Being a content marketer means being exposed to a lot of blogs. And most of them are… for lack of a better word, crappy.
And that’s not anyone’s fault. Let me explain.
We find a business online, look for its blog (if it has one), and figure out why readers aren’t reading it, or why it’s not helping the business the way they want it to. We check if the design works, if it has interesting and Writrly content, and if it’s the kind of page people actually want to see.
But too many blogs are treated like the unnecessary shame of a website rather than a place of knowledge and information. Don’t believe me? Check out how many sites you can find where the only link to their blog is at the bottom of their homepage, like this:
Chances are, your site treats your blog that way. But again: that’s not your fault. It’s the fault of whoever taught you about inbound marketing.
You don’t have time to worry about SEO and rankings; you’ve got a business to run, and you and your team are already stretched thin enough as it is.
Unless you’ve done your research, your understanding of SEO and inbound marketing consists of the conversations you’ve had with your website designer who guaranteed his team could offer SEO on the side. (“Sure, no problem. SEO is easy, we’ll get to it when the site is done!”)
You’re offered phrases like SEO metrics analysis, link building strategies, SERPs, inbound and outbound marketing, and more. They tell you that SEO is more successful than PPC, black hat and white hat techniques, that customers will be flocking in no time if you target the right long tail and short tail keywords.
They make you feel that any chance of understanding SEO requires an entire master’s degree, so why bother at all? They’ve got it covered, right?
This leaves you with some rudimentary but functional idea of what SEO is: something about creating original content with keywords or keyphrases so people can find your website on Google.
Sure, yeah. But that’s half of it. That’s the nerdy and technical half, the utilitarian half. That’s the half that marketers and SEO agencies fight tooth and nail over.
The other half is what Writrly works on, and believe me, it’s much simpler than you think. It’s your audience.
A cool commercial. A fun new jingle or slogan. A new special at a restaurant that you can’t wait to tell your friends about.
All the marketing and SEO blogs will tell you that these are examples of outbound marketing, but I disagree. They make this fundamental difference that outbound marketing is about interruption, and inbound marketing is about attraction.
But isn’t a fun commercial or jingle working on concepts of attraction, too?
The difference is targeting.
Let’s say you’re trying to catch a very rare kind of fish.
Traditional outbound marketing works by throwing a net into the ocean and hoping that the rare fish will be one of the thousands of fish in your catch.
Inbound marketing is using the perfect lure to catch that rare fish. You end up catching the rare fish, and convincing it to tell all its friends and family to hop in the boat as well.
Your blog is your way of catching your rare fish (your buyer persona), but there are two steps to mastering your catch: the perfect throw, and the perfect lure.
All the technical aspects of SEO and inbound marketing is your throw. Making your content attractive, engaging, and share-worthy is your lure.
A perfect throw without the right lure is just a waste of time. You might get a nibble and you might catch the rare fish that insists on getting caught, but you’re never going to come home with a feast.
So how do you perfect your lure?
Simple: make a blog you don’t want to hide, and make a blog that really matters to your fish. Publish content that truly adds value to your site, that serves a purpose greater than an automated Facebook post to attract 2 or 3 likes.
Because at the end of the day, inbound marketing can be summed up in 5 words:
Content people want to share.
Relevance. That’s one huge advantage local businesses have over conglomerates and the giants of industry. Maybe your biggest competitors can offer prices you can’t compete with or services sleeker than any you could possibly provide, but with so many customers on their radar, can they add the personalized, localized touch?
Think about your customers first and localize it to them. Your business doesn’t necessarily have to be a local brick and mortar store; you just have to be able to cater to a certain town or city, and write articles for people from that area.
And remember: your article topic doesn’t always have to be about your industry! Check out this great article from Irish Heating and Air, a heating and air-conditioning contractor that provides coverage in the Central Valley.
Instead of writing something easy like “5 Reasons Why You Need AC in the Summer”, they wanted to help customers find great places to hang out in their town of Tracy, California.
We get it – everyone says this. “Write original articles”, “Create unexpected content”, “Make something new”. But it’s easier said than done, because with countless competitors out there, what are the chances that you’re going to think of something they haven’t thought of already?
But “original” isn’t always as hard as you might think. Even if there are thousands of blogs in your industry already out there, the problem is that most of them are about the same things.
