The following is a Guest Post contributed by Nadia Van Gordon, a teacher, copywriter and personal tutor based in Liverpool.
Writing a blog is a great way to make some noise about your product, but what if no-one’s listening? There’s nothing worse than spending valuable time and energy on this part of your content marketing strategy and nobody actually reading it.
If the only person who reads your blog is your mum, then I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that the deafening silence on your site probably isn’t because of your shoddy writing skills. The bad news? Like the socks in the washing machine that disappear and never return, your blog just can’t be found.
When that happens, your carefully crafted content just sits there unread and unloved, and more importantly, you’re not getting the all-important clicks on your website that lead to sales and much-needed £££.
When we look for something, anything online, Google is king. So, generating traffic to your blog isn’t just about writing well, it’s about making your content easier to find on Google.
To do that, you need to think about Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO for short. SEO is all about making your website content easy for search engines to categorise so that potential clients can find exactly what they are looking for – you!
Good SEO comes from a strong vision and a clear sense of what your brand is about. Investing time in this will help you figure out what to focus on in your blog and the rest of your content marketing strategy and will make your site really stand out from the crowd.
With just a few simple steps, you can write SEO-friendly content that both your customer base and bank balance will love!
1. Create a mission statement for your brand.
Working backwards to the core mission of your brand will ensure that your blog content works together to deliver your key values, so that no matter what part of your blog your clients click on, they get the same message about you and what you do.
For that to work, the first thing you need to write is a mission statement — a single sentence that sums up what your business does, its values and how it will have a positive impact on your clients.
Once you’ve done that, think about how to formulate those answers into a single, powerful statement.
For example, the Dropbox mission statement is, “The Secure File Sharing Solution Trusted By Over 500 Million Users & 400,000 Businesses.”
From this, we know what Dropbox offers – “file sharing.” That’s clear enough. We know what it prides itself on “trust.” Finally, it tells clients what they want to hear in words like “secure” and “solution” and also offers the reassurance that it is “trusted by over 500 million users and 400,000 businesses.”
Why is a mission statement important? Well, this is what should guide you in creating content for your website that generates traffic and revenue, and will persuade your clients that your service is the one they should choose over all other possible alternatives. It’s the thing that every blog post should point back to.
Your mission statement will also help you to create a meta description for your website, the 160 or so characters summarising your page that appear under its title when you search for it in Google. Like a subheading under an article in a newspaper or magazine, this helps readers decide whether or not the page is for them. For example, the result for “Dropbox app” has this meta description:
It gives a firm idea about what Dropbox does and makes it sound very appealing, not only by describing its functions, but by addressing the reader and flattering them, with the inspirational phrase “bringing your best ideas to life.”
2. Make a list of keywords
Now that you have a mission statement, you need to make a list of search terms that you want your website to be found for. Zoom in to who your target audience is and what they want. More importantly, think about what language they might use to search for what they need on Google and add those ideas to your list.
There are a number of keyword research tools online to help make this process more effective. Google Trends will show you how often your keywords trend, and that will help you decide what to write about. This is particularly useful if you are writing for a particular region or shifting the focus of your blog post according to season or event.
For example, if you ran a business making and selling homemade pizza in Birmingham, your keyword list might look something like this:
- Stone baked
Because these are the words that new customers will input into Google, these are the words that need to go into your blog posts. Aim for one key word per article. Any more than that, and you might be in danger of keyword stuffing, unnecessary cramming of key words into single blog posts to score highly on Google. It can be tempting to throw all your keywords into the blog post, title and URL all at once, but this practice is a huge red flag for Google and your readers. It makes it look like you care more about the number of clicks you get than your audience. That’s not good.
3. Make a list of “long tail” keywords
OK, so you’ve got your keyword list all sorted and you know what words to include in your blog posts. Now, it’s time to put them together to formulate what SEO insiders call long tail keywords. These are three or four-word phrases that focus very specifically on what you are actually selling. Long tail key words are what Google users will type into the search bar in order to find what they want (that’s you, of course).
