As the era of outbound interruption marketing on the Web draws to a close, blog writing takes its place.
Company and corporate blogs now play vital roles in inbound marketing, the new Internet marketing paradigm of choice. Outbound efforts are still very much alive, though a lot of advertising capital has been invested into inbound marketing tools by the movers and leaders of the industry, signaling a welcome shift of practice.
But then there arises the issue of blog writing style. A lot of established and budding content writers have all but mastered the intricacies of writing with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as their end goal. Should their writing style change drastically? Would there be different SEO guidelines? Is it harder?
While there are no set standards, there are some best practices that are effective in blog writing.
The informal, relaxed paradigm
One of these best practices is to keep the tone and mood of the article relaxed. This is a greater concern for blogs than for regular content. Blogs are information rich (presumably, at least) places where people get value-added information which helps drive the branding campaign of whatever business or company the blog belongs to. It is separate from marketing copy and website content, but endeavors to achieve both effective advertising for the main website and on-page SEO.
A relaxed, conversational style that typically addresses the reader as ‘you’ engages and retains interest, greasing the wheels set in motion by juicy bits of value-added information that the reader needs. Sometimes a first person perspective is allowable, though by ethical standards it is best to save the first person point of view when there is actually a first person, that is to say, when the writer actually exists and can be conversed with.
Simplicity and straightforwardness
Hand in hand with a relaxed, conversational style is sticking to simplicity and straightforwardness. It’s a blog after all, not a corporate white paper filled with technical jargon or marketing brochure studded with alluring sales pitches. Too much of either affects the appeal of the blog, and may work against it.
Readers of blogs come from all walks of life, and what one person can understand clearly may be something another person would confuse for something else. Use simple words to communicate more succinctly, whenever possible. Be straightforward by avoiding vagueness and ambiguity. Well, that’s easy to say, but how exactly can you do that?
Some simple ways to achieve simplicity is to use complicated words only when unavoidable, and not using too many flowery adjectives and adverbs. For a more vivid narrative, use words that are strong and descriptive in themselves. This does no go against the concept of simplicity, because you’re not aiming to dumb things down, you’re aiming to be simple and clear. Straightforward ways to be straightforward and avoid being vague and ambiguous is to get straight to the point, prefer the concrete over the abstract, and show more than tell.
Readability and spacing
A seasoned content writer knows he writes for a lazy audience that most of the time would only scan for relevant information within an article and not completely read it. Time doesn’t exist in cyberspace, and that goes against what we’re stuck with in real life. So make your blogs readable and scanable.
Breaking down paragraphs and using subheadings to announce the information coming up next is essential.
Long blocks of text are hard to scan. Subheadings are signifiers that lead readers to the right part of an article for specific information. Sometimes the spacing all boils down to the website design, not the writer, but its concept also applies to what is written.
For instance, a long sentence with lots of independent clauses complicates the speed reading process that lets people scan paragraphs. The eyes are accustomed to punctuations that manage sentences, and the period is like a trusty traffic light.
Blog writing comes with a different dimension than typical content writing: the addition of images. Images are great ways to communicate what the blog or post is all about, lead people to read on, or give them the short version of what the article is saying. On that note, infographics are great images to include in blogs. The article could then be a more in-depth write up of the concatenated data shown by the infographic, or the image could lead readers to engage the article.
Be wary of images that only serve as eye candy though. They may seem attractive and might cause you to think they can pull in readers – and sometimes they can – but for an audience who actually care what they’re reading, imagery that has nothing to do with the content are only distractions.
Keyword density and distribution
Blog writing is not typically heavy on SEO, though blogs still play roles in the entire on-page SEO strategy of the website they are attached to. In this light, lighter keyword density and distribution work fine. Most of the time the keywords are distributed with linking in mind.
Keyword use in blogs would help them rank in search engines, but the main goal is to be effective in inbound marketing, not outbound efforts. Working on an overall aggressive keyword strategy is fine, so long as it does not interfere with the flow of the blog posts and the reading pleasure of its audience.
Inbound marketing and linking
Blogs, more than being an inbound marketing tool that provides value-added information to audiences in a good read, are also great ways to generate new link juice to different pages of the websites the blogs are for. Intra-site links can increase website ranking too, especially if the site already has pagerank presence.
A key marketing facet of blogs is the call to action footer, where more links or unique selling propositions are presented in a short, succinct footer-style blurb. It is an ideal way to advertise, as it provides further reading and useful links to readers who finished the blog posts, and it also leads them directly to goods and services that they may be interested in after reading the article.
Okay, is that all? Are those the only style approaches you need to keep in mind? Different blogs entail different standards, but these best practices remain consistently the same to some degree across all successful blogs. Keep them in mind in your blog writing efforts.
Over to you
Do you blog? What advice would you offer? Share your views..