“We’re going to do a quick activity.” Those seven scary little words were said by my future co-worker in my first digital marketing internship interview. As you can imagine, I was terrified. Could I properly showcase my skills and critical thinking on the spot and impress them? Did I have enough knowledge to at least somewhat demonstrate that I knew something about digital marketing to deserve to work there? Before I knew it, I was drawing an advertisement for a product (which wasn’t pretty at all) and writing theoretical marketing plans.
Everyday brands make crucial mistakes with their blog posts. From old school ways to improper keyword research the list of reasons I won’t read your blog is endless.
To prevent this mistakes, first ask yourself the following questions before you sit down to write your blog post:
- What do you personally look for when searching online for blog posts?
- Why do you stay on the page?
- What details of the blog, appearance wise, attract you to a blog?
Once you answer these very important questions you just might be ready to start writing. But before you hit the keyboard, make sure you read my top 6 reasons for why I won’t be reading your blog.
One of my biggest pet peeves when reading a blog is that there are no images. Putting content out on the Internet is all about being visually appealing and engaging. It’s pretty much a no brainer that all ‘step-by-step’ type of blogs must include imagery. Infographics, sidebar images and Sildeshares also make great imagery additions to a blog. Just think, do you thoroughly enjoy reading a short story that doesn’t have pictures?
Take your blog visuals to the next level with an embedded video. Here’s a simple step-by-step of how insert videos into blog posts.
The headline is your blog’s first impression to its audience. A headline must be compelling enough to lure in readers. Need help creating a great headline? Check out this previous blog on engaging headlines written by one of our team members.
Bad Design & Layout
And now we’re back to the visuals. Can you see a trend? There’s nothing worse than reading a blog that just isnt’ ease on the eyes. Maybe it’s the background, maybe it’s the font, but sometimes a blog can just look plain ugly. When creating your blog page or updating a page, be sure you are choosing colors and fonts that are coordinating and user friendly. Make sure colors don’t clash and that the font is more practical than ‘cool looking’. If you have a designer on your team, I would suggest consulting with them on what looks best.
There’s a time and place for pop-ups on a blog and the first 2 seconds on the page is not the time. Strategically timing your pop-ups are essential. Think about the process of reading a blog and then base your plan around that. Just keep in mind pop-ups should engage, not annoy readers.
Nothing is more irritating than having to pull out your red pen and edit a live blog. Spelling and grammar errors can distract from the reader’s experience. It also decrease your credibility. I suggest having team members edit your work before you hit post.
Not Replying to Comments
You take the time to create and publish a blog post, but neglect to reply to someone’s comment… What’s up with that? The work doesn’t stop after the blog is up. Be sure your alerts are set to send to your email so you can reply to comments and questions in a timely manner.
What really grinds your gears when it comes to blog posts? Let me know in the comments below! (I promise I’ll reply.)
Please pardon the extreme irony of this blog post… a blog about how to write a great blog, when I think about it, is pretty funny. But, I have proven strategies and loads of insight that I want to share about blogs! So, here it goes:
First things first – know your audience
Demographic analysis, buyer personas … whatever you choose to call it, arguably the most important step is doing the research to understand your ideal customer profile. Chances are, there will be multiple and the beauty of it is, you can write blog posts tailored to each segment. For instance, for the sake of transparency, I’m writing this blog specifically for digital marketers who want to gain an edge when creating blogs either for their clients or the company which they are employed. The ultimate goal of any blog post is drive conversions and in order for there to be conversions, there needs to be eye balls reading the post (specifically eye balls coming from the head of a qualified lead!)
Know what your audience is searching for
I wrote a blog a few months ago that urged content creators to lean on their data rather than gut instinct and though I have waffled at times on that thought, I always refer back to the data before making ANY content decisions. The best way to get a pulse on your audience is to research to find what keywords their searching for. Tools I would suggest using are: Google Analytics, Google Trends, and Google Keyword Planner. If you want to take it a step further and conduct a more thorough analysis, use moz, semrush, or BrightLocal to have a full evaluation. Because time is always of the essence, I suggest using the first 3 options to expedite the research process before writing. When doing keyword research, always keep this formula in mind for selecting the right keywords:
Search Volume + Difficultly = Opportunity
Google Keyword Planner will be our go-to for this. Quick tip: make sure and enter short tail and long tail variations when researching! Now, the keyword planner will give you average monthly search volume and 12 month trends as well as difficultly level but the opportunity end of the equation is what you would use moz for. However, when you see search volume, CPC information, and difficultly level all laid out in front of you, it’s pretty easy to deduce whether you should target that phrase or not.
