Blog Posts That Drive Traffic: 10 Ways to Boost Your Blogging
By Tim Russell
In my last post, I gave you some tips on getting started with content marketing. And the quickest and easiest way to do that is to set up a company blog with blog posts that drive traffic. Remember, your blog isn’t a direct sales tool. You won’t be blogging about how wonderful your company or product is. It’s more a tool to write about the issues that concern your audience and how they relate to your business. You’re essentially giving your audience free content and establishing yourselves as thought leaders in your industry.
But whilst anyone can sit down and write a blog post, getting people to read it is another matter entirely. Blog posts that drive traffic don’t happen overnight. It requires planning, effort and strategy, and it can take a while to build up an audience. Here are my ten tips for making sure you’re doing all you can to create blog posts that drive traffic to your site.
Generate Good Ideas
Let’s start with the hardest part: coming up with good ideas for blog posts. If you’ve already started working on your content marketing strategy then you’ll already be familiar with the concept of topic clusters; now it’s time to look at those topics and see what blog ideas you can come up with.
If you’re lucky you’ll probably be able to come up with a few off the top of your head; if inspiration fails, here are a few ideas to help you come up with suitable blog ideas:
Read the News
Yes, reading the news – especially at the moment – can be a depressing business; but I’m referring more to reading news specific to your industry or your audience’s concerns. I use a combination of Google Alerts (daily news digests based on my search terms sent to me by Google) and a feed reader (in my case, Feedly) to provide me with alerts on news stories that are trending in the areas in which I’m interested. They are a great source of ideas for blog posts.
Follow Your Competitors
By which, of course, I mean the successful ones! Follow your competitors on social media to see what they’re blogging about, what their audience is asking them about, what their clients are saying about their product. I’m not suggesting you should copy them, but there’s a world of difference between inspiration and plagiarism.
Have a look at what kind of questions your customers ask you online. Or talk to your sales or support teams and find out what clients are asking them. Look at your customer reviews. Look at internet forums where people discuss your type of product. You’ll soon spot a few interesting trends or topics that can easily be turned into blog posts.
Topic Suggestion Tools
When all else fails, turn to the internet and try a few topic suggestion tools. Type in your subject or keyword phrase, and the tool will provide you wish lists of similar searches. Or lists of the most popular web pages on similar subjects, as in the example below from Ubersuggest.
Whichever method you use, try and come up with as many good ideas as you can for different buyer personas and buyer journey stages, so you have a good reservoir of content ideas to fill up your content calendar.
Get the Title Right
Blog posts live and die by their titles. You could write the greatest, most thrilling blog title in the history of the internet. But give it a boring title and no one’s going to click on it. Conversely, giving your blog a provocative, enticing title which leads the reader to something irrelevant, boring or unoriginal is a good way to get in Google’s SEO bad books.
According to Hubspot research, 60 characters is the sweet spot for a blog title, and 8-12 words is most likely to get your blog shared more on Twitter. So now you know what space you’ve got to work in, you can think about a snappy, relevant and appealing title for your blog. The key is to make sure you get your keyword phrase in there. Then there are three very effective approaches you can take:
Let’s face it, if you see a blog post that is 100% opposed to your view, or 100% in accordance with it, you’re highly likely to click on it. If I was to write a post called “Why Dogs Are Much Better Than Cats”, it would likely appeal to dog and cat lovers alike, for different reasons of course. If you hold a controversial opinion, people want to read about it and find out why. Here’s a perfect example from Jeff Bullas:
There’s a title which, whether you love or hate Facebook, makes you want to read more. Because it’s polarizing and controversial. But if you take this approach, make sure your writing delivers!
Pique People’s Interest
If you give everything away in the blog title, people have no incentive to click on it. That’s why creating an air of mystery in your title piques people’s interest and leaves them desperate to find out more. Here’s an example not from a blog, but from a 1980s direct mailer:
Isn’t that brilliant? If I found that in my mailbox I’d be tearing open the envelope as quick as I could, desperate to find out what exactly I shouldn’t eat on a plane. And a good blog post will similarly have people rushing to click on it so they can read more and satisfy their curiosity. Again, just make sure your writing doesn’t disappoint.
By now you’ve done your research into your audience and know what their problems and issues are. And so your blog posts should convince them that you have the solution to those problems. A blog title that suggests you have the answer to a particular problem is definitely going to get your audience clicking. Here’s a great example from fStoppers:
I’m a photographer in my spare time and anything that can make the process easier for me is to be warmly welcomed. So I would definitely click on this. So think about your audience’s problems, and come up with blog topics and titles that suggest that you are the one who can solve them (again, just make sure you actually can!)
Get the Length Right
The next thing to consider is how long your blog post is going to be. Think about your audience and how they prefer to consume content. Some will like long posts, others will prefer something short and snappy. Research, however, suggests that longer posts – 2000 words and upwards – get more shares than shorter ones.
Image Courtesy of Buzzsumo
As well as generating more shares, longer content gives you more SEO juice, and does a great job of establishing you as an expert in your field. Just remember that according to a 2017 Hubspot survey, 73% of blog readers admit to skimming content. So make sure your longer posts are broken up into bitesize chunks with clear headers to make them easily skimmable.
