Blogging is all about content and whether you succeed or not will depend on how much content you have and how good that content is. That may sound like a redundant statement, but it’s one that many webmasters overlook. SEO is important as well, of course, but good SEO follows good writing.
Good SEO follows good writing
Good content takes some time to create, and if you’re paying for it, it also costs quite a bit of money. But let’s suppose for a minute that you save on the content and focus purely on SEO, making sure the title, the keyword density and everything else is solid, but paying little heed to the actual quality of the writing.
People will still find your site in Google, they will still visit it and they will still generate leads, impressions and all the other good stuff that makes blogging such a profitable enterprise. But there are many more negatives than there are positives to this:
Bounce Rate: A low bounce rate percentage looks good to sponsors and to Google, and it could be the deciding factor for a prospective buyer. With bad content, your bounce rate will be very high, and this will raise red flags to the people that matter.
Viral: The best blogs are shared by online newspapers, listicles, wikis and content sites. They spread like wildfire through social media and can turn a small blog into a massive one overnight. With poor content, no one will want to share your articles.
Comments: The more people that make it to the end of your articles, the more comments you will have. Genuine comments are fantastic for SEO and for your hopes of a viral success. With poor content, you’ll be lucky to get anything more than an occasional ad for viagra.
Your Brand: If you want to build a blog into a brand, something that you can use to sell merchandise and sponsorship, and something that you can turn into the next Buzzfeed, Huff Post or Cracked, then you need content that is trusted, respected and solidly written.
Of course, you still need to work a little SEO into your articles, but focus on a well written, well researched piece first, and then you can look to add the extras. We’ll get to that shortly (see CHAPTER 5: SEO TIPS), but first let’s look at some ways that you can build that foundation.
Populating Your Site
Your website needs to look professional in the eyes of Google. And for that to happen, it needs to include a few basic pages. These are often overlooked, and if you are not selling a product or a service, then it probably makes little sense to include them. But when your Google ranking hinges on it, it would be a mistake not to.
These pages all need to be a minimum of 800 words long (preferably 1,000+). They shouldn’t take up prime real estate on your page, but they should be linked on the main page and, if possible, throughout. The best way to include them is via the addition of small text links in the footer or header, something that most WP templates have an option for.
These pages are as follows:
Home: This is your basic homepage. In theory, it is where most of your visitors will land when they click onto your blog, but in practice, the majority of them will actually land on one of your articles first. This text is just to make sure you don’t have a blank homepage. You should also look to mention your blog’s name/title a few times, while working your main keywords in there as well.
About Us: Describe your blog, yourself and your purpose. With small blogs, it’s not always easy to extend this section to 800+ words, so you’ll have to be verbose. Just remember that few people will read this anywhere, so no one cares if you’re a little OTT.
Directory: This is a strong section and a good way to include some valuable links. Google likes it when respected sites link to other respected sites and it will appreciate yours more if you link to high ranking sites. Don’t get too caught up in Domain Authority though, just make sure you link to relevant sites that use the .GOV or .ORG extension. You can write a little bit about each other, including some relevant keywords.
Terms: This doesn’t need to be legally sound if you’re not selling a product or service. You can follow a template to complete it, just make sure that what you write is 100% original.
Contact Us: You don’t need to make this page 800+ words, and in most cases it’s not essential to include it at all. But it makes for a nice addition, and when your blog takes off and starts to flood with genuine views from interested visitors, they can use this to get in touch. It’s good to give them a means of contacting you. Do not post your email address, as it will be trawled by spambots. Instead, use one of the available contact form plugins and link this to your email.
You should also look to populate the site with at least 10 articles. If you have the time or the money to create more, 30 would be a better number. These are your base articles and should be the strongest articles on your site with regards to SEO. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what makes them stronger than the articles that follow, just focus on making sure they are well written and that they have solid SEO.
As mentioned in CHAPTER 3: WORDPRESS, your blog should not yet be indexable by Google, but once you get these pages and these articles published, then you can change this option, letting Google index your blog.
Writing a Quality Article
The only thing you need before you begin to write an article, is an idea and a theme. The Google Keyword Planner can help with this.
You will need to sign up for AdWords to access this, but this is recommended anyway (AdWords and other revenue streams are discussed in CHAPTER 6: MAKING MONEY THROUGH YOUR BLOG), so get yourself an account and login to the Keyword Planner. From here, you just need to enter a single keyword that relates to your blog.
As an example, let’s say that you run a blog about gardening. If you type “gardening” into the search field, followed by your chosen location, you’ll see a list of related search terms, followed by the amount of times they have been searched in the last month (you can ignore the “Suggested Bid” for now).
From here you can see that “Plants” and “Botanical Gardens” are the top search terms, but these are too vague. While good keywords, they are not ones that you will be able to rank highly for this early on, not when you’re competing against established garden centers, retailers and content sites.
If you look further down, you can see that “Landscaping Ideas” also generates a lot of searches. This is noteworthy not only because it’s a keyword string (more than one word) and because it’s quite popular, but also because it lends itself to an interesting article title.
