How to Write and Create Great Blog Content
Summary: Now that you have your blog set up, your next goal is to create content. The content of your blog will be the bait that attracts your readers. In this chapter, we will cover what the content your blog consists of, types of content you can create and blogging practices you should follow.
Without great content, even the most well-designed, tightly-structured blogs will ultimately fail. There are three types of content you need to create for your blog.
Before you start writing your day-to-day "Blog posts" you will want to make sure the static "Pages" and "Sidebar" content of your blog is created and uploaded to your blog. Let’s explore each of these content areas.
First, you will need to create static content pages for the following types of information.
The most traditional page on any blog is the About page. This page simply tells new visitors to your blog what it is about, who you are and why you have a blog about your specific topic. Depending on your niche and your style, the information you provide can be “all business” or personal and fun.
This page allows visitors to your blog to contact you at anytime. It can be a simple page with your email address plus social network links, or you can use plugins like Contact Form 7 to have a simple contact form visitors can use to contact you without leaving your website.
If you created your blog to promote your business, you’ll want to make sure there’s a page that details the products or services you sell. Alternatively, if you already have a website for your business, you can provide a link to it in your menu.
To give yourself a little liability protection, you might want to consider a disclaimers or policy page. For example, if you are writing a health blog, but you're not a medical professional, you may want to create a disclaimer to say that you are not a physician or other healthcare professional and recommend that readers see their doctors for their personal medical information and evaluation.
You may also want to inform visitors to your website that you use analytics tracking, Google AdSense, affiliate marketing links and other types of content. A great example of a disclaimer page can be found here.
Be sure to visit other blogs in your niche — preferably larger ones—to see what pages they provide links for in their main navigation bar, sidebar and footer. Chances are, your visitors will be looking for the same types of pages on your blog.
Your sidebar is the smaller column to the left or right (depending on the theme you selected) of your blog's main content. You will want to add the following content in sidebar widgets for your visitors.
Encourage visitors to your blog to subscribe via email or RSS. Email of course is best, especially if you would like to monetize your blog in the future. MailChimp is a great service to use as it is free for the first 2,000 subscribers.
This is a simple sentence or two about you and your blog for new visitors who may not take the time to read your About page. Having your photo in this blurb of text helps visitors put a face to the blog, whether you are the owner and editor managing other writers, or the main content author.
Beneath your about widget, you will want to display links to your social profiles so people can follow you. Generally, this will be your Facebook page, Twitter profile, and Google+ profile / page. You can use icons to represent each network, or use official boxes, buttons, and badges from these networks. The latter help you build your social media audience by allowing people to connect with you without leaving your website.
A popular posts widget will help direct visitors to your top pieces of content. WordPress Popular Posts plugin will help you create this easily, displaying posts based on comments and view count.
If you plan to add advertising banners to your blog, then add them from the start so regular visitors will not be surprised when you do start gaining advertisers. The banners you use until then can link to products for which you are an affiliate marketer or to products you simply like.
Blog posts content
Before we get into the technical elements of blog posts, there is one fundamental that every blogger in every niche needs to adhere to.
Create content with readers in mind.
You'll read a lot about optimizing your content for search engines, and while that it is important, if you don't optimize your content for humans, then you'll never gain the exposure that it takes to ultimately get links and rank well in search engines. If you write content that people love to read, then you will get traffic, social shares and links as your readership grows.
Basic components of a blog post
Following are the basic elements of a great blog post. We'll talk about how to optimize each for both readers and search engines.
The headline, or title, of your blog post must be crafted to capture the attention of potential readers who may see it in their social media newsfeeds or in search results. Make sure you've found a great keyword phrase that people searching will use to find blog posts on your topic — and include it in your headline.
The first paragraph of your blog post will either keep people reading or make people leave. Make sure that it compels people to read the rest of your content. You should use your targeted keyword phrase for search at least once in this paragraph.
This is the main portion of your blog post content. Think of the headline as the promise and the main content as the fulfillment of that promise. Your main content should fully satisfy anyone who visits your post based on the headline. If you create content that does not satisfy the promises of your headline, people will start to identify your blog as unfulfilling and thus, stop visiting. The length of your blog posts can range from 300 to 3,000 or more words. It's best to alternate the length of your posts as you gain insight about what works best for your audience.
Many people will scan your blog content as opposed to reading it word for word. Write subheads that break your content into digestible sections, and make sure those subheads represent the content within them.
Bolded text - Use bold text in a few areas of your main content to help highlight important points. Use it selectively, otherwise your entire article will seem bolded, thus taking away the ability to highlight key portions of content.
Bulleted/numbered lists - While you don’t want your entire post to be bulleted or numbered lists, these lists do help separate out steps and lists with useful content.
Media - Supplement the text portion of your content with media, such as relevant images and video. This will help break up your content and illustrate your points better. Images can also be used as part of the search optimization of your post—include your post's main keyword phrase in the filename of the image as well as the ALT tag.
