One of the most frequent conversations we have with clients is around increasing content. Our clients understand that Google rewards relevant and fresh content so we often recommend a blog. But, we caution, consistency in contributing to it will be important if you have any hope of gaining readership and having it benefit your business. But it turns out that it’s not as simple as dropping any old post every week; unless your niche is highly specific and unique, chances are that readers could get that same information elsewhere, so why should they choose your site specifically? We can answer that question with some of the following ideas:
1. Consider long-form content—more than 3,000 words.
Studies have shown that long-form content (3,000+ words) performs better than shorter content. But the content shouldn’t just ramble on; a long and in-depth answer to a specific question performs best. (This article is an example of that idea in action; we’ve asked a specific question about how to grow your blog readership and are giving an in-depth answer.) So, why is long-form content best? Here are a couple of possible reasons:
But do readers actually have the patience to read articles longer than 3,000 words?
Well, it’s complicated.
Nielson Norman Group found that people tend to read about 20% of any article in front of them. But they found that rule seems to hold, mostly regardless of the length of the article. That means that even if the article is very long and readers don’t finish it, they’re still reading about 20%, more actual words than if they read 20% of a shorter article.
The fact is that longer content is harder to do well. It’s hard to write in a way that is both informing and engaging. And if it’s poorly written, it stands to reason that readers won’t stick with it. But if you take the time to produce quality long-form content, it’s likely that readers will click through more of the article and your blog as a whole.
2. Think about your goals of your blog readers, and be sure you help them take actions that will attain your goals.
Why are you writing a blog in the first place? What do you want to gain from putting your efforts into the medium?
You might just want readers, particularly if you’re trying to build a case for sponsorship or advertising, and that’s ok, but it certainly requires the highest effort of continuous and engaging content.
You might want to convert readers into subscribers or leads for your primary product or service. In that case, it’s important to structure your articles around a call to action that makes the ask clear and easy to complete.
You may just want to create a memory so that when people need your service in the future, they keep your name in mind.
As you write your content, keep these goals in mind. While it’s important to provide unique and trustworthy content, it’s also important that it ties back to your primary company’s products and services if the goal is memory or conversion.
Additionally, it’s key to provide all the information that readers need to take action. To illustrate this point, let’s look at a study conducted at Yale University where a researcher prepared two pamphlets about the dangers of tetanus. Both pamphlets had the same information, but one included graphic images that appealed to students’ sense of fear. Unsurprisingly, the students who saw the graphic pamphlets stated they were more likely to get the shot than people who saw the text-based pamphlet. But only 3% of students from either group actually got the shot. In a follow-up study, the researcher added a third variation that included extra information about where on campus to get the shot and the clinic’s hours. With this extra information, the number of students who got the shot was 28%.
Make it easy for readers to take the action you want them to take.
3. Write content that’s good.
We’ve been talking about writing long-form content and content that appeals to your goals for readers, but how do you actually write content that meets these needs and is engaging for readers? The key is formatting.
Long blog posts can cause readers to click away based solely on long walls of text. If your CTA is hidden with a wall of text, this is even worse because you’re making your visitors read through an entire detailed blog to take an action, even if they’re already prepared to take that action immediately.
Instead, consider breaking up text walls with visuals on at least every scroll view. (That means that at any scroll position on the page, there is something other than a wall of text.
Formatting can include almost anything. Images are great, but so are headings, lists, diagrams or infographics, links, etc.
In addition to formatting, make sure your content is hyper-focused on a question that your readers actually have. We talked earlier about answering a question, but make sure the question is relevant and worth asking in the first place. Then take the time to answer it fully.
4. Title content specifically.
Studies have borne out that longer titles perform better than shorter titles. Traditionally, we think of headlines as very short, and that makes sense; in the newspaper era there was finite space and it would cost more to print a longer title. But in the internet era, we don’t need to worry about taking up too much space; longer titles improve organic search results and help inform readers on exactly what to expect when they click to your blog.
Which of these titles are you more interested to read?
About Email Automation
Email Automation vs. Email Marketing: What’s the Difference and Does it Matter?
The Importance of Google My Business
Why Google My Business Makes Organic Search Ranking Faster and Easier, and How to Take Advantage
You can see that the longer titles include a lot more keywords and a better preview of what to expect. They’re also far more tempting for a browser to click on.
5. Use a voice that matches your customers.
We talk a lot about “voice” when coaching clients on starting their blog, but what does that mean? In short, it means that we aren’t speaking in corporate lingo.
First, identify your key customer demographics. As an example, United Healthcare’s Medicaid division has two blogs, one of which is aimed at potential Medicaid members and the other is written for legislators who may consider offering United Healthcare’s services in their state. The demographics of these two groups are completely different, so of course the content is different, but so is the voice. The blog directed to the members is written in simple fourth grade reading level, because many members on Medicaid are poorer and less educated than the general public. They would be intimidated by a more traditional or formal corporate voice. On the other hand, the legislative blog caters to policymakers who likely have a higher than average education level and are looking for information on complex topics, such as statistics. To that end, that blog is written in a voice that is more technical and authoritative.
Besides grade level, the exact words you use can have a profound effect on your blog’s success. If you have a way to access exact phrases your audience is using, take advantage! For example, if your target demographic writes reviews for similar products on Amazon, you can borrow commonly used phrases from those reviews. This shows that you truly understand and identify with your customer and they in turn will identify with your blog content.
6. Instead of just giving advice, show people why that advice is right.
When people read your blog article, they may be inclined to disagree with you. In fact, they may begin reading your article because they have a pre-held belief against your headline. There are several takeaways with this:
7. Don’t neglect Search Engine Optimization.
We get it. No one wants to hear about SEO in 2020. You’ve tried it and nothing happened. No added leads.
But when you’re trying to build a blog, you still need to consider a couple facets of SEO. You need pages that load quickly, are easy to read on mobile, and are easy for search engines to understand. This means you make use of h2 and h3 tags to provide structure in your article, offer a meta description so searchers know what they’re about to click on, and let viewers read your content easily from any device without losing patience.
In addition to these “table stakes” SEO techniques that are really necessary even if you’re not actively pursuing an SEO campaign, we recommend the following basic tips for optimizing your content-based blog:
Even with taking all of these steps into consideration, your blog still likely won’t grow quickly. As we alluded to at the top of this article, one of the biggest drivers of growth is sustained consistency…that is, doing all of these steps with every article you publish, on a regular basis. Following these steps can help build authority for your company or brand, which can help to increase readership and perhaps conversion down the road.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we can help! Empower Ideas has a content marketing team to help you write articles, optimize your existing blog, perform SEO research, or more generally improve your conversion rate. The most important part of building your blog is taking action, so if you’ve gotten this far, but know you won’t be able to keep up the momentum of maintaining your blog on a regular basis, then reach out to us today to get some help and keep the inertia moving forward.