I’ve been blogging for over three years and learned from the best, Michael Gass. Michael is a consultant who helps agencies like ours get into social media. And he’s very good at what he does. Here’s a guest post from him on best practices when you’re writing a post. Enjoy!
Guest post from Michael Gass.
The inverted pyramid style of writing works as a guide to consistently produce appealing online content that creates new business leads.
A framework for writing meaningful, properly constructed and search engine optimized posts will allow you to write faster and more effectively.
Over the past seven years, I’ve worked with over 170 agency owners to help them create a niche blog and write meaningful content. I ask every client to write a post a day, thirty posts over a thirty-day period. The tight time-frame for writing an initial “base of content” helps them develop a custom writing process. Once they have a process, it’s easier to write on a realistic schedule of one to two posts per week and remain consistent, even when the agency is at its busiest.
I’ve developed a template for writing an effective blog post from my experience training and coaching others.
My blog post template consists of eight parts:
1. Blog Post Title
You need to think about search. Clever titles can create interest, but not at the expense of search-ability.
Fuel Lines has been ranked among the top 150 marketing blogs in the world according to Ad Age’s Power 150. Search engines provide the most traffic to my site. I own the first position in organic search for “ad agency new business.”
When I first started writing for Fuel Lines back in 2007, I didn’t know a lot about SEO. All I knew was Google wanted people to be able to find what they were searching for. That’s why they periodically change their search algorithms to offset those who try to use “black hat” tactics to game their system.
I created a niche blog that was written to a very specific target audience. It was naturally optimized for search. Consistently using “ad agency new business” in almost every post title helped accelerate my ranking in organic search. I discovered this practice also works well when repurposing content through social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Including my key words provided targeted traffic to my blog because it identified to the intended audience.
I also recommend concise titles of less than 40–50 characters. This helps when posts are re-shared in Twitter that limits a tweet to 140 characters, including the URL.
2. Lead with the Conclusion
Attention spans are very short online. Most people tend to scan rather than read word-for-word. I always lead with the conclusion. In a single sentence, I tell my readers what their benefit or takeaway will be if they commit the time to read my posts. The practice of creating a summary sentence also provides focus for writing a post.
3. Introductory Paragraph
An introductory paragraph is essential in preparing your readers for the information they’ll gain from your article. You shouldn’t begin your main points without properly setting them up in an introductory paragraph. My readers also prefer that I get to the point quickly instead of using a lengthy story or example that takes too much time.
4. The Main Body
I’ve found the “reader’s digest” or executive summary type content is always appealing to my readers. They enjoy bullet points and numbered lists. It’s proven through my post analytics.
When I write, I always imagine how busy my readers must be. I try to do a lot of work on their behalf and to be as concise as possible. The shorter the post, the more work that goes into it.
I recommend to clients that they keep their initial content between 400 to 500 words. From my experience, they will get the most return on their time investment if they stay within this range. You can always link posts together, create a white paper or an eBook by combining individual posts around the same subject for a more comprehensive piece.
Also create short paragraphs of only 3–4 sentences. If it’s more than this, the content looks too daunting and you’ll lose your readers.
You should use simple words when creating your content. Readers are not impressed by your use of complex words. Your choice of words should be based on what will be clearer. The use of complex words and jargon will frustrate your readers because it slows them down and interferes with their comprehension.
Newspaper reporters are trained in writing in the inverted pyramid style, a metaphor used by journalists to illustrate how information should be prioritized and structured in a text such as a news report. The most important information is always located at the top of the article. This style works extremely well when writing online content.
I’ve found that Copywriters tend to have the most difficulty making the transition from writing for print to creating content for the web. They tend to forget search-ability, scan-ability and brevity.
6. Use Images
The use of an image or photo will help to pull in readers to your content. I either use my own photos and screenshots or use Photo Pin as an image resource library of Common Licensed images. I’ll also embed video, infographics or a SlideShare presentation.
Be sure to make your images searchable by taking the time to include an Alt tag. It’s generally recommended to be concise when creating alt tags. Keep them around 150 characters, and written in the context of your post.
7. Make it Personal
I always write my own content. It provides my professional enrichment, my own customized continuing educational program.
Writing also helps me to make an emotional connection with my audience. Readers get to know me, warts and all. I’ve found the more transparent I can be greatly improves the appeal of my content.
My writing accelerates “relationship building” with my readers and provides a steady stream of new business opportunities because people want to work with other people that they know trust and like.
8. Before You Publish
Here are a few things that I consistently do before publishing a post:
- Add internal links: I don’t try to say everything in a single post. I take the time to add internal links of relevant content that I’ve written to the bottom of almost every post. This practice has greatly increased my page views and the amount of time readers stay on my site.
- Include Tags and Categories: Content management systems like WordPress use tags and categories to help readers find the information that they are looking for. I try to be selective in the tags and categories that I add to a post and not overuse them. Categories is the primary way that readers will navigate my content so I have a drop-down category list in my sidebar at the top of the fold.
- Disperse Content: To give a new post a jump-start, I will either automatically or manually post it to my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +, Pinterest and StumbleUpon accounts. I will also use HootsuitePro to re-post it several times a day for the first week in Twitter. This practice also helps boost a new post’s ranking in search.