This is the second part of our series on effective blogging. The series starts with "Managing Your Blog – The 5 Cs."
"Content is King" is a common sediment of digital marketing folks. You see it everywhere; if you want to have a successful blog, you must create good original content. It is easy to understand what original means, but what is "good content" and if you are starting out, how do you make sure you are creating good content? We all are not authors, so it may not necessarily be great content, but at least good content.
Like other small business owners, I was forced to deal with this problem, so I let my science background take over and created a semi-scientific study to determine what is good content. Reviewing blogs of different levels of success, as tell as testing some of the theories on a blog created on a free blogging platform, we worked out that every blog post could be segmented into one of 6 types.
Public Relations post simply provide information to the world about the workings of the company. They are generally simple, to the point and provide little useful information beyond the company exists and something happened. Seldom are these posts more than a couple hundred words and have anything more than blatant information.
Large corporations commonly put out PR statements in their blogs, though the practice appears to be much less prevalent with smaller firms. Some large public firms have set up "blogs" just for the purpose of sending out PR announcements, particularly associated with corporate filings and other financial issues.
For small businesses, these post types provide no real value for their readers, nor do they provide any substantial effect on search engine optimization and consequently should be avoided. If you feel like you have an announcement which fit the PR post profile, try changing the message to fit one of the other post types.
Sales posts are focused on a product or service of the company, and attempt to convince the reader to purchase said product or service.They provide little useful information beyond the fact that the company sells the product or service. Most younger readers will see the post for exactly want it is, an advertisement, and be turned off by the whole organization.
These blog types should be avoided by small businesses in all situations except when you are introducing a brand new product or service. When introducing a new offering, you should focus on how it is better than previous offerings and avoid any connotation that a reader needs to buy it.
Editorial posts clearly state an opinion of the company or management. These posts should not try to sound like they are anything but what they are, opinions. They should include statements like "I think" or "we believe" to remove any doubt in the reader's mind that the post is objective.
Editorial posts play an important role in a small business blog by creating a sense of humanity within the company. Large corporations are often viewed as cold, dry institutions where everything is dictated by a lawyer approved process. People work with small businesses because they want the personal touch. Creating this personal touch through the annoymity of the internet is difficult, but the opinion expressed in an Editorial reinforces the fact that at your company you have real humans working and taking care of the customers.
The biggest caveat of Editorial posts is liability associated with such posts. You are publicly putting your weight behind a stance, which can backfire. The safest bet is to choose a topic which is only controversial within your industry or a topic where you can provide a new approach to the situation, which does not have the political baggage of the more defined positions.
Educational posts involve you teaching your readers about a subject. These posts generally sacrifice details and instead strive for a solid conceptual understanding by the reader. Your goal is to teach your readers, and nothing else. These posts should use examples from unrelated topics that the reader may already understand.
The hardest part of educational posts is figuring out the topic. Systematically going through your company and identifying all the places where customers have asked questions is a great starting point for material. For every customer who asked a question, there is often a dozen customers who have been either too scared to ask or were not educated enough to know to ask the question.
Technical posts details the minutiae behind a process or product. These posts show off you are the expert in your field and reinforce the idea that you should be contacted when someone has an intricate problem.
We have create Technical posts detailing the steps of setting up WinSCP to access an AWS server and compressing HTML served using Apache.These posts do not hawk any of our products or services, but rather try to help them by going through the explicit details needed to accomplish a goal. It may seem like we are giving away our 'secret sauce' here, but rather when a Do-It-Yourselfer becomes stuck with problem you just explained, they will see your post and try to fix it themselves, or just give up and ask you to do it.
For service based small businesses think about a very technical process you occasionally perform for your clients and walk through steps providing explicit details and considerations. For product based small business, perform the same process but detail everything about a particular product, from the dimensions to the situations where you should and should not use that product.
Story posts are possibly the hardest for small businesses to sincerely create because in order for them to be effective, they must be entertaining. Most small businesses do not perform tasks which are entertaining as much as functional, which makes it challenging to create an engaging story. However, if you can create an engaging story, you will hook your readers in reading the complete story and then looking for your other stories.
One way for a small business try to create Story posts is telling about their customers' stories. The problem is, while these are legitimate stories, they tend to feel forced or insincere. A better approach is telling a story from your own perspective, that of an employee or an trusted customer. These stories are considerably more sincere and endearing to customers.
Small business should focus on creating Educational and Technical posts while throwing in an occasional Editorial or Story post to create a sense of humanity at the company. Just make sure you are focused on the lay person within your target audience, and try to simplify everything for that lowest common understanding. This approach will annoy a few of the more knowledgeable readers, but will be endearing to those with the lowest level of understanding (ie your potential customers) nor those with a middle level of understanding (ie. more potential customers in other areas). Subconsciously, the middle and lower level readers are thinking; if this company can explain this complex topic so I can understand it, they can explain other associated topics, insignificant of my level of understanding, and I'm going to go back there next time I have a question.
Other Technical Considerations
There are also a few technical considerations to blog content. To have a real impact on search engines, you posts need to be at least a thousand (1000) words long and have decent keyword density. The word count is not a hard minimum, rather is a good target to generate a diversity of words while still being able to maintain a good keyword density. The keyword density is how many times and varieties of a particular keyword or key concept are mentioned in the post. Once you eliminate filler words (articles, prepositions, etc), you should have a 2-5% keyword density.