Is your blog a blessing or a curse?
A blog can be a stand-alone website, but is often part of a promotional or ecommerce website. A blog is updated with a series of editorial content written around a central topic.
Many businesses use blogs to update their customers, share information, or increase SEO performance.
They are great way to get traffic to a website when distributed through social media, e-shots or optimised for search engines.
There’s a problem though.
Blogs are very often treated as, or become, an afterthought. Seen as an easy way to generate traffic to a website quickly or a must-have feature, without understanding the strategic purpose and added detail required to make it a success.
Throw 300-500 words together. Make a social post. Get traffic to the website.
But treating blogs in this way could be damaging your web presence more than improving it.
You see, traffic – the number of users – to a website isn’t the only important metric you need to be aware off.
Attention also needs to be given to how much these users are engaging with a website. This information can easily be obtained from Google Analytics by looking at stats such as:
• Bounce Rate
• Average Time on Page
• Pages Per Session
• Returning Visitor Rate
In an ideal world, you will want to see a low bounce rate whilst having a high time on page, pages per session and returning rate. This will show that users aren’t just visiting one web page and leaving but are actively engaged with other website content.
This is important because Search Engines are keeping an eye on how engaging your website is. One of the factors that Google ranks your website on is likely to be your bounce rate.
And this is why treating a blog as just an afterthought is a problem. Because when the only aim is to ‘increase traffic to the website’ it’s easy to ignore more vital objectives, such as keeping them on the website.
Remember: getting traffic to your website is easy. Keeping them there is the difficult part.
Just using your blog as just a way to increase traffic is likely to damage your SEO rankings. As a result of low time of page and high bounce rates, search engines might start to deem the content of your website as low quality.
Your blogging will start becoming a curse. It will leave you scratching your head, wondering why your SEO rankings are falling.
Alternatively, treating a blog as a legitimate marketing tactic and monitoring various metrics, ensures it becomes an important part of your content marketing strategy.
Don’t believe me?
Take HubSpot for instance. HubSpot is a CRM platform for marketing, sales, and customer service activities.
75% of all their new leads can be attributed to their blogging activities. Seventy-five percent!
If you’ve searched for anything related to marketing, sales or customer services, it is likely you’ve stumbled across and read one of their blogs.
They’re insightful, useful and educational. And, to be frank, they hardly even push their services on their blogs. They’re not used for sales. Solely to educate their audience.
And this works in their favour because it builds trust and reliability with the audience.
So, what are HubSpot doing with their blogs that’s right?
They know their audience
Very little of their content is about them. Instead, almost all their content on their blogs is centred around topics and areas that interest their target audience.
Tailored for SEO
Their blogs are written and centred around a single long-tailed keyword. These means that their website consistently appears when a small, yet targeted, audience searches a particular phrase.
The blogs themselves aim to educate and inform the audience. It’s not a sales pitch. But, instead, a way for users to get reliable and accurate information based on their query.
Throughout all this, they’re not actively pitching for a sale. Many of the call-to-actions on their blog pages are aimed towards getting users to visit other articles or sign-up to e-shots around certain topics.
Their branding is strong though. Not necessarily ‘in-your-face’, but consistent. The quality of articles is reliable. The formatting is user-friendly. The tone of voice is the same.
Furthermore, with their tailoring for SEO, they nearly always rank highly for tailored and specific search phrases their target audience are looking for.
All this tied together allows them to become a reputable source of information. Meaning that once their target audience is looking for a CRM, they already have a positive impression of HubSpot.
How to make blogging a blessing!
Turning blogging behaviour around so that it becomes a brand benefit requires implementing some simple practices, which we will discuss shortly.
First things first though, we need to identify our mission.
We need to look at reducing that bounce rate and improving engagement. We now know, it’s not about traffic.
So, what needs to be done?
1. Know the audience!
Knowing who the target audience is, means that content can be written for them, content that is relevant to them. Figure out their pains – what they are they struggling with? What do they want to know? – and offer them answers.
Think about it. Would an ecommerce website around fishing supplies, benefit more with a blog about “Best bait to use when fishing” or one that focuses on “Meet Tim; our warehouse assistant”?
Results: Writing with your audience in mind will increase the average time on page as they’ll read more of the content.
2. Have an appropriate title
This area is rarely properly considered. A blog section on a website doesn’t need to be called ‘blog’. In fact, in many cases, we’d advise against it.
Why? Because the word ‘blog’ itself, does not necessarily come across as very professional or mean anything to the user. Blogs were originally very personal things that individuals wrote, similar to a diary or journal.
Meanwhile, some of the alternative synonyms for the word blog can elevate a brand from just ‘sharing an opinion’ to imparting expertise and knowledge.
Some alternative names for a blog:
Results: Having an appropriate title can elevate a brands position. This can help increase returning rates as a brand is portrayed as a legitimate and reliable source of information.
3. Related Links
Once a user is on a website, the aim needs to be to keep them there. One method of achieving this is providing users links related to the content they are reading.
This can be achieved through embedding internal links throughout your blog content, as well as introducing sidebars that list related posts. In fact, one website Epix has added a ‘related links’ panel to the blog pages, saw a 20% bounce rate reduction on those pages.
Results: Encouraging users to stay on the website through relevant, related content, helps reduce the bounce rate and increase the amount of time they stay on the website.
4) Format, format, format
Having relevant content for an audience is only half the battle. The other half is getting them to read it.
And that can be easier said than done. In fact, we’ve discussed previously how 80% of the content on a webpage is unlikely to even be read. Now, the initial reaction to this would be to write shorter blogs. Unfortunately, research says otherwise.
The ideal length for a blog post is around 1,600 words.
With a blog of that length, the amount of time someone is on the page increases as there is more content to consume. But also, the number of backlinks you gain can improve as the quality is better. Finally, SEO terms themselves improve as there is a greater chance your keywords are surrounded by relevant semantic phrases.
However, that is an incredible amount of words to write and time to invest – for both you and your readers.
This is why the design and layout of your blog are so important. Serving up a blog that is just a block of text will just turn users off. They’ll scroll down a bit then close the window.
Users won’t read every word, they’ll scan read – so instead you need to facilitate this. Setting your blog out for scan ready can be achieved through some really simple design practices:
• Break up large blocks of text, limiting them to a maximum of 3 sentences
• Use bold subtitles to section of parts of the text
• Introduce bullet points and lists to break content up
• Make use of quote blocks to add visual variety
• Utilise images and video to capture the eye
Results: Concentrating on the design and layout of blog posts will increase the users average time on page.
Turning a blog into a blessing instead of a curse is worth the time investment – not only for increasing website performance but for also improving brand presence in the mind of users.
By providing users with worthwhile information, presented in a way that enables them to scan-read and engages, means they are more likely to view a brand favourably.
Looking at your blog more strategically means it can become a powerful and valuable introduction tool for new customers