Do You Really Need Another Blog Post? Why Content Marketing Needs More Flexibility

For at least a decade, the 500-word blog post has been the atomic unit of content marketing. Marketers like Joe Pulizzi and Marcus Sheridan built their entire careers on blogging. In Joe’s case, he started the blog without a business plan or a product, and developed both after building an audience through insightful, valuable blog posts. Even TopRank Marketing relied on blogging as a tactic for building thought leadership and establishing authority.

When new clients partner with our agency, they’re frequently looking to follow in Joe and Marcus’ footsteps. They want 15, 20, 30 short blog posts a month as the foundation of their content efforts.

That typically translates into requests for “X blog posts a month.” However, we’re more likely to think in terms of content units—the amount of effort the content team will put in, rather than the specific output.

Should you focus your time and resources on a blog? Are there better ways to serve your audience? Here’s how our agency is changing the way we think about content.

Why Short-Form Blog Posts Are No Longer the Atomic Unit of Content Marketing Strategy

Short Blog Posts Are Losing Search Visibility
One of the chief purposes of a blog is to capture search engine rankings. You write useful content, people find it via search, they subscribe and keep coming back for more. But short blog posts aren’t great at capturing rankings anymore. There’s just too much short-form content out there for even the most optimized post to rise above it.

Quality Beats Quantity
Longer-form content tends to dominate search rankings. Comprehensive, in-depth best answer content will not only rank higher for the main search term, it’s more likely to include (and rank for) long-term keywords as well.

Just ask Neil Patel, of Kissmetrics fame. He posts 1500+-word blog posts on the regular. You’ll find his posts on any list of highest-ranked or most-shared content on any topic he addresses. 

Most of us don’t have the time and resources to post best answer content every day, but that’s okay—a steady drip of high-quality content is still preferable to a deluge of shallower takes.

Blog Posts Are Temporary by Design
The very structure of a blog means that old posts are less likely to be read than the latest post – and the latest one quickly joins the seldom-seen archives. This kind of content is good for satisfying subscribers, but not great for long-term search visibility. The end goal of repurposing content is to take old blog posts and turn them into evergreen assets – so it makes sense to actually design evergreen assets as part of your strategy. 

The Way People Consume Content Is Changing
Last year, mobile internet use outstripped desktop use for the first time ever. In other words, all new internet traffic is happening on mobile devices. That’s significant for content creators, because 84.9% of smartphone time is spent in apps, versus on the mobile web.  While desktop users might have spent more time reading blogs and visiting websites, mobile traffic is concentrated in apps like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. These apps require a different type of content to earn audience attention.

Blogs Are Still a Thing – But Not the Only Thing
That’s not to say that blogging is dead, of course. A blog can be a great place to interact with customers and prospects, build credibility, establish thought leadership, and round up subscribers. But focusing exclusively on creating a ton of blog content is no longer the best strategy.

More Flexible Content Alternatives

Instead of creating a set number of blog posts a month, focus on the outcomes you want to achieve. The deliverable should match your goals, not the other way around. You’ll end up with a more efficient use of your time and resources, and content assets that get the job done.

Long-Form Assets
For example, if your goal is to top the rankings for a specific keyword, roll three posts’ worth of effort into crafting a long-form resource. Then put that resource on your Features page, or give it its own slot on your navigation header – don’t bury it in the blog. The closer your page is to your site’s root directory, the more weight it carries for ranking purposes. That is, Google will give preference to “www.yourcompany.com/awesome-resource” than “www.yourcompany.com/blog/2017/October/awesome-resource.”

Video Content
Trading short-form blog posts for video content is another useful tactic. Video can be embedded in a blog post, but also find another life on Facebook and YouTube. Our client DivvyHQ recently published a video series with the videos hosted on YouTube. They can serve their blog audience, but also reach out to a new audience through the YouTube app. TopRank Marketing creates a weekly news video that we post to Facebook, and each video earns hundreds of views natively on the platform.

 Influencer Content
If your daily blog responsibilities have kept you from exploring influencer marketing, it’s high time to devote attention to it. Influencers can help boost your credibility, increase visibility, and create relationships that will serve your business in the long-term. A single influencer co-created asset can achieve far higher visibility than the most comprehensive blog post.

Blog On – But Blog Wisely

The humble blog post had a good run – it dominated content marketing strategy for the 00s and most of the 2010s. But the content landscape is changing, and we need to change with it. Don’t ditch your blog just yet, but do examine how you’re using the time and resources available to you.

Focus on your desired outcomes rather than a rigid set of deliverables. Give your content team the flexibility to explore new strategies, and you can evolve your content mix along with your audience’s demands.

