Nowadays, any online business worth its salt has a regularly updated blog. Content, as they say, is king - but amid reports that 60% of brand content is basically meaningless, marketers need to do more to ensure that their content cuts through the noise and says something of real value; otherwise, it will end up being ignored.
And being ignored is the best case scenario. As Google places more and more emphasis on content quality, a poorly written, ‘thin’ or irrelevant blog can even have a negative impact on your search engine ranking
In this article, we’ll show you how to create compelling, meaningful blog posts that give value to your customers and keep them coming back for more. But before we do that, let’s consider why it’s so important to have a blog in the first place.
Your company blog is the place for you to showcase your industry knowledge, share expertise and establish yourself as a thought leader within your field. A regularly updated blog that’s crammed with well-written, meaningful content will boost your credibility amongst your peers and customers, and help bring in a steady stream of qualified traffic.
That said, don’t make the mistake of filling your blog with boastful claims, sales copy or thinly veiled advertorials. It’s not the place for grandstanding. The idea is to provide content that’s valuable to your readers - even if it doesn’t lead directly to a sale.
This might seem to fly in the face of everything we’ve been taught as marketers - after all, the bottom line is what matters, right? Well, that may be true, but a blog is as much about PR as it is about marketing; it may not have an immediate payoff, but by bolstering your brand and positioning yourself as the go-to provider of whatever it is you provide, you can secure a base of loyal customers who keep coming back to you again and again.
Blogs aren’t just great for woolly, intangible things like ‘being an authority’; they can also do wonders for your search rankings. A well-maintained blog creates a kind of virtuous circle: the better your content is, the more likely people are to click on it and reference it within their blogs - and the higher your click-through-rates are, and the more citations you receive, the better your search ranking will become.
Google also looks favourably on ‘sticky’ content that keeps people reading; conversely, your page authority will be downgraded if people land on your content and immediately hit the ‘back’ button because it’s poorly written or not what they’re looking for.
Google is also placing more and more emphasis on user experience when calculating search rankings: accordingly, they like to reward websites that give real value to their audience.
We’ve established that great content is the key to keeping Google and your customers happy, but how exactly do you go about writing it? The following tips should stand you in good stead:
Write dazzling headlines
It’s all well and good writing thoroughly-researched, meaningful, up-to-date content - but if you don’t lure your audience in with a compelling headline, then your efforts will be fruitless. It’s like the old proverb about the tree falling in the forest: if you publish a blog post but nobody bothers to read it, was it worth the effort?
That’s why you need to craft exciting and informative headlines to bring your audience’s attention to your latest masterwork; otherwise, how will they know it’s worth reading?
Do your research
Thorough research is what turns good content into great content. It doesn’t matter how sparkling your prose is; if you can’t back up your claims with cold, hard facts, then they’re as good as meaningless.
You should link back to your sources throughout your content so that your readers can verify your claims for themselves, rather than taking what you say at face value.
Use high-quality, up-to-date sources
Of course, not all sources are created equal. A link to a high-authority source such as a national newspaper or a high-profile organisation like the Content Marketing Institute is obviously much more credible than a link to somebody’s personal blog.
Finding credible sources is largely a matter of common sense; however, you can also use Chrome add-ons such as the MozBar to help speed up the process. MozBar looks at a search engine results page and assigns each result with a numerical score of 1 to 100 based on the website’s Domain Authority, so you can tell at a glance which websites are more worthwhile referencing.
You should also make sure that the information you’re referencing is up to date.
When using Google to find sources, click on the ‘tools’ button at the bottom right of the search bar; from the drop-down menu that appears, you can choose to see results from the past year, the past month, or even the past hour. This will help ensure that the data you’re referencing is fresh and relevant; sources from more than a couple of years ago may well have become obsolete in the meantime.
Answer a question
The best content is content that answers a question, which could be anything from ‘what is content marketing?’ to ‘how do I write a great blog?’. The idea is to get inside the heads of your audience and determine what they might want to know about.
Of course, unless you’re Derren Brown, this is easier said than done; thankfully, you can use tools like Answer The Public to find out exactly what people are searching for on any given topic. Simply enter a keyword, such as ‘content’ or ‘blogging’, and the bearded oracle will give you a list of the most common search queries that include your chosen keyword.
These days, anybody who’s anybody in the marketing world understands the importance of a regularly updated blog; the downside of this is that the internet is awash with articles that all say pretty much the same thing.
Instead of rehashing the same old topics, try to think of something that hasn’t been said before - or try turning a topic on its head by expressing a familiar idea in an unfamiliar way. In doing so, you’ll be able to cut through the noise and make your voice heard over the competition.
By Danielle Schuster, marketing editor at Insights For Professionals
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