(Featured image of this blog from Yulong Lli’s selected illustrations / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
Content marketing is increasingly one of the necessary tools for any brand, especially the ones online. Blogs are a piece of that content, a surprisingly artistic weaving of the written word and images. Here are steps for the beginner to follow:
This is not the only way to write a blog, and easily wont be as you become an expert. But if you are just starting out your content marketing career, you might be panicking once you realize the sheer amount of material you are expected to produce. Follow these steps though, and you’ll guarantee blog posts at the steady rate you need.
By gradually reading through your industry sphere.
It would be advised to do this before you actually have to start producing, whether for years as the entrepreneur with a passion for this industry or in the weeks leading up to starting a job if you’ve been hired to make content.
Read the blogs of other companies similar to yours, and you will gain confidence on the topics that are generally covered in this industry. More importantly you will likely find posts you can later link to in yours, through referencing or building upon their information. This provides great value to your website, because if you link to another company in your industry on your blog you can ask them to potentially link to you on their blog. Cross-linking builds relations between yours and other companies!
How to write something valuable to readers
It is always a possibility to take a popular topic written about on other industry blogs, and put out your own version more or less remixing their words. Though you risk not standing out and getting buried in search engines, not attracting users to click more with particularly compelling content, and possibly upsetting your boss (depending on their standards).
But coming up with compelling original content surely seems like a headache, especially with the timeline you’re on. What’s a quick hack for this? If you can either save time or get inside info to your reader, you give them something they’ll stick around for.
Here’s two ways to get these:
- Scientific articles
People hate doing guesswork. That’s why they do research. Many find they can actually minimize the most uncertainty by prowling scientific article databases for studies that answer the exact questions they’re wondering. Those articles are difficult to get through for the average person without time though, and when you have to read several of them to get a consensus answer?… that is the truest headache.
Basically, if you can spend a few hours reading through some studies in your industry that address your topic and summarize all of the results, people will bow to you with thanks for saving their time. Of course you cannot then write your article like a scientific one; you have to present it fun, and catchy. But in summarizing studies and the facts that were gotten from them, you back up your article and provide people a shortcut to getting to the core of things.
- People in your office
People in your industry know things that the average person doesn’t have access to. By giving the public just a little slice of this, they get very excited. It is a peak behind doors they can’t get into, and skips ahead years of experience they don’t want to put in. Whether it’s industry “tips”, company specific gossip, or a senior individual’s personal insight about “the future of _____ “, people will click on inside information. Even if they have no idea what it’s about! A “secret” is valuable, so better grab it before anyone else does…
So walk up to people in your office and see what kind of info you can get out of them. Maybe it’s your superior who has years of experience, who can give a tip about how to get to their position, or an opinion about the current state of things. And if a bit of juicy gossip is already floating around the lunchtable, all you gotta do is sit back and listen (and write).
Hopefully now you have original content to give readers instead of what is already available to read online!
Tip! Remember, we write blogs firstly not to attract people to the blog, but to rank on Google and eventually direct people to your company’s actual product website.
This is debatable in the blog writing world, but I personally prioritize having my images once I have my topic, and before I’ve barely outlined the writing itself.
The images and colors your reader first encounters on the page guide their emotion. Your reader does not get any emotion looking at your words. They may once they deep dive into your beautiful composition, but the mind of the internet browser is incredibly fleeting. If they cannot determine by instinct this will provide value, it’s on to the next one. So they need to feel before they can read.
You really gather the tone and even entire direction of the written content from those visuals. Blogging is really not only writing. It is an intersection of visuals and text, and therefore often takes on the fragmented discontinuous form we recognize.
Graphics and images custom made for blog are a true mark of quality. But unless you come as an Illustrator, InDesign, etc. expert, you will have to find images online. Finding images is hard, maybe even the most challenging part of constructing a blog. You have to find one that generally fits the height and width of your page, captures the gist of your topic and the tone you want to convey, and is free use.
There are many constraints, and bad images will deeply hurt the effectiveness of your post, so you have to get it right in a way that your text doesn’t quite have to. You can find stock images that are free to save and add to your blog on sites like Unsplash and TheStocks, or even photos of people only at sites like DiverseUI.
If you visit sites where designers upload their graphics straight to the platform like Behance or DeviantArt, you may find a jackpot of art and quality. However you must make sure the works are licensed under Creative Commons, and then credit the designer and link to their work in a caption under the image.
Find other articles to back you up
The same way readers will discredit your writing if there are no images to guide their emotional lens, they will do it if there is no voice but your own backing you up.
The articles you plan on linking to will also be a major base for your writing. This is why it is advisable to browse through the internet for pieces of information that can be combined for reference in a blog (in addition to whatever scientific studies you write about if you choose to) before you actually start writing the bulk of the post. Too much of one author is boring especially on the Internet where people look to comment sections, forums, and views from many individuals to form their opinions. Seeing a voice other than yours supporting the topic is a way of breaking up text.