 


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. | Do You Really Need Another Blog Post? Why Content Marketing Needs More Flexibility | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®

Help Us Improve: The 2017 Moz Blog Reader Survey Is Here

Posted by Trevor-Klein

It’s been a couple of years since we last asked you all about what you enjoy most (and least) about the Moz Blog, and to say our company and our industry had changed in those couple of years would be an enormous understatement.

We saw SERPs continue to add new features and far more featured snippets, as well as shifting massively toward HTTPS results.

Here at Moz, we launched Keyword Explorer, rebuilt our Site Crawl, and made a strategic shift to refocus on our core strength of SEO. We added features to Moz Local, too, emphasizing the importance of local SEO to all businesses with a physical presence.

You get the idea.

With so much having changed, we wanted to be sure we’re still living up to the high standards we set for this blog, and that we’re still providing as valuable an experience as we can for you all. That’s where you come in today.

If you’ve got time, please consider going through the survey below, which asks about who you are, what challenges you face, and what you’d like to see more of on the Moz Blog.

We’ll publish the results along with our takeaways in a few weeks, and will use them to guide our work going forward. From all of us at Moz, thanks in advance for your time!

(If the embedded survey isn’t showing up properly below, click here to take it in a new tab.)

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How to Choose Dynamic Images for Your Blog Posts

I’m a content writer, not a graphic designer. My job is to make the words dance, to convey useful information in an entertaining way.

As such, for a long time visuals were just an afterthought for me. Yeah, a blog needs a header image. So after I’m done writing I’ll slap something on there, check that box, and send it off to the client.

As content continues to proliferate, though, that laissez-faire approach isn’t enough. Your potential audience has far more content available to them than they’ll ever be able to read. That means they’re actively looking for reasons not to read your content. A weak—or worse, missing—visual is a perfect excuse to move to the next thing.

The right visual does more than take up space. It captures attention, creates a little mystery, invites the reader to dig into your carefully-crafted text. Good visuals are doubly important for amplification, too: Your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn shares will all include an image. The visual alone can stop the endless, half-engaged scrolling people do on social media, buying you crucial seconds to compel a click or a tap.

I challenge any and all content creators to up their image game. Let’s stop with the schlocky stock photos and give people something that’s worth their attention.

Here’s how I find scroll-stopping visuals for my blog posts.

Ditch the Schlock Stock

It’s trendy to bash Shutterstock for schlocky stock photos, but that’s like blaming Netflix for your binge-a-thon of Fuller House. There’s plenty of great content available. It’s up to you to find and choose it over the cliché stuff.

Whether you’re using Shutterstock or any other paid photo site, start by avoiding these cliché photo types:

  • Minority Report Computer Displays. Seems like every B2B blog is required to use one of these nonsensical things at least twice a week.
    businessman using futuristic computer interface
  • Stark White Offices. It’s futuristic! It’s so clean! It… looks like no place anyone has ever worked!
    people gathered in stark white office building
  • People with Arms Crossed. Do you pose for pictures like this? Does anyone? Then why are there thousands of these on stock photo sites?
    man with arms folded
  • Cupped Hands with Floating Icons. Sing it with me: “He’s got the [abstract concept of my blog post] in his hands…”
    businessperson holding floating icons in cupped hands
  • Anything in front of a Chalkboard. STAHP.
    Businessman in front of chalkboard with muscular arms drawn in

I could go on, but you get the idea. These are the hoary clichés that give stock photos a bad name. They’re not unique; they’re not authentic; they’re not visually stunning.

To avoid the stock photo blues, I tend to start my search on royalty-free sites like Pixabay, Pexels, and even Creative Commons-licensed photos on Flickr. But even if the boss demands you use an approved paid site, there’s good stuff to be found.  Here are a few ways to kick your visuals up a notch.

Make It Weird

For my blog post on mobile advertising strategy, there were plenty of obvious ways to go. Someone looking at a phone in a coffee shop, at an airport, at a concert… people look at their phones everywhere, so there are no shortage of safe options.

So of course I went with this one:

Visual Content Marketing Dog with Sunglasses and Cell Phone

Why is the dog wearing sunglasses? What type of phone has a pawprint for the unlock button? Why didn’t he use the front-facing camera for his selfie? Any one of those questions is enough to give the reader paws. Er, pause.

Make It Beautiful

Instagram is a social media network that’s almost entirely visual. It was designed for image sharing, boy howdy, do its members share. There have been over 40 billion photos posted on Instagram since it launched 7 years ago.

So it makes sense to take a few design cues from Instagram when you choose your photos. Find something beautiful, striking, and with an evocative filter. Like this image I used for my comedy in content post:

Visual Content Marketing Clown in Forest with Instagram-Style Filter 

Find a Metaphor

Get a little creative with your content, and you can get more creative with your visuals. Introduce a metaphor in your opening paragraph that will unite your content and give you more options for a header image.

