This is the fourth post on The Company Blogging Success Formula Series.
All audience building and promotion efforts are lost if your content is not up to the expectations. Getting your blog post creation process right helps a lot to the quality and reduce the effort.
Content creation itself is out of this paper’s scope. I assume the post itself is written and concentrate on the editorial process as a quality control as well as finishing process.
1. The copy
Once the writer has finished writing, it’s time for a quality assurance. If you have written it, take some distance, maybe couple of days, before reading it.
The first question to answer is whether the text is good enough and secondly whether it fits to the blog’s style and topic. Sometimes you just have to scrap a post.
A second opinion and a bit of discussion with your team might be in place.
Also check that the story is flowing, everything is understandable by your audience and there is nothing that can really be taken off. There is really no right length for a post. It can be just four lines if you are Seth Godin, or it can be 20 pages if you are Neil Patel or Brian Dean. It all depends of your audience and the topic. If you can keep the reader engaged and reading, there is no limit.
2. Cover image
A blog post really must have a one image that can act as a cover image. This image appear on social media shares and newsreader feeds. Posts without an image perform about half as those with an relevant image. It’s that simple. So again unless you are Seth Godin, there is no escaping that you must have an image.
Finding the right image is difficult though. You and your team have smartphones with decent cameras. Try to take photos that can be used to illustrate the topics you cover or used as a background image with text on top. Collect the photos to a central locations where they are easily reachable.
Canva is a great tool for finding and creating visuals to your blog posts. It’s free for graphics or if you use your own photos.
3. Headline with relevant context keyword
Headline is the single most important success factor of a story. It gets people to read it or skip it. That’s why newspapers have dedicated persons just for headlines called headline editors. Their job is to find the beef out of a story their journalist have written and construct a must read headline out of it. In today’s digital world, this profession has unfortunately turned too much to clickbaiting tactics resulting to headlines such as “10 mistakes you are making today that might kill you”. Who wouldn’t want to know and click? Unfortunately many quality print publications fall for clickbaiting tactics online.
Best way to learn headline editing is content curation. When you are following what all else are writing about in your space and beyond, you’ll start to notice what kinds of headlines attracts you. Then what was your feeling after reading the piece? Did you feel you got what was promised or even more? Or did you end up feeling screwed? Try to learn from the former and avoid the latter!
When writing a headline remember the following: Your reader is actively or passively looking for information regarding many things. Hundreds of articles are flowing thru her newsfeed every day. Some are relevant to her interest, personal or professional, but most are not. She is scanning the newsfeed for words and images that belong to a context she is interested about. When such a context word or image triggers interest, she reads the headline to determine whether it was indeed an article of the right context or a false alarm. Context keywords are words that your audience recognise as a positive indication that the headline is likely to interest them. Context keywords are not necessarily same as the keywords you use for search optimization. Context keywords are passively recognized whereas search engine keywords are actively used. This gives you far more creative flexibility when crafting headlines. Especially as nowadays Google is not necessarily giving you any better ranking for having the keyword in domain, title or headline (heading 1 or h1).
Someone once said a (business) blogger should spend as much time on the headline as writing the piece. I wouldn’t go that far, but headline is that important. Some even try out headline versions with Facebook ads before mailing to their whole list.
Finally it all comes to competition. If all others within your industry are providing 7 tips, and 8 must have tools, you probably want to take another route.
A blog post without references to other sources is just your opinion. By adding links you acknowledge other thinkers as well.
So add links to relevant sources. This adds value and proves your point of view. They are appreciated by your readers and Google.
5. Shareables and tweetables
People are lazy, especially when it comes to sharing. Your headline may not be the takeout someone wants to share. Do they bother to think and write their own? Many are too lazy and skip the opportunity.
Usually it takes bit of editing to make the interesting points easily shareable as the point might be buried within a long and complex sentence or within a sentence that does not work without the context. Again in newspapers, it’s the job of an editor to find those to quotes, captions and subheadings.
Maybe you have interesting figures, or catchy quotes. As a minimum, have them easily copy-pasteable within your text, as a separately styled quote or as bullet points. Better yet, format them as click to tweet -link or tweetables.
6. Writer BIO
Blog posts are not written by your company, they are always written by someone(s). Writer BIO introduce the writer or writers. Here is what I use.