Bottom line, once you have your topics validated with search volume and you’ve selected a phrase with a couple variations that have the opportunity to get rankings for, start writing!
Where to place the keywords when writing
This next step is often times referred to as on-page keyword optimization. This is the section that the search engines like. Though, something important to keep in mind, only 20% of keyword ranking comes from on-page optimization. The other 80% is off-page optimization which, in short, is primarily based on influencer outreach and backlinking. (We’ll cover this topic more extensively in other blog posts in the coming months.) Here is a list of places where your keywords MUST be used when optimizing on-page content:
- Within the URL
- H1 Tag (typically the first part of the body section)
- SEO title
- Meta description
- Category tag(s)
- Post tags
- a href or link title tags
- Hyperlinks to internal and external pages with similar keyword content
- Inner page content used at least 3-5 times with long tail variations
- Image URL structure (aka, save your image files in a clean, non-caps format)
- Image title tag
- Image ALT text
An important piece to remember when strategically placing keywords throughout your blog is to make them appear natural and human. Yes – Google loves rich content with accurate keyword usage but if it sounds robotic, your audience might get turned off. An example of this would be if I made this blog post’s SEO title: Blog Writing in Indianapolis | How to Write Blogs – or some quirky variation of that.
Aside from keyword placement on your blog post, another piece to consider is worth length in general. It use to be “the more pages that Google indexes, the better” – which still carries a lot of weight – but the trend now is long blog posts with rich content. What does that mean in regards to word count? The answer isn’t that simple because honestly, it depends. Seth Godin, for example, has one of the most popular blogs on the internet and his word count ranges from 100 to over 1,000. As a rule of thumb, always try and aim for a minimum of 500. This post will be over 1,000, I’m sure, but that’s just because I’m passionate about blogging – if you can’t tell.
Blog flow and ending with a bang
The flow of a blog post has a high level of importance because if you don’t have your copy broken out with sub-headers, bullet points, and images, it’s going to look like a sea of letters that nobody will have an interest in reading. Aside from BuzzFeed’s edgy way of blogging with topical humor and nostalgia, how do you think they originally went viral? Here’s a hint; it wasn’t because they wrote in a traditional manner with paragraphs, grammar, and punctuation! They pushed the envelope and wrote out lists… lists with digestible information that were funny and interesting.
Now, I’m not saying every blog should be like BuzzFeed. Though they have mastered the art of going viral, they are, as the aforementioned Seth Godin put it in a Ted Talk from years ago, the Purple Cow of the internet. They created something remarkable that gets viewed by millions of people everyday. Not many companies can say that about their blog let alone their website.
So from top down, really zero in on your blog before publishing. Since you are the author, you of course will be biased and think it’s the greatest piece of literature since Shakespeare. But before you start comparing your blog to Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet, make sure it’s something that flows nicely and is approachable, readable and, most importantly, interesting and entertaining.
That “ending with a bang” I was talking about
Every blog post serves a purpose and as previously mentioned, the purpose of this post is to empower you with blogging knowledge. I’m not the only one who knows how to blog at StrataBlue! In fact, it’s something that we’re known for as an agency. If you’d like to look into options for us taking blogging off your to-do list, simply give my man Tyler Moore a call at 317-207-0195. Or, click the button below to fill out a brief online form. Thanks for tuning in and happy blogging!
The world is at your fingertips when operating your website on the WordPress platform. Figuring out what plugins you will need for your new website or updated website can be tricky.
If you blog or do display ads for your company or client, you’ll often need to repurpose images. Resizing, cropping and blurring out sensitive data are all part of the game. You could rely on a website or Windows Paint to do the job, but these tools are slow and have limitations. Instead, try an easy-to-use free application called GIMP. No, not the scary Pulp Fiction character. GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It’s like Photoshop, but not quite as advanced — but GIMP being free instead of hundreds of dollars is a big draw.
