Last week, my SEO cohort (Rachel Gold) and I recorded a little impromptu video on how to work SEO – and more specifically, how the Google Hummingbird update – will affect your blog. One of the big pieces of this update is the shift to incorporating longer content into some of your posts. Now if you’ve ever tried to go from writing, on average, 500 word posts to something more around the 1,400 word mark, you know that it’s not exactly an easy feat. And not every subject is actually worth writing that much stuff about. But because this bit of information is going to become more and more integral to your blogging success, it’s going to become more and more important to working longer content into your blog’s strategy.
I realize that if you’re newer to the blogging hemisphere – or if you just don’t think about strategy going hand in hand with your blog too often – this might be a foreign concept. And the importance of an overarching blog strategy is a story I’ll bring to you another day. For the sake of time, today I’m going to focus on a few tricks you can use to pull more content out of your fingertips and actually create some longer posts without the process feeling too painful.
1. Write a tip sheet. By creating a list of tips and building out each one as a line item (or short paragraph), you’ll create longer posts. When you’re a beginner at this, it typically works best to find a topic that you’re passionate about and then create ten tips that you can write three to four sentences about each. If you’re more wordy, narrow it down to five tips that you can go more in-depth with.
2. Write about a class you’re taking. I’m someone who absolutely LOVES to learn. And while I really don’t have time to add one more thing onto my schedule right now (having young kids does that – I’ve heard life frees up a bit once your youngest is four…basically I’ve got a while to wait), there are tons of free online classes – or inexpensive community ed classes – that I would LOVE to take when my schedule frees up a bit. I’m guessing that there are short courses you’d love to learn more about as well. So get going already and sign up for one! Then you can create a post for each week that goes into what you’re learning about, how you’re accomplishing your homework and what your progress has been. Your readers will love to hear about it and you’ll easily hit that longer word count with your weekly posts. Problem solved.
3. Start creating lists. The nice thing about lists is that they can be as long (or as short) as you want them to be. This means you can build a lot of content into one post. They’re also easy to read, because they’re broken down into smaller, more digestible pieces of information for your reader. So for people who like to scan content, they have the option. For those who are more analytical, they can read every last detail. And for the search engines, you’re displaying a lot of search value – which means you’re going to rank better in the long run for this type of content.
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4. Create a few guides. Think about the social network that has probably seen the biggest growth in the past two years. What is it? PINTEREST. And what are the most popular things women are pinning? Things they can do themselves at home. Many times what accompanies these photos are step-by-step guides that tell you how to create what you see in photos. These guides are great because, again, they break information down into digestible pieces of information. They require a lot of detail, so you’re going to have an easier time reaching a higher word count in your post. And since people are constantly searching to learn how to create things (or do things or how things work, depending on what you’re writing about), these topics are highly searchable. Which means a win from all sides.
5. Start with a large topic. The beauty of a larger topic – especially if it relates to something that you’re passionate about – is that there is a lot of information for you to share. You can break that information down into bolded categories (to again make it easier to read). For example, if I were going to write about my favorite baby clothes, I might start by talking about what makes a great outfit (like the style, texture of the material, weight of the item, how well it’s sized, etc.) I could then expand that by bolding my favorite baby clothes brands and adding quite a bit of information surrounding WHY I like those brands. The other nice thing about posts you can categorize is that it’s much easier to work several great keywords into the content, because you start by talking about a broad topic and then narrow it down within each category.
6. Add bullet points. Whenever you feel like your copy is getting too…copy heavy, work in some bullet points. It will break up the text, give you the opportunity to give the reader a little head space from reading an intense dialogue and allow you to expand your focus and work in some additional content after the bullets.
7. Use photos. Photos work very similarly to bullet points: they allow you to change your focus very easily. My recommendation is to create a post that allows you to discuss what’s going on in a series of photos, either how they differ, how they’re important or how they have an impact on other content on your site. Photos are also a great attribute when it comes to SEO – just make sure to include an alt tag on each one when you upload for maximum benefit.
And with all of that being said, there are still some basic blogging rules you need to follow with any content you write, long or short:
Don’t keyword stuff. You may hear all about the importance of including keywords in your posts, and yes this is true. But the keywords need to be very relevant to what you’re writing about and they need to fall naturally within the context of your post. If you’re a newbie, this is going to be a struggle, and that’s ok. The only way you’ll get better is with practice, so consider taking a writing workshop with an expert that focuses on how to write for Google while still writing for your audience.
Stick to content that’s relevant to your site. I write a mommy blog – so I’m not going to sit here and write about old English literature because it has no bearing on the rest of my content. Always keep in mind what your site is about and what you’re readers are coming to you for – because usability and how applicable your site is to the people who visit it will always far outweigh the length of your posts.
Realize that not every post works in long form. Certain topics can be long posts. Others will be 250 words at most. Like Julia Childs said, “everything in moderation – including moderation.” Don’t over do the long content. Pace yourself – long content is important, but GOOD content is more important.
Don’t get discouraged. Blogging is supposed to be fun, even when it’s work. You’re not going to be become an expert blogger overnight, like anything else it really does take hard work and dedication to get everything right. Hell, I’ve been blogging since 2007 and I still find myself losing my blogging voice and making mistakes on a weekly basis. But I keep trudging along, telling myslef that I really would be better off if I just consistently took my own advice. All it really takes to be a great blogger is a willingness to be open with your readers, true to your writing and put yourself out there.
Confused yet? I know, the world of blogging is complicated. Things are constantly changing and updating and overall, it really is a lot to learn. If you want to go pro – or if you just want to learn to blog better – you can check out more content here.