While the content marketing world has evolved significantly since the dawn of the internet, blog articles remain the cornerstone content type in a successful digital content marketing strategy. If you are trying to reach your prospects online, then you probably already know you need to be writing blog articles.
Posting text to your website seems like it should be simple enough, but getting it just right can seem overwhelming. In this article, I’ll address the key elements of writing an effective and valuable blog article. A blog article about writing a blog article—pretty meta, huh?
Before we get into those details, you should also know that we’ve created a booklet to help you write better headlines for your blogs, so they’re more likely to rank and engage:
How to Drive Traffic to Your Website: Humans or Robots?
In order to drive relevant organic traffic to your site today, you must serve two masters: the people who you want to find and read your content—and the search engines that help serve it up to them. Humans are seeking to understand their challenges. Google is deciding if you provide expertise worth being indexed as search results to particular queries. Creating a plan for striking this balance is the essence of an effective digital content marketing strategy.
There are many important aspects to consider as you get started with your content strategy and this roundup provides 20 of the top content marketing resources out there to get you started.
Regularly going on the record about your areas of expertise — in the form of intentionally written articles — is paramount to being discovered by and building credibility with both of these visitors. The blogging landscape has changed quite a bit since the early days and an occasional 500-word post just isn’t going to move the needle when it comes to proving your content’s worth to Google. And let’s face it, your readers won’t be fooled either if you don’t demonstrate your expertise has depth. To truly be seen as a topical expert you need to regularly write long-form blog articles (1,000-1,500 words) that provide valuable insight into the topic at hand.
Effectively gaining trust in the eyes of your site visitors (both human and robotic) requires you to write articles that are engaging, intelligent, scannable, easily readable, empathetic, and speak directly to your prospects. Many experts who begin blogging are extremely knowledgable about their areas of expertise, but learning to write to reach your prospects online is an art in and of itself.
How to Choose a Topic for Your Blog Article: Following Your Strategy
It all starts here. If you have a well-defined digital content marketing strategy, then you shouldn’t just be pulling topics out of thin air. Choosing a great topic is the first step toward writing an engaging blog article. To choose your topic well, you’ll want to be thoughtful about which target audience you’re trying to attract and their interests and business challenges at various stages of their buying cycle. That kind of intentionality during topic ideation goes a long way toward keeping your articles strategically sound. (You can read more about designing messaging strategies tailored to your target prospects here.)
Keeping these strategic parameters in mind, think about the challenges your prospects are facing. What questions keep coming up in sales conversations? What problems do you continually solve to help your clients? How would your ideal future clients describe these problems, and what will they be searching for online?
Focus on topics that will be educational and helpful to your target audience. Do some keyword research to discover the right keywords to describe your article. If you know the topic is relevant to your audience then optimization is a matter of selecting a keyword that matches their search intent.
How to Outline a Blog Post: Shaping Your Content
Don’t skip this step! Measure twice, cut once doesn’t only apply to carpentry. An outline is an excellent way to organize your thoughts prior to writing a draft of the full post. In many cases, the majority of your effort will actually occur during this step, as this is the time when you’re gathering data, doing research, and organizing the flow of the salient points of your blog post. It can be tempting to skip over this step, but outlining can help you to avoid meandering as you craft your post.
Important questions to ask yourself when developing your outline:
- How would I summarize my topic in 1-2 sentences?
- Why is this topic of value to the intended audience? What specific interest or challenge does this topic address?
- What are the 3-5 MOST important things I need my reader to understand about this topic?
Your outline doesn’t need to be particularly verbose. You can summarize your thoughts in a bulleted list or in a few sentences. The main purpose is to organize your key points before you focus on communicating them in an editorial and engaging way.
How to Write a Good Blog Title: Ranking and Engaging
Let’s start at the very beginning: the headline. A common mistake is to overlook or downplay the importance of titling. In many cases, these 20-70 characters may be the only chance you get to interest browsers in reading your article. If you want your post to rank and capture attention it needs to be engaging and accurate. A word of caution against creating a clickbait title: no one likes to be tricked, so regardless of your clickthrough rate, your article needs to deliver on the promise you presented in your title.