It works the same on Windows, Mac or Linux, so try installing it on one of those platforms and fire it up. Open up an image you’d like to manipulate.
Here are a few of the main tasks you’ll want to do as a blogger or social media advertiser.
Cropping for Ads
This is one of the most useful features in this application. Most advertising, especially social media advertising, has to be an exact size. So you want an image in your ad — here’s the best way to get it in exactly the dimensions you want.
In the Toolbox window, click the selection box tool in the upper left. Select Fixed: Aspect Ratio. In the box below that, enter in the dimensions of the ad with a colon in the middle. For example, Facebook website link ads are 1200 x 628, so put in 1200×628. Go back to the image, and drag a box around the center of it. Notice that the box has fixed dimensions.
When you’ve got the box on the best part of the image, click Image, then Crop To Selection. Then, resize the image to 1200×628 using the instructions below. Viola! A perfect ad image.
Resizing or Scaling
You’ll often need to resize an image to fit your blog dimensions or ad dimensions. That’s one thing that GIMP does very well.
Click Scale Image
Enter in the desired width and height. The chainlink icon means that aspect ratio will be preserved when you resize, which is important to avoid distorted images.
Cut the resolution down to 72-150 pixels per inch, because that’s more than enough for Web display purposes.
Click Scale, and the image is exactly how you want it.
Changing Image Format
Sometimes you’ll grab a creative commons image from Wikipedia, and it’s in an odd format like SVG or something. No sweat. Open the image in GIMP, then click File, then Export. Simply change the image’s file extension to JPG or PNG or whatever you want, click Export, and GIMP will automatically convert it for you.
Blurring Sensitive Information
Sometimes you’d like to post something that happens to have account info on it, but the rest of the graphic is useful. It’s easy to blur out sensitive information in GIMP. Open the image, then click the Selection square tool in the upper left of the Toolbox window. Put a selection square around the info you’d like blurred out.
Under Filters, click Blur, then Pixelize. The default selection will likely be enough. Repeat for any other sensitive bits on that image.
Screenshots look better with a black border around them. Also, you can easily highlight important information with a red square around it. Here’s how to do both.
Choose a color. The default is black, so when doing a border around the whole image, skip this step. Otherwise, click the black square beneath the tools in the Toolbox window, then select a new color. (Pure red is in the upper right.) Click OK.
Make sure the selection box tool is selected, then drag a box around the area you’d like to highlight. (Control-A to select the whole image for a black border.)
Click Edit, then Stroke Selection…
The default is usually OK here, or you can make the width bigger. Click Stroke, and the desired border will appear.
A Note about Creative Commons
When using images in a blog or advertisement, it’s best to check on the copyright. Google Image search will let you find creative commons images that can be used in ads, or use a public domain image website like moreguefile.com. Taking an image from anywhere on the Web without checking first is bad policy, and can likely get you in trouble with the copyright holder. Check first!
Bring Out the GIMP
GIMP is pretty powerful and does almost as much as Photoshop for 0% of the cost. Experiment with it and find out how to get GIMP to work for your needs!
Captain Hook had his trusty first mate Smee as a go-to for all advice in Neverland. As an agency in the content marketing space, when we are in need of a sidekick, we reach out to SMEs — or subject matter experts. When producing and managing content for a client, it’s important for us to identify and reach out to SMEs in that field or industry, especially when those experts come from within our clients’ companies. Here’s why this knowledge is important.
The Rising Tide
By leveraging the experts of your client’s company or within a highly specialized field, you gain expertise quickly yourself. Things like acronyms, terminology, corporate style, words and phrases to stay away from, and so on, are all important things to learn when getting up to speed with a new client. As you begin to speak the same language, you’re able to effectively manage content seamlessly.
Sometimes the SME will have insight that you might not get through your usual contacts or through your own research. By getting to know your SME, you get to know the inner workings of the organization, and this helps you to create and manage content better. For example, a client may want to freely talk about the competition, or they might want you to avoid mentioning them – or even following them on social media – altogether.
By networking with relevant SMEs, you’re also able to route questions, feedback and crises to the appropriate person at the company. Let’s face it, there are sometimes questions you can’t answer, and it’s important to find the person that can. That way, when speaking through the company voice on Facebook or other social media platforms, you’re collecting the knowledge of everyone at the company.
