Blogs are taking over the internet. Well, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration ‒ more like cat videos and top 10 lists on BuzzFeed are taking over the internet ‒ but it is true that the art of blogging is becoming increasingly appreciated online. Now, every savvy business and their competitors have their own business blog because they know that’s what they need to climb up those Google rankings. It also helps to get the word out that they know what they’re talking about.
In this blog:
- Why You Need to Start a Blog for Your Business Right Now!
- Get Started with Blogging: 3 Easy Steps to Build Your Blog
- Capture Your Customers: How to Write Blog Content that Will Dramatically Improve Your Sales
- Headache-Free Ways to Think Up Blog Topics that Pull in New Customers
- Blogging Questions You Need to Know the Answers To
- Getting the Word Out on the Street: What To Do After Posting a Blog
- Measuring Your Blog’s ROI (Yes, it’s Worth It)
Big companies like Starbucks and Marks & Spencer don’t have blogs on their website just for the fun factor. These are smart businesses that know their on-site blog brings great SEO benefits, provides valuable content for existing customers, gives them content to share on social media, improves their likelihood of reaching new customers, boosts conversions, and can even be an awesome way to generate a buzz about their business online.
“60% of businesses that blog acquire more customers”
Figures from HubSpot survey
Businesses that blog will always be more likely to acquire customers because they’re creating content that helps new customers discover the website, get them engaged with the brand and products, and encourage them to come back to the website for more. Well-crafted blog content is also a great way of getting potential customers to linger around your website for longer.
Your blog posts are web pages that Google indexes. A blog strengthens your on-site SEO, lets you target specific keywords, and builds internal links to other relevant pages on your website. If you’re a lighting company, then when Christmas rolls around, you’ll want to be focusing on shifting as many boxes of fairy lights as possible – or even better, selling a huge order to an events company. Some well-placed blog posts in the lead up to Christmas on how to decorate your home for Christmas and inspirational images of Christmas-themed events with fairy lights could really make for a merry Christmas for your sales.
I know what you’re thinking: that all sounds great, but you just don’t have the time. You’ve got countless other things to do to get your business off the ground. You need to focus on the core of your business. There are clients to respond to, orders to process, staff to manage, not to mention the state of your email inbox. Blogging is right at the bottom of your priority list. Am I right, or am I right?
When it comes to investing time into your business’ blog, trust us — it’s worth it. Whether it’s you writing the blogs, whether your whole team is on board with blog writing, or whether you outsource it to a freelance blogger, you want to get that blog pumping out some good content. Create a simple blogging schedule and stick to it. That could just be setting aside two hours every Thursday afternoon to write up a blog post for the following week, assigning a blog writing task to a new team member every Monday, or getting a freelance blogger to write and post a blog every Wednesday.
We’ve seen countless businesses with deserted blogs on their website because they just don’t have time to maintain them. Maybe the last blog post was even from way back in July 2011. Or maybe they’ve just been using their blog like it’s some kind of SEO looting pit and throwing up 200 words of odd text littered with keywords in the hope Google will recognise it. Well, it’s 2016 now, and Google wants to see you posting a blog every week ‒ and it wants those posts to be decent. It’s time to kick the tumbleweed outta the desert and write something that’s worth reading.
Easier said than done? I hear you.
You grab a coffee, sit down at your laptop, open up a Word document and… you’re dead in your tracks. You’d be surprised how many business owners this happens to. This sudden hot flush of: What am I going to write about? How am I going to write about it in a witty way? Hell, I’m not witty at all. What if someone reads this and doesn’t think what I’m saying is any good? Who even cares about what I have to say anyway?
If it makes you feel any better, you’re not going to be shaking up the universe with your blog — at least not with the first five blog posts. You’ve got some time to find your own way and settle on a blogging style. Another thing to remember is that everyone else who blogs experiences these exact same feelings — hey, even professional writers experience these kinds of blocks from time to time. But if you’ve got a product or service that’s good enough to sell, then it’s damn well good enough to blog about, too.
What do you do?
You do it anyway. While your competitors are still working on finding the time and breaking through the fear, you’ve got the chance to start outpacing them, outranking them, and outselling them by making the decision to go for it. Not everyone is a natural born writer, but you don’t need to be to have a good blog. All you need is some useful information to share.
While your expertise might seem like second nature to you, you can bet that other people don’t have a clue about the things you’re an expert on. Just take a look at what most searched for “how to” topics were in 2013 according to Google Trends:
These search terms aren’t exactly cryptic questions, but they’re things that people just don’t know the answer to! There are plenty of small business owners who would be well positioned to answer these queries on their own blogs. You don’t have to be an expert chef with your own range of breakfast cookbooks to write a blog post on “how to make pancakes”. If you’re an eCommerce website selling spatulas and mixing bowls, you could definitely write a blog post about that topic.
Equally, if you work in the fitness industry as a personal trainer, then there are a number of topics that you could write based on these questions. For #1, a good variation would be “how to make healthy pancakes with just 3 ingredients” or “how to make low-fat pancakes.” #3 could become a blog post on “how to lose weight without crash dieting” and #4 could become “5 killer exercises to get you the flat stomach you’ve always dreamed of.”
We’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves here, though. Before you can crack on with answering the all the relevant Google search queries on your blog, you need to get your blog set up.
Get to the top of Google for free
Get Started with Blogging: 3 Easy Steps to Build Your Blog
Before you start blogging, you’ll ideally already have a ninja website set up with optimised web pages that are chock full of well-targeted, naturally-used keywords, telling Google that this is the place to be for information on your business’ products or services. You can do even better, though. Google’s ‘bots love fresh content, and a new blog post means that they have a reason to crawl your website again.
