• Technomag

Creating Quality Blog Content that Your Audience Loves to Read

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

All effective blog posts have a blueprint. You may not easily see it, but it’s there, and it’s meant to help you, the reader, through your journey to making a well-informed, confident decision— whatever that decision may be. Here are a list of reasons why your blog posts need structure. To start, it gives you direction. The last thing you want is to stare at a screen frustrated that you don’t know what to write about. Next, it will make your content creation time more effective and efficient. Using a template creates helpful guardrails. Without it, you could easily spend your time creating content that may get cut out before publishing. Next, you want readers to easily comprehend what it is you’re trying to tell them. If your content is too complicated and unending, then chances are readers will abandon it and go elsewhere. There’s thousands of blog posts being published every minute, so it’s safe to say you’re not the only resource out there competing for attention. And lastly, you want your readers to remember what you write about and feel excited and inspired to take the next step in their journey. So if your goal is to attract your ideal audience, engage them with helpful, useful content, and ultimately delight them to the point where they become promoters of your brand by sharing your content with their network, then you need to create content that has structure and tells a story.

How to choose a topic and a title for a blog post

Before getting started with a blog post, you need to first determine the direction of the content. Let’s review an effective way to approach this. To start, choose a topic to write about. At a high level, write educational content.

Put yourself in the shoes of your buyer personas. What will they be searching for? What do they want to know about? What will resonate with them? Consider what you know about your buyer personas and their interests while you're coming up with a topic for your blog post. And when it comes to a topic, make sure to write about your industry, not yourself. Remember, you’re trying to attract strangers to your blog who have never heard of your company before — so they’re not going to find you through search engines if you’re just blogging about yourself. You have the rest of your website to provide that information.

If you’re looking for a place to start with creating content that’ll positively impact your audience, then ask your coworkers from other teams like sales and services for some ideas. Here are a few questions that you could ask and they could answer: What are the most frequently asked questions you hear? What do our prospects and customers need help with? What do you wish people knew about our industry? What are industry bloggers, social media, and even our competitors talking about? Before you write anything, you need to pick a topic for your blog post. The topic can be pretty general to start with. For example, if you provide running shoes, then it might be a good idea to write about the topic of running. Expand off of this topic — in other words, iterations or different ways of approaching that topic to help you focus your writing. For example, you might decide to narrow your topic to "the top ten running shoes for marathons" or "how to create a running routine." When picking your ideas to write about, do keyword research. Keywords are the words and phrases typed into search engines. They’re the topics that people are trying to learn more about. Which keywords do your buyer personas use? Which are associated with your industry? Optimizing your blog posts for keywords is not about incorporating as many keywords into your posts as possible. Nowadays, this actually hurts your search engine optimization because search engines consider this keyword stuffing. It also doesn't make for a good reader experience — a ranking factor that search engines now prioritize to ensure you're answering the intent of your visitors. You should use keywords in your content in a way that doesn't feel unnatural or forced.

A good rule of thumb is to focus on one long-tail keyword per blog post. A long-tail keyword is a very targeted search phrase that contains three or more words. It often contains a head term, which is a more generic search term, one or two words in length. The head terms you choose should align with the topics that you want your business and website to be known for and build authority around. For example, if you want your business to be known for “content marketing,” then a blog post on “Three Steps to Organizing a Long-Term Content Marketing Strategy” is a great example of a long-tail keyword in support of this topic. Or if you want your business to be known for “full-time RVing,” then a blog post on “Full-Time RVing | The Benefits of Trying Before Buying” is a great example of a long-tail keyword in support of this topic. And why should you focus on long-tail keywords for blog post titles? These longer, often question-based keywords keep your post focused on the specific goals of your audience. Website visitors searching long-tail terms are more likely to read the whole post and then seek more information from you. In other words, you'll attract the right type of traffic to your website. If you’re brainstorming ideas to write about, there’s a good chance you’ll create a long list of ideas for topics you can cover and posts you can create. This will help create a longer-term blogging strategy, making a list of topics that support a specific conversion. For example, if you have an ebook or guide that you want to create and promote, then consider making a list of blog ideas that support this guide’s content. This way, if someone finds your blog post and finds the content helpful, that increases the chances of them wanting to click a call-to-action, aka CTA, to access a relevant offer. If you’re looking for assistance with blog ideas, then check out HubSpot’s blog ideas generator. This free tool will help jump-start your creative process.