For a recent content marketing tips post, I could have stuck with a generic “businessperson” or “office” header image. Instead, I added a personal note about Lego in the beginning, and found a dynamite visual that helped introduce the metaphor:

Visual Content Marketing - Colorful Assortment of Lego Bricks

Take Your Own Photos

The best way to ensure your header is original, authentic, and eye-catching is to take the photo yourself. Last year, Jason Miller held a photoshoot with his LinkedIn Marketing Solutions crew. They captured a ton of wonderful moments that the team used as header images for months:

LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Team around Laptop

I love that even though this image is a parody of a stock photo, it’s undeniably original. You can see the cool art in the office. The people are actually the folks who create content for LinkedIn. The laptop is a well-loved machine with a LinkedIn sticker on it, not a pristine stainless-steel model. Unlike a stock photo, this picture actually tells you about the people behind the brand.

Even a cell-phone quality image can get the job done. When our team covers marketing events, we always take a candid photo of the presenter as the header image. My colleague Caitlin took it a step further for her Ann Handley roundup, with this adorable selfie:

Visual Content Marketing Selfie with Ann Handley

It’s genuine, it’s unexpected, and it’s a photo the reader is guaranteed to be seeing for the first time.

As with Written Content, It’s about Personality

It used to be that all B2B marketing content had to be “professional,” interpreted as “impersonal, flat, and unemotive.” Old-school stock photos are a perfect match for that kind of content. Here’s a guy in a suit standing with his arms folded. Here’s our white paper written like a software end-user license agreement.

Now we know better. Readers want content that has warmth and personality. They want to feel that another human being is communicating with them.

Visuals need to evolve in the same way. If you’re writing great content and still using stiff, stock images, you’re doing your content a disservice. Make sure your visuals are every bit as distinctive and authentic as your writing is, and you can earn your reader’s attention.

Do you love to create great content? Do you excel at eye-stopping imagery? TopRank Marketing needs you on our team.

Disclosure: LinkedIn Marketing Solutions is a TopRank Marketing client.


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Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®

How to Manage Blog Content With Trello

Do you need a better way to manage your blog content? Looking for a tool to outline your blogging workflow from beginning to end? In this article, you’ll discover how to effectively organize how you brainstorm, write, and publish your blog’s content with Trello. #1: Create a Trello Board for Your Blog Workflow Trello is […]

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How to Convert Your Blog Posts Into Videos

Looking for an easy way to create video content? Do you blog? In this article, you’ll learn how to turn a blog post into two types of videos you can share on social media. #1: Segment Your Blog Post for Scripting Video is the perfect way to repurpose your content. Start by looking at your […]

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How to Repurpose Blog Posts Into Instagram Albums

Are you looking for Instagram content ideas? Have you considered repurposing your blog content into Instagram albums? Grouping multiple images from a blog post into an Instagram album can bring engaging content to Instagram. In this article, you’ll discover how to combine blog posts into Instagram albums. Why Use Instagram Albums to Repurpose Blog Content? […]

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The Perfect Blog Post Length and Publishing Frequency is B?!!$#÷x – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

The perfect blog post length or publishing frequency doesn’t actually exist. “Perfect” isn’t universal — your content’s success depends on tons of personalized factors. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains why the idea of “perfect” is baloney when it comes to your blog, and lists what you should actually be looking for in a successful publishing strategy.

the perfect blog post length and frequency

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about blog posts and, more broadly, content length and publishing frequency.

So these are things where a lot of the posts that you might read, for example, if you were to Google “ideal blog post length” or “ideal publishing frequency” will give you data and information that come from these sources of here’s the average length of content of the top 10 results in Google across a 5,000-keyword set, and you can see that somewhere between 2,350 and 2,425 words is the ideal length, so that’s what you should aim for.

I am going to call a big fat helping if baloney on that. It’s not only dead wrong, it’s really misleading. In fact, I get frustrated when I see these types of charts used to justify this information, because that’s not right at all.

When you see charts/data like this used to provide prescriptive, specific targets for content length, ask:

Any time you see this, if you see a chart or data like this to suggest, hey, this is how long you should make a post because here’s the length of the average thing in the top 10, you should ask very careful questions like:

1. What set of keywords does this apply to? Is this a big, broad set of 5,000 keywords, and some of them are navigational and some of them are informational and some of them are transactional and maybe a few of them are ecommerce keywords and a few of them are travel related and a few of them are in some other sector?

Because honestly, what does that mean? That’s sort of meaningless, right? Especially if the standard deviation is quite high. If we’re talking about like, oh, well many things that actually did rank number one were somewhere between 500 words and 15,000 words. Well, so what does the average tell me? How is that helpful? That’s not actually useful or prescriptive information. In fact, it’s almost misleading to make that prescriptive.