A website that doesn’t get regularly updated can easily slip down the rankings because Google sees them as stagnant. Don’t be that business owner. Start as you mean to go on and keep up the momentum with your blog. You don’t have to be an industry giant to do a great job with your blog. Even the little guys can enjoy good traction and gain conversions from their blogs when done right.
Step 1 – Decide on Your Blog’s Focus
“Writing about your company” doesn’t count as the answer for this one, so don’t even think about it. You’re not trying to launch a blog full of redundant press releases to bore everyone’s socks off. You want an exciting and enticing blog, full of headlines that people can’t resist clicking on. You want to create a blog that no-one ever wants to leave. However, before you can go about doing it, you need to know who those people landing on your blog in the first place truly are.
Who are your target customers? Where are they from? What age are they? Which gender? What’s their job? What do they do in their free time? Aaand — here’s a good one — what else do they read? This one is key. You can check out some articles in magazines and blogs related to your business and see what kind of content is popular and what gets the most shares on social media. That’s the stuff you want.
Armed with all of that knowledge, you’ll be able to hone the focus of your blog’s content to make sure it appeals directly to the people you’re trying to sell to.
Step 2 – Get It Up
The next step is to pick a platform for your blog and get it set up. Don’t batten down the hatches just yet! It’s more straightforward than you think. You may already have a website with a built-in blog like WordPress, which is sweet because then the decision is made for you. This is really the best case scenario, as it means setting it up will be easy, navigation will be straightforward and your blog and website will be consistent with each other.
If you’re not in the lucky group of website owners who already have a built-in blog, you’ll need to grab a separate blogging platform. We nearly always recommend WordPress because it’s the most user-friendly and SEO-friendly option. Adjusting the appearance and using plugins to improve functionality can all be done without too much pain. If you’re going for WordPress, you need to choose between hosted and self-hosted. Self-hosted blogs live on your own hosting, whereas hosted blogs live on WordPress servers. If I were you, I’d go with self-hosted, as you have more control over the blog layout, appearance, and domain name. Self-hosted WordPress is a free download from wordpress.org.
It’s really important that your blog is part of your main website and not hosted on an unrelated domain or sub-domain because you want your business’ website to reap all of the SEO and traffic-related benefits that come with blogging. Definitely, grab yourself an SEO plugin – I recommend using Yoast – so that you can easily optimise your blog posts with your target keywords. You can add plugins to your WordPress dashboard. If you’re not all that techy, then follow along with some instructions or a tutorial video on how to set up a self-hosted WordPress blog — there are a number of useful and free guides around. If you get completely stuck, then you can drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll point you in the right direction.
Step 3 – Brand Your Blog
It’s sad but true. If your blog doesn’t look sexy, people won’t be hanging around for too long. You want your blog to be branded just as sexily as your website and your social media channels — and that branding MUST be consistent. If it’s not consistent, people won’t realise that it’s all the same company. Include your company logo, use the same colour scheme and create consistent imagery.
If you’re a dab hand at taking photos or putting graphics together, then sweet; you’re set. If you’re not a professional but you want to give it a go, then there are great programs online, such as Canva, where you can create graphics for your website, blog and social media. If you’re design illiterate, think about outsourcing some of the graphics to a professional designer. You can find freelancers on websites like UpWork and Fiverr. You don’t have to go OTT with your blog design, though. Some businesses keep their blog designs very simple and this works very well.
Check out Rowen & Wren, a UK homewares company, which has a very minimalist, white background blog design:
Don’t be afraid to be a bit different with your blog design, though, as long as it’s in line with your brand. Juniqe, a European poster and arty home accessories eCommerce website, has a very unique and highly visual blog which is designed to look like a magazine with cut-outs. This can work really well if your brand is all about visuals.
You won’t regret making that initial investment in making your website and blog look absolutely kick-ass. If you don’t do it in the beginning, it’ll only come round to bite you in the butt later. Look at your blog, compare it to a competitor’s blog, and then compare it to an industry giant’s blog. You want to be way better than your competitor and standing up as tall as you can against an industry giant.
Headache-Free Ways to Think Up Blog Topics that Pull in New Customers
Now that your blog is set up, you need some original and relevant blog topic ideas so that you can start creating killer content. Initially, you might have a small flood of ideas of what to write about, but those can soon start to dry up after the first few posts. It’s a good idea to plan ahead and come up with a bunch of different blog topic ideas so that you don’t lose pace with posting.
Start with Simple Search Techniques
The best way to begin is to think about your target keywords. What search terms do you want to rank for on Google? Your keywords will usually be a good starting point for themes that you can write about on your blog, and writing about topics that relate to these keywords will do wonders for your website’s SEO.
Imagine you’re a hairdresser. Your salon provides various hairdressing services, such as wash and cuts, hair care, hair styling, bridal hair styling, colouring, perms, and straightening. These services will likely also reflect the hairdresser’s target keywords. All of those different services can be used as categories for the blog to split content into different areas. With those categories to hand, it’s time to start thinking of blog topics to go under each one. Let’s take “hair styling.” A quick trick to get started is to open up Google search and type your keyword into the search bar. This will bring up the most searched-for terms related to this keyword:
If our hairdresser is mainly a women’s hair specialist, then “hairstyles for long hair” could make for a good blog post, but they might decide to cross off “hairstyles for men” as men aren’t their target customer. “Hairstyles for long hair” is still a really broad topic, though, so refresh Google and type in “hairstyles for long hair” to get some more specific blog topic ideas:
From this list, you can gather that people are most interested in finding out what hairstyles are on trend and learning how to do them step by step. Our hairdresser could decide to write a top 10 list of long hairstyles that are on trend right now to get started. She could also create DIY hairstyle tutorials for long hair, with step-by-step photographs of long hairstyles that they have styled in their salon. The latter topic is a really great way to show off your skills to potential customers and get them to trust in your service — making them more likely to book an appointment at your salon. These kinds of photos and tips also make for really strong social media content.