The Buck Stops Here
Depending on how comfortable the client is with this, sometimes it’s even okay to talk to the CEO or other high-ranking managers that also serve as SMEs. Ask him or her about corporate culture, the history of the company and his or her expectations. After that, when creating company content you truly have insight into where the client came from and where they’re going. And getting on the CEO’s good side is key for continuing to work with that client, right?
Above all, ask questions. If you want to gain insight and expertise into the company, company culture, what the company makes or does – whatever helps you do your job better – ask the SMEs. Get on the phone, send an e-mail or use a collaborative project management tool like Basecamp. The more you and the client are on the same page, the more fruitful and long-lasting that relationship will be.
To find out how we can work with the experts at your company to craft compelling content, contact StrataBlue today.
The practice of blogging has been around for awhile, but it’s still a crucial part of crafting a digital presence. So if you’re leery about starting a blog for your business; reconsider. Blogging can ultimately help engage with your potential customers and solve their problems. Below, I’ve listed a few reasons why your business should be blogging.
Before we get to the good stuff, let’s first review what a blog is. Blogging is a regular update to a website or web page. A blog is written in an informal or conversational style. Typically blogs are also arranged in chronological order; with the most recent post as the first one to be displayed. Blogs can also be written by one author, multiple authors or even anonymously written.
So why does your company page need a blog?
Sometimes it’s good to toot your own horn. A blog on your web page allows your business to show off its knowledge and it also makes it easier to help generate leads by showing that you know what you are talking about. Well written content demonstrates leadership in your industry. By writing about topics that resonate with your audience it shows your expertise, which will in turn build trust.
What are constant questions your customers ask you? These are great topics to blog about!
Beef Up Your SEO
If there is anything you take away from this post, remember search engines LOVE new content. In fact, it’s key to beating out competition for the same keywords. If you’re frequently publishing SEO friendly content on your website, you’ll be sure to rank higher than websites with static content.
If you want to take your blog to the next level, I recommend installing the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin or another appropriate SEO plugin that helps optimize your blog.
As a reminder, you don’t need to be an SEO whiz to create a successful blog for your business. Just always remember to use keywords for each post and categorize content into relevant topics. Keywords and topics are essential for Google and other search engines to find sought-after content.
Content Influences Social
Blogging creates a basis for your social media presence. By linking your posts and tweets back to a blog, this ultimately increases traffic to your website. More often than not, people tend to be more willing to click on a blog post through social media than just a post that links to your about section. This also opens the door to reach people via social media who want to learn more about your business through your blog and other various pages on your site. (Hello FREE advertising!)
Develop a Voice
Let your audience know what you’re all about. In today’s digital world, people are more likely to research a company on the Internet, rather than walking right in the front door and asking questions. A blog on your page can help create a place to talk about services and products you offer, comment on current news topics and even take a stance on current issues. On a blog, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine; people will appreciate that.
You’ve seen how blogging is essential to creating your presence on the Internet and beyond. So who’s going to write all the blog posts? You never know what hidden Hemingway may remain undiscovered in your company. If you aren’t ready to tackle this on your own, I recommend reaching out to a digital marketing firm that offers blogging services. These skilled experts will take this burden off your hands and help produce content that will get your name out there in the most optimal way.
Has blogging helped your business? What are some of the best blogging practices your company follows?
Social media is great for sharing thoughts and ideas, but don’t forget that just like any other type of published content, it’s important to cite materials used on social channels. Because social media is constantly evolving, sometimes it can get tricky when deciding where to give credit, or even know who to give credit to for that matter. I don’t know about you, but my high school AP English teacher never included social media when going over MLA and AP style. If you’re in doubt, here’s a simple guide for ways to attribute credit online.
Facebook and Twitter make it very easy for one to give credit for sharing the content of others. The tag option is great for not only the person sharing the content, but it also gives a signal to the author when their thoughts or ideas are being redistributed.
The Power of the Via
Never underestimate the power of using the “via.” Found an interesting article from @BuzzFeed? Give credit by writing a summary or your thoughts on the content and then add the powerful “via @Buzzfeed” at the end of your post. Not only will all your citation bases be covered, but using the “via” can open the door to replies, favorites, retweets, followers and other types of engagement on social media. You can use the “via” in almost any situation on social media. It’s appropriate when posting an article, reposting a photo or video and especially useful when sharing infographics. “Via” is my absolute go-to when creating content, because I know credit will always be given when I use it followed by tagging the author.
