Now that we’ve covered the “why” and “what” of your blog, you’re ready to put it all together into a polished piece. And that brings us into the realm of how you will present yourself on your blog. Let’s tackle some key questions you will face.
How Often Should I Blog?
This is going to depend on your “why”.
If your goal is to build authority or stockpile resources for clients, then it’s more important to make sure your content is of high quality than it is to be on a schedule. Once you have identified a topic, spend as much time on it as you need to.
If, however, you are focused on SEO, then you want a regular schedule. Remember, Google takes into account the freshness of your content. If you continually generate fresh articles, Google will pay more attention to you.
Consider blogging at least once a week with a regularly scheduled day. But the more you can blog in a week, the better off you are.
How Long Should My Blog Be?
Again, it depends on your “why”. (Seeing a theme here?)
If you are writing to establish authority or help others, then again the length is not as important as the quality. You just want a genuine demonstration of credentials or something that really addresses those pain points.
Blogging for SEO, however, requires lots of words, since that’s primarily what Google looks at. One way to address this is to write really long articles of 1000+ words. The more words you have, the more Google has to work with. In fact, writing long-form blog articles is common advice for those trying to get Google’s attention.
Long-form content has a downside, however; it takes a lot of time to write a long article. At this point, you may want to ask yourself how much of your time you want to dedicate to content marketing.
Another approach might be to write a lot of short articles. If you want to read a master of the short article, check out Seth Godin’s blog. He publishes every day. The articles are focused on a single insight. They are designed for quick consumption by the busy business person, who wants to finish and move on to the rest of the day. This allows him to integrate his voice into their daily lives. It also allows him to leverage Google’s preference for regular and fresh content.
How Should I Format My Blog?
Once you have your blog article ready to go, you want it to present it in a way that helps the reader to remain focused on what you have to say.
The first thing you want is a clear title. Don’t get cute.
Let’s pretend you are a business owner struggling with your marketing. If you come across an article on a marketing blog entitled, “Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire”, you won’t have a clue as to what it is about. Opening it won’t even be a consideration. It may be the best article ever for you in your situation, but it won’t help you because you will never read it.
But what if you came across, “5 Mistakes that Small Business Owners Make with Their Marketing and How to Fix Them”? That will get your attention. It clearly identifies who it is for, the issue it addresses, and how it can help.
Open with Inspiration
Your very first task is to connect with your visitor to inspire further reading. Typically, when someone opens a blog page, they scan the first paragraph to determine whether they want to spend time on it.
Consider the following paragraphs:
* * * * *
“Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire”
Business owners make mistakes all of the time. Unfortunately, certain mistakes can lay the foundation for crippling a business. Some of them turn customers away. Others turn employees away. And overall, they all hurt the ability for the business to prosper. Here are some mistakes that business owners make in order to understand and avoid them.
“5 Mistakes that Small Business Owners Make with Their Marketing and How to Fix Them”
I made so many mistakes when I started my business. Embarrassing mistakes even. And now, I am going to tell you all about them.
Why? Because I don’t ‘want you to make the same ones.
And–more importantly–I want to tell you how I fixed them and took my business to a whole new level.
* * * * *
Let’s face it, that first paragraph is terrible. Yes, it has all the information in there to let you know what’s about to happen, but it’s wordy and dry. Do you really want to spend your time on this?
That second paragraph presents the same information in a way that is highly personal. Right out of the gate the reader has the feeling of being let in on a secret. Sharing truly embarrassing events is something we generally only share with friends. The language highlights “I” and “you” in a way that evokes a face-to-face conversation. It feels relational. That first paragraph draws the reader into a deeper sense of belonging.
Short Paragraphs with a Few Highlights
Let’s keep moving with those examples.
Ever hear the expression, “tl;dr”? It stands for “too long; didn’t read”. It indicates that the reader has encountered a “text wall”. When you run into a text wall, your eyes gloss over and the brain stops processing. That’s very bad.
Even though it’s only a paragraph long, that first example will make you feel like you’ve run head first into a text wall. Ouch!
The second paragraph breaks the text into sound bites. It’s okay to have a bit longer paragraphs, but you don’t want them to be too long. By breaking them up, it encourages the reader to stop skimming and start reading.
Imagine how you would feel if you wanted to cross a stream. You might stand on the edge wondering how you are going to get across before you start carefully wading in.
Now imagine that there are stones going across the stream that you can hop on to get to the other side.
Make reading your blog easy for visitors. Don’t force them to take in big chunks of info all at once. Break it down and make it easy for them.
Also notice the highlight in that second paragraph. It serves a couple purposes.
First, it identifies the key reward achieved by reading the article. If you read the whole thing, you will learn how to “fix” key mistakes and “take your business to a whole new level”. Wouldn’t you want to know how to do that?
Second, for those readers who are losing focus, it draws their eyes down to the promise of the prize. This will help them to refocus and read further.
The power of good pictures cannot be understated. Yes, your blog is about conveying information through text. But, an appealing visual context can make visitors more open and attentive to what you have to say.
Pick your images wisely. Not just any image will do. While your pictures need to be related to the content, they are really about conveying the emotion you want as part of the reading experience. By triggering emotions, you make the reader more interested in what you have to say, and ultimately more interested in what you are selling.
Place your images wisely. Place your best foot forward and lead with an image. If you are using WordPress, you can use the “featured image” option. This will start your post off with a large visual, from which they can scroll down to the text.
Alternatively, you can insert the image at the beginning to the left or right of the text (if your blog width permits this). This way, people experience the image and text at the same time.
If you have a shorter article, I recommend only a single image. However, if you are working the SEO angle, then consider how you can use visuals to break it up and make it more interesting.
For the long articles I suggest that you place pictures on the left or right as you go down the page. This will keep it fresh and more interesting as your visitor continues to read.
You can purchase images if you want from a variety of sites. They are easy to find. However, if you are on a budget, you have free options.
You could just use your own images. Pull your phone out, take a picture, and voila!. Remember, though, the images need to look nice.
Second, there are a few sites that have free images for you to use. Note that the sponsored images on those sites are only available for purchase and are marked as such. Anyway, here are some places you can find free, high-quality photos:
Enjoy your dive into content marketing!