You can repeat this little trick over and over again to come up with blog topics for each of your categories or to go even more in-depth and hone in on one very specific and targeted topic.
Answer Common Questions
While Google can show us some of the most common questions that are searched for, you may also receive questions from your customers, or even from friends and family. What are they asking you? These kinds of questions might seem really simple to you — an expert in your industry — but if someone is asking them, then it means they’re not the only one who doesn’t know.
Let’s take a look at our hairdresser again. It’s December in the UK now and she has customers coming into her salon with really dry, windswept hair. They sit in the chair, pull at their hair, make a face and ask: “Why does it get so dry? How do I take care of my hair in winter? Should I wear a hat all the time? I don’t want to get hat hair.” Great, good questions. Let’s think about some common questions people might have about haircare:
- Why is my hair so dry?
- Why is my hair so frizzy?
- How can I keep my hair looking healthy and shiny?
- Does washing my hair too often make it dry?
- How often should I wash my hair?
- Do I need conditioning treatment for my hair?
- What products are best for taking care of my hair?
- Should I always wear a hat to protect my hair in cold weather?
Thanks to just one question from a customer, our hairdresser has come up with eight topics she could use to write blog posts. There are two great things about using customer questions: 1) you are directly solving problems for your customers, and 2) your staff should know the answer to these questions as well. Why is the second important? If you don’t have time to write up all of these blog posts yourself, you can ask one of your staff to take care of writing it!
Piggyback Onto Trending Topics
If you really want to start getting some traction with your blog and reach out to a whole new audience of potential customers (and you want to do it quick!), you’re going to want to seek out trending news stories and articles relating to your niche. You can piggyback on the authority of hot topics by writing articles, opinion pieces or responses on your blog, and attract readers on social media and through interacting with big news pieces.
How do you find trending topics in your industry? Let’s go back to our hairdresser. She’s based in the UK, so she wants to look for UK news stories relating to haircuts and hairstyles. She goes to Google News to search for the latest news articles and types in something simple like “new haircut.” Here are the search results:
On just the first page of results, there are three very popular celebrities who have had new haircuts that everyone is talking about right now. There’s also an article relating to a sportsman in Chicago, which our hairdresser can immediately cross off as she’s based in the UK. Out of the three celebrities on the list, our hairdresser thinks that Kate Middleton’s new haircut is the most interesting and relevant to her target customer. So, she decides to write an article giving her expert opinion on how the new haircut looks on Kate, what it’s going to mean for hairstyle trends today, and which face shapes can pull off this kind of chop.
Depending on your business, it might be the case that there’s just not that much going on in the mainstream news to get excited about. If our hairdresser decided that celebrity hair wouldn’t be a great blog topic for her particular salon, or that when she was searching there weren’t any particularly relevant or newsworthy stories, then she might want to look at what content is getting people excited and is being shared on the internet.
Buzzsumo is a really fun online software that looks at what content is most popular on the internet at that time for any given website or search term. It will also show you the number of times the article has been shared on social media. You can use a very basic version of Buzzsumo for free to get started with. Just head to the homepage and use the search bar:
Our hairdresser types in the same search term that she used when looking for news stories on Google. Here are the results:
Wow! Look at those share figures on the right. Looking down the list, our hairdresser reckons that “short hairstyles” is a bit of an overdone topic, crosses off the “billionaire barber” as being an irrelevant story, and decides that the topic that most stands out is the “pixelated hair technique”, which got 145k shares on Facebook. She clicks through to the article, grabs some inspiration from these crazy hair colouring techniques and decides to get an article up on her blog about these cutting-edge hair designs.
You can do the same for just about any industry or niche. Remember, though: you don’t just want to regurgitate content that’s already been written elsewhere. Readers will go straight to the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Forbes, or some other big news outlet for that. What you want to do is add something valuable to the discussion. You might have a controversial opinion; maybe you agree with one side of the argument; perhaps you would have handled this news differently, or maybe you even have relevant case studies to include.
Tip! Don’t Just Blog about Your Business
When you start writing, you might be immediately tempted to try and write content that sticks rigidly to your products or services. It’s awesome to mention your products and/or services where relevant, but you don’t want to bombard your readers with a bunch of overly promotional writing packed with product recommendations — because that’s a complete turn-off. They won’t read it and it doesn’t look professional.
It’s okay to branch out a little with your blog post content. Think about your blog like an umbrella that can cover a variety of topics within your niche. A great example of a business blog that does a spectacular job of this is eco-conscious bamboo clothing brand, Braintree. Its blog, which is called Bthoughtful, covers clothing but branches out to include DIY projects using eco-friendly materials and home-cooked recipes for seasonal, locally sourced ingredients.
The idea here is to create a blog with content that its audience with love — and that means extending beyond the realms of bamboo clothing. It knows that its readers are eco-aware, are interested in eco-friendly DIY projects and ideas, and care about their homes.
The golden rule about blogging is that it’s not about you. It’s about your audience.
Capture Your Customers: How to Write Blog Content that Will Dramatically Improve Your Sales
Deciding on a blog topic is only half the battle. The other half comes when you actually have to write the blog. While you could just put your fingers to the touchpad and smash out 600 words on your chosen topic, you’ll just end up with a block of text that is too off-putting for anyone to read to the end. There are a couple of points that you need to consider if you really want to grab your reader’s attention and convert them into customers — and if you’re struggling to start writing, then planning these things out first will give you a good article skeleton.
