- Identify your audience
Gather the demographics of your current audience and your intended audience (these may not be the same thing!). Identify your audience with some of the following methods:
– Google Analytics:
(Audience>Demographics) for age & gender
(Audience>Interests) for breakdown of potential interests (not the most reliable but can be interesting)
– Sharers: Find out who is sharing your posts using BuzzSumo (Search your doman and then view sharers) or a tool like Topsy
- Set out some personas (even if they are basic)
Use the information above to create personas. Group similar people together to build some typical images of your audience: age, job role, responsibilities. Some businesses will already have a number of personas but you may just need one or two rough ideas to get you started.
- Identify their aims
Identify the reasons each of your personas will be using your blog, what are they trying to achieve?
Aims could include:
– To learn how to do specific tasks (think: how to complete my tax return)
– To learn how to do more general tasks more effectively (think: managing a team)
– To learn how to help other people learn themselves (think: encouraging a new employee to learn and develop)
– To be inspired to change how they are working (think: example of when an individual has taken a risk and succeeded)
– To be convinced to do something or take on a task (think: “Do I need to employ an HR professional?”)
Job roles can be an effective way of judging these aims
- Online Behaviour
How does each of your personas interact with the internet? Do they catch up on their phone on the train on the way home from work or do they have a few hours spare on a PC? Device, time and attitude are all important for determining how to attract and engage these individuals.
- Likes & Dislikes
What topics are resonating with your audience? Follow them on Twitter and pay attention, use some of the tools above and don’t forget to talk to them too!
- Identify some key influencers
BuzzSumo can be great for this.
- What does your audience(s) want to know?
Keep an eye out on Twitter and follow hashtags from your audiences’ communities. What questions are they asking there?
- What questions do people ask you?
Make a list and add a question every time a client, friend or reader asks you a question. Maybe the exact question won’t be a perfect blog post but a variation may be amazing. You might notice a reoccurring topic that you should focus on in more depth too.
- What questions do you ask?
Is one of your personas in a similar position to you? Add questions you have and help you search or ask for and add it to your list.
- What have you learned recently?
Again, if something is new to you it’s almost certainly going to be new to someone else too. Keep on top of these things to help inform your readership of new developments but also appear to those searching for help with specific tasks too.
- What are people searching for?
We touched on this above. If people need help or want advice they will be searching in the search engines for help. Try Google’s Keyword Planner, Google Trends and try searching and taking a look as the suggested searches.
- What are people sharing?
Tools like BuzzSumo can be used for this one. Search a topic or even a competitors website, which of their posts are being shared the most? What do they have in common? Bear this in mind when creating your content.
- What are influencers talking about?
Twitter is going to be your friend here. Follow all your industry influencers and take note of what they are interested in a talking about, this will make it more likely for them to share your articles. Also try using an RSS reader like Feedly to keep on top of influencers own blog posts.
- Identify key dates for your business, your industry and everyone else
Tailor content to these dates whether it is your company’s 50th anniversary, Christmas or ‘World ‘insert your industry’ day” – you want content for these occasions. Rubbish, ad hoc content for these events are always disappointing so planning ahead can save the embarrassment of a half-hearted rushed post.
- Find features lists from industry high-fliers – Co-ordinate if appropriate
Navigate to some industry magazines or publications websites and take a look for features lists. This will list the topics they will be covering for the next 6 months or year. You can co-ordinate if you want to try to gain the opportunity to write for them or you can use it to underpin your ideas to ensure you don’t miss any seasonal trends.
- Decide how often you will post
Once a week is better than once every two weeks, but once every two weeks is better than never. Pick something manageable. I would suggests choosing a little less than you think is ‘do-able’. We tend to be a bit more generous with our time than we should be. If you think you may be able to manage twice a week, try once a week and build yourself up. You don’t want to hit it too hard and run out of motivation and stop completely.
- Have a back-up plan
Forgot about your sister’s birthday or that big proposal you’re supposed to help with? No problem, schedule one of those posts you wrote a few months ago! It’s great to have a good stash of great evergreen articles in the bank for those times of panic!
- Allow for wiggle room
Planning is great but surprises happen. Allow yourself a bit of freedom to write about that unexpected industry development or that big deal no one saw coming.
- Headline: Get it right
There are some great books out there about the art of headline writing. Keep it short and snappy – but whatever you do, do not mislead! You will lose your audiences’ trust and clickbait headlines like “She didn’t read the Ultimate Blogging Checklist and you’ll never guess what happened to her next” will cheapen your content.
- Images: Source them wisely
Using copyrighted images without asking permission can be a minefield. Try Flickr’s Creative Commons for free to use images but always credit the owner.
- Lists and Bullet Points
We don’t all have time to read an essay. Break up your content so those who want to have a quick look can skip through and see your core message.
- Keep it simple
Try short sentences. Try not to ramble one (although I’m not one to talk!). A great quote I heard a while ago states something like “I would have written you a shorter letter but I just didn’t have time”. It is absolutely true, brevity is difficult.
