Online Marketing Lesson 19: Blog Content Strategy

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It all starts with the content. Why? Because in order to make money with a blog you need to have traffic and quality content is the best traffic generator. Ask 100 bloggers what factors contributed to their success, and I am sure that pretty much all of them will mention the content.

In this lesson, we are going to define what is quality content and list some strategies that you can use to improve the content on your blog.

1. Valuable, Unique and Engaging

Quality content must be valuable, unique and engaging.

It must be valuable because people need a reason to visit your blog. This value will have different forms, depending on the type of blog that you have.

Readers of a tech news blog, for example, will get value if the posts keep them informed and up to date with the latest tech developments. Readers of a humor blog, on the other hand, will get value if the posts entertain them and make them laugh. The important thing is to make sure that your readers will get something in return for the attention they will lend to you.

Quality content must also be unique, else people won’t need to visit your blog to read it. If you start a news blog and simply write about all the stories that appear on the New York Times, for example, you will have a hard time finding readers, because most people will prefer to visit the original source.

Finally, quality content must be engaging. Blogs became immensely popular on the Internet because they transformed monologues into conversations. If you want a popular blog, you need to build a community around it. Practically speaking, this means that you should write with a personal touch, share your opinions where appropriate, ask direct questions to your readers, use their comments as base for your posts and so on.

2. Killer Articles

A killer article is nothing more than a post that packs a huge amount of value for potential visitors. Once you publish a killer article, you want people who will come across it to have the following reaction:

Wow! This is awesome. I ‘d better bookmark this article. Heck, I’d better even Tweet and blog about it to let my friends and readers know about it too.

Killer articles are usually long and structured posts, but that is not necessarily the case. Suppose you have a personal finance blog and you discover a trick that will help people save a lot of money on their phone bills. Writing about this trick, even if with a few words, would be a killer article because it would be incredibly valuable for potential visitors.

Killer articles should be the cornerstone of your content development strategy. Why? Because they generate traffic, attract backlinks and establish your authority inside your niche. Here are some types of killer articles that you can use in your blog:

  • Lists (Example: 43 Web Design Mistakes You Should Avoid)
  • Resources (Example: 35 Incredible Free Icon Sets)
  • In-depth analysis (Example: A Guide to Semantic Technologies)
  • How-to articles (Example: How to Copy a DVD With VLC 1.0)
  • Elaborated interviews (Example: Five Link Development Experts: A Group Interview)
  • Breaking news (Example: Amazon Buys Zappos)
  • Rankings (Example: NxE’s 50 Most Influential Bloggers)

Most killer articles will take a lot of time and effort, but the results are worth it. In other words, don’t be afraid to put hours of work into brainstorming, researching, writing and formatting your killer articles.

Finally, aim to publish your killer articles with a regular frequency. One killer article per week is ideal. If you don’t have enough time for that, aim for one every two weeks or one every month at least.

Notice that killer articles are similar to link baits, and we explore this concept in a future lesson.

3. Normal Posts

While killer articles are paramount to attracting new visitors and establishing the authority of your blog (in the eyes of both people and search engines), normal posts are the ones that will build a community around the blog because they allow you to talk directly with the readers and to engage them.

Moreover, normal posts will make the content flow more smoothly in your blog. Publishing killer articles every day would consume a huge amount of time, and even if you could do that you would probably be overloading your readers with more information that they could absorb. Here are some types of normal posts that you can use in your blog:

  • Quick tips (Example: The Power of Analogy)
  • Questions to the readers (Example: What Are Your Top 3 Life Goals?)
  • Opinion pieces (Example: Malcolm is Wrong)
  • Polls (Example: How Long Have You Been Blogging?)
  • Quick links (Example: 8 Tips for Aspiring Entrepreneurs)
  • Events (Example: Win Tickets to Social Media Success Summit 2009)
  • Blog updates (Example: New Design and New Features on Shomeoney.com)

4. Headlines

Most copywriters defend that you need to spend as much time working on the headline as you do on the rest of the copy. This principle applies to blogs too, where you need to make sure that your post titles are as good as they can be. Why is the headline so important? Because it is the first thing a person sees, and unless you craft it smartly, it will also be the last one.

