Five exabytes. Does that sound like a lot? It is.
How much is an exabyte? It’s one billion billion, or a quintillion. Or two to the 60th power.
OK, now that you have your mind around that, try to get your mind around this: five exabytes is the approximate volume of content that was produced in all of history up until 2003. Five exabytes is also the approximate amount of content which has been produced daily since 2013, according to Newstex.
Did you catch that? Five exabytes of content produced from whenever-the-heck B.C. until 2003. Five exabytes of content produced every single day since 2013.
That’s a lot of noise to deal with. It can be easy to think your blog post will be drowned out and that it won’t matter among the estimated two million posts which are published every day.
Don’t buy that.
With the right approach, you can cut through all the noise, rank high with search engines, and offer value to the readers who end up on your blog.
Steps for writing a great blog post
1. Choosing a blog post topic
First things first: What should you write about?
If you’re struggling to find an answer to that question, a great place to start is with customer questions. Answer those. And turn those answers into blog posts.
Say, for example, your company is a B2B commercial real estate agency. Talk to your agents and ask them each to give you a list of customer FAQs—maybe five or 10. Then compile a master list of those questions, isolate key phrases and words from each, and use Google’s Keyword Planner to prioritize the order in which you carry out the posts. Answer the questions containing the most-searched phrases first and move down the list.
Answering customer questions in a blog post not only provides evergreen magnetic content for your site but also preempts the sales meeting, priming your leads and setting a more expeditious pace for conversion.
Here are some other types of posts that perform notoriously well across almost every sector:
• How-to (ex. “How to write a blog post that cuts through the noise”)
• Numbered lists (ex. “7 steps for writing a great blog post”)
• Tips (ex. “7 pro tips for writing a great blog post”)
• Video integrations
• Recaps and takeaways (ex. “10 big takeaways from Commercial Real Estate Fair 2015”)
• Checklists (ex. “The ultimate checklist for promoting your blog online”)
• Dos and Don’ts (ex. “The big Dos and Don’ts of using CTA buttons in blog posts”)
2. Writing a blog post outline
Front-end planning is crucial for ensuring that your message comes across.
Early Internet blogging might have encouraged free writing, but blogs today are pivotal grounds for you to strategically connect with your customers.
Blogging today isn’t meant for theses and manifestos—especially when you’re writing on behalf of your business. Instead, it’s somewhere between “Dear Diary” and research paper, meaning some level of planning is required.
To begin your blog post outline, jot down a list of high points you’re looking to address. Use those as the section headers. Then, anchor the sections of your outline with a pivot point—something that can serve as the core of the section. The pivot point could be a metaphor, a quote, a big idea—anything that has the strength to stand on its own and drive the section before you build your other content around it.
Your outline should also include your intended call-to-action. Make it prominent at the bottom of your outline so that your content tees it up nicely and the call itself feels natural and not pushy.
3. Titling a blog post
Coming up with a blog post title isn’t difficult by nature. If you can write a several-hundred-word blog, certainly you can write a short title for it.
Writing a strong blog post title is another thing altogether.
Here are some key things to consider when crafting a title which resonates with both readers and search engines:
• Be honest: Make your title an accurate representation of the content in your blog post.
• Be concise: Your blog post title should ideally be 70 characters or less, as that’s what shows in Google search results.
• Be upfront: Remember those keywords you identified? They should be at the front end of your title.
• Be strategic: A post titled something like “Thursday Thoughts” or “My Mad Monday” probably won’t intrigue readers and definitely won’t intrigue search engines unless, of course, your name is Seth Godin, in which case you don’t need seven steps for writing a great blog post.
• Be human: Avoid jargon-y buzzwords and big vocabulary words and talk to your readers in an authentic way.
• Be moderately clickbait–y: The liberties you take with your blog post titles are largely dependent on your industry and target audience; unless you’re writing for teenagers or a tabloid, try to keep overstatements and superlative statements like “You’ll never believe” or “The best (blank) ever,” etc. Less-emphatic descriptions like “top 10” or “intriguing” can be useful in titles.
4. SEO considerations
You read about using Google’s Keyword Planner earlier in order to isolate and identify keywords for your titles. Those keywords should also be integrated into the body text. There isn’t a real quota for how many times you need to use a keyword in a post, but it’s not a bad idea to loosely aim for once for every 200-300 words.
Furthermore, the word count of your blog post matters. Every post should be a bare minimum of 300 words. But 300-word posts should be extremely rare if you care about search visibility.
As serpIQ demonstrated with a key piece of research, the bigger, the better.
5. Headers and formatting
Speaking of SEO, the way you use your headers is critical for both search engines and readers.
It’s important to clearly tell your readers what you’re going to cover in the section ahead. Again, a vague header is just as dampening as a vague title.
Using the aforementioned keywords in your headers is a good way to reinforce them for SEO purposes, but don’t use them in every header. And when it comes to coding your post, make sure your headers are tagged as H2s.
Finally, when it comes to formatting, keep the following points in mind:
• Long paragraphs can be repellent to online readers. Try to keep paragraphs to four sentences or shorter.
• Bulleted and numbered lists are really effective in organizing your information. Use them freely to help readers quickly work through your post.
• Too much boldface and underlining could cause readers to miss large parts of your post, so be careful not to overuse them.
Cutting through the noise: Quality matters
Even if you follow all of the steps above, there’s no hacking the search engine algorithms any more. If your post isn’t enjoyable to read and actually helpful, readers won’t read it, Google will find out, and you don’t stand a chance of ranking well. Seek to genuinely help your readers with well-written, well-organized content. Make it enjoyable, memorable, clear, educational and concise while you’re at it.