- Don’t ramble
Again – keep it simple. We want to learn from your post and I don’t want to pick through your extravagant sentences to find the lesson.
Make your blog accessible. Add alt text to your images so those using screen readers understand what your images are, make your font clear and readable, make navigation around content clear and easy to use. Check how your blog appears on mobile and other devices.
Set a tone and stick to it. Overly formal can often be off-putting but colloquial language and even swearing on a company blog may be a step too far in the casual direction.
Take some of these tips on board for optimising your blog posts.
- Add questions and set up a true debate
Talk to your audience and engage with them. Maybe stray away from outrageous opinions for the sake of setting up a debate (this may lose your audience’s trust).
- Respond to your comments!
If people have taken the time to read and respond to your articles, the least you can do is answer their questions and thank for the feedback.
- Offer easy ways to keep on top of your articles
Email newsletters are the best for this but RSS feeds will do if needs be. Having an email address is a lot more valuable and will bring me on to my next point.
- Special offers/discounts/advanced tickets
Show your readers you care, email them discounts and offers with codes from your newsletters.
- Add value
You want to help people. If you feel yourself blogging ‘for the sake of blogging’, stop. Right now. No one wants to read an unhelpful, ‘nothing’ post. The value you get from the frequency will be far outweighed by the annoyance of your readers.
- Check sources of information
If you want to make a claim, back it up. Nothing says I don’t care like making an outrageous claim you haven’t bothered to verify.
- Check your own logical conclusions
Maybe you saw a statistic somewhere and are using it to prove your point, does your conclusion make sense? Often basic logical fallacies are committed. Make sure you avoid any of these errors.
It’s difficult sometimes, especially with longer posts and if you are on your own. But try your best to minimise grammar errors. Mistakes will always happen but take a look here to see some of the basics to avoid.
- Open door to further information
Link to some more useful articles, even if they are from rivals or risk visitors leaving your site. You want to be useful, if you avoid this then you won’t be.
- List of don’ts
What don’t you want on your blog. A common list would include:
– Angry/frustrated posts
– Copyrighted images
- Acknowledge great work from other bloggers and even competitors
Again, this will help to build your integrity. We are more savvy than ever for spotting things like this and your audience will not appreciate you choosing not to recognise the good work of others in the industry. Jealous of a competitors success? Don’t ignore it. Recognise, congratulate and then make something better!
- Distribute via your newsletter or unique email for important pieces
You must promote your great content. Your email list should be high quality so these are the people that are most likely to react well. Plus, as a bonus give your subscribers a little preview!
- Share Share Share
Share your content on social media. You need to get your content out where the right people can see it. Social is a great way to get your content to your followers and fans.
- Contact relevant influencers
If you’ve got the right people, your influencers will distribute the content and do the hard work for you! Your audience look up to these people – get them on board and make sure they like your content.
- Online communities
Find communities that will relate with a piece of content you have developed. Where do your personas hang out? Whether this is a group on Facebook, a hashtag on Twitter, a Subreddit or even a forum – speak to these people, be helpful and kind and you will find them responding to your blog the way you want them to. Ask for their advice and input too!
- Use your existing relationships
Don’t ignore your contacts. You will likely have some friends that can help you to promote your content too and get it to the right people. Make a list of your contacts, how they can help and which topics relate best to them.
- Don’t discount advertising
If you’ve got something really great, it doesn’t mean advertising can’t help. Sometimes getting people to see your content in the first place is the hardest part and once they see it, they’ll be coming back for more. Advertising can be an investment to get these initial views.
- What do you want to achieve?
Make a list of what you want and then decide how you are going to measure this. It may be great that your newest videos has had 10,000 views but if you really wanted shares then this is pretty irrelevant.
- Which posts get the most total traffic?
You might find some of your most useful posts here or maybe a post you are inadvertently suggesting to readers on your blog.
- Which posts are your best landing pages?
What are readers’ first impressions of your website? This may help to identify some of your most attractive posts and what are bringing people in, this may be an indication of good headlines or attractive topics.
- Which posts get the most organic traffic?
This is likely to be the posts that you have chosen well to feature advice that people are searching for. This is a really important stream of traffic so learn from these pieces and try to create more that appeal to these searchers. You may find that this will include ‘how to’s’ and specific step by steps.
- Which posts are shared most often?
Your most shared posts are likely to be different to those that receive the most organic traffic. These are more likely to be topical posts. Learn from these successes and target specific posts to be effective for social media.
- Which posts attract the most links?
These will be different again. These are likely to be long-term good advice or information about company news; your genuinely very informative articles. Links help build the authority of your website, so learn from your best and try to keep it going.
- Which posts have the highest conversion rate?
If you’re writing a company blog it is worth taking a look at this. Do particular posts gain you more enquiries than others? Why? This will be different for each website and industry. Find what is working for you and test to see if you can improve it.
So there’s my top 50 tips. If you have any other tips share them in the comments below, I would love to hear them!