The headline, in fact, will affect both the people who are about to visit your blog and the ones who are already visiting it. Suppose that one of your posts was submitted to Digg.com, a social bookmarking site. If it has a poor title, people will not click on the link to visit your blog (let alone vote on it). Similarly, even if someone is already inside your blog, he might decide to leave if the titles of your posts don’t grab his attention and encourage him to read the rest of those articles.

A good headline has two main factors. First of all, its wording is aligned with the mindset of target visitors. This is important because it will communicate to web users that your content matches exactly what they are looking for.

If you want to discover how your target visitors word their needs and wants, use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. It is a free service, and once you input a certain keyword, it will create a list with 150 related terms, including their respective search volume in the Google search engine. Suppose that you just wrote a killer article with 20 tips to clean a house efficiently. Your first idea for a title is “20 Tips to Clean Your House.” Upon using the AdWords Keyword Tool, however, you would discover that “tips to clean house” is a term searched only 28 times per month. A much more popular term is “house cleaning tips,” searched 4,400 times per month. So you would probably get better results with the title “20 House Cleaning Tips.”

The second factor that makes a good headline is an emotional hook. The headline should be crafted in a way that will trigger a certain emotion in the reader, encouraging him to click on the link (in the case of someone outside your blog) or proceed to read the rest of the article (in the case of someone already inside your blog). Here are some examples of headlines that work:

  • 24 Car Chases That Will Give You Skid Marks
  • Do You Make These 7 Mistakes When You Write?
  • How To: Backup And Search All Your Friends’ Tweets In Google Reader
  • 5 Incredibly Impractical Sexual Fetishes
  • What Does the NFL Have in Common With Iran’s Clerics?
  • Quick Way to Make Real 3D Image Flipping Effect
  • 75 (Really) Useful JavaScript Techniques
  • Do You Know the Japanese Food Secrets for Beautiful Skin?
  • Top 10 Most Ridiculous Band Names in Rock
  • Warning: People are Ignoring Advertising. But They do Read News
  • 17 Images You Won’t Believe Aren’t Photoshopped
  • What You Should Know About Home Equity Lines of Credit
  • The 9 Most Badass Bible Verses
  • 39 Creative Flash Designs

5. Content Ideas

Sooner or later most bloggers struggle to come up with ideas for new posts. The first step to combat this problem is to develop the habit of writing your ideas down. Whenever you come across something that could lead to a blog post, write it down. Use pen and paper, a whiteboard, or even a text processor in your computer. Just make sure to have a place where you can store and organize your ideas.

Another tactic that you could use is to leave many post drafts ready to go. Once you are sure that one of your ideas could indeed be a good post, go to your blogging software and write the draft for that post. Include the headline as well as the main points. Then whenever you feel like writing on that topic, open the draft and finish it. If despite using the methods above you are still lacking ideas for new posts, here are some tricks that you can use.

The first one is the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Simply go there and input some keywords related to your niche. If you have a video game blog, for instance, run the tool for keywords like “video games”, “playstation”, “xbox” and the like. After that, you will just need to check the long tail of results to identify topics that you could write about. You can also use social bookmarking sites to find what is hot around the web and get ideas for new posts. Here is list of some popular ones that you can use:

Finally, take a look at external places and try to identify ideas that could be adapted inside your own niche. This includes mainstream websites, blogs on other niches, newspapers, print magazines, books television programs and the like.

6. Posting Frequency

When people start blogging, they often wonder if there is an ideal posting frequency. The answer is “no.” There are popular blogs out there where the author only posts once a week while others get updated several times per day.

If you need to choose between quality and quantity, therefore, go with quality. In other words, only publish a post if you believe that it will add value to your blog and audience. A bad post is worse than no post at all because it might damage the image of your blog and make you lose readers.

That being said, if you want to make significant money with your blog, you will need to have both quality and quantity. It is no coincidence that most blogs on the Technorati Top 100 list publish new content every day.

If you can’t publish daily posts, at least make sure that you have a regular schedule. For example, post two times per week and stick with it. It would also be a good idea if you could post on the same days every week, and even at the same hour of the day. This regularity would give your readers the confidence that they will always find some fresh content on your blog.

Action Points

  1. Make sure that your content will be valuable, unique and engaging.
  2. Try to publish at least one killer article per week. If you can keep that pace, aim for one every two weeks or one every month at least.
  3. Explore other types of posts as well, as they can foster a community around your blog.
  4. Remember to craft your headlines carefully.

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