This is the first in a series of posts about marketing, to arm you with knowledge, insights and tips to ensure your marketing is driving the traffic, leads and sales you need.

It’s going to be the best Blog post yet – this is EXACTLY what people have been looking for” I said (yelled) excitedly, as my fingers flew across my keyboard. Content was pouring out of me. I wrote, rewrote, trimmed the excess, selected my images and finally published the post.

Casually walking away from my desk, I kept myself busy for a couple hours. Pretending not to think about my Blog post and all that traffic.

At that time, I had only been Blogging for about a month and my experience was that most posts just kind of float in the cyber breeze, unbeknownst to all. I was an early adopter and didn’t have the knowledge I needed to ensure that I got value from every word I wrote.

Fast forward to today and I look back at that post – spoiler alert – it did NOT do well! I smile – everyone starts somewhere, right? I also smile because today I know the reason why my Blogs didn’t reach or wow the masses. I was lacking strategy.

Digital marketing can be deceptive, we see and hear about people’s wins, it can appear easy. But I gotta tell you, it’s not always as easy as it looks.

Without a strategy to guide you, you will miss steps, you will bungle things up. Learning as you go is great. Just jump right in! But let me also share some insights to help you get going with a stronger foundation to maximize your blogging efforts.

Let’s look at how you can create a painless Blogging strategy.

First, get a pen and paper, a spreadsheet or even a tool that helps build content calendars. Start jotting down your topic ideas. They should be driven by trends in your industry, taking a peek at competitors’ content and using social listening tools to see what topics are trending. Get a handful of ideas to get you started.

Next, ask yourself what your goal is. Do you want to create brand awareness? Share thought leadership content? Generate leads? Without a clear purpose defined, it is hard for the post to live up to your expectations.

With a goal in mind, you can determine which of your potential topics will support getting the outcome you want.

This content is your opportunity to show your knowledge, to build trust and credibility and to compel people to take action.

Now you have your topic, you know your objective. It helps to calendar this – include the topic, objective, call to action, any assets or links or images and anything else that will help make it easier when you sit down to bang the content out.

It’s almost time to start writing – just a quick review of some guidelines first.

Start with your research, what facts, statistics and quotes do you need. What images, charts or videos will you use? Gather and organize your materials for use.

Now you decide if you are creating an epic post – often called Pillar Content or Cornerstone Content. This epic post is a tell-all, in-depth, detailed post that really demonstrates your expertise and allows your audience to walk away with a good working knowledge of your topic.

Those posts typically range between 1000-5000 words.  Huge range, I know.  Bottom line, it starts to become epic at about 1800 words and above 5000 you have now completed the Iron Man of writing.

The second (and less panic-inducing) post is around 300-800 words.  You definitely don’t want to go less than 300, the engines won’t consider it worthy.

If you find yourself hitting that 5000-word mark frequently, consider breaking the content into a multi-part series. Gain some extra momentum on the post by hyping parts two and three after the successful launch of post one.

Once you’ve determined what length you are shooting for, you can begin writing.

Please note: I ramble when I talk, and I ramble when I write – this is something I will work on for the rest of my life. I continue to hone my editing skills – I trim the fat. I share that so you know, you won’t be perfect. You will discover your own areas to improve. Just remember, you don’t have to be perfect. But you do have to write (or hire someone to)

While you do want to vary length, keep in mind that it is quality over quantity, and you really need to use as many words as it takes to share meaningful information in a relatable way. 

Small detour here to talk about SEO for a minute. Google’s goal is to determine the theme of the page and then rank it for relevant queries.  You will use keywords in your copy but if you’ve done a good job of crafting the content and establishing the theme, you should rank for so many other words and phrases.  When you give Google a lot of content, there is more chance for them to see the big picture and the nuances within it, which will lead to ranking for a multitude of “bonus” phrases.

Pro Tip: Longer posts allow for more sub-heads, links and more graphics – all of which give you the opportunity to add some extra optimization.

Put content out there and see how your audience responds. When you know what they respond to, you can better tailor your content length going forward. Blogging, much like all of your marketing initiatives improves with data and insight into how your audience reacts.

