Without content a blog can not exist. But without consistency, your readership will never grow. By creating an editorial calendar, it can help organize your stream of thoughts and ideas while turning blogging into a regular habit.
- Start with your core values and strengths. This will help identify your blog’s theme. At Firebelly, we make sure our posts cover anything and everything relating to social media marketing. By incorporating our values and expertise into every post, our readers get a unique perspective they can not find anywhere else.
- Develop messaging that is supported by curated or created content. Everything you collect (curate) or write about (create) needs to be geared toward your blog’s theme. Deviate from it too much, and you’re going to confuse your readers. Remember, you don’t always have to create new content. Curation is very important as well because it establishes you and your company as a knowledgeable resource. Infographics, articles, and even videos are all suitable curated content.
- Include both casual and serious content. Don’t feel like you have to write in a certain style with every post. Mix it up and have some fun.
- Show the human side. You’re writing for real people, so make sure every post is more than just a recitation of dry facts and statistics. Try to inspire as much as you inform.
- Now you can begin developing your editorial calendar. Build a long running background story related to your theme that will help your audience discover who you are. (Remember, most people will not follow your daily or weekly adventures — many will show up as a result of a Google search, not regular reading — so it’s important to briefly re-introduce your key themes every so often.)
- Find out where to distribute your content across multiple platforms. It’s important to understand where your audience can be found. You can’t make them come to a network or platform, you have to go to where they are.
- Finally, make sure you have a way to measure your results. Set some goals for the kind of readership you’d like to reach, and then write the content, promote it to the networks, and measure the results. Figure out what tactics result in the best traffic and then figure out how to repeat that.
People who are aware of what’s going on with Google, but aren’t mired in the details of SEO every day may have heard the oft-used-but-incorrect phrase, “SEO is dead.”
My utter contempt for any phrase that says “______ is dead” notwithstanding, SEO is anything but dead. True, it has undergone some serious transformations, but calling it dead means you don’t understand what SEO actually is.
What SEO Used to Be Like
It used to be that everything was based on keywords and links. If you used the right keywords in your domain name, your website title, the headline of any page or post, and even inside the meta description and the right number of times within the body copy, you could rank higher for that particular keyword. Do it more than anyone else, and you could win search for that keyword. Then, get dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of backlinks (links that go back) to your page, and you could dominate.
But Google realized people were cheating the system, writing nonsensical garbled posts stuffed with keywords, and creating crappy websites that were filled with hundreds and thousands of backlinks that pointed back to their (or their clients’) pages.
When Google launched the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, they pretty much said “we will no longer value any of these old techniques. In fact, if you try to trick us, we’ll penalize your ranking and possibly even drop you.”
Keywords Matter, But They Don’t Give You Juice
But that doesn’t mean that SEO is dead, or that keywords are useless. Far from it. Keywords are still valuable, because they tell Google what your page is about.
Imagine creating a book with no title, no keywords about what it’s about, no listed author, and nothing to give you an idea about what you can expect to read. Now imagine trying to find the book in the library.
Just like we (and libraries) need descriptions and titles to know what books are about, Google still needs keywords to understand what our websites are about. So don’t stop using keywords in your headlines, tags, categories, and body copy. Just quit obsessing about them so much. You don’t need to count keywords, or come up with 20 different tags, or list every possible variation of keyword tag.
Just because Google changed the face of SEO doesn’t mean they stopped indexing pages, or doesn’t want to try to understand what the page is about. Many people think that’s what it means, but remember, Google is an information engine. They want your information about your website and blog, and it’s up to you to do a good job providing it.
What DOES Matter?
Good content matters. Things that people will find valuable and interesting. Stuff that’s well-written. Interesting photos. Captivating videos. Anything that people will want to read/study/watch. If it’s interesting to people, Google wants to give it the attention it deserves.
They no longer want trickery, they want value.
That means you can’t rely on SEO tricks anymore, like a blog post that pulls the first 100 words of a news article and includes a link forwarding it to the original article. (Or worse yet, a post that leads to a different post on a different site, which leads to yet another post, and that goes on to the news article.)
