5 Steps to the Perfect Blog

There’s a big difference between a great blog post and a good blog post; one, your readers will get to the end and share it around, the other will sound like a brain splurge of content that’s faintly interesting but soon turns your reader off. Maybe before they read the end and arrive at the Share Button.

5 Steps for the Perfect Blog with Digitally Sorted

Even if you’re not much of a writer, that’s not a problem – all you have to do is stick to the outline below to create something that’s not only readable, but gets the reader to take action too.

Your Blog Outline
1. Eye-Catching Headline

This is what makes the reader read your content over all the other on the page. It has to be attention-grabbing and it has create intrigue.

Here are 3 easy steps to producing a great headline:

  1. Know your target audience and write for them. Look at the other types of blogs that they read and the magazines they buy. What have they got on their front covers?
  2. Have a think about how you’re going to set your article out. For example, is it going to be a ‘How to’, a list, a personal story?
  3. Write several different headlines experimenting with the different benefits. Do the same identifying the problem. After all, people are looking for two things – something to solve a problem, or something to improve their gain.
2. Intriguing opener

Once you’ve pulled your reader in with your headline, don’t stop there. Provide your audience with a couple of lines to introduce further what you’re going to be saying. Statistics work fantastically well. Try searching for what you need online at National Statistics for example. Don’t forget to look at university research too.

3. Give Points and Evidence

Provide at least 3 points and supporting evidence. Give stories, provide emotional pull, use more statistics where relevant. Are there any case studies, graphs, or even cartoons that help provide colour to your article?

4. Conclusion

Don’t leave your audience hanging! Make sure you tie all the ends of your article together and think about giving them something to take away. Is it something to think about it or an action they take in the physical world?

5. Call to Action

If you don’t have a call to action, you’re not guiding your reader to take action once they’ve reached the end of your article. It’s a bit like presenting them with a dead end and no one likes that. Examples of call to actions include:

  • Share
  • Highlight a Product
  • Subscribe
And don’t forget:

Resources: if you’ve referred to any studies, don’t forget to provide a link to these.

Images: Images make all the difference to a blog post. However, you’ve got to be careful where you find these from otherwise you may get some unfriendly emails. Take a look at this list of free image resources to be on the safe side. 

WordPress Blog Template

If you write for an online publication and you don’t have access to the WordPress system then you’ll be asked to submit your blog, usually in Word.

If you’ve never had access to WordPress before, it can be tricky to work out how your blog post should be submitted and how you should lay out the content. Having worked with many bloggers across many different WordPress sites, this template is the one that seems to work best. So far at least – things are constantly evolving!

This template assumes that the WordPress website has an SEO plugin installed – most good websites will. Download it and get writing.

But before you start, it’s well worth reading this guide ‘Before you Start’.

Download your WordPress Blog Template here:

Free WordPress Blog Template

 

 

 

USEFUL LINKS

How to train your website – LESSON TWO: Training your website to work for you

“It is a truism to say that the dog is largely what his master makes of him: he can be savage and dangerous, untrustworthy, cringing and fearful; or he can be faithful and loyal, courageous and the best of companions and allies.”

Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Put in the hard work training your website and you will be rewarded. The success of a website is dependent on the amount of love and care you give it. Yes, you will have to put a lot in, but it will be worth it. If you’re in charge of managing your company website, then this set of articles ‘How to train your website’ will help you be successful in your role.

Please note, it has been assumed that your website has good basic health already. That is, it has been set up with SEO in mind and has all the basics, such as a site map, proper header and title tags etc.

Training your website to work for you

If only your website could do the washing…

Feeding your website (aka content)

The food you feed your website has to be correct for it. Just like there are breeds of dog out there that require certain nourishment for their long silky coats and others who need more protein, websites are the same. The better you know your website, the better you’ll become at working out what ‘food’ is best. Food, aka content, for your website can come in many forms. For example,

  • Blog posts
  • Updated content
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Images

All will help keep your website healthy.

Image of a dog eating a cake

Just as there are some things a dog shouldn’t eat, you should feed your website the right content.

The right food for your website

It goes without saying that the content that you post has to be relevant and in a suitable tone of voice. Make sure the tone and style suits the nature of your business.

When thinking about content for your website (and I’m focusing on written content here), there are several important factors you need to ensure before you even put finger to keyboard.

