5 blogging basics from a copywriting pro
In one of our first tech tips posts of 2014, web copywriter Nikki Chapman, an onsite copy specialist and former journal editor, shares her blogging basics and discusses her beef with bloggers who go too large.
In this informative and hopefully motivational post, I’ll be doing a bit of what everyone likes to do at the start of a new year: taking things back to basics. This time, I’ll be looking at the building blocks of good blogging. If you or the company you work for has made an ambitious New Year’s blogging resolution, then read on and discover a great introduction on how to plan, implement and maintain excellent blog activity.
Any content positioned on your blog should serve to engage and entertain your audience. Imagine if you went to see a stand-up comedian and left without uttering a single giggle – you’d be a little disappointed, wouldn’t you? It’s the same with any content you post on your company blog: if your reader gets through a post without experiencing any personal reaction, your content needs a makeover.
One common mistake I see being made all too often when beefing up a blog is evidence of ‘the more, the better’ paradigm. While I actively encourage healthy activity and generous blogging, you don’t want to write extremely long posts, which can bore the reader.
To ensure we’re crafting consistently engaging content for clients, we create editorial calendars to guarantee we have a surplus of great ideas. This allows us to plan what will be posted and when, in harmony with keyword trends for both us, and our clients, though we are always sure to leave a little room to engage with the hot topics of the moment. If you’re looking for topical subject and keyword inspiration, check out Google Trends and find what’s burning bright in your industry now.
Coming from an editing background within academic publishing, I know all too well the difference between an engaging read and words neatly placed on a page. The latter, while it may be grammatically correct and informative, will not achieve your end goal and does nothing to boost your online presence. After all, words placed neatly on a page tend to make you stare rather than share!
Rule number one is to create unique, quality content that establishes trust between you and your reader, but there are some other handy insider tips I’m happy to share. Each time I, or one of my wonderful copywriting colleagues craft a blog post, we like to keep a check on the following:
Remember your own online behaviours: most people scan a post looking for specific wording or images and the longer the content, the harder it is for you become interested and continue reading. Always pen your post with keywords, context and the audience to whom it is tailored in mind, otherwise you’re just writing into the wind – again, an editorial calendar can be of great help here.
To further improve how readable your content is, help your audience to pick out key themes. Where suitable, consider using bullet points, bolding, capitals and underlining to really emphasise topics, and use subheadings to break up the text, clearly showing what is about to be discussed. In the world of publishing, this stuff is called page furniture, so inject a little feng shui into your posts! Keep paragraphs short and, if you can, get a picture or two in there to make your words work harder.
The title tag works to accurately define the title of a document and is the second most important on-page SEO factor, following from content/wording. It is extremely important to get it right as it appears in three key locations: search engine results pages, browsers, and websites.
The best way to optimise a title tag is to write it with keywords in mind, so it adds value in terms of relevancy and browsing, and is therefore consistent with the content too. You also need to remember to keep your title tag to no more than 70 characters. This is the maximum Google will display and any poetically-worded tags over this limit may find themselves abbreviated in the results, or replaced with different text from the document/page.
Title tags are an extremely important part of SEO and if you get them right, they will have positive, high-impact effects on your blog and end goals.
You want to ensure your headline is snappy and clearly defines what the post is about. This is important with regard to readers and search engines alike. Keep Google and all its pals happy by creating a title that not only contains keywords for which your company wants to rank, but also adheres to character restrictions. When they carry out a search, engines will list any posts in order of relevance to the search terms, and the title that stands out the most will get the highest click-through response.
When penning a great headline, there is no one factor more important than another, rather a collective of must-remembers in terms of SEO and, of course, audience. I asked one of our Mediaworks SEO experts, Craig Hall, for a pearl of wisdom or two and this is what he had to say:
“There’s no single thing that’s most important in a title; if it’s too long then it’s just a paragraph; if it’s very plain, people aren’t enticed to read it; if it’s too creative and doesn’t explain what the article’s about, you could get a high bounce rate.”
Boil it down to the essentials and a good headline should be concise, enticing and have a strong keyword focus.
Eye-catching visuals are a great way to generate interest. I have already mentioned how they are an essential tool to make your words go that bit further, but good images can do so much more. Increase the copy’s ability to retain readers by placing a stimulating visual at the top of your post for a little aesthetic appeal, and make it searchable by adding an alt tag. Always remember to adhere to copyright laws and don’t use another’s work without full consent. Either create your own, pay for usage rights or source a safe-to-use creative commons image from sites such as Flickr.
To reach a wider readership and thus improve your SEO ranking, make your content shareable. The SEO benefits of blogging are wide-ranging; from content control to improving your website presence via quality and relevant backlinking. All social-savvy bloggers include an easy-to-use sharing button, which builds depth of site by providing traffic-improving links to their social media sites. Get these on your posts and monitor the success rate of shares. If you’re following this guide and managing a top-quality blog, you should see the shares go up and up.
If you’re anything like me, you will want to know your content is actually being enjoyed by fellow humans, not just the technical minds of search engines. Ensure ever-important organic readers are actually clicking, sharing and enjoying by using useful tools such as Google Analytics, or the simple-to-understand Bitly.
Seeing as I’ve never been one to provide a rigorous step-by-step manual – I love to see the creative adaptations people apply to individual work – this is just a brief checklist on how to improve your blog rather than a compilation of must-do dictations. The success of your blog relies upon the fruitful identification of your desired end goals and brand image; the two, when placed harmoniously hand-in-hand with the discussed tips, will always benefit strategy and content.
I could go on and on but then I’d be in direct conflict with my own advice! However, if you want more from me, I’m always happy to oblige a fellow blogger. Contact me via the comments box below or send me an email if there is anything you would like to discuss.
Posted by Nikki Chapman on 6th January, 2014