- Search and open many tabs of articles, like at least 10, about your topic
- Read through and catch the little bits of info that can be combined
- Highlight them with a highlighter tool (like this plugin for Chrome) to remember for later
And there is another significance to linking! Giving homage and patting backs is a key part of commercial blog writing, and you basically need to open as many opportunities to do that as possible. You are faced with a bit of a catch-22: Write too original and you distance yourself from being relatable to any other blogs in the industry, but don’t write original enough and your post is too unimpressive to be linked to. Allow the points in your post to be authentically linked to other articles however, and you will make the industry connections you need.
This will dictate things such as that quote with the vertical green line to the side, like you saw I did above.
Any artistic touches and flairs breaking up your text, positioning of images, coloring of font and graphics within, etc. The possibilities are quite endless.
Which is why for your first time, it is recommended to not delve into all that
Search blogs online and look for others’ formatting. Find one that appeals to you and can be done within your blog program’s capabilities whether you’re using WordPress, or Shopify, and etc. And use it. It is not suggested to borrow another blog’s style to where it is unmistakable, but formats are generally broadly used enough that it shouldn’t be. No need in starting from scratch by yourself when there are millions of other examples out there.
Blog writing is unfortunately a unique personal style you will need to cultivate over time. Ultimately it will be: Which visual techniques you can consistently produce the nicest within your deadlines. Will you be making infographics in illustrator? Will you make interactive lines and dots in Flash to border the text and such? Will you be the HTML expert who can code it to do any visuals possible in WordPress? How about the appearance of your text? Will it be one line at a time of so-called bucket brigades leading the reader by the hand, or will be it long form paragraphs to make the reader feel smart? It takes more time than the beginner has.
Your goal as a first timer is to make it appear as clean and professional as possible without spending too much time on it. If you must have advanced visuals there are products like Visme where novices can create these with ease. A blog needs to have backlinks on other websites, so it needs to be current and relevant, and daresay corporate enough to get those.
Tip! You have to take breaks! The first draft will always look crazy when you read it later. Get up from the computer consistently at least once an hour, and work on your post a little every day to allow time to review it with a fresh mind.
Just put a video in it. When you see videos in others blogs, you’ll realize their placement often doesn’t make complete sense. They are often only tangentially related to the actual writing. But videos are excellent at breaking up text, and provide people who have accessed your post and quickly scrolled through something entertaining to click on. Perhaps they will stick around for the reading too.
Once your post is ready for the reader, it is time to go back and pepper it with a little search engine optimization. This will hopefully get you the traffic your company wants.
Your title needs to be one that people are searching for on the net, so if you realize it isn’t quite so, you may need to switch some words around to fit Google’s algorithm. The more you repeat words and phrases, or long-tail keywords, within the post the greater relevance they will have to Google’s search results. If there is a search phrase you would like your company to come up for, repeat it several times in the text.
The nuances of SEO are far too many to address in this post, and there are many long articles on the net educating on how it should be done. It is not really something that can be learned from the bottom up as you start, so ideally anyone involved in content marketing will have some substantial knowledge of it before starting a job or company..
Never forget to SEO optimize your images, with image filenames, alternative text, descriptions, and captions that are related to what you’re writing about and things people search for.
And as we’ve mentioned earlier in this article, cross-linking is a great way to get your post to rank in google.
Funnel potential customers
One might think your post should be based on the foundation of funneling the customer towards your product. First and foremost though, you should be providing a quality post with valuable information. Remember, quality above anything ranks on Google. People wouldn’t click on a blog post if they wanted to see an ad. At the very least they should walk away from your post feeling they took more value than simply being informed of your product.
So it is recommended to tack on little links to your products throughout the article, and an actual mention of your product at the end. Links to your latest products as well as products related to the article function as great breaks in a long article. You can for example have a rectangular button saying “Today’s Featured ______ (insert your product)” between two paragraphs to link readers to your latest products. Nicely framed/bordered image links to a subscription newsletter or e-book of yours also work too. If you have related blog posts/content/ or any other media you’ve put out, make use of it and break up paragraphs with a “Related: __________ (insert content)” link.
As for writing about your actual product, it most commonly takes the form of a small persuasive mention in the last paragraphs. It is usually framed s one of the solutions to whatever issues the blog post is addressing. To soften the advertising voice, many companies will refer to it as one of the best solutions, but encourage readers to continue to seek out the solution that works best for them. This makes the customer feel capable and intelligent, and not spoken down to.
As we get further and further into the age of the Internet…
people have become wise and tired of the tricks of click bait. As you get better you will be able to create that seamless fusion of text and image to communicate complex ideas, and narrow down the text. I like to think of a great blog post as a great, engaging conversation. Nobody wants to feel truly alone, sitting in front of the screen reading all by themselves. The tangents, nuances, and excitement of great conversation are hopefully there in your post to light readers’ days up!