Writing a killer blog post really is the key to connecting with your audience. A blog post is all about providing free value. Well a good one at least. You’re not trying to sell them something. You’re simply informing them. No hidden strings attached.
Whatever your business, an active blog can help your bottom line. It’s worth the investment.
Here are 5 keys to writing killer blog posts that will build your brand.
1. A Magnetic Headline
A headline is your first impression. So it’s essential that you make it count. It’s been said that 80% of your audience will read the headline, but only 20% will finish the article. If your header stinks it won’t matter how good your copy is.
They simply won’t read it.
The first and foremost goal of ANY headline, is for it to get the reader to read the next line. The headline is an important element to any form of writing. Be it creative, sales, it doesn’t matter.
So how do we create a magnetic headline?
There are so many great headline formulas out there created by great writers and marketers.
Jeff Goins created a simple formula for winning headlines. Number or Trigger word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise
Let’s try it out.
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A simple and effective method to creating great headlines. Doesn’t matter what your topic is.
Why is it effective though?
Numbers are specific and measurable. The human brain loves numbers. Especially odd numbers. Here is a graph from a study done by Conductor.
They found that Numbered headlines outperformed any other type. So if possible, make your headline numbered.
Make it an odd number too.. A study of 150,000 headlines done by Hubspot showed that odd numbers have a 20% higher click-through rate.
BuzzFeed mastered the art of making magnetic headline content. Whether you like them or not, you cannot deny their success in content marketing. They really popularized the use of numbered headlines, dubbed “Listicles”.
The length of a headline matters. Too short and you won’t get to say anything that’ll attract attention. Too long and you’ll lose their attention. There is a middle ground that is best practice. There are also search engine optimization implications.
Research of 2616 viral headlines indicate that after 62 characters, search engines tend to ignore the rest.
Hubspot recommends shorter headlines. Doing their own research they found that 8-12 word length headlines got the most Twitter shares. 12-14 words was best for Facebook likes.
According to Outbrain, 8 word headlines generated a 21% higher click-through rate.
Ideally you want your headline to be as short as possible while being long enough to tell them exactly what the article is about.
2. Linking For Better Blog Post Ranking
Any good blog or article will be littered with links.
What are links in the marketing, SEO world?
There are two types of basic links. External links and Internal links.
Internal links are simply links from one page of your website, to another.
External links comprise of two distinct categories.
Inbound links are other people linking to you. These are commonly referred to as ‘Backlinks’. Everything in this article will help generating more of these. Including Outbound links.
Outbound links are links you make to other websites.
To understand why links are important for Search Engine Optimization, we have to look at the history of search engine algorithms.
When Google first came onto the scene in 1996, the search engine was based on the PageRank algorithm. Named after Google co-founder Larry Page who created the algorithm while at Stanford.
Google explained how the algorithm worked;
“PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.”
Google’s algorithm has since undergone many changes. What remains the same is the importance of links for search engine ranking.
In 2016 Google came out and stated links are top 3 in their algorithm criteria.
Backlinko went out to test what factors impacted SEO the most. They analyzed more than 1,000,000 google search results.
They concluded that;
“The number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other factor”
“Our data also shows that a site’s overall link authority strongly correlates with higher rankings”
The domain link authority (AHREFS) is basically a website’s online reputation in search engines. Youtube for instance would have one of the best domain link authorities on the net. The blog you just started would be on the opposite spectrum.
According to Moz Domain Authority is calculated by;
“Evaluating multiple factors, including link root domains and total number of links, into a single score”
You can use Ahrefs to find out the domain rating of any website you want.
Apart from writing great content with high quality internal links and outbound links, here are some other link building strategies.
- Guest Blogging
- Social Media Outreach
- Creating High Quality Infographics
- Research Competitor Backlinks
- Cold Emailing
Try to focus on creating great content first. Link building strategies should come second.
Make great content and people will reference it.
Whatever you do. DO NOT buy links. This is against Google’s guidelines. They will catch you and severely punish your SEO efforts.
“Buying links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”
All the data overwhelmingly validates the importance of links for SEO. It’s common sense in the marketing world. Though it’s important to understand how and why.