Now, let’s talk about creating a title. Think about how you read things online. You read the title first, before you commit. It needs to catch your interest, especially since it’s the first thing that will catch a reader’s attention. Start by creating a working title for your blog post. A working title is something to "work" off of as you begin to write your post. Start here to narrow your topic down and focus on one angle. A broad term, like “social media,” could breed multiple blog post ideas. A working title, like “top social media channels for live video in 2019” is now long-tail and specific. Once you finish the piece, you’ll come back to this title and refine it to be more aligned with the direction you ended up taking in the post. For almost every piece of content, come up with at least 5–10 different titles. Make it a rule that you spend a minimum of five minutes brainstorming titles. And once you make a list, send to a co-worker to get their opinion. Also, make the value of the post clear in the title. Your title should help readers and search engines understand what your post is about. Set the right expectations — what is the reader going to get out of your blog post? What information is covered? What format is the blog post going to take?

In this example, the blog post title explicitly tells you that you’ll be reading about how to create an infographic. Not only that, but it sets the expectations that it only takes an hour to do, and there’s also free templates included. You know exactly what you’re going to get from this blog post — how it’s valuable to you and how much information it contains. When it comes to the art of the perfect blog post title, HubSpot did some research and looked at how our own titles have performed.

Here are the consistent principles that were found:

1. The ideal blog post title length is 60 characters.

2. Headlines between 8 and 12 words are shared most often on Twitter.

3. Headlines between 12 and 14 words are liked most often on Facebook.

HubSpot also found that headlines ending with a bracketed clarification — like the earlier example with “15 free infographic templates” in brackets at the end of the post — performed 38% better than titles without that clarification. If you're having trouble trimming down the length of a title, run it through Moz’s title tag preview tool to see how the title will appear on a search engine results page. Google typically displays the first 50–60 characters of a title tag. If you keep your titles under 60 characters, you can expect about 90% of your titles to display properly. Title too long? That’s okay! Make sure to create a title for your reader first. When you have a lengthy headline, it's a good idea to put your primary keyword (aka the head term) at the beginning of the title since it might get cut off toward the end on a search engine results page. In this example, the title got caught off, but the focus keyword, “data visualization,” is at the front.

How to create and structure a blog post

Once you have a topic and title for your blog post, the next step is to create and structure its content. Let’s review how to go about this. To start, choose a format for the post so that both people and search engines can easily read and understand it. When writing for your audience, you want to match the attitude of your readers and the subject matter. Consider if your writing should be serious, fun and personable, uplifting, quirky and humorous, or authoritative. Readers might not be able to point out that the tone is what’s off-putting about your content and therefore your brand, but it’s the little things that can leave a big impression. Your goal should be to create an interesting narrative with each post that your audience can follow. This all starts with having a solid structure for your post that readers recognize and therefore know what to expect. One easy structure to use is the List Formula. Start with an intro, list out the main points of the article, and then wrap it all up with a strong conclusion.

The How-To Formula is another easy-to-use and logical format. It begins with an introduction, there’s a section on why this matters to the reader that provides more context, and then you provide details on how to do something in a list format. If you start with a formula for the backbone of your article, it’s easier to get started. It will be overwhelming to write an introduction without knowing where the piece is going to go. Start by filling in the main points and save writing the introduction and conclusion for after you’ve written the piece or created a solid architecture for the post. When writing an intro, make it captivating. If you lose the reader in the first few paragraphs — or even sentences — of the introduction, they’ll stop reading even before they've given your post a read-through. Grab their attention, use humor, be empathetic, or grip the reader with an interesting fact or statistic. And describe the purpose of the post and explain how it will address a problem the reader may be having. It should be a follow-up to the title that they found interesting. This will give the reader a reason to keep reading and give them a connection to how it will help them improve. If you read the first few lines of this blog post, would you want to keep reading? What about this blog post? Keep your buyer persona in mind and think about what would entice them to keep on reading.