This has created some interesting problems in the content marketing world. It means you actually need content. And companies that made their living doing SEO stuff have now turned to becoming writers, photographers, video producers, and podcasters.
They stopped being click jockeys and are becoming word slingers.
Google declared 2011 the year of video, 2012 the year of mobile. But thanks to Panda and Penguin, it looks like 2013 is going to be the year of the writer.
Next week, we’ll talk about what parameters Google does look at to determine whether a site is valuable or not, and to help you understand whether you can deliver it or not.
Photo credit: Adam Foster (Flickr, Creative Commons)
When I played college soccer, my coach, Larry, said something that has stuck with me for the last 25 years: the best defender a forward will ever face is an orange cone.
“The orange cone doesn’t actually do anything, but immediately the forward is more likely to make a dribbling mistake, because he’s got to go around the cone.”
Larry’s point was that when it comes to defense, the forward is the one under all the pressure. He’s the one with the ball, he’s the one in control, he’s the one the scoring drive depends on. The cone just has to sit and wait for the person with the ball to make a mistake.
Similarly, a good defender just had to be patient and waited for the forward to make a mistake. A great defender could move and force the forward to make a mistake, but if you really wanted to make him cough up the ball, just be patient.
What Does Soccer Have to do With Content Marketing?
If you want to succeed at content marketing, sometimes you only have to be an orange cone. You only have to put in a little bit of effort. You only have to write a blog post once a week, and tweet a few times a day, and dabble on LinkedIn or Facebook.
That’s because your competition isn’t actually doing anything at all. They’ve got the ball, they’re running in an open field, and then suddenly, BAM!
Now, things are going wrong, they overkicked the ball, it bounced off their foot, or they took their eyes off the ultimate goal, and the other team has the taken the ball away.
So it goes with your competition. They’re going along, doing their thing, showing up at the office, making phone calls, having meetings, going to trade shows, and BAM!
You started blogging once a week. You tweet 3 times a day. You joined a LinkedIn group or attended a networking event.
It’s not a big deal. You’re not getting thousands of visits every week. You’re not rocketing to the top of the search engines, landing big speaking gigs and book deals. It’s a quiet little blog or Twitter account in your own quiet little corner of the world, but it’s getting results.
Because you’re doing the bare minimum, while your competition is doing nothing at all.
I’ve worked with clients in the past who were being totally dominated in search, and our content marketing plan was an all-out game of catch-up. But I’ve also worked with clients who were in an industry where no one was doing anything at all, and by doing a bare minimum — by being an orange cone — their content marketing efforts dominated. We won search, we helped them become a leader in the industry, and their business exploded.
For some industries, you have to play like it’s the last five minutes of the championship game, and you’re down by 1. You pull the goalie, and you mount attack after attack on the goal, and hope that something goes in so you can go into overtime.
But for most industries, you don’t have to do much at all. That’s because your competition sucks at the Internet. They barely have a website, they certainly don’t have a blog, and they still think Twitter is the little yellow bird from Bugs Bunny.
For those industries, the first company to start doing social media marketing is going to be the company who dominates that industry online. It doesn’t take much effort at all. But the dividends will be huge. And as your competition starts to play catch up, like when they finally launch their blog, or start (and then abandon) their first Twitter account, you’ll be ready to take it to the next level, and start doing more on the social media front.
You’ll be the one they’re chasing after, as you bear down on their goal, with no one standing in the way.
The goal’s open, so take your shot.
Photo credit: Kellogg Community College (Flickr, Creative Commons)
“It seems like nobody truly pays attention to the actual content of their social media, so how can it be used effectively if everyone is using it this way? It seems like the actual content is ignored.”
I was guest speaking to a business class at the University of Nevada Reno, thanks to the miracle of Skype, about Kyle Lacy’s and my Branding Yourself book, talking about social media marketing and personal branding.
