I spent a long time thinking about how to start the Content Ideas blog series and then it occurred to me that the obvious place to begin is with the humble blog.
Blogging is something that seems to split people outside of the world of websites and SEO when I talk to them about it. Some people I have spoken to since starting this series have said that “blogging is so last decade” or even more extreme, “it’s so last century”. One comment I found particularly amusing given that I blog only for work purposes was that it is totally self indulgent. I think that particular person thought that I was blogging about my life (not many readers…) when in actual fact the whole point of blogging in the context we are talking about is for producing fresh content for websites, attracting visitors and improving your organic visibility to search engines.
It is true that perhaps in the world outside of websites and SEO blogging might seem a bit passe now that social media in all its various forms has got front row seats. But again this is missing the point for it remains vital in the content creation tool kit and as a means of adding fresh & interesting content to your website, the blog is still effective.
You may be asking yourself by this point, well, if blogging is so great when is he going to start telling us how to go about it? and wait no more for this is what I will do now. One more thing before I start – this is not an exhaustive list but if you take on board the following tips you will be one step closer to tackling the art of blogging.
WHAT SHOULD I BLOG ABOUT?
First things first. The advice given to people starting out in the world of creative writing is something along the lines of ‘write about what you know’ and the same principal applies to blogging. People visiting a site that sells roofing materials would be surprised to find a blog on the subject of 18th century art. They might well find it interesting but will it improve their understanding of roofing materials? Unlikely.
The content of your blogs are complimenting the overall content of your site and must be seen as an extension of it whether it is a service you provide, a product or products you are selling or some other reason for having the site in the first place. Your website might not be as sexy as one about five star travel around the Mediterranean or the latest Hollywood films but that is the challenge that you must rise to.
A great rule to remember is that anything can be written about in a way which is interesting, informative and entertaining so if you aim to hit one or more of these and you will be on the right course.
GOING OFF PISTE:
By this I mean don’t be afraid to develop another blog alongside your main ones that is a bit more off-beat, random or funny. Perhaps on something not seemingly connected to the site or the company’s role but somehow linked to the company however tenuously. Maybe through the website or company name, location, individual team members pets (mascot), a weekly diary of events and on and on. The idea behind this is that if the blog category is appealing to a large group of people and especially those outside of your core market for the site in general then that blog traffic may well convert at least partly into main site traffic as people move around the site. It will also convert into link juice as well so you are a winner each way.
A real life example from the Teapot Creative site is that because our name we have set up a category on our site called Teapot Alternatives. This encompasses blogs on everything teapot related however loosely that happens to be. This lighthearted blog corner counter balances the more serious and hopefully useful ones which with the best will in the world can get a bit dry for readers. It is quite possible that our teapot blogs may sometimes be read by people that are not interested in the fact that we are a graphic design company but they just happen to like teapots. Whatever, the name of Teapot Creative is spreading as a result and the blogs are passed on to friends and fellow teapot enthusiasts.
WHERE TO HOST IT?
You need to decide whether to host the blog on your own website or on another domain. There are advantages to both. Teapot Creative’s is part of the wider site and it therefore is both possible to find for people visiting the site but also it benefits from the high ranking of the site through the link juice effect. Links can be added into the main site through to the blog.
The same applies for if the blog is hosted at a different domain. If the blog is very successful at attracting visitors and is well linked back to the main site then link juice will flow back to the main site through common navigation areas or anchor text.
LINK TO YOUR MAIN SITE:
You may have noticed that I have linked through to other blogs in our selection as well as the main site itself a couple of times in the course of this blog using anchor text. Reward readers curiosity by linking through to relevant sections of the website and make it as simple as possible for them to navigate their way through.
HAVE A TARGET NUMBER OF BLOGS:
The simplest way to go about this is to set an achievable target of a blog a week or more frequent but this will depend on various factors that ultimately are unique you and your organisation. If you are a one person band then completing a short blog each week will be enough on top of everything else but if you have a team of people with you then the situation is different and you can go for maybe a blog per person .e.g ten people = ten blogs each week. But whatever your target is, you must stick to it.
This goes back to the principals of hosting a successful website. It is not enough to occasionally upload a blog in the same way that it is not good enough to build a site and expect people to be to return over and over again simply to find that nothing has changed.