And what about the rest of your blog post? The body of your blog post is where your readers will undoubtedly derive the most value. HubSpot did an analysis and found the ideal blog post length is roughly 2,100 words, but that will vary depending on your topic. Always solve for the reader first. Make sure you cover your topic in full and have met the expectations that your blog title promised. Let’s review some formatting best practices to ensure you’re creating effective blog posts that are remembered. Mention your keyword at a normal cadence throughout the body of your post and in the headers when it makes sense. That means including your keywords in your copy but only in a natural, reader-friendly way. Don't go overboard, though, at the risk of being penalized for keyword stuffing. Whenever you create content, your primary focus should be on what matters to your audience, not how many times you can include a keyword or keyword phrase in that content. Here’s a pro tip to avoid keyword stuffing: Consider writing the synonyms of your keyword as opposed to keyword stuffing. For example, digital nomad is a main topic I write about often, but instead of repeating that term over and over in my content, I change it up with synonyms like “remote worker” or “telecommuter.” And while text is one of the most important facets of an effective blog post, your content needs to be more than just text. You need to pay attention to how you present the content. Which brings me to my next best practice: Whitespace is your friend. Whitespace is the empty space on the page. It allows the visitor to focus on the content, not the clutter. Don’t write long paragraphs that form into huge blocks of text — this will make your information look dense and hard to read.

As you can see in this example, there’s plenty of whitespace on the side margins of the post, around the title and first image, and between the paragraphs of text within the post. The space makes the post more easily digestible — nothing is crammed together, and though the post is long, it doesn’t feel overwhelming or hard to read. You can also break up the text in your blog post by using sub-headers and bullets or numbered lists to highlight your points. Sub-headers are another on-page SEO element. Sub-headers organize and break up your blog post into different sections to signal to Google (and your reader) what the post will cover. Sub-headers should be written with H2 tags or smaller — never H1 tags, which signal a title. Use sub-headers to split up sections of your blog post. For example, this blog post has a section on creating ideas on your own. Notice how it offers subheadings within this section as well to continue splitting up content to make it easier to digest. I did this using an H3 tag. Bolding important text can also help readers quickly understand the key takeaways from the post. Though, don’t go overboard with bolding. If the majority of a paragraph is bolded, then it’s possible you’re reader won’t retain the important information you want them to remember. Here’s a pro tip: Consider only bolding one sentence per paragraph and possibly just bolding one sentence every few paragraphs. In this case, less is more. Once you’ve finished the text portion of your post, don’t forget to make it stand out with the use of visuals and multimedia elements to break up your text.

Start by using a featured image. A featured image usually sits at the top of a blog post and is another element to draw readers in to learn more. A featured image is also the image that shows up on social media when your content is shared. The image should reflect what the story is about, intrigue readers, or provoke them. It doesn’t need to directly illustrate what your post is about, but they should be loosely related to your content. While most people enjoy a great cat photo, it may not always be relevant to your content. And throughout the body of your blog post, use multimedia content wherever it's possible to break up the blog post and re-engage your reader. Add images, videos, audio recordings, embedded social media posts, and so on. HubSpot sometimes includes an audio version of the blog post or includes a video on the related topic. It changes it up for the reader but also helps them digest the content in a different way. Changing up the format of your blog post will provide additional value to your reader while making sure their eyes are focused on what they're reading and seeing. See the difference? The blog post without any visual looks a lot less interesting and welcoming. Before moving on, don't forget about mobile. Mobile users consume more than two times the minutes online compared to desktop users. This means having a blog that's responsive or designed for mobile has become more and more critical. Make sure to keep mobile in mind as you structure your blog post. What would the experience be like if someone were to read your blog post on their mobile phone instead of a desktop computer? Would you format it differently? And there you have it – the fundamental strategy and best practices for creating and structuring content that attracts, engages, and delights your ideal audience.

How to optimize a blog post

Once you’ve formatted your blog post’s content, you’ll want to optimize it for readers as well as search engines. To help search engines understand what you’re trying to communicate, optimize your post accordingly. You already optimized the title and body of your post, but there’s a list of other optimizations you should consider as well. Let’s review each.