Next you want to put this term into the search field, at which point you will get a list of terms that are a little more niche and a little longer, making them perfect for your article titles. All of the following standout here:
If people are searching for these strings, you can guarantee they will be searching for variants of them. So, from this, we can assume that the following titles would rank highly:
Landscaping Ideas: Top Designs for Your Patio
Gardening Tips for Landscape Gardeners
Garden Design Ideas: Top Ten Ideas
Patio Designs: How to Arrange Landscaping Rocks
It’s not about cramming as many keywords in there as you can. Because you should only be focusing on one keyword. But if you can get another in there, then go for it. Just make sure that the title makes sense and that people would actually want to click onto it.
If you go with the “Gardening Tips for Landscape Gardeners” idea for your first article, then you just need to write an article that stays true to that title. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, if you’re a professional writer it is. If not, then you have a steep learning curve to traverse. Or, alternatively, you could just hire someone to do the work for you.
Outsourcing Your Content
Just because you can’t write doesn’t mean that you can’t blog. It’s always best to try and create your own content. Even if you’re not quite good enough to begin with, you will improve in time and you will save yourself a lot of money in the long run. There are some potential pitfalls with writing your own content though. It will take you longer than it will take a professional writer, and when you factor in the research, the length of time you spend hashing out the content and the time you spend mulling it over, getting stuck and then making edits, it may take you in excess of 4 hours to complete one 1,000 word article. This is not ideal when you consider that a professional writer can do the same amount in under an hour.
It is easy enough to find quality writers though. Just follow the steps below:
Place a job with an hourly contract (if you set a fixed price, then that will magically become everyone’s fee, making it difficult for you to get genuine quotes).
You want to set the parameters to “Content Writing” and “Experts Needed”. You don’t need to make it mandatory for applicants to have completed any tests.
In the description, make it clear that you need a writer for ongoing work. Do not state a budget or provide the URL to your blog, but let them know the subject of the blog.
Create your own questions and use the following: “What is your price per word?”, “Can you reduce this for a sample article?” If you want to invite freelancers, remember that they will not see your questions, so paste these questions in the proposals that you send them and ask for answers in their replies.
Carefully sort through the entries over the next 2 days. Review their profiles and the samples they provide. Ignore freelancers with poor feedback, and bear in mind that you will need to pay between $0.03 and $0.10 per word for good content. Anything less should be viewed with suspicion and anything more is too much.
Create a shortlist and ask each of them to complete a sample article based on a title of your choosing. The majority should have agreed to do this at a discount, but make sure they are all writing different titles, as that way you can actually use the content they create.
Wait for the submissions to be sent. Disregard poor writers, and any submissions that have taken longer than 48 hours to get to you.
Compare the good articles and the good writers and make a final choice based on quality, price and speed. If you’re still not sure, you can also hire those inconsistent freelancers.
You don’t have time for excuses and should not make any allowances at this point. As someone who has hired more than 50 freelancers, including developers, coders, designers and more, we can say with certainty than at least half of the freelancers will let you down. There is a small percentage of hard-working, dedicated freelancers who will never fail to deliver, but if a freelancer fails to deliver a simple sample on time, they are definitely not in this category and should be dismissed.
Getting Your Content For Free
There are ways that you can get free content, but thanks to the aforementioned freelancing platforms, this is not as easy as it once was. There was a time when you could offer aspiring writers the platform and the experience, and in return they would give you occasional content. But these days there are many ways for such writers to get their work out there and many ways for them to get paid for it, so this rarely works.
However, it all depends on what you can offer them. If your site is in a particular niche and has a decent following, then it’s a different story. As an example, I know of a blog that focuses on the sport of boxing. It’s well known in the country in which it is based. It is referenced by the press in that country and it gets interviews with boxers in that country. At the time of writing it is looking for new writers and while it’s not offering to pay them, the experience that comes with working for such a site, as well as the many perks (tickets to fights, interviews with big names) means they are getting a lot of applicants.
Basically, if you have something to offer the writer, then you don’t necessarily need to pay them. Still, even if the offers come in, even if you have checked their work and deemed them to be good enough, there are a few steps you should take to make sure they don’t hurt your brand:
Links: Some writers make a living by selling links. They will contribute to many sites for free and will contact webmasters in similar niches and offer them guest posts on those sites. You may get free content, but they could be earning upwards of $500 per article that they post, and they could be filling each article with links to low quality sites. It’s okay to let them do this once or twice, especially if you get good, free content in return, but warn them against making this a regular thing.
Editing: Even the best writers struggle to edit their own work, so you should never assume that just because they are good at what they do, they will deliver flawless work. Make sure you give what they write a once-over.
Access: It may be easier for you if you give the writer access to your website, but in doing so you will be exposing all of your hard work to someone you don’t really know. If you think they can be trusted, then create an account for them. This way they can post under their own name but they can’t make any changes to your site or your other posts.
Laziness: If a writer has a hidden agenda (such as the guest posts mentioned above) if they are only doing this until something better comes along, or even if they’re just not professional enough, they may start taking liberties. They may start missing deadlines, which could be costly if you are relying on them for a particular piece. They may start plagiarizing work. They may even look to outsource their work to other, less talented writers. This is why it is important to keep an eye on everything that they produce.
Okay, so we lied to you. It’s not quite as simple as writing an article that adheres to a title or paying someone else to do it for you. There are a few things you need to do to make sure that that article is displayed prominently on the Google search results. So, before you begin, read CHAPTER 5: BLOGGING SEO TIPS first.