A deep dive into the key components of a successful blog. Including headlines, intro, deep link sections, SEO, repurposing and eye-catching imagery. Plus, the blogger tools that can help.
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It’s simultaneously never been easier to start a blog but also harder to maintain one.
Blogging software and research tools may lower barriers to entry but 90.63% of blog content gets zero traffic from Google, according to Ahrefs. Competition is fierce, so what drives a successful blog’s website traffic?
In this article we’ll learn from the best.
Top bloggers such as Tim Ferris, Seth Godin and Maria Popova of The Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings) fame who have each been at it for 15+ years. We’ll unpick the essential ingredients of a successful blog and the good writing habits needed to attract readers. But first, some basics…
People start a blog for all sorts of reasons: hobbies and lifestyle blogs, professional development, marketing a company website, self-expression, personal blogs, to name but a few.
At it’s heart a blog is about telling stories and communicating with others. Offering advice, entertainment or sharing a point of view. Be that through writing alone or augmented with videos, podcasts and infographics.
But blogging is also a tool for crystalizing ideas. It pushes you to go deeper, question your assumptions and consider alternative sides of an argument. For the benefit of all your writing, in work and life.
"Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That's why it's so hard."David McCullough
So, regardless of purpose, blogging has many benefits and what’s in a blog isn’t always obvious.
A headline is your elevator pitch. A chance to make a good first impression and reel readers in to your blog. A good headline must also appeal to search engines, targeting your seed keyword.
Thankfully there’s a number of blog writing tools that can help to inject the necessary oomph and optimization into your headlines. Check out Surfer SEO and Headline Analyzer, for instance. Combined, they’ll rate your efforts based on factors such as:
You only get 60 characters in a blog’s meta title so make it compelling and make it count.
The reader has come this far, encourage them to go even further.
Successful writers know the power of a good intro. One that is concise and compelling. Succinct and stimulating. Summarizing without giving the game away.
There’s a few tricks to turn a casual visitor into a hooked reader:
Above all, remember who you’re writing for. We’ve all gotten frustrated with the food blog that adds a life story to the start of every recipe they post.
The most successful bloggers know how to quickly get people’s attention and keep it.
One of the tricks of the trade is to write for skim readers. Divide your content into:
Go even further by adding a “deep link” to a section of post. You can do so by using a hash and underscore characters, which lets Google know not to treating them as individual pages in the process.
Any decent content management system will be able to accommodate these simple formatting requests.
There’s billions of web pages on the internet, getting yours noticed requires the assistance of SEO. The secret sauce behind organic website traffic.
For your content to rank, you’ll need to prepare new blog posts to help search engines (Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo etc) to understand what they’re about. This includes:
Professional blog writers or anybody wanting a passive income from their words will need to rely much more than their instincts to get this right. This isn’t the most natural terrain for blog owners, so we’ve rounded up the top SEO content writing tools to help you automate the planning, creation and on-page optimization of SEO friendly content, and maximise reader engagement.
My personal favorites are Surfer SEO and Semrush.
If you’re writing informational blog content, always ask: Why should readers believe me?
Google is looking for content created by a subject matter expert, that is factually sound, and published on an authoritative website. They even have an acronym for it: E‑A-T. This stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It comes from Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines - the bible on qualifying the quality of Google’s search results, as used by their human quality raters.
Facts must be cited and clearly link to credible sources. The writer’s perspective knowledgeable and validated by outside expertise. If you need additional topical authority you can invite outside expertise to contribute to your blog post. Just as journalists do on their news stories.
Social media platforms such as Twitter have made subject matter experts more accessible than ever.
Examples might be a doctor on a medical article, a marketer commenting on consumer trends, an entrepreneur offering insight into their industry, and so on. A surefire way to turn thin content into original, rank-worthy blog posts.
Any niche is fair game. Just find your gap and make your blog interesting.
Take readers on a journey of your insight and imagination, tackling pertinent issues in your field.
Really get under the skin of the topic and find a unique angle that rises above everything that has been written before.
The best bloggers remember that their target audience share their passion, profession, circumstances or end goal. They write for them, not their own ego.
Successful bloggers are also lifelong learners. They’re driven by their curiosity and always reading to improve their writing, connecting dots where others can’t. Pour all of this into your writing and you’ll stand out amongst the crowd. But keep things concise. Make the words count, don’t count the words.
Great marketers can take one piece of content and distribute it many times over. Blog post. Video. Podcast episode. Ebook. Infographic. Social media threads. Livestreamed masterclasses. And lots, lots more.
The key to all of this is finding your audience wherever they are, using your blog posts as a script to cross post on other platforms and formats.
You’ll also want to keep returning to that blog post, updating and building on it to continue rising up those search engine rankings.
Readers love them. Google loves them. The right graphics and imagery can add so much to a post.
The great news is they no longer need to cost you a dime!
Enormous directories of free photos such as Unsplash have turned stock photography on its head. You’re welcome to download them to use how and where you like, no strings attached. Crediting is welcome but not mandatory.
Similar directories for illustrations also exist, including DrawKit and unDraw. Don’t forget to add your alt tags for SEO!
You’ve made them think, now inspire readers into action.
Almost every blog article should have of call-to-action of sorts, depending on what you want your readers to do next. It could buy your product. Inquire via a contact page. Subscribe to your newsletter. Volunteer. Vote. Sign a petition. Read another article on your personal blog.
Make it obvious and a seamless next step, often appearing at the end of your post.
Internal links signpost other, related content on your website.
It’s your way of highlighting your most relevant and important content for readers and search engines. Free additional page views, with very little extra effort.
Tools such as Surfer SEO and Link Whisper (WordPress) will automatically detect and suggest relevant links, cutting out a ton of manual work.
It’s such an easy win, you can thank me later!
Don’t start a blog post without this important element.
The meta description is the snippet Google uses to ascertain what a web page is about and display in search results. Left to its own devices, Google will create one for you. A far less optimized version, not based on your target keyword.
The meta title and descriptions don’t need to be identical to your H1 and intro, and can be entered directly into many blogging platforms and WordPress SEO plugins.
Harvard Business School estimates that 43 per cent of all ventures fail because they had a product or service in the first place. The same is true of blogs.
Sure, you’ve done your research, but it’s impossible to know how your own blog content will land until it’s in the wild. Analytics is your way of finding out what’s working, or not.
Reflect, revisit and revise your content to make sure your blog can achieve its full potential. See where visitors are coming from via inbound links and referrers, and what other kinds of helpful articles are best suited to your target market. Trial new monetization methods and publish content on different schedules.
Remember, blogging success is a marathon not a sprint.
Blogs don’t die when they run out of ideas, they die when the writer runs out of energy.
More resources: → 30 Best SEO Content Writing tools for 2022 → 100+ free startup directories for link building → How to buy and sell startups → Search Engine Optimized Writing: top tips for 2022 → Free template: SEO content brief