If you want blogging to be a part of your overall marketing strategy, you need to create high quality blog posts that appeal to your audience, and an important part of that is how the blog posts are set up on your website - and that’s what I’ll be covering in this blog post - how to set your blog posts up for success!
But before we get there....
(If you already have a blog, you can probably skip this next part)
First, if you’re completely new to blogging and don’t have a website yet, you’ll need to choose a home for your blog. Which is the best website platform for blogging? That is open to interpretation. You can read more about it at the link, but I think the most important feature is that you are comfortable with the platform and feel confident in creating and uploading new blog posts as well as updating old blog posts if necessary.
Second, a common question for blogging beginners is “How do I make money with my blog?” This is also called monetizing your blog and, while it is an important question, it often comes too early in the process. Blogs can be monetized in a number of ways, but the first step is always creating good content for your readers. And, as a marketing strategist, this is where I say that having a business plan and overall marketing strategy is important, too. Making money from your blog involves more than finding your niche, writing blog posts, adding affiliates, and holding contests.
Third, if blogging doesn’t come easily to you, for whatever reason, you’ll want to establish a blog writing process that works for you (and you may need to develop more than one or change it as you develop your style). I like to be upfront about this - I am not a fast blog post writer. I do not churn out six blogs a week. I could, but it would be the only thing I do. I spend a lot of time thinking about the topic before I start, I usually have one or two sentences or examples I want to share, and then I go from there. I don’t always start in the beginning and I rarely finish a blog post in one setting. The key to my own success is giving myself a deadline and working in focused bursts without distractions (if possible).
Now that we have all of that out of the way, let’s jump in!
What exactly is the anatomy of a good blog post?
Whatever your writing style or niche is, once you have the words out, how do you present them in a way that will have the most impact on your reader? What will make what you write even better?
Choosing the Right Title for Your Blog Post
The title of the blog post has three distinct, but important jobs to accomplish - all at the same time. Of course, it should say what the post is about. It should also catch your readers eye. That’s why blog titles like “5 Ways to …….” and “Reasons You Should…..” and “The Secret to….” are pretty standard these days. The third task, depending on your overall goals, is to help search engines find your blog post and understand that it is the best response to a search.
If I titled this post “The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe” I would have confused bakers scrolling for the recipe (which, by the way, is in the footer of this page. And it really is the best!).
Instead, I’ll title this blog post something helpful, clear, and that uses the words I think my readers would use to search for content like this.
When choosing blog post titles think about the specific actions or information your audience wants to know. If you’re not sure, go to google and type in how you would search for what you are going to write about. Google autofill should jump in with some helpful suggestions. Still not sure? Scroll down to the bottom of the search page of your search and you’ll see a list of related search terms that will be very helpful.
Do Blog Post Descriptions Matter?
A blog post description can be an easy thing to forget to do, but it does matter. Your website builder may call it a meta description and you may need to look for it. If you can’t find it, the quickest way to find where it is will be to Google “How do I add meta description to ______ blog” - just fill in the blank with whichever website builder you use.
Why do they matter?
Think of your blog post description as a one or two sentence advertisement for your blog post - what will the reader learn? How will they benefit? What will they find at the link?
When you, or someone else, shares your blog post on social media or your link appears in Google search, a good description tells future readers what the blog post is about. You have around 150 characters, including punctuation and spaces, to make your blog post sound appealing and worth reading.
If you don’t specifically set up a blog post description, search engines will most likely scrape the first sentence or two of the blog post and use that as the description. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t - and wouldn’t you rather be in control of how your blog post appears?
Make Your Blog Posts Easy to Read
Obviously, if you’re going through all of the time and effort to create a blog post, you want someone to read it, right?
One of the often overlooked (and easy!) ways to make your blogs more readable is to make sure you’re including enough “white space” on the page. “White space” is the blank space between paragraphs.
Why does it matter? White space makes it easier for the reader to read and absorb your words.
Without white space, our eyes don’t have a place to rest. We’re subconsciously trying to focus on too many things at once. Adding white space to your blog posts means your readers aren’t overwhelmed with text. Have you ever looked at a crowded store counter and gotten lost in the options? Or the sense of frustration you feel when you are looking for something on someone else’s cluttered desk? Or the very annoying realization that the keys you have been looking for are in plain sight, but you didn’t notice them? Or maybe you’ve been skimming this paragraph because it is long, and the words are all running together.
