Today, just about everyone is doing content marketing. But not everyone is doing it right.
Get this. More than 90% of marketers are using content marketing. These marketers spend a whopping 33% of their marketing budget on content marketing. Never before in the history of the planet have so many businesses been doing content marketing.
But here’s the problem: Many businesses are totally inept at blogging.
In a 2013 survey, researchers discovered that only 1 in 8 businesses had an “updated” blog. And what does “updated” mean? It means at least three posts in the last year. (I post more times than that in a week!)
Apparently, the problem was that the marketers didn’t see the point in blogging. According to the survey, 32% of respondents were honest enough to admit that “they don’t see the point in a blog.”
And from there, everything goes downhill. Blogs start without a plan. Marketers hurriedly throw together a WordPress site without a second thought as to its SEO or ROI. Authors are hired at rock-bottom prices to spin out words on a topic they know nothing about. Editors are dispensed with because they’re “expensive” and “delay publication.” Adding images are ignored, and adding CTAs is the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.
“Just publish the article!” And so begins another lifecycle of a doomed blog. The length of life is equivalent duration of a mayfly. And as far as purpose, let’s just not talk about that.
As I’ve sojourned the barren landscape of blogs, I’ve identified several destructive tendencies. These markers of a blog’s failure are seen everywhere.
Are you guilty of any of these?
1. The blog is not updated.
First things first. When was the last time you updated your blog?
If you answered “It’s been at least a week,” then I’d like to welcome you to the cool kids club. You’re living a high life existence along with only 12% of the blogging population.
Unfortunately, an updated blog is an anomaly in today’s blogging world. When I see a blog that hasn’t been updated since Gerald Ford left office, I immediately wonder if the business is 1) legitimate, 2) competent, 3) successful, or 4) even in existence.
Here’s an example I came across recently.
January 2012 was like a long time ago. And don’t forget that blog years are like dog years. Each blog year is like ten real years. So, in essence, this blog hasn’t been updated in over two decades.
If you’re wondering about the last time a blog or site has been updated, here’s a cool little Google trick.
In Google, type “inurl:” followed by the blog’s domain. For example: inurl:quicksprout/blog
In the Google SERP toolbar, click “search tools.”
Click “any time.”
Click “Past week.”
If the site or blog has been updated within the past week, your query will return a list of updated posts.
Take action: Update your blog at least weekly.
2. The blog doesn’t have a timestamp
This is a pretty big pet peeve of mine. If a blog doesn’t have a timestamp, it erodes my trust in that blog. How do I know if the information is current? Is this old news or breaking news?
Every post should be clearly indicated with the date it was published. In an era of time-sensitive information, your audience deserves to have this nugget of information. Most WordPress blog themes and templates automatically include the published date of posts. It takes some finagling with the code to remove it. Why would you do that?
Creating “evergreen content” doesn’t meant that you hide the publish date. Hubspot summed up the thinking of this technique: “One tactic people often suggest to extend the shelf-life of blog posts is to remove the date and time it was published.”
Thankfully, Hubspot argued against such misguided tactics. They wrote, “That’s a backwards way to think about it. Timestamping your blog posts could be the best thing that ever happened to your evergreen content.”
Take action: Keep the published date on your blog post.
3. The blog doesn’t have images.
Finding images for your blog is not a waste of time. Buying images for your blog is not a waste of money.
A blog with an image has much higher engagement than a blog with no image.
You don’t need statistics to prove this. Take a look at blog 1 and blog 2 below. Which one is more engaging?
(Identities blurred for their protection.)
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather read the blog that shows the picture of the excited child.
90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual. It’s only logical that posts with images receives 94% more page visits, twice as many comments, and higher engagement than those without (Wishpond).
Remember how as a kid you preferred books with pictures? Now you’re an adult, and nothing has changed. Now you read blogs. And you prefer blogs with pictures. So does everyone else. You need to be using pictures in your blog.
Take action: Use images in your blog.
4. The blog completely lacks structure.
Every post needs to be going somewhere — driving to a point, making a statement, or communicating something. The best content communicates by means of a structure.
A blog that has a structure is much more readable and enjoyable.