Don’t write boring headlines.
Oh my god, please do not title your blog post “Top 10 Things To Do in London” — I think I’ve read that a bazillion times before and I’m starting to not give two red buses.
Here’s a stat for you: on average, 8 out of 10 people will read a headline, but only 2 out of 10 will actually read the rest of the article. That’s huge.
It just goes to show how critical a killer headline is. To beat that average, you need headlines that are striking and so irresistible that a potential reader can’t help but click on them to find out more. There are lots of popular types of headlines out there. After analysing nearly a million headlines, the guys at OK Dork found out that the most shared headlines are as follows:
- List posts
- How To
Just because list posts comes in at number one, this isn’t to say that you should start churning out “Top 10s” all over the place. But, when you’re deciding what headline to put on your blog post, you definitely want to take note of the headlines that get the most clicks and shares and vary between these different types to attract the most readers you can.
Say we’re a fitness instructor this time. Our fitness instructor has checked out some frequently searched topics and decided to write a blog post on “how to lose weight.” He’s not just going to title the blog “How to Lose Weight” — because that’s too plain. He thought about titling it “Top 10 Ways to Lose Weight” — but decided that sounded a bit middle of the road. Let’s plug the topic into some of the popular headline styles from above and see what we get:
- 7 Ways to Lose Weight
- Ways YOU Can Lose Weight
- How You Can Lose Weight
- An Ultimate Guide to Losing Weight
All of these sounds pretty good. We already know that #1, the list post, is probably going to get the most shares out of those titles, but if our fitness instructor was planning on writing a longer blog post covering more aspects of weight loss, they might decide to go for #4 instead. We can probably go one step better than this, though. If we check out what’s topping the most popular lists on the big content sharing websites like BuzzFeed and Bored Panda right now, here’s what we get:
- 18 Posts That Prove Coconut Oil Is The Solution To All Of Life’s Problems
- Here’s The Answer To Everyone’s Biggest Question About “Love Actually”
- 24 Dump Dinners You Can Make In A Crock Pot
- 15 Cheesy One-Pot Pastas That’ll Nourish Your Soul
- Here’s What No One Tells You About Having Both Depression And Anxiety
- The Truth Behind Online Photos Revealed In An Eye-Opening Video
- 18 Hybrid Animals That Are Hard To Believe Actually Exist
- Donkey Smiles From Ear To Ear After Being Rescued From Flood In Ireland
Looking at these, we can decipher some definite trends here. Many of these blog posts are going to solve a problem or answer a question that we had: “The Solution To All Of Life’s Problems” and “Here’s The Answer To.” Many evoke emotions: “That’ll Nourish Your Soul” (healthiness, happiness), “Having Both Depression And Anxiety” (sadness), “The Truth Behind” (curiosity, surprise). Some are just plain kooky: “18 Hybrid Animals,” and “Donkey Smiles From Ear To Ear”.
Sure, a lot of these titles are quite sensationalist, but that’s all part of standing out among a sea of other headlines. It’s fair enough if you don’t want your blog to read like the home page of BuzzFeed (and probably a good thing), but you can still use a lot of these same ideas to entice readers. Make their life easier, answer their burning questions, spark their emotions, or give them something totally unexpected.
A Foolproof Headline Formula
For businesses, we’ve found that there’s one particular headline formula that always grabs attention – offers without potential objection. Yes, you got it. Your customer wants something awesome and they don’t want to sacrifice anything in order to get it! Here’s how the formula works:
Offer + Time + Without Potential Objection
Our personal trainer plugs his weight loss topic into the formula and now he has:
- Lose Weight in 30 Days Without Dieting
A beauty school running hairdressing courses could use this formula for a blog like:
- Learn to Create Perfect Bridal Hairstyles in Just 5 Days that Can’t Go Wrong
Anyone interested in losing weight or learning new bridal hairstyles couldn’t possibly not click on that title to find out more.
Other Effective Headline Formulas
If you want to mix it up a bit, try experimenting with a couple of different headline formulas. Everyone’s customers are different, so what gets incredible results for one business won’t necessarily work for another. Don’t be afraid to experiment — see what kinds of headlines are most popular among your readers. Here are a couple of other headline formulas that we love:
Trigger word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise
Example: How You Can Become a Ninja Writer in Less than 24 Hours
Number + Adjective + Keyword
Example: 12 Meticulous Habits You Need to Become a Writing Ninja
A Quick Way to [solve a problem]
Example: A Quick Way to Beat Your Competitors on Google
Use Headings and Bullet Points
Internet users have a short attention span. The average blog reader will only last for 15 seconds or less before they bounce off to another blog. By making a blog post less like a big block of text and more like manageable, bite-sized chunks, you can keep readers on the page for longer. The best way to do this is to use relatively short paragraphs, break up the text with headings throughout, and use bullet point lists where appropriate. These allow readers to skim the content and get the jist of what’s going on if they don’t have enough time to read the post in full, and for you to communicate key information by making it stand out.
I mean, come on, would you rather read this?
Don’t write text dumps, okay?
Use Visual Content & Embedded Media
Humans are visual creatures. We all love incredible photos, cool infographics, and interesting videos. Embedding rich media into your blog is a sure-fire way to keep your readers on the page for longer. When it comes to photos, personal ones of real-life projects and people are more appealing than generic stock photos, as they build brand trust. However, if you don’t have access to any relevant, personal images, then stock photos can definitely get the job done.
Stock Images vs Your Own Images
Ideally, you’ll have some of your own photos of the work you do in your business, of your employees, and so on. The problem with stock photos is that they’re just that: the same old stock that everyone has seen before. While stock photos might look “perfect”, they can come across as sterile. People love to see real photos. They feel that they’re more authentic and authenticity is better every time. Potential customers will trust your brand more if the photos on your website are actually of your employees and your services/products in action.