One student asked the question above, wondering how do you get your content to cut through the clutter. That was a followup to another question, “Can one miraculous post get millions of views without a prior following?”
Both of these questions run in the same vein, and can be answered the same way:
You can write that miracle post that will cut through the clutter, but it’s a poor strategy. Or, you can write great stuff, and do it on a consistent basis.
Consistent awesomeness cuts through the clutter, and it’s a much better strategy than trying to hit a grand slam home run.
With the baseball playoffs on my mind this month, I explained it like this: “I could try to hit a home run every time I came up to bat, but if I only hit a homer once every 20 times at bat, I’d have a .005 batting average/success rate. But if I can hit singles, doubles, and the occasional triples every time, I’m more valuable as a hitter.”
It’s the same thing with writing. If I try to write an outstanding, miracle post I’ll only succeed once out of every 20 times, and the other 19 times will be crap. People will quickly get bored trying to slog through the other 19 that they won’t be around for that 20th time.
When I write I try my very best every time, but I make sure I’m putting in consistent effort each and every time, and delivering a consistent, reliable post every time.
I’m cutting through the clutter because people have grown to trust me and have come to rely on me to deliver clear, easy-to-understand, and occasionally funny content. As a result, people are more willing to read and share my stuff, which helps it cut through the clutter even further.
Rather than trying to write that one 1,000 word post filled with 8 blindingly-brilliant insights, I’m better off trying to write 8 individual posts filled with fairly smart insights. I’ll get much more traction from those 8 than I will from that one big one, which no one will ever read.
Photo credit: Rafael Amado Deras (Flickr, Creative Commons)
Admit it. You looked, didn’t you.
You were intrigued by the headline, and you wanted to see what this was all about. You wanted to see what the 3 reasons were — I nearly called them 3 secrets — and whether you could pick something up.
What if there was really only one secret? (Don’t worry, there are three.)
Would you be disappointed? Would you hate me for tricking you?
And what if the headline had been “Boost your Blog Traffic” instead?
Well, you wouldn’t be here, would you?
So why, how, what? Why are list posts so good? How do they work? What are the three reasons?
1. List posts create order out of chaos.
What if the original title of this post had been “Boost Your Blog Traffic”? That is so wide open that the advice could have been about anything. It could have been about writing, social media promotion, speaking at conferences, or even wearing a sandwich board. And I’ve seen blog posts and magazine articles that are just about that jumbled.
But a list post promises us something easier to digest and understand.
In an interview with Der Spiegel, Italian novelist and all around smart guy Umberto Eco said this about lists.
The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries.
To make infinity comprehensible. Based on many of the blog posts and articles I’ve seen, it’s going to take a hell of a list to make those comprehensible. And readers know that when they’re being told how to “Boost Your Blog Traffic.”
But I’m giving “3 Reasons,” which makes the infinite comprehensible, and I’ll get more readers every time.
2. They promise a well-defined, finite amount of knowledge
If an article is too long, it won’t be read. We’ve trained our brains to read in short bursts. A typical newspaper column is 550 – 750 words. A blog post is around 300 – 400 words. And a post that is going to appear on a mobile phone? No more than 300 words. That’s because a typical smartphone can hold 100 words, and people will typically swipe two more times before they get bored.
So if I promise a list of only three items, people know what they’re in for, and they may stick around a little longer since I’m only begging their indulgence for a short while.
3. Lists are easy to read.
Whether you use the <li> or <h3> codes (I used h3 in this post), lists are easy to scan and read. By using white space and either bullets or large, bold-faced type and a few paragraphs, you can make posts that people can breeze through in a matter of minutes.
If someone comes to your site and sees a heavy block of text that could crush an adult, they’ll hit their back button faster than Billy the Kid. But if they can see white space and something easier to read, they’ll stick around.
Photo credit: puuikibeach (Flickr, Creative Commons)
With the Google Panda and Google Penguin updates, content marketing just got harder for everyone else.
The problem was, people were creating “thin content.” This is the poorly-written crap that’s thrown together with an article spinner and an infinite number of monkeys, trying to trick search engines into ranking their stuff higher than it should have been.
