes on social media. So make the process seamless.
Pull out quotes are a great starting point.
Use a ‘click to tweet’ or ‘click to share’ functionality to take this one step further. This will allow any potential fans of your content to share a soundbite in a matter of seconds!
Tweet: Pepper your blog post with poignant, powerful statements that are accessible to skim readers.
Choose the ‘best bits’ from your post and position these soundbites intuitively to break up the text and punctuate your post.
The Convincing Calls to Action
Content marketing without Calls-To-Action is like a toaster without a spring.
Once you’ve grabbed the reader’s attention, soothed a pain point - or got them toasted nicely golden brown - you’re going to want to maximise the time they spend on your site.
The Call-To-Action (CTA) acts as a loaded spring that will catapult readers to other posts, content offers and signup landing pages. Your recent post may be a masterpiece in its own right. But if it doesn’t at the very least direct the them to another, relevant blog post, you’ve missed a trick.
It needs to be vibrant, straight-to-the-point and should call upon imperative verbs such as ‘Download’, ‘Subscribe’ or ‘Read more’ to motivate your audience to - yep, you guessed it - take action.
Make the most of your post.
Mid-page units (MPUs) should be used at relevant points in longer posts to capture the reader’s attention and redirect them to a related article or content offer.
While a visual CTA should feature at the bottom of your post, few people will actually reach the end. Positioning smaller text-based CTAs within the article can boost results.
Pop-up subscribe/download boxes or List Builders can also improve conversion rates on your blog. These plugins - from sites such as SumoMe - are growing in popularity, and while they may be viewed as a nuisance by some readers, they have a proven track record in capturing leads.
The Other Images (ft. videos, embeds and GIFs)
Include other images, and additional media in your blog post. Visuals will enhance its popularity, bring clarity to and elaborate on the point you’re making.
It’s essential that you maintain a consistent level of quality when it comes to imagery and videos. Just because it isn’t your hero image doesn’t mean you can let poor resolution or lack of relevance to creep in.
Google can’t identify the subject matter of an image - so be sure to include alt-text on ALL images (including hero). Making sure your media to be ‘readable’ will bring added context to searches.
The Staple Social Share Buttons
Social Media offers an incredibly viable platform from which to promote content yourself. But it’s even better when other people share it on their own channels. Reader advocacy will build trust, credibility, reach and authority.
Self promotion can reap fantastic returns, but what could be better than social promotion via your audience?Include social ‘share’ buttons in your post - ideally at the beginning and end of the each post.
Or even better, make them sticky so their visible to the reader at all times while they scroll down the page.
Don’t get bogged down, blog down!
By nailing down these business blogging must-haves you’ll maximise the opportunity to get your content out there, educate your audience and transform readers into leads.
This might be just the beginning for you, or you might’ve already kickstarted your blogging journey. Either way, make it your mission to refine and optimise these crucial features over time. By making slight tweaks you’ll be able to gauge exactly what works and what doesn’t.So what’s the hold up? Better get writing!