I know, I know. Your high school English teacher had specific ideas about what was and wasn’t a good paragraph. Conventional English grammar says short paragraphs and too much space is all wrong. But we aren't in the print world anymore, we're in the digital world. New world, new rules. But grammar still matters. Please don’t ditch the grammar!
Put Your Subheadings to Work
These mini-headlines not only introduce each section of your post, they do a couple of other neat things, too! Since online readers tend to skim what they are reading, your mini-headline helps them find the information they are looking for and works well with white space to create an enjoyable reading experience.
They can also help search engines better understand the content you are sharing, so this is a good place to use keywords and phrases that you think your audience might be searching for.
Your subheadings can be statements or questions – just make sure they are related to the paragraph beneath them. To make them stand out, your subheadings should be a slightly larger font size, underlined, bolded, or even a different color - but use good judgement since a visually busy page can send readers running.
Images Add Pop
Images help illustrate your post, add visual appeal, and one image will become the preview image for your blog post when it is shared on social media. So make it interesting.
Most rely on stock images for their photos (link to stock photo blog). I’ve gathered a good resource list for stock photos at the link. You can’t use any random image you find during on the internet or through a search. You also need to be aware of the usage rights when you use free or paid stock images.
Adding alt text to your image will make your blog post more accessible to all readers, so don’t forget to add a line or two describing the image you’re using.
You’ll also want to compress your images so they load quickly for your reader. You can use “save for web” if you are using Photoshop or this online resource is one I like. (image stomp link)
What Happens After Someone Reads Your Blog Post?
Do you want your reader to do something after they are done reading your blog post?
Should they share it?
Should they respond by leaving a comment or contacting you?
Should they sign up for your newsletter?
Do you have something else they should read?
Do you have some bonus content they can receive?
This next step is often called a Call to Action (CTA). You have someone’s attention, so what you want them to do next clear - just don’t sound like a used car salesman.
How Long Should a Blog Post Be?
There are all sorts of experts citing the exact, perfect length for a blog post. Should your blog post be long or should it be short?
My answer – it depends.
On your first pass, write until you feel as if you’ve said everything you need to say.
On your second pass, you may find yourself adding clarifications or removing parts that don’t work. That’s ok. It is part of the editing process.
Your blog post should be as long as it needs to be to say what you want to say.
However, from an SEO perspective, longer blog posts (800+ words) tend to mean the user is spending more time on your website. Time spent on site is one of many signals search engines use to determine the value of a website. It also means you are using all sorts of different word combinations to talk about your subject (which will help users and search engines find your content).
Creating a longer, and hopefully more useful blog post, means you are providing valuable information people will want to read and share.
From a user perspective, reading short, dull blog posts that pretend to have good information, but are really just a shallow swipe at a subject are annoying. They also don’t give you a chance to show you know what you are talking about.
This blog post will likely end up around 2000 words. There is a lot more I can say on this topic, but I’m trying to keep it as concise and streamlined as possible.
If you’re nervous about length, don’t be! When I first started writing blog posts, I thought 300 words was a big task (and it was!). But since I regularly write blog posts, my average range is around 1200-1500 words and that seems to be the amount of words I need to say what I want to say.
Before You Go
Here are some other resources that would be helpful.
You’re home, your kids are home, maybe your partner is home...there’s a lot going on, but you still need to run your business. Or maybe you’re used to working on your business and keeping some form of routine and presence in your business is important to you.
Whatever your motivation, these ideas will help you keep your business moving forward in under ten minutes.
Brain Dump - Out of Your Brain & Onto Paper
The first place to start is with a timer and a blank piece of paper. Spend ten minutes writing out everything you want to work on, everything you think you should work on, and everything you feel like you should be working on. At some point you may feel as if you’ve listed the most important things and are done, but keep going.
Why it maters: Getting it all out of your brain and on paper means you can look at everything objectively.
Then set it aside and come back to it later. The pause of an hour or two will let you look at your list more objectively than if you jump to the next step without a break.
When you come back to your list, highlight or circle the tasks that can be done in under ten minutes. Then pick the one you want to do the least and get it done.
Why it matters: This method ensures the worst task you have to do is done and it took less than ten minutes!
Maybe your task list doesn’t have any ten minute items. Maybe everything you need to do is more involved - that’s ok. The next step is breaking down those larger tasks into smaller chunks that can be worked on in ten minutes.
