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Blogging Tips: Captivate With the Written Word Although maintaining a blog doesn't constitute social networking in the most modern sense, blogging as a practice can so often act as the cornerstone of a great social media marketing strategy that I really wanted to include it in this book.

As a central and stable hub for sharing detailed and valuable information with your audience (and having them share it with others), a blog is not only a fantastic way to build authority within your business niche, but also a place to re-purpose social media content, amplify your brand's voice, personality, and core values, and ultimately sell your offering to a legion of engaged customers.

What’s more, if all of your social media profiles were to disappear tomorrow, your website and blog will be one strong asset that you can say you own.

And if you’re encouraging people to sign up to your email newsletter here, too, you’ve still got perhaps the most direct method of contact to them, still available.

When people share your content, Google listens - the more your blog posts are shared, the better your site will rank in search engines and the more traffic will find its way to you.

Of course, there are a ton more factors that go into making a blog successful, such as website SEO, plugins, copywriting skills, and more - way more than I can cover here.

Instead, this chapter will explore some of the ways that you can prepare your blog for the social world and reveal some of the best types of content to create in order to captivate your audience.

Starting out and what to write about Before you even start a blog, it’s useful to figure out, in a wider sense, what your readers want from you. What key issues and information can you write about to engage your audience ? The more relevant your content, the more successful it will be.

To find out what your readers want, you could study the performance of existing blog posts or ask your readers directly through survey sites like Straw Poll (http://www.strawpoll.me), or in a post on Facebook.

With that down, you can start to find specific topics for blog posts.
It can be tough to keep coming up with fresh new content, but here are five simple and effective strategies to help aid the process:

Research keyword opportunities with sites like BuzzSumo
and Answer the Public http://answerthepublic.com/ and then come up with ideas around the results you get. Inspiration: Keep an eye out for popular discussions in your industry and think about what ideas could be could discussion or learning points around each topic.

News: Look out for breaking news stories within your industry. Pick apart the essential information for your audience and explain what it means for them. Past experience: Come up with ideas based on posts that have performed well.

Intuition: Occasionally, you'll come up with a blog post idea based on the intuition you only get from running a blog for a long time and getting to know your readers well. When you’ve nearly settled on an idea,

it is useful to refer to a set of criteria relevant to your blog and business goals: questions like “Is this relevant topic to my audience ?

Does this help them solve a challenge they face ? Has this topic been written before and if so, can we add more value? Is there interest in this topic (keyword research will help with this one) ?

Writing only blog posts that meet these criteria can help to keep the quality of your content consistently high. Integrate social sharing into your blog; include a call to action No blog worth its salt will forgo the installation of good, clear social sharing widgets to allow users to easily share its content to the biggest social networks including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Even the best bloggers in the world don't have their work found without a little help from their readers, so you need to empower people to easily share your blog posts with their social connections.

Visit any popular blog and you'll see an array of social sharing options above or below (or above and below) each post, often coupled with a call to action to encourage people to hit "Like", "Tweet" or "Share."

There are plenty of ways to install and customize the way your blog's social sharing buttons display (some of which we've already covered earlier in the book), but one of the easiest and most popular options is through

AddThis http://www.addthis.com  which is a plugin that will place the buttons on your page in just a few clicks.

In addition to the established social media sharing options, provide a 'Subscribe via RSS' button in a prominent place on your page, so that people can have your posts pushed to them in their Google Reader or RSS feed as soon as soon they are published.

Ways to encourage social sharing and encourage engagement also extend to the blog content itself, whether it's through pre-populated tweets containing valuable snippets of the article's information - ClicktoTweet

will facilitate that), or teasing the article but not revealing all of it until they share your link (the WordPress plugin Social Locker does this).
As the latter requires people to act before they have even read your content,
I would use it with great caution - reserved for premium content you believe people will desperately want to see.

Produce top content, make some of it evergreen
First and foremost, always aim to produce inspiring and educational content on a regular basis that is shareable. At the core of many great blogs is a set of evergreen posts (articles that will never go out of date, or are updated periodically to make sure that they won't).

Evergreen blog posts can act as the backbone of your brand and its expertise online, position you as an authority figure with your finger on the pulse, and help to drive interest in your company.