2. Do the keywords that I care about, the ones that I’m targeting, do they have similar results? Does the chart look the same? If you were to take a sample of let’s say 50 keywords that you cared about and you were to get the average content length of the top 10 results, would it resemble that? Would it not? Does it have a high standard deviation? Is there a big delta because some keywords require a lot of content to answer them fully and some keywords require very, very small amounts of content and Google has prioritized accordingly? Is it wise, then, to aim for the average when a much larger article would be much more appreciated and be much more likely to succeed, or a much shorter one would do far better? Why are you aiming for this average if that’s the case?

3. Is correlation the same as causation? The answer is hell no. Never has been. Big fat no. Correlation doesn’t even necessarily imply causation. In fact, I would say that any time you’re looking at an average, especially on this type of stuff, correlation and causation are totally separate. It is not because the number one result is 2,450 words that it happens to rank number one. Google does not work that way. Never has, never will.

INSTEAD of trusting these big, unknown keyword set averages, you should:

A. look at your keywords and your search results and what’s working versus not in those specific ones.

B. Be willing to innovate, be willing to say, “Hey, you know what? I see this content today, the number one, number two, number three rankings are in these sorts of averages. But I actually think you can answer this with much shorter content and many searchers would appreciate it.” I think these folks, who are currently ranking, are over-content creating, and they don’t need to be.

C. You should match your goals and your content goals with searcher goals. That’s how you should determine the length that you should put in there. If you are trying to help someone solve a very specific problem and it is an easily answerable question and you’re trying to get the featured snippet, you probably don’t need thousands of words of content. Likewise, if you are trying to solve a very complex query and you have a ton of resources and information that no one else has access to, you’ve done some really unique work, this may be way too short for what you’re aiming for.

All right. Let’s switch over to publishing frequency, where you can probably guess I’m going to give you similar information. A lot of times you’ll see, “How often should I publish? Oh, look, people who publish 11 times or more per month, they get way more traffic than people who publish only once a month. Therefore, clearly, I should publish 11 or more times a month.”

Why is the cutoff at 11? Does that make any sense to you? Are these visits all valuable to all the companies that were part of whatever survey was in here? Did one blog post account for most of the traffic in the 11 plus, and it’s just that the other 10 happened to be posts where they were practicing or trying to get good, and it was just one that kind of shot out of the park there?

See a chart like this? Ask:

1. Who’s in the set of sites analyzed? Are they similar to me? Do they target a similar audience? Are they in my actual sector? What’s the relative quality of the content? How savvy and targeted are the efforts at earning traffic? Is this guy over here, are we sure that all 11 posts were just as good as the one post this person created? Because if not, I’m comparing apples and oranges.

2. What’s the quality of the traffic? What’s the value of the traffic? Maybe this person is getting a ton of really valuable traffic, and this person over here is getting very little. You can’t tell from a chart like this, especially when it’s averaged in this way.

3. What things might matter more than raw frequency?

  • Well, matching your goals to your content schedule. If one of your goals is to build up subscribers, like Whiteboard Friday where people know it and they’ve heard of it, they have a brand association with it, it’s called Whiteboard Friday, it should probably come out once a week on Friday. There’s a frequency implied in the content, and that makes sense. But you might have goals that only demand publishing once a quarter or once a month or once a week or once every day. That’s okay. But you should tie those together.
  • Consistency, we have found, is almost always more important than raw frequency, especially if you’re trying to build up that consistent audience and a subscriber base. So I would focus on that, not how I should publish more often, but I should publish more consistently so that people will get used to my publishing schedule and will look forward to what I have to say, and also so that you can build up a cadence for yourself and your organization.
  • Crafting posts that actually earn attention and amplification and help your conversion funnel goals, whatever those might be, over raw traffic. It’s far better if this person got 50 new visits who turned into 5 new paying customers, than this person who published 11 posts and got 1 new paying customer out of all 11. That’s a lot more work and expense for a lot less ROI. I’d be careful about that.

*ASIDE:

One aside I would say about publishing frequency. If you’re early stage, or if you were trying to build a career in blogging or in publishing, it’s great to publish a lot of content. Great writers become great because they write a lot of terrible crap, and then they improve. The same is true with web publishers.

If you look at Whiteboard Friday number one, or a blog post number one from me, you’re going to see pretty miserable stuff. But over time, by publishing quite a bit, I got better at it. So if that is your goal, yes, publishing a lot of content, more than you probably need, more than your customers or audience probably needs, is good practice for you, and it will help you get better.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. We’ll see you again next week. Take care.

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How to Easily Turn Blog Posts Into Videos

Interested in repurposing your blog posts into videos? Looking for a no-cost tool to simplify the process? In this article, you’ll discover a partially automated tool that turns your blog posts into shareable social media video. #1: Choose Your Blog Post Lumen5 is an automation tool that lets you turn your blog posts into animated […]

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