Have you seen this woman before or one just like her?
Sure you have. She’s the stock image for the customer service team on hundreds of websites. People know that she’s not going to be the person they’re actually talking to when they ring up your customer service team. She’s a model, she doesn’t work in a call centre, they know it, and it impacts their decisions. Try to use images of your own staff where possible and establish that personal connection with potential customers. It doesn’t matter if your photography isn’t perfect or if there are a few awkward smiles in there — that’s the human connection you’re going for. It makes people feel more comfortable and more trusting towards you and your brand.
Where to Get Stock Photos for Free
We get that it’s not always possible to have your own photos for everything. If you’re a small business selling living room lamps and you’re blogging about home decor and how to style your living room then sure, you’re not going to have a showroom and lots of different shots of living rooms to use. But hey, don’t go stealing any images straight off of Google. There’s a common misconception that you can just Google image search something and use any photo that you want from the search results. But, you can’t; that’s image theft.
Images on the internet are not a free-for-all. When someone uploads a photo to the internet, they retain the copyright to that image, irrelevant of whether it is watermarked or not. It means that using those images without permission, even if you credit the source, is illegal. It’s true — a whole heap of image theft goes on all over the internet, and the vast majority of it goes undetected. However, you do sometimes hear horror stories of people who have been caught out using images — sometimes even accidentally — that they do not have the rights to use and have had to pay out thousands of pounds.
Fortunately, there are a couple of websites where you can get images to use for free. On Flickr, you’re able to use the advanced search function to find images that are under the Creative Commons license. Accreditation may be required on Flickr images. Other free-to-use image websites that do not require you to credit the photographer or source include unsplash.com and stocksnap.io. However, it can sometimes be harder to find the images you want on the free sites and you may have to look at paid stock photos instead. There are also plenty of websites where you can buy stock images, such as Shutterstock and Pixabay.
An e-cigarette eCommerce website that we write blog posts for designed some slick looking infographics with useful information about travelling with your e-cigarette, which they also branded with their logo. The infographics were included in a blog post on the website, along with an embed code which can be copied and pasted by readers onto their own blogs. The embed code includes a link back to the original blog post and is a great way to encourage more links to your website and recognition of your brand. If you want to try your hand at designing your own infographics, there are some great websites out there where you can use pre-made templates and plug in your own info and images. Piktochart and Canva are two of the best for designing infographics. If you don’t have an eye for design, outsource your infographics and other images to a graphic designer to make sure they look pro.
Calls To Action
For the troops who have made it to the end of the blog post, you need one final command before you can fly the flag of victory. Make your readers an offer they can’t refuse. One that gets them to buy now because damn that’s such a good deal, or perhaps an offer that will bring them back at a later date – 25% off if they buy a product within the next hour, free delivery on all items, a free download, a free e-book, an opportunity to book a free demo or taster session, or an opportunity to sign up for a newsletter where they can get money off of their first purchase.
Don’t use ugly CTAs. Things like “CLICK HERE TO BUY STRAWBERRY FLAVOUR CARTRIDGES” are not going to get people clicking or buying. They look awful and they sound awful. Encourage people to do what you want in an attractive way. That might mean using a lead generation magnet image, a well-worded phrase, or a nice looking widget. Even if your blog doesn’t immediately convert a reader into a paying customer, they can still be good leads. A newsletter appearing in their email inbox a week later, a voucher for a free taster session that they have downloaded, or a similar kind of enticing offer means that they are more likely to remember your brand and return to the website again in the future.
One of our clients, an HR software company, has created a 10-week online course which blog readers can sign up to. They don’t get the course all in one go; they receive ten weekly installments straight to their inbox via an email newsletter. This technique means that the reader is reminded about the company every week for an extended period of time. They are encouraged to return to the website every week because they are gaining “exclusive” access to valuable information not otherwise available on the website.
SEO Optimising Your Blog Content
Yeah, you got it — just like your website content, you need to make sure that your blog posts are SEO-friendly so that Google’s ‘bots will like them. Don’t panic. We take an in-depth look at SEO in our #1 best selling SEO title: How To Get To The Top Of Google — but let’s take a look at the quick ninja things you can do to SEO up your blogs.
Keywords are the words and phrases your audience uses to search for your product or service. For example, if you’re a dentist based in Glasgow and your most popular treatment is “six-month smile braces” then you might use that phrase in a blog post on “How Six Month Smile Braces Work.” This post could include what happens in the treatment, how long it takes, how much it costs, and why your dental practice in Glasgow is the best place to have it done. The words “six-month smile braces,” and related phrases like “cosmetic braces” and “teeth straightening” would be included in the article so that Google and other search engines are crystal clear that this blog post is about six-month smile braces.
Use specific keywords: Ideally, you want to focus on very specific keywords. The more targeted your keywords, the more likely you are to rank well for them on search engines. If our dentist could include “six-month smile braces in Glasgow”, that’s even better.
Use keywords in your blog title and headings: Keywords should be included in your blog’s title and headings throughout the blog post, as well as in the body of the blog. Including keywords in your title is a really important aspect of SEO that will help boost rankings and show your audience exactly what your blog post it all about.
Don’t cram in keywords like crazy: You want to use the right density of keywords. Don’t just go stuffing in keywords where they don’t fit. In the old days, that might’ve helped, but now that semantic search is on the rise, you don’t need to do that. Google might even start to think you’re being a bit spammy. Write naturally and use keywords naturally.