Your business blog should introduce the writers, always. It helps your audience distinguish different writers and build relationship with your favorite writers. There are very few reasons when you why not, and I cannot think one now.
7. Keywords and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization or SEO used to be black art mastered by fews SEO gurus. The game has luckily changed. Over the last couple of years Google has changed its page ranking algorithm and effectively killed the SEO industry at the same time.
To summarize Google’s instructions to two sentences:
Write quality content as an expert would have written. Forget all tricks.
Gone are the days when you should register mykeyword.com, have the page title as mykeyword.htm and stuff that keyword 20 times on the page. Now that strategy is probably the fastest way out of the first page on the search results.
Google has noticed that experts on a domain do not stuff keywords, that’s a tactic used by SEO spammers who don’t know much about the subject. Experts rather use large specialist vocabulary.
But that does not mean you should forgot keywords altogether. You should have a keyword list of the words your audience is likely use when searching. Those words do differ from those your specialists use. Your audience are not yet in on the subject and use words that your specialists wouldn’t use as they are inaccurate. Your blog posts should contain both, the words industry insiders use and the words new customers use a.k.a. keywords.
8. Call-To-Action (CTA)
A purpose of a blog post is to achieve something. Your blog post should (almost) always have a Call-To-Action. That is you ask your reader to do something. In a business blog it’s usually to capture the lead in one way or another. Or just to keep the reader more engaged.
Here are the popular ones:
Download your free ebook or other premium content [button or banner]
Subscribe your newsletter, course or whatever you are calling your emails [form]
Follow you on social media [buttons]
Sign up for a free trial, schedule a free consultation or whatever your “free sample” strategy is. [button or banner]
Read more on the subject with “related content” or “you might also like” lists. [links, lists]
Long posts with little variety in formatting are quite boring to read. It’s difficult to follow the text if there is no visual landmarks, no pages to flip, just a long text that you keep on scrolling.
Headings help break the text. Remember to use only one Heading 1 (or h1 in HTML), that’s important for Google. There is no limit for subheadings.
When you are quoting other sources in length or tell a story, you might want to “quote” it by indenting the text and using italic. Like this text.
Or you can pull a quote out of the blog copy itself and format it with bigger font to break the monotony of the text and act as a visual element. It’s called a pull quote. Here is an example:
Content marketing is a volume sport.
Boxes and borders are also an easy way to break the text and for example open up a definition of a term.
Text formatting terms are explained here.
Every post should have one image that can act as a cover or main image, and used in social shares and by newsreaders. But you should not stop there. Your post may benefit for other visuals such as photos, infographics, drawings, screenshots, videos...
11. Overall blog design
Finally few words about your blog’s overall design. I left it last on purpose. A blog is not a design exercise the same way as a website is. Many read blogs with newsreader apps like Feedly where the blog design is more or less replaced with the newsreader’s styles. And mobile devices are used more and more each day.
Gone are the days of fancy blog design with sidebars left and right. Modern business blog is actually very simple, yet designed. Think how you would like to read a blog on your iPhone. Small header which brands the blog. Then easily readable nicely formatted blog post with nice fonts. And that’s about it. As a design exercise it’s about getting fonts and white spaces right.
Bigger question is to how you name or brand your blog. And what the blog is about. But that’s a question that should be answered at your content marketing strategy, not here.
The Company Blog Success Formula Series:
- The Company Blog Success Formula, what makes or breaks your company blog, and how to achieve success
- Rich blogger, poor blogger: How to build your audience and content assets for success (Assets)
- Behind every legendary blog is a great promoter (Promotion)
- 11 finishing steps that make your blog post great [ Greatness ]
- Blogging is a volume sport, why? [ Quantity ]
- Without [ Content - Audience Fit ], your company blog will fail
- Road to blogging success is paved with constant small improvements
- 7 must-haves of a Minimum Viable Blog [ CHECKLIST ]
Written by Antti Pietilä
Antti is the founder and CEO at Loyalistic (Simple Content Marketing Software for B2B Companies) who loves to help SaaS-companies to grow at Software Entrepreneurs (@ohjelmisto_ry) and cycle. Say hello to him anytime @anttipietila.