VARIETY IS GOOD:
The Teapot Creative blog is (we hope) an example of a blog or collection of categorised blogs that falls has plenty of variety. We have blogs on various different subjects and this enables the team members to contribute each week and write about their particular field of work (branding & graphic design, SEO) or client focused blogs.
This links back the previous point about variety. Giving team members the opportunity to contribute a weekly blog is an excellent move. The standard must be high of course but for people that are normally behind the scenes not having a chance to see their ideas formulated into type and publicised widely is not something to be turned down. For the boss it is a way of motivating your team and allowing their creativity to shine through plus you get regular fresh content and a real sense of team ownership. A win win situation.
Just remember that if at first things are a bit rusty then give it time because writing is just like anything else practice makes perfect!
The simplest approach for making the blogs quick to find is to categorise them in terms of their content. This immediately gives the reader the option of reading just the one blog or dipping into the archives and seeing where this takes them. Through the use of anchor text it is also easy to link back to past blogs and emulate sites like Wikipedia that lead the reader on a journey from one page to the next drawing you in deeper and deeper.
COUNTING THE HITS:
Keep a low number in mind, halve it and you won’t be disappointed! Or put another way make sure that everyone writing knows that their blogs may not set the blogoshpere a blaze or even notch up any readers at all some weeks but stick at it for this is one situation where perseverance pays off. Quality writing, original content and useful advice is what people want and once they find you provide this they will keep coming back for more (and tell their friends). Hopefully…
Talking about catching peoples attention, here is a great way to do it. Put a picture in with the blog either from your own collection of photos or from a free use site. Not only will this catch peoples eye when looking at the blog page but if you post the blog on Facebook then it will show up with a miniaturised version of the photo on the wall. This both looks good and makes it stand out.
The opening blog in the series about content ideas has a photo of a gorilla from a free use site. Before you ask why I chose a gorilla this was because the title of the blog is a rather poor play on words involving King Kong and Content. Finding a free use picture of King Kong proved rather tricky so I opted for the gorilla picture instead. I still think that it helps the blog to come to life and provides some visual interest before the reader gets stuck into the blog itself.
HOW MANY WORDS?
Try to put yourself in the readers shoes and think about what blogs you like reading. The long ones are great when you have got a mug of tea (or coffee!), a comfy chair and a bit of time to sit back and get stuck in. Whilst on the other hand the shorter ones are ideal for those quick breaks when the brain needs re-stimulating and a useful diversion from whatever you were doing.
My blogs vary in size depending on how much there is to say on the subject. This one is fairly long and others I have written for Teapot Creative are much shorter. It comes down to how much you have to say about a subject whilst balancing the need to make sure that what you say is useful,interesting or entertaining enough to hold your readers attention.
If you are tackling a big subject then there is always the option of breaking it down into smaller chunks. This is what I have done with this Content Creation series as otherwise it would be one ENORMOUS blog and readers would drift away like autumn leaves on a windy day (or just fall asleep)… zzzz
The minimum number of words we go for here at Teapot Towers is in the 200-300 word bracket. This gives scope for a quick blast of a paragraph or two and like tweeting, you are giving a little taste of something without really going for it.
So for blogging, short, medium and long blogs in a pretty random mixture works best as this covers all bases and keeps things fresh and interesting for the readers.
AND FINALLY… GIVE YOUR BLOGS WINGS:
Once you have completed your blog and posted it on your site make sure you ping it out to the world (or your friends and followers) through the various social media outlets e.g. Twitter & Facebook. By doing this you will immediately raise the chances of people actually finding the blog especially in the early days and then forwarding it onto their friends and followers. Remember to make those Facebook posts and tweets nice and snappy. Stand out from the crowd and be sure to catch peoples eye with clever titles, good images and interesting tweets. Think of it as casting out a line to attract them back to your site. Simple stuff but worth remembering.
So there you have it. A whistle stop guide to blogging.
If you can develop a reputation for interesting and well written material then people will return, link to it and pass it onto their friends and networks. Blogging is a long term strategy and just one of your content creation tools. People can only read so many blogs so make sure they are rewarded for picking yours and showing their loyalty when they return for more.
Look out for the next blog in this series on content creation coming soon!