The editorial title, which should inherit the H1 tag of the web page, should first and foremost speak to the problem the blog addresses as the reader understands it. If you position your solution as the headline, it’s less likely to engage the reader at a glance. They need to read your education to understand why the solution matters; however, if you use language descriptive of their problem in the title, you’re likely to attract their interest because you’re demonstrating an understanding of and empathy for their situation. This is also likely how they will pose their question to Google in order to seek your expertise.
For example, let’s pretend you’re running a dog training business. You’ve decided to write a blog that addresses a very common problem you’ve observed among pet owners in your market: separation anxiety in adult dogs. Let’s say you’ve discovered a correlation between the quality of the food an owner feeds their pet and the severity of the symptoms of separation anxiety in adult dogs. You’re choosing between two options for titles:
1. The Misunderstood Relationship Between Dog Food and Dog Anxiety
2. A Surprising Approach to Reducing Separation Anxiety in Adult Dogs
Both titles are editorially engaging and similarly concise. While option one does mention the problem (anxiety in dogs), option two more directly speaks to the problem as your market understands it (actually reducing anxiety in adult dogs).
There are many different techniques for appealing to your readers’ interest with your titles. For more inspiration, download this list of 10 Tips for Creating Content Marketing Headlines That Rank & Engage.
How to Overcome Writer’s Block: Getting Started
After you’ve crafted your outline and title, it’s time to start writing. Getting started can be intimidating, especially if it’s been a while since you put pen to paper.
Are you suffering from “writer’s block?” One way around it is to stop writing altogether. Pretend your reader is sitting across from you and just asked “what is this article about?” or “what is the point of this article?” Just start talking (close your office door or your colleagues will think you’re crazy!).
Revisit your outline and review your key points. Reasoning out the topic aloud will begin to help you naturally shape the flow of the argument on paper.
How to Structure a Blog Article: Make it Scannable
The introductory paragraph(s) should describe the topic by framing the problem or challenge as the reader will understand it. As is true with your title, an easy trap to fall into is to start educating people about the problem before you’ve described the challenge in the first place. Your first couple of paragraphs are your opportunity to empathize with the reader. Help them see that you know and understand them.
Use subheadings to transition between major thoughts or points in your blog. Subheadings are great for SEO, as well as for organizing your content in a way that a reader can easily digest. Most people consuming content on the internet today skim around until they see what they determine to be most relevant to their interests, stop and read a few sentences, then start skimming again. Make it easy for readers to orient themselves by using keyword-rich sub-headings. Shorter sentences and lists can also make your blog post easier to read across all devices.
How to Find Your Writing Voice: Sounding Human
Try to keep the tone throughout sounding like YOU. The perspective and education shared in the article should, of course, be in line with your business’ viewpoint as a company, but each individual author is going to have their own style. You’re different people. Your articles should sound as distinct as your personalities. The more you try to force yourselves into a single voice, the more mundane and uninteresting your content becomes. Don’t be afraid to write like you talk, then clean up the language a bit in the editing process.
Finding your voice applies to search engine optimization as well. Achieving the balance of editorial engagement and catering to the Google robots is a sliding scale rather than a black-and-white-endeavor. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is for a human being to connect to you through your writing, so tread carefully when it comes to incorporating keyword targeting.
How to Write a Conclusion: Wrapping Up
An easy way to get into your conclusion is to treat it like a summary. This can start to feel a little stale after a while, but it’s not a bad approach as you get used to writing more often. Restate the problem the article addresses and summarize those key points you described throughout (refer to your outline if you’ve forgotten how to phrase them concisely). If it’s evaluator content, you can always encourage people to get in touch with you as well.
If you follow these steps you will be contributing blog articles to your digital content marketing strategy in no time. Be sure to carefully select your article topic, focus your title on alluding to the problem you’ll address, format your blog to be scannable, and write in your own unique voice.
One final piece of advice: No matter how experienced you become as a blog writer, always work with a strategic editor you can trust to hold you to these standards. Happy writing!