Use keyword variations (in moderation): Say your target keyword is “dental implants”. Ideally, you’re going to use those exact words in your article title, subheadings, and a couple of times in the body of your text. But you should use some variations (often naturally occurring) in your writing. For example, we might say “implant dentistry” or even just “implants”.
Write a relevant headline: Writing a jazzy article headline isn’t all about trying to be the next article that gets featured on Buzzfeed (not that that’s a bad goal). It’s about writing a title that actually tells the reader what your article is going to be about and tells Google, too — by using your keywords. Say our keywords are “boutique hotel Bath”. Instead of writing a title like “Where You Should Stay in Bath”, a better and more SEO-friendly option would be “10 Boutique Hotels in Bath that All Travellers Will Love”, or even something like “Boutique Hotels in Bath — and a Sneak Peek at Their Boutique Design”.
Use subheadings: We have subheadings because a) they make articles easier to read, and b) they’re suuuper SEO-friendly. Make subheadings descriptive and include keywords when relevant.
Say you’re writing an article about the 10 best teeth brushing techniques for kids.
Example of a bad subheading: 1) Sing Songs
Example of a great subheading: Teeth-Brushing Technique #1: Sing Songs
Another good variation: Sing Songs While Brushing Your Kid’s Teeth
Include internal links: Using internal links means linking to other pages on your website within your blog post. When someone is reading your blog post, your aim is to turn them into a customer, which means that you need to get them clicking around your website and looking at your stuff. The best way to do this is to link to relevant pages for products, services, related blog posts, and so on. This will reduce your bounce rate (i.e. people will stay on your website for longer, rather than bouncing off after having a quick read and getting the info they wanted).
Check out the first paragraph of this blog from Lush’s blog. It’s got product links in there straight away:
When using internal links it’s important to diversify your anchor text, the text that is clicked on to go to the new page. Overuse of the same anchor text pointing to the same page can be seen as trying to manipulate results which can be penalised by Google, mix it up a bit.
Include external links (to quality websites!): Your blog post is a valuable resource — at least, it should be — and all good resources link to their sources. If you’re quoting a research paper, link to it. Quoting a BBC News article? Link to it. Referencing an awesome blogger? Link to them. Linking to your sources shows that you’re using credible information and, hey, the internet is all about linking to other web pages and sharing content. Don’t link to spammy websites or rubbish resources. If you’ve lifted a figure or quote from an untrustworthy-looking website that you wouldn’t want to link to, then think about whether you really want to be using that info in your awesome blog post.
By the way, you don’t want to link to any of your competitors! To be safe, simply don’t link to anywhere that aims to make money. So if you are writing about dentistry, linking to the NHS website is good, linking to Colgate is iffy, and linking to a different dental practice is unacceptable.
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What About Local SEO?
Many small businesses are also local businesses and are trying to reach customers in a certain location, rather than nationally or internationally, using Local SEO. For example, imagine we’re a dentist based in Glasgow and our main target keywords are “cosmetic dentist Glasgow” and “dental implants Glasgow”. How can we reach the people of Glasgow and get them to come to our dental surgery? First, we want to mention in our blog posts that we’re located in Glasgow. Don’t try to just smush this into titles and any old place in the article, though — we want it to read naturally! Here’s what we’re going to do instead:
A) Look for article topics related to Glasgow — then we’ll naturally want to use that keyword in our writing.
B) If there’s not anything too interesting going on in Glasgow, then we’ll want to target the keywords of “cosmetic dentistry” and/or “dental implants” with our blog topic. Then, we can include the location of Glasgow in our subheading at the beginning of the article and in our call to action at the end of the article.
SEO Behind the Scenes
Good SEO isn’t all about the words you see on the page. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes here too that needs to be optimised for SEO as well. An SEO plugin for WordPress such as Yoast or All-In-One SEO can help with this.
SEO-optimise your images: Google and other search engines can’t read pictures alone, which means you need to add text descriptions to say what’s in the picture. These are known as alt tags. You should include your keywords in alt tags when possible. In WordPress, you can add alt tags to your images when you upload them and “add media” to your blog post.
Use meta descriptions: Meta descriptions are the preview text description of your post that’s shown on Google and social media. A good meta description contains up to 320 characters and is catchy enough to make people click.
In the screenshot below, you’ll see the SEO settings screen of the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. This screen shows the general title and meta description, which are the ones used by Google:
You’ll notice that there is a tab marked ‘Social’ along the top. This allows you to set separate titles, descriptions, and images to show up when the article is shared on Facebook and Twitter. The description you use for Facebook is slightly shorter (we recommend 200 characters, although Facebook will show up to 300). Twitter’s description is limited to 200 characters.
When choosing a photo to show with your blog posts on Facebook or Twitter, use a 1024 x 512 image which is a good ratio for both networks. Keep in mind that any text used in the image needs to be in the centre to avoid it being cropped off.
Optimised the webpage URL: The webpage URL itself should be shortened and target the main keywords of the article — sometimes the title, sometimes just the keywords, sometimes including a category from the blog, etc.
Blogging Questions You Need to Know the Answers To
How long should blog posts be?
Blog posts should be an absolute minimum of 300 words. If blog posts are less than 300 words, then that’s barely any text or information for Google and other search engines to read. If you’re a new blogger, readers may also be put off by the lack of content. Unless you’re a guy like Seth Godin — he writes ridiculously short posts — and you’re well known enough to have an audience who dig short posts, it’s probably not for you.
Mid-length blog posts of around 600-800 words are probably your golden ticket. That’s a good amount of words to cover some really valuable stuff. It’s enough words to get your readers interested without dragging on forever, and they’re more likely to finish reading the whole blog post. What’s more, 800 words shouldn’t take you forever to write.
