Are you producing quality content every week?
Heidi Cohen started a blog in 2010 and set herself a goal of becoming one of Social Media Examiner’s top ten blogs. She produced quality posts consistently every week, often three times a week.
By 2012 her blog was number 7 in the SME list of top ten blogs. This year Heidi was a judge reviewing the top ten marketing blogs.
I was privileged to listen to Heidi share her secrets at Social Media Marketing World this week. Think you can’t produce quality posts every week? Yes, you can.
Here are the nine insights that I took away from Heidi’s session.
You have to be consistent as a blogger and you must not give up too early. Content marketing and blogging is a long term game. Heidi shared a chart from Moz showing why bloggers should have grit and be relentless.
Mark Schaefer says it takes 30 months to get known in your field. So you must not expect immediate results.
As Jeff Bullas says you also need to relentlessly market and promote your content. You need to get your content in front of your audience.
What is your why?
What is the higher level goal for your blog? Be clear on your niche and where you can stand out.
Heidi shared a useful format you can use to define your mission:
We create, publish & share ____ content for ____ audience ____ to yield ____ benefits. As a result we achieve ____ goal.
For BuzzSumo our mission might be:
We create, publish & share original, insightful and practical content for content marketers to help them improve their content results. As a result we build an audience that respects our research and our insights.
For Heidi’s Actionable Marketing Guide the mission is:
We create publish and share key marketing concepts, making the complex simple for marketers and business executives, to educate them and improve their marketing. As a result we build our AMG community.
Who is your reader? Create a persona to help understand your audience.
It is not always advisable to aim at a very large audience. Heidi says she would rather have stongly engaged readers than a larger audience.
Heidi set out six key questions to ask about your audience:
What are your major areas of expertise? What are you passionate about? What blog ideas could you you develop that demonstrate this?
This point really hit home for me. You have to be an expert if you are to write insightful and helpful content. Thus you should aim to create content where your expertise overlaps with your audience’s areas of interest.
By focusing on your main areas of expertise you can create the core foundational content for your blog. More on this later.
A blog post is a three part play according to Heidi.
The first and most important part is the hook: your headline and post introduction.
It has been said that you should spend 50% of your time on headline. That seems a lot, but given only 1 in 5 people read your headline and even less are motivated to read further, you are likely to lose most of your readers at the headline.
Thus, you want a headline to create a sense of urgency, to intrigue the reader, to communicate benefits and to promise value. You can use BuzzSumo to see what headlines have been working in your industry and CoSchedule’s Headline Analyser.
Some publishers insist that an author writes 25 titles for each post. Once you have 25 titles you can quickly focus on on the best ones.
Heidi gave this great headline example from Upworthy:
They created a new word ‘Wondtacular’, a combination of wonderful and spectacular. This word made people stop and pay attention to the headline. This post received 17m views.
Once you have the headline sorted, focus on the introduction. This is where you really hook your reader. Heidi shared a great example from Smart Blogger:
The introduction immediately hooks in the reader with short sentences.
“A troubling thought isn’t it.
You’re slaving away at your blog, but you can’t help wondering if you have a shot in hell of getting anyone to read it.
What makes you any different from the millions of other bloggers hoping for attention?”
Heidi shared another great example from Aaron Orendorff:
“Let’s be honest, social media is a jungle.
What if you could ask today’s most influential online marketers one question: “What social media tool is your all-time, desert-island, can’t-live-without favorite?”
That’s exactly what I did.”
The introduction needs to make the transition and connect the title to the post. It should also contain the thesis, which explains why you should keep reading.
If you were writing a blog post on Social Media Marketing World 2017 what headline and hook would you use?
For Heidi it might be:
3 Mind-blowing takeaways from SMMW17
Wonder what you missed at SMMW17?
Now that is going to get your attention and make you keep reading.
Heidi recommends having five to ten sections. In this post I have nine.
Each section should have its own sub-heading, and each of these sections should stand on their own with ideally a heading, a data point, analysis, tips, and eye candy such as an image or chart. Ok, I failed on the eye candy.
The headings should also tell the story and make the key points on their own. In the case of this post they are:
1. Be Consistent
2. Be Clear on Your Blog Mission
3. Be Clear on your Audience
4. Focus on Your Areas of Expertise
5. The Opening: The Most Important Part of your Post
6. The Post Body: The Meat of your Content
7. Conclusion: Reel Your Reader In
8. Balance Your Blog Posts with these Five Content Types
9. Be Relentless
Tread carefully with self promotion in your content. You need to build trust and authority. Don’t pitch your product.
Make your conclusion memorable and actionable. Here are five things you want to do in your conclusion.
1. Give concrete advice
2. Make it real
3. Remove obstacles
4. Provide next steps: do not assume they know what to do
5. Inspire them to act
Heidi outlined five different blog content types that provide balance to your blog.
This is your killer content. Establish thought leadership and help search rankings. These posts should be 2,000 words plus. Foundational content types include useful resources, original research, and unique theories. Repeatable annual research and controversial theories like Mark Schaefer’s post on content shock are foundational content.
Be the best answer. These posts are 700 plus words and include reviews, product comparisons, how-to posts, customer stories, and answers to customer questions (use Answerthepublic or Bloomberry to find customer questions, or just ask your support and sales teams).
These are regular servings of 800-1200 words. They include reporting the news, regular features, a series, a podcast, and special events such as conference reviews.
These are about attention and visibility. Get influencers involved, create a guide, use research to surprise readers. I love that Heidi calls these popper uppers. They are your way to get shares and attention.
Keep existing content top-of-mind and make the most of your existing content. Repurpose your content, update content, extend existing content, repromote your content and curate content.
The best content marketers are relentless. As Heidi says blogging is about grit, bloggers are not born they are self-made. You give yourself permission to be a winner.
Can you produce quality content consistently?
Yes you can.
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