This post originally appeared on tBL member Joshua Lyon’s blog Joshua Lyons Marketing Blog and is republished with permission. Find out how to syndicate your content with theBrokerList.
*** Author’s Note: We originally published this blog post in February of 2016. A lot can change in five years, and to improve the quality of the post, we have expanded it and updated some outdated information. We hope you enjoy this updated version even more than the original! ***
Have you ever wondered what separates a generic blog post from an effective and truly great blog post? What are the most important factors to consider when writing content? What methods are most likely to drive traffic to your site? With so much conflicting information available at your fingertips, it’s no wonder there’s so much confusion surrounding the topic. Let’s clear things up a bit by taking a closer look at how to write a great blog post!
1. Write About a Topic of Personal Interest
The first step to writing a great blog post is to write about something you have a passion for. What lights you up? Are you a talented chef who would be excited to share cooking tips and pictures of your latest concoctions? Maybe you have a flair for fashion and get amped up gossiping about the latest celebrity trends. Perhaps you have access to a wealth of information regarding commercial real estate investing! Whatever it is that fuels your spirit, write about that. Staying connected to the topics that excite you will help you attract an audience who also understands the value of what you are offering. Your interest in the topic you are writing about will shine through, keeping your readers engaged and coming back for more! Many bloggers make the mistake of posting content out of a sense of necessity, but the numbers don’t lie. Check back through your blog posts and take stock of the posts that attracted the most visitors and saw the greatest engagement. You’ll likely find they were the ones you felt the most passionate about.
By the way, we are always thinking about what we should write about. And, we often read other blogs to expand our own digital marketing education. Sometimes, through our own reading, we are struck with inspiration for what we should write about. For example, the other day we read a blog post that mentioned disavowing backlinks. We realized we never wrote about that and a whole blog post on this topic was added to our editorial calendar. So, read about topics you’re interested in, and as you read, look for inspiration on what you should write about.
2. Understand the Importance of Word Count
This rule has a bit more wiggle room than number one, primarily because the ideal word count for blog posts [and pages] can vary a good bit from site to site. Depending on who you talk to, you might hear that posts as few as 300-500 words are ideal, while others will tell you it’s closer to 2,000 or more. From our vantage point, the latter rings a bit truer.
Why Are Longer Posts Better?
The reason for this is simple; search engines such as Google read your content. They do this in an effort to clearly understand what you’re writing about. This enables the search engines to more effectively rank your website in the search results. It makes sense, then, that the more information the search engine has access to, the more easily it will be for your post to have a better ranking in the search results (so your ideal audience can find it).
Is “Too Long” A Reasonable Concern?
Some reputable sources will say a blog post should be around 2,000-3,000 words. This will certainly help with Google rankings! But, there’s the concern a reader might not be interested in reading that many words. So, could it become bad to have such a long post?
To answer, let’s ask this question: Why would a reader stop reading your post? If they leave, will they do a Google search again and find a different post to answer their question? If they stopped reading your post because you didn’t answer their question, then you should have probably written more. Then again, if they stopped reading your post because you gave them all they needed to know, then congratulations! It’s best to thoroughly answer the website visitor’s question. And if you write more than they need to read, they will leave. But they shouldn’t think poorly of you for providing too much information, as long as your content is easy to read and they can quickly skim through it to find the highlights they’re most interested in.
How to Determine an Appropriate Length for You
One tool we like to use is SEMScoop. It isn’t free, but the pricing is reasonable. To use this tool, you simply need to enter a keyword into a search box. The software will then run some calculations and then tell you the average number of words for the pages showing up on the first page of Google. For example, if I search “digital marketing companies” in this tool, it tells me the first page results have an average of 2,193 words (this is an estimation). Alternatively, if I search “digital marketing companies in Pensacola” the average page only has 885 words.