The types of evergreen posts that do best include articles that are written to help beginners (the people most likely to be searching online for assistance), e.g., "The Complete Beginner's Guide to Choosing Your First Electric Car," and ones that answer FAQs, e.g., "Is Paragliding Safe ?

Here's Everything You Need to Know." As I mentioned above, be sure to revisit these posts from time to time to keep them up to date and the definitive online resource for whatever the topic might be.

To promote evergreen content and give site visitors a clear point of reference, think about creating something like a “Start Here” page, a menu link to training guides, or a "Top posts" widget in the sidebar of your site.

Write effective headlines: be clear and concise Learn to write keyword-rich headlines that will make people want to read the rest of your article, especially if all they have to go on is the blog post title they see in a list of search results or within a tweet.

Don't try to be too clever or cryptic with your headlines; be as clear and direct about what the post will offer someone who might come across it, e.g., "Hot or Cold ? The Experts Tell All" is pretty ambiguous next to something like "Hot or Cold Water ? Expert Opinion on How to Shower."

Some tried and tested ideas for powerful headlines include asking questions, e.g., "How Do I Craft Amazing Blog Post Headlines ?", teasing content to attract click-throughs, e.g., "When one man's son was on the brink of flunking college, three words changed his whole life around...",

Or making references that tie your content into readers' interests or scenarios they often encounter, e.g., "This is how America's #1 Mom Potty Trained Her Kids in 24 Hours." Think about which keywords your customers will be using to find the content that you provide; replicate them in your blog post titles.

For example, a customer is much more likely to search for "how to bake chocolate cake recipe" rather than "Omnomnom, check out our great chocolate cake recipe". So your heading might read, "Recipe:

How to Bake A Delicious Chocolate Cake." Popular blog post frameworks for highly-readable posts Sometimes you'll have the best idea for the subject of a blog post, but trouble finding a way to structure it in a way that is concise, clear, and easily read by your audience.

Here is a variety of common ways to give a framework to your blog post ideas: Versus posts The power of the Internet has given consumers more choice than ever when it comes to buying products and services, or deciding between one idea or another, so much so that the decision is often overwhelming.

A great way to solve this dilemma, and put together a great blog post, is the X vs. Y article. For example, a company that specializes in beds and mattresses might write a blog post explaining the pros and cons of sprung mattresses as opposed to memory foam.

Similarly, "What is the best X?" types of posts work in a like fashion. These types of posts help consumers make a sound decision, make you stand out as a trustworthy authority figure, and are easy to put together.

Problem-solving posts One of the main reasons that people search online is to find solutions to their problems, whether seeking to learn how to sew a button back on to their shirt, how to house train their dog, or how a guy makes himself irresistible to the opposite sex.

Focusing on the solution to problems, especially for businesses, is a great way to come up with new ideas for blog posts and attract web traffic. Think about the problems that your customers want to solve - and then use your expertise to tell them how you (or your business) can help.

To use dogs as an example, a pet store owner might blog about the best way to stop your dog from barking, or how to teach it to sit or fetch. Think about how you can become an invaluable resource for your customers and for those searching for solutions to their problems on the Internet.

List posts ‘List posts’ are extremely popular in almost any industry, as they can be read quickly and are great for sharing, e.g., 10 Top Marketing Tips For Your Blog. There are three common types of list post:

Brief list posts are long, bulleted snippets of information that users can use as a platform to search for more detailed information elsewhere (sometimes useful, but not always the best way to keep readers engaged on your site!); detailed list posts provide more complex, valuable information - like these tips, and hybrid posts lie somewhere in the middle.

Break news, offer opinion, and ask questions Writing blog posts about breaking news within your industry sector is not only one of the best ways to come up with new and original content, but it also positions you as an authority figure in the eyes of readers.

However, rather than simply regurgitating a press release or something you found on a big news site, frame your story in a way that makes it relevant to your audience, positions you as an authority,

And encourages people to interact: offer an opinion, and ask readers to share their own as a way to drive engagement. One of the easiest ways to illicit a response is to close your blog posts with a simple request, e.g., “What do you guys think ? Tell us in the comments”.

