There’s nothing worse than spending several hours crafting a post for no one to read it.
For most, the minimum blogging tasks of collecting post ideas, writing a few hundred words, editing, and then publishing can equate to nearly a full-days work. Sad thing is, even with that level of dedication it is often not enough in today’s crowded content marketing space. Successful bloggers rise to the top by putting in the extra mile into every piece of content they publish. They have to in order to make it worth their time investment.
If you are reading this because you’re having troubles gaining reader traction, then I recommend auditing your basic content creation mechanics. I’ve outlined seven key blog post creation fundamentals to review before writing your next post.
Before typing a word, always ask yourself for whom am I writing this post and what will provide the most value to them? It is very critical to identify your ideal reader by first guessing what types content they will either need or be most receptive to. For example, how-to posts and personal stories can lend advice when in need and interviews can spark ideas and encouragement while driving attention from known names.
In order to potentially identify what “they” want, we must first identify their needs.
How to identify a target reader:
Target audience identification is often based off of assumptions. We assume someone who would read this post will care about or might be in the process of something. Assumptions are often based off of the following high-level examples:
- Recent product purchases
Audience identification is nothing new, the media has utilized identification tactics to measure and sell across all types of mass mediums. Extensive studies were performed on many different types of demographics from everything from the “2000’s Soccer Mom” to the “Boomer” and “Millennial Market”. If you are seeking to target one of these traditional demographics then review existing research within your space for ideas and direction.
Use your existing data
Great audience data is probably right under your nose. Review your existing website tracking data such as Google Analytics or Jetpack Stats. This data represents metrics such as time on site, what type of device is most used on your blog and what locations from around the world are most popular. Use this data as a general rule and guide to then learn about how you can best feed your audience’s needs and customs.
Quantcast is a powerful resource for audience identification and advertising. Their reports dial into website traffic by gender, age, income, education level, and ethnicity. These are great metrics for audience identification and useful not only for content strategy but for building blog media kits. If your blog is not yet listed in Quantcast’s network, then review blogs within your space that might have similar audience profiles.
Take a guess; you will probably find someone like yourself.
I think it is safe to say, we often write for ourselves. Think about recent experiences, things you are into, and what you would find value in. If you would read it, others will likely feel the same.
On the web, there is a lot of what I call follow-the-leader and idea swapping. Someone creates a blog post, then someone else takes the topic and makes it their own by re-posting it with a slightly different headline
Readers do not need the same information from a different source. They seek new information. Period. It’s ok to write on what is trending, but work towards injecting your own value proposition or perspective into the topic. Especially if you’re looking to acquire readers from search engines.
“What is really the future isn’t more Charlie Roses [Interviewers], because we don’t, what we need are more people who actually have a point and are worth following for themselves … The win is to become your own distinct voice.” Episode 15 – Distinct and Direct, Seth Godin’s Startup School Podcast
Leverage your ideas, personal strategies and experiences to create uniquely new content. Mix in other content as it makes sense but always strive for something original to you.
Here’s the thing with posting frequency, I can’t say I’m an expert on this topic. In fact, I often write blog posts simply when I’m creatively able. I wish I had a solid content creation schedule because there are proven benefits to consistent blogging. Frequency builds traction and valuable learning experiences.
On the other hand, if you’re writing to simply meet deadlines then you might not be putting out the best content possible.
I spent one month blogging every day on my personal blog to test this strategy. I concluded that for now, that daily blogging was not for me. While I managed to create what I considered rather inspirational content, it was mostly in the form of “thin” content or stuff that was not search engine ready. I learned, the content I shared maybe made sense to me but didn’t build much traction. Therefore, it wasn’t providing my readers enough value and I didn’t have the time to promote it to new ones. I eventually burned out – especially with a lack of solid results.
I recommend putting yourself on a goal path for posting something of major substance at least a few times a month. Go the extra mile to make that one post awesome, not just a bunch of random thoughts. When planning your schedule, make sure to account for time to promote your content after posting it.
Successful bloggers are also community builders. They focus not only on creating content but on strategies for building a following surrounding their brand. Obtaining measurable results from social media and email marketing requires a commitment to learn how they work and the time investment to build your reach.