So, using our list above, some long tail key words could be:
- Best pizza in Birmingham
- Where can I find stone baked pizza
- Takeaway pizza near me
- Where to buy homemade pizza
- Fresh Italian pizza
You can play around with words yourself, or you can use an online tool such as the one here to do it for you.
Again, you should include one long tail key word per blog post.
4. Come up with blog post ideas that reflect your mission statement
Before I discovered these little tricks, I would have spent hours rearranging the words in my mission statement on countless sheets of paper, on the iPad or in my trusty ColorNote app, before crossing them all out and wearing away the backspace button in total despair. But because SEO-friendly content is so important in finding your customers and generating sales, luckily some web developers have come up with some amazing solutions to the age-old problem of coming up with ideas.
Entrepreneur and SEO mastermind Neil Patel writes for more eloquently than me about what web services are out there to spawn enough ideas for a decade’s worth of blog posts here, but for starters, here’s a couple to get you warmed up.
Quora is a really useful tool in finding out what questions people are asking about products and services like yours. After that, it’s a matter of writing blog content that answers those very questions.
If you search for a broad term like “finance” in Quora, it returns questions people have asked about it. For example:
- What are the ten most important things about personal finance that someone without a finance background must know?
- What are the best books to start learning about finance?
- What is finance?
Any of those would be fantastic blog posts and could be easily tweaked to any product or service.
By far the most simple way of generating blog post ideas is HubSpot. Simple type in a few nouns linked to your mission statement or business and voilà! Hubspot does the work for you.
For example, if your business makes, say, bespoke cricket bats, you might come up with words like this:
HubSpot will use that to create both a week and a year’s worth of blog posts. For example:
- Cricket: Expectations versus reality
- Which bat will rule the world?
- The next big thing in cricket balls
- “Wicket” explained in 140 characters
- This Week’s Top Stories About Cricket
How cool is that?
5. Create a Title and URL
If a beautifully written, SEO-friendly blog post is like a birthday present you always wanted, the title of your blog post is like the wrapping paper. Yes, it might be what we tear away to get to what’s inside, but it’s what we look at to decide whether it’s worth investigating — or not.
Decisions about what we read online are made in fractions of a second, and one of the key pieces of information that we use to decide whether to click on a link, or not, is the title.
Creating a title can be daunting, but here are a few practical steps to take the sting out of it:
1. Sum up what your post is about
Using your key words, play around with a phrase or sentence to accurately sum up what you are writing about.
For example, a post about family days out in the summer holidays might be something like,
“Top 10 Family Days Out This Summer.”
It’s not perfect, but it gives us a clear idea of what the post is about and gives something to work with.
2. Make your title sing
The title above is fine, but is it really going to stand out on Google? We need to jazz it up a bit and make sure that potential customers see it and want to click on it.
The human brain is naturally drawn to patterns in words and sounds, so use that instinct to entice your readers. Here are a few techniques you could use to make this happen:
- Alliteration e.g. “Family Fun”
- Rhyme e.g. “Time to Get Out and About!” (It’s been proved that rhyming titles get approximately 30% more clicks)
- Lists of three e.g “Fun for Babies, Toddlers and Teenagers”– our brains love things arranged in threes
- Ask a question to attract readers e.g. “Are You Struggling To Keep Boredom At Bay This Summer?”
Using some of these techniques, we can create a better version of the title about and it could look something like this:
Stuck For Family Fun This Summer? Try Our Top Ten Days Out!
It’s got a question to entice the reader, some alliteration to make their brains purr and still conveys a clear message and tone.
3. Keep it short
In the age of Twitter, Buzzfeed and Reddit, long titles are old news. Google tends to favour titles of 70 characters or under, and for titles popular on social media, the ideal length is 8-12 words.