Let’s start with the URL.

The URL doesn’t have to match the title of the blog exactly. Instead, make it a best practice to shorten the URL without losing context to what the page is about. For example, notice how the URL of this blog post is shorter than the title. This way, I can update the content over time without updating the URL. Here’s a pro tip: Don’t include numbers in your URL, like year or steps. This way, if you update the content in the future, you won’t have to update the URL. Updating the URL creates a 301 redirect. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. Making updates to URLs hurts your SEO, and you don’t want that.

Moving on to image alt-text.

Search engines don't just look for images. Rather, they look for images with alt-text. Because search engines can't "see" images the same way humans can, an image's alt-text tells them what an image is about – which ultimately helps those images rank in the image section of search engine results. Consider optimizing your images with different descriptive variations of your long-tail keyword.

Next up is your meta description.

Your meta description is meant to give search engines and readers information about your blog post's content. The maximum suggested length of a meta description is 150–160 characters. Anything longer than that will most likely be cut off. Keep in mind that copy matters a great deal for clickthrough rates because it satisfies certain readers' intent. The more engaging, the better. In addition to being reader-friendly (compelling and relevant), your meta description should include the long-tail keyword for which you’re trying to optimize for. But keep in mind that a search engine may not choose to use your meta description as the descriptive text in search results. Search engines are funny that way.

And lastly, insert links strategically throughout your post. As you attract more and more visitors to your blog, that increased traffic means an increased opportunity to build a relationship, gain trust, and generate more leads and eventually customers. Let’s review some best practices when it comes to using links effectively in your blog posts. First, link to external content when it’s helpful or supports a stat or claim you’re making.

It takes a lot of work to attract someone to your site and gain their trust. The last thing you want to do is send them off your site unless it’s something that supports your content. I’m not saying you shouldn’t link to content that’s not your own, but just do so thoughtfully and make sure it provides value. Here’s a pro tip: When linking to external websites, consider having that content open in a new window. This way, you’re being helpful without redirecting people off of your site. Next, link to other helpful blog posts on your site. If you find yourself typing a sentence or paragraph that can be explained in more detail on another blog post, then link to it. This helps in two ways: It solves for the reader, allowing and encouraging them to continue bingeing your content; and it solves for the search engine as it communicates to them that there’s a cluster of related content on your site. And if search engines deem your cluster of web content around a specific topic as a credible source, then that can help boost your visibility on the search engines. Which brings me to my last point: Link to important content on your site that supports conversions. When it comes to deciding on where to insert CTAs on your blog posts, here are four places to consider. Let’s review each.

First, consider inserting a CTA after the first few paragraphs. To avoid looking too pushy too soon, try including a passive CTA through hyperlinked text as opposed to using an image. It’s important to include these passive CTAs near the top, as you can’t always count on your visitor reading your entire post to take the next step. Think about it. Do you read to the end of every blog post that you click on? Probably not. HubSpot performs CTA tests all the time. From image and text CTAs to placement of the CTAs, we’re always looking for ways to improve clickthrough rate. Interestingly enough, we found that text CTAs near the top of blogs posts produce the highest clickthrough rates— something you might want to keep in mind and test on your blog posts. I recommend linking to pillar pages with CTAs at the top of the page as the content is not gated, meaning you’re not forcing someone to give you their email address just yet in exchange for something. Instead, you can lead with educational content, which solves for your reader first. Plus, your pillar pages should support one, if not multiple, conversions so that you can help the reader through their journey accordingly while gaining their trust along the way. Next, include an image or text CTA near the most relevant content in the body of the post. The best time to support a conversion is just after educating someone. For example, Townsend Security, a full-service data security provider, included an image CTA to a relevant podcast download in this blog post. Notice how the CTA content is similar to the content it’s paired with. Next, include an image CTA at the end of each post. If someone reads your post to the end, then you want to offer them a helpful next step. This is a CTA at the end of the same post that was shown earlier. The title of the post is “Data Visualization 101: How to Choose the Right Chart or Graph for Your Data,” and at the bottom, there’s a CTA for an ebook on how to present data people can’t ignore. When it comes to image CTAs at the end of blog posts, I recommend linking these to a relevant landing page with a form.