There is a case for long-form blog posts of 1000 words or more as well. More words on the page means search engines are better able to rank posts because there’s more text for them to crawl, and blog posts with more words are said to rank higher. However, you do risk your audience finding the content long-winded, so long-form blog posts should only be used if you genuinely have a lot of valuable information to share on that one topic.
At Exposure Ninja, we like to mix it up. The average length of our blog post is around 1000 words, along with a whole heap of visual media like images and videos to illustrate what we’re talking about. But we sometimes do short and sweet 500-word posts and you might even see the odd 1500+ post if we’ve really got something to write home about! We always recommend varying the length of your blog posts depending on the topic and how in-depth you need to go.
How often should you blog?
Don’t be that dried-up prune of a blog that we talked about earlier. There are no set in stone rules about how often you should be updating your blog, but the more you update it, the better. We recommend that most businesses try to update their blog at least once a week and at the same time each week at a bare minimum. If that sounds like an impossible target, it’s probably time to spread the load with your staff or consider hiring someone to give you a hand with your blog.
Ideally, you would be posting blogs 2-3 times per week. This gives you enough time to select topics that your audience finds valuable and to share the content that you have already posted on your blog, without oversaturating your readers. If your business is in a fast-paced and cutting-edge industry, you might want to consider posting every day to keep up with the latest trends. For most businesses, posting every day would be beyond the realms of possibility and an unnecessary stretch.
Should I respond to reader comments on my blog?
Yes, yes and yes.
In most cases, business owners will choose to allow readers to post comments on their blog posts and this is a great way to interact with potential customers (in a non-promotional way!). Remember that you’re more likely to deter people from buying if you’re overtly sales focused, and more likely to increase your sales by contributing to a discussion. It shows that you’re both friendly and knowledgeable.
It’s important to engage with your readers, regardless of whether they’re posting positive or negative comments. Hopefully, they’ll just be commending you on your awesome blog post — to which you can just say “thanks!” More often, they might have a question to ask relating to your blog post or seek your opinion on something more specific. This is great because it means your audience is really getting involved, they care about what you’re saying enough to seek advice, and building loyalty in this way is more likely to get you conversions.
If you’re getting a couple of negative comments, have a discussion with them. Did they raise any valid points? If not, explain your reasoning more clearly. Show that you’re fair and easy to talk to and other customers will love that. If you’re getting trolls — everyone does at some stage — then throw those comments in the trash. You only want to engage with genuine readers.
Examples of Perfect SEO-Friendly Articles
It’s all well and good explaining all this SEO stuff and what a great article looks like, but you want to see the goods, right? How does it actually look in practice? Let’s Google the phrase “best teas for weight loss”. Sounds like a pretty popular topic; something that a decent amount of people will be Googling and with keywords that a lot of businesses will want to be targeting.
Top organic result for the search is eatthis.com/5-best-teas-weight-loss
The article is around 730 words — so it’s decently long but not super long. I hit F3 and searched for the whole keyword phrase — “best teas for weight loss” — which appears twice on the page (Go on! Go and do it too. See for yourself!).
Not that much, right? But, let’s break it down. Within this keyword phrase, we also have two other phrases people will Google a lot — the “teas” and “weight loss.” You can bet a pretty penny they appear way more in this article:
Yep. You can scroll through on F3 and check where in the article those keywords are; for example, here’s the first mention of “weight loss” after the article title:
It’s right in the introduction there. You may have also noticed that within this introduction, we also have keyword variations like “lose extra weight” and a bunch of language around the theme of weight loss — binge, hunger hormones, calories burn, melting the fat, fat cells… Break it down even further and the article includes a whole bunch of different kinds of tea — red tea, white tea, rooibos tea, green tea, oolong tea — and information on how they aid weight loss. Then it links to other tea and weight loss related articles on the website (inbound links):
This website is basically creating a massive resource for teas and weight loss — a definitive guide to this topic. In fact, the second organic search result for “best teas for weight loss” is from the same website (!): eatthis.com/21-best-teas-for-weight-loss
Getting the Word Out on the Street: What To Do After Posting a Blog
Coming up with ideas, crafting a killer headline, writing well-structured content, formatting your post, inserting visuals and SEO optimising your blog post is the hard part. It’s not over once you’ve hit publish, though. Now that your blog post is up and live, you’ve got to do a little bit of work to get people coming on over to have a look.
Sharing on Social Media
If you’re using WordPress, you might have realised that you can link up your social media platforms so that they’re automatically shared when your blog post publishes. Well, that’s cool, but it’s not enough. Take a little time to rewrite an update for each of your social media channels, paying attention to what style of content performs best on each channel.
- On Twitter you only have 140 characters, so use them wisely. Use 2-3 relevant hashtags and attach a photo to increase engagement.
- On Facebook, you have more room to write a description, include the blog preview, and include an image. You may want to ask a question at the end to get some responses from your followers. Hashtags aren’t very effective on Facebook, so leave those out.
- Like Facebook, you can add a more lengthy description on Google+, though it’s unlikely that you will get a huge amount of, if any, engagement on this channel. Add relevant tags here, too.
- You can hashtag like crazy on Instagram and, really, the more the better. You can’t add linking URLs here, so be sure to just direct people to your website’s blog or update the link in your bio.
- If there are lots of cool images in your blog post, then Pinterest is a good shout. People love repinning awesome photos, including well-made header graphics with your blog post title or similar on them.
If you’re really serious about getting your blog post some traction on social media then, as well as updating your social media platforms straight away, it’s a good idea to schedule some posts for the future as well. This handy table shows how often you should share your post within two months after posting:
Table from Quicksprout
You can check out our new social media book, Profitable Social Media Marketing: How To Grow Your Business Using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn And More, for more detail about optimum sharing of blog posts on social media platforms and how to utilise social media to promote your business and increase conversions.