Keep the links relevant and specific to your topic. Make them naturally flow. Remember, search engines these days punish unethical practices. Just like with keywords, stuffing poor quality, random links will negatively affect your SEO.
3. Long Form Copy Over Short
I’m a big believer in long form copy. Neil Patel refers to it as “Evergreen”. The most in-depth content usually is the most helpful. Especially if you make it formatted for 21st century laser fast internet speed attention spans.
Longer content definitively outperforms short. It ranks better in search engines. Don’t believe me? Keep reading.
HubSpot studied their own marketing blog to find out how word count affected SEO. Things like how many backlinks it generated, social media shares, organic traffic generation.
The results were decisive.
2250-2500 words = best traffic.
2500+ wins outright for social shares.
Long also wins out in the linking department.
It’s not just Hubspot showing these results, either.
Professor Jonah Berger showed longer content is 76.8% more likely to be shared.
Buzzsumo and AppSumo analyzed 100 million articles and found that longer content means more shares.
For the longest time shorter, keyword stuffed articles were the gold standard. It’s what got hits on major search engines like Google.
In 2013, Google changed their algorithm to penalize poor keyword stuffed, shorter content, and reward more in-depth articles. Many of Google’s algorithm changes have targeted blackhat SEO tactics.
HubSpot defines Blackhat as
“Practices against search engine guidelines, used to get a site a higher ranking”
The science is definitive. Longer content performs better. There are limits though. Neil Patel recommends between 2,000-3,000 words. His average blog article length is 2,300 words.
More important than length of the content, is the actual quality of it. Long or short.
4. Modern Blog Post Keyword Strategy
Keywords still matter. Not nearly as much as they used to. Google algorithm updates over the years have made it harder and harder to game the system. Old keyword stuffing practices no longer get rewarded.
But that doesn’t mean keywords no longer matter. Frequency of keywords no longer matter. As in repeating the same keyword 7 or 8 times in your first body paragraph.
What still matters is that you place keywords in the right spots.
Where do you need to put keywords?
1. Page Title
You need your keyword in the page title. It’s the most important place to have your keyword. It’s the placement that will have the most impact on SEO.
Position of the keyword in the title matters too. The earlier in the title the better, assuming the title naturally flows. You have 100 characters for the page title, but Google only shows results for up to 65.
Having a keyword in your domain name helps. It’s not absolutely a necessity as many successful websites have ambiguous brand names over a specific keyword.
But it can’t hurt if possible.
Having a keyword on a specific page URL will also help SEO.
Having keywords in your subheaders helps readers scan the content easily. It helps them find what their looking for. The keyword they searched for. Good formatting and structuring of content is crucial.
Good SEO optimization isn’t going to mean anything if they exit the page at first sight. Bad formatting will do that to you.
Keyword subheaders can also appear in extended information on a SERP. It looks like this.
So make sure to use keywords in at least one subheader.
4. Image Descriptions
Images are indexed. So it’s important to include keywords for them. SEO optimization for images are done in the back end. On WordPress for most. On the front end you see only the image. There are specific tags that allow search engines like Google to index and categorize.
Putting a keyword in the filename is a good start. “relevantkeyword.jpeg”
Put keywords in image titles too. They are the small pop-up that appears when you put the mouse over the image. Though this does not contribute directly to SEO, it doesn’t hurt to address it.
Then lastly you want to put keywords in the alt text.
The purpose of the alt text is to improve accessibility for people who can’t see images on webpages. Whether they have a disability or lacking internet capabilities.
What matters for you, is that it’s important for SEO.
According to Google this you’ll want the alt text to be “descriptive”. Here’s an example Google made of what they mean by descriptive, and what they don’t.
Also make sure the actual image is of relevance to your content. Obviously.
5. Page Descriptions
The page description is the extended copy under the page title. Here’s an illustration below.
It’s not as important as the page title, but it’s your chance to advertise your website or specific page.
It doesn’t actually directly affect SEO, but it can improve click-through rates from SERP’s (Search Engine Results Page) like a good landing page.
So it’s important.
Here’s a poor example of a page description.
Would you click on that link? Not exactly professional looking.
Here’s what you want to do.
