No, I don’t mean how to optimize blog content better. Here’s how to write it better. Because often that’s the same thing.
Since you’re visiting the site of a marketing copywriter, and my services include Search Engine Optimization, maybe you know something about SEO yourself. If so, you know that it’s changed a lot over the past 5-10 years.
For the more casual observer, I’ll just note that keeping up with currently effective SEO techniques has become a real challenge. They’re much more complex than a decade ago. And then, just when you’re all up-to-date, Google and the others do another abrupt left turn, making much of your studying and implementation for nothing.
If you’re on WordPress, you can keep up-to-date automatically by adding an SEO plugin such as Yoast. You might also review my updated SEO Copywriter Checklist, which includes tips for optimizing blog content. (Including links to SEO authorities, such as SearchEngineLand.com.)
But you know what also works with search engines, and usually works a good deal longer?
That figures. After all, the fundamental purpose of a search engine is to find information. It’s not to find the “best optimized website.” It’s not to sell stuff. Ultimately, search engine spiders are trolling for good, effective writing — information that answers the questions posed by their users. Those users just happen to include your prospective customers.
That’s who you should optimize blog content for.
This understanding is especially important in blogging … even more than on the pages of your general website. Consider: Your site pages are relatively static, and you’ve probably invested a lot of time in creating and optimizing them … their content, their organization, their salesmanship. And yes, their SEO.
Your blog posts probably doesn’t get nearly as much time. They might merit it, but if you blog daily, or weekly, you just haven’t time to research and go though all the steps that SEO desires.
And, yet, however you approach it, blogging is worth your while …
Why blogging is important
Google and other search engines now favor academic content and other “authoritative” information, as opposed to sales pages. Blogging is your opportunity to confirm the “authority” that your sales pages promise.
A typical enterprise can be described in relatively few pages, which makes competing sites functionally similar. Thoughtful blogging sets you apart.
Most commercial sites want to stimulate action. Content can be added in the form of white papers, tier-2 content, etc., but these may distract, not funnel. A blog helps you focus on whatever you want to push today.
To summarize, blogging addresses these issues by confirming authority, providing fresh content, motivating, and focusing on important keywords.
It’s also important to optimize blog content.
Without the benefit of search-engine traffic, you’re just blogging to your existing visitor base. That’s nice for customer relations, but doesn’t grow your traffic and compensate for attrition over time.
And, writing well is important, too.
So, here’s what to do:
Do your basic SEO research and make note of your findings.
Know how to access the various code-based values in your blog-editing interface. For example, where do you write your Description meta tag values, the <title> tag, etc. It may help to have your browser show you the source code of a blog post to see what the bogging software automatically inserts for you.
Define your objectives. Are you blogging to establish the overall authority of your domain, or are you blogging to sell a particular event or service? It can make a difference in deciding the optimal length of your posts. (See below.)
Then, put those in the back of your mind. Keep your subject matter front of mind. In the course of writing about what you know, and what your readers want to find, the two will tend to sort themselves out.
So, as you implement your blog SEO practices, they should also address your writing.
Write something worth saying.
The rule of thumb is that to establish authority, write 800 words or longer. Even a couple thousand words if there’s really that much to say.
To get comments, post 500-600 words. If you write much more than that, you may have covered the entire subject. What’s to comment or ask about?
To stimulate immediate action, 300 words may be optimal, but Google will probably ignore a page so thin.
Your blog may mix these goals, long and short. But as you write, keep the goal of each post in mind.
How to write well, nowadays.
Whether long or short, you should edit, edit, edit. That’s become more important these days. Back when a blog was called a “weblog,” it was a sort of diary, a log of events or observations. It could be more personal, informal, even imperfect.
Today, though, some blogs are actually long-form articles, and visitors expect your tone to be as professional as the rest of your business. You also have more competition for their attention, so your writing should be as succinct and easy to read as it is worth reading.
Prepare an editorial calendar.