How do you keep titles short and sweet? By making every word count. By sticking (mostly) verbs and adjectives, known as content words, you can still create a clear, strong title that makes sense. In contrast, avoiding conjunctions like “and,” “but” or “so” and words like “the” and “a”can keep your title lean and mean. For example, our title could be whittled down to:
Stuck For Summer Family Fun? Ten Top Bristol Days Out
All the words included mean something. More importantly, I’ve also added an all-important key word, “Bristol,” to attract my target audience and client base.
4. Create your URL
It’s important to put a bit of time into your URL – the web address of your blog post. This helps readers find you and navigate your site. Crucially, Google will use it to categorise your page.
Focus on the category that your blog post is in and use that in the URL, with key words. For example, our family days out blog post URL might look like this:
As you can see, the final words in the URL have been separated by hyphens, and make it clear what the blog post is about without wasting any time.
6. Planning and structure
Whatever you’re writing, planning is an essential part of the process that will definitely pay off.
Once you’ve decided on a topic to write about, think about your answers to the following questions:
- What are you writing? What is your article’s purpose?
- Why are you writing it? Why do you think it is an important topic?
- Who is your audience, and what do they want to hear about?
- How will you organise your information?
Structuring your text
It’s important to have a clear structure for your writing. In the Title section, we explored the lure of the number three for the human brain, and we can exploit this again for structure of your article. Overall, you will need to include these three elements:
- Main ideas
Your introduction should hook your reader into reading the rest of your post. One good technique is to ask them a question, which you can answer and explain in your post.
Your main ideas should be linked to what you outlined in the introduction. Here, you can include examples, facts, analysis and discussion of your topic.
Within the main section of your article, you could use a numbered list as this is the easiest format for readers to follow. It’s also useful for you as a writer, as it helps to order your thoughts. Plus, Google loves numerical lists!
In terms of presentation, make use of headings and bold text to make life easy for your readers’ apples and pies. Refer to your key words and use them as a guide for writing your headings.
Your conclusion should bring it all together. What’s the answer to the question asked in the introduction? Give your reader a final thought and a sense of closure about what they have just read.
And after all that groundwork, it’s time to write!
The first question anyone asks about writing is, “but how do I start?” The answer is, however you want. The most important thing is to persevere. Don’t worry about spelling, using the right words or even if it’s very good at this point. That’s what the Editing stage is for. Don’t forget that it is impossible to edit a blank page.
If I had to give two pieces of advice to writers on how to actually get started, the first is to begin in the middle and add the introduction and conclusion when you’ve fleshed out the main part of the blog.
The second piece of advice is to trust your instincts and do whatever it is you need to do to get those words flowing. And keep doing it.
7. Layout and organisation
Your blog post should be easy on the eye and simple to navigate. Keep the presentation simple by avoiding fancy fonts, keeping to a limited colour scheme and making sure that images appear quickly and aren’t too big.
A fantastic rule for writing anything at all is this: “Write without fear. Edit without mercy.” Now that you’ve produced that all-important first draft, it’s time to get tough. Get others to get tough with you, too, by getting feedback from someone you trust or a member of your target audience.
The best way to see what works in your text and what doesn’t is to read it out loud. As you do that, check for the following:
- Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation – these are the nuts and bolts of your writing and need to be perfect. The last thing you want potential clients to think is that you don’t pay attention to detail. Get someone else to do this bit if you need to.
- Sentences – do they flow? Or do they sound awkward? Are they too long?
- Structure – are the ideas in your article in a logical order? Do you need to rearrange them?
- SEO – have you used your keywords and long tail key words? Does what you have written reflect your mission statement?
Once you’ve edited and perfected your post, you’re good to go! Hopefully, you will never again have to wonder why no-one is reading your blog and can sit back and listen to the sweet sound of clicks on your amazing SEO blog posts. Good luck!
You can follow Nadia on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tutorfix/