By Beccy Weston
Most of us know that we should be blogging to build relationships with our audiences. That we must be all over social media to have any chance of success and that, somehow, we’ve got to find the time and energy to create bamboozlingly good resources while also running, and growing, our businesses.
We’re busy people, this sounds like a LOT. And it is, if you don’t have a clear idea of your content’s vision and purpose. The issue is, for many, content strategy seems like a ‘nice to have’ rather than a critical element to achieving success.
But think how much time is wasted, getting things wrong because we didn’t spend the energy properly planning and considering our approach. How many times have you put a blog out there, hoping desperately for some kind of meaningful connection with your audience, only for it to underperform and feel like a complete waste of your time. Heard the expression, ‘Shouting into the wind’? Yep, we’ve been there.
That’s why we’ve put together this checklist, which is designed to help you create purposeful blogs with powerful outcomes. Here are our top 12 rules of blogging, designed to give you and your audience a more joyful online experience.
The 12-Step Blogging Checklist
1. Does my blog add value to my audience?
The first thing to consider when creating a blog is that it must add value to your audience. People’s lives are busy and they don’t have time to waste reading blogs that aren’t going to offer them something in return. Most importantly, a blog should be solutions-focussed. So, before you put pen to paper, consider what problem you are trying to solve for your audience.
2. Keywords matter
For the sake of SEO, the keywords and phrases you use in your blogs matter significantly, especially those in the title of your blog post. Carve out some time to brainstorm supporting phrases based on what people are actually searching for, and use Google Keyword Planner (which is an Adwords Tool) to check monthly search volumes.
3. Create a powerful header
Set the scene in your post header, and tell your audience what they will gain from reading the blog. Headers should generally be short and punchy. Use phrases such as ‘How to’, ‘This will’, ‘Simple tips to’, etc.
4. Use subheadings
Break up long-form copy (anything that’s more than a few hundred words) with subheaders. This helps your audience can engage with your blog on their own terms. Not everything you share in your blog will always be relevant to them, so make it easier for them to skim the article and find what’s most useful. Don’t forget those keywords here too.
5. Bullet points and white space are your friend
Being confronted with a really long blog post can be overwhelming for a reader, which could increase your website’s bounce rate significantly. Use short sentences and paragraphs, and split lists up with bullet points. This drives home your points, and prevents the reader from having to filter information themselves.
6. Backlinks build authority
A backlink is a hyperlink from one webpage to another, and they help search engines find new pages and make connections between websites. They’re important for SEO, as when high-quality websites link to your site, it tells Google your site is good quality too. By creating brilliant blog posts that add genuine value to your readers, you stand more chance of getting links to your website from other site owners.
While getting links from other sites is important, linking out to other useful content on authoritative sites will help build your ‘digital footprint’ around your chosen topic. You don’t want to include too many of these in a blog post though, and always set them to open in a new tab so that you aren’t creating unnecessary opportunities to take people away from your site.
For example, How to Generate Effective Content Ideas is a great blog from our friends at Hubspot that will help you when it comes to getting creative with your blog topics. We’re adding value here by providing additional content to help you create a successful blog, and linking out to a trusted source.
7. Link your blog posts to other blogs and website pages
Increase the amount of time a visitor spends on your website by making it easy for them to navigate to further blogs or pages that provide relevant, supporting information. Use calls to action such as ‘If you enjoyed this blog, you may like to read…’ or ‘ Find out more here’, etc. This is also beneficial for SEO, as it shows Google the connections between pages on your website.
As well as this, make sure your blog post has an easily accessible menu with links to other recent or relevant blogs and post categories (see example below).
8. Pictures tell your story
Quality, relevant images are critical for blog engagement. Particularly images of people that your readers can relate to. You don’t have to have an expensive photoshoot to create original images or pay for a stock image library subscription, there are lots of free image libraries such as Unsplash and Pexels where you can find good quality images. Using images in blogs creates a 94% increase in views.
9. Get social
Sharing your blog with your followers on social media is a great way to get it in front of more people, particularly if you’re solving a problem that’s relevant to a wide audience.
Make sure your blog has social sharing buttons to make it easy for people who read it to share it with their audiences. It’s perfectly ok to ask your audience to share your content at the end of your copy, and you can avoid sounding needy by using a friendly CTA such as: ‘If you enjoyed this blog, please share it with your network’ or ‘If you found this blog helpful, why not share it with others?’
10. Inspire conversation
Build a stronger relationship with your audience by inviting them to share their experience or opinion of the topic. Create a space that invites further engagement in your blog comments or on social media posts. Don’t shy away from controversy: it can inspire healthy debate and challenge your audience, and create more engagement with your comments.
11. Repurpose, update, evolve
Getting your content calendar in order will help you be less reactive and more strategic. It will also help you become aware of what content you can repurpose, update, or evolve. For example, following point number 10 and noting down popular comments will allow you to create further content based on your audience’s experiences and interests.
12. Tell your audience what to do next
Calls to action are essential for conversation. Before you start a blog post, consider your desired outcome. What do you want people to do after they’ve read your
blog? Then create a CTA around that to finish on.
Which leads us neatly to our own CTA… We have a brilliant team of strategists who can bring clarity and purpose to your marketing efforts. We also run workshops to inspire your creativity and help get things moving in the right direction.
Sound like something you need? Get in touch.
Beccy Weston is an experienced Content Strategist, Content Writer and Account Director. Her specialism is in Education/Youth Marketing and supporting start-ups and entrepreneurs to strategically plan their marketing activity. Beccy’s impressive client portfolio includes education providers, start-ups and SAAS providers including the University of Portsmouth, Inholland University, Siccura, and The Good Business Club. As a fierce advocate for ‘Kind Marketing’, Beccy champions non-aggressive marketing tactics and her focus is always on creating useful, audience-first content that builds long-term relationships between businesses and clients.