If you’re not focused on content marketing in 2014, then you’re clueless!
No, just the truth.
Content marketing, especially blogging, is probably the most important marketing tactic available today
Sure, you can run ads & be a crafty SEO — and people might find your website. But NOTHING compares to creating awesome blog content that offers real value to readers.
So in this blog post, I’m going to talk about 11 key ingredients every successful blog post must have.
But before I do that, let’s take a look at results from Post Planner’s 2013 content marketing efforts:
Proof is in the pudding!
There is practically no limit to the benefits a solid content marketing strategy can provide.
To see what I mean, check out some of Post Planner’s 2013 growth numbers:
- monthly unique website visitors — 9k to 155k — 17x growth!
- monthly traffic from Google — 5k to 105k — 21x growth!
- monthly page views — 25k to 312k — 12.5x growth!
- total newsletter subscribers — 3k to 48k — 16x growth!
This is for the period from Dec 2012 to Nov 2013!
During that same period, our revenue tripled!
And this didn’t happen because of ads or sneaky SEO tactics. It was all pure content marketing.
How did we do it?
First, Post Planner hired a full-time writer — me!
Then we published about 180 blog posts during the year (compared to 28 total posts in 2011/2012)
(Side note: we’ve already pushed 31 blog posts this year… in 40 days)
Our content marketing strategy consisted of 3 parts:
- 3 to 4 weekly blog posts
- Sharing (and re-sharing) of blog posts on Facebook
- Weekly newsletter sharing the week’s blog posts
And the strategy worked!
Post Planner named Top 10 Social Media Blog
This is actually the 2nd time I’ve helped take a blog to a spot on SME’s famous list.
I helped Hubze make the list in 2012.
Anyway, as promised, here’s a list of 11 key ingredients for successful blog posts — in case you’re looking to take your content marketing to new heights in 2014.
11 KEY Blog Post Ingredients
Writing a blog post that gets read, Liked & shared is harder than you think.
Sometimes it takes hours just to come up with a headline.
And I scrap tons of posts after they’re fully written — because I don’t like the way it turned out.
I probably delete 5 posts for every 5 blog posts I publish.
Because the posts are missing at least 1 of the following key ingredients.
1. Craft an irresistible headline
The headline is the most important part of your post.
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No one will read the article if it has a bad headline — even if the content rocks like Prince!
You have to capture people’s attention before they’ll read your post.
Neil Patel of Quick Sprout said this about headlines:
One of the simplest ways to boost your conversion rate is by tweaking your headline copy. If you don’t believe me, just look at KISSmetrics.com, I was able to boost my conversion rate by 40% by simply adjusting the headline copy.
But writing a compelling headline is tough.
If you need some help, here’s a review I did of a tool that creates amazing headlines for you:
2. Open with a BANG
This one’s tough.
You can have the perfect headline — one that entices people to click it & visit your blog.
But if you don’t capture the reader’s attention in the first couple sentences of the the post, they’ll just bounce.
Here are 5 ways to open with a BANG:
- Ask a question
- Share an anecdote or quote
- Invoke the mind’s eye
- Use an analogy or metaphor
- Cite a shocking statistic
Brian Clark expands on this idea in this awesome post:
3. Use persuasive words
Some words are more persuasive than others.
According to Copyblogger, the 5 most persuasive words are:
Use these in your posts! And definitely in your headlines!
Your goal as a writer is to get people to take action, so you must master the art of persuasion in your blog posts.
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4. Write damn good sentences
Something I’ve learned from Josh while writing for Post Planner is that I’ll often say more by saying less.
And I’ll definitely keep the attention of more readers by saying less!
It’s just human nature. When people see a massive paragraph, they just naturally skim through it — mostly only reading the 1st & last sentence.
It’s why most the sentences in our blog post are free standing paragraphs.
Because that’s what keeps people reading.
According to Eugene Schwartz:
No sentence can be effective if it contains facts alone. It must also contain emotion, image, logic, and promise.
Here are 5 ways to write a damn good sentence:
- Insert facts
- Create images
- Evoke emotion
- Make promises
- Practice, practice, practice
Master the art of writing good sentences & you’ll become a popular blogger.
5. Insert killer bullet points
Along with short paragraphs, we also use lots of bullet points in our blog posts.
This is because lists of bullet points help break up the monotony of the format & guide the readers’ eye.
The result is a more readable & scannable article.
For more on bullet points, check out yet another awesome post from Copyblogger:
6. Create exquisite subheads
I hate when I go to an article & it’s nothing but long paragraphs.
It’s hard to read & I get bored.
Large blocks of text may be ok for your diary, but they’re not ok for blog posts.
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So use lots of subheads!
Subheads are the “mini-headlines” throughout your post that organize your post & tell readers what to expect next.
And yes, the many subheads in this post did not appear by accident!
Here are 3 techniques for writing subheads:
- Express a clear & complete benefit
- Use parallelism that advocates action
- Try writing your subheads first
7. Tell a seductive story
“Person of Interest” is one of my favorite shows.