A good meta description tag can entice readers to click through to your website. It’s like the blurb of a book. Just enough to get you salivating for more.
Because it does not directly impact SEO, the best practices are a little more vague. It’s more of a copywriting principle. Treat it like an extended subheader.
Include the keyword from the page title, because although the meta description does not affect SEO, it’s still part of everything else that is. The point of SEO isn’t to simply rank, but for people to click through.
The best meta description length in 2019 is 120-158 characters for Google. It is pretty much the same for the other major search engines. Although on mobile devices the limit is 120 characters, so preferably you should fit what you need in 120 characters. Mobile optimization is important.
Links are a vital part of SEO. We’ve been over that in-depth. Keywords can in-fact improve some of your links.
Internal and Outbound links to be exact. Links you create.
Just like normal links, keep it natural, flowing. Don’t force a keyword where it doesn’t grammatically fit.
Don’t do too many keyword links too. The same rules still apply. You’ll be punished for stuffing just like normal.
5. Scannable Content
Rarely do people actually read the entire article. They scan. This is even more true on a mobile compared to a laptop or desktop.
What is scannable content?
Forbes defines it as;
“Short, sweet and to the point. Sentences and paragraphs are brief. Bold text and bullet points highlight key points. Links to other content are used to provide your readers with supplemental information.”
They look for interesting or key points. They’ll struggle to find it in poorly structured content. Long ass blocks of text with no formatting reference points. For scanning information it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.
You need to break up the visual garbage into the equivalent of a restaurant menu. So that your readers can find what they’re looking for.
The evidence shows that making content scannable wins. It can boost readability by 57%.
Make your content scannable. Format and structure what you’ve got to say into key points.
Start by chopping down those paragraphs.
Paragraphs that are too long are visually unappealing. They are an absolute drag to read. Instantly off putting. I personally feel the urge to leave instantly. How’s that for “bounce rate”?
Instead, try shortening your paragraphs. Anything more than 5 lines is a problem. Neil Patel limits his paragraphs to 4 lines.
The Yahoo! Style Guide kept it short and sweet.
“Keep paragraphs short. Two to three sentences is enough.”
Also, one sentence paragraphs are fine. This is not academic writing. We are not speaking Old English. Extremely short paragraphs can often be a nice way to put emphasis or attitude into writing. Don’t overuse though.
Just like how we speak in real life to one another.
Much like paragraph length, sentence length matters. Too long leaves the reader mentally winded. Just like talking too long without breathing.
You’ll want to cut those sentences right down. Too short is better than too long. You don’t win any points here being clever. Effective is what works.
“Writing long sentences is like adding water to tea; the more words, the weaker the message.” – Dianna Booher
Reading comprehension drops as sentence length increases. At 14 words per sentence, readers will understand over 90%. At 43 words, this drops to 10%. 8 word sentence have a 100% comprehension, but often you might need more words.
Try to keep sentence length under 20 words. Under 15 is even better.
A subheader is simply just another, more specific headline.
Merriam-Webster defines Subheader as;
“An additional headline or title that comes immediately after the main headline or title.”
In the content marketing world, subheaders serve as effective means to structure content.
Subheaders are a great way to;
- Help readers scan content and find what they’re looking for
- Help search engines rank your content + keywords
- Break up walls of text
- Create a flowing coherent article that increases readability
Making a good subheader is just like a good headline. It must entice readers to read, albeit in a more specific context.
Don’t forget to fit in keywords.
Much like subheaders, bullet points are great ways to structure content for scanning. Instead of writing a paragraph breaking something down, why not break it into bullet points?
Look at how an article on Copyblogger integrates a simple bullet point list. It makes it visually appealing to the scanning eye.
Much better than another paragraph.
Taking into consideration these factors can make your content more scannable.
Writing great blog posts is not complicated. You just need to know the process. Once you know that, it is automatic. You will churn out high quality content that is informative and will rank fantastic on search engines.
Follow these 5 keys and you will be well on your way to writing killer blog posts.
Lars Erik Larson is a digital marketer based out of Perth, Western Australia. He specializes in writing long-form B2B Marketing Blog posts that build brand and rank highly on Google. Lars runs Wordsmith Method, a content marketing business targeting small businesses and startups.