When blogging platforms first launched, they became a popular way for people to journal about the details of their lives to an anonymous audience.
We all know how quickly “mommy blogging” took off, and what a hit it was (and is even today). I still regularly read blogs like Scary Mommy and Rockin Mama. Who doesn’t?
Since the early days, blogging has evolved to become, not only a way to connect with an audience (be they moms or business owners), but also a crucial element for any business to survive.
There are several reasons why blogging is essential to the success of your large or small business, but here are three big reasons:
- Blogs drive traffic to your website. The more blog posts you publish, the more traffic your website receives. Once you publish 21-54 blog posts, your traffic can soar by as much as 30%, according to Traffic Generation Cafe.
- Your audience engages in meaningful ways with your brand via blog posts. 77% of Internet users regularly read blog posts, according to research by Impact. And, internet users in the US spend 3x more time on blogs than they do on email.
- Blogs help establish you as a thought leader and help people find you. 71% of business bloggers say their blogs have increased their visibility within their industries. And, 56% of business bloggers report their blog has helped their company establish a position as a thought leader.
Blogging helps you establish credibility, drive traffic to your website, and acts as a marketing tool to help you make sales.
But, blogging is more than just hopping online every so often and jotting down your thoughts. Writing a genuinely excellent blog post—a post that gets results—is an art and a science. This post will cover exactly what you need to do to write a blog post that knocks it out of the park.
The Ultimate Checklist for Creating a Terrific Blog Post
1. Identify your audience
Before you even start writing, it’s integral that you know everything you can about your audience. Ask the following questions:
- What are their basic demographics?
- What are their preferences?
- What are their interests?
- How do they like to consume content?
If you have robust data capabilities, you can leverage data for insights. If not, you can brainstorm ideas, talk to a few people that represent your target consumer, and create a customer profile.
Understanding your audience will give you insight into what you should write about, what tone and voice your blogs should take, and even how often you should post.
2. Conduct basic keyword research and optimize your blog post for search (SEO) accordingly
Don’t let the idea of keyword research scare you off if you’re a beginner. While there are plenty of high-tech paid tools to help large corporations identify keywords and optimal strategy to stand out in the search results (e.g., Ahrefs, SEMrush, Moz Pro), there are also several free tools and tactics smaller businesses and bloggers can use. Let’s start with the basics.
When an internet user types a keyword into Google, Google uses an algorithm that searches through all web pages and ranks them based on relevancy. Google’s goal is to show internet searchers the most relevant results based on their search terms.
The first bit of good news is this. Every blog post doesn’t have to rank for every single keyword that is relevant to your business. It only needs to rank for the most relevant keyword to that particular blog post. The second bit of good news is Google’s algorithm mostly works on sentiment. This means if you’re writing helpful content on just one topic, you’re probably already hitting the mark.
Here are some basic SEO strategies to follow every time you write a blog post:
1. Choose a keyword. You can use a free keyword difficulty tool to identify the best keyword. Choose something that has some search volume, relates to your website, and isn’t too difficult to rank for. The Google Keyword Planner is free, and there are a handful of other free tools that will tell you what you need to know.
2. Put your keyword in your title and headlines. If your keyword is “unicorns on the loose,” then make sure your title (H1 tag) is something like “7 Reasons Unicorns are on the Loose,” or something. You’ll also want to include your keyword in some of your subheadings (H2 tags).
3. Insert your keyword naturally in your text a few times. Google’s algorithm won’t know what your post is about unless you stay consistent. You don’t want to use your keyword too many times, but use your primary keyword in context when it makes sense. For example, say “unicorns on the loose,” instead of creatively switching it up and saying “horned wonders running around.”
4. Include an alt text tag in your images. Hate to break it to you, but Google’s algorithms don’t have eyes. If you want Google to know what your picture is, you have to label it with text. In other words, name the picture your primary keyword.
5. Include a few internal and external links in your text. Backing up your claims with links to other credible external sources is a great SEO strategy. Adding internal links is another surefire way to help keep people on your website, provide valuable content, and improve your search engine ranking.
6. Write over 300 words. 300 words is the bare minimum amount of words you should write in a blog post. When it comes to blog posts, it’s like Thanksgiving dinner…the more, the merrier.
The most important thing you can do for SEO is to write on the topic and provide helpful content that sounds natural. Google’s algorithms are smart, will comb through your text, and if you’ve done the SEO basics, you’ll be in good shape.
Here’s a little insider secret for WordPress users: You don’t have to remember any of this, because WordPress has an incredible SEO plugin called Yoast that does all the hard work for you. If you download this plugin, Yoast will guide you through the proper SEO steps.
3. Write how internet users like to read
Think about the last blog post you read. Did it read like a novel or more like a quick, scannable document? Chances are if you paid attention to the blog post, it was easy to scan and read zero percent like a novel.
Successfully writing for the internet means forgetting everything your high school and college English teachers taught you about writing. You don’t write five structured paragraphs to get your point across.
Instead, it’s critical that you break up your text into scannable bits, written at an 8th-grade reading level. Shorten your sentences and paragraphs. It’s also vital to include headings, subheadings, and bullet points. This makes it easy for your audience to consume your content quickly. Don’t think it’s important? Consider this: 37 seconds is the average time a reader spends reading a blog post, according to NewsCred.
It’s also wise to put the most important information first, because of the whole 37 seconds thing mentioned above.
4. Include images and videos
It’s said that pictures are worth a thousand words, and it’s true. What would take hundreds of words to explain, your brain can understand in less than a second when presented in image form.
Need extra convincing? Open up James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of The Mohicans and read one of his daunting description passages. Then, time how long it takes you to visualize the scenery. Next, turn on the movie and take a quick glance at the screen. You’ll be able to understand exactly what the scenery is based on images alone.
I’m not saying movies are better than books (except for the example mentioned above, IMO). I’m just saying images are one more opportunity to get your message across to your audience.
If you want to go the extra mile, include a video as well.
5. Write to benefit your audience
There is a reason why “how-to” content, data-driven stories, and well-researched insightful blog posts are some of the highest performing articles on the internet.
People take to the internet when they want to learn something. This means you don’t want to just write about anything. You want to write answers to the questions that people are seeking.
If you are an expert in a particular field or industry and can write a post that makes a complex topic digestible and easy to understand, your posts will get read, shared, and you’ll see conversions.
Allow me to toot my own horn for a minute. I’ve been optimizing blog posts for SEO for over 10 years. I’ve read hundreds of books and blogs on SEO, conducted hours of research, and used various SEO tools. With all that knowledge, I can confidently tell you what the six most powerful things you can do to optimize your blog posts for search are (above), and you don’t have to do any hard work. There is value in that. TOOT TOOT!
Similarly, if I want to learn how to make my grass green, make a quiche, or change a tire (things I don’t know how to do), I consult the expert bloggers on Google.
Start your blog with HostGator today!
If you’ve already purchased your web hosting from HostGator and created your website, it’s time to write your first post. Follow the checklist items above, and you can rest assured you’re doing a fine job.
To start your blog, sign up with HostGator today. HostGator provides an easy drag-and-drop website builder to get you up and running in no time.
Ashley R. Cummings is a professional freelance writer specializing in SaaS, tech, and advertising/marketing. In a previous life, she was a Russian teacher at Brigham Young University, a corporate trainer, and a grad student—all at the same time. When she’s not writing, you can find her traveling the world with her 2 kids and husband, reading poetry or taking a deep dive into the fabulous world of comedy. Connect with her on Twitter at @ashleyrcummings.