Blogging is a weird form of writing in a lot of ways.
You’re trying to raise awareness about various topics in order to drive search traffic to a product or service, which means you’re kind of engaged in a sort of long-form advertising.
Only it’s more than that.
You’re trying to deliver some kind of value to readers at the same time.
In a perfect world, people read your blog post, feel like they’ve learned something, and then seek out more information, thus kicking off the marketing/sales cycle that will hopefully (for you) end with them becoming a customer.
But it’s one thing to understand how blogging fits into the grand scheme of an inbound marketing strategy and quite another to deliver content that people actually want to read.
As a copywriter, it’s very easy to get lost in the weeds of blogging “truisms.” There are personas to consider, keywords to include, and calls-to-action to deliver – not to mention striking the right balance of internal vs. external links and optimizing the entire structure of the post to qualify for one of Google's cherished featured snippets.
It’s a lot to think about. And if you’re not careful, you can wind up with something bland, lifeless, and forgettable as hell.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that none of those things are important, because they are. But writing a good blog takes more than just marking off the boxes on a best practices list. If it was that easy, we’d probably already have AI programs churning out posts.
Fortunately (at least for copywriters like me), we’re not at that stage quite yet.
Regardless of whatever blogging strategies you prefer to follow, there are two qualities that every blog must have: it needs to be informative and interesting.
Deliver Information That Matters
In most cases, readers are drawn to your post because they’re looking for something. Maybe they’re after something specific, or it could be a case of them not knowing what they don’t know.
Whatever the motivation, your post needs to be able to deliver that information. It doesn’t have to answer every question or even address their concerns specifically, but they absolutely have to come away from it having learned something.
This isn’t actually as difficult as it sounds. If someone comes across your post, they’re already searching for something they want to know. All you have to do is deliver information that has some kind of value.
It doesn’t really matter if the information is exactly what someone was looking for; if they’re curious enough to be searching in the first place, they’re likely to be interested in what you have to share.
This is where all of that research work you did before you started writing comes in handy (you did do your research, right?).
If you do a lot of online research, you quickly lose patience for articles that have awesome titles but deliver little in the way of hard information. When you’re writing a blog, you have an obligation to provide genuinely valuable content. Otherwise, you’re just wasting everyone’s time.
Now, you don’t necessarily have to convey information that can’t be found anywhere else, but you do have to actually deliver something tangible and relevant.
For instance, you can’t write a blog about the digestive health of dogs and then spend the whole post making jokes about cleaning up dog poop (although that would be totally fine if you were writing about the best ways to clean up dog poop…for some reason).
Write to be Read
Here’s where things get dicey…
Providing valuable information is the easy part. Doing so in a way that engages the reader and holds their interest is a far greater challenge.
Sure, in some cases a reader might just be looking for a bland information dump. They’re looking for a specific thing and they just want the answer right away. Search engines are designed to deliver this sort of content. It’s the whole idea behind Google’s featured snippets and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with it.
But that’s not really what you’re trying to accomplish with a blog. You don’t want people to just take the information and move along without a second thought.
Ultimately, you want to draw them in and keep them engaged enough to move through the buyer’s journey. A bland, boring blog post full of predictable bullet points isn’t going to get that job done.
You may have noticed that I’ve been referring to our target audience as readers rather than visitors. This isn’t a simple semantic difference. Digital marketing obviously thinks of people in terms of visitors, which makes sense for a bunch of reasons.
But a writer is focused on a different type of engagement. Marketers succeed when someone converts on form; a writer succeeds when someone reads their work and feels like it was worth their time.
Whatever you’re writing, whether it’s a blog post or a novel, the single most important goal is to hold the reader’s interest.
Seriously, nothing else matters.
You can target the perfect topic to the perfect persona with the perfect content offer, but it will all be a waste of time if it’s wrapped up in a boring article that nobody wants to read beyond the first paragraph.
I’ve written in the past about how storytelling techniques can help make blog posts more engaging, but really it comes down to finding ways to make the information you’re presenting relevant to the reader.
You have to show them why it matters to them and why they should care about it. Remember, they can always find the same information elsewhere (often the same places you researched to learn about it!).
What sets your content apart is the way you present it, creating an engaging experience that draws people in and makes them want to read more.
And once you’ve got a reader hooked, an entire world of marketing possibilities opens up…
So, while you need to keep all those important things like keywords and buyer personas in mind, don’t ever lose sight of the fact that you’re fighting to earn your readers’ time. If you can’t deliver valuable information in a way that’s interesting, you’re probably doing your marketing efforts more harm than good.
Published on January 13, 2019