The idea of being “one-in-a-million” is ideal for characters in romantic comedies, but it’s not really a great way to think of your blog.
However, unless you produce insightful content that reaches the right audience, that’s exactly what your blog will be: just one of millions of sites that no one visits.
So, how do you actually make your blog relevant, and more importantly, a potential source for revenue-generating leads?
The answer lies in the details, the many, many details.
We’ll use a fictional company, the Boston-based Bob’s Bike Shop, as an example, and walk you through the steps to creating a blog that stands out from the competition and helps move some inventory.
Because, let’s be honest, the best possible scenario for your blog is that it turns into a catapult from which customers are launched into your sales funnel.
Follow this example and you’ll be able to construct that proverbial catapult.
Establish a goal for your business blog
Basically, you want your blog to have the right combination of quality, SEO-laden content, best practice-oriented lead generation tools, and readability. You want potential customers to come to your blog, click through to one of your product or service landing pages, and complete the conversion cycle.
To ensure this type of conversion occurs, we need to establish a goal for our blog. Since it’s a service-oriented company, we need to get consumers to see the value of our brand and how we differ from our competitors — retail and online — in the industry. Thus, our content should be focused on three main areas:
1. Product news and descriptions – These articles, often short and to the point, would be about new bikes that come into the store and descriptions of our existing line of products, as well as content related to bike accessories that we also sell in the store. Also, we would highlight the great expertise, service, and advice that we provide in-house, which aren’t available from online retailers.
2. Ideas for bike-related activities – This would be the “fluffier” content on the blog, as these articles would be about new bike trails in the area, races and other bike-related events, and content about the potential for biking to enable a healthy lifestyle, etc.
3. Industry news – These pieces would be about the broader world of biking, and we would try to establish our blog as a place where potential and existing customers could come and learn about the latest biking trends and biking community news.
Now that we have an idea about the areas in which we want to write, we should come up with a content calendar and examine the actual style of writing for our blog. Our content calendar would be quite basic, as we would want to rotate between the three aforementioned categories.
Blog Titles and Ideal Frequency of Posting
So, with regard to the actual writing, let’s start with titles. The titles of our blog articles are of the utmost importance with regard to the success of our content. These titles need to be an invitation to the reader, as well as being completely optimized with the right keywords for search engines (more about this later).
Titles should invoke emotion and curiosity, and the best way to do so is by asking a question, posing a negative situation, or positing a theory. Also, we should try some list articles — these garner attention and get right to the point. Some examples of good titles for our blog are as follows:
- 10 New Bike Models That Will Transform Your Riding Experience – This title has a list, which immediately gives the reader the idea that they will have 10 distinct takeaways/options. Also, “new bike models” and “transform your riding experience” are keywords for which our potential customers will be searching.
- Is Your Bike Outdated and Hurting Your Body? – This title asks a question that could resonate with your audience and contains language that raises eyebrows and interest in the piece — people respond to potential negative consequences. It also presents an easy opportunity to sell new or used bikes!
- Biking vs. Running: Wheels May Be the Better Exercise Choice – This type of headline, complete with two distinct thoughts combined via a colon, allows for the insertion of multiple keywords and the presentation of a multi-dimensional comparison.
Titles are extremely important for our content, and the frequency with which they appear on our site can have a big impact on readership. For our blog, we would want to have one or two posts a week, at most. There’s no point in inundating readers with content, and this way we won’t run out of ideas and force articles that may not add value to our site.
How to Write Articles of the Right Length for Your Audience
The titles for articles should be drafted during the outlining process — each article should be mapped out prior to writing. During this process, we should identify: the main point of the article, the takeaways for the readers, how the piece will be structured, where we can use source material/research, and into which category the post would be placed.
Once we have an outline (see above — pen and paper work best for article planning!) for a specific article, we would look to write the actual copy — the industry term for the written words. In terms of the length of the post, there are guidelines, but they are constantly changing. Most likely, we will see how long each post will be based on the outline.
The most important thing we can do is create QUALITY content and not focus on length. First things first: we need to focus on being grammatically correct! For every article that I write, I will have it proofread by at least two other people. We would have style guides and spell-checking tools open at all times at the bike store content desk.
The content should be well-written, concise, and easy for the reader to understand. We can look to George Orwell for a couple hints about writing:
“Never use a long word where a short one will do.”
“If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”
Take these tips to heart — our readers aren’t hoping for a doctoral thesis! Now, being concise doesn’t mean that our posts should be limited in length, as the opposite may be the most effective approach. It just means that our content shouldn’t be filled with fluff. If we can write a 2,500-word blog post that’s chock full of great takeaways and insightful commentary about the latest biking trends, then we’ll do it!
In fact, longer posts tend to do better in terms of getting clicks and site visits. Several studies have been performed in this area, with one saying that 1,600 words is ideal, and another noting that 2,450 is the perfect length in terms of value on Google. Ideally, and this is difficult, we want to write an article without looking at the word count — if 600 words cover everything, perfect. If we can write a 1,600-word article that has no filler, then we owe it to our readers to put in the extra time! However, brevity should take precedent over babbling.
Perhaps most importantly, our article should have some easy-to-find takeaways. These can be directly pulled out of the content, usually a summary or bullet list at the end, or implied by emphasis within the article.
Subheadings break up the content and add value
One way to do this is to add subheadings and also break up the content with things like bullets, numbered lists, bolded content, and italicized words.
