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Capitalize on the power of blogging

01 Jun, 2020 PR and the internet

Impressive stats on blogging! It is an integral part of our digital environment: more than half of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority.

Key blog trends for individual bloggers

Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media conducted a survey of 1001 individual bloggers (not companies or brands [groups]) in 2019 to identify blogging trends. Overall view:

  • The average blog post takes 3 hours and 57 minutes to write …up 65% from 2014
  • The average blog post is 1236 words long …56% longer than in 2014
  • 52% of bloggers report that it’s getting harder to get readers to engage with their content

Image: From article, “[New Research] How has Blogging Changed? 5 Years of Blogging Statistics, Data and Trends” by Andy Crestodina.

The two key takeaways

1. Deep content is worthwhile. Bloggers who write longer content are getting better results. The ones most likely to report success are:

  • Bloggers who write 2,000+ words per post
  • Bloggers who include 10+ images per post
  • Bloggers who consider 20+ headlines to reach the best one from an SEO perspective.

2. Consistent performance pays off. Bloggers who are more consistent are achieving better results. The ones most likely to report success are:

  • Bloggers who always research keywords report strong results.
  • Bloggers who always collaborate on content report strong results.
  • Bloggers who always check Analytics report strong results.

Blogs enjoy high search engine rankings because their content is constantly being refreshed with new material as well as updating of old posts.

Bloggers shape brand perceptions because they reach the end reader/consumer without editors filtering out their words. Therefore genuine, unfettered comments reach other people. Some of these comments have created a big impact. Criticism from customers in blogs on some issues has spread like wildfire, causing huge repercussions for the company being discussed.

Blogs increase transparency. They let people see your organization close up for themselves; they can see your employees and corporate values and how you interact with the external environment. This is a two-edged sword. Perform well and you will have positive interactions with others leading to greater success in the marketplace; perform badly and bloggers will rip you to shreds.

The blogosphere is ruthless: unless the topic and the writing are interesting, and the blog is actively promoted, the audience remains small.

Ideal length and character counts for blog posts

According to HubSpot in 2020, several ideal lengths and character counts for blog posts could be concluded from data, but some of the figures such as blog post length can vary a lot due to differences in topics and context. HubSpot looked at the 50 posts that brought in the most net new leads for their firm in 2019 to see if there was a difference in average length, and to see if writers should adjust post length for posts written to generate leads. Spoiler alert: there was, and they should.

Based on HubSpot’s data, the ideal length of a blog post intended to generate leads is 2,500 words. The 50 posts that generated the most leads in 2019 were an average of 2,569 words long and had a median length of 2,529 words, which is approximately 250 and 400 words longer than the average and median lengths of the most-read blog posts.

Above right chart: From article, “[New Research] How has Blogging Changed? 5 Years of Blogging Statistics, Data and Trends” by Andy Crestodina.

The longest post in this cohort was 8,197 words, or approximately 2,500 words longer than the longest most-read post.

BlogSpot says Listicles, as blog posts, should be 2,300-2,600 words. “List blog posts are probably the most approachable blog post format for new bloggers. Anyone can make a blog post just by listing off and explaining a few examples, tools, resources, or ideas for a given topic. When it comes to the length of these blog posts, it seems that the rule of thumb is: the more examples, the better.

  • ‘How-to blog’ posts should be between 1,700 and 2,100 words.
  • “What is” posts, or blog posts that answer a question, should be between 1,300 and 1,700 words.
Minimum blog post length

Technically, there is no official minimum for blog post length, though Yoast recommends at least 300 words. HubSpot data suggests writing longer posts should be the rule rather than the exception for your blog. This practice will help your website build authority in the eyes of search engines, which can help shorter blog posts rank better.

“Generally, it’s easier for longer content to rank,” says Aja Frost, HubSpot’s Head of Content SEO. While longer blog posts tend to perform the best, that’s not to say that every single blog post you publish must be more than 2,000 words. If you feel you’ve covered your topic well enough in 300, 800, or 1,000 words, then so be it.

Corporate blogs

Corporate managers are gradually realizing the potential of blogs on their websites. A good corporate blog needs to be updated regularly, preferably a couple of times a week. The writing voice is authentic, friendly, conversational and grammatically correct. The blog needs to be credible, informative and tightly written. It needs to stay on topic. Generally write no more than 250 words per post or you will bore the pants off your readers.

You should accept feedback and allow it to remain visible on the blog page (unless it is defamatory or abusive, of course!). If people criticize your product or service, acknowledge the problem and show what is being done about it. People use your response to criticism to gauge your integrity and grace under pressure. Therefore treat criticism with courtesy.

Naturally, if a corporate blog is initiated, many people expect the CEO to be the person to speak on behalf of the organization because the CEO personifies the organization. Market research shows that the CEO represents half their organization’s reputation. That’s a powerful role! The audience expects the CEO to talk in a friendly and approachable way that reveals insights into their own character and outlook – and glimpses into the corporation’s psyche.

Ensure your corporate blog is authentic

However, blogs take time and effort to write. As with newsletters, the stream of material to write about may start to dry up. Often the CEO is way too busy to write the words personally, and so other people (usually the PR department) may actually ghost write for the CEO. Such writing tends to be perceived for what it is because people are not fools, which makes the whole thing a bit counterproductive if not handled carefully.

Another option is for trusted staff to write the corporate blog in their own right. Corporations like Microsoft, Dell, Google, General Motors and Maytag have appointed a staff blogger. However, there are risks in appointing someone to do this because they become the spokesperson for the organization. Care needs to be taken that they don’t let slip confidential information or write words that fail to adhere to copyright, privacy and libel requirements. On the other hand, if the text has to be cleared by the lawyers, their dead hand is usually perceived in colorless, careful material.

Set the rules in place for a corporate blogger

When an employee becomes official blogger for the organization you need to set the guidelines, the subject matter and the overall content framework. Set up some house style rules and soft launch the blog for a month before making it accessible to the public. Write a ‘how-to blog’ guide and distribute it to the employees you want to contribute.

If you talk about your company and its products, the best person to write about it is an employee close to the action. Different people could write about different topics. Your PR agency is not the best place to look at for this sort of thing. However, if you cover industry issues, you could recruit a part-time writer to help with content creation.

In addition to the demands of writing new material in an interesting way, successful blogs are labor intensive in the way they require you to link and interact with others. You need to read other blogs to get a good idea of style and to create many links with other blogs and websites, research reports, news coverage and similar. Otherwise, you will have few readers. Link to others and they will link to you – and the search engines will love it too.

Blog visitor numbers build up over time, like newsletters and websites, and you need to encourage this by actively marketing and promoting the blog.

Fake bloggers

Some PR firms have been exposed for setting up fake blogs and groups on behalf of clients. Edelman PR was caught out doing this with its “Working Families for WalMart” campaign (described in this Bloomberg article) and its sub-site, paidcritics.com, a few years ago. (Understandably, the links to the Working Families and Paid Critics websites have been deleted.) Similar exposés have revealed other large US PR firms and advertising agencies failing to understand their audience.

Start using search tools covered in other Cutting Edge PR content to monitor conversations about your organization and brands. (The available tools keep changing, so I have not listed them here.) Then engage with the people who have been motivated to write about you. It’s a real conversation that can be a real buzz.

About the author Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in the eBooks available from cuttingedgepr.com.

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