What makes a good blog post?
Right up front, it’s important to remember that your small business blog has a purpose. You’re not just writing for fun. You want to attract and engage customers and potential customers. So focus on these four key attributes of a good blog:
A good blog post is useful. Not to you, but to your target market.
A lot of content marketers produce content that isn’t really for their customers. Instead, it’s for other professionals in their niche. It’s to demonstrate that they are an “expert.” When it comes right down to it, the information that they’re providing is probably going to be more useful for their competitors than for their customers. This is not what they should be doing.
Here’s a practical example from the Xpadite blog, which I wrote about here.
Xpadite offer a range of services to help marketers look after offline campaigns. Printing, print management, sourcing promotional items, managing direct mail, sample and prize fulfilment and so on – let’s call it ‘marketing operations’. So their primary target market is Marketing Managers. In addition, the marketing operations include all the storage and distribution that an e-commerce player needs. So the secondary target market is e-commerce businesses.
The blog posts are written to be useful to one or both of these markets. Usually, but not always, they are related to services that Xpadite offers.
The most viewed post (time period Oct-Dec 2014) is about creative corporate stationery. It’s definitely relevant to Xpadite services, but what about a post on e-commerce growth in 2014? That was the 4th most popular post in the same time period – and the 4th most popular landing page. 5% of all visitors to the site started at this single blog post.
A good blog post includes original content.
Non-original content (‘duplicate content’) is a problem for two main reasons:
- It’s less likely to attract new visitors. Google and other search engines are not excited by it, so it won’t show up as highly in the search results.
- Even if someone finds it, it’s boring. They’ve been there, done that, read the book. Maybe even written the book!
So how do you get original content? Try these tricks.
First, find relevant, intersting topics which no one else has written about. Even if you work in a crowded field, you have some options here. Think about:
- company news
- staff profiles / day in the life of / behind the scenes
- client / project case studies
Also, ways to add value to good content you find elsewhere. Don’t just repost it, add value! Add your own comments or criticisms to
- industry news
- stories about research reports
- stories about industry trends
- infographics, photos or videos you embed from other sites
When we found an infographic relevant to Xpadite, we could have simply reposted it. We didn’t, We expanded on key points of the infographic to give more analysis and advice.
And while we’re on the subject of infographics, consider making your own. A good visual display of good info is hard to beat. But beware the half-thought out and meaningless infographics which were all too common when they were the latest ‘thing’..
Controversial opinion pieces or predictions about the future are another good option to breathe life into a post.
You will probably still have some topics you want to cover which are not original and where everything has been said before. They’re core to your business and you shouldn’t miss them out. So what do you do?
Try what I’ve done in this post. Add concrete, specific examples to illustrate your point. (It does help if you’ve got one or two good clients who are happy for you to share in this way, and I do recommend asking them first!)
A good blog post is authentic.
Authentic. Real. If you’re creating original content with lots of case studies and examples, you’re probably most of the way there already. Other factors for authenticity:
- consistent opinions. If you support one argument one week and a different one the next, then you don’t come across as trustworthy. Unless you post explaining ‘why I’ve changed my mind about xxx’ – which is a fantastic opportunity for original and interesting comment, by the way.
- a consistent voice and tone. It means your blogs ‘feels’ like the same person every time. If you’ve got multiple people blogging (lucky you!) of course they can have different tones, but in this case I’d make sure the site shows that different people are posting.
- don’t be afraid of personality. You may offend a few people. They’re probably people you wouldn’t much enjoy working with anyway. On the plus side, it makes your blog – and your company – more attractive to the kind of people you click with and would like to work with.
A good blog has variety.
I love tomatoes. I grow them every year. Lots of them – we have a big backyard.
It’s always a thrill when the first few turn red and we start picking our own. Then suddenly, we have too many. I pick tomatoes every day. I give tomatoes away – to friends, neighbours, at the school bus stop. We still have enough to eat them every day. I love tomatoes, tomatoes are infinitely versatile, there are so many ways to cook and serve them. But five or six weeks into tomato season, even I’m ready for a day without tomatoes. (Don’t ask me what the kids say!)
Same with blog posts. Mix it up a bit.
- Choose a range of topics.
- Vary the media. Post a video or a podcast.
- Mix up the length. I tend to write long-form, but occasionally something short and snappy wouldn’t hurt.
You’ll probably find there are some kinds of post you prefer to others. You’ll have more of those – and that’s OK. Probably. Just don’t make it that one kind exclusively. And if your target market like a different kind of post, you might need to bear that in mind.
I love words and writing, so my posts are mostly text-based. I also love taking an idea and expanding it, so they tend to be longer rather than shorter. But I try to mix it up a bit. An infographic, or a photo post, when that will make a point.
And when I have my Xpadite hat on, I make sure we have regular posts with lots of pictures of creative design ideas. Like this post on award winning print or this post on point of sale. Because that works for the target market!
I hope that sheds some light on what makes a good blog post in terms of content and formats.
Of course you also need your post to get found – it doesn’t matter how good it is if no one comes to visit. So you may want to consider SEO for your blog post, or to promote it on social media. (I’d only recommend pay-per-click advertising once your post is a proven lead generator!)
Update January 2020: You might want to check out this visual of a blog post layout. I’m not convinced by the Pinterest image (I think that depends on your market), but the rest of it is excellent.