These are outlined below but you can find the full article about writing a blog post here >*

Before your start writing content for the web

  • Choose your keyword/s carefully (more about keywords here >).
  • Establish what images you’re going to use and get permission to use these if necessary (e.g. if you’re looking to take these from Flickr).
  • Know what action you want your users to take at the end of your blog post
  • Are there any people or organisations that you could link your content to? Even better, could they link back to your website? Getting high quality links to your website is great for SEO.

Read the full articles on ‘How to write your blog post’ here >

You can find a list of inspirational content ideas for your website here >

* Whilst the title of this article explains that it’s about writing a blog post, most of the points are also applicable for writing any content for the web.

When to feed your website

Your timings for writing content and releasing it can be critical to your traffic.

For example, if you’re responding with a blog post on a current event, publish it as soon as possible. A blog post that goes live a day later, even a couple of hours later, can be old news.

If you are producing ‘evergreen’ content (evergreen content is content that remains relevant regardless of the time of day, time of year etc. for example, an article entitled ‘Top Ten Healthiest Vegetables’ is applicable all year round, as opposed to one entitled ‘Best pubs to go to for St David’s Day’), do some research and find out when your target audience are most often online and release it during those times.

Feed your website with new content often, and regularly.

TASK: Put together a Content Planner. Depending on how often you update the website (at least once a month, if not once a week is best), write a list of topics / blog posts / new content titles that you plan to post throughout the year. And stick to it.

Download an example of a Content Matrix Template here >

Don’t forget that depending on the time of year, your topics may change to reflect that. For example, think about what people may want to know more about during different seasons such as summer and winter etc. And also events and occassions, such as Easter, summer holidays, weddings, starting a new school, the new year etc.

This template includes a few of the main events that are celebrated in the UK to give you inspiration for blog posts. This is really to be used as a starting block for you to add your own, relevant events. For example, not all companies will find it useful to know that ‘National Stress Awareness Day’ is on the 2nd November.

Loving your website

Image of a heartA website will work much harder for it if you love it. Even if you don’t, pretend it’s covered in fluff and has big cute eyes.

Talk to people about your website – why is it so great, what can it do for people etc. If you’re enthusiastic, it’s likely that other people will take notice.

Is your website fully-trained? Well then, it’s time to move onto the next lesson, ‘Exercising your website’ >

 

How to train your website – LESSON ONE: Getting to know your website

The most important thing to do if you’re going to start looking after a website, or have one built, is to understand the why, who, what and how of it all. The most important question being ‘Why does this website exist?’

If you can answer all these questions below, then you’re qualified to move onto the next lesson.

Getting To Know Your Website

If only websites were as cute as dogs, eh?

WHY does this website exist?

Whilst humans can spend many hours pondering on the reasons behind their existence, websites were made by humans. For a purpose. And this must not be forgotten.

More often than not, reasons for why businesses have websites is to generate an income. This is either by selling a product or service.

You can generate income via your website in several ways (please note, this is not an extensive list):

  • By selling a service or product directly via your website.
  • By encouraging people to sign up to an email list so that you can target customers directly. You can also use this as a way to get more useful data such as address, telephone number, interests etc from your customers which will increase the accuracy of your targeted marketing.
  • By encouraging users to download a resource or guide that will increase your reputation in your field. You may even hold back your download in exchange for more information from the user.
  • By selling advertising space on your website.
  • By including a ‘donate’ button on your website. You don’t have to be a charity to have one of these. If you’re providing content that your readers find valuable, they can be encouraged to donate money to keep your website going. If you’re a charity, then you can obviously also ask for money to be donated.
  • By including content or links to another website that other companies pay for.

Depending on the business, one or more of the above tactics can be used.

TASK: Write down all the things that you want your website or the section that you manage, to do, in order of priority.

WHO is the website aimed at?
Image of a green target with red darts

Ensure your website has a target audience in mind.

If your answer is everyone, rethink.

Your website should have been built with a target audience/s in mind. Once you understand who this is, you can begin to find out more about their behavior online and adapt your website and its content for them.

TASK – Once you have identified your target audience, think about the other types of websites they would visit also and see how those are laid out and the site functionality. What do they do differently to you? Identify the elements of other sites that you like and those that you don’t.

HOW am I driving traffic to my website?

It’s all very well having a website but that doesn’t mean people will automatically flock to it. With an estimated 186 million active websites (interestingly, apparently there are 447 million inactive websites) there are more websites in total than any one person can visit in a lifestyle. What are the chances that they visit yours?