Another option, which brings me to the last CTA placement, is a pop-up CTA that the reader sees as they scroll down the page. This is a great way to have your CTA stick around so that the reader can’t just scroll past it. If you really want to engage your users and have a helpful conversation, then consider offering live chat or a chatbot. A chatbot is a computer program that automates certain tasks, typically by chatting with a user through a conversational interface. Most bots follow a set of rules programmed by a human via a bot-building platform. It's as simple as ordering a list of if-then statements and writing canned responses, often without needing to know a line of code. The benefit? A bot will guide you, the visitor, through the various options available and help you get from point A to point B quickly. Behind the curtain, the bot is leading you through a series of dependent questions to collect the necessary information to understand your intent, and then deliver the right content to satisfy your needs. And that’s it! Now you know how to effectively optimize your blog post’s content. Keep these tips in mind when optimizing your posts, as it will ensure you’re getting the most out of your business blogging efforts.

What are some effective blog writing tips?

Just getting the words down on paper is a great first step. But writing 800 words versus publishing 800 words that will resonate with your readers requires a bit more work. First drafts are sloppy, and that’s normal. When you start writing, you don’t know what the final piece will look like, and you may not have a good enough grasp of the information you need to include. Editing requires you to cut out the unnecessary and irrelevant—anything that doesn’t support your core idea. It also gives you an opportunity to refine the language to be stronger, more action-oriented, and impactful. Finally, during the editing process, you ensure that the piece lacks any errors that could damage your credibility and the trust that you’ve built with the reader. Editing shows your audience that you care about their reading experience. As Truman Capote said, “I'm all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil." Before you move from the writing to the editing process, remember to take a break from the words. Work on something else or save the final check for when you can look at the piece with fresh ideas and a new perspective. An even better alternative is to send it to a team member who can review the content before it goes live. Let’s go over ten common grammar and style mistakes you should check for so that your writing hits all the right marks with your audience. First, use contractions. Contractions help you sound more conversational—basically, more human—in your writing, so be sure to change your do not’s to don’ts and would not’s to wouldn’ts.

Let’s check out an example of how contractions can make your writing sound stiff and wordy. In this example, we’re talking about landing page best practices: Don’t confuse viewers with too many options on your landing pages. It’s better to have one call-to-action that’s compelling. Otherwise, you’ll risk your prospects being confused about what they should and shouldn’t click. If we were to spell out the contractions, the sentence, while not incorrect, sounds more robotic and harsh, when we simply want to provide helpful advice. Here’s how that same sentence would sound without contractions: Do not confuse viewers with too many options on your landing pages. It is better to have have one call-to-action that is compelling. Otherwise, you will risk your prospects being confused about what they should and should not click. Next, write with simple language. Using big words makes you appear less credible and confident, according to a study done by the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Making your writing easier to process and understand actually makes you seem more intelligent and capable. No one likes to slug through overly complex writing full of unfamiliar words. Now, simple language doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it can be just the opposite.

Consider this sentence: The proliferation of social and digital channels have created a catalyst whereby a shift in the production methods by marketers is required to connect with the audience. That’s a tough one to unpack. While a marketer might understand this sentence, it takes extra effort to get the point, and for most, that’s when they’ll stop paying attention. We can relay the same message by simply stating: The increase in the number of social and digital channels now requires marketers to create content that’s not only platform-specific but also appeals to the unique audience and their behaviors on that platform. Next, use the active voice. When you use active verbs, the subject of the sentence is performing that action. Passive voice is when something known or unknown performs the action of the sentence, which makes your writing seem flat and boring. If people have to trip sentence over sentence, then reading your writing becomes tiresome. Next, be clear and concise. This is the ultimate goal of editing. You have to refine the words until the point of each section, each paragraph, and each sentence is focused and clear. Clear writing requires you to have empathy for the reader—the work you produce should leave little chance for confusion or misinterpretation. One way of doing this is by removing extra words, irrelevant ideas and rants, and obvious details.