If we want to show up nationally when someone searches for digital marketing companies, we should probably write 2,500+ words for a page or blog post that talks specifically about “digital marketing companies.” However, if we just want to rank well locally, then writing 1,000 words could be fine. But if we want to rank well locally and decide to write 2,500+ words, that would really take us above and beyond the local competition, in terms of content length.
Having said all that, if the blog post is long and difficult to read, then it’s a problem, and that’s a very reasonable concern. For that reason, it’s important to break up the blog post with headers, images, videos, etc. This keeps the content interesting and makes it easier for the reader to quickly find what they want to read about. And this leads us to our third tip…
Some reputable sources will say a blog post should be around 2,000-3,000 words. #BloggingTips #JLM Click To Tweet
3. Include Headers in Your Blog Posts
Headers serve two important purposes when it comes to writing successful content. The first reason has to do with your audience. Breaking up your article with headers makes it significantly easier for your reader to follow along. If you’ve ever tried to read a 2,000-word blog post, or even a 1,000-word post, without pictures or headers to break up the text, you probably didn’t finish reading it. Separating your content into smaller sections enables your reader to much more easily keep their place and also offers some insight as to what each paragraph is about. This makes it so they can peruse the article for the information they need, without having to carefully read every word.
Secondly, Google uses your headers to better understand your blog. Well-crafted headers can result in boosted rankings with Google, helping your content get more exposure through Google searches. And of course, this will ultimately drive more traffic to your website… and hopefully more leads and sales.
4. Have a Keyword Strategy
This is potentially the most important aspect of creating a great blog post. Keywords are the search words your target audience is typing into Google. The goal is to have your website show up when someone types in a keyword you wrote a blog post about. So, the first step here is to ask yourself, “What would my ideal audience be searching for that might let them stumble upon my article?” To give you an example, for this post that you’re reading now, we are focusing on the keyword “Great Blog Post.” We could choose to simply focus on the keyword “Blog Post,” but that would likely be too vague and leave us low in Google rankings for that very competitive keyword phrase. Once you’ve identified the best keyword focus for your blog post or article, you’ll want to make sure to take some additional steps!
What to Do With Your Keyword
- Title: Make sure to include your keyword focus in the title of your blog post.
- Headers: At least one of the headers in your article should include your keyword focus, as well.
- Copy: Your keyword focus should be strategically scattered throughout your content in a way that reads fluidly.
- Alt Tag for Image: On the backend of your website, you should have the ability to add some “alt text” (alternative text) to any image you intend to use in your article. Including your keyword focus here will help Google better understand your content.
- Meta Title: If you were to do a Google search on almost anything, you would see 10 results show up on the first page of Google. Notice each result listed has a blue colored text representing the title. Below the blue text is some black text that describes the page’s content. This blue text is your meta title, which can also be set through the back end of your website. Including your keyword there is important.
- Meta Description: This is the black text we just described above. Your keyword should appear here as well (which can also be done through the backend of your site).
Are you enjoying this post? If so, be sure to subscribe for occasional email updates from our team!
How to Select Your Keywords
If you’re going to take the time to write a great blog post, which typically takes about 2-10 hours [mostly depending on length], then you want to do it right. This means, including the best possible keyword. We suggest doing some keyword research. You can either do it yourself or you can hire someone to do it for you. In case you’re curious, this is a service we provide. Once the keyword research is complete, you’ll have a list of various keywords that are often searched in your geographic market and in your industry. Then, once you know what your target audience is searching, you should include those keywords into your blog posts.
To take your blogging strategy to the next level, try doing your keyword research first. Figure out what people are looking for, and then write blog posts to answer their questions. Then, you can create blog posts completely around relevant keywords. This can be better than creating a blog post, then trying to figure out how to fit some keywords into the post.