You'll be surprised how much interaction this garners, especially if the question you ask is simple and quick to answer. Spin hot or detailed topics into multiple posts One of the biggest challenges that many bloggers face is creating fresh content, week in, week out.

One of the techniques you can use to combat this is called "spinning".  In a nutshell, it involves taking one important topic that you know your audience will lap up and writing about it from a variety of different standpoints. Let's take an article about painting a garden fence, for example.

Several different blog posts about that one topic might be: ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Painting A Garden Fence’; ‘5 of the Biggest Garden Fence Painting Mistakes’; ‘Video: How to Paint A Garden Fence in 5 Easy Steps’, or ‘How [Brand X] is Revolutionizing Garden Fence Painting’. Get the idea ?

Drilling down on individual topics like this (as opposed to being more general) may be beneficial in terms of attracting people hunting for more specific information or advice. Guest posting Offer to write guest posts on other influential bloggers’ blogs, and provide a link back to your own blog at the bottom of the post in return, as part of the agreement.

This is particularly useful if you manage to post on a blog that is much more popular than yours! As well as guest posting on other blogs yourself, be open-minded about other experts posting on yours to help build a strong network of friends within your industry.

Celebrate milestones As traffic to your blog grows, celebrate this in specific blog posts, thanking readers for their continued support. Use these posts to highlight your most popular content so far, to encourage new readers to go back and revisit, increasing page views and time on your site.

Note: In an online world packed with strong opinions, research-backed blog posts are often more persuasive (and therefore popular) than those that are solely story based.

For this reason, quoting authoritative resources, citing statistics and studies, or even showcasing your own data, can be an effective way to back up your arguments, emanate credibility, and create stellar blog content that stands out from the competition.

For example, which blog post title would you be most likely to click on from the following: "How to Run Faster and More Efficiently" or "How to Run 20% Faster and More Efficiently in 4 Weeks"?

Where the circumstances call for it, the data-backed title will always win out. Use awesome images in your blog posts As I discussed in the Facebook Tips chapter of this book, social networks like Facebook (and Google+) will pull in a photo from your blog to display when someone shares your blog link.

If the photo is poor (or there isn't one at all), then there is little chance of your plain link catching the eyes of people browsing through their news feeds. One blog post image is good, but several are even better.

Multiple images within a blog post help to break up long blocks of text, make your articles more memorable, and can be used to enhance a written fact or opinion. Check out the "Explained: The Best Types of Content to Post on Social Media" chapter for advice on where to find, and how to use, great images.

Note: Adding alternative text (alt-text) to images is not just important for search engine optimization (they can’t see pictures, but do grab the text and include it in image searches), but it also acts as the description of images pinned to Pinterest.

Alt-text is what pops up when you hover your cursor over an image and it can be edited in the image upload process on most blogging platforms, including WordPress and Blogger.

Encourage email subscriptions The harsh truth is that when someone has visited your blog once, there is a good chance that they will not return for a second visit. To combat this, you need to position yourself to target these people in future at a location where it is hard to ignore you - their email inbox.

By gathering email addresses, you have a ready pool of willing contacts with whom you can share new blog posts and updates and slowly help to convert them into more passionate brand ambassadors.

In addition to placing a box for people to sign up to your newsletter in a prominent position on your home page, also add a sign-up box to the bottom of a handful of your most popular blog posts from the past (use Analytics to find out which these are).

Be sure to let visitors know what they are signing up for before they hit 'Submit' so that your emails are not considered spam, and consider including a discount code or free gift (like a PDF guide) as a way to sweeten the deal.

The blog post length and how often to post There is always plenty of debate about the optimum length of a blog post, particularly when you are dealing with an audience who is short of time, who can easily look elsewhere, and are forever skimming quickly through content.

I would suggest forgetting about the word count, at least to a degree. Instead, focus on creating interesting, well-formatted content that web and mobile readers will love, whether it takes 100 words or 1,000 (do note, however, that long form content generally has less competition).

Don't let worries about the length of your post dictate its overall quality. How often you should publish new blog articles is different for every business: it's a balancing act between how much time and resources you can invest into researching, writing, editing, and promotion whilst maintaining the upmost care and quality in your output.