Have a list of titles you plan to write. Depending on the frequency of your posts, it should span the next 2-4 months. Long enough out to show how you will cover your important marketing points before repeating the sequence. Having done your SEO homework at the outset, you can assure that each post will include at least one good long-tail keyword to use multiple ways.
Write in the “inverted pyramid” style.
You know, like newspapers do. Put critical information “above the fold” and then write so the reader can leave off at any point without missing your key points. That doesn’t mean the bottom half of your blog should be drivel. Just don’t “bury the lead.” Nor should you bury your key point or finding, or your Call To Action. If necessary, start off with a brief summary of the presentation.
Follow good typographic principles.
Concerned that nobody reads long copy anymore? Well, spiders do, but you’re right. People sometimes don’t, unless it’s super-relevant to them.
But if you have your key points up top, they don’t need to. And if you use good typography and layout, you’ll induce reading further. Use subheads and eyebrows (a true subhead is below the headline, and eyebrow is above it), crossheads (what many people now call subheads), images, captions, pull quotes, a bold lead-in, narrower columns, increased leading (linespacing), an initial cap … most of the “tricks” that work in traditional print media also work online.
Look to your writing to find your SEO content.
Your <H1> and <title> should always reflect the same content and that of your post, and be of interest both to robots and humans. So, if you’ve written content of interest to humans, it should be easy to pull out phrases and passages to use as meta tags, <h1> and other headings, image names and titles (and image choices), internal links, crosslinks, etc. Descriptions and snippets will be more motivating and unique to that post.
Above all, speak to the interests and needs of your target reader(s). Most likely, if your writing is worth posting at all, you will already do most of the above “automatically.”
Then, if you’re not much of a writer, ask an editor to finish it up and make your post optimally optimized. That way, you’ll optimize blog content, and never need fear getting started.
What do you think? Do you have a question? Have I missed a key point? How can I follow up? Let me know, below:
Randall (Randy) Rensch is a senior-level advertising copywriter who worked on-staff for several advertising agencies prior to becoming a full-time freelancer. Nowadays, freelance copywriters abound, but back when Randy turned to freelancing, he had to explain to many prospective clients that he was not between jobs, that he had really hung his shingle as an independent copywriter. Over the years, he has expanded the range of his experience to match the times, particularly in business-to-business marketplaces.
He brings his imagination, analysis and results-oriented viewpoint to a wide variety of products and services. Based in New York City, he serves ad agencies, web developers and companies primarily in North America and Europe.
Randy has maintained a balance between b-to-b and the consumer advertising where his career began. As important as specialization is to successful freelancing (he's heaviest in financial, technical, retail, online, collateral, direct and radio), the synergy resulting from a broad mix is very helpful to him and his clients.
Randy's work on the "15-Minute Breakfast" campaign for International House of Pancakes won the American Marketing Association's Effie Award, given for effectiveness. Randy doesn't pursue awards, but has also earned other acknowledgements, and has been quoted in various books and publications on copywriting and the business of freelancing, including Complete Guide to Creating Successful Brochures (Gedney) and Marketing Essentials (Bickers).
Randy has written for written for agencies and directly for marketers including IBM, Sony, T. Rowe Price, United Technologies, Citibank, International House of Pancakes, E.G. Smith, Legg Mason, Wunderman, SiteSell, and hundreds of smaller companies and ad agencies — even very small marketers, helping them become as big as they want to be.
With this eclectic background, Randy continues to apply his skills to many kinds of business and consumer products and services, but he specializes in business-to-business, consumer and business financial, technological products and services, and retail (including online stores). He has also had some experience with medical products and services.
Randy began his career as a staff copywriter at a radio station in the New York City market (a position he also held for awhile in local television.) Lately, in association with Edge Studio, a commercial recording studio and training facility, he has added narration and non-marketing articles to his repertoire.
For samples and insights into Randy's work and the nature of advertising, visit www.rensch.com.