Unless you’re dead, you’ve doubtless heard the phrase, “content is king.” There’s a reason that people spin this line, which, I mean, who are we kidding, has become more than a bit of a cliché. But it’s because when done correctly, your content marketing efforts can have a significant impact on your business. And if they stink, it’s likely to have some kind of impact on your business as well.
But producing high-quality content isn’t easy. Sure, most of us can write a passable blog post. But taking that blog post and writing it in such a way that it’s optimized for the Web is completely different than writing other kinds of content. Having the skills to ideate, develop and distribute content that serves your audience, well that’s no small accomplishment. What separates Joe Blogger (or Cheap, Inexperienced Writer) from producers of effective online content isn’t just a great content strategy; it’s also a fierce commitment to the editorial process.
The reality is that a lot of corporate blog content out there is just flat-out bad. We’ve found that many writers of blog content are either very inexperienced, in general, and/or writing without much, if any, guidance and direction. This might be because they’re part of one of the many “content farming” efforts of more businesses than we can count (more on that another time), or because they’ve never been taught how to write for the web. And in order for writing to be great, your editing skills have to be even greater.
As you work to develop a content strategy, keep in mind that your content should aim to do a number of things. These include:
- Serve the needs of your customers and prospects
- Support your brand’s value proposition
- Show the “human” side of your brand
- Complement your SEO efforts
- Lead to conversions
Notice what sits at the top of that list? Not content that touts your capabilities and success stories, but content that serves the needs of your customers and prospects. If you take away nothing else from this post, let it be that.
Here are some tips to help you along the way:
Choosing a Topic
When brainstorming topics for your corporate blog content, ask yourself some simple questions:
- What do my customers and prospects wake up every day worrying about?
- What are their pain points?
- What industry trends do they struggle keeping up with?
- What do we know that can help them make their businesses more profitable?
- What new products, services, etc., can help them run their businesses more effectively?
If you use these questions as the foundation for your content ideation, you’ll be off to a good start.
Choosing a Title
Poorly crafted blog post titles can drastically impact your readership. When I speak on this topic, I nearly always cite a stat from Copyblogger that simply says:
8 in 10 will see your headline …. 2 in 10 will click through
If you don’t master the art of crafting a compelling headline, you can forget about anybody being interested enough to stop what they’re doing to read your post. Best practices for blog titles are as follows:
- Make it relevant to the topic you’re covering (don’t try and be cute);
- Sell the whole post in your headline;
- Keep your characters under 65 (for search engine effectiveness)
- Don’t use punctuation in your titles (exclamation points, quotation marks, etc.)
This is usually the first thing a reader will see, so you’ll need to be creative. Consider…
Blog Structure and Formatting
Structuring your blog so that it’s easily digestible is key to creating good content. Here are some basic rules that we try and follow:
- Try to keep your blog posts between 400 and 600 words – any longer could potentially require more of a time commitment than your reader has (and could really test most people’s attention spans).
- Deliver what you promise in your headline; do it early in the post, preferably in the first paragraph.
- Use headers to break up your text (this makes your posts more scannable and more easy for your readers to digest).
- Use bullet points and graphics (charts, images, videos, etc.) to help illustrate your message.
Sourcing and Attribution
High-quality content often includes supporting information from other sources. It’s of vital importance to cite these sources not only to give credit where credit is due (the right thing to do), but also to avoid plagiarism. Give proper attribution by asking:
- Have you given credit for data, statistics, studies and other information to the original source?
- When using information from other sources, are you explaining or translating it properly?
- Have you double-checked the spelling of companies, sources, titles and other proper nouns within the content?
- Did you include links to the original source when citing other articles, studies or blogs?
Polishing and Publishing
Researching and writing content for your blog? Very important. Editing, editing again, then re-editing your work? Even more important. Follow these final suggestions to make sure you’ve got it just right:
When it comes to editing, spell check is good, a human being is better. Sometimes you’re too close to your own work, especially if you’re writing a piece you’re passionate about. Write your post, then enlist the eyes and the brain of a friend (or a colleague) to give it a once-over. You’ll be glad you did.
Read it aloud..When all the proofreading is done, take a few minutes to read your post aloud. It might sound silly, but this is something that works. It’s one of the best “final tests” on the planet.
Double check the spelling and styling of sources’ names, company names, titles and other proper nouns? Two seconds here can save you tons of embarrassment later.
Check all your links to make sure they’re working correctly.
Think about search engine optimization as you’re editing in these final steps. This doesn’t mean keyword stuffing, either. It means careful consideration of your title, your opening paragraph, and how you treated the wording of the content you developed. Telling search engines what you’re writing about is just as important as making that point clear for humans.
Finish up with a great META description that succinctly sums up what the post will deliver, not to mention well-chosen tags. Make sure all your images have alt tags and unique descriptions and you’re in good shape—ready for the “publish” button.
What did I miss?
Other resources you might like:
Copyblogger: Writing Headlines That Get Results