For example, if getting your inbox under control is on your list, you can’t do it in under ten minutes. But do you know what you can do in under ten minutes?
And then move on to something else. Your inbox isn’t going anywhere and it will be there when you circle back to work on it for another ten minutes.
Why it matters: You don't want to miss an important client communication or opportunity because your inbox is a mess.
Keeping Up with Social Media
Write the captions for two social media posts.
Or find the images for two posts.
Does that still feel like too much? Jot down some ideas of what you’d like to share or themes you’d like to address. If you’re sharing your computer with your newly homeschooling child, jot your notes and ideas on a piece of paper or put them in the notes section of your phone. Progress & flexibility over perfection.
Stumped about what to post in general?
Start with this question “How can I serve my people today?”
Why it matters: It can be tempting to pull away from sharing on social media about your business during times like these, and I have advised against promoting business during national disasters or tragedies in the past. But because this will be an ongoing situation that impacts us long-term it doesn’t make sense to stop responsibly promoting your business. It is one thing to hold off posting for three or four days and something else entirely to not do it for three or four weeks (or months). Be a good person, do it with integrity, and come from a position of serving your people in the best way you can.
Break up your day
Go for a walk. Have a dance break. Do some yoga. Involve your kids (or just do it for you). One of the strangest things about this pandemic that we are all experiencing (together, but separately) is that days run into each other and we’re all suddenly living in the movie Groundhog Day. Get some movement.
Why it matters: It's good for you, you’ll feel better, and it will add variety to your day.
Update Your website
No, this isn’t something you can do in ten minutes! But you can work on small pieces of it in ten minutes at a time.
Here is your action plan:
This task can quickly turn into a big project and may even leave you feeling as if it is time to scrap the entire thing and start over. Save that for a future project when you have more time. For now, keep your focus on the quick changes.
Why it matters: Business owners often put up websites, but often forget to keep the site updated and reflective of the current work they do.
Look at your routine
Whether you are several weeks into staying home or you’re still going out every day for work, you have a routine. The question is whether or not it is a routine that still works for you.
Take ten minutes and think about if your routine is still serving you. If not, what is one thing you can change, add, or subtract to make your life easier and more satisfying?
A few weeks ago, I realized I was spending a silly (to me) amount of time on a game app. I decided I wasn’t using it as much for fun as I was for distraction to the point that the app itself became a distraction in my day. So I deleted the app.
Why it matters: Maybe you have something else in your day that isn’t working anymore. Change it up and see what it improves.
Connect with your people
Do you have an email list? When was the last time you sent them an email?
If it has been awhile, now may be a good time to share an update on what you’ve been working on and send them something useful and helpful (whatever that looks like for your business).
If you don’t have an email list, now is a good time to choose an email provider and get it set up.
If you’re not sure which email provider to use - ask your business friends what they use. Many have a free level that should work for most people. If you’ve been less than thrilled with your email service provider, now may be the time to investigate other options.
Of course, none of these tasks can be done in ten minutes, but it is something you can start and come back to when you have another ten minutes to work on this project.
Why it matters: If you're building your business on social media and have no way to contact those who are interested in what you do you in other ways, you're are not only missing an opportunity, you're risking your entire business. Social media accounts get deleted and algorithms change.
To blog or not to blog?
One of the reasons I’m writing this blog is because I want to use some of this time to create more blogs (as well as podcasts and other content). Again, you won’t be creating an entire blog post in ten minutes or less, but you can bring the framework and layout for the ideas you want to share.
If you’re feeling stuck, start a list of things you’d like to talk about with your audience. List three ways what you or sell can help them right now. Or in the future. Or in their everyday life. Or in their business.
Still stuck? Try listing three reasons why someone should work with you or buy from you.
Now take ONE of those reasons or ways and expand on it. Add four to eight sentences and you have the beginnings of a blog post.
Come back and work on this the next time you have ten minutes. Keep expanding your ideas and you’ll end up with a blog post.
Why it matters: If blogging is a part of your marketing strategy, you need to put effort into creating blog posts (or hire it out).
Will you always have a whole ten minutes to work? No. Sometimes you’ll have more and sometimes you’ll have less.
The key to working in short bursts is managing your own expectations of what can be accomplished in the time you have as well as keeping a running list of things you want to be able to work on when you have those minutes.
Musings about marketing, social media, and small business.