The Retweet, Share, Repost and Repin
When in doubt, the easiest way to give credit to another source is to just simply retweet or share the post from Twitter or Facebook. On Twitter if you would like to manually retweet their content, be sure to include RT before the original or add MT if you are modifying the content. Facebook makes sharing a post very easy–just click “share”. You also have the ability to add your own thoughts to the post with the share option. On Pinterest, a simple repin with an added caption that includes where you found the content is an easy way to give credit. Lastly, on Instagram, the best way to give credit is to either include #repost followed by the owner’s username or to use a repost app like this one here, which automatically gives credit to the author.
Borrowing in Blogs
I handle attribution in blog posts sort of like I would in a term paper. Treat your blog post as you would when citing information from a book in a paper. You aren’t normally limited to characters, so this allows you to be creative with the way you give credit to the original. I highly recommend including hyperlinks to the original post. It’s simple and who doesn’t love clicking a hyperlink? If your blog content includes reviewing someone’s article, it’s ideal to include space in the blog post for a short bio of the author with a link to their website.
Everyone who writes WordPress copy has a vague idea that it should be optimized for search engines to increase search engine rankings. We know the content has to be keyword rich, that it has to use best blog practices, and it has to look legitimate in Google’s eyes to be ranked well. But we don’t know how to achieve those ends innately while we’re writing. Enter the free WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast. Most people just call it Yoast, even though that’s technically the name of the company, founded by SEO wizard Joost de Valk. Yoast guides you in crafting content that is well written as well as being SEO friendly. It’s a tool that no WordPress copywriter can live without. We’ll assume you have administrator rights and know how to install WordPress plugins. Let’s dive right in. You’ve crafted what you think is the perfect blog post. Good. Now, save a draft and scroll down a bit to the contents of the Yoast plugin on the compose screen. There are a lot of technical terms at work here, so I’ll break it down.
Entering Yoast Fields
Enter a focus keyword. This is the keyword that represents what the blog is all about. The main topic of the post, boiled down to one word or phrase. Enter an SEO title. You may want to choose a totally different title than the title of the blog itself, for this reason: your blog post titles may have a certain format or style that is consistent, but may not necessarily be good for SEO. It’s OK to have a blog title and an SEO title that don’t match. Make the SEO title one that is short, compelling and drives home the point of your blog. Enter a Meta Description. In 156 characters, describe the blog post in a summary. Make this somewhat keyword-rich too. This summary will appear below your SEO title in search results.
The Yoast Verdict
Next, click over to the Page Analysis tab. This will tell you how well you’re doing at the moment for SEO. It uses a standard stoplight system: a red light indicates things that must be fixed. Yellow lights are borderline, and green means go! Among the items you’ll see in this analysis:
- Whether your focus keyword appears toward the beginning of the blog post
- How well your blog ranks in the Flesh Reading Ease test
- Whether your keyword appears in the URL
- Whether your keyword appears in subheadings (h1, h2, and so on). It will also ding you if you don’t have subheadings at all.
- Whether your images’ alt tags have the keyword. I covered optimizing your image code in my post about WordPress coding.
- Whether you have outbound links. Having one or more links that go away from the blog is something Google likes immensely.
- How many times your keyword appears, called keyword density. You want it to be frequent, but not too frequent. Around 2% is great.
- The page title is between 40 and 70 characters.
- The meta description is well written and contains the keyword.
- The blog itself has more than 300 words.
- Whether you’ve used this keyword in previous blog posts.
You don’t have to turn every light green, but having few to no red or yellow lights means you’ll get a green light for an overall score, and that means your post is optimized well. After you use the Yoast tool enough times, you’ll discover that you’re writing optimized content naturally. It becomes second nature, and you get that coveted green light the first time you save your draft. Still, it doesn’t hurt to check the analysis each time anyway — there are a lot of criteria, and there’s always something you can do to make your blog read better. The goal is to find that balancing act between readable content that your fans love, and enriched content that Google loves. At StrataBlue, we use the Yoast plugin religiously. Find out how we can write, develop and optimize WordPress content on your site by contacting us.