Subheadings should be used constantly throughout your content — my general rule of thumb is to use 2-3 subheads for every 600 words of content. Subheadings should contain a keyword phrase that’s relevant to the content, so most of ours would contain the word bike or biking. Subheads not only add value to the content in terms of search engines, but also help to break up the copy and make it more readable for the audience.
If we’re writing a piece about the best bike trails, after a couple of paragraphs, we would throw in a subhead that’s something like “Navigating Tough Bike Trail Terrain” or something similar. We would hope that we would “rank” for a search containing any variation of the above phrase. So, what exactly does rank mean?
The Power of Keywords
When we say “rank” or “keyword,” we are referring to search engine optimization (SEO). Keywords are the delivery mechanism through which people get to our content. By entering in a search phrase, they’re directed to our site, as it contains these key phrases. For our site, we would want to do some keyword research and actively engage in keyword planning/tracking, which is one of the services that Google offers.
Our goal is to incorporate — in as natural of a way as possible, as forcing phrases will come across as very obvious — these words and phrases into our content, especially in the titles and subheadings. Our blog should focus on the following keywords:
- Boston bike retailers
- Boston bike sales
- Buying bikes in Boston
- Biking in Boston
- Bikes for sale in Boston
Notice how we use geographic keywords for our business — using broader, less area-specific keywords would make it hard for us to compete with the large national chains. Our potential customers would be coming into our store from the Boston area only, so that’s what we need our keywords to reflect.
By including the right keywords, we can take our content from backwater blog to viral voice of our brand. Our content and site infrastructure need to have the basic components in place that coincide with the end results for which search engine algorithms are scanning the internet. If we adhere to SEO best practices, by including the right keywords and optimizing subheadings and titles, then our content will appear on internet searches in a more prominent manner.
It’s important that we don’t get bogged down in SEO, however, as quality of content is the most important thing to search engines. The better the written work, the more likely it is to appear on the front page of Google (this is the gold medal standard for blogs — we want our content to appear high up on the first page of Google search results).
But, say we optimize our content and we still aren’t getting traction. Now what?
Sharing Blog Content Via Social Media
Every piece of content that we create needs to be pushed out on our social media channels. Facebook and Twitter are great platforms for distributing blog content, as they provide us with unique targeting mechanisms. Newsletters are also a great medium for pushing blog content out to our potential customers. If people subscribe to these newsletters, they’ll see a selection of our content without having to do more than click links in an email.
Each of these platforms can help to get our content out to as many people as possible. Putting money behind a Facebook or Twitter campaign will allow for an even greater reach — this money is often well spent if we’re able to convert some of our readers into customers. Basically, we want to select a great image for our tweets or Facebook posts, highlight the best part of the given blog we are promoting, and come up with a catchy phrase to try and get our followers to click through and read the content.
Remember, the best marketing strategies are aligned! We need to have all of our posts sent out via the right channels, at the right times. If we write an article about a certain bike event that’s happening locally, we need to reach out to all potential riders via social media in the weeks that are leading up to this day.
Another way we can extend our reach and become more visible is to guest post/become a guest contributor for another site. We would look around to companies within our industry, or ones that are tangentially related (outdoor companies, biking industry groups, or cycling news sites), and see if they’re accepting articles. By guest posting for one of these sites, we can draw some of their readers to our page (via promoting our site in our guest blogging bio). Also, we can look to get one of these companies to post on our site, as this will give us some quality content to promote as well!
If we can successfully guest post and receive some articles from other sites, we can cross-promote via social media platforms. When we publish an article from a guest poster, we would ask them to post on their accounts. This type of reciprocity helps to grow both brands, as it could lead to customers engaging with both brands.
So, now that we have our quality articles, we’ve incorporated keywords and SEO best practices, and we’re driving people to our site by sharing the content and guest posting, how do we make our readers our customers?
Inserting Call-to-Action Phrases to Increase Conversions
The hardest part of having a blog is getting your customers to read the content. Once we’ve accomplished this feat, we need to make our blog into a money-generating machine. The way we do this is via a call-to-action plan. We need to insert links to product landing pages, actionable phrases that inspire clicks, and internal promotions into our content.
In our “Is Your Bike Outdated and Hurting Your Body?” article, we should insert links to our products that coincide with this message. If we have some new bike seats that are more comfortable and ergonomically viable, a link should appear somewhere within the article so that the reader can make a purchase or at least peruse our offerings following their reading of the post.
We should also try and get them to follow us on social media if they came to our post via another site. This is done by us placing “follow us on…” calls to action throughout the page (not within the content, but on the side or the bottom of the page).
We will place links throughout the page that direct readers to sign up for newsletters, subscribe to our blog, follow us on social platforms, or to take a look at some of our new products. While we don’t want to inundate readers with numerous links to click, it’s better for us to have a number of ways to convert our readers than to have too few opportunities.
Our readers are important to us, especially if they become our customers. Our blog is a chance for us to have some fun with our brand, promote ideas or marketing strategies that normally wouldn’t fly elsewhere, and share our passion for our products, services, and industry. It’s not enough to just post some zany articles, however, as every blog should have a clearly defined purpose!
Bob Adams is a Harvard MBA serial entrepreneur. He has started over a dozen businesses, including one that he launched with $1500 and sold for $40 million. He has written 17 books and created 52 online courses for entrepreneurs. Bob also founded BusinessTown, a learning platform for starting and running a business.