You can use in-page Analytics and various other tools (like Crazy Egg or Lucky Orange <my favorite>) to see how deep people scroll and where they click and engage with the page.

If you are going with a long post – make sure you include some stats and facts with proper source details, some graphics, and little soundbites and quotes that can be shared on social.  In addition to news or facts, share some opinions and insights to make it personal. Use the opportunity to show what knowledge and value you have to offer.

If you are pushing 3000 words or more, try a little index or table of contents at the start so people not only see a teaser of what they will get but they can also jump right to certain areas of interest. TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) summaries are very common and useful.

Keep the paragraphs short so there aren’t too many dense blocks.  Use images and don’t be afraid of white space.  Use bullets, bolding and italics to break up the font.

Pro Tip: Don’t use passive voice. Be direct, conversational and interesting. 

Quotes from thought leaders typically interest readers and help you when it comes time to promote the post.  Ping the thought leader and let them know you gave them a shout-out and they will likely promote it to their audience.

While things like formatting and structure matter, the truth is if the content is not compelling and informative and if it doesn’t appear credible, you are going to lose your readers.

Make sure you always know who you are writing for.  You should have a persona defined and write in a tone and style that they can relate to.  Avoid jargon and lingo that will confuse and alienate your reader. Given the choice between sesquipedalian words and everyday words, always go with every day!  😉

Always be sure you address the burning questions, needs, fears, challenges and pain points of your audience. In exchange for their time and mental energy reading, you need to give them something.  A good laugh, an education, a new perspective, a solution or something to try/do.

Be Bold. Be authoritative. Add Value.

No wishy washy suggestions.  Be bold in your statements and back them up.

Consider yourself a journalist.  Which means always touch on the who, what, when, where, why and how.  Go into the “how” so the readers walk away with an action plan, don’t forget to try to explain the why too.  When someone understands why they need to do something, it usually helps serve them better than just following instructions blindly.

Make it personal with anecdotal stories, opinions and lessons learned.

Abstract is fine for some posts but you also want to get concrete with stats and data to back up your points.

Consider supplementing your core content with templates, checklists, how-to guides and more. An easy way to implement that is tips on how to get the most out of products or share info about product shelf life. Think or content that will inform readers and make them more likely to use the products and get the most out of them.

Be authentic.  People will appreciate real over perfectly polished.  Don’t be afraid to put some of YOU into your writing.

Include a call to action at the end. You didn’t write your heart out just to let people slip through your fingertips.  Grab them with great content and reel them in so you can continue to impress them with your mad Blog skills and some email marketing.

Headlines Don’t Matter

Well of course, they do. They are your first and only chance to get people to read your content.  Let your headline shout out to them – let it tell them you have something worth reading.  As you progress with your Blog, try testing headlines to see what readers respond to.

Going with something confusing, thought-provoking or controversial will help you get more reads (ex: my subhead above “Headlines Don’t Matter” is so clearly false, it’s likely to draw readers in if it were a headline. They would wonder “is she crazy, or does she know something I don’t” – that’s the kind of response you want to draw people in.)

Once the post is done, focus on promoting it to your list and social channels, as well as influencers and evangelists. Amplifying your content is a key part of the strategy (if you want to avoid it floating in that cyber breeze!)

Pro Tip: Include social sharing buttons so it’s easy for people to share the love.

Be consistent in your posting – your audience will become loyal if they can count on the quality of posts and on a schedule of fresh content.  Everyone takes breaks and goes on vacation, but you can always write your content in advance and schedule it to go out and work for you while you sip cocktails on the beach. (Feel free to invite me!)

Following these guidelines will create consistently higher quality content that will engage your audience and lay the groundwork for converting them into customers. Above all else – remember your why.

 This right here is a pretty darn good reason why… 60% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content on its site. (Source: Content Plus)

Lastly, remember that Blogging should offer insight into you, or the company and give readers a reason to come back for more. The more you share what you/the company stand for and the more you speak with your audience and not at them, the better your posts will be. Read your post out loud when you are done (your brain processes it differently when it’s read out loud) – you will hear where it doesn’t flow and if it isn’t conversational. You can tweak those areas. For my audience (you wonderful subscription box and product companies) the more conversational the tone, the more your audience will be able to relate. Have some fun with it.