5th October 2017
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a company in possession of a blog must be in want of as many page views as possible.
But unfortunately, most of us can’t be AdWeek or Moz – at least, not without putting in some serious blogging investment and research.
There’s a lot that goes into making any given blog post a success – and these are the seven steps that can make your next article a roaring success.
The topic of a blog post is the first thing that’s going to determine both your writing process and your end result. It’s more than just “what have I got on my mind this week?” You might be an industry specialist with some great ideas on what people need to be reading, but unless you’ve already got the followers and the reputation, no one’s going to invest their time in reading your thoughts on the matter.
The obvious but too often overlooked answer is to find what people are already interested in reading. There are a couple of ways to do this.
The traditional way to find out what people want is to actually look for it. You can search recent industry news on popular publications, and you can check out upcoming industry events and write about those, or what they’re talking about. But there are also tools which can help your research strategy.
Buzzsumo in particular is a great tool for seeing what’s being shared in an industry or around a topic. This can help you to identify not only the latest news and interests, but also which articles are the most popular across different social media platforms, as well as how many links they’ve received.
This is incredibly useful if you’re looking to specifically gain traffic from, say, LinkedIn, rather than Facebook or Twitter, or if you’re looking more for media coverage rather than for any sort of social engagement.
In research of Kaizen’s own blog, our greatest success has been seen in articles which offer guides and assistance with technical tasks.
Our article on How to Switch Your Website to HTTP/2 has been our most successful post over the last twelve months, with just under 5000 page views – 1120 of them unique. Other significantly successful articles include How to Optimise for Voice Search and our piece on Post-Campaign Analysis. There’s a trend here – the specialist nature of these articles.
Unless you have a mainstream audience or are a top industry publication, visitors to your blog are primarily looking for your expertise. This means that they’re going to get the most out of articles which tell them how to perform technical tasks in your industry, what they need to know about your approach, and information they can only get from you.
The other advantage of narrowing your topic down to incredibly specialised information is that anyone who looks for that topic is more likely to find you, as you’re able to load your article with relevant keywords. Likewise, anyone who finds you is going to have a low bounce rate, as anyone who finds an article on “How to switch to HTTP/2” is almost definitely looking for that exact information and won’t move on.
Once you’ve got a topic, you might think the headline should naturally fall into place. But that’s jumping the gun. The headline is possibly the most important feature of your article. It has to give enough information that readers know whether they’re interested, but it also has to hook them and draw them in.
Here’s how to write the perfect headline for the two most common objectives.
Buzzsumo isn’t just useful for helping to decide the topic. Their Question Analyser product, found here, is their best offering when it comes to helping you decide on how to word your headline.
The app takes your input – maybe the industry you’re writing in, maybe a trend you’ve been following – and gives you all the top questions the internet’s been asking already.
This allows you to build a headline targeted at the most commonly occurring questions – and the more targeted your answer, the more likely you are to get featured snippets in Google, which will greatly boost traffic thanks to its “Position 0” ranking. You can read more about these snippets in our article on them.
If you’re looking for social engagements, a different sort of wording will have a better effect than following the search approach. A study into over 100 million social headlines found the exact wording that saw the best results.
Titles which suggested ways to improve the reader’s life or interacted with the reader in some way (such as implying a quiz) were the top-ranking, with titles including “will make you” receiving nearly 9000 engagements on average, “this is why” gaining 4099, and “can we guess” reaching 3199.
Intriguingly, the lowest results were for headlines including “control of your”, “your own business”, and “work for you”, perhaps suggesting a lower inclination to talk shop on Facebook. Targeting for more professional platforms like LinkedIn might well be in your favour if your article is full of shop talk.
You’ve got your topic and you’ve got your headline. The rest should be easy. Right?
Well, actually, assuming you know what you’re talking about (and we’d hope you are, if you’re writing the specialist articles we’ve suggested you write or putting your industry input on relevant trends that you should definitely know about), it actually should be.
Whatever your post is about, it should be clear and informative. Simple to break it down into basic questions – who, what, when, where, why, and how. Where applicable, of course. A good turn of phrase helps, but given the value you’re adding almost exclusively comes from the information and the knowledge rather than the entertainment value of Buzzfeed or Huffington Post, your focus should be on conveying the knowledge clearly and concisely.
That’s not to say it has to be a certain length, or broken down in any given way. Research might suggest that certain article lengths will hold more attention than others, and in many cases, that could be true – but while 1600 words might retain more focus on average, averages are based on wildly variable data.