If you have the scope to pump out multiple world-beating articles a week, fantastic! But even if you can only manage one or two articles a month, as long as you are consistent and they are finding an audience, you'll be on a much steadier path to traffic growth than if you publish a lot of sub-par content for the sake of populating your blog.

Use descriptive URLs for SEO For improved SEO, ensure every blog post URL is descriptive rather than just functional, e.g.,

On most blogging platforms, the URL is normally generated from the words used in the blog post's title. If you are able to edit the URL to make it even more optimized for SEO, and you think it can be improved over what has been automatically generated, go ahead and do it.

The ‘deep linking’ and ‘linking to other sites’ trick Whenever you refer to a previous blog post while writing, be sure to add a hyperlink to it, so that readers can go back and check it out.

On that note, you want readers to stay on your page as long as possible, so if you link outside of your website for any reason, be sure to set the link to open in a new window.

Share and re-purpose your blog post for maximum exposure The most savvy marketers repurpose their blog posts into content optimized for maximum effect on each social media platform – both through the text caption and image you use.

HIt might not make a huge difference in driving traffic to your blog, but it does mean that your content will stand out against competitors who are not tailoring theirs to each platform.

As such, when it comes to thinking about your industry in future, hopefully customers will remember your brand first. Here are some examples of ways content can be repurposed: Create Instagram stories with the key points of the blog post and invite followers to check out the full post.

Create short videos using the content in the blog posts to share on Twitter and Facebook, and a longer form video on YouTube. Use a tool like Lumen5 to convert your blog post into an animated video with captions. Lift key data from your blog post and turn it into an infographic.

Get shares from industry influencers Not all shares are created equal. If you want to encourage your awesome blog content to be a runaway hit, think about how much easier this would be if you could get influential people within your field to share your link with their hundreds or thousands of loyal fans.

The best way to go about this is to work backwards. Spend time building a relationship with the influencer(s) first (commenting on their own blog, tweeting them to ask a question about their work or for a quote to use in your work, etc.)

and at the same time analyze the type of content they are already sharing, so that you can reflect this in your own posts. This strategy works because people love to share things they’ve been involved in, even if they weren’t directly responsible for putting it together.

Re-share evergreen content
As mentioned near the beginning of this book, automation on social media can, in the right circumstances, be very beneficial to you - a time saver, and a chance to give the content you slaved over as much exposure as possible.

One case where this is certainly true is the automated scheduling and posting of evergreen blog content across multiple social networks, which can help to extend its useful life over and over again.

For example, you could tweet a link to the same blog article two or three times in the same week, then keep the same frequency for the next few months using alternative post titles to see which performs best.

Some ways that you might want to restyle a social media post featuring the same blog article - as an alternative to [post title] + [link], include: posing a question as a lead into the post, quoting a striking sentence or statistic from the article, or showing off just a little,

E.g., "Our most popular read from last month..." My tool of choice is Buffer http://www.bufferapp.com which allows you to bulk-upload and organize content to be posted to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn at a date and time of your choosing.

Relaunch old blog content Depending on your industry, the information in any blog post (especially popular evergreen ones) can become outdated.

Instead of just writing new blog posts to, it is often quicker and more effective to update existing blog posts that have outdated information and even more potential for traffic through search:

Seek out underperforming content - posts that rank low on the first page or onto the second page of Google, posts where organic traffic has fallen, posts that didn’t meet your expectations traffic-wise, and posts whose content is okay but could be improved.

Improve and update that content: for example, update the copy, refresh the images and  update screenshots. Republish your post: Update the “Published” date to today’s date (the day of the relaunch).

That will bring the blog post to the top of your blog. Monitor progress with Google Analytics Use Google Analytics to monitor the volume and quality of search terms which are driving visitors to your site, and use the information you find to tailor the direction of new content - expand on the most popular topics and tweak or ditch those that aren't working quite as well.

Above all, keep in mind why your blog exists – for example, to build your brand, increase reach, and drive sales – and aim for consistant forward momentum. Alongside traffic, keep a close eye on the number customers referred by the blog, Metrics like this will give you a sense, in hard numbers, of how the blog provides real business value.


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