It meant that people weren’t thinking about the people who would actually read what they had come up with. Ranking first was the goal, and it was assumed that sales would soon follow. Problem is, if you have crappy content, you’ll get crappy results and people will leave your site in a few seconds, never having bought anything from you in the first place. So what good did all that thin content do for you?
What it’s actually done is made the work harder for the rest of us. It means we have to write better, more interesting, more compelling content that people want to read. It means we have to do our research, keep up with the problems readers are having, and figure out how to reach them.
Thank you very much.
What this means is that companies and individuals who were doing it the right way all along were able to fill the vacuum left by the Google Panda victims being flushed down the crapper where it belonged.
It meant the end of the 30 word “Read More” blog posts whose link led to another 30 word post that led to another 30 word post, and so on.
It meant the end of sentences like “To learn more about the antioxidant effects of grape juice, download this white paper about the antioxidant effects of grape juice, entitled The Antioxidant Effects of Grape Juice.”
It means that marketers need to understand how content marketing works, and need to work with professionals who can actually do it effectively.
It means that while some black hat and gray hat SEO “professionals” are still trying to peddle their poor-performing tactics, real content marketers are able to pick up the clients they abandoned when their house of spam finally collapsed.
It means now we can get some real marketing done.
Photo credit: ajc1 (Flickr, Creative Commons)
Content marketing is about more than just blogging. While that’s the first thing that people think of — at least me, as a professional blogger — content is anything that can be read, watched, seen, or heard.
Some basic content concepts:
- Written word: White papers, ebooks, newsletters, electronic magazines, online articles, print books — you name it. Basically anything you can read. I like this kind of content best, because it tells the entire story. Yes, pictures and videos are nice and useful and all, but a story can live without them. I can tell a complete story with words. I can tell most of a story with pictures, but without words, there’s no context or background. And video? That’s just moving pictures with spoken words. Besides, Google can’t see pictures, and they’re still working on pulling the words from videos. If you have to choose one form of content (and you don’t; that’s the beauty of this!), focus on the written word.
- Photos: Having just bashed photos as nonessential, I will still say that they’re powerful and important. According to Jeremy Williams, social media director for the Indiana Office of Tourism Development (and my boss when I do travel writing for IOTD), blog posts with photos get more traffic than blog posts without. If you can take your own photos (like this one of my dog), do so. Even a picture from your smartphone is better than no picture at all — assuming the photo actually has something to do with the actual content. And not, say, photos of small animals pretending they’re people. Find photos from Flickr or Picasa — be sure to use Creative Commons photos — or buy royalty-free stock photography, and put them in your blog posts for added impact. Also, share entire photo albums online via Twitter and Facebook.
- Videos: Another thing Jeremy said is that blog posts with videos outperform blog posts with photos. So if you can incorporate some videos you took with a Flip camera or even your iPhone or Android (high definition is always better, but not a deal-breaker), your videos can help boost your content’s readability too. Put these on YouTube and/or Vimeo, embed them in your blog posts, and share them on your social networks as well.
- Audio: While some people have been calling the early 2000s the Golden Age of Podcasting, the fact is, podcast listenership has risen so rapidly in the last two years that we’re in the Golden Age right now. That means that people are producing high-quality audio content, both in terms of the quality of the content itself, as well as the production value. For example, a basic $150 Snowball mic can produce some better-than-average sound quality. And since most people are going to be listening to the podcasts on their mobile phones, it’s not like you have to appeal to the audio snobs by spending tens of thousands of dollars on a studio mic. Post your content to iTunes, Blog Talk Radio, and even Stitcher to take advantage of the growing demand for audio content.
So if you’re looking for content other than blog posts — and it’s still going to be one of the most effective and powerful channels you can take advantage of, all in terms of gaining readers, boosting web traffic, and improving search engine optimization, try photos, videos, and audio content.
They’ll all help improve the power of your written word, and will give you a lot more to offer web visitors.