It’s a bit of a chicken vs. egg scenario because most social networking and email marketing strategies require content to build a following but on the flipside, your blogging will require a following to make it worth its time investment.
What drives me crazy are bloggers who come to me and say they stopped blogging because they would post content and no one would read. Most often, they didn’t have a distribution strategy. I would ask them about their email marketing strategy and I would get some sort of response equalling they didn’t have one.
Independent blogging is not news writing in the sense that you can simply post and article and walk away. Writers and journalists can do this because their employer likely has generations of brand credibility and reach. When you’re going it alone, every piece of new content needs to come paired with a promotion strategy.
Publish your content then post to social, send in a newsletter, and ask others to share your work if they like it.
Content Optimization for Search
I’m hesitant to bring this up because the world of search engine optimization is rapidly changing. I want to say, make sure your content is saturated in keyword rich terms but I’m afraid this is sort of a passing fancy. I’m going to stick with what I’ve always recommended, focus on creating great content with a purpose and with value.
My approach to search engine strategy is broad. I don’t think of it as one post or one page at a time. I try to imagine an entire web property surrounding a core topic. For me, this is the only way I have been able to obtain high-quality search ranking and maintain that placement. It’s a much more of a robust strategy with a lot of moving parts but it seems to work for now.
You have to think about how your users will search for content within the search engines, then create content surrounding those search queries. Make sure that whatever you post to your blog Google and the other search engines can crawl it. Always provide them with additional information such as Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions, these will only help Google make a better decision on where your content should be categorized.
Readability and Flow
The web is a fragmented place where inconsistency is the norm. Why, because nothing on the web is uniform – by design. Every website and blog abides to its own design and style, equalling a virtually unlimited amount of possible font and color combinations. This is one reason why video content became so popular.
In the days of newsprint, if the reader couldn’t read the paper because of the vision difficulty, they would put on eyeglasses or use a magnifying glass. Today, if they can’t read your website, they will find what they are looking for elsewhere.
The website architecture term User Experience (Ux) refers to the overall quality design and user-centric experience when loading and viewing a site. Which, by the way, isn’t really an easy to benchmark and set a standard. While overall site design, mobile friendliness and site load time – or in lay terms putting yourself in your customer’s shoes – are paramount. The actual readability, clarity, and message of the content is often overlooked.
There so much talk about how important website content can be to an online marketing strategy yet when it comes to building a website I feel the following is almost always true:
- Designers care about design.
- Programmers care about code.
- Marketers care about analytics.
- Writers care about … getting paid.
No one is really focused on the writing, which in reality is the most important public-facing aspect of any website or blog. It’s often “good enough” because writing is one of the hardest skill sets of them all.
“The idea that anyone can do anything is true. But you have to make sure you really want to do it and then dedicate yourself to accomplishing what you want to do. Have to and want to are two different kinds of activity,” wrote Joan Margau, a professional copywriter, in her post Are you a Writer.
The web and blogging have really opened doors for anyone to create content. Which is amazing but that does not mean high-quality writing is not important. I encourage everyone to try their hand at it. If they feel writing is their destiny, then like any trade, they should work towards continuously improving their skills. I try to practice what I preach.
Posting just anything was possible during the early stages of content marketing but it proves much harder today. Profound ideas and quality writing will always prevail.
I can’t say it enough. Content that gets shared is content that provides a value to its reader. Of course, value has different meanings across different audiences but as a blogger one must work to provide content that will meet a need. If you think it is something that you would share, then others will hopefully feel the same.
The simple value test:
Ask yourself, would someone pay me for this information? If no, then don’t expect someone to share it with their following.
Blogging is a long-term strategy
If you are reading this, and you are only a few posts into your blogging strategy then keep it up! Blogging is not a quick fix to a marketing problem. It’s a long-term solution that will live well beyond any one post. Be prepared to stick it out for a few months or years, depending on how often you post.
Most importantly, every post is a learning experience. The more you post, the more you will learn. Take it one step at a time and start honing your blogging by testing ideas and strategies. You will be surprised, sometimes best-practices don’t work; silly mistakes become proven winners.
In the end, you will become a pro.