In the first part of this series on how to research and launch an effective blog, we looked at the importance of reading other blogs, building your personas, and knowing your expertise. In this second part, we will look at setting KPIs, and best practices for blog length and structure—what length of blogs are the most effective?
Let’s start with boardroom’s favorites: KPIs.
Measure for Measure
Choosing the correct KPIs for your blog should inform you whether you are engaging and growing your audience, achieving the correct sentiment, and then understanding that feedback so you can put this in place to refine your blog. Also, if you set up clear expectations, then it is easier to see if you are achieving them. Here are two suggestions that are appropriate for a blog whose goal is thought leadership divided into what the desired outcome is:
1. Brand Awareness
Understanding the pains of your audience, as well as your company values, and focusing on them will result in relevancy, readworthiness, and your readers sharing the content.
KPIs for this goal:
2. Increased Website and Blog Traffic
Blogging is an excellent way to generate top-of-the-funnel traffic. By demonstrating thought leadership and being bold enough to show that you understand your industry and are prepared to focus on that and not just your products, your brand will attract more visitors as a subject-matter-expert-led brand.
KPIs for this goal:
- Monthly blog visits
- Percentage of returning readers
- CTA conversion rates
- Time on page
- Number of monthly website visitors
It’s All About the Structure, Baby!
To have your blog posts read, you need to grab the visitor’s attention. To grab your visitor’s attention, you need to seduce them the moment they land on your page. Moreover, the only way you are going to achieve that is if you bond with them through their pain points with an image they find attractive and an abstract that intrigues them enough to read on.
I recommend setting up a Google Custom Search Engine where you can search for royalty-free and paid-for images to go with your blog posts. It means you can have a good selection of quality images because having a header image, minimally, is essential to make your blog aesthetically pleasing.
The title should address a pain point of the reader, ideally, and you should consider SEO. You need to refer to it in the blog post. It should use the Zeigarnik Effect to give the reader the need to read on.
The introduction sets out the problem you are about to solve. Do not provide particular solutions in this section, just explain why this problem is a problem. You need it to be relatable and make your readers' heads nod in acknowledgment, and here you can prove the readworthiness of your blog post. Note: Our blog content should help our readers solve a common problem by: 1) presenting the problem, 2) defining what the post will be about, and 3) determining why it is important your readers know these things.
The body of the blog post defines the solutions to the problem set up in the introduction. After identifying the problem, the reader is prepared to learn about the solution(s). The body can be in paragraphs, with bullet points, numbered lists, multiple headings, or a mix of all of them.
The conclusion finishes your post with a brief statement reflecting the problem the post solved. Also, use the conclusion to prompt our readers to engage in further conversation in the comments. However, keep the conclusion short so readers do not leave the post before the CTA. What can the CTA be? Essentially, we want to build engagement. To prompt this, ask the readers a question, e.g., "Does this apply to you?", "Have you experienced something similar?", "Do you agree?", "What advice would you give?", etc. Something that initiates comments and discussion.
Remember: Be Different
You define your blog by whom your writers are, how they understand their audience and how they choose and approach the topics they write about. There is a lot of noise out there, and the only way you are going to cut through it is by presenting your content in a new and fresh manner. To take the underlying doctrine of Corbett Barr’s Epic Shit, dare to be different. It is the only way to achieve virality. Moreover, virality is key to your posts being picked up, consumed, shared, and so the circle continues. Spending hours over something that readers perceive as lame and just a regurgitation of the same old vagueness that perpetuates in the content marketing landscape will produce nothing more than a vapor trail. Addressing the vulnerabilities and real pain points of your readers and not merely skirting around the issue, your ballsiness will inspire others to follow you as a thought leader that speaks their collective mind for them.
How Long Should This Be Going On?
Underestimating an audience’s attention span is actually a reflection of the writer’s inability to understand them properly, address their pains, and create something extraordinary for them. It might surprise some that short blog posts are less engaging than longer ones. In fact, aiming at around the thousand-word level is a good benchmark. Also, this length helps your chances of being ranked well by Google because you are presenting a better opportunity to serve higher-value keywords. In fact, producing a weekly 1,000-word blog post will normally generate more than 10 shorter 100-word blog posts over the same period because you are increasing your chances of catching the search engines’ attention.
End of Part 2
Blogging with an authority brought by choosing topics that place your readers first will help you succeed in being a thought leader. Moreover, staying consistent in placing your readers first will help grow your audience as they find your blog a place of gathering of like-minded individuals that openly engage in the discussions your authors’ posts help provoke. Plus, setting KPIs that reflect realistic expectations can function as a guide to measuring your level of success by indicating whether your strategy is working or if you need to adjust it.
Being aware that structure and length have an impact on your blog as well means thinking about how you present your content in a more engaging and organized manner, consider keywords and SEO, and increase the virality of your blog posts.
With that in mind, in part three, we will focus on how to use images and social media share buttons effectively. How to run editorial meetings effectively, how to encourage the authors to be reader focused, and how to have the optimal editorial workflow and calendar.
Now, let’s throw the discussion over to you. What has been your experience of short vs. long blog posts? What’s your golden rule concerning the number of words? Which of your blog topics’ engagement surprised you? What are your tips when it comes to keywords and SEO? Which KPIs are you measuring and how have they influenced your strategy?