More to the point, this information simply means certain people might be dropping out after a certain number of words. In terms of the sort of readers who are likely to become conversions, one person who reads your dissertation-length post to the end could prove far more valuable than the fifty who dropped out after the first 500 words. If you’re looking to maximise a widespread audience, then certainly, you might want to consider post length in terms of how it affects a generic site visitor. But for specialists offering complex, industry-valuable information, take the raw data with a pinch of salt.
If you’re writing an article on how to perform a full and comprehensive site migration for beginners, for example, it might be 14,000 words long without a single word being unnecessary. And if you’re writing a post on a recent industry event, it might be only 100 words long and contain all the information readers are looking for.
As touched on already, clarity and conciseness are vital. A smooth, comfortable writing style makes each post much more readable, and breaking it down into sections, points, and notes can help break up even the most intense of topics.
To this end, it’s worth practising your own writing style, even if you’re a specialist in coding or design. If you can’t master it, there’s nothing wrong with working with a copywriter to improve your phrasing and give it a readability check. You’ll see a lot of improvement just from seeing how your own words can be rephrased, and in the long run, this synergy will build your own skillset.
It might not be as clear to those who aren’t familiar with the rudiments of SEO, but ensuring that your article is liberally saturated with keywords will help improve search rankings for your site. This is less valuable if you solely want social engagements from the piece, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who would turn down increased traffic if they had the easy opportunity to acquire it.
Using keyword search engines such as KeywordTool.io or Google’s Keyword Planner can help you identify a list of words worth including in your article in order to pull it up to the front page of search results, and thereby draw in more readers (and ultimately, more conversions).
It might seem like an afterthought compared to your valuable written content (graphs and illustrations excluded) but images can help engage your readers, especially over longer articles – even if they’re looking for that specific information. In this digital age, attention spans drop more and more with every convenience invented.
Images break up the word blocks and are often what receive the majority of the reader focus. To this end, they shouldn’t just be an afterthought – shouldn’t just be pretty pictures. Where possible, they should relate to the content and help to hammer it home. Even if they’re not directly related to the exact words, they should draw attention to features that you want to focus on.
Once you’ve finished your post, from headline right down to closing paragraph, it’s time to push it out. I’ve already mentioned what’s best in certain cases for social outreach and what’s best for building search results, but let’s do a quick rundown.
If you’re looking for social engagements, you’re probably going to want to spread them across all your platforms. That said, it’s worth being aware of the different approaches on each, and potentially tailoring your OpenGraph data for each platform.
A headline which works well on LinkedIn might not, for example, work well on Facebook. Readers on LinkedIn are going to be more engaged with their professional sides and more likely to read complex articles about their work. Readers on Facebook are going to be more in a leisurely frame of mind where they’re more interested in clicking on quizzes and finding out what sort of marketing manager they are based on their taste in cheeses.
In terms of Kaizen blog posts, without significant changes to the post style, we’ve seen the majority of attention lately through Twitter, with LinkedIn shares putting those on Facebook to shame.
Twitter’s selling point is probably the dense feed of information where posts can be favourite or retweeted casually, without the committal that sharing on Facebook requires. It can be an excellent tool for widening your audience quickly, particularly if they’re worthwhile articles that get retweeted by prominent figures.
If you’re looking to build your search results, you want to earn links. The same applies if you’re looking for mainstream media coverage, though the metric there is more brand mentions than the followed links on which content marketing relies.
While you might see some natural pickup if you’re very lucky or very prominent, it’s more likely that you’re going to have to take your material to journalists and email lists if you want to push your material out there.
By generating a regular newsletter, you can target a number of prospective clients, current clients, customers, etc. with your relevant material for a minimum of extra work. And the advantage of this is that you can track opens, click-throughs, and bounce rates – and you can follow their journey through to the article to see which ones draw their interest the most. This is excellent targeting that allows you to learn what style of articles appeals to your audience in particular, and as a result you can maximise your opportunities quickly and effectively for the next post.
More difficult, but just as rewarding, is reaching out to journalists to publish your material on their sites for their readers to engage with. This will only be effective if you’re contributing new information, however – industry news might flounder a little in this department. But if you’re putting together large guides, cheatsheets, and information dumps, you could see some great pickup and spread your brand through the journalist’s readerbase and thereby expand your network far beyond your own reach.
There’s a lot of information I’ve covered here. So let’s go through the core points one more time (and if you’ve followed the standard F Pattern for reading, here’s your cheat sheet)
Kaizen can also help you to generate high quality blog posts and content for your needs – see our Service pages or get in contact with us for more details.
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