TASK: Write a list of all the different ways you hear about a website and why you visit them. Do you visit a website because you’ve seen a good advert? Do you use Google to find different websites? Do you visit a website because of a recommendation? Or a status update on Facebook?

Image of a red toolbox

It is important to understand how your website works.

Another ‘how’ is ‘how does my website work?’ If you’re the content manager for your website, you need to know inside and out what your website can do in its present state, and what it cannot. How will you be updating your website? Using a Content Management System? Or do you have web developers? If you’re using a content management system, do you know how to use it to its full potential? It may sound silly but there are a lot of people out there with a hugely powerful CMS behind their website using only a small percentage of its worth.

If you or your company want a website and if you answer yes to any of the below reasons for having one, rethink. Or talk to someone who knows more about digital marketing than you. If you get a website built ‘just for the sake of it’ and without having pinned down answers to the above questions, it is likely you will be wasting time and money on a useless venture. There is nothing more frustrating asking someone why they have a website and for them not to know.

If you agree with any of the following, do not invest in a website just yet. 
  • My competitor has a website
  • Everyone else has a website
  • I want to have a URL on my business card
  • I’m not sure why I need one but I can get it for free
WHAT do I want people to do once they come to my website?
Sign Post for places in London

Where should users be directed to when they finish reading your blog post?

Congratulations for getting people to come to your website. The hard work doesn’t end there however, as visitors need to be clear what the website’s expectation of them is.

If you have one or more target audiences, is it easy for them to understand which sections of the site are dedicated to them?

What is the action that you want your user to take on your site? Is your website easy for the user to navigate and find what they’re looking for?

 

 

 

Once you are comfortable answering the why, who, what and how of your websites, you’re ready to move onto Lesson Two: Training your website to work for you > 

 

Content Inspiration for your company website

If you’re aiming to update the content on your website regularly (say once a week), it can be tiring trying to think up new things to write about. Don’t worry though, there’s an infinite amount of things you can post, these are just a few inspirational ideas to get you started:

TOP TIP: Make it a habit to look at everything you do, see, hear or read and ask yourself ‘would my target audience want to know about it?’ If it’s not worthy for your website, could it be a good fit as a status update or link on your social media platforms?

Inspiration for your website

  • There’s a new event coming up that you believe others would be interested in attending. Feature it. Or, if you’re hosting it, write an article on why people should go.
  • What do people most ask about your company or service? Perhaps write a ‘Top Tips’, ‘Guide To’, ‘Ten of the best’ post inspired by the most frequently asked questions that your customers ask.
  • Respond to a story in the newspapers. By having an opinion, you will stand out from others and be noticed. Establish your organisation as an authority.
  • Do you have a new product or service? Tell people about it.
  • Are you discontinuing a product or service? People will want to know.
  • Do you have any upcoming price changes? It is important that you let people know.
  • Is your office closing due to a special occasion? For example, a Bank Holiday or Christmas? Let your customers know. If you’re staying open, people will need to know too!
  • What’s going on in your company? Did someone at your company get a mention in the newspaper? Did someone review on of your products or services? Write about it.
  • Got something to give-away? Perhaps a short course or a product? This is a great way to increase traffic to your site. You could even use it as a way to get more details from your users by asking for certain information as a condition of entry. In the same way, you can help spread awareness of your website by asking people to share your content across their social media networks.
  • Need more staff? Make sure you’re promoting the fact on your website.
  • Is your industry undecided on a certain topic? Why not write a blog post on it and invite others to comment.
  • Create a regular feature – for example, every week or month consolidate relevant industry news on your website.
  • Write a book review that’s relevant to your industry.
  • Ask someone else to write a guest-post for your website.
  • Add an interview – many people love to be interviewed and you can make this as long or short as you wish. You can do a simple Q&A, or even a video or podcast.
  • Attend an event that’s relevant for your industry and review it. Was it worth going to? Who was there? What were the 5 main points you took from it?
  • Profile a company or individual who’s relevant to your industry. Make sure you send them the link too so they can share it with their contacts. Maybe they could even link to their site to yours?

 

If you’re hard-pressed for content ideas, or don’t have time to find news related to your industry, set up a Google Alerts for a couple of your industry keywords and have stories delivered straight to your inbox. You can use these as inspiration for your next article, respond to them via your website or round them up into a consolidated page.