Take a look at this blog:
Unfortunately, the content all resides in the cramped quarters of several large paragraphs. At least they have paragraphs. Better yet would be to have headings, bulleted lists, and even shorter paragraphs.
I strive for structure in every article I write. It’s not hard or complicated. In fact, it makes it easier to write the article. My structure usually goes like this:
Introduction: A few paragraphs
Conclusion: A few paragraphs
That’s it. And that’s structure.
Here’s an example from a conclusion of a CrazyEgg article.
Take action: Write articles with structure — headings, bullets, and numbered lists.
5. The blog has no call to action.
The CTA is one of the most important features of a blog. A blog without a CTA is like a racecar without an engine. It doesn’t do you any good. It will not win races.
The point of a blog is not just to publish information, but to compel people to action. People don’t take action unless you call them to it. Use call to actions on your blog.
If a visitor goes to the effort of reading your entire article, then he or she is expecting to do something. What’s next? What do I do? Should I share it? Get your free book? Tweet? Tell me what to do!
My Quicksprout blog has at least seven explicit calls to action in the very design of the blog itself. There are at least fifteen calls to action if you include things like social sharing buttons, or comment forms.
You already know to put CTAs on landing pages. I use my personal website as a place to test and hone my CTA prowess. But what about your blog? It needs CTAs, too.
Take action: Use CTAs on your blog.
6. The blog features no original information.
Too many blogs feature hackneyed information that everyone knows and no one cares about.
I’m sorry, but that kind of content is just not going to cut it.
An article on “Use Social Media to Gain More Leads!” is frankly, about as original as a car with four wheels. Can you try a little harder?
I understand that originality is hard to come by in the “nothing new under the sun” information age. But there are always new angles, new ways to restate things, and new data to share. If you just can’t be original than say something unoriginal in an original way.
Take action: Don’t repeat cliché information. Be original with your blog.
7. The blog is brain-numbingly boring.
You can be arrogant, annoying, offensive, radical, shocking, conspiratorial, flamboyant, right-wing, left-wing, insidious, or insensitive, but please don’t be boring.
Nobody reads a boring blog. No body. (Your mother might say she read it, but she actually did not.) If you have a boring blog, your blog a lost cause.
Here are some reasons your blog might be boring:
- You talk about internal company issues. One of the not-so-awesome blogs I featured above had a lengthy account of different people who were transitioning roles within the company. Frankly, I have no clue who those people are, and I will probably never have the privilege of meeting them. I respect them, and I am sure they are wonderful people, but that blog article has significance for approximately twelve individuals on the planet. It is boring. Pick a different topic — one that isn’t about your new office water filter or an improved company vacation policy.
- You speak from the standpoint of a disembodied corporate entity. When you’re writing a blog, keep in mind that you’re not writing a press release or an obituary. You’re writing a blog. Use the first person. If you start an article with a line like “Company Awesome released datapoint from their recent study…” That is a blog destined to the slagheap of boredom. Use the first person.
- You have really long paragraphs. When people see really long paragraphs, their pupils grow smaller and their vision becomes hazy. I think there’s a peer-reviewed double blind placebo study that verifies that claim. Regardless, long paragraphs induce mind-numbness.
- You aren’t making a point. The whole idea of writing is to communicate something. So say it. Just say it.
Take action: Be interesting.
8. The blog is not responsively designed.
I dream of a day when every website is responsibly designed.
I’m a laptop user, a smartphone user, a tablet user, and a member of the mobile generation. My point? I don’t view every website on a 27” Apple Thunderbolt Display.
I’m constantly amazed at how many sites don’t use responsive design. For example, this reputable site might have some decent content, but it’s completely unresponsive. I was trying to view it in a smaller sized window. Not working out so great is it?
If I have to scroll horizontally to see your content, I am officially peeved.
Other sites have a design that works only on a certain browser size. Apparently, I’m not rocking the right browser size here:
Even some sorta-responsive designs make mistakes that awaken my pet peeves.
Take action: Make your website responsively designed.
It’s kind of sad, really. So many blogs, but so few good ones.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Sure, you may not be in the world’s sexiest industry, but you can still have an interesting, engaging, and capable blog. Right the wrongs, chart a course, and stick to it.
Content marketing pays off, when you do it right.
What are some of your blog pet peeves?
About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.