The writing & characters are fantastic.
In each episode there is a person who has a problem & needs protection.
Finch & John find the person, figure out how to help them, defeat the bad guy & end on a happy note.
This isn’t just great television — it’s also a formula that will help you produce awesome blog posts.
Remember, every marketing story needs 5 things:
8. Keep attention with internal cliffhangers
Cliffhangers are statements in your blog post that entice people to read on.
They are the ingredient I find myself paying more & more attention to.
Because if I write a great headline & a post goes viral, when someone lands on the article I want them to read it all the way through.
Cliffhangers help me accomplish this.
Copyblogger said to use these devices to keep your audience reading:
- Curiosity: It’s what killed the cat — AND that lone teenager at youth camp who thought she heard a noise in that abandoned cabin. But curiosity also works on the intellectual level!
- Challenges: Make a bold claim at the end of a paragraph that strikes people as audacious — then they’ll stick around to see if you can pull it off.
- Humor: When the jokes inside your knee-slapping posts are killing your readers, they’ll want more. Johnny Truant and Chuck Wendig are excellent examples. Their comedy is like glue. (Caveat: you actually have to be funny to make this work.)
- Amazement: Set up the most ridiculous scenario you can & your readers will wonder: “Is he about to do what he suggests?”
- Doubt: Challenge a conventional belief or an opinion of a respected leader & say “I’ll show you why he/this is wrong.”
- A turn of phrase: We get hooked to writers who can conjure up an attractive metaphor, concoct an alluring idiom. This is why the metaphor “fiscal cliff” has such power. Or this: “He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.”
9. Choose an arresting image
Though I spend lots of time writing headlines, I probably spend more time finding images to use with my posts.
Strong images are critical because they help hold the interest of the reader.
Your post could be full of great advice — but people will eventually nod off.
Use beautiful images to break up the monotony of black & white copy.
Sometimes the images I use are shocking — but more often they’re humorous.
Use a lead image on your blog post that will get noticed when the post is shared on Facebook, Google+ & LinkedIn.
Facebook provides a wide preview image in the news feed, which makes the picture even more important.
As Copyblogger says:
Images are steroids for your headline.
There are lots of ways to find images. Decide if you’re going to pay for photos or find stuff for free.
There are lots of inexpensive & free images on the web — but the pictures have often been used many times in other places.
Useful image-finding tools include:
10. Close in style
Our goal as bloggers is to take readers on a journey from one point to another.
So how you end your blog post is as important as how you start it.
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And conclusions are what I struggle with the most.
Sometimes I don’t want to wrap things up, I just want to make my point & be done.
But you can always use this popular ending: “What are your thoughts? Sound off in the comments”.
Brian Clark of Copyblogger said this about closing a post:
How you start will determine if you get read, but how you end will determine how people feel about the experience. And, depending on your goals, your ending will determine the success of the piece as a whole.
He advises bloggers to:
Begin with the ending in mind.
What do you want people to do after they read your post? Keep this in mind when you begin writing.
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Do you want them to:
- share the post
- buy your product
- use your tips
Here are 5 ways to end a blog post:
- Summary of article
- Post Script — P.S.
11. Be authentic
I think one reason people read my posts is because I write the way I speak.
Granted, in person I say “ya’ll” and “ain’t” more than you’ll ever see in a blog post — but people still want to read my articles because the posts feel like a conversation.
They don’t want a boring dissertation about 11 ways to write better blog posts.
Heck, my grammar isn’t even the best.
I just want (and need) you to feel like you know me — so I make the post a discussion rather than an article.
Does that mean I don’t go back & edit my posts to make sure I used “your” and “you’re” properly? Of course not. I want my posts to seem at least halfway intelligent to our readers.
But at first I just write to see what shows up — I then go back & edit to make things flow more smoothly.
Josh then whittles down long sentences to make them easier to read — but he always maintains my conversational tone.
I don’t want to write 100 blog posts in a voice that isn’t mine, then meet a reader in person & have them find out I don’t speak that way at all.
I’d look like a fake & they’d feel duped.
So I keep it real, ya’ll!
I stole these 11 ingredients from Copyblogger
I wish I had come up with these tips on my own.
They are actually the work of the smart people at Copyblogger.
Don’t hate me for not mentioning that sooner — I wanted to use an “exquisite subhead” and “internal cliffhanger” here at the end.
Now check out Copyblogger’s infographic:
Here are the 11 essential blog post ingredients with links to more information about each 1:
- Craft a magnetic headline
- Open with a bang
- Use persuasive words
- Write damn good sentences
- Insert killer bullet points
- Create exquisite subheads
- Tell a seductive story
- Keep attention with internal cliffhangers
- Choose an arresting image
- Close in style
- Be authentic
Focus on creating great content
You see now that writing successful blog posts is more than just throwing words onto the screen.
It takes time & thought to put articles together.
But regardless of your niche, if you focus on creating great content you too can be considered an expert blogger by your peers.
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