Post to Aggregator Sites
Content aggregator sites are websites that collect a bunch of article links and highlight articles that they predict will be interesting to users. The point of content aggregator sites is to boost exposure and drive traffic back to the original website or blog where the articles were published. The most common aggregator websites include Reddit, BlogLovin’, StumbleUpon, Delicious, and Digg, although there may be more popular aggregator websites that are relevant to your specific niche or industry. For example, these are some of the leading aggregator sites for business-related niches:
Something to beware of! Many aggregator websites are controlled by an editorial team and if you just post a bunch of links on the sites without actually contributing to the community, your posts may be flagged as spam. It’s better to build up a reputation on these sites before trying to promote your business.
How Converting Readers to Customers Works
If you’ve followed all of the above steps and you now have a shiny new blog filled with visually stunning, well-crafted, SEO-optimised, valuable content, then it’s time to start thinking about how you’re actually going to convert readers into customers. When someone lands on your blog post, whether that’s through search engines, social media, or well-placed backlinks from other blogs and websites, you’ve got a chance to convert these guys into paying customers. Here’s the process to make that happen:
- Visitor is attracted to the website by a blog post
- Visitor reads the post and sees call-to-action for an offer of something free
- Visitor clicks call-to-action and is taken to a nice looking landing page, OR a call-to-action widget is embedded in the blog post
- Visitor fills out form with their email address and receives the free offer
Neil Patel, the guy who runs content marketing blog QuickSprout and heatmap tool business Crazy Egg is great at this stuff. Here’s a screenshot from the end of one of Neil’s most recent blog posts on QuickSprout:
Before we even get to that awesome looking widget, take a look at the last line of the blog post: “I realize that we’ve covered a ton of details here, so if you have any questions, just leave a comment below.” That line is golden. It confirms to the reader that Neil is a nice guy; it encourages them to comment and engage with him as well, which gives him an extra chance to prove what an expert he is.
Then there’s that detailed call to action box that is making it so, so simple for blog readers to whack in their details, sit back and wait for the SEO secrets to come rolling into their inbox. He’s highlighted the fact that it’s for a limited time and it’s FREE. What reader can resist free stuff, especially when they don’t have long to get it!?
Take a look at the very beginning of a blog post on Crazy Egg:
The call-to-action here features before we’ve even started reading the post! Yes, that bright green box sitting above the fold to the right of the screen is telling the reader not to miss out on signing up to Crazy Egg’s newsletter. It’s simple, it’s easy and it’s big.
Here’s an example from our very own Exposure Ninja blog. We’ve just finished writing our awesome social media marketing book (you should check it out) and we want to encourage blog readers to click over onto Amazon and grab a copy. Here’s our call to action:
It’s a big image with a big photo of the product we’re talking about and a big red button; not to mention that the word FREE is also featured here, as we’re offering a free marketing review to sweeten the deal.
Lush’s blog goes one step even further with getting people to sign up for their newsletter. A big pop-up takes over the whole screen when you land on their blog:
While it might seem like overkill, sign-ups tend to be really high with this kind of tactic as well.
Really Want to Get Your Blog Post Ranking?
So you wrote a super awesome, SEO-friendly blog post and you want to get it ranking higher on the search engines for your client! Great stuff. What do you do? You build links to it in articles. You can write articles about related topics that you’re pitching to editors. When writing your articles, include links to your blog post within the content of those articles.
Say we just wrote a blog post on “5 Secret Greek Islands You Must Visit This Summer” for our Greek tour company business. Now, we can pitch and write an article for The Greek Reporter on “How to Plan a Summer Holiday to Greece”. In that article, we could mention visiting secret Greek islands or unmissable Greek islands for summer holidays and link back to our blog post within the article.
When that gets published — great. We’re signalling to Google through our anchor text (the words in the link) and the attached link URL that the page is a great resource for that topic. That will help boost rankings for that page.
Measuring Your Blog’s ROI
While you’re not going to see a return on your investment on day one of blogging, over time, you should start to see a steady increase of traffic, a lower bounce rate, lots of click-throughs, and some conversions coming through.
Is your blog resulting in increased traffic to your website?
This is the first question. Most businesses won’t be trying to convert directly from a blog post, instead getting more people onto and browsing around the website. If you’re getting lots of users landing on blog pages, then your honeypot is attracting the bees. You can check this on your Google Analytics dashboard.
Are you seeing increased engagement?
Are your readers commenting on and/or sharing blog posts on social media? You can make a quick calculation based on the time/cost of writing each blog post and divide that by the number of social media shares to work out an average cost per share. You can compare this reach to other social media posts and marketing channels.
Is your blog generating leads?
While blog posts are very rarely used to directly gain conversions, they can be a great source of leads. What do you want blog readers to do? Are you asking readers to subscribe to a newsletter, visit product pages, buy a product, email or call about your services, download an eBook, etc? You can use Google Analytics to keep track of click-through rates, email sign-ups and similar tools to see if you’re getting the desired results.
Not seeing a decent ROI yet?
If you’re not starting to see any movement after three months or so of blogging, you need to take a closer look at what kind of content you’re producing. Is it valuable to your readers? Are you targeting the right readership? Are you actually reaching this audience? It’s likely that there will be a flaw in either the substance (post content), the delivery (how good your blog looks), the reach (getting the post to your audience), or the offer (your website’s lead generation).
If you think that you’re doing everything right but the people on your website just don’t seem to be clicking around or converting, then you might want to run a heatmap. Heatmaps can be used to see what parts of the page people ignore and what they spend most of their time looking at. You can use a free trial of an online heatmap tool like Crazy Egg for this.
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