Recently at ESM Inbound, we’ve noticed increasing skepticism from new customers about the value of blogging. “Hasn’t video superseded blogging?...” they ask, and: “Will customers really have time to read a 1200 word blog post?” These are reasonable questions and doubts. 

But here’s how we explain it: blog posts help your website attract Google’s attention. By creating a web of interconnected long-form written content, with blog posts based around customer keyword search terms, pillar pages and landing pages that are linked to one another and relevant external sources, Google’s algorithms are more likely to regard you as a credible source. This helps you climb up the SEO ranking ladder. 

Even tech giants HubSpot say blogging is still their primary source of internet traffic. A strong blogging strategy is your best long-term bet for boosting your organic search results and the benefits are cumulative. Every time you add a new blog post, making sure that you answer the questions your customers want answered and embedding links and internal backlinks (links embedded in other blog posts and pillar pages that send customers to the new post) you enhance the ‘web’ effect. 

There’s science to it, as well as art. Here are six ways ESM Inbound uses blog posts to give Google and your customers exactly what they want.

Creating book-markable blog posts

Blogging isn’t the place for traditional self promotion. Inbound marketing puts the onus on businesses to meet customers where they are and offer genuinely educational content that answers the questions they are Googling. 

In order to do this, a carefully researched SEO strategy, based on in-depth customer personas, is essential. At ESM Inbound we begin any new content process with research into personas and keywords. They inform everything and without them, blog posts run the risk of being irrelevant and a waste of time and effort. 

Blog posts with a sound strategy to guide them help add authority to your brand from Google’s point of view, by matching keyword terms that your prospects are likely to use when looking for a product or service like yours. This, along with links to other relevant content, is the key to effective blogging. 

How to link your blog posts together

Investing time in link building is essential to make your blog work as hard as possible for you. As you write, link to other relevant content on your site where concepts or key words may benefit from further explanation. 

All of this activity (and constantly reviewing internal links in blog posts and adding links to new posts as you publish them) helps create the ‘web’ effect that Google likes. Think of it as a way of saying “look at me!” to Google. 

Best of all, from Google’s point of view, are external links (or backlinks). When you have these, you get another little SEO bump. We’ve covered this in a separate post about link building, but at ESM Inbound, we reach out to customer competitors (counterintuitive, but extremely effective from an inbound marketing point of view) and content providers to arrange reciprocal backlinks on behalf of our customers. For more on this, see our post on links.

Blogging schedules vs the content matrix approach

Granted, if a customer looks at your website and sees that the last time you wrote a blog post was eight months ago, it doesn’t create a good impression. But churning out a blog post every week isn’t always the best use of resources either. 

Your blog is part of a content ecosystem that should also include pillar pages and optimised web pages alongside a strategic social media schedule. Agencies and internal marketers who stick to rigid content schedules with a prescribed number of blog posts per month run the risk of churning out content to meet a quota, rather than thinking carefully about each and every piece of content’s value and function. 

Great blogging guidelines

We are big believers in the ‘They Ask, You Answer’ methodology, pioneered by Marcus Sheridan who literally wrote the book on inbound content marketing. He identified five content templates that rank highest for Google searches. Using them will make your content a lot more clickable. They are:

  1. How much?
  2. Problems
  3. Versus and comparisons 
  4. Reviews
  5. Best in class

These ‘Big 5’ categories are a useful way to plan content and provide a framework for repurposing existing content if you have it. Make sure most of your headlines for blog posts fit into one of these categories and that the body copy fulfils the promise of the headline.  

One extra thing I’d add is that writing about saving money or getting more out of your budget is always a winner. Sheridan’s whole approach hinges on the idea that marketers should call out the elephant in the room, the big questions and problems that customers have, whether that’s: 

  • How do they know who is the best fit for them, you or your three biggest competitors?
  • How much does your product or service cost?
  • What is the ‘best’ product/service provider in your sector? 

Sometimes at ESM Inbound when we explain this approach for the first time, it spooks customers a bit. We often get feedback such as: 

“You mean you want us to reference our competitors by name?”

“We never reveal our prices on our site, it’ll put people off”’

“If we link to a review portal, they’ll see our competitors ratings too and we could lose them.” 

Sound familiar? It’s easy to understand why those new to inbound marketing think this way, but our answer is: it works. 

Customers are short on time, and may be closer to the decision stage than you think. They may not have much time to shop around so if you make it easier for them to do that, you build trust and confidence in your brand by being honest and open.

Creating clickable content

Because it’s a jungle out there as far as content goes, you need to create a sense of must-read urgency in your headline and the opening lines of your blog post. 

You want a prospect, in a matter of seconds, to recognise the headline as something that answers the exact question or solves a specific problem for them, and that the content of the blog post is going to fulfill on the promise of the article. Forget scene-setting and flannel, and get straight to the point. 

Use lists and subheadings with tips and hints that are easy to digest to deliver key information. The idea is to do all the hard work for your prospect, and to hand them what they’re looking for on a platter. It’s click bait but with a big fish follow-up!

How long should a blog post be for SEO?

Google prioritises long-form content. 

You are unlikely to be able to properly answer a customer question in a 400- or 500-word blog post. Google rewards effort, detail, links and keyword targeting. In some instances, where agencies haven’t done a thorough enough interview and research, you can end up with a waffly article that gets you to the word count but won’t keep your prospects engaged. 

Quality and quantity matter, so ensuring you have a through QA process where all of these optimisation tools can be checked, and where the reader can cut out anything extraneous, will add real value and ensure your content works as hard as it can for your business.

Don’t be lured into panic stations by trendy, controversial headlines about blogging being outdated. People said that about email, yet email isn’t dead: it’s just inevitably changed. If you are investing in more modern methods of marketing – such as Google ads, video and chatbots – make sure it’s not to substitute your blogging efforts, but to bolster them.