Of course, the best thing you can do for SEO purposes is to write original, relevant content that answers the search intent of your audience. Taking that as a given, there are a few other things you need to do to make sure your blog has as much SEO power as possible:
Ideally, your blog will be based on one or two keywords or phrases. Which should appear in your blog title and meta description, and a few times in the text. But don’t overdo it! Throwing your keyword into a blog post at every opportunity regardless of the effect on readability is known as keyword stuffing, and Google doesn’t like it!
Use Header Tags
Using H1 and H2 tags in an article (as I’ve done here, with ‘SEO’ and then ‘Use Keywords’) makes your posts easier to read, and tells search engines what your content – and its sections – are actually about. Many bloggers overlook this but it’s an essential SEO practice.
If you’re using images in your post (more on them later), make sure they have relevant titles and alt text that includes your keyword whenever possible.
For more on tags, see my recent post on SEO for small businesses.
Use an SEO Optimisation Tool
If you’re using a dedicated blogging platform, an SEO optimisation tool will help you make sure your blog post’s SEO is up to scratch. Millions of WordPress users rely on Yoast SEO to do this job, whilst Hubspot also offers a very thorough SEO checklist:
Everyone loves free stuff, and if your blog comes with the promise of a freebie just for visiting, then it’s going to attract plenty of clicks. And if you leave the free offer right to the end of the post, there’s more chance of people reading the whole thing!
It’s up to you what you give away but examples include free trials, free white papers, free downloads, gift vouchers etc. The great thing about giveaways is that people are usually happy to sign up for them, making them a great way to harvest visitor email addresses. Here’s an example of one I use on my own photography blog:
Just make sure that your freebie is actually free, rather than freemium, or simply a ruse to get people to part with their credit card details. Such tactics are seen as dishonest and will harm your reputation. Many’s the time I’ve signed up for some ‘free’ photography downloads, only to learn that I need to buy another product in order to get them.
As the name suggests, an evergreen post is one that has a long shelf life, and that isn’t based on a trending or short-lived topic. A good evergreen post can continue to go on attracting traffic for years. Whilst researching this topic, the following post came up at #1 on Google’s search results. Look at the date it was originally posted!
That post has been generating huge traffic for some six years now. A great return for a post that probably took a day or so to put together. That’s the power of evergreen posts. So rather than write about current trends, think about general business or industry principles. The kind of stuff your audience will always be interested in, and occasionally update or repurpose it so it stays relevant. Obviously, you’ll still need to write about passing trends more often than not. But a few evergreen posts will keep that SEO pot boiling while you do so.
For business blogs, long-tail keywords – very specific, narrow terms rather than more general searches – can be the most effective. A clear long-tail keyword – eg ‘green canvas camera backpack’ – shows a much higher level of buyer intent than a more general one like ‘camera bags’. And has much less competition when it comes to SERPs. If someone is searching at that level, it means they’re more likely to find your content, and they’re more likely to buy.
Image Courtesy of Adrants
As you can see from the above graph, long tail keywords are low risk, low cost (if you’re using Adwords), and have a much higher probability of conversion. And so they should be an essential element of your blogging strategy.
According to marketer Jeff Bullas, posts with images get an amazing 94% more traffic than those without. Posts with images simply look nicer and are more likely to retain site visitors. Images break up the text, provide visual explanations of difficult ideas, and get more social shares. You can use your own photos, stock images, infographics, charts, or create your own graphics using a free site such as Canva. Image alt text also gives your articles a little bit more SEO oomph.
One of the most effective ways to generate blog traffic is via guest blogging. And that can work two ways: either you invite a blogger who is popular and authoritative in the field to write for your blog; or you offer to write for theirs. The mutual backlinks give both parties some good SEO karma, but more importantly, the amount of referral traffic generated by a good guest blog post can be huge. Here are some very persuasive stats about why guest blogging is an effective strategy:
Image Courtesy of ArticleContentPlanet
To get started, simply research the most popular influential blogs on your topic, both in SERP terms and also in terms of social rank, and approach them to discuss guest blogging. You’ll probably need a good few blog posts under your belt first in order to have some credibility, but stick at it and you’ll soon find other bloggers willing to work with you.
Repurpose Popular Blog Posts
If you’ve written a blog post that is getting loads of traffic, conversions and shares, you should think about repurposing it. Going back over old posts, identifying top performers and then repurposing them can often be more effective from an SEO perspective than creating something new. And turning your post into different formats can appeal to different buyer personas and increase its resharing potential. Remember, some people don’t get their information from blogs. They might prefer to listen to a webinar, watch a video, or download an ebook; and different personas may be attracted by different types of content at different stages of their buyer journey. So think about taking that blog post and repurposing it into one or numerous new formats, and see it traffic-generating powers multiply exponentially!
There’s no magic formula to creating a winning blog post. But follow these ten tips for blog posts that drive traffic, and you’re sure to create posts that will get eyeballs from the right audience and help you achieve your content marketing goals. If you want to outsource your blogging ideas to someone who can write killer blogs with SEO incorporated, please contact our team at Booming Businesses.