So, you’ve written some strategic blog content. Now what? It’s important you do more than just run a spell check before you post. Honing the content until it is sharp, reader friendly and search engine optimized will make the difference between a blog that wastes time and a blog that performs.
Here are questions you should ask yourself before you hit the publish button.
Is your headline effective?
The five to seven words you write at the top of your blog posts are way more important than the 800 words or so that follow. The headline is the first — and when it is not effective, the only — words readers see. If those few words do not hook them in an instant, they won’t read your content any further.
There is no one way to write an effective headline that will appeal to every reader. Tastes differ. But there are things to always keep in mind:
- Know your audience. The idea is to communicate quickly, clearly and directly to your target reader. That starts with knowing who they are, and what interests them.
- Keep it short. Research shows that typical readers scanning a page or screen only read the first and last three words of a headline. That makes six words the sweet spot.
- Grab attention. The headline is a lure in the media stream. Make it shiny. Wit and puns are welcome, as they are inviting to readers. Clever is good, but not always enough. Be strategic, too. There are no real rules but these: Try not to be dull or dumb.
- Watch your keywords. You’ve carefully weaved keyword phrases into your copy. That helps search engines and customers find you. Is there an opportunity to use an SEO term or short keyword phrase in a headline? Try it. But don’t force it. If it doesn’t read naturally, leave it out. It’s important to write conversationally, not as if you are relying on search terms to build your sentences. Timely, topical and relevant content ranks higher today when it reads conversationally.
Is there an image?
Images attract the eye. Every blog post should have a photo or graphic at the top, one that can accompany the headline in the social media stream. You should keep that in mind when writing your headline, in fact. “Write to the picture,” is an old media practice that still applies today. And if your post is long, it’s a good idea to include more images, including graphics and other decorative elements, throughout.
Is there an alt-tag for the image?
Every photo, chart, or infographic you use in your blog post should include alt text. Think of alt text as photo captions for search engines. Readers don’t see them, but Google does. They’re scanned by search engines just like your text is, so you want to make sure they show up in search engine results pages (SERP).
How to include alt text on your images depends on the CMS you are using, but here are some best practices when writing alt text:
- Be specific, not general. Use proper nouns for people and places and describe the action in the image, exactly. For example: “Babe Ruth swings his bat at Yankee Stadium” is better than “A baseball player during a game.”
- Get to the point. Don’t start by writing “An image of …”. Just start describing. You want to use as few characters as possible. Screen readers begin cutting off alt-text at about 125 characters.
- Easy on the keywords. Google can tell when you are stuffing. If you have selected the right image to accompany your content, and used common sense to describe it succinctly, that will do as much for your SERPs as using keywords.
Have I fully checked the spelling and grammar?
Every word processing program has tools for checking your copy for typos. But spell checkers can’t help you with errors. You can’t trust them to save you from embarrassment when you mistakenly use then instead of than or advise instead of advice. So long as it is spelled correctly, spell checkers will let you use any word. Make sure you are using the right one. Run a second (and third) spell check yourself.
Have I used the right formatting?
Your content should be clean and easy to read. That will keep eyes on the page and help with search engine results.
The key to formatting a blog is to keep it simple and consistent:
- Break the copy into bite-sized sections, using subheads to guide the reader through your article.
- Use bold text for headlines and subheads.
- Double space between a subhead and the copy beneath.
- Use italics for tips, references, or author info at the bottom of the post.
- Use bullet points for lists. These do not need to be full sentences, or contain punctuation, such as periods. But be consistent. If one bulleted item has a period, for instance, then they all should.
- Use numerical lists for explaining steps, such as in a recipe.
Have I tagged and categorized?
Tags and categories make it easy for readers to navigate your blog. They also aid search engines in understanding the content on your site. Don’t forget to include them. They’re optional to include in WordPress posts, but you should do it anyway.
- Categories are broad. Your content will be organized in a sidebar under these category headings, making it easy for readers to explore more of your thought leadership on the topic. This post, for example, is categorized under blogging.
- Tags are specific to the content. Tags for this blog, for instance, might include: Headline writing, blog formatting and alt-text. They really drill down to the details, allowing readers to find exactly the information they are looking for.
Have I used the header tags correctly?
The header tags in your CMS are not for style reasons — they’re for search. Make sure you are using the correct headings for your content.
You don’t have to know code. Your CMS will give you format options in a drop-down menu, such as Header 1 (which looks like <H1> in code), and Header 2 (<H2>).
Search engine crawlers read these headers closely to understand your site and rank your information accordingly. When possible, use keyword phrases in your headers to aid with SEO.
Header tags range from one to six. The most important is your <H1>. That is the title of your post, the main headline. Every other headline (the section headers and subheads, etc.) in your content should be an <H2> or below, and they should follow in descending order. You wouldn’t follow an <H2> with an <H5>, for example.
Have I got a social sharing plan?
Finally, do you have a plan for sharing your blog post? It’s not enough to just post it on your on site and hope people find it. You’ll want to push it on social channels. There is a whole other conversation to have about effective content marketing and social media strategy, but let’s just get through this post first.
To get the most return on this piece of content, be strategic about how you frame your blog post and appeal to the audience at each channel.
They differ and so should your approach. Here’s a few tips on using the big three channels for organically promoting your business blog content.
- Twitter The character limit is a feature, not a bug. So keep it short, and keep it coming. Tweet once and then schedule additional tweets to go out over the course of the week. Write two versions of the promotional tweet, testing which works best.
- Facebook Make it personal. Facebook is the most intimate of channels, most likely to be where you’ll reach sympathetic friends and family. Don’t be afraid to ask for likes and shares.
- LinkedIn It’s not personal, it’s business. You’re likely to get more people engaging with your content if you post it within LinkedIn, rather than expecting users to follow a link to your blog and leave the site.
Need more advice? If you’re interested in refining your blog or your entire brand, Prime Concepts Group is here to help.