Still not quite sure how to select keywords? That’s rather understandable. There’s a lot to it and we could write a whole blog post about this topic. In fact, we wrote three! For additional reading on how to do keyword research, check out the following:
5. Use Internal & External Links
The original version of the blog post was titled “Four Tips on How to Write a Good Blog Post.” In this updated version we are including a fifth important tip, and that’s the use of links. There are two types of links you can include. They are internal links and external links. Here’s how they work:
An internal link is when your blog post or page links to another post or page on the same website. For example, a few paragraphs ago, we shared three blog posts for you to read more about keywords and keyword research. Each title has a hyperlink. If you click those links, you’ll be taken to other blog posts on this website. Those are internal links. Being “internal links” means you won’t leave our website when you click them.
Internal links can be very helpful because they give more context to search engines. For example, we said previously that you want to use a good keyword to help search engines understand what your post is about. We also said you want a good length for your blog post. That’s all true. But, when you include links, search engines can see that. Google, for example, will not only read this blog post, but it will also look at the links we shared. It will look at the keywords in those links and it will even take a look at the blog posts or pages we are linking to. This gives Google an even better understanding of what this post is about.
As you continue to publish content on your own website and include internal links, you will end up weaving a maze of links all across your website. This will really help add value and context to your website, which will help with your Google rankings.
As you can probably guess, if internal links send people other pages on the same website, external links send people to pages on other websites. This is beneficial as well. Earlier in this post, we talked about a tool called SEMScoop. When we did that, we also provided a hyperlink going over to that website. That’s an example of an external link being used in this blog post.
Whenever you wish to publish a great blog post, try to include a link going to another website. But make sure it’s a credible website that is well established. Technically, if you link to a website that has a bad reputation with Google, that can hurt you. As long as you link to well established and reputable websites, you should be fine.
Having a basic understanding of internal and external links should be relatively easy. But, if you’re particularly intrigued by this concept and you’re also a perfectionist, then check out our recent post titled “How to Optimize Your Anchor Text for SEO“.
6. Have a Descriptive Title That is Optimized For Search Engines
Many bloggers try to be cute and clever with their blog titles. Think about newspapers, back in the day, trying to draw your interest with something witty. That’s not what we’re going for. If we want someone to read our content, they need to know what the content is about. There are quite literally billions of blog posts that exist. In fact, two million blog posts are published every single day. So, if someone is confused about what your blog post contains, they will move on to the next option. So, your blog’s topic should be clearly conveyed in the title. Not only does a descriptive title make it easier for the reader, but a good title will be clear enough that it talks about the keyword being focused on… or at least a semantically relevant keyword. This helps with SEO.
In addition to using a descriptive title, you should also do keyword research. This means using strategic words you can rank for more easily. For example, on an article explaining how to travel at a low-cost a title like “How to Save Money on Traveling in 2021” will likely get more traffic than “You Don’t Have to Pay $1,000 on Your Next Trip. Here’s Why.” This is because more people likely search the first title, which increases the chance of it being read. Keyword research is a fairly large topic, and we have an entire blog post dedicated to it. If you want to learn how to do keyword research, read our blog post titled “How to Do Keyword Research for SEO“.
There are quite literally billions of blog posts that exist. In fact, two million blog posts are published every single day. #Blogging #JLM Click To Tweet
7. Use Images Strategically
One of the most important elements of a blog post that people overlook is using images. There are countless blog posts that have no images in them. So, the blog post looks like a big chunk of text to readers. This makes it much more difficult for the reader to stay on the page and stay focused. Images help break up the text and make the blog post look more organized. Additionally, images are a signal of quality to search engines and can help your ranking greatly.
How Many Images to Use in a Great Blog Post
You may be wondering how many images you should use in a blog post. Many times, bloggers use just one image and think that’s enough. However, the number of images you should use depends on the length of your content. We recommend using one image for every 300 to 350 words. Our team finds that this helps improve search results, as well as makes the blog post look much better. But, you don’t want to have the images all placed next to each other. Rather, you should place them strategically in your blog post.
Match Images with the Text Next to Them
It’s best to choose images based on what’s in your content. You don’t want to choose random images for your blog post, even if they match your branding guidelines and are trendy. For example, we have an image of a woman choosing images to the left [assuming you’re on a desktop]. This clearly fits the content around it and makes the blog post look more professional.
