When it comes to publishing great content online, there are no hard and fast rules that need to be followed. Instead, you can find a variety of guides that offer suggestions for creating content that is optimized to achieve the best search engine positioning and retain the attention of your readers as much as possible.
There are a few key qualities of ‘ideal content’ that do, however, tend to be – as much as anything can be – written in stone when it comes to what you should or should not do to churn out appealing (to search engines and searchers) content. This article is specifically tailored toward blog content rather than online articles, white papers, reviews, or other information because blogs offer their author more latitude in terms of what, when, why, and how they can be written and published.
Some of the semi-immutable qualities of good (or great) blog posts follow commonly accepted ‘rules’ for characteristics such as:
- content length
- subject line
- call to action
- singular subject matter
When blogging first became popular on the internet, most blog posts were 200 to 500 words. Anything over 500 words was considered by experts and amateurs alike to be too wordy to hold the attention of site visitors and blog readers. Beyond that, there was no guidance provided on whether or not a ‘too short’ blog could equally detract from the appeal of your personal or professional blog content. There still remains scant definitive information but you can put together a reasonable facsimile of what is considered ‘ideal’ based on historical content performance statistics.
Over the years, the ‘desirable length’ of blog posts increased to 500 to 800 words, and then later to 1,000 words or more. Some content analysts and SEO experts have even recommended that the ideal blog length exceed 2,000 words.
Longer articles are typically well-researched with plenty of data to back them up. They serve as credible sources to journalists and bloggers that link back to the article as a source. Rather than a quick summary with one statistic, a long article takes the time to explain why and flesh out ideas. The credibility of the website that publishes the article mixed with the link juice given from other sites referencing it brings the post to the top of search engines.
Longer blog content does perform better in search results, especially now that search engines have become more intuitive in interpreting what the blog is about and whether or not it will be helpful to the searcher based on their input query. Despite search engine performance, however, long content does not necessarily fare well with your audience – mostly because they lose attention quickly.
Ultimately, your readers should be the ones to whom you are writing your content, not Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Dogpile, or some other search engine. Content that is popular among readers will eventually rise to the top based on clicks, referrals, sharing, and back links. This means that your content should be exactly how long it needs to be in order for you to get your point across and conclude your message effectively. If you do so in 200 words, that’s your ‘ideal’ length. If it takes you 20,000 words, perhaps you should write a book. Just kidding! Write for your audience and give them everything they need to know – in 200 or 2,000 (or 20,000) words.
According to many experts, the subject line is the single most important piece of your blog post. If you don’t attract attention with the subject line, you won’t draw in the readers needed to examine your useful and engaging content and then share it with others (thus adding to your popularity and appeal factor with search engines).
An important factor in creating subject lines is that they be accurate in describing what your visitors will find within the blog’s content itself. False and misleading titles simply to get clicks will quickly find themselves lost the internet shuffle, even if the content itself might have been otherwise useful or applicable (despite the improper title).
Call To Action
Should a blog simply be an informational piece of content or should it also pitch a service or product? This section ties in with the Salesmanship section below. Most blogging analysts recommend that you avoid peppering your blog with CTAs because that isn’t the purpose or point of your blog.
A blog is an informal and more personal way to educate and inform your audience. It gives you a platform upon which you can introduce your brand, business, or personality without the stuffy ‘rules’ required of more professional means of communication. You can develop a unique style and tone that appeals to your readers, and it helps you establish authority in your market, niche, or industry.
For those reasons (and more), you should avoid CTAs in your blog unless they are necessary or if you are using them in a way that does not employ salesmanship (other than in a very subtle way). If the blog is a longer write-up or review of a product or service you offer, feel free to add a CTA encouraging readers to learn more on the product’s page. Don’t, however, make your blog post look like a carnival of advertising just to try to get people to click income-producing links on your website.
Salesmanship should be left out of blog posts. Blogs are primarily to educate and inform your audience, and they won’t be educated if your blog consists of sales language and links to buy, buy, buy whatever it is you are selling. Use your blog platform to establish yourself as an authority in your industry so people will want to buy from you.
Provide in-depth information about products or services, as well as tips or tricks for making them more effective or efficient, and entice consumers to seek you out for information and offerings. Provide a face, voice, and style in your content that appeals to your audience and encourages them to spend more time with your blogs learning more about you and your company. Don’t sell to them. Online consumers are already bombarded with advertising no matter where they go on the internet – so leave it out of your blogs.
Original content is appealing content, simply because of the fact that no one has seen it yet. The more original your content, the more appealing it will be to your target audience. Provide them with new insights on a topic, new ways to do things, more efficient ways to think about problems or solutions to those problems. Give them something they haven’t seen yet, and they will come back again and again to see more of your content.
If you are rehashing an old idea or modifying content that has already made the internet rounds, make sure you present it in a fresh and interesting way. Don’t simply copy and paste other content and hope that it will impress your site visitors. Even if you are offering a curated list of information, make sure you add your own style and unique voice to your writing. There are many blogs online today that draw a crowd simply because the writer is appealing – not the content itself.
Singular Subject Matter
Practically all experts on blogging recommend that your blog posts focus on one specific subject (per post), rather than bouncing around from topic to topic within the content. By writing about one topic at a time, you will be better able to provide rich and informative content to your readers that keeps their attention, keeps them reading, and brings them back to your blog in the future.
If you are struggling to come up with a subject for your content, check out a Blog Title Generator by IMPACT Branding & Design. The top of the generator page has a ‘blog about’ line that can be refreshed to provide you with a subject for your content, then you can use the title generator to find simple and focused titles for your blog posts. (ShoutMeLoud also offers a list of title generators and blog analyzers that you may find helpful, as well.)
When you provide blog content that does get a lot of attention and finds itself passed around quite a bit, capitalize on that and create more content around that subject. If you have a specific audience for your blogs, spend some time finding out what they want from you – and give it to them. One of the best ways to attract and keep your audience is to know who they are.