One question I’m often asked when talking about blogging best practices is, “How do I get more blog readers?” My answer? Writing great content for your corporate blog is, in the grand scheme of things, the relatively easy part (and please don’t read this that writing is easy–it’s not). However, getting it read is what really takes effort and skill.
Understanding blog post optimization and doing your homework before you write your post can go a long way toward making sure your blog content attracts readers. Sometimes when I say that “writing is the easy part” thing, writers get all bristly (and yes, it’s a word if I say it is), but it’s true.
There are lots of people out there writing some terrific stuff, but attracting readers often has nothing to do with how great your writing is. Knowing how to write for the web, which is completely different than other types of writing, knowing how to optimize your posts and understanding the importance of building your networks can make all the difference in the world. And that, my friends, is how you get more blog readers. Let’s talk about why.
Know Your Audience
Good things don’t just happen; most times, they take work. The same is true of your corporate blogging efforts and how they relate to consumer behavior. Know your audience. Ask yourself what information they need to do their jobs better. Ask yourself what pain points they have in their day-to-day lives, what problems they’re wrestling with, what resources you can share–and develop content to help ease those pain points and problems. Don’t write things that your audience doesn’t want and need unless you just have a bunch of free time on your hands and happen to like writing. And please? Don’t write about how great you are ad nauseum. So many corporate blogs are filled with ridiculous humblebrag back pat nonsense about their company’s latest accomplishments, award-winning work and the like—do people really think their customers and prospects are interested in that? Because I’m going to guess that they are not. Not in regular doses, anyway.
Once you have a handle on your audience, a sense of your overall strategy when it comes to blogging and are ready to get started, a good first step is to develop a strategy and figure out what keywords you need to use and want to target in your content.
At their most basic level, keywords are the words people type into a search engine to find information they want and need. And figuring out the right keywords that bring the right kind of traffic to your website, that’s all part of understanding your customer base and what compels them to buy. Make sure you don’t target keywords that have a lot of competition–this is where your opportunity lies. You can’t compete against larger, more credible, more trafficked sites and keywords that are uber competitive. Do the homework, know where your sweet spots are and target them.
If this sounds like Greek to you and you want to know more about keywords and keyword research, check out SEOMoz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO and Keyword Research. You’ll learn a lot and thank me later.
Understand the Power of a Headline and Early Content
When I’m speaking about content creation and writing for the web, I often start by saying that data shows that 8 in 10 will see your headline, yet only 2 in 10 readers will click through. Pretty sobering, isn’t it? Yet all too often people don’t understand the power of a great headline and the fact that they have about two seconds to capture a reader’s attention.
And writing optimized headlines–super important. Write headlines that use those keywords you identified in your keyword research above, and use introductory sentences early in your posts that also utilize those keywords. And deliver on the promise of your headline. Make sure you sell your post in the very first paragraph, don’t make your readers work for the content you’re tempting them with. Understand that Google is all about serving up relevant content to searchers’ queries, so make sure your content is well defined and that it delivers what you promise your readers by way of your headline, your META description and your body copy.
Market Your Post
Even if you write great content using the suggestions outlined above, you still have to market it. That’s where the power of social media networks comes in. If you don’t ‘market’ your content using networks you’ve invested time in building and the friendships you’ve cultivated over time, I’m not sure how anyone is going to know about it to read it. It’s not automagical. Readers don’t just appear because you wrote something, although that would certainly be lovely, wouldn’t it?
This is where building your networks before you need them comes into play and it’s also how you get incoming links to your site. And those incoming links are like Internet gold—they are a critical component of how search engines evaluate your website and blog. As my smart friend Lee Odden of TopRank Online Marketing likes to say, “The links attracted by great distribution of great content creates a very desirable link ‘footprint’ that is rewarded by search engines. To think this will happen naturally in any reasonable period of time is shortsighted.” That’s a nice way of saying it’s not going to happen automagically–you’ve got to work it.
Not sure about that linking business? It sounds complicated, but it’s really pretty simple–so hang in there. People will read a post you write that’s about something they are interested in. They like and trust you as a resource and like the content you produced. In turn, they will write something on that topic and link back to your post, which tells The Google that you (and your site and your post) are credible. The more this happens, the more rapidly your content moves up in search results and the more targeted traffic (and readers) you’ll get. Like I’m doing now, with a post my buddy Ian Cleary of RazorSocial wrote called 5 Ways to Ensure Your Blog Posts Are Not Ranking on Google, which is what got me thinking about this topic in general and like I did above, when I mentioned Lee and linked to his site and to his blog post on a particular topic. Each of those actions showed Google that I like and trust them and their content.
See how easy that is? And it happens all the time. But if you don’t know your audience, do your homework, write using effective titles supported by SEO optimized content and then market that content across the web with a goal toward earning trust and credibility (as well as backlinks), well, you probably won’t have many readers of your blog.
What do you think? Does this make sense or is it a whole lot of nerdy talk?