''Words are loaded pistols''
In my dreams, servers burst into flames as millions of marketing executives stampede to read my latest blog posts. Back to earth, I hope we can bring you closer to the dream by showing how any writer can optimize their post to attract more readers.
Let's start with the most important decision you make before you sit down to sweat the alphabet, "What will you write about?" This is an important editorial and strategic decision. Think like a marketer. Choose topics that align with your brand and convert qualified customers to your list and/or a sale. Without this focus, you may write a beautiful, well-illustrated, post that draws a crowd of the wrong people.
They Don't Want What You're Selling
One of our earliest blogs was about what marketers can do to a survive recession. We had thousands of visitors, but most were grocers and real estate agents. Not quite what we're aiming for as healthcare marketers!
Avoid this mistake by choosing your topic with marketing intent, and properly optimizing your posts. Please learn from our mistakes.
But the basic idea is to define areas of content your blogging program will address. In general, your posts should relate to your company's core expertise and the products or services that currently pay the bills or lay the groundwork for new ventures.
For example, the content structure for a surgical robotics manufacturer might include topics for:
- Attitudes of patients toward robots
- Attitudes of surgeon toward robots
- Robots and the future of healthcare
- Innovation in robotics
- Trends in medical robotics
- Overview of healthcare robotics
- Surgeon interviews
- Engineer and designer profiles
Get on board with semantic search
You've probably heard of the fancy sounding semantic search. It's important for two reasons: 1) it's how search engines work, and 2) it's a great way to generate topics. Think of it this way. Say a friend sends you an invitation to a beach party, so you throw on shorts, an obnoxious t-shirt, and sneakers. But when you arrive, everyone is dressed in business attire, caterers are passing canapes, and your pal is queueing up a slide deck. Are you super-peeved at your friend? Yes!
If your keywords don't match an article's content, you'll get a cold shoulder from Google.
Back to the beach party. Think of the disconnect between what you expected — a beach party and all the trimmings, volleyball, and your pals — and what you received, a bunch of stuffed shirts waiting for a slide show.
So how do you milk this for ideas? Just look at the context or imagine it. Picture the beach party again and all its elements, think of how a person might plan a beach party, like this:
- Beach party - how to organize one
- Beach party activities
- Fun towels for stretching out on the sand
- Sunscreen - how much and where to put it?
- What are the best sunscreens?
Those are topics related to a beach party. If you’re serious about ranking on beach party, write more articles about them and link them together. Now you're starting to look like an authority! Build your blog post around a keyword phrase, like "pediatric cardiology." Then build a rich context that relates to your story. Use some of these within the story and keep track of others for story ideas.
Quick tips for web writing
A good chunk of SEO is just following the rules of good writing, such as using topic paragraphs, eliminating grammar and spelling errors, and nipping the run-on sentences in the bud. Here are more:
- Quickly tell the reader what the article is about. Don't bury the lede.
- If you’re stuck, you can never go wrong with the inverted pyramid structure of who, what, when and why.
- Avoid close repetition of words. Tt doesn't sound right to readers, and it could resemble keyword stuffing to a search engine.
- Keep the tone conversational, i.e. the language your readers speak
- And just for good measure, reread Strunk and White's "Elements of Style" at least once a year. Never heard of it? Buy one on Amazon now!
Why does this matter? If a search bot diagnoses your writing as difficult to read, then...you know what happens. Your rankings will be like Wylie Coyote jumping into the canyon.
To understand web writing, you need to understand web reading. Your site visitors have very short attention spans and many of them are multi-tasking and using multiple screens. They want confirmation that they've clicked on the right search immediately.
Tell it all in the headline
The headline of the post must clearly define the topic and include the keyword phrase. This allows your visitor to assess whether they're in the right place in just a couple of seconds. If it doesn't, they'll leave, and abandon the other 800 words of your article.
The headline is bracketed by an H1 tag. This shows the reader and the friendly search bot what your post is all about. Most content management systems have quick ways to do this. If not, we think you're up to the task.
Tame sentence length for easier reading
Research by Ann Wylie and others confirms that the average sentence length for readability is 14-18 words. About the length of the previous sentence. According to Wylie's research when the average length of the sentence length is 14 words, comprehension is 90%. At 43 words, comprehension drops to 10%.
Readers can fly through posts with subheads and images
Eight hundred to a thousand words is a good length for a blog post. But it shouldn't feel like plodding through "War and Peace." Good designers are our friends. They set the font sizes and line lengths so words can breathe and break up dense areas of copy with devices like pull quotes and boldface.
Great images, as you know, can suck readers into just about any topic. Most articles begin with a large hero image. But don't be stingy. Use smaller images, infographics, and charts deeper in the post. More of your post will be read and you might start a fan base.
Subheads are another great tool for landscaping a blog post. They define chunks of content and give readers who search for a specific piece of information a toehold.
And, they play an important role in ginning up SEO. A good subhead defines the topic of a section of copy and contains keywords or related words. In code, they look like this
Subhead flags new section of copy. Keywords welcome.
Code it by hand, or use your WYSWIG (What You See is What You Get) editor.
- You picked your topic from a strategic grouping of ideas
- An h1 heading tag kicks off the post
- H2 tags laced with keywords break-up sections and/or long pieces of copy
- Average sentence length is around 14 words
- Your beach party delivers the goods
- Your lede tells readers what the post is about