Alt-text, or alternative text, is displayed to readers when an image is unavailable. This may be due to poor internet connection so the image doesn’t load properly. Or, it may be due to a disability, so the website visitor relies on a reading machine to consume content. Whichever it is, alt-text is very important to have. When your image matches your content, you can use the keywords you are trying to rank for naturally. For example, the alt-text of the image next to this paragraph is “Choosing Images for a Great Blog Post”.
You may run into SEO situations where your alt-text doesn’t naturally suit a keyword you wish to target. In the case, you should use alt-text that actually suits the image, rather than the keyword. Never skip alt-text though, as this goes against the ADA website compliance laws.
Use High-Quality Images
Another note about images is to make sure they are high-quality. If you have blurry, outdated images, it will make your whole blog post feel low-quality. Even if your writing is excellent. So you should use the best images you can find, but keep them at a DIP of 72, with a resolution that’s only as large as you need it to be. If you don’t have the option to edit the DPI, at least make sure the resolution is good. We typically have our blog post images at 600 pixels wide. The size of your images will impact how long it takes for an image or page to load. You don’t want images to make your whole webpage slow, so find a good pixel count that still looks good on your website. We recommend no higher than 700 pixels when possible, for images in the body of a blog post.
Use Images Legally
When it comes to using images, you have to make sure you use them legally. Most images on the internet are copyrighted, which means you can get in serious trouble if you are caught using them without permission. So, unless you take the image yourself, it’s best to use a good stock image website such as Shutterstock or Unsplash. When you purchase or download an image from a stock image website, you are given permission to use the image for your blogs. And, if you ever have to question if you are allowed to use an image, the answer is likely no.
Most images on the internet are copyrighted, which means you can get in serious trouble if you are caught using them without permission. #DigitalMarketingTips #JLM Click To Tweet
8. Include a Clear Call-to-Action
Another important factor to use for your blog post is to include a call-to-action. This may be in the form of a call-to-action button, or it may be in the form of hyperlinked text. No matter what you choose to use, it’s important to always ask your website visitors to take an action on your site.
A blog post is an attention grabber. It can help you get new website traffic that can turn visitors into paying customers. But, if you don’t direct your website visitors to take action, they will likely hop off your website and consume someone else’s content. The goal is to keep them on your website and guide them to take the next step down your sales funnel. So, direct them to visit your sales page, contact page, or even read another blog post.
For more information about call-to-actions and where to use them, read our blog post titled “How to Use a Call-to-Action.” Hopefully you caught what we did there… We just served you a call-to-action! Did it work?
Summary of How to Write a Great Blog Post
And do you see what we did there? We repeated our keyword (Great Blog Post) in the header, just like we talked about in tip number three! If there isn’t a good place to put the keyword in a header, you can often sneak it in the very beginning or the very end. This way you don’t make it look forced. Which is actually another factor Google takes into consideration when ranking your website.
Well, we took a blog post that was originally 1,072 words long in 2016 and updated it to 2,567 words in February of 2020. Now we’ve bumped it up to 3,706 words. In the process, we gave Google more to read, which should help with our own Google rankings. At the same time, we gave you a lot more insight into how to write a great blog post. And while there is more we could say, if you follow these tips, you will likely be a much better blogger than the vast majority of your competition.
In summary, write about something you love. Be strategic with the length of your blog post. Include headers. Place well-planned keywords in strategic places throughout your blog post and include relevant links that are both internal and external. Use a descriptive title that is optimized for search engines. Use images strategically. And lastly, include a clear call-to-action.
If you don’t have time to write a great blog post, to do keyword research, to figure out how to create hyperlinks, or anything else, let us know. We would be happy to revise your existing blog posts and pages for you. Or, if you want us to provide blog content on your behalf, as ghostwriters, we would be happy to do so. You can connect with us via the contact form below.