You should also use words that are familiar to your readers or provide definitions for those that are less wellknown. This can also mean including an analogy, metaphor, or example to clarify a complicated topic. Let’s say you have an on-call virtual nurse service and want to explain the benefits for when someone is worried about getting sick. Instead of stating this directly, you could say, “Our nurses step in with health and wellness advice when your mom isn’t answering her phone.” It immediately gets the point across in a way that’s relatable. Another way to create clarity in your writing is by putting things in context. It’s one thing to share a stat on the growing adoption of a social platform, such as Snapchat, but how does this platform’s growth compare with, say, Facebook or Instagram? This type of information helps to enrich the meaning of the original fact or idea. Next, use short sentences and paragraphs. Break up long, dense sentences and paragraphs to make your content easier to read and comprehend. Take for example this introduction from a HubSpot blog post. These five paragraphs could be condensed into two paragraphs, but the breaks create white space around your writing, giving readers’ eyes a rest. Most importantly, these breaks—along with varying the sentence structure and length—create rhythm, making your writing more pleasing to read. Next, cut fluffy words from your writing. Words such as “very,” “really,” “actually,” “just,” “incredibly,” and “in order to” don’t add anything to your sentences and can make your phrases sound bloated. You should also be careful of relying on adverbs—words ending in -ly—to describe action or including too many adjectives in your work. These mistakes all make for overly long, complex, and weak sentences. Run your writing through a tool like the Hemingway Editor to see if you can cut words or further simplify your language. Check out this sentence: Marketers are very anxious to change in order to actually connect with their customers before the next holiday season. You can cut this down to: Marketers are anxious to change to connect with their customers before the holiday season. Next, adhere to a style guide. Whether it’s AP Style or the Chicago Manual Style or an internal style guide, use a standard set of rules to create consistency in all your communications—from your product copy to emails to ebooks to advertising. Your style guide should instruct anyone who writes on behalf of your company how to handle punctuation, grammar, voice and tone, industry-specific terms, common mistakes, and any brand-specific guidelines. Next, use “you” and “your” in your writing.

This helps you sound more conversational, like you’ve written the content specifically for the reader and you want to bring them into a discussion. Many people approach writing like they’re creating something for an “audience”—a vague term that brings a blurry group of people to mind—when really you should write like your favorite customer or ideal reader is sitting at their desk or on their couch reading your information. Imagine that you’re having a conversation or writing a letter to a respected friend. It’s a simple tweak that will prevent you from sounding like you’re writing an instruction manual. Here’s an example of what this sounds like: People wanting to improve their overall health should start the day with a well-balanced breakfast that could include whole-grain cereal, yogurt, and egg whites. They should make time in their day to get at least 30 minutes of cardio, and people should do some type of strength training three times per week. A simple switch to using the second person pronoun, ”you,” shifts your writing to address the reader directly, making your writing sound more personable. So let’s see how that sounds with a simple perspective adjustment: If you want to improve your overall health, try starting the day with a well-balanced breakfast that could include whole-grain cereal, yogurt, and egg whites. You should also make time for at least 30 minutes of cardio a day, and try to do some type of strength training three times per week. Next, avoid jargon and use acronyms sparingly. Jargon plagues the business and marketing world. Words such as ideation, paradigm, uplevel, holistic, disruptive, game-changing, revolutionary … I could go on. In addition, remember that not everyone understands the meaning behind the acronyms you rely on, so always spell them out at least once, and try to avoid littering your content with three- and four-letter abbreviations. For example, take this sentence: “The CMO spoke to the CTO about the long-term SEO strategy to improve PPC metrics such as the CPC and CPL ASAP.” Did you get that? Probably not. Next, don’t be snarky. Critical and sarcastic writing has its place, but for most businesses, this type of tone comes off negatively. Be confident, and showcase your expertise, but above all, be friendly and straightforward. Sarcasm can make you look petty. And lastly, use spell check. Add this to your pre-publishing checklist. It’s always a good idea to double-check for spelling mistakes. Even small errors can have a negative impact on readers’ perception of your brand. And there you have it—ten grammar tips to creating effective blog content.

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