The conclusion should be a paragraph or two at the end of your post to summarize what the reader should have gotten out of it. If they didn't, chances are, they will go back to see what they might have missed.
The last line of your blog post should be some form of a call to action. It can be as simple as asking readers to share their thoughts in the comments or to share the post on social media if they enjoyed it. If your post was written to promote a particular product or service, the call to action should encourage the reader to learn more about it.
You don't have to include all of the elements from this list in every post, but make sure you always have engaging introduction, quality content, and a solid conclusion.
Types of content
As a blogger, you don't have to be limited to standard blog posts to share your expertise. Here are various content types you can use to supplement your blog content.
VideosIf you want to gain new visitors from YouTube, or simply feel it's easier to record a video than write a blog post, then video content should be in your plans. All you need is an HD camera (if you want to be on video), a microphone and/or a good screen capture program like Screenflow if you want to record tutorials from your computer. You can also create videos from webinars, Google+ hangouts and other platforms.
PresentationsEnjoy creating PowerPoint presentations or Prezis? Then create slideshow content that you can use on sites like Slideshare or to supplement your blog content.
Whitepapers & Case StudiesIf you prefer to write in-depth, researched content, then consider whitepapers and case studies. These can be summarized on a blog post, then offered as a free download to build your email list or in exchange for social shares.
PodcastsIf you like to speak or interview others, then podcasts should be part of your content. They allow you to gain new readers from those who love podcasts, and you can transcribe or summarize your podcasts in blog posts.
InfographicsFor those with design talent, infographics can be a great way to get more exposure for your ideas. With precision design and backed-up facts, you can get your content featured on sites like Mashable and others that regularly post infographics.
EbooksEbooks are also great freebies for building your email list or, alternatively, something you can sell on your website and Amazon Kindle. You can create them from scratch or repackage several blog posts that cover a specific theme.
The best part about these types of content is that you don't have to create unique content if you want to explore different formats. For example, you can take a blog post tutorial and record it as a video. You can take a podcast transcription and turn it into a blog post. You can take several blog posts and combine them into an ebook. The possibilities are endless.
Best blogging practices
To become a successful blogger in any niche, you will want to follow these best practices.
Set your blogging goals
You'll never know if you are getting the most out of blogging if you haven't set goals for your blog. Is your goal to make money? Get a new job? Find people to connect with about a specific topic? Define your blogging goals and periodically ask yourself if your blog is helping you meet them. If not, ask yourself how you can improve your blog in order to meet the goals.
Commit to becoming an expert
No matter what your blogging goals are, if you strive to be an expert in your niche, the fulfillment of your goals is sure to follow. People who are known as experts in their niche tend to receive more recognition and income for their content. They also tend to have larger audiences and the option to turn their readers into customers by offering related products and services.
Engage with your audience
The best way to stay in tune with your readers is to engage with them. Some ways to do this include replying to comments, responding to queries from your contact form, joining in conversations with readers on social networks, and visiting your readers' blogs to see what they are interested in and join discussions. As you do this, you will build stronger relationships with your readers and learn more about what they want, something that can help inspire your future content.
Be consistent and realistic
Creating a consistent schedule of posting on your blog helps your readers know when they can expect to hear from you again, whether it's daily, weekly, monthly or even quarterly. The key to maintaining consistency is to be realistic. Individual bloggers will find it difficult to create high-quality content on a daily basis. Start with weekly or bi-weekly posts and work your way up to daily posts, if that is your ultimate goal. Just don't sacrifice quantity for quality.
Use an editorial calendar
To help maintain your consistency, be sure to use some form of editorial calendar. You can use Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar, or even a simple spreadsheet. Use it to manage your ideas and plan your content themes for each month so that blogging is something you focus on, not something you do in your spare time.
Edit your work, or hire an editor
For many people, it's hard to create content—then proofread and edit it. As a matter of fact, editing while you write can hinder your creative flow. Proofreading is not optional. A blog post full of misspelled words and typos reflects poorly on you. If you're not able to do these tasks on your own, consider hiring a virtual assistant to do it for you. This is especially important if you’re not writing in your native language. Having a native speaker of the language used in your blog edit your work can boost your credibility. While blog content does not need to be perfect, it does need to be easy to read and consume.
Analyze the data
Be sure to install Google Analytics when you begin blogging and regularly check your data. In particular, you want to make sure your traffic is growing and see what websites, social networks and other types of sources drive the most visitors to your blog. You’ll also want to watch for significant drops in traffic, as these drops may indicate a bigger problem, such as downtime for your website or loss of traffic due to Google algorithm changes.
If you want your blog to thrive and grow, then creating quality content is the answer. Focus on quality over quantity, even if you have to sacrifice frequency and consistency. Your readers will appreciate you for it.