Blog post best practices 2013 – How to write engaging content

| August 13, 2013 | 0 Comments


The word on the streets is rich, broad, deep content is the way to go if you want your blog post to attract the attention of detail-hungry people. 

Engaging content rules the roost

Google is even making a special algorithmic case for surfacing in-depth articles in the search results, directly in line with research showing there’s a worthwhile level of consumer demand.

More and more often, I’m being asked to create lengthy, well-rounded blog posts full of references, links, blocks of authority content, reviews, contrasting opinions, quotes and anything else necessary to make an appropriately detailed argument.  Which is great fun for me as a freelance copywriter, as well as excellent news for readers who like something authoritative and entertaining to get their intellectual teeth into.

Schema markup

Quoting respected sources supports and augments arguments, helping you to drive your point home. But once upon a time copying chunks of content from elsewhere was  a no-no. Which was a shame, since verbatim quotes were often the best way to get a point across without re-inventing the wheel.

These days, as long as you mark it up properly according to the guidelines provided by schema.org, copying content from elsewhere is perfectly acceptable in an in-depth content context.

Schemas are special html tags used to mark up web pages in ways the major search engines can recognise and use to improve the search results. Schema.org’s shared markup vocabulary makes it easier for website owners to choose a suitable markup schema for their content.

Using Schema markup tells Google you haven’t just copied the content you’re quoting, but are quoting it in a user-friendly, relevant and useful context. Here’s a link to a schema example, the markup for a review of an item, for example a restaurant. You’ll find samples of the resulting html code at the bottom of the page.

Outbound link-fuelled blog post content

Not so long ago everyone was chasing inbound links. Outbound links were more or less forgotten about because, in an SEO context, they didn’t appear to have much value. But think like a reader and you realise that including links to useful places, different angles, opinions, research, analysis and so on has considerable user value.

When you include outbound links to relevant places, you help readers by saving them time and hassle. You open the door to exploration and discovery, providing a level of controlled serendipity you otherwise wouldn’t be able to offer.

Obviously it’d be silly to link to dubious neighbourhoods and dodgy sites, but outbound links to trusted places like Wikipedia, the BBC, national press, the NHS, the Tate Gallery, Moz and New Scientists magazine are all good stuff. If you’re not 100% sure you can always nofollow the links, just in case.

Writing like an academic

In a way, today’s blog post guidelines are a bit like being back at Uni. You make your point. Then you go into a load of fine detail proving it, looking at contrasting opinions and findings, quotes, other people’s research, received wisdom, new findings and so on. The end result is beefy, full of flavour and texture, much more intricate and satisfying than most traditional blog post fodder.

The Google Authorship connection

There’s all sorts of speculation about the role of Google Authorship in high quality content, and author authority in a ranking context. A copywriter gains authority in Google’s eyes via G+ Authorship, which in turn benefits the clients for whom the writer writes… and everybody’s happy.

Keeping key terms in the equation

Do you still need to include key terms in your posts?  Of course you do, and it isn’t about to change any time soon. Search engines still depend almost wholly on words to ‘find out’ what a piece of online content is about, and until search technology changes radically, key terms will remain the bunny. But there are ways to make the buggers really sing for their supper.

  • Select keywords that are tightly targeted to your audience rather than too broad
  • Choose keyterms for which there isn’t too much competition
  • Target keywords with a decent amount of search interest
  • Pick key terms that actually convert, capitalising on prospects who are right at the far end of the sales funnel
  • Use multiple keyterms instead of trying to rank for one term at a time

Does ‘in-depth’ automatically mean long?

As a general rule, in-depth articles are by nature longer than traditional posts. But there’s no need to go mad and write huge, long posts all the time. Because Google reckons 10% of searches are for in-depth information, you might decide to make one in four posts a biggie, or one in six, or one in ten, varying the length and depth of the rest of them to keep things interesting for readers.

By the same token, there’s no point spinning out a relatively simple proposition to create a long and detailed piece just for the sake of it. Simple things can be dealt with simply. Complex propositions deserve more attention to detail. Exercise logic!

In-depth blog post 5 point checklist

  1. make sure the subject you’ve chosen actually merits in-depth coverage
  2. mark up your piece using schema.org “article” markup
  3. if you’ve paginated your post, use rel=next and rel=prev markup to show Google exactly what’s going on
  4. make sure you’ve addressed any rel=canonical issues
  5. specify which image Google uses in the search results using schema.org’s special logo markup, which tells Google to show your chosen image in preference over any others it might find for your business

No excuses…

Last but not least, you can follow the five point checklist above ’til you’re blue in the face but if the piece you’ve written is neither high quality nor in-depth, you don’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of achieving search prominence. Length alone isn’t enough.

That’s the beauty of it. It’s getting harder for people to play the system. It takes just as long to cobble together something sub-standard as it does to create the real thing, a post genuinely worth reading.

What Google says about in-depth content

Here’s what the Big G says about in-depth content.

“Users often turn to Google to answer a quick question, but research suggests that up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic. That’s why today we’re introducing new search results to help users find in-depth articles. These results are ranked algorithmically based on many signals that look for high-quality, in-depth content. “

Here’s a link to the full article in Google Webmaster Central.

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Category: copywriting and marketing

By Kate Goldstone - ()

Originally from Middlesbrough, I lived in Brighton for many years before moving to North Devon. I’ve had a passion for words all my life and this is my twelfth year as a freelance writer. In my spare time I draw, paint, sculpt, carve wood and rock, garden, read, write poetry and enjoy long distance hiking. I sing and play the recorder. I collect modernist paintings, vintage rugs and mid-century German art pottery. I’m a member of The Poetry Society. And I am an experienced volunteer shepherd, a ‘Lookerer’.

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