So how do you create something new that your readers will still appreciate? Here’s a simple equation:
Take your buyer persona, write something with value, subtract any discussion that involves your usual services, and if possible, present it in a different format.
Bam. You’ve got yourself something new on your hands, and it can take less than 5 minutes to discover what that might be.
Need an example? Check out TSC Restoration, a San Diego-based general contractor that helps clients with damage restoration, including flood and water damage, fire damage, and more.
They produced new content by following the equation above:
Q: “What kind of person is going to be looking for our services?”
A: “Someone experiencing damage to their home, perhaps water damage.”
Q: “What kind of information will they value?”
A: “Localized information that will help them with water damage.”
Q: “What are our usual services, so we can write about something else?”
A: “Our usual services involve repair, so we can help them with DIY preparation for water damage.”
And that’s how they came up with Where To Find Free Sandbags In San Diego. They figured out that people who would be interested in their services might need help with finding sandbags to defend against water damage.
They took their buyer persona into consideration, figured out what kind of information that person would need, and wrote about something other than their main services.
Now whenever people search for actionable advice related to water damage, they’ll see that the top link is from TSC Restoration. And the best part? No other company comes close to offering the same information. The next several results are all news articles, not service companies. Just Google it yourself.
They blew away all possible competition with a single article because they thought of it first. And that’s the best kind of article you can write.
When creating content, you have to approach it as a potential reader, not a business owner. A business owner first instinct (and perhaps rightly so) is find the equation that allows for minimum output/effort/resources for maximum leads/profits/sales.
And this isn’t because you’re lazy – it’s because you’ve learned that you have a dozen other responsibilities to juggle as a manager or owner, and prioritizing one area too much can lead you to dropping everything else.
Because of this, we now have countless business blogs with content created under the “minimum input for maximum output” philosophy – a few articles or a slow feed of articles that try to cover the widest range of keywords.
But trying to go broad or wide like this will get you nowhere. Sure, you might end up ranking for your biggest and broadest keywords, but you’ll end up on page 5 or page 10, because there are thousands of other companies trying to do the same thing.
From a min-max point of view, content blogging just doesn’t seem viable.
But 70% of your potential customers will find your website through your blog, not your ads. Unfortunately, up to 83% of them will click away if they think the content isn’t relevant to their needs.
That’s why you need to think like a reader. An average reader doesn’t generally care about the 5 most awesome and coolest tips in your industry. An average reader will only check Google when they need real, actionable help.
Consider Green Mountain Turf Sprinkler Repair. They provide professional irrigation services in Lakewood, Colorado. A top keyword in their industry might be “sprinkler repair help”, in which case they could write a dozen articles with topics like “5 Ways to Keep Your Sprinkler System In Perfect Condition”.
While it’s important to have these big, broad articles on your site (Google needs to understand what your business does, after all), you’ll never succeed if it’s the only kind of article you write. Why? Two reasons:
That’s why Green Mountain Turf writes articles like Rachio vs. RainMachine in 2019: Who Makes the Best Smart Sprinkler Controller?. This is an in-depth analysis on two top smart sprinkler controllers on the market, going over everything from their features to their weaknesses.
So who’s going to see this article?
There really is no better kind of reader for a sprinkler repair service. These are the ones that just a phone call away from trusting you with their yard. While they might be much fewer than those searching for broader topics like “sprinkler repair help”, they’re also a hundred times closer to working with you.
And, of course: sharing your content.
Relate with your audience.
Specify, direct, and relate. If you want readers to share your content, they need to feel that it was written for them. Only if they have that feeling will they think, “Maybe someone I know will feel this way too, and I can help them out the way this article has helped me.”
And the more directly you touch them, the more directly they will recommend your content.
According to Stephen King in On Writing, on the topic of what kind of writing readers consider truly great, he says,
“This happens, I think, when readers recognize the people in a book, their behaviors, their surroundings, and their talk. When the reader hears strong echoes of his or her own life and beliefs, he or she is apt to become more invested in the story.”
In other words? Write with your readers and their real needs in mind.
We know we aren’t writing novels here at Writrly. But we’re still writing content that we want people to read and pass around. So let’s make sure it’s awesome – not just for you, but for your readers, too.