 

Google Alerts Screenshot

 

Got an idea that you’re keen to write about? Before you start, read this – ‘How to Write Your Blog Post.’ > 

Before you publish content online: The Checklist

Don’t feel daunted by publishing content with this handy checklist. This should help improve the content you write for the web, both for the user and for your website.

A checklist for publishing online

  1. You know who you are writing for and what you’ve written addresses them in a way they can relate to and understand.
  2. You know what your keyword/s are and you have researched these.
  3. Any images you’re using are relevant to the content and you have already sourced these. If permission is required, you should have already sought this.
  4. It is clear what you expect people to do once they finish reading your content.
  5. There are no dead-ends in your content and your user is encouraged to click elsewhere at the end.
  6. If you have included a reference to another company / organization / individual, you have also included a link to their website / LinkedIn page and told them in advance that you are going to reference them.
  7. The title of your content is eye-catching; it is catchy, creates intrigue.
  8. Your keywords have been strategically placed in your article.
  9. Your page looks visually appealing.
  10. There are no spelling mistakes, capital letters are where they should be and it reads well.

 

If you’ve not yet written your content, why not take a look at the series of articles ‘How to Write Your Blog Post’. It’s a very good place to start.

How to Write Your Blog Post Part I – Before you start

Things to think about before writing your blog post

Writing a blog is like cooking - image of ingredients

Writing a blog post is a bit like cooking – you need all the right ingredients before you start to make it a success.

You may be eager to get that blog post you’ve been dying to write for ages up and live, but before you even begin tapping away, there are several essential questions you need to have established the answers for before you start. This is critical if you’re going to engage people with your blog post and keep them reading until the very end.

Who’s your audience?

If your blog post is a mere stream of consciousness then a) no one will read it and b) if they do attempt to, they won’t understand it and most likely, neither will you.

Make sure that whatever the subject of your blogpost, that your audience is getting something of value out of it, whether it’s information, wisdom, humour etc.

What’s your keyword?

There is great debate about the importance of keywords in blog posts – some say you must tailor your content to them and some say they’re not so important. I say, they’re important, just as long as they’re used wisely (more about that later).

But firstly, let’s establish your keyword. Be a bit clever and use the Google Keyword Tool to work out what other people are searching for and how many times its being searched for. If possible, find a keyword tool that is well searched for with a low or medium number of results.

Before you write a blog - Google Keyword Tool screenshot

Search for ‘Google Keyword Tool’, enter your proposed keyword and determine whether it’s the right one to use.

What images are you going to use?
Flickr Logo

Ask people for permission if you want to use a Flickr image in your blog post

Images are ideal for telling your story and making your blogpost more interesting to read. If you have personal photos, use a couple of these to highlight points. If you don’t have any images, see if you can find anything suitable on Flickr (ask for permission first, most people will say yes, especially if you include a link back to their account). If you’ve got the budget, use stock images from places such as Shutterstock.

Shutterstock Logo

You can buy images from as little as £29 for 5 downloads

If an image absolutely won’t be the right thing to use, choose some important text from your post and make a quick and simple image in something like PowerPoint or Word. Colour and visuals really will increase engagement on your post.

 

What do you want people to do at the end of reading it?

Do not lead your reader to a dead-end. Don’t just finish your blogpost with nothing. It’s so depressing and rather disappointing for the reader.

Before you work out what you add at the end, work out what you want people to do after they’ve read your blog post. For example, do you want them to buy something, or click to a related website, or leave a comment, or share it? If so, tell them! If your platform allows for it, use something like Shareaholic that makes it easy to share your post to all the main social media platforms.

Writing your blog is the easy part, getting traffic to it is takes effort.

Sharing using Social Media

An example of just some of the social media sites your readers could share your post to.

Can you include other people or organisations into your blog post that can help spread the word once its written?

Be crafty with your blogpost and see if you can include links to people or companies who can help you spread your blog about. Once you’ve found suitable links, see if they have a Facebook or Twitter page that you can post it to, or include them in a tweet with a link to your post. After all, if you only have a couple of hundred followers on Twitter, but someone with several thousand follwers retweets your tweet that includes them, or better still, tweets their own thing about your post, then your exposure is suddenly a lot greater.

If you’ve done all your preparation for the above, then you’re ready to start writing your blog post!