How to get your blog posts working harder
15/10/2010 2 Comments
Use a catchy subject line
The subject line is arguably the most important element of any post: titles that pique curiosity are more likely to be opened. When this is combined with strategic keywords that match the topic of the post, you have a blog that’s going to perform well.
The idea is simply to generate curiosity such as Why isn’t your team performing: perhaps they’re not in ‘flow’? You’re now wondering what ‘flow’ is all about, aren’t you?
Many of us don’t have large subscriber bases, so we need to develop a catchy title that also includes keywords that will get indexed by Google. Brian Clark at Copyblogger does an excellent job of this. One of his generally-accepted SEO copywriting tips is to place these keywords near the front of the title.
You should occasionally test your titles to determine what resonates most with your audience. Titles that offer immediate practical help, like How to get your blog posts working harder will result in higher traffic from a community than those that are too clever and thought-provoking.
Offer easy-to-skim content
When you organise your content so that it’s easily skimmed and assimilated, you tap into a secret of blogging. Time is precious and you have a few seconds to get two or three points across:
- Blog as if you are talking directly to one of your community members: my audience is business professionals and marketers. They expect you to get to the point quickly and avoid technical jargon.
- Learn to write in a terse, accurate style: if you scan any news source, you’ll notice the paragraphs are short — only a few sentences. The Guardian’s Style Guide is useful and accessible.
- Use subheadings: this helps both you and the reader. I tend to write my first draft quickly for flow and readability. Then I go back and organise with subheadings, while also reorganising and eliminating entire paragraphs so that my readers don’t have to.
- Create lists: lists are the ultimate organising tool, which is why they’re frequently retweeted — thereby attracting valuable links back to your blog. Keep them to a few items otherwise you’ll make it confusing.
- Use italics and bold text for emphasis: if someone reads your blog post word-for-word, it’s usually after skimming it first. Help readers do both by emphasising key points with italics and bold text. Use caps, ellipses (…) and exclamation marks only when they are really justified.
Mix content types and opinion and facts
Delivering great content requires a mix of qualities that keeps your readers coming back for more. The key isn’t always the quality of the message but how it’s delivered:
- Offer your opinions: if you’re an expert in your field, then your opinion is relevant. Who do you respect more, the waiter who says everything on the menu is excellent or the one who looks you in the eye and recommends her favourites (or suggests avoiding some dishes)?
- Use multimedia: make it a point to use images, screenshots and video to communicate your message with more punch.Link to your experience and case studies: advice has greater credibility when it comes from a practical, proven situation.
- Leave out the rubbish: make the effort to edit out anything that doesn’t support your title or enhance your post. Include details to create a mental picture but leave out anything else that is not strictly relevant.
Be aware of SEO factors
Learning the basics of search engine optimisation (SEO) is a necessary aspect of blogging if you expect to build a sustainable reader base. While SEO can get complicated, you can be very effective by simply tuning into your audience and writing for them:
- Excerpts: the excerpt of your post is the brief description included with the return of search results and is an extra option in most blogging platforms. A well-chosen description encourages click-throughs. If you don’t build an excerpt, the first couple of sentences of your post will be used as a default. Get in the habit of summarising your post in the first couple of sentences.
- Keywords: learn the common words and phrases being used by your audience. For example, do they use the term entreprise or business? These subtle distinctions need to be made so that you can be found when they’re searching for your expertise.Links: the SEO experts universally agree that inbound links to your blog are useful for achieving a high ranking. How do you get these links? The most reliable way is to write content that people want to link to.
- Anchor text: link to the keywords (known as anchor text) in your post that are aligned with the words you expect to be used by someone searching for your expertise. The classic mistake is linking to click here instead of more relevant keywords such as digital marketing or whatever relates to your expertise.
- Link to earlier posts: link back to your previous posts to encourage your readers to hang around longer. This increases the likelihood they’ll respond to a call-to-action, such as subscribing to your blog or newsletter.
- Tags: tags are handled differently in every blogging platform. Just be sure to use tags that are relevant to the post you’re creating, as well as the audience you’re blogging for. Only use tags that directly refer to your post to avoid undermining their effectiveness through dilution.
- Categories: categories obviously help your blog visitors go deeper into the subject matter or topic that interests them most. Search engines also index your categories for the same reason, so choose your categories carefully. Too many and it is confusing to readers: too few and they are pointless. Aim for six to ten categories.
Encourage interaction and action
While blogging is a platform for publishing, the ultimate objective is to encourage engagement and interaction. Just as an engaged audience gives a speaker feedback on his live presentation, the comments to your blog will do the same.
You can and should learn from every single visitor to your blog by responding and seeking to better understand her point of view. Every comment probably represents the perspective of many others. The more you learn, the easier it is to focus your efforts on what’s most relevant to your audience.
Why else do you want comments? Because comments are social proof that your blog is popular. And this, in turn, encourages more traffic and subscribers to your blog. To encourage more comments, you may not only have to remind your audience to do so but show them as well. Write a post on commenting and use your blog as an example.
Show your readers exactly how to comment, and even go